My Name is Lucy Barton


Elizabeth Strout



The poet, John Ciardi, wrote that good writing is like an acrobat who makes the difficult appear easy.

Maybe it’s contrivance at its best to produce a work that appears so uncontrived that it brings to life a narrative without sophistry, without artifice that tumbles off the page with such simple grace and unvarnished veracity.

There is something so achingly honest here that you wonder if the writer is telling her own life story, a memoir that flows back and forth through time the way memories do.

Lucy Barton recounts a time when she is in hospital and her story explores the events of her life before, during and after that time. There is something vulnerable in her candidness because it reveals so much about her and her relationships with family and people who help shape who she is and becomes.

It is often a harsh and lonely world for the different, living on the edges, hovering on the perimeters, embellished with the trappings of the needy, ridiculed and ostracised for their poverty.

The wonderful heart lifting quality of Lucy is not so much that she finds kindness but that she recognises it, accepts with grace and gratitude and remembers it.

Lucy wants to write. Her writing teacher tells her the purpose of a writer is to explore the human condition. Lucy’s memories do that in such a simple honest way we become part of them. The fact that the novel doesn’t garnish the hardships of growing up desperately poor and alienated makes it all the more moving and significant.

Maybe not so oddly or ironically, it’s the very alienation, solitude and cold that affords Lucy her escape…she finds comfort and refuge in learning and runs towards knowledge. Unlike her siblings who remain, Lucy can love without the bitterness and resentment that shackles her brother and sister.

At the end it is a book about the human condition about love in all its forms…the simple unvarnished need and nourishment of love that we as mammals need to establish meaning in our lives. It’s about the redemption of forgiveness, understanding and love. It’s about those who touch us as we grow and the freedom we find through education, knowledge and an adventurous soul.

It is a sometimes painful story beautifully told.






Martin Shkreli and the Case for Corporate Psychopathy




A person with a psychopathic personality, which manifest as amoral antisocial behaviour, lack of ability to love or establish meaningful personal relationships, extreme egocentricity, failure to learn from experience, etc.

When Martin Shkreli bought out  lifesaving pharmaceutical, Daraprimand,  and raised the price by 5,000%  from $13.50 a tablet to $750.  Overnight he became the new poster boy for Corporate Greed.

“I think profits are a great thing,” said Shkreli with a lighthearted smile.  Shrkreli says that larger companies do this and worse all the time.

Described as the “most hated man on the internet” he ignited FaceBook and Twitter into a paroxysm of outrage with labels like Scum, Filth, Asshole, Jerk and much more and much worse. On Australia’s SBS-2, The Feed, viewers overwhelmingly voted Shrkeli “Douche of the Week”.   The Feed’s anchor, Mark Fennell, commented that he had never seen such a tweet in vote landslide so heavily towards one person.  I suppose few are shocked by the news that Mr Shrkeli is currently under investigation for insider trading and fraud.

But Martin Shkreli was right about one thing, bigger companies do  this sort of thing and worse all the time.  It doesn’t excuse Shrkeli for being a selfish contemptuous ass…but he does have a point.

Consider this:

The Tobacco Industry: In denial about smoking being carcinogenic  and a major cause of heart disease and lung disease. They also deny smoking is extremely addictive.  The industry advertises heavily  throughout Asia where there are fewer regulations and restrictions on advertising and smoking rates in the young are very high.  Recently the industry tried to access Australian government information under freedom of information to gain access to research on teenagers for what many suspects may be for marketing purposes.  For years the industry ran campaigns of misinformation to obfuscate the health risks from smoking.  How many deaths on their hands?

The Sugar Industry:  Sugar is increasingly finding its way into more and more processed foods and soft drinks.  Medical research has firmly established sugar as the main source of obesity, diabetes and other health related problems.  How many deaths on their  hands?

Fossil Fuel Industry:  Still in denial on climate change and still lobbying politicians not to act on Climate Action.  The industry continues its campaigns of misinformation to obfuscate the issue.  In spite of dire warnings from 97% of scientists about the health of our planet and the threat to humanity, the industry continues to sow doubt in the community and lobby politicians to resist Climate Action.  The death of the planet?

These are just a few.  I’m sure others come to mind from chemical companies, agribusiness, genetically modified foods to the dangerous working environments and sweatshop conditions of Asia.

One couldn’t be blamed for thinking that in the Corporate World there is no moral compass, no truth, no empathy, no compassion…there are only profits.

In Forbes Magazine, British Journalist and author of  The Psychopath Test:  A Journey Through the Madness of Industry, Jon Ronson says, “Psychopathy among CEOs is about 4%, four times what is in the population at large.”

“There are absolutes in psychopathy and the main absolute is a literal absence of empathy. It’s just not there. In higher-scoring psychopaths, what grows in the vacant field where that empathy should be is a joy in manipulating people, a lack of remorse, a lack of guilt.”


Former American Vice President, Dick Cheney was also a former CEO for Halliburton.  Halliburton received lucrative government contracts when the Bush-Cheney Administration invaded Iraq.  According to The International Business Times, Halliburton made $39. 5 billion from the Iraqi War.  Cheney still maintains that the invasion was the right thing in spite of the fact Weapons of Mass Destruction were never found and the Middle East is a basket case of instability.  Way to go Dick.

Potential Republican presidential candidate former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina speaks at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition's forum in Waukee, Iowa, April 25, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young

 When GOP Presidential Hopeful, Carly Fiorina,  got the head job at Hewlett Packer she received a larger signing offer than any of her predecessors, including: US$65 million in restricted stock to compensate her for the Lucent stock and options she left behind, a US$3 million signing bonus, a US$1 million annual salary (plus a US$1.25–US$3.75 million annual bonus), US$36,000 in mortgage assistance, a relocation allowance, and access to company planes for personal affairs.    During her tenure she sent 30,000 Hewlett Packer employees home without a job. On February 9, 2005, the HP board of directors forced Fiorina to resign as chief executive officer and chair due to declining stock value, disappointing earning reports, disagreements about the company’s performance, and her resistance to transferring authority to division heads. She received a $21 million golden handshake when she was removed as CEO. On the campaign trail this year, Carly Fiorina has been a staunch advocate of keeping crippling sanctions on Iran, but under her leadership, Hewlett-Packard sold hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of products to Iran through a foreign subsidiary, despite strict U.S. export sanctions.

But it’s not just Carly Fiorina and Dick Cheney.  This kind of outrageous overpayment and corporate self-serving skulduggery seems commonplace in the USA as the disparity between rich and poor grows greater and greater.   In 2009, it was estimated that CEOs of major U.S. corporations averaged 263 times the average compensation of American workers.  Nice work if you can get it and have the moral lassitude to stomach it.

So well might we ask, what’s fucking wrong with these people?  And well should we ask, what’s fucking wrong with the system?

Seriously does the Murdoch Media really concern itself with journalistic ethics and morals? Phone hacking, political partisanship,  sensationalism, exploitation, blatant propaganda and bias in reporting say no.  Is there a reason that Rupert Murdoch so hates National Networks like the BBC in Britain and the ABC in Australia?  Yes, because as we would expect, they don’t concern themselves with profits but with content and veracity in reporting.  And the Murdoch Media is not alone, Most Corporate owned and controlled media are guilty of the same shoddy reporting and misinformation.  Is it any wonder that, according to a Washington Post poll, nearly seven in 10 Americans believed it was likely that ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the 9-11 attacks.


Are all Corporate CEOs self-serving spivs living like fat cats while the rest of their country languishes in rising levels of poverty?  Japanese Airlines CEO, Haruka Nishimatsu, is a stellar example of moral rectitude, good management and compassion.  He actually took a reduction in pay at one stage so that he wouldn’t have to lay off staff.   No hand tailored Armani suits for Nishimatsu.  He wears inexpensive clothing that his employees can also afford.  He takes the bus to work and when he flies he doesn’t take a private company jet but flies with the JAL fleet.

Comparing Haruka Nishimatsu to many US Corporate CEOs would be like comparing the Pope to Pat Robertson or Mike Huckabee.

And when the US went to war in Iraq whose interests were they really representing?  It’s not just an issue of how many US servicemen and servicewomen died in the conflict but how many innocent Iraqi families were killed as well and how much chaos, disruption, suffering, instability and homelessness has occurred in the aftermath.  Hundreds of thousands suffered and a few made a whole shitload of money.  And that returns us to the problem of our system and what drives it.
 Are our Corporate leaders psychopaths or is it simply that the makeup of our poorly regulated corporate system creates monsters without empathy, compassion or a moral compass?  And if, as the US Supreme Court decrees, that Corporations are people…then maybe those people are psychopaths.  I’m not a psychologist or a psychiatrist,  but it seems to me that the symptoms of psychopathy written by psychiatrist and psychologists pretty much describe corporate behaviour.
And while not every Psychopath is a serial killer, in fact it would seem that very few are serial killers, they do possess an inability to actually give a shit about what happens to others or empathise with their pain.  Psychopathy is a mental condition.    So it should be attended to and medicated.  How do we medicate Corporate Greed?
We fucking regulate it.

A Precis of  7 Psychopathic Characteristics


Being callous and showing a lack of sympathy.   These disconnects are responsible for the psychopath’s inability to feel emotions deeply.

Shallow Emotions

Psychopaths show a lack of emotion, especially the social emotions, such as shame, guilt and embarrassment. A lack of remorse or shame.


They blame others for events that are actually their fault.

Insincere speech

Glibness and superficial charm. Untruthfulness insincerity to outright pathological lying.


Grandiose sense of self-worth.


Pathological egocentricity and incapacity to love.

Inability to plan for the future

Lack of realistic long-term goals


Very low tolerance to frustration and low threshold for discharge of aggression, including violence.

An Unsolicited but Very Open Letter to Wally (Dr Walter Palmer) the Lion Killer


Dear Wally,

You have no idea how long I’ve worked on this. At first I spent most of my time venting my anger and hurling abuse. The words just kept mounting up.

Hell, I even drew a cartoon with your head and arse mounted on a wall. I’m not an artist. When I finished with the pencil…I went over the lines in ink…still not satisfied, I coloured them in and added flowers for Cecil.

You don’t get flowers arsehole.

Oooops.  Sorry.

Then I wrote a long rambling tirade.

It was cathartic for me, but I’m sure it would have become tiresome for the reader, not that I have a bevy of readers.

But too much of anything can become toxic or at least boring.  Even though hurling such abuse did feel good,  Sort of like kicking an object when you’re really pissed off, it doesn’t help much but it feels good,

And there is a use by date. After all, the anger and dismay and horror from the Sandy Hook Elementary School Massacre has already waned. How many remember the mass shooting at the Aurora Theatre in Colorado? How many innocent black folk will be killed by police before we act?  Or do we just become inured and bored and accept it as the done thing?  Like my anger with you Wally, how long will it take for us to shove the atrocity of Dylan Roof’s massacre of nine  African Americans while they worshipped in their church under the carpet and tune into the banal aimless empty headed drama of make believe reality television tripe?

To be honest, there is far more rage at your actions than those of Dylan Roof or James Holmes or even Adam Lanza.   I mean these guys were just sick arsed wimps that never should have come within a country mile of owning a firearm.

You’re different.  In the eyes of many you are successful, you’re wealthy, you have successful business, you fucking vote Republican and donated handsomely to Mitt Romney’s campaign for president.

Lions.  King of the Beast.  Honestly Wally, what a chickenshit cowardly dickhead thing to do.

There are billions of us…and only a few thousand of them. We have taken over the planet. We have dominated everything…we have destroyed wildlife habitat…and we value nothing unless it can return a profit. We’ve lost our ability to appreciate the beauty of things simply for the beauty of things…we have to apply a price tag to everything or, in your case, kill it and mount it’s head on your fucking wall.

You paid all that money to kill something noble, beautiful and natural. Why didn’t you donate it to house the homeless?  Set up an animal rescue?  Educate a poor kid? Help stop global warming?  Why?

Why?  Because you’re an arsehole that’s why.

And according to your guide you were not only not satisfied with killing Cecil…you had an elephant on your shopping list as well. And we already know you’ve killed a rhino because you had your picture taken with its corpse.

Not that your guide had any room to judge, he was an arsehole too.

Trophy Hunting. Seriously? Some sort of barbaric left over from the age of English Imperialism. And come on Wally…you didn’t even get that right. Those guys went on proper safaris…you know actually hunted on foot…and spent weeks in the bush doing it rough. You flew into the Dark Continent…were picked up at the airport…they tied a carcass to the back of a four-wheel drive and lured Cecil from the reserve. Then in the middle of the night… while you sat in the comfort and safety of a blind, your paid lackeys  blinded  poor Cecil with  a spotlight so you could take your shot.

You even fucked that up…wounding him and letting him suffer for forty hours before finding him the following day and putting him out of his misery. Then the final humiliation…cutting off his head…leaving his carcass to rot in the sun.

Man against nature my arse.  You’re not The Old Man and the Sea.  You’re not Ernest Hemmingway.  You’re not Shackleton or Jedidiah Smith or Hugh Glass.  Do you really think you are some kind of great white hunter?  What kind of pindick fantasy is that? I mean Jesus you and that Shitforbrains Ted Nugent should do some bonding. You mindless fucks would get along.

See. As hard as I try I can’t help but be pissed off and burst into a tirade.

You and Dylan and John and Adam have some things in common. You guys come off as rather wan and wimpy and scared.  Here, I put in some outdated man porn for you. It may help you with your erectile dysfunction.


Ooooh….monster weasels!

Probably for the first time in your life…you got recognition. Global recognition. Unfortunately, it’s also global condemnation.

I’m not one of those calling for your blood.

I don’t want you to do anything more stupid or self-indulgent than you’ve already done. I mean, no suicide Wally. I don’t want the likes of Wayne la Pierre or Ted Nugent using you as a model of martyrdom for the gun lobby or Trophy Hunters.

Jedidiah Smith…Hugh Glass…Jim Bridger.  You aren’t those guys.  You’re a dentist who sexually harassed your receptionist until she finally put a stop to it.  You were too vain and up yourself to read her messages that she didn’t appreciate your advances.  And that cost 120,000 bucks.  Not enough in my book…but hey you could have had two more safaris for that and killed some other natural things.

You fucked up Wally…and you’ve been fucking up for a long time and it seems to me you haven’t learned a goddamned thing.

You went underground. Tried to hire a publicity firm and even they rejected you.  Now that’s saying something.   And when you finally return to work you have the unmitigated audacity to question the humanity of others.

I mean seriously?  You’re the victim and they’re the bad guys?  You question their humanity?  You’re the guy who went to another country, lured a magnificent animal from a wildlife refuge and killed it.

You’d think after spending all that money you would have spent some time studying the character and behaviour of the animal you intended on killing. In The Old Man and the Sea, Santiago battles the great fish and in the end no one really wins, not Santiago, not the fish, not the sharks that attack the fish.  But Santiago exhausted climbs the hill back to his shack and dreams of lions.  He has learned something.  He has gone through a metaphysical experience, a spiritual journey.

in Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner the mariner commits a senseless act, an act of random violence.  For no apparent reason, he kills the albatross.

And he’s punished for it.  His fellow crew members who condone the act also suffer.  Only the mariner survives and he must travel the world, tell his story and speak his message to all he encounters:

He prayeth best, who loveth best

All things both great and small;

For the dear God who loveth us,

He made and loveth all.

This is the voice of humanity Wally.  Humanity is the voice that brings us reason, compassion and a sense of place in the world and society.  We make mistakes.  We accept that and own it. We learn. We try and do better.

We don’t blame others for our fuck ups.

It seems to me Wally that you have yet to do that.

Little Wattlebirds

The Little Wattlebirds nest in a wicker basket lantern that hangs under our veranda roof.  They have been doing so for years.

The basket hangs in a heavy traffic area just outside our kitchen door.  We watch them from our table outside on the veranda.  For most of the year our weather is mild.  We we spend a lot of time there and it’s where we eat most of our meals.   The wattlebirds are not far away and the parents don’t get alarmed unless we walk directly under the nest when they are feeding.  Sometimes in the evening when it’s nice and still we sit at the table, watch a starlit sky silhouette the towering trees behind the house, chat and have a drink while the mother bird roost on the nest and goes to sleep.

It doesn’t get more peaceful and pleasant than that.

Wattlebirds are not songsters.  Their normal call sounds like a rusty gate hinge buffeted in the wind.  But when they arrive for nesting the two mates speak to one another in soft gentle chirps and tweets that sound sweet and endearing.

They fly in and inspect the real estate,  calling out to one another.  If all is good, they begin renovations. Take out a twig. Add a twig. Throw in some soft fluffy stuff.  Move things around a bit. When that’s done, they lay their egg or eggs and the mother bird sits the nest.

The young hatch.  Stick up their little fuzzy heads on thin reedy necks, mouths wide open and the parents swoop into to feed them.

They are dedicated doting parents, both parents  feeding their hatchlings.  In the video you see one feeding and flying away to be immediately replaced by the mate.

It’s never without drama.  We grow attached to them and it’s a warm and wonderful thing to watch them progress daily.  So when danger comes we are concerned.  Some birds raid nests, eat eggs and young chicks.  Because their nest is under the veranda roof and close to the house, predators tend to avoid it.  Still there are butcher birds, magpies, currawongs,crows and kookaburras to watch out for.  The parents forage continually for food but they’re never far away.  They are honeyeaters and there are plenty of native flowering shrubs nearby and in our backyard to sustain them.

The chicks are almost ready to leave the nest. They’ve progressed rapidly.  They will leave the nest and roost in a nearby tree or shrub, calling to their parents who sweep in and feed them.  One day soon they will fly away.

     *     *     *

 We had a visitor and our dog, Shadow, went off in vollies of barks, running to and fro along the veranda exuberant, excited and noisy.  Mayhem ensued.   One of the chicks panicked and fell out of the nest.  Julie gently swooped it up in a soft cap and placed it back in the nest.  So all was well.


     *     *     *

No surprises.  Today one of the chicks has left the nest.  The one that reached higher when the parents came into feed.  I’m sure it’s the one that fell from the nest the other day. It had been standing up right and stretching its wings for few days. We can hear it calling plaintively.  The parents attention is now divided between the bird in the bush and bird in the nest.

One chick is left and it’s getting anxious. We watch and wait for a few days.  Mum comes in at night and sits the nest.  Baby bird is curious but we’re not certain it’s going to join the sibling just yet.  Parents gently coax and cajole from the sidelines…

So it’s gone.  The parents are still hanging around in the backyard but the babies are not to be seen.  We suspect they are hiding in the thick cover of the golden canes.  This morning two butcher birds swooped into the backyard chasing one of the babies in under the veranda and into the kitchen window with a loud bang.  Baby flew off into the shrubs and eventually the butcher birds left.

Thug Kitchen


Welcome to Thug Kitchen, bitches.  We’re here to help. We started our website to inspire motherfuckers to eat some goddam vegetables and adopt a healthier lifestyle.  Our motto is simple:


“This is a fucking wake-up call. This is for that section of the grocery store that you avoid.  This is for drive-thru lines so long they block traffic.  This for ketchup and pizza qualifying as fucking vegetables.  This is for everyone who wants to do better but gets lost in the bullshit.”

Thus begins the mission statement and dedication for the vegan cookbook Thug Kitchen.  The writers, Michelle Davis and Matt Holloway, have established an audacious approach in an effort to achieve a difficult task.  They employ the use of a rough, tough and profane street vernacular in an attempt to encourage average punters to improve their health and eat more vegetables.

It’s no secret that our modern diet is killing us. Heart disease, cancer, diabetes, hypertension, osteoporosis and dental disease can be linked to modern diet.  According to government statistics in Australia of 63% adults are overweight or obese and, according to American government statistics, it’s even worse in the USA with a whopping 68.8%.

Sure, thanks to modern medicine we are living longer, but thanks to modern diet we aren’t living as long as we could, nor are we living as well as we could.  Being overweight or obese does have a tendency to slow us down and make us lounge blimps.

We should eat better.  We know that.  So, why don’t we?

One of the problems could be is that we are addicted to bad habits…and we really don’t quite understand how to break them.  We seem to be conditioned to plan our meals around animal protein. Steak…and baked potato.  Fish and Chips.  Chicken, stuffing and fries.  Hamburger and fries.  Barbecued ribs and cornbread.  Meat pies and chips.  Bangers and mash.  Hot dogs and relish.


Okay, sure many of us have improved on that…but still…we are meat focused.

Go to a restuarant, budget or top shelf, order your main, whether it be beef, lamb, poultry, seafood, whatever.  Odds on that you’re order won’t arrive with half a plate of vegetables.

And there is, of course, another problem.  Many of us have predisposed ideas about vegans and vegetarians.

Our viewpoint is tainted, coloured and prejudiced by generalisations, bullshit and vacuous stereotyping that depict health as red blooded carnivores sitting around a fire  eating a whole cow on a weekly basis and vegetarians as counter culture misfits living on the edge of some soft shelled wimpy fantasy .  Meh, hippies are so last century.

Cartoonist, Wiley Miller, recently lampooned these attitudes in his internationally syndicated cartoon strip, Non Sequitur.

Non Sequitur by Wiley Miller

Non Sequitur

This is where Thug Kitchen steps in with an attempt to shatter our preconceptions of vegans as the others rather than the brothers and sisters of sensible economic diet.

After a time, the language becomes a little jejune, repetitious and lacking in real street verisimilitude, but it’s done in good faith or at least in good irreverence.  And by the time you become sort of ho-hum with the language…the message kicks in and recipes seduce your interest.

It is a damned useful cookbook and a good solid step in the right direction.  The writers introduce us to a number recipes and strategies for increasing vegetables in our diet and that’s a good thing.   And you don’t have to be a vegan or a vegetarian to reap the benefits.

Many of us know that at least half our plate should contain vegetables, a quarter of the plate protein and another quarter a carbohydrate (starch, grains, etc).  Not only are vegetables a natural source of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients…they are low in calories, they help to fill you up and stave off hunger.  Filling half your plate with vegetables is a damned good way of reducing your intake of calorie heavy proteins, dairy and starch.

My wife and I are not vegans or vegetarians but we have reduced our intake of animal protein and sugar laden processed foods for our own health and the health of the environment.  It’s a start, it works and we feel better for it.

You can visit Thug Kitchen site at:

 And the book is available at book stores and online.

This Little Kid: A Message to Anti-Vaxxers

Vaccine 2

This little kid has polio.  See the calliper splint on his withered leg.  He has his whole life ahead of him.  And while he’s already endured more than his share of pain…he has a whole lot more in his future.  Long lonely nights flat on his back strapped to boards, painful corrective surgeries, limbs immobilised in plaster and warm sunny days inside confined to bed.

And the thing is, this little kid isn’t alone.  Thousands of adults and young people and tens of thousands little kids suffered…many died..and many of those who survived learned to function as best they could with their withered limbs.  They rarely complained.  Complaining wasn’t part of the program.  They ignored the pain and embarrassment. They sucked it up. Many will be confined to wheelchairs, iron lungs, their bodies will be twisted and deformed with multiple limbs affected.  They will bare the pain, the suffering  and difficulty of this ailment.  They will not cry.  They will not shrug their shoulders in the school’s physical education class and say they can’t do that. They will duck their heads and try.  They will swallow the pain and their pride and try no matter how awkward their attempts.  They were trained like that…chin up…head down.

Cripple is an ugly word but a word far uglier for them.  For some even the mention of their ailment would make their faces burn with shame as if for some reason it was their fault that they were afflicted.


They knew a special kind of horror, a special kind of pain that stretched them flat on on their backs, tied to boards, limbs imprisoned to keep them straight, as they passed the long lonely nocturnal hours of pain and darkness. An electric pain that shrieked and crackled in a continuous stream of raw inflamed nerve endings.


For some like this little kid these memories would return in a rush of panic decades later…insomnia and claustrophobia…an apoplexy of horror of even the restrictive threat of a watch band…a cast or bandage would become unbearable.  And like the repressed memories, forgotten for so many long years…the pain, the fatigue and immobility will also return.


A quote from Joan London’s novel about a polio ward in Australia during the 1950s, The Golden Age, sums it up nicely:

“Polio is like love, …years later, when you think you’ve recovered, it comes back.”

This message is not from the old man…but from this little kid within the old man.  And this little kid inside this old man is thankful for loving supportive parents.  Parents who weathered the Great Depression and World War 2, parents who were  forced by the economic forces and heartless economic system to forsake their education in order to make a living, in order to survive…yet parents who were smart enough to recognise the intelligence of science.  Had a vaccine existed at that time there was no way they would  not have vaccinated this little kid.

And now in our modern internet age there is a host of those who would defy reason, ignore the history and challenge the science in favour of poorly researched, badly written articles that inflame unfounded panic and suspicion about polio vaccinations.   Proper science is supported by rigorous testing, research and more testing.  It comes with the imprimatur of other scientists and without corporate  motivation for profit.  What kind of parent would risk their children’s health and future on anecdotal nonsense, pseudo science and ignorance?

Believe all the conspiracy theories you will.  Believe that the Moon Landing was faked and produced by Hollywood with Disney sponsorship, scripted by Arthur C. Clarke, directed by Stanley Kubrick and performed by Snow White, Goofy and the Seven Dwarfs.  Believe that Elvis is still alive and living as a recluse in a back of the bayou fishing shack in Podunk, Louisiana.  Believe that Marlin Monroe was actually Lon Chaney Jr in drag because by and large even though it’s pretty much bullshit…it’s not a fantasy that hurts anyone.

But seriously question the false flag moronic bullshit that comes from some batshit crazy loud mouth living in a bomb shelter in Texas who claims that the Sandy Hook Massacre was staged so Obama can come for your guns.  Because that is hurtful, that is damaging and that is a total insult to the babies who were massacred and the teachers who died trying to protect them and an absolute slap across the face to their parents.  And question the motives of those who claim that the Holocaust didn’t occur in spite of the overwhelming weight and volume of archival evidence.  It was a shameful horrid act, perpetrated by madness and fear and hate.  There is no redemption or truth in its denial.

To put it simply, if you’re going to question history or question science, play by the rules.  Do rigorous research, consult real data from credited sources not anecdotal bullshit…and most importantly:  Don’t make shit up.

Finally ask yourself one question:  How would you feel if your child was stricken by polio because you refused vaccination?

And even more importantly, how do you think your child would feel?

Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power…by Rachel Maddow


(Reposted from Open Salon)

If you can establish the calibre of a person by the inanity, pettiness and stupidity of their critics then Rachel Maddow is top shelf, high gauge and first rate. And I have to confess it was the venom, vitriol and bile that accompanied comments regarding Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power that prompted me to read it. I wasn’t disappointed.

It’s no secret that Maddow leans left but this book is a fair an equitable treatment. No one escapes scrutiny here….she doesn’t shirk from exposing Johnson, Clinton and Obama right along with Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush 1, Bush 2 and Cheney.

Drift is astute, intelligent and meticulously researched. This is an important book about how apathy and ignorance of the clandestine machinations of US wars is shrinking our democracy and our freedoms, undermining our Constitution and pretty much making us an Evil Empire on par with the Death Star and the helmeted storm troopers from the Dark Side in Star Wars. It is written by someone who has not only read the Constitution but has studied it and who has not only studied it but understands it. This is as good as investigative writing gets. It’s not an hysterical rant from some paranoid ideologue or a mudslinging diatribe from a partisan hack. Maddow delves into issues crucial to our nation and exposes some very scary stuff.

Drift conjures up the old bayou folk analogy of how to cook a frog. You put it cold water and gradually turn up the heat until it’s blissfully unaware of the fact that it’s being boiled alive. And so it is with America’s involvement in war. I suppose it doesn’t even occur to us now that a war going on as long as ten years is unusual…until we stop and have a look at the wars before Vietnam.

World War 2 lasted barely four years and we fought it on two fronts. But we were all involved then. Women worked in the factories, and many who missed the draft, joined up. People willingly sacrificed and went without for the war effort. Gas and other commodities were rationed and few complained. Imagine that happening now days? We have fallen from grace since the Greatest Generation, the nobel war to squash Fascism and the establishment of the Marshall Plan. We’ve been in free fall since Vietnam and unless we do something about it we will hit bottom and splatter in the rotting ooze of our own mess.

An image from the book haunts me as a metaphor for the rampant greed, selfishness and immorality of the private sectors role in our wars….

See this helicopter mechanic provided by the Corporate Private Sector when our troops were in Bosnia. He weighs over 400 pounds and the pocket of his overalls is stuffed with a cheeseburger. He is so incompetent that at he falls asleep regularly while on the job. On one such occasion he falls asleep with a blow torch in his hand and burns a hole through the shell of a helicopter. While in Serbia he purchases a sex slave from the Serbian mafia. She’s a fourteen year old child. He loves to brag about his possession to any that will listen. If the child doesn’t behave, do what he wants her to, why hell, he’ll just trade her in on another. Fat Boy wasn’t alone. The Serbian mafia had a lucrative market with American civilians employed by the private sector.

Welcome to a whole new level of Ugly American.

This is our image. This is what we’ve become. This is the growing stench we carry as Americans.

Drift is a stone thrown in the still waters of a pond. Once read the ripples keep on coming. Let’s hope this book gets the readership it deserves and let’s hope those readers are as moved and as angry as I am. And that we are moved to do something about senseless wars we wage at the expense of our education system, our health system and our society and to the benefit of those private contractors who have become the only winners regardless whether America wins or loses.

The Evil Empire has emerged and it is us.

Hack Attack–The Inside Story of How the Truth Caught Up with Rupert Murdoch by Nick Davies…an Endorsement.



“When you allow global corporations to roam global markets, you make them more powerful than nation states; when you ‘roll back the state’ you reduce the power of the people in each nation; when you ‘cut back regulation’, you allow the biggest corporations to dominate and exploit their territories; when you break trade unions and tear up employment laws, you allow these corporations to ride roughshod over them. The simple’ beautiful idea that people should run their own societies disintegrates, allowing the few to rule and the many to follow.”

Nick Davies

Hack Attack


This is not a review.  It’s an endorsement of Nick Davies’ latest book, Hack Attack, because I think it’s so damned important to understand the corporate abuse of power and also the sinister underbelly of the Murdoch Empire.  It’s also  a tribute to Davies’ perseverance and integrity and an acknowledgement to his editor, Alan Rusbridger and The Guardian,  perhaps the most ethical and important newspapers in the English speaking world.

Nick Davies’ expose` of the Murdoch’s stable of Fleet Street hacks unveils a culture of blackmail, intimidation, malice, invasion of privacy and toxic falsehood.   We know it’s a nasty, selfish and crooked world at times, but when those who practise such malice, bullying and corruption have such a strangle hold on our police and our politicians we should become concerned…very concerned. Davies has written a gripping account of this David and Goliath struggle with Rupert Murdoch and his Fleet Street hacks, bullies and thugs.

The whole idea that such a band of ethicless, ruthless, immoral, sharks and barracudas  has such influence on our police, our government and our politicians is not only abhorrent, it’s dangerous.  It’s dangerous to society.  It’s dangerous to people and it’s dangerous to democracy because the more control corporations have over our police, our politicians and our media…the less control the people have to elect and access their representatives to address their concerns and represent them.  Eveything becomes focused not the needs of society but the wants of corporations.

Davies claims only a pyrrhic victory but he does for a short period of time strip the veneer from the corporate monster and expose the rot and power that threatens our democracy. He’s a brave man and this is an important account of corruption and abuse of power from a corporation that wields enormous influence not only in Britain but the USA and Australia and threatens the very principles on which our governments were established.

“All of this exposure and brief humbling of Rupert Murdoch easily seduced us into thinking we had won a great victory, that truth had caught up with power. Very soon, however, as attention faded and scandal slipped into the past, the elite simply took back their power, as if we had never challenged it—as if the tide had stayed out long enough to allow us to build castles of sand, and now we watched as waves of irresistible force returned to wash them away.”

After eight months of trial in Britain there were a few casualties and those who were to sentenced prison…but as always, the heavy hitters and moguls at the top, while temporarily exposed and embarrassed, got off scot-free.  And it didn’t take them long raise their ugly heads and continue business as usual.

The media has always held an important function in democracy and it is a sad state of affairs when that function is exploited and used simply to make money and impose power.  It is a sad state of affairs when the media lowers itself to phone tapping,  computer hacking, bullying and misinformation.  If the media is to be a watchdog on politicians, government and democracy, then perhaps there needs to be a watchdog established to ensure they don’t abuse their own powers.  The news has an obligation to report the truth without bias.  The news has a code of ethics and behaviour and  should they contravene that code they have their licence revoked.  The news should represents the public interests and not distort and fabricate to suit private interests and profits or pander to those who they wish to position in seats of government and power.

While Britain took Murdoch’s Fleet Street enterprises to court, worlds away the mogul was exercising the same biased, partisan misinformation in the USA and Australia, aiming the content at the lowest common denominator, at the gullible, the angry, the misinformed.


War is Peace

Freedom is Slavery

Ignorance is Strength

In the USA, Murdoch Media continues its attack on President Barrack Obama till this day for the most petty and childish of reasons.  In Australia they ran a smear campaign against the Labor Government of both Kevin Rudd and then Julia Gillard that was so vile, vitriolic and venomous it managed to influence people to vote into office the most backward and repressive right wing government in Australia’s history.

It was media slanted so heavily, so beat up and repeated so often with avalanches of misinformation that it managed to convince those less discriminatory in their news.  For those of us with a modicum of awareness and intelligence it becomes a blatant satire and parody of the equity supposedly exercised by the Fourth Estate.  Sadly, there are significant numbers who accept it as truth and are only too eager to swallow the bigotry of a network that preys on their ignorance.

“Fair and Balanced” is the Fox News slogan.  Many of us know that Fox is anything but that.  Such outrageous techniques and claims can’t help but conjure up  George Orwell ‘s ideas from his book written in 1948.

Below are front pages from Murdoch’s Daily Telegraph in Australia and the New York Post in the USA, front pages so biased, so hyperbolised, so unprofessional they’d be laughable if they didn’t actually succeed in targeting their significant audience of naifs, rednecks and gullible malcontents who continue to vote against their own interests.
















Hack Attack did not slay the dragon, or stay the beast.  It may have temporarily embarrassed the beast…but I seriously suspect that this kind of power and arrogance is beyond any feelings of embarrassment or shame….after all, their actions prove that time and time again.  If, as the American Supreme Court ruled, Corporations are people then they are people without the decency to feel compassion or embarrassment or shame…

The effect and warning of Davies work is only ephemeral if we let it be.  We must keep it alive…and keep the pressure on.  We must continue to express our outrage at the abuse of an ethic-less media bent on invading the privacy of others, bent on making up toxic lies of others, and being duplicitous in their own morality.

Do we really want our leaders to be influenced and controlled by those with off shore accounts,  tax havens, and who are obsessed solely by profits?

We did not vote for Rupert Murdoch or James Murdoch. We did not vote for David and Charles Koch. We didn’t vote Gina Rinehart, James Hardy or the Moguls of Big Coal and Big Oil. Sure corporations have their role in our societies…but it’s not dictorial role based on their profits and self interests…in fact their interests are often narrowed down to simple bottom line of profits and to hell with morality, decency, the environment or even people….they need to be watched, regulated and kept in line.

Hack Attack is an important book.  Buy it.  Read it.  Tell your friends.×76.html

On Full Moons, Willie Wagtail and Early Mornings.


Moonrise over the Corindi River.

When there’s a full moon, Willy sometimes sings through out the night.  He twitters and scrapes in the backyard outside our window, a sweet song that reminds me of cold clear water washing over stone.

Lately, in the early morning the butcher bird joins in.  The butch is further off, his song is clear melodious fluting…startling pure piping tones off in the distance.

This morning a wattle bird breaks the tranquilty with its rusty hinge screech…something has disturbed it.  Maybe a cat foraging through the early morning…

Willie Wagtails are one of my favourite birds.  I love their song.  I love the way they dance and spin above the ground to flush out insects.  I love their black feathers and tail and their white breasts.  I love the little white eyebrows above their gleaming black eyes.  They remind me of a little old men dressed in a tuxedos.

I hate it when I find a pile of black and white feathers on the ground and it pisses me off that people don’t keep their cats in at night.  Willies often hunt at night and flutter close to the ground flushing up insects to eat.  Like much of Australian birdlife they are exceptionally vulnerable to marauding  cats.

 Mr and Ms Willie are living in our back yard.  We’re pretty certain they’re nesting in one of the golden canes that line our back fence.   We know this because Mr and Ms Willie sing their soft little song early in the morning.  They often start just before 5:00.  They wake Shadow, and she tromps noisily around the house and bangs through the doggie door announcing that she thinks it a damned good time to get out of bed and go for a walk.  Julie and I think it’s a damned good idea to start Daylight Savings a bit earlier.


Full moon framed by golden cane leaves.

Willie Wagtails are exceptionally active and vocal when there is a full moon.  I don’t know why.  I can only think that bug hunting is more productive on a full moon or maybe Willie is just celebrating because there’s more light.

The last few days Mr and Mrs Willie have been fluttering around one of our large terra cotta lanterns that hangs from our verandah.   We haven’t lit the lantern in a long time and every opening is  filled with spider webs.  I thought at first they were stealing the packaged insects caught in the web.  I even remarked to Julie one morning when we were sitting out on verandah having breakfast that Willie managed to get her beak all covered in sticky web.  It occurred to me a few days later that Mr and Mrs Willie probably weren’t really into eating desiccated insect husk but were collecting the sticky web to assist in building their nest.  The terra cotta lantern is totally web free now.

P1030993 - Version 2

Wattlebird nesting in wicker lantern.

We often have wattlebirds nesting in our yard.  In fact sometimes they nest in a wicker lantern that hangs from the ceiling on the veranda, but this is the first time we’ve had Willie Wagtail nest in our yard.  I’ve yet to see the nest and I don’t really want to disturb them by trying too hard and despite their early morning singing, we’re just glad they’re here.


Willie hunting over a grassy space in the reserve.

March in August

The follow up to March in March in Coffs Harbour was once again held at the Jetty Foreshores.  The turn up was less than the previous march but I doubt that it was from lack of interest.  The posters and signs asserted that people’s disappointment and anger with the Abbott Government hadn’t diminished and neither had their commitment.


Disappointment in Abbott Government, a pervasive theme from many people.


Not In My Name: Issue: Slogan covering a raft of issues and broken promises that have stirred many people to reject ownership of Abbott Government’s actions.


Issue: Inhumane treatment of asylum seekers

Many of our friends and acquaintances didn’t know about the march until we told them.  In the future many of us who are on Face Book and other social media need to make more of an effort to inform ourfriends and interested parties who may not be active with social media.

Organisers presented an impressive list of speakers on the day who addressed issues concerning  funding cuts to health and education, the Government’s lack of vision and initiative concerning pressing issues of Climate Change, Reef Protection and the Environment and our inhumane lack of compassion towards  Asylum Seekers.


Mike Griffin, Rural Australians For Refugees Bellingen and Nambucca speaks on the issue: inhumane treatment and detention of asylum seekers. It is legal to seek asylum.


Amanda Short, NSW Nurses and Midwives Association speaks on health. Issues: More broken promises. Government cuts to Hospitals, GP Payments and privatisation of NSW Hospital Services.


Sarah Wood, Coffs Coast Climate Action Group speaks on environment. Issues: Environment and Climate Change. Abbott Governments failure to act on crucial environmental issues and disregard of research and science.


Adam Curliss, NSW Teacher Federation, speaks on education. Issues: TAFE cuts, undermining of job training programs and education by Abbott Government.


Michael Trist, NSW Primary Principal’s Association speaks on education. Issues: Broken promises, cuts to education funding and the ensuing impact on our local schools.


Issue: Cuts to regional educational facilities and universities. More broken promises.


Issue: Broken Promises. Abbott and Pyne abandon promise made on Gonski funding.


Issue: Abbott cynically appoints himself as Minister for Women. Patronising and Insulting.

It was unfortunate that many speeches suffered from being drowned out by the noise of the muscle speed boats screaming at top speeds through the harbour, an irony I’m sure that wasn’t wasted on many march attendees expressing concern about the Abbott government’s lack of concern for Global Warming and Sustainable Energy Options.


Coffs Coast Climate Action Group: Issue: Abbott Government’s total disregard for science and climate action and continued support for the fossil fuel industry at the expense of our climate change action and our future.


Climate Change. Another important issue. Abbott puts mining and fossil fuel interests before the Australian people, the environment and our future.


Another Broken Promise…Abbott cuts funding to ABC and SBS.

A big thanks to MarchinMarch Coffs Harbour for another successful day.  We appreciate the hard work, time and effort.  


Suggested Actions

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