Pandemic Port – re-discovery and revelation

Taking walks through Port Melbourne during the lockdowns is a strange voyage of rediscovery and revelation.

Having lived in Port Melbourne for almost 50 years local travel tends to become routine. The drive down to the beachfront to get to the St Kilda Sea Baths; walking to the Bay Street shops; walking on the beachfront from home to Kerferd Road and back; catching the 109 to the city; playing with a granddaughter in the Evans Street park; and crossing Port Phillip to Balaclava to visit family. It all tends to make you think that things don’t change much. read more

Putting Rosalind Franklin in pandemic perspective

The British decision to put Rosalind Franklin’s famous Photograph 51 on the new 50p coin is a reminder that the controversy over her DNA X-ray diffusion work is but one part of a much larger scientific career.

Indeed, as the world is living through a pandemic it is more than arguable that her work in the UK and US on viruses was equally, if not more, important. Indeed, if she had not died so young it is not inconceivable that she could have gone on to win a Nobel for research in that area. read more

Four legs good two legs bad, private good public bad

For decades there has been a relentless chorus – rather like Orwell’s four legs good two legs bad – conditioning us to believe that private is good and public is bad.

Like the pigs in Animal Farm we have been subjected to a messaging campaign which promoted what true believers and beneficiaries claimed was a deep economic reality while actually justifying de-regulation and the devastation of public sector staffing and expertise. read more

Been there done that

The Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, has announced the government recovery strategy – emulate Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. The problem is that Australia has been there and done that with the same very mixed results Reagan and Thatcher achieved.

For a start Thatcher and Australian Governments had one overwhelming similarity. Presented with a massive financial windfall gain from North Sea oil and energy and minerals respectively they proceeded to spend it as if there was no tomorrow and never once thought of establishing something similar to the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund. The Future Fund, despite anything Peter Costello says, is no more a real sovereign wealth fund than the knife Dundee confronted in New York was a real knife. read more

Watching Fox News in the US may kill you

Recent US studies demonstrate that watching Murdoch’s US Fox News increases the likelihood of you believing what’s not true about COVID-19 and – if acting on it – possibly dying.

The studies are also an indication that Fox audiences are modern day versions of a Montaigne insight from almost 500 years ago. In his essay It is folly to measure the true and false by our own capacity he said: “Perhaps it is not without reason that we attribute facility in belief and conviction to simplicity and ignorance: for it seems to me I once learned that belief was a sort of information impression made on our mind, and that the softer and less resistant the mind, the easier it was to imprint something on it.” read more

COVID-19 Hotel Quarantine double trial

The current Victorian Hotel Quarantine Inquiry headed by the Honourable Justice Jennifer Coate AO is putting two things on trial – one predictable media fodder and the other at the root of decades of neo-liberal outsourcing and privatisation.

The first trial is the traditional one which fits neatly into standard media coverage: who did what, why did they do it, who did they tell, what did those told do and were Ministers warned or informed in some way? read more

How climate has changed the world

The Morrison Government’s attitude to our history is that it started with Captain Cook and then – as if transported by the Tardis or Dr Emmet. L. Brown’s DeLorean car – arrived at the era of John Howard, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Milton Friedman.

If it took the time to look beyond this narrow prism it might get some insights into how climate variations have influenced world history by felling empires; provoking civil wars and economic destruction; how science is helping us understand what happened in these episodes in history; and, how the climate emergency will have more profound and long-lasting impacts than any of those other past climate events. read more

Our warmongering ally: The Alliance Part 2

In 2004 Janet Jackson flashed a breast (sorry, suffered a wardrobe malfunction) during the Super Bowl half time entertainment. The same day 109 innocent civilians were killed in a suicide bombing in Iraq.

This coincidence was noticed by Carl Hiaasen of the Miami Herald who asked the question: guess which one led the news? read more

A very odd couple for an alliance

Successive Australian Governments have revelled in having a close relationship with their US counterparts. At times it is has been pandering; at others it has resulted in engaging in illegal or unwinnable wars; and, it has all been cloaked in mutual admiration for being democratic in spirit and practice. read more

What does the Eden-Monaro result mean?

The Eden-Monaro by-election status quo ante result raises two interesting questions: why isn’t the Prime Minister’s high approval rating translating into an improved rating for the government; and, why oh why do the media keep up the same old tired approaches to covering political events?

The Morrison Government was very successful in initially framing the vote in terms of the 100 years since a government had won an opposition seat in a by-election. That set them up for another miracle claim if they won but also protected them against needing to explain away failure. read more