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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.

We Will Live With A Yellowcake Submarine!

I used to think that the popular Chinese Communist phrase ‘running dogs’, manifest in Mao’s Little Red Book, had gone out of fashion. It was rather cute in its day:

People of the world, unite and defeat the US aggressors and all their running dogs! People of the world, be courageous, dare to fight, defy difficulties, and advance wave upon wave. Then the whole world will belong to the people. Monsters of all kinds shall be destroyed.’

However, it seems that the current style guide of the Chinese Communist mouthpiece The Global Times still contains it, and instructions for it to be regularly used.

Look at the following quote:

However, no matter how Australia arms itself, it is still a running dog of the US. We advise Canberra not to think that it has the capability to intimidate China if it acquires nuclear-powered submarines and offensive missiles. If Australia dares to provoke China more blatantly because of that, or even find fault militarily, China will certainly punish it with no mercy.

You could indeed say that the editors of The Global Times are rabid dogs (politically at least), given the characteristically belligerent language expressed in that paragraph, and in the rest of that angry article, such as the following:

Once the Australian army fights the People’s Liberation Army in the Taiwan Straits or the South China Sea, military targets in Australia will inevitably become targets of Chinese missiles. Since Australia has become an anti-China spearhead, the country should prepare for the worst.

Mind you, the opening sentence of that paragraph prefaces this threat with the comment that it would be a good idea for Australia to get an anti-missile system.

And the intentions which keep getting revealed in the article, and in the rest of the quality objective journalism on show in The Global Times makes me glad that we have signed up to this new AUKUS defence treaty. It means not only that we have now got renewed and strengthened formal defence ties to two of our historically closest and strongest allies, but that we are likely to be formally elevated as a US ally to a status second only to that of the UK (which, despite my Italian origins, I consider Australia’s motherland).

This AUKUS defence pact is important as it sends a strong message to our potential enemies (and only the naive would think that a country who talks about targeting us with missiles is not a potential enemy) that Australia not only is going to contribute solidly to its defence and regional security, but is supported by the US and the UK, each separately an ally very worth having, let alone collectively.

The agreement to share nuclear submarine technology with Australia is, in the context of a bellicose Communist China, more a relief than a necessary evil. China is developing a powerful blue water navy. This will enable it to threaten and tyrannise its neighbours for thousand of miles around. The best defence against a blue water navy is to have one of your own, particularly in the form of attack submarines.

Nuclear attack submarines are not offensive weapons as such. They do not carry nuclear missiles to bombard cities with. They are there to sink blue navy vessels, such as those that China wants to use to impose its will on the Indo-Pacific region.

To borrow from Mao’s Little Red Book, except to substitute PRC for US, the following message is relevant for The Global Times to consider:

‘Riding roughshod everywhere, PRC imperialism has made itself the enemy of the people of the world and has increasingly isolated itself. Thee who refuse to be enslaved will never be cowed by the atom bombs and hydrogen bombs in the hands of the PRC imperialists. The raging tide of the people of the world against the PRC aggressors is irresistible. Their struggle against PRC imperialism and its lackeys will assuredly win still greater victories.’

We might be ‘running dogs’, but it is the rabid dogs who are truly a threat to the safety of any community.

Reaching the AFL Grand Final in a Time of Plague

Memories of a miracle premiership

In this, 2021, the second year of Plague, my AFL team, Footscray (aka the Western Bulldogs) have made it into the Grand Final again, for the first time since our Premiership Miracle of 2016, and for only the fourth time in VFL/AFL history.

It will be very different to 2016, the COVID plague has seen to that. I will not be walking from Footscray Railway Station through Nicholson Street, Barkly Street, the Whitten Oval and Gordon Street til my mother’s home, in the days leading up to the Grand Final, admiring the shop fronts and houses festooned with red, white and blue streamers and balloons and WOOF WOOF signs.

I won’t have a chance to top up my fan gear with late additions to give me further options as to what to wear to the Grand Final. Nor will I be wearing my scarf to work for the section’s Grand Final afternoon tea, where I can proudly stand with the other (and there are surprisingly many of us) Bulldogs supporters.

There will not be banners at Highpoint West in Maribyrnong wishing support to our home town team. The shopping centre is a ghost town at the moment, thanks to the ongoing lockdown.

I will not have a Grand Final parade to attend in Jolimont on Grand Final Eve, where the two competing teams and the Premiership Cup are shown to their devoted fans.

Nor will I be marching with my brother and 20,000 other Footscray people from Flinders Street Station to the MCG on the afternoon of the Grand Final, proudly wearing our Bulldogs colours.

And if, as I fervently hope, we win, there will be no triumphant return to our home town of Footscray, where we will drink the pubs dry of beer by the following afternoon. To say nothing of not being able to celebrate at the Whitten Oval on the Sunday, where the Premiership Cup is shown to us and we have a chance to cheer our team.

It will be different, and the loss of the opportunity for communal celebration of this moment of success for our home town team will sting.

But we are resilient, we Footscray supporters. Even here in Avondale Heights, this northern bridgehead on the other side of the Maribyrnong, the Ultima Thule of Footscray, there are many of us, and we outnumber other supporters in this, our heartland.

This morning, people are digging out their member’s caps, their scarves, their beanies, and starting to wear them, to remind their neighbours and fellow villagers that we are proud of our home town. Member 2021 bumper stickers are appearing on cars, and Bulldog flags are starting to fly from the front of houses. Scarves in the club colours are getting tied to porch posts.

It will not be the same as if this was not a year of plague, but we will enjoy the next 14 days as we await the Grand Final on the far side of the country.

And if we lose, what then? Melbourne has waited 67 years for the chance to square the ledger with us for 1954, and their 57 year premiership drought is something with which we can well empathise. Who would be so churlish as to begrudge another club its own premiership fairytale, when 2016 brought us so much joy? Not I.

Continued Lockdown Causes A Crisis In Legitimacy Of Technocratic State Authority

Perhaps Dan can model his future statue in the Premiers’ Row on this earlier technocrat

The announcement of 450 new Covid cases in Victoria this morning, some 5 weeks and 2 days after the current lockdown was announced by our technocratic state leader Dan Andrews has caused me some cause for reflection.

The escalating numbers over the past few days, where we have been seeing triple figure announcements each day, are not only illustrating the infectiousness of the Delta variant, but that lockdowns no longer work.

For governments to rule, it is more than having a simple majority that consents to their rule. Rule requires that the overwhelming majority abides by the rules and behaves accordingly. Where a large enough minority stops believing in the authority of government, or starts to defy it or undermine it, a crisis of legitimacy ensues.

This is what we are seeing in Victoria now. The Covid is spreading because a large number of people in the community are actively choosing, despite the risks from the disease, to ignore Premier Andrews and his authoritarian dictates and to violate the restrictions. The result is that there are certain suburbs in the south western and outer northern suburbs, where people are from demographic groups likely to already have a very well founded historical suspicion of the general benevolence of governments and the police, where the virus is spreading at a frightening rate.

Before this plague infested our country, the Victorian government is perceived (whether or not this is just Grange inspired rhetoric from the once and future opposition leader) to have believed in relatively soft policing, arguably not being tough enough on crime.

Since then, the full coercive apparatus of Victoria Police has been brought to bear in circumstances where criminalisation of ordinary citizens and suppression of dissent have routinely applied.

I have been appalled by the dawn raid and arrest of a pregnant bogan for suggesting on Facebook that people gather to protest, or the suppression by police of a vehicle driving around Melbourne adorned with anti-Andrews slogans on the spurious grounds of roadworthiness (the sort of measure reminiscent of US TV shows where a broken tail light is suddenly created and discovered by a patrolman).

The implementation of a curfew last year was a significant and troubling overreach, done not to control the spread of the disease (this was an innovation of the premier himself rather than at the advice of police or health authorities) but to exercise further control over the population.

I have been extremely disturbed by the police recently shooting projectiles (I am reluctant to call them rubber bullets) at crowds of protesters in Flinders Street. This is unprecedented.

The rhetoric of Daniel Andrews as premier has increasingly alienated people. His favourite turn of phrase – the infamous ‘ring of steel’ that he placed around Melbourne last year – is what you would expect not from a premier in a democratic nation, but rather what you would expect in the decision making of someone with tanks at their command, like the brutal despots in Communist China who suppressed the Tiananmen Square uprising in 1989.

It is not surprising that many people are not listening anymore. Rather than actively protest or express dissent, they are just silently and discreetly ignoring the dictates of our failed technocratic ruler, and getting on with those aspects of their private and social lives that they can.

This is reflected in the surge of cases in recent days regardless of the prolonged lockdown. People are weary of being ruled by a technocrat who curtails their freedoms arbitrarily and with limited if any oversight. Civil society, in the form of private business, voluntary associations, religions, and sporting groups, has virtually closed down, a soft approximation of what one sees in totalitarian regimes.

This is a significant crisis in legitimacy. When enough people stop believing that the rules work (which I do not really need to remind my reader did not exist before 18 months ago in living memory)or that they should obey them, then the system starts to fall apart.

Little known side effect of the Sinovac COVID vaccine

There is little to laugh about regarding this plague currently making our lives difficult.

However one of my friends just wryly commented that Astra Zeneca is much better than Sinovac because at least it works and doesn’t make you think that Tibet is a part of China.

When all this is over and we can start to bear international rules based pressure on the communist regime, the issue of a free Tibet might need to be reignited. Until then, some black humour might help us get through to the other side of the crisis.

Up Where Cazaly?

Given that I have reluctantly accepted that God Save The Queen is unlikely to return as our National Anthem, I feel that we really should give serious consideration to adopting Up There Cazaly as our new National Anthem.

There are several good reasons for this. One is that the Second AIF, when going into battle in North Africa during the Second World War, would shout this as their battle cry. Another is that this song is about Australian Rules Football, which is of course very important to most of us. And the third is that this is a generally awesome and stirring song which was a hugely popular unofficial anthem (in Melbourne at least) when it was first released in 1979.

Sadly, I have never seen it performed properly. I have seen Mike Brady perform as a curtain raiser act twice, at a boxing match in Flemington a few years ago, and at the 2016 AFL Grand Final (ie the greatest day in Australian sporting history as the Bulldogs won). Sadly, whilst Mike Brady has a great set of pipes, he is more than willing to butcher the lyrics as seems fit at the time.

So at the boxing, instead of using the c-word (ie Cazaly), he sang ‘Up There The Boxing‘, which was rather corny and disappointing for football tragics like I suspect I am. And at the 2016 Grand Final, he decided to sing, instead of Up There Cazaly, his other classic football anthem, One Day In September. Except that as it was 1st October, he changed the main lyrics to go: ‘One Day in October, Footy’s almost over.’

That was a very minor disappointment for the day. After all, the Western Bulldogs winning an AFL Premiership is reminiscent of a certain Talking Heads song.

The announcement this week that, due to the plague currently running rampant around Victoria, the AFL Grand Final will be played interstate for the second year in a row was something I mostly welcomed. Much as Western Australians go all Barcelona about the rest of the nation on many things, we cannot deny that the Sandgropers do love their Australian Rules Football.

Perth Stadium also would be the best non-Victorian sports stadium, although I do think that they made a sad mistake building it with a 60,000 seat capacity instead of the 80,000 befitting a city of such size and sporting fervour.

It is important for the nation that one of those most unifying aspects of our national culture, Australian Rules Football, is accessible at its highest levels to all Australians, especially those who otherwise express separatist rhetoric so frequently as our Western Australian compatriots.

An unintended but excellent collateral bonus to the decision to have Perth host the AFL Grand Final is that the highly annoying former Collingwood president, Eddie Maguire, has been prohibited from travelling to Western Australia to watch the game. Sadly, that means that he is stuck here in Melbourne with me.

Much as I feel that the MCG is and shall remain the home of Australian Rules Football, and that the AFL Grand Final should be played there most of the time, I do feel that from time to time, there should be some degree of rotation to other places in Australia, provided that they, like Perth, have worthy stadia to host it. I believe that one out of every five AFL Grand Finals should be played interstate, particularly if the following criteria are met:

. the host city has a stadium of at least 60,000 capacity currently (increasing to 70,000 in 20 years’ time)

. a team from the host city has played in an AFL Grand Final at least once in the past 5 years

. Collingwood looks like making it into the Grand Final (OK – I am joking about this one, but imagine all those Collingwood supporters suffering because they have to choose between going to the expense of travelling out of Victoria or paying for their much needed dental work).

The Market is Melting Upward!

I once read that Economics can be summed up in the concept of ‘Supply and Demand’. The details are in either understanding how those two terms interact with each other, or in how to manipulate them.

Much as I like to believe in the idea of Free Market Capitalism, it is probably a non-existent ideal, much like a unicorn with pegasus wings. It really hurts to admit that.

Murray Rothbard and the Friedmans might be great in theory (although my impression is that they justify their arguments through utility rather than morality), but they are to economics what Anne McCaffrey’s cover artists are to science fiction / fantasy.

We’ve had huge bailouts and manipulations of the stock market and the economy ever since the GFC 13 years ago. Bankers and captains of industry do not care. They get their massive bonuses regardless of whether they come from their customers or the taxpayer.

Thanks to all this distortion, share markets and other aspects of the capitalist system do not seem to behave in a way which fits in with what one would expect when we have lockdowns and shortages, and a large number of people forcibly prevented from working.

You would expect, if it were not for money printing of various forms by reserve banks and governments, for interest rates to go up and for asset prices to go down. You also might expect that inflation on commodities to go up.

At the very least, you would expect a bear market on the share market. I know that I did!

Counter-intuitively, at least as far as I am concerned, we have the share market hitting record highs at the moment. It is melting upward, rather than melting down the way it did in March last year.

I am not an economist, I am just a mug punter. I think that the immediate impact of all the money printing has been to stave off what I consider to be inevitable (ie crash!!!!) – to force money into shares and property to chase yield, whilst at the same time placating people at the lower end of the wealth spectrum with enough to help them keep body and soul together.

How long this lasts is another thing. Home ownership is receding further out of reach for many people – artificially low interest rates push up property prices for those who are already property owners, and force those who want to become such to go much further into debt than would normally be sustainable.

And if you are a share market investor, then August has been an awesome month for you.

As an aside – last year I said that I would put my money back into the share market when I ran out of toilet paper. I actually changed my mind and emptied my bank accounts over the past 10 months. I am glad that I did, as I otherwise would have missed out on this huge upswing.

It’s time for Pieman!

We need a hero

When I was seven, I saw a news report on the TV with all sorts of dirty long haired hippy looking people demonstrating. They wanted to ban something called Uranium from being mined. My instinctive reaction to those protesters was that we should mine more Uranium.

So you can surmise that I am not really enthused or in agreement with most protests and demonstrations. I am way too conservative to be comfortable with protest marches or the causes that are usually represented by them.

However, I do believe in the right to protest, and consider that for us to maintain a healthy democracy, people do need to find ways to protest against injustice and the issues which they feel strongly about.

You just won’t see me at an anti-Uranium mining march, and I doubt that anyone is going to organise a Let’s Mine More Uranium protest for me to attend.

Therefore, reports this week that the weekend anti-lockdown protesters in Melbourne were shot at by police with solid pepper pellets are concerning. Whilst some of the protesters are crossing the line in terms of legitimate protest by using various projectiles, this is a major and disturbing escalation in the capacity and behaviour of the police in suppressing protests.

What will happen after lockdown is over, and people resume protesting about matters they care about without risking spreading plague all over the city? Will our peace marchers, university student free education campaigners and environmental activists get shot at and forced to disperse? I sure hope not.

Whilst we have the Covid plague around us, protesting in public places en masse is both foolhardy and irresponsible. Covid is real and quite dangerous, and major public gatherings are events which could easily spread it widely.

But that is not to say that there are no other avenues to protest.

The internet exists, and there are a myriad websites which you can use to express your opinion. You can set up a group on your social media page (I personally despise Facebook but I am in the minority) or a petition on Change.org or you can try to crowdfund money to run a campaign at the next election to unseat your least favourite state government MP (please do this).

Or you can put a sign or a symbol outside your home (like my boots out on the verandah last year as a ‘Give Dan The Boot’ message).

Alternatively, you can take the example of Homer Simpson as Pieman, who in one episode disguises himself and starts putting pies in the faces of all sorts of appalling denizens of Springfield.

Pieing as a form of political protest is real. Back in my uni days, I vaguely knew some bloke who would normally wear a suit and carry a briefcase around campus. But Monash was world renowned years earlier for its hippies, and a few years later I saw him transformed into some sort of long haired hippy activist in shorts and sandals. Perhaps spending too long at our beloved Clayton campus changed him.

He made quite a reputation in the late 1990s as what the media like to call a ‘serial pest’. His signature activity was to pie various prominent politicians.

Pie in the face is harmless, funny, and attention grabbing as a form of political protest. Compare that to other less fortunate countries where they assassinate their political leaders. We should be lucky to live in a country where we pie our politicians.

And there should be more of it, especially now when the politicians are being overbearing and technocratic. Some harmless levity in the form of pie in the face as a protest would allow the public to let off some steam in a Covid-safe manner.

Pieman where are you? We need you now.

Why Do Bill & Ted Keep Going To Hell?

Given that I went to a government school, my exposure to the Catholic Education system was limited to Monday night indoctrination classes in Grades 4 and 6 at the local parish Catholic primary school, in preparation for my first communion and then confirmation.

Hence I first learned of the Church Doctor Saint Augustine when I binge read all the James Bond novels at age 14. There is a passage where James Bond wryly reflects on the famed Saint Augustine quote ‘God give me chastity, just not yet.’

Since that time, I have read Augustine’s memoir, Confessions, and I do realise that James Bond was quoting Augustine out of context.

However, I have not yet read City of God, so my direct knowledge of Saint Augustine’s theology is somewhat limited.

Whilst teaching myself theology and philosophy (subjects I did not study at university) in my early 40s, I discovered that Calvin’s ideas about predestination and the elect (ie that most of us are doomed to go to Hell and there is nothing we can do about it) were not original. They actually were based on a pessimistic passage from City of God. So we have Augustine to thank for the dark doctrines of Calvinism. Great going Gus!

I was thinking about this early this week, when I watched Bill & Ted Face The Music, a very late third film in the Bill & Ted series. Yet again, just like in the most excellent second film, Bill & Ted get killed by robots sent from the future, and yet again, they end up in Hell (although they don’t end up staying there very long).

Why do Bill & Ted keep ending up in Hell when they die? It’s not like they are bad people. Indeed, they are without a malevolent bone in their bodies, and seem to live in a perpetually childlike state of innocence. True, they are rather selfish, but in an unreflective way, and anything they do which transgresses the rules is more juvenile naughtiness than evil.

They preach their own version of the Golden Rule: Be Excellent To Each Other, and their other idea, reminiscent of Eden before the Fall From Grace is: Party On Dude!

They really do not seem like the sorts who deserve to end up in Hell, unless the scriptwriters are either using this as a theologically simplistic plot line, or have been influenced by that Calvinistic doctrine of predestination.

Personally, I hope that it is the former rather than the latter. Calvinism and the idea of identifying yourself as one of the elect through your works did contribute greatly to the Protestant Work Ethic that drove the development of Capitalism and the Industrial Revolution, but I do not think that this austere and pessimistic (dare I say misanthropic) doctrine has much more to offer us now.

Rule of the Mediocracy? America’s Rise Despite Itself

Is he really Sleepy Joe?

Harry S Truman’s mother in law never quite felt that Truman was good enough for her darling daughter. I suppose she always saw him as the awkward farm boy courting her, rather than as the returned war veteran who had risen to the rank of major in command of an artillery battery who married Bess. Even years later, when he was US president and she was living with the Trumans in the White House, she still felt that Bess could have done better.

I’ve never been quite able to work Truman out. A few years ago I read David McCullough’s excellent biography of Truman and I can still not see how the goody-two-shoes farm boy transformed into the cigar smoking, bourbon sipping, poker playing politician with the diamond hard edge who led the USA and the free world at a very critical moment in history.

Truman is the last US president to not have obtained a college degree. Perhaps his formative education was as that artillery officer he became in the late stages of the First World War. He went from a militia corporal before the war to a leader, knowing how to give orders. That became critically important when he was sworn in as successor to FDR and became, for the first time, privy to the terrible secret which was the Manhattan Project, and knowing that he would have to give the orders whether or not to use those frightening weapons.

Aside from his marriage, his war service, and his political career, Truman was not very successful at many things he did. He was not very good as a farmer, his furniture business after the war failed, and he did drop out of night school. His mother in law might have been right to be unimpressed by him.

But lack of success in civilian life notwithstanding, when it counted and the power of the presidency fell upon his shoulders, he could bear it and wield that power effectively and decisively.

With the news of the Fall of Kabul to the Taliban in the past two days, I have been thinking about Harry S Truman and the other men who have occupied the modern presidency a whole lot. Not since the Fall of Saigon in 1975 has America faced such a humiliation, the abandonment of a war of attrition.

You can never dismiss someone who achieves the office of President of the United States. Not only are they relentlessly driven and ambitious, but they are intelligent far above the average, able to connect with and convince those around them to support them, and possessed of a certain Will To Power that propels them further than other highly gifted men.

Even the most unsuccessful of presidents are highly driven. During the years since 1901, the least of those, or the most mediocre, perhaps would be Taft, the brilliant jurist, Harding, the figurehead, and Coolidge, the idol of some of those who believe in limited government (because Ol Calvin did not seem to do anything).

And when you look at the growth and survival of American power, you cannot help but see many periods where American presidents have stumbled greatly.

Woodrow Wilson, the brilliant academic and idealist, appears to have been spiteful and emotionally feeble, and destroyed his health in pursuit of a new rules based international system his nation was not yet ready for, and which the old world still rejected outright.

Herbert Hoover, who is widely blamed for the Great Depression, may well have been remembered very differently if he had been elected in 1920 instead of 1928.

I venture that there have been three periods in the past 120 years where America has had presidents who were not up to the task, but where America has, regardless of this, grown or retained its power.

The first is the 1920s, where Harding, Coolidge and Hoover had the inertia and lack of foresight to lead their nation.

The next is the 1960s and 1970s. Kennedy made many stumbles in his brief reign, the Cuban Missile Crisis probably being his finest hour. Johnson led America deep into Vietnam and into domestic debt. Then there is Nixon, the most deeply flawed but insightful man who could, if he had not succumbed to the abuses of power that were Watergate, have been remembered as a great president. Ford, long regarded as inept, achieved the presidency through the high regard he was held by both sides of politics, being the most decent of men. Carter too, a man of principle and yet another former Naval Officer (all the presidents from Kennedy to Carter had served in the US Navy), proved not to be up to the foreign policy challenges.

The third era is now, since 2001. We can look with nostalgia at the presidencies of Reagan, the first Bush, and Clinton as a golden age where America reached the height of its post Second World War power globally, and enjoyed prosperity domestically. Since then, we have had four presidents, the second Bush, Obama, Trump and now Biden, who have stumbled into wars and foreign crises whilst progressively bankrupting their nation.

Of course, what I am saying is an oversimplification. The USA is a complex nation, with many difficult domestic issues and more foreign policy entanglements and obligations than the rest of the world combined. Where one president has succeeded in one realm, others may have failed miserably, and from the perspective of the outsider, I mostly focus on the foreign policy, rather than on the problems which overwhelm America from within.

For example, whilst America was busy losing the Vietnam War and abandoning the Gold Standard, it was at the same time implementing policies of greater social equality and liberality and placing men on the Moon for the first time.

Under Reagan, America recovered very strongly from the Vietnam War. It then went during the reign of the first Bush and won the Cold War.

But the Fall of Kabul so quickly after the US withdrawal does leave me wondering as to how the US got it so wrong, and whether this is just a legacy of Trump’s lack of attention to detail, or connected to Biden’s current leadership, or a symptom of a broader malaise within the American polity?

When Fibbing Is Unforgivable – Thoughts on the Andrews Government

At the very back of my memory is a vague collection of some sort of playground game or custom where, if you touched something icky (eg dog poo or used chewing gum), you would immediately touch someone else and call ‘Needles!’ hence passing the contamination from yourself onto them.

With the way that the Delta variant is spreading, remembering such silly games (or making jokes about the name of a certain very popular Australian songstress) is just about all one can do to see any humour in the situation.

I have been critical about the technocrats of our various governments for a while, particular that of Daniel Andrews, who has spent the past 16 or so months dodging transparency in various of his government’s decisions (eg how the hotel quarantine was set up, or why the curfew was imposed).

About 2 months ago, we had the situation where the Victorian government was running low on Pfizer vaccine. A colleague of mine was, at that time, trying to get a booking for his second shot. When he rang the relevant call centre, the scripts gave a misleading explanation for why he would have to wait longer. Instead of telling him the truth, ie that the vaccine supply was short so they were rationing it out, he was given weasel words about advice having changed as to how long people needed to wait between doses.

A friend has just brought another example of such creativity with the truth to my attention. Until this week, where Canberra went into lockdown, the ACT had not had any Covid cases in over a year, yet it was still considered a red zone by the Victorian Health authorities.

People who have been trying to get permits to visit Victoria (and who in some cases have had several clear covid tests) have been told verbally that they are approved, and that the permit letter will be in the mail.

Despite this, no letter has been forthcoming. Parallels appear easy to draw with the time honoured clique about the cheque being in the mail.

However, when people are being misled in this way about permit approval, it is clear that there is a systemic problem. That is, that staff are following a script giving people the advice that they want to hear, whilst the systems to actually deliver what has been promised have not been put in place.

If a bank was to behave in this way, it would be fined. Where a government causes its agencies to behave in this way, it is far more serious, as it is a symptom of a far greater degree of unaccountability and potential incompetence.

But this is not surprising. Part of the problem with the vaccine rollout is that the websites and call centres that were established to deal with vaccine bookings took far longer to set up to deal adequately with the volumes of enquiries than acceptable. In my personal experience 11 weeks ago, I was on hold to the booking hotline for a long time, and then told that I could hang up if I chose and get called back without losing my place in the queue. I never got called back.

Being misleading about matters around permits or vaccination bookings is a form of fibbing. Fibbing amongst children in the playground, tapping each other and calling ‘Needles!’ is one thing – it could even be considered cute. Fibbing as a form of public administration service delivery principle, on the other hand, is unforgivable.