All posts by Noel Turnbull

An enigmatic philosopher

Last month one of Europe’s great, albeit enigmatic at times, philosophers walked on to a stage to receive an award.

The audience was packed with some of the richest young men in the world, dressed in elegant tailored clothes, watching and listening to the philosopher with amazement as he held forth. The philosopher was dressed rather less elegantly although his crumpled red shirt, greying bread and flat cap made him stand out from the others on the stage. read more

A postscript and a clarification

While the President was crudely falsifying hurricane maps in a vain attempt to hide yet another lie, a Washington friend emailed to say that 10 Democratic nomination candidates had “held forth – one at a time – on live TV (the CNN Town Hall meeting) for more than 30 minutes each, speaking intelligently (seriously, very intelligently) about climate change.” read more

Not so surprising US attitudes – if you have been watching beyond the Tweets

It is easy to be alternately frightened, appalled and head-shakingly despairing about what comes out of Trump’s United States. Officials deleting all references to climate change from official documents; immigration policies that make Peter Dutton look like a raging leftie; ongoing attempts to ban abortion or make them impossible to get; spiralling defence spending compared with poor health and social services; and, increasing inequality. read more

Democracy and its discontents

Much of the fevered discussion on the future and failings of democracy is based on misconceptions, particularly the fact that some see democratic discontent and growing authoritarianism as a re-run of the 1930s – something possible but extremely unlikely.

There are also serious misconceptions about the history of democracies. Most accounts of the system start with Athens despite it being a society characterised by slavery, civil wars and coups bearing little resemblance to a modern democracy. Indeed, Greece has been largely thus for much of the past couple of millennia with the last coup only 60 years ago. read more

Communication companies and physics

When PR and other communication companies start making references to science and scientific theories in promoting what they do it is time to take a deep sceptical sniff.

The alva group (not a typo but literally their lower case brand style which says something or other) started a recent blog post on its work with the statement that: “Wave theory isn’t just for physicists: it can equally be applied to the study of a company’s reputation.” read more

The Battle of Coral-Balmoral

Tim Fischer’s death reminds us that the Australians fought an even bigger, longer and more deadly battle than Long Tan (discussed in the most recent blog) in Vietnam – the Battle of Coral- Balmoral – at which he was wounded.

The battle took place over many days in May 1968, after 1RAR and 3RAR, established Fire Support Base Coral. Shortly after the North Vietnamese attacked the base and overran several positions. In close quarters hand to hand battle the Australians, with assistance from mortar and artillery fire, drove the NVA back. read more

They did what they were trained to do

They did what they were trained to do, a friend and fellow Vietnam veteran said to the blog about the new film, Danger Close, when they caught up this week.

This was not to denigrate in any way the sacrifice and bravery of 108 infantrymen with supporting artillery, helicopters and ultimately Armoured Personnel Carriers. Rather he meant to emphasise that the Australian Army trained, trained and trained its members to confront exactly that sort of situation and worked to inculcate a culture and camaraderie which produced professionalism, resilience and bravery. read more

When is a quote an argument from authority or just apposite?

Commonplace books are probably less than common these days although maintaining them online should make them easier to compile and access particularly when for some of the items stuck in them scanning is easier than scissors and paste.

They have always had a basically personal role – reminding the owner of some wisdom, odd fact, memory or a source to be plundered to illustrate other writing or to provide a veneer of intellectual breadth. read more

It’s not only the Russians

As well as having to keep an eye out for Russian electoral interference we now need to watch out for the fake news promulgated by knights of the realm – and the employee whistle blowers who provide the evidence of what their knightly employers, such as Sir Lynton Crosby and his company CTF Partners, do. read more

Putting lipstick on a pig

The phrase putting lipstick on a pig is probably unfair to pigs. For a generation brought up on Miss Piggy it might even be incomprehensible. But it does sum up a public relations innovation which resulted in a man who had been convicted of sexual assault getting positive coverage in the US magazines Forbes, HuffPost and National Review. read more