A Little More Gaslight #2

“Come in.”

A swirl of a red dress. Capped off by a pair of red shoes.

The owner has her face hidden in her hair. She won’t even make eye contact. 

An ominous portent indeed.

A thud as she falls into the armchair opposite.

“I wish…” Deep breath. “I wish…to report a case of sexual harassment.”

Perhaps you could take that to the sexual harassment officer instead of me. That’s where I’d go. By name and by nature.

“By whom.” Notepad flipped open, pencil ready and raised to take down the details. Hope she doesn’t see the eraser on the other end, he thinks.

She proffers a name.

He’s a good bloke. Everyone likes him even the ladies, he thinks to himself.

“We have a clear and transparent process for dealing with sexual harassment.” 
“I know,” she almost sobs. “

She pours out the details. The pen scratches its way across one page of the notebook, then another and another.  A box of tissues is pushed across. She reluctantly grabs one.

Looks like a misunderstanding here, he thinks. And if you were wearing anything like this…

“We’ll start the process immediately. I’ve got all the details I need. We’ll be in touch. Thanks for your time.”

He stands. She isn’t going anywhere.

“You’re not going to delay this? Leak my name? Leave me on my own to defend myself? Organise a commentator-led social media pile-on? “

“We have zero tolerance of sexual harassment,” he replies. You should’ve come to us beforehand, he thinks. Instead of waiting to play the victim.

A swirl of red and she’s gone.

A Little More Gaslight #1

“Come in.”

The last one, he thinks. But at least we’re getting the numbers down. And the iron laws of arithmetic don’t apply.

A pair of red shoes enter.

The owner strides in, pulls out a leather armchair, scrapes it along the carpet. 

She sits down and crosses her legs. Without any preamble, she begins.”I’m being bullied by my colleagues.”

Another day, another whinger. But the standard spiel has worked for decades. How can it fail now?

“You know we have a zero-tolerance policy on bullying in the Liberal Party.”

“I know that. If I don’t speak out no-one will.”

At least we’re not keeping a list. That’s for the number crunchers: proud men one and all.

“You can always take action.” His voice is a comfortable purr.

“I wish to make a complaint. I have names, several actually. I’ve diarised dates and times. I even have texts. This behaviour would not be tolerated in the private sector. You’d get your arse sued.”

This isn’t the private sector. Toughen up, princess.

“I’ll take down all the details.” Comfort, consult and stay complicit.

“What happens next?” Her voice is insistent.

“We’ll let you know in due course.”

Her legs uncross, cross again and the shoe taps the desk.

“You don’t really have a complaints process do you?”

“Bullying only happens in the state branches. Once you get to the Federal level it disappears.”

“That’s how you have a zero-tolerance policy on bullying in the Liberal Party. We’re done here.”

The red shoes skip and disappear into the distance.

Budget 2018

May’s Federal Budget, the standard script.
The lock up from which no one escapes!
Winners! (Everybody rejoice).
Losers! (No one important).
Next the wide-eyed superficial analysis.
The breathless interviews with families singles, couples, pensioners, wage earners, etc fully economically briefed.
The joyously satisfied interest groups.
We always set aside the whispers and whispers of the few saddened forgotten people excluded from the calculations.
The off-script shock realisation…
Income tax cuts and corporate tax cuts require spending cuts from the people that don’t matter.

Green is the new Red!

Apparently, being concerned about the environment and supporting Same Sex Marriage is red.

Communist red that is!


Or rephrased as Green is the new Red!


Let’s look at the history then…

Caring for the environment was never a priority for any communist state. Name one. Certainly not China. Or the Soviet Union. Both countries are replete with environmental disasters.

As for same sex marriage and communism, they never walked down the same aisle. Name one. Chechyna is continuing that old tradition.

Maybe what was meant was…anything I don’t agree with is red/communist)…

So do you know what communism is?

Communism essentially puts the means of production in the hands of the workers. Name one state that does that. Anybody? Anybody?

The USSR tried. Then the state ran all production, much as any self serving totalitarian dictatorship would.

Even red wasn’t red!

And as for Green being red, it never was.

Next time research history so you can actually describe what you’re opposed to.  Otherwise it’s like saying beware of danger without saying what it actually is. Maybe it’s not dangerous at all!

Political Insults? Been There Heard That!

As a writer who was in a verbally abusive relationship for many years, the current political climate is rather familiar.

Funnily enough my main reaction to both is the same. It’s not being offended at being insulted.  After the initial six weeks (in a relationship) or fifty years (in politics), I become bored…

  • Socialist
  • Communist
  • Stalinist
  • Marxist
  • Snowflake
  • Bed wetter
  • Leftist
  • Do-gooder
  • Social justice warrior
  • UnAustralian
  • Latte drinker, etc.

And much like being called a creep, bastard, wanker, an apostate (had to look that one up as I was not studying for the ministry), oversensitive, etc, I have the same sense.

That the standard of political sledging has slipped: to the same level experienced by those in abusive relationships!

Insults on repeat.

And similar to sport, my prescription is the same.  We need to raise the standard see Australian Institute of Sledging?

For I do prefer, the insult that make me laugh. The one that makes me think.

Not the one that makes me nod off. Been there, Heard that.

Blue Sky Mine : The Wittenoom Tragedy

Every time I hear Blue Sky Mine by Midnight Oil,  about the Wittenoom mining tragedy, I’m taken back in time.

By <a href="//commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Five_Years" title="User:Five Years">Five Years</a> - <span class="int-own-work" lang="en" xml:lang="en">Own work</span>, <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0" title="Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0">CC BY-SA 3.0</a>, <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12650545">Link</a>

Asbestos Warning Sign

To 23 May 1988, to probably the saddest TV interview I have ever seen.

The interview featured on the ABC Four Corners episode called Blue Death.

Blue Death was about the Wittenoom tragedy in Western Australia which was built around a blue asbestos mine (hence the Midnight Oil song title).

Unfortunately, miners were exposed to asbestos and started becoming sick and dying.

Sadly, as this interview illustrated, they weren’t the only ones.

I can see her now. In a hospital bed being interviewed. Her thoughts are on the lingering death of her husband.

And in tears she says, “No-one should die like this.” Sadly that was her fate too.

Out of 20,000 workers and residents, over 2000 have died (See http://www.asbestosdiseases.org.au/the-wittenoom-tragedy.html).

Despite the authorities being aware of the dangers, they didn’t have the power to shut down the mine. Nor did the owners (CSR through its subsidiary Midalco)  itself comply (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CSR_Limited#Wittenoom_controversy ).

The Four Corners story was about the fate of miners and residents taking action against the company. The story stated that the company delayed legal action for as long as possible. In the hope that the litigants would not survive.

The most upsetting aspect to me was how the company stayed only focused on shareholder value only.

What worries me  is that this could happen again. And then I read and listened to this…Four degrees should be ok!



Don’t Blame the Media

I arrived at work last Saturday. In the corridors, I heard the cleaners talking about the Paris attacks. I went into the tea room and the TV was showing a rolling coverage. I stopped and watched but as time was short I left.

After I finished my training session, I checked the latest news. I was drawn in by the coverage. I was interested in Paris. My sister and her husband had only been there a few weeks ago. My cousin is visiting now. I have friends who have lived in France. I have friends now living in France.

Since then there have been articles decrying the media focus on France. One article led to a discussion about the lack of focus on Beirut or Sinai or Kenya or even the events in Mali: that it was the media’s fault that attention was mostly focused on France. I did know about the Beirut car bomb and was following the latest information on the downing of the Russian airliner in the  Sinai and remembered the Kenyan atrocities from earlier this year. But I still focused on France.

And today the topic recurred with the media coverage of the Reclaim Australia and UDP anti-Islamic rallies and the corresponding counter rallies.

Again the same comment was offered that it was the media’s fault that these rallies were getting unwarranted publicity. My response to both was this:

It’s easy to say it’s the media’s fault : they’ve done their market research and focus their message accordingly. Much like market researchers for the low-end Australian current affairs shows such as A Current Affair (ACA) or Today Tonight : their focus was to find the right people and stories to satisfy that given audience: journalism doesn’t come into it at all.

The truth is the media are following the audience. The other stories were there : it’s just that less people were interested. Me included.

All the media does is reinforce our existing prejudices. For example, if Reclaim Australia, UDP, Trump, Carson, etc, etc want to find facts that denigrate Muslims and Islam, they will. The media following the audience will report that.

There’s a passage in Ray Bradbury’s science fiction novel Fahrenheit 451 that describes it perfectly. In it the hero’s boss describes how the media gives people exactly what they want to hear.  At first it appears that the media does the thinking for its audience. But the audience doesn’t want to think for itself! Read it.

For me as an adult educator, it’s no surprise.

It’s exactly the way we learn : we fit facts to what we already know and believe.
Until we chance on information that doesn’t fit our prejudices. Then and only then, we choose to change or ossify.

The media can provoke our thoughts and feelings enabling us to confront our prejudices as good journalism and good education (dare I say it) should.

But for the media really to change, our prejudices must as well.

National Insecurity, the Internet and Data Retention

UK and Australia have introduced internet monitoring and data retention laws.

Data Storage

Data Storage

Canada too is introducing a similar bill. France as well.

The UK has had the High Court throw them out. But the Conservative Government is fighting back. Europe is also throwing out such laws.

The USA is trying to postpone its response to the controversy over the actions of their intelligence agencies after the Edward Snowden revelations.

From my perspective as a ex-system administrator, ex-desktop support operative and ex-service manager for a web site, these laws are made by people who neither understand the Internet nor its users. So why make these laws?

Let’s look at Australia….

Australia has introduced laws blocking certain web sites. These can be easily circumvented by changing Domain Name Server settings.

As well, Australia has brought in laws monitoring internet usage. Again, these laws can be easily avoided. Greens Senator Scott Ludlam through a series of questions detailed the easy ways these laws can be avoided.  Besides which any hacker or terrorist can take even further measures to avoid surveillance.

As well, those laws laughably cover the storage of metadata. Here in Australia, ISPs are in the process of determining the Government requirements and getting nowhere fast despite a closing deadline. Unfortunately, the responsible minister Attorney-General George Brandis may be of little help here as this incredible interview illustrates.

But in all of that there are two issues that are overlooked.

First is best termed as the KGB problem. Reputedly, the USSR spies ended up amassing so much data that they couldn’t make sense of it.  And even with the mega oceans of big data that surveillance will yield, it will still require analysis. It won’t be as simple as looking for keywords as this example shows. Suppose a company runs software that checks emails for offensive words. Suppose it looks for the word butt. Emails found would cover smoking habits, porn or mutual admiration! Further analysis would be needed, perhaps something like the following : a phone call to florist, phone call to removalist then trawling internet dating web sites may mean a break up or a reconciliation.

The second is best termed as temptation. Such a vast amount of data would be a  Hacker Hackinghacker’s prize. So it better be secure. But almost certainly such data will be treated with disrespect by its stewards. Why? It’s just backups that we can access online. So ultimately hackers will break into it. After all, if hackers can break into the US personnel database, what’s stopping them breaking in to the stored metadata. Then you will have untrusted strangers looking at your deleted Facebook and Twitter posts.

So I return to the question, why has a Government who doesn’t understand the internet and its inhabitants made these laws?

Clearly, not to catch terrorists and hackers. They’re smart enough to get around them. Perhaps, its the opposite, to catch people who aren’t hackers and terrorists. People like you and me.

The Best of Enemies : Movie Review

It’s 1968 and America is in turmoil. Martin Luther King has been shot, riots have broken out across the country, the Vietnam War is faltering, Robert Kennedy has been assassinated and Richard Nixon is campaigning for President.

The American Broadcasting Corporation also has its troubles. As the third (or fourth) network of three, it is struggling. As one pundit says, “If the ABC fought the Vietnam War, it would be cancelled in 13 weeks.”

To improve their ratings during the two political presidential conventions, they come up with an idea that will change TV forever. That idea is to put together William F Buckley, arch-conservative interviewer and writer with Gore Vidal,  the Oscar Wilde like enfant terrible of the political and literary scene as convention commentators.

There’s one small problem. Both men loath and detest each other.  Yet despite their earlier clashes, they agree to work with each other for the ten days covering both conventions.

This is the basis for the documentary, Best of Enemies

which covers the debates between Vidal and Buckley. Both men had clashed before but this was the first time they would be withing arm’s length of each other. And what results is electrifying and ultimately disappointing.

Two intellectual giants trade brilliant put downs and swap clever put downs. But at no time is there any meeting of minds. In fact the debate created an unbroken animosity between the two men.

Best of Enemies, showing at the Cinema Nova, Melbourne is fascinating : a super sugar hit for a political junkie with an unfortunate climb down. Scarily, the commentary offered on the politics of the day still is relevant now, despite the change in word and phrase as well as manners over the years.  Sadly, too, the dynamic of pitting two protagonists, neither of whom will listen to the other, is now the basis of present media political commentary.  Finally, this dynamic has resulted in a fragmentation of media coverage (both mainstream and new).  As  Nick Davies has pointed out, the media no longer provides multiple points of view for multiple audiences, it now provides what people want to hear. Which began with Vidal versus Buckley.

Best of Enemies is an enjoyable, extremely well put together but ultimately dis quietening documentary.