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Narrow Minded Italian Catholic Conservative Peasant From Footscray

The prompts from the blog platform suggest that I introduce myself.

In short, I am several things.

Firstly, I am a Narrow Minded Italian Catholic Conservative Peasant From Footscray. I have been describing myself as that for at least the past 15 years or so.

This description might not be totally accurate.

I am probably not as narrow minded as I boast I am.

Whilst I am of Italian ancestry and reasonably fluent in Italian, I probably think more the iconoclastic way that Australians do, having been born and lived in Australia my whole life.

Nor am I particularly observant religiously, although like most people, 1600 years of Christianity being the dominant religion (‘thank you’ Emperor Theodosius) in Western Civilisation does tend to hard wire us in a particular way. (I do like to amuse myself by claiming that the dinosaurs missed the ark and that the world is just over 6000 years old.).

Peasant? Well, my parents are from peasant stock, as probably most Italian migrants in the 1950s were, and I like growing my own tomatoes in the backyard. But I am a lower middle class office worker really, with the luxury of participating in a post industrial economy. I also have a university education, and not in agriculture.

Whilst I am very personally Conservative, both culturally and socially, I am more Liberal than Conservative, and believe in individual rights and liberties and freedom of choice and conscience etc to the point where I can get quite worked up when I hear of proposals to intervene in the lives of people or to curtail our freedoms.

I also don’t live in Footscray, although I was born there (and proud of it), and lived and went to school there during my childhood and adolescence, and the Western Bulldogs (formerly known as the Footscray Football Club) is my AFL team. I do not live too far from Footscray though. I am in Avondale Heights, which is like a north western outpost of Footscray, and previously lived in Maribyrnong. But just like people from Fremantle claim that they are from Fremantle rather than from Perth, real Footscray people claim that they are from Footscray rather than from Melbourne. I suppose, historically, that it has something to do with the fact that there is quite a distance between the eastern boundary of Footscray at the Maribyrnong River, and the centre of Melbourne, and most of that two mile distance was occupied firstly by a swamp and then by a wasteland involving docks, chemical depots (where were you during the Coode Island fire in 1991?) and quarantine grounds….

Secondly, I am a postgrad dropout. That does contradict a lot of what my first description suggests I am, but we all are complex and many layered people. The MA thesis I was planning to write was about Nietzsche, Hegel and the End of History or some such, which is the sort of topic which would have been pretty passe in 1994 when I was interested in doing it. However, life gets in the way – working full time and getting a promotion at work which resulted in me focusing my energies and attention on my job meant that I did not have much left in the tank for a 30,000 word thesis. And whilst I still enjoy reading Nietzsche for his manic and frenetic style, Hegel is really boring.

As for more? I much prefer the writings of Anthony Trollope over Charles Dickens. I still enjoy re-reading my favourite Nevil Shute novels, and I occasionally re-read my copy of JRR Tolkien. I did ditch Game of Thrones about 100 pages into the first book, and don’t regret it at all. I remain very curious as to whether some of the unpublished novels of JD Salinger from his period of seclusion (I have the general impression he wrote some) will see the light of day during my lifetime, although I loathed Catcher in the Rye whilst finding his short stories fascinating.

Vale Dr Edelsten

I think, when I was younger, I had a rather blindly Manichaen view of the world (ie good versus evil and all that). Hopefully, I have outgrown such simplistic views as I have accumulated life experience.

Perhaps a remnant of that puerile Manichaenism is my love for villains. I greatly enjoy the Shakespearean villains (Iago, Richard III and Macbeth are my favourites) and of course the Bond super villains. You probably get that from reading my blog for long enough.

As your typical Victorian in the early 1980s, I was very resistant to the growth of the Victorian Football League into other cities and states. I wanted it to stay at the 12 Victorian teams that it had been since 1925. That the hugely mismanaged South Melbourne Football Club had been strong armed into moving to Sydney in order to survive was not something I or other Melbournians were prepared to accept.

And then the cash strapped Sydney Swans, as they now were, could no longer survive as a public club, but were to be sold off to a private owner. To me, this appeared to be an awful act of villainy by the VFL.

And the biggest villain of the whole sorry saga to the teenage version of yours truly was the fellow who was so ostentatious as to offer to buy the Sydney Swans, Dr Geoffrey Edelsten, who was some sort of medical entrepreneur (ie he figured out a way to get very rich very quickly on the newly introduced medicare bulk billing).

The ‘pink doctor’ as he was then called, lived a highly flamboyant life. He had a pink limo, a pink helicopter, and a trophy wife 20 years younger than himself. Myself and my teenage friends suspected that the wife was what we would now call a ‘beard’ to cover up for a gay lifestyle. [His subsequent history with two further and more showy wives has shown me to be probably wrong in this suspicion – he was a sleazy straight man in early middle age who moved onto be a sleazy straight man in his senior years, one with probably very shallow judgment in his choice of life partners.]

But it did seem very sinister to me the way that he went and bulldozed through the sentiments of the remaining Swans supporters and took control of the club. I wonder if he would have behaved that way if someone similar did likewise to Carlton, the club he really barracked for?

He did however, during his brief tenure of the ownership of the Sydney Swans, do some good for the promotion of Australian rules Football in Sydney. He injected money into attracting some stars and a decent coach and even got a cheerleader squad of pom-pom girls (sadly only for home games).

But then it all fell apart as his links to various crime figures came out, and he ended up spending some time in gaol for something or other nefarious.

So, by 1990, you might think that the comet of self-promotion that was Geoffrey Edelsten had disappeared into the void, never to appear again.

Wrong!

He was to reappear, unchastened, with a new fortune (which he lost yet again) and with a couple of colourful new wives, perhaps to match the colourful suits he would wear at high society events.

Whilst we in Australia have never had a show like Keeping Up With The Kardashians, I believe that Brynne, Mrs Edelsten number 2, did have some sort of show for quite some time on pay TV here.

I have occasionally reflected on this blog about how crassness is when rich people behave badly (probably vulgarly is a better description). And there always was something fascinatingly crass and vulgar about the conspicuous consumption on display when Dr Edelston was around, wife in tow.

For a very clever man who had both medicine and law degrees, and who had been able to make several fortunes, I do something wonder at how he was able to lose those fortunes on appallingly bad investments, to the point where he brazenly claimed that he had to rely on his elderly mother in a nursing home to fund his lifestyle (now that was a bit of what New Yorkers would call Chutzpah), as she did not want him to be sad (I think he had been smart enough to make sure he bankrupt proofed himself with a trust fund in mum’s name).

I suppose that the Achilles Heal to Dr Edelsten was not his cleverness, but his lack of a sense of shame and an urgent wish to be loved, and how he confused love with the attention of some beautiful women and regular appearances in the society pages. To achieve all that attention and those headlines, he was prepared to make some appallingly bad investments, starting with the Sydney Swans in 1985 and then continuing a long time later with at least one local film company – appearing at a movie premiere would be a very costly ticket.

I no longer think that Dr Edelsten was a villain. I think, a bit like Timon of Athens in the Shakespeare tragedy, he was a more tragic figure than that, more Quixotic clown than hero, and apparently abandoned Timon-like by his supposed friends when the money mostly ran out. And I will miss him and his public quest to party hard for as long as he could.

My Kingdom for a Horse! Reflections on Malcolm Gladwell’s Latest Book.

For want of a nail, a shoe was lost. For want of a shoe, a horse was lost. For want of a horse, a rider was lost. For want of a rider, a message was lost. For want of a message, a battle was lost. For want of a battle, the war was lost. For want of a war, the kingdom was lost. And all for the want of a nail.”

The above time hallowed rhyme (nursery or otherwise) is apparently what actually did happen in the demise of the reign (and life) of one of my favourite Shakespearean villains, Richard III.

And whilst it is not quoted by Malcolm Gladwell in his latest book, The Bomber Mafia, it represents a chain of reasoning which does unpin his book.

Gladwell is one of my favourite non-fiction authors. He has an almost unique ability (shared with Nick Taleb of Black Swan and Steven Levitt of Freakonomics) to see patterns in human behaviour that others cannot, and to explain those patterns in an engaging narrative.

He also seems from what little I know of him, to be a really nice guy.

The Bomber Mafia is rather different from his usual books. He is not so much trying to find and explain patterns in human behaviour but to write a history of an aspect of warfare, specifically the US Air Force’s development of the doctrine and technology behind precision bombing, first in the 1930s, and then in its practical failure in application during the Second World War.

This failure in the practical application of the theory then under the military theorists who at first led the US B-17 and B-29 bomber forces in that war is what led to the alternative – the indiscriminate fire bombing of Japan (even without the A Bomb) under the more pragmatic general Curtis LeMay.

It is a riveting read. Everyone has heard of LeMay of course. But who has heard of the Quixotic General Hayward Hansell? Or of any of the other strategically brilliant men who invented the precision bombing doctrine? Or of the Norden bombsight, an analogue computer of intricate and precise components, which supposedly could drop a bomb into a pickle barrel from 30,000 feet?

Theories and brilliant inventions do not always hold up in real world conditions, and in the 1940s both the Norden bombsight and the theories behind precision bombing did not measure up in the fog of war.

But, as Gladwell tells us in the conclusion, the technology now does allow the USAF to live the doctrine of precision bombing in the present day.

And this is perhaps where this fascinating book falls down. It is a history of half the story, of how the innovative mavericks in the US Army Air Corps developed their strategically brilliant doctrines and what happened to those ideas in practice then. It does not really talk about the here and now.

To go back to the rhyme at the start of this post, For want of a nail, we can get to the crux of what precision bombing doctrine was all about. How about, if, instead of armies, navies, and air forces slugging it out for many year at great cost of lives and suffering in total warfare, there was an alternative? What if the alternative was that you could knock out a key component here or there of the enemy’s war effort or economy in one precise surgical attack, which could quickly bring them to their knees, ending the war almost immediately?

The ‘Bomber Mafia’ of the book and of the US Army Air Corps thought that they had an answer like that, and developed a doctrine that was the basis for US air power planning in the Second World War.

The main example used is ball bearings, which most complex machinery needed (and still needs) to operate. If there was one particular ball bearing factory in Nazi Germany that could be sufficiently damaged or destroyed, then the Luftwaffe would cease to fly within weeks, and so too most other motorised transport in Germany.

But there could be other examples. Railway junctions, pipelines, crucial factories of other components. A complex machine is only functional when all its many parts come together.

The US Army Air Forces failed to take out the ball bearing factory in question, and as a result, mostly abandoned the attempts at precision bombing in Europe. In the Pacific, the risk averse Hansell was not even able to try hitting such targets.

Gladwell is a great storyteller and he does build a great picture of the motivations of the brilliant men who tried to limit the ferocity of warfare with this idea of the surgical strike.

But uncharacteristic of him, he leaves the narrative incomplete, to my mind at least. The idea of taking an enemy out with precision bombing is an idea which can be extended far beyond the realm of air combat, particularly in contemporary times, and I am surprised that a pattern finder like Gladwell has not followed this idea further down the rabbit hole.

We are all, to this point in time, becoming increasingly aware of cyber warfare. Only a couple of days ago, someone caused several popular global websites to crash. A few weeks ago someone closed a fuel pipeline in the USA and held it to ransom, seriously disrupting the US economy. Last year, a cyber attack caused banking systems in Australia to be disrupted for a morning (I did notice this as my credit card did not work immediately when I was buying something).

You do not need bombs, drones, missiles, or fast high flying aircraft to take out key components of an enemy’s economy or infrastructure. You just need a very clever computer hacker with a very powerful computer. [Or at least so I think – what do I really know about what technology a hacker needs?]

The ideas that the strategic minds in the US Army Air Corps were developing in the 1930s are ideas which, if we look at them properly, are now, in our far more technologically sophisticated era, ones which no longer need to ride airplanes into battle to wage sinister warfare. This is the theme which Malcolm Gladwell and other clever and imaginative people need to explore further.

Geez Louise!

Readers of this blog (and there are 3 or 4 I suppose, even though I appear to have lost all the readers from the PRC since the start of January, causing me to suspect my blog has been blocked in Communist China) would know that I am not a great admirer of the technocratic dictator of this state, Daniel Andrews.

However even I draw a line somewhere.

Rumours about the cause of his back injury several months ago abound. Even my mother has heard some of those rumours.

The more PG-rated ones involve an all night drinking session (an admirable pursuit, although I would say that I would probably stop at midnight myself) at the holiday home of a certain very rich bloke, followed by an accidental stumble down the stairs. There are others which involve provoking a sound thrashing to within an inch of his life – the sort of thing which might best be explained by a fall down the stairs rather than more awkward questions and answers.

Much as some members of the public might feel that Premier Andrews richly deserves a sound thrashing (I actually don’t – horsewhipping a cad is a tradition amongst the gentry, not the peasantry from whom I hail, plus I believe in due process, and he has not in his public duties done anything except abuse governmental powers to the full letter of the law), pandering to such rumours is the sort of thing which might rightly be compared to accepting the conspiracy theories of QAnon etcetera ad nauseam.

Which brings us to Louise Staley, the Victorian Opposition Treasury Spokeswoman. She has this week asked several questions, laden with innuendo, about the circumstances of Premier Andrews sad accident.

Even Dan’s sidekick, Jimmy the Echo, has been able to ridicule her:

https://www.9news.com.au/national/daniel-andrews-injury-staircase-fall-conspiracy-theories-victorian-premier-louise-staley-national-news/ff243751-8629-4104-9451-7a4ceb33c053

So, what do I say? Right up until this week, I considered Louise Staley, one of the most competent and definitely the most hard working member of the state opposition, as probably the only member of the state opposition who is a viable replacement for the sullen non-entity (Michael O’Who?) currently serving as opposition leader.

But now? By pandering to the kind of rumours which people talk about in pubs (when pubs are actually open) or in the sort of work places frequented by credulous bogans (and Louise is not a bogan), Louise Staley has in one fell swoop destroyed all the political credibility she has built up with lots of hard work in the six and a half years of her long sought parliamentary career.

Geez Louise. I thought and expected far better of you. I believed you had more substance. But you had to go and outdo Tim Smith in the sort of clumsy wannabe populist political tomfoolery which the state opposition has turned into its trademark under Michael O’Brien’s leadership.

Now there is no remaining alternative but for Michael O’Brien (the bland and invisible man with a face only a mask could love) to saddle up on his battle-llama and lead the Victorian Liberals to oblivion at the November 2022 state election.

Collingwood’s Catbird Seat

Collingwood Football Club’s boast in their theme song that the ‘Premiership is a cakewalk’ is not borne out by recent history. In my 50 plus year lifetime, they have been runners up 8 times and won 2 premierships, as compared to the 11 they won in a 36 year period leading up to 1936.

However, this boast is, when compared to that of other AFL clubs, not particularly extravagant. You can see the comparisons here:

AFL Club Songs Ranked by Ambition and Boastfulness

Rather than Cakewalks, Collingwood seems more preoccupied at the moment by what might be called a ‘Catbird Seat’.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines this term as meaning:

‘a position of great prominence or advantage’

I am particularly interested in the use of this 1940s American idiom in relation to the Australian context of the Collingwood Football Club because of the recent eruption of infighting between the recently installed president and board on one hand, and an alternative candidate for club president on the other.

It becomes particularly interesting because the alternative candidate appears to be heavily backed by the immediate past president of Collingwood, the extremely annoying and oafish looking Eddie Maguire, who was forced to step down as president several months ago after a long reign, brought to an undignified end due to various club cultural shortcomings which had come to light, as well as a list management debacle which has caused the club to turn from recent premiership contenders into cellar dwellers virtually overnight.

Eddie Maguire is clearly sitting in the catbird seat, or at least thinks he is. He believes that he can force the newly installed president out, and replace him and a large chunk of the club board with his own proteges.

This would be to ignore the sad reality that the problems faced by the Collingwood Football Club at the moment are ones which occurred on Eddie’s watch, and that turning back to him and those of his ilk would not give the current board a chance to move on from his plethora of mistakes, but rather to allow them to be repeated.

However, Collingwood supporters are rarely known for their Nobel Prize nominations, or for the scholarly tomes they produce on the lessons of history. We probably should be grateful for that.

The phrase itself first emerged in a 1942 short story by the American humorist James Thurber, which features a battle of wits between the manipulative Mrs Barrows, who constantly brays out ‘Are you sitting in the catbird seat?’ and the mild mannered Mr Martin, the latest target of her office machinations. As it turns out, Mrs Barrows is not, as she thinks, in the catbird seat, and is tricked by Mr Martin into making accusations which cause her to be perceived by their mutual employer as paranoid to the point of insane. Perhaps there is a lesson there for Eddie Maguire.

You should read some Thurber, starting with The Catbird Seat. It is laugh out loud funny, in a rather wicked way, and far more entertaining than anything going on inside the Collingwood Football Club.

Except of course on those occasions when Collingwood loses an AFL Grand Final and causes great existentialist suffering to the myriad legion of their dentally challenged supporters. That of course is always great entertainment.

The Victorian Government’s Not-So-Clever Plan to destroy the Laneways of Melbourne

The 1980s was a more innocent or naive time. Or at least it seemed so to me, given I was a teenager for much of them. Once, circa 1984, I was on an English class excursion to the city to see a movie, and we actually took a chartered bus rather than public transport, and I remember it driving past the Flagstaff Gardens.

I was quite impressed to see a dero strewn on each park bench in the Gardens as our bus drove past. My dad had told me that the Flagstaff Gardens were a bit of a no-go area due to their proximity to a Salvation Army depot in Franklin Street, which was regularly frequented by the deros. It was a bit of an eye opening experience for me then.

Nowadays, if I am on the south side of Victoria Street in North Richmond, between the station and Lennox Street, I barely bat an eyelid when I notice ice users swatting away at invisible demons.

There happens to be a safe injecting room somewhere around there, to the chagrin of local shop keepers and residents.

Now there are plans for the state government to open another safe injecting room within the Hoddle Grid, ie the centre of the city. More particularly, there is a specific site in mind on Flinders Street between Elizabeth Street and Swanston Street.

This proposal has Bad Idea marked all over it, but the brainiacs running the state have not twigged to this yet.

You see, that particular city block has two important Melbourne landmarks located there. One is Young & Jacksons, the most iconic pub in Australia. The other is Degraves Lane, a 100 metre long alley festooned with restaurants, bars and cafes along almost its whole length.

Y&J can probably survive a safe injecting room located several steps away. It has plenty of in-house security, lots of police regularly walking by, and being on the busiest pedestrian intersection in Melbourne will mean that the punters continue to flood in and spend their money in one or other of its bars.

Degraves Street is a totally different proposition. Like a lot of Melbourne’s laneways (of which it is one of the two best ones), it relies on a la fresco dining – tables located on the lane outside each restaurant.

Whist it is not totally unknown to happen, vagrant drug users rarely enter actual bars and restaurants to beg money or otherwise harass the clientele. But they do have a marked tendency to infest outdoor dining and drinking areas on footpaths and in lanes.

Take a case in point from a few years ago. Myself and some colleagues were out one Friday night having farewell drinks for a colleague moving overseas. We were outside a wine bar in Little Bourke Street at the Spring Street end of town. One vagrant, whose face was well known to various of us as he regularly worked that block, came up and bothered me for loose change. In the hope that he would go away and leave everyone else alone, I gave him all the coins in my pocket. Sadly, he then tried to work the entire table for more cash, which struck me as quite impolite, to say nothing of the lack of consideration for the bar owners, who were trying to make an honest living running that business.

Imagine what will happen if a safe injecting room is placed in the proposed location in Flinders Street. Virtually overnight, the a la fresco dining scene in Degraves Lane will be destroyed.

If such a place needs to be imposed in the CBD rather than in a ghost town like Docklands, some more thought might be given to where such a room might be placed, so as to minimise the damage to the laneway culture of Melbourne. It definitely needs to be far away from Degraves Street, or Hardware Lane, or the elbow of a la fresco dining along Bourke and Spring Streets.

I would suggest some moribund pocket, like Flinders Street at the Spencer Street end, where there are abundant bouncers from the King Street nightclubs and strip joints to prevent any flotsam from disrupting those businesses, and where, aside from the after dark life of King Street, the city closes outside of weekday business hours.

Otherwise, the best aspects of laneway and restaurant culture in central Melbourne will be destroyed quickly.

Allen & Unwin Publishers grow a new backbone

I hope you have heard of Silent Invasion, Professor Clive Hamilton’s 2018 expose on how Communist China was quietly and systematically subverting Australian democracy and society.

I bought three copies myself – one for myself, one to circulate around the office amongst my colleagues and friends, and one to give to a friend who is a book reviewer (and China expert) so he could get a review published.

As a responsible, civic minded citizen, I felt it was my duty to try and give this book and its critical message a boost.

Especially as it almost did not get published.

You see, Professor Hamilton usually gets his books published by Allen & Unwin (who, since 1990, are an independent Australian publishing house separate from the British parent company now owned by Harper Collins).

However, they declined to accept this book, as they felt nervous about the commercial risks they might incur from offending Communist China.

Obviously Allen & Unwin felt that these commercial risks outweighed any obligation they felt as book publishers in this country towards freedom of expression and making a positive contribution towards safeguarding our democracy.

Since that time, whenever I see that a book is published by Allen & Unwin, I do think twice as to whether I am going to buy it. [It is just as well that Tolkien is published by Harper Collins these days, having kept control of the publishing rights from when they bought Allen & Unwin UK 30 years ago, as my well thumbed copies of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings date back to the 1980s and need replacing.]

However Allen & Unwin seem to have finally grown a new backbone, as I discovered on Thursday 20th May, when I attended a book launch for ABC Journalist Bill Birtles’ new book about his experiences in China.

For those who do not know, ABC China correspondent Bill Birtles was, in mid 2020, warned by our embassy in Communist China that it would be best for his safety if he immediately left the PRC. This warning happened just before he was hauled in for questioning by Communist Chinese security police.

Birtles has now written a book about China, where he lived on and off for many years, and his experiences there.

Allen & Unwin, to my deep surprise, have published this book. After they turned down Silent Invasion, I had the feeling that the spinelessness of their publishing policy was something which could not be cured.

Obviously I have been proven wrong, and I do hope that Birtles’ book sells many copies, and shows Allen & Unwin that doing the right thing, rather than the cowardly thing, brings its own rewards.

By the way, being at the book launch was a bit of an accidental blessing, as otherwise it is very likely that I would have visited Highpoint Shopping Centre that night when it was a Covid exposure site, in which event I would had to undergo the nuisance of isolating and getting tested for Covid.

A quick shout out to Real Freedom News

Through some idle net surfing this morning, I discovered an interesting recent website called Real Freedom News.

Here is a link to it:

https://realfreedomnews.com

I find it interesting for two reasons.

One is that it includes a segment called China Watch which appears to share my concerns about Communist China. It is always a worthy pursuit to promote websites which are seeking to preserve the integrity of our democracy from both subversion and China’s more overt bullying attempts at hegemony.

The other is that it offers a fascinating fly on the wall insider look at the current infighting within the grassroots of the Victorian Liberal Party, naming names as to who is on which side and who is allegedly getting away with stacking branches etc.

Either reason alone is worth checking it out.

Vaccinations and the wrong way to calculate risk

In the 1990s, I was a big Tom Clancy fan. I saw The Hunt For Red October and Patriot Games before I read any of the novels, but I quickly got onto the Jack Ryan novels.

They did quickly get a little bit over the top, although thankfully the Super Bowl was never nuked by Palestinian militants the way that it happened in The Sum Of All Fears.

But some of the other ideas in Clancy’s writings got a little too close to reality. Debt of Honor (I reluctantly spell it without a ‘u’ because it is an American book) ends with Jack Ryan as accidental president after the Capitol is destroyed by a kamikaze flying a 747 just after he is voted in as replacement vice president. That was published in 1994, seven years before 9/11 made such events more than works of fiction.

One idea which has gripped the minds of conspiracy theorist anti-vaxxers is that vaccines are actually part of a population control strategy by the mega-rich, and that plagues like Covid are intentionally unleashed so that the great majority of people can be stampeded into getting a vaccine which will actually kill or sterilise them.

That idea first makes its appearance in Tom Clancy’s novel Rainbow Six, which is the first John Clark novel rather than Jack Ryan. [It is also the first of Clancy’s novels where he stops advocating for an unadulterated rule of law and due process, and starts sanctioning some form of vigilantism, a theme not only absent from but explicitly opposed in his earlier novels.]

For a conspiracy involving the deliberate infection of (so far) 170 million people and the creation of some 5-6 (or more) competing intentionally lethal vaccines to be plausible or even viable, you would have to have thousands, if not tens of thousands, of researchers, medical scientists, business leaders and politicians all over the world both working in concord and all keeping their mouths shut.

Not really possible. But nor is the conspiracy theory that the moon landings were faked. However, there are plenty of crazy people out there who believe in either or both of these streams of theories.

The conspiracy theorists are feeding a growing popular paranoia about covid vaccination in particular, amongst otherwise sane and rational people, which has contributed to the slow vaccination rate in Australia.

We Australians love gambling. Horses, lotteries, poker machines, casinos. However remote the odds, we love throwing our money away on the slight chance that we might win some life changing or even just immediately gratifying sum.

But we do look at risk all wrong when we are looking at vaccinations and the current covid plague.

From the Astra Zeneca post vaccination fact sheet I read just after I was given my first Covid shot three days ago, I learned that the odds of blood clots from that vaccine are about one in a quarter million, and that the odds of dying from such a blood clot are one in four, ie the odds of dying from a blood clot if you get an Astra Zeneca shot are about one in a million.

Therefore, if everyone in Australia were to get the Astra Zeneca vaccine, 104 people would get blood clots as side effects and 26 people would die.

Of course, 26 deaths are tragic, and we could add those to the total that we can blame Communist China for due to their research on turning coronaviruses into bioweapons in their Wuhan laboratories.

But let’s look at the alternative.

The alternative is what we might suffer if the 26 million members of the Australian community did not get vaccinated and everyone caught the covid plague. At a 2% fatality rate, that would something like 520,000 dead.

As a crude calculation for the anti-vaxxers out there, that means that not getting vaccinated puts you at a risk of dying from covid 20,000 times greater than that of getting vaccinated and then dying of a blood clot.

But we don’t think that way about risks. We are willing to buy a Tattslotto ticket where each game has a chance of less than one in eight million of winning the top prize. [Ozlotto and Powerball have even smaller probabilities of winning.]

But flipping that on its heads and increasing your chances of living by a factor of 20,000 times over dying due to one simple decision. People don’t really get that.

Sadly, the people who are thinking this way right now are not just conspiracy theory nutters or new age hippy types or Taliban thugs holed up in caves along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. They are just normal, confused and worried people – troubled by all the background noise about vaccine risks and side effects to the point where they are not focusing on what the side effects will be of contracting and surviving Covid (apparently a lot of people who survive Covid are not doing so well now).

And no, vaccines are not going to shoot a microchip into your arm or make you develop autism. They are going to give you some protection from a very nasty disease which has already killed three and a half million people and caused lasting health damage to tends of millions more.

Where’s my lollipop?

I was not at Highpoint last Thursday night, but I pretty much could have been. The risk of catching Covid would have been low but having to isolate would have been very disruptive.

That spurred me on to get my first dose of Astra Zeneca yesterday. I was a walk in at the vaccination centre at the Royal Melbourne Exhibition Building.

The 50 minute wait was not too bad, given I had my smart phone to amuse me. And the needle did not sting too much.

And despite all the hype about side effects, all that has happened is that my arm is sore, which is normal for many vaccines.

I did joke about the microchip in the vaccine causing me to have an urge to walk like a robot and that I was hearing instructions from Bill Gates. But really, it’s important to get vaccinated and I should not joke about it.

Of course, I was so happy and relieved to get the dose so easily that I forgot to ask for a lollipop.