Tag Archives: politics

Sharks and politics and gardening

Photo by GEORGE DESIPRIS from Pexels

A rag-bag of topics have tickled my fancy this week. Let’s start with sharks, everybody’s favourite ocean-going boogy fish. Two young men were bitten while swimming up in the Whitsundays recently. That makes five attacks in that area in just over a year, one of them fatal. Inevitably, the calls have gone up. There must be retribution (culling) and/or protection (drum lines or shark nets).

Let’s get this into perspective. In an entire year, around the world, six people are killed in shark attacks. Six. [1] People go into the shark’s environment, often wearing wetsuits that make them look like seals, the fish’s natural prey. There will be attacks. Sharks are apex predators. But there aren’t that many of them out there and their numbers are dwindling. Fishermen catch sharks, cut off their fins for the Chinese market, and chuck the fish overboard to die. Smaller sharks end up in your Friday fish and chips. So how many sharks do humans kill in one year? A bit more than six.

Culling is stupid and only called for by people who thought the Jaws movies were real. Sharks don’t come back to eat people. Most of the time they mistake humans in wetsuits for seals. And often they take a bite, go YUCK, and move on. Unfortunately, with all those teeth, even a nibble is enough to sever an artery.

Drum lines are offshore floats with baited hooks on lines. Read more here. They’re set to protect popular beaches and are designed to catch and kill sharks, although recent changes require councils to check the drums each day and release sharks since some species are endangered. Um… I’ll opt out of removing the hook from a three-metre great white’s mouth, thanks. It’s obvious drum lines will catch more than sharks and claims they reduce shark attacks at beaches is disputed.

Shark nets catch much more than sharks. Lots of other innocent fish, dolphins and turtles (which drown), and every year at least two or three whales have to be cut free during their migration.

I spent many, many long summer days at the beach in Perth when I was growing up. There were no nets or drum lines, but there was an aircraft (the surf patrol) that regularly checked the beaches and reported any shark sightings. On the rare occasion that one showed up, a siren sounded, we all went ashore and watched as the boys launched a surf boat to scare the shark off.

These days with drones so accessible (and cheap) surely aerial surveillance is a simple option.

Next topic, political advertising. Recently on Facebook the feed is full of Brexit and the interminable American presidential election campaign. And in both cases, most of the posts I see are personal attacks on candidates. It’s all so narrow and negative. I don’t really care if somebody smoked dope when they were at university, I want to know what their policies are, whether they’ve been costed, and why I should give them my vote.

Okay, I’m off the soap box now. A few weeks ago I shared some garden pictures in my post ‘Spring has sprung’. Goodness, how everything has grown.

Green beans grown from seed, with marigolds along the bottom. That’s around 2.4 metres (8ft). We’re still picking. There’s nothing like eating beans picked ten minutes ago 🙂

Three tomato plants – one big, one cherry, one roma. They’re covered in unripe fruit but we’ll have to get them before the fruit flies. That’s a fruit fly trap hanging next to them.


A pair of paw-paws. They’re steaming along, though no sign of fruit yet.

We’ve managed to pick our bananas before the birds noticed them starting to ripen and shared our bounty with the neighbours. And I have hopes that at least some of the mangoes will actually get to ripen this year. They seem to go in a biennial cycle, with a reasonable crop every other year. Here’s hoping.

And we’ve got lots of herbs, rocket (arugula), and lettuce.

Sage in flower

A hoverfly with the sage

The week that was

Today I want to talk (very briefly) about Barnaby Joyce. (For non-Australian readers, he’s the deputy Prime Minister, and leader of the National Party. His marriage is on the rocks and his new partner, who was a member of his staff, is pregnant.) IT’S NOBODY’S BUSINESS.  The man has a wife and four kids who don’t need the laser glare of public opinion intruding into their lives. They’ve done nothing wrong. In fact, I don’t think Mr Joyce has done anything wrong. I’d take a guess and suggest his marriage was on the rocks some time ago, and he’s turned to somebody he works with for comfort.  That’s never happened to anybody before, has it? Granted, it might have been wiser to not make a baby until arrangements were settled. That’s never happened to anybody before, either, has it? And the ‘job for the girlfriend’ – I gather she’s qualified. Once again, it’s not exactly a novelty. Jobs for the boys/girls has always been a thing. Provided the person has the skills, it’s a non-issue. Maybe there are a few irregularities – was a government-paid job created for the lady, did Mr Joyce take advantage of perks for his new accommodation – but it’s a side issue in the major job of running the country.

It used to be (in this country, anyway) a politician’s private life was exactly that. Harold Holt was known for having an eye for the ladies. Bob Hawke admitted to bringing girlfriends into the Lodge (Australia’s PM’s home). They were both married men – and they’re just a couple of the more well-known examples. None of that made the headlines, let alone endless discussions in the House or on the news. I guess in these days of reality TV shows the opposition parties and the media tend to zero in on something much more entertaining to the masses than the mundane task of Governing the Country.

Our national debt is in the billions, our welfare system is creaking, and all we have to talk about is Barnaby Joyce’s extra-marital affair. This isn’t the bible belt in the southern USA. Get over yourselves. Please.

Which segues nicely into the most recent insanity on the other side of the world, where a teen wielding an AR-15 murdered seventeen kids at the school he used to attend. How many kids have to die before the assholes in the NRA (National Rifle Association) realise it’s not about them? It’s all been said so many times before. “Thoughts and prayers” – bullshit. At least Prime Minister John Howard had the balls to stand up and be counted after the Port Arthur massacre in 1996. (That article is well worth your time) And Australians, appalled by what had happened, went along with the new gun laws. No civilian needs a semi-automatic weapon. For that matter, I read the other day that the killer who murdered fifty-eight concert-goers in Las Vegas used armour-piercing bullets. The man who sold the ammo has been arrested for manufacturing the rounds without a licence. Why in anybody’s name would a civilian need armour-piercing bullets?

Many, many people in the US are as sickened by the unending violence, and the do-nothing mentality of the government, as I am. Newspapers have railed against the inertia. This article appeared a year ago. It illustrates on a map where mass shootings occurred in the US in 2015, then shows Australian mass shootings for the same year. I’m sure we all remember Sandy Hook, when tiny children were gunned down. I hoped America would wake up then. But the NRA is an all-powerful lobby with too many senators in its pocket. And too many Americans are still inclined to say it’s not about the guns, it’s about mental health. Hello, America. You’re not the only country with people with mental health issues. And yet Australia, the UK, Canada, Europe, Japan – none of those nations has mass shootings so regularly that it hardly gets a mention in the news. Take a look at the graphs in this article. It’s all about the guns, really it is.

That little kid up there with the assault rifle? Kids in America are brain-washed into thinking that owning a gun is a God-given right, that it’s in their constitution. It might be worth reading this to see what the second amendment is really all about.

And in other matters, I’m making progress with my new book. You can read about that here at Spacefreighter’s Lounge.

Musings on my week

This is where we live - NASA

This is where we live – NASA

This week is all a bit introspective and doom and gloom, so feel free to  scroll down to the photos.

I read an interesting article recently about the times we live in, and how many of us (including me) think it’s a very dangerous time. Is it me or is the world going crazy? Well worth a read. There’s a lot to like about what he has to say, and certainly the spread of social media has had a profound impact on where we source our news, and what we read.

And yet… Humanity never seems to learn. Since 2014, and for a few years yet, we have ‘celebrated’ the centennial of the Great War, with regular articles of one battle after another. We don’t get that for the Napoleonic Wars – just Waterloo, and Trafalgar. The Napoleonic Wars devastated Europe and its population it took decades for mainland Europe to recover, and incidentally, that was one of the reasons why Britain, which went through relatively unscathed, came to dominate the Western world. [Gets off history lectern]

Me, I’m a bit over heroism and sacrifice and fighting for our future, our very way of life.  Sorry, Australian troops in WW1 were certainly heroic and sacrificed their lives or their health in these awful battles. But they were cannon fodder, used up and spat out in a war which had even less to do with them than it had to do with the rural villagers of Britain, mown down by the German machine guns. All that war did was sow the seeds for the next one, in which our soldiers did indeed fight for our future, our very way of life – with their backs to wall.

Which brings me back to what’s happening now.  More and more, the world is beginning to resemble the political playing fields of the nineteen thirties. Putin is effectively dictator of Russia, making no secret of his expansionist policies. Erdogan, in Turkey, manufactured a coup to help seal his own despotic rule, to me reminiscent of Hitler’s Night of the Long Knives. The West is worried about Islamism (not ordinary people worshipping a God but fanatical nut jobs bent on murdering innocent people – which is reminiscent of the spread of Islam in the 8th and 9th century). The USA is turning ever further right wing, mass shootings have become commonplace.  “Democracy” is failing. And when will the West learn that you cannot force democracy on people? Nor can the West hope to assimilate millions of refugees with radically different beliefs and societal mores. You have only to look at the experience of women in German cities attending New Years Eve celebrations, where they were set upon and sexually assaulted by hordes of young men.

Seems to this old biddy that we’re heading into dangerous global waters. But meanwhile, here’s a few more insect shots for us all to enjoy.

Two dragonflies doing what dragonflies were designed to do

Two dragonflies doing what dragonflies were designed to do


A European bee and tiny native Australian bees all drawn to the nectar on a waterlily

A tiny native bee collecting honey from a scaveola flower

A tiny native bee collecting honey from a scaveola flower

And to finish, a butterfly captured in flight. Do you know how hard that is to do?

And to finish, a butterfly captured in flight. Do you know how hard that is to do?

It’s been a busy week

Only one of the twin mountains of mulch

Only one of the twin mountains of mulch

I’m soooo tired of the f*cking American presidential election. Sorry (if you’re an American and think it all makes sense) but I think it’s a huge waste of money – billions spent over what feels like a couple of years, every four years, and for what? Unless the President has the support of the House of Reps and the Senate, s/he is pretty much a figurehead blamed for everything that isn’t working. Still and all, that’s America’s business, just as Brexit was British business, and our own too-long election was Australian business.

All of them show a pattern, though. We’re all sick of professional politicians. And that’s all I’ll say. This blog is all about ME.

backgroundI’ve published my latest novelette, Him Outdoors and I have been shifting a mountain of mulch, (see above) and I’ve recommenced work on the nameless story. I also did a fun graphic, just because.

And this week’s pictures is a continuation of the insects theme.




The male hornet literally picked the female up and flew her up to the fence. I don't think there was too much consent involved.

The male hornet literally picked the female up and flew her up to the fence. I don’t think there was too much consent involved.

A dragonfly clings on to a twig in a breeze

A dragonfly clings on to a twig in a breeze

This caterpillar is preparing to pupate. See the silk strand attaching it to the branch?

This caterpillar is preparing to pupate. See the silk strand attaching it to the branch?

Butterfly laying eggs

Butterfly laying eggs

When politics is broken – bring in a woman

Copyright: StockUnlimited

Copyright: StockUnlimited

Another week has flown by. The time really does fly when I’m writing, and that’s what I’ve done. Another Dryden story is under construction, entitled “Ella and the Admiral”. It’ll be a bit more romantic than some of my other work and consequently it won’t be very long.

Meanwhile in the real world Britain has a new prime minister.I’ll have to say, I would have voted to exit the EU. I think it was a good start that has deteriorated into a messy, undemocratic, expensive, self-serving, Brussels bureaucracy. Although I’ll admit I don’t know all the facts. I was absolutely gobsmacked to discover, the day after the vote, that not one British politician had given any thought at all to what would have to happen should the British people vote to (er) LEAVE, I mean, really??? It was so unlikely (despite the polls) that nobody gave it any consideration? I suppose the subsequent fall-out was inevitable. Cameron resigned, Boris Johnson shied away, everybody looked stupid – and it has been left to a WOMAN to pick up the reins.

And it occurred to me that happens rather a lot in western style politics.

Back at the end of the 80’s when the lid finally came off Brian Burke’s WA Inc in Western Australia the male politicians in the Labor party ran a mile. It was obvious that the Labor Party would be decimated at the next election, and nobody had the balls to pick up the poison chalice. Carmen Lawrence stepped up and took over, providing (I believe) strong leadership until the inevitable electoral defeat. Then there was Joan Kirner in Victoria. John Cain resigned after a political and financial scandal, leaving Joan Kirner to pick up the pieces. Again, the subsequent electoral defeat was inevitable. When Anna Bligh took over from Peter Beattie in Queensland the state wasn’t in crisis – yet. But I can’t help but think that Beattie disembarked before the ship of state hit a predictable storm. Maybe I’m wrong. Anna Bligh at least managed to win the first election – but not the next, when Queensland decimated Labor, leaving the party with only six representatives. Who stood up from that debacle? Annastacia Palaszczuk. This remarkable woman actually led Labor back to power at the very next election.

So far, Mrs May is making the right noises in Britain. I wish her well. But it’s clear to me that the western ‘democratic’ system is increasingly falling apart. The Trump phenomenon is an indicator of how much the American people trust their politicians. The votes for more and more minor parties (resulting in the Lib Nats having a precarious hold on power) after the double dissolution election in Australia shows the mood of the Australian people. Everywhere, democracy has been replaced with plutocracy. In Australia we get to choose between the lawyers and bankers, or the Labor union apparatchiks who have never had any other job. Pardon my cynicism. I’ll watch with interest to see what the next generation does.

As I write the press is dissecting the latest atrocity in France. The death toll from a rampaging truck driver after the Bastille Day fireworks in Nice is eighty-four. Eighty-four people enjoying a fireworks display on a holiday. The world is becoming a very dangerous place. And all too often these murders are committed in the name of somebody’s god. I’ll leave it at that.

Let’s end with a pretty picture.

A gathering storm at sunset

A gathering storm at sunset

Future Politics – is democracy dying?

picture of Sunset on the Houses of Parliament, London

Sunset on the Houses of Parliament, London

I recently read an article in iO9, about the potential shape of future political systems. And it got me to thinking, as these things do. I have a BA(Hons) in history. Part of my honours year was a fascinating study of the French, American and Russian revolutions, and the rise of Fascism in Italy and Germany. The broad brush similarities between these apparently disparate events is there for all to see. In essence, a powerful autocracy is weakened by allowing the influence of the educated middle class. It all looks like everything will be rosy in the garden, but then the rabble rousers see an opportunity and rouse the rabble. That’s when the random killing starts, and mob rule and fanatics take over, while the people at the top get rich. Animal Farm, anyone? After a while, everyone recognises that this can’t continue. A small group sets up rule, which, more often than not, leads to a new dictatorship, for example Napoleon, or Stalin. Yes, I know this is an over-simplification. Spare me the detailed ‘yes but’s. Let’s look at a few modern examples.

  • Yugoslavia. Tito kept a lid on the ever-present simmering ethnic tensions in the Balkans. He died, the attempt at democracy failed, war and genocide broke out. Without Tito, a state like Yugoslavia cannot exist.

  • USSR. Gorbachev recognised the writing on the wall. He was the moderate intellectual wave. Then Yeltsin took over in Russia and attempted a form of democracy, but the economic situation was such that the poor became poorer, gangsters became rich and lawlessness was rife. Now, Putin is working steadily at establishing himself as a second Stalin. Including grabs of territory.

  • Iraq. Nobody disputes that the late Saddam Hussein was a tyrant. But while he was in power, most ordinary Iraqis could go about their business. Sectarian violence didn’t happen – not that we heard about, anyway. When the Americans invaded his country, all bets were off. We only need to look at the newspapers to feel sympathy for that strife-torn country. It will not survive the overflow of sectarian violence pouring in from Syria.

  • Iran. Under the Shah, this was a westernised, modern country. Then the Ayatollah Khomeini took over. Salman Rushdie, a resident of another country, was in fear of his life for writing a book, and the American embassy was besieged. Now it’s an Islamic state where women are second class citizens and ‘democracy’ is a farce.

  • And these are just a few.

Which leads to the question, what about democracy? Here’s Wikipedia’s explanation of democracy. Does it work? I wonder, I truly do. I believe democracy can only work where it develops within the country. It cannot be imposed by anybody else. It’s a fantasy to imagine that Western armies can roll into Afghanistan and impose democracy on the population. Democracy must be based on an educated population which understands the concept. Let’s remember that the original Greek democracy didn’t include everyone. Slaves and women weren’t considered part of the voting population. For a true democracy, everyone must be enfranchised. In Australia, women were able to vote in Federal elections in 1902 – but aboriginal people were not able to vote until 1962.  So real democracy in Australia only goes back to 1962.

Increasingly, I’m seeing ‘democracy’ around the world going to hell in a hand basket. Minorities and women are being marginalised. Equality is a farce. The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer. Big business runs our countries for the benefit of a few. Some super-rich individuals earn more than some nation states. Only a handful of democracies work as they should, places like Finland, Sweden, Norway and Switzerland; small countries with educated populations – where the state pays to educate people. Sure, workers pay high taxes, but the state provides education, health care and social security for all.


I wish it was like that everywhere, where people got off the endless ‘productivity’ bullshit bandwagon and recognised this is the only Earth we’ll ever have. Forget about why the climate is changing. It is. And our oceans are dying, the rainforests are being cleared for palm oil, extinctions are soaring, population is ballooning, fundamental fanaticism is exploding as marginalised people grope for simplistic answers.


From all of this I see two things.

  • Isaac Asimov’s psychohistory, as postulated in his Foundation books,  will probably exist in the future. We will be able to predict what is likely to happen next in a society on a large scale, with reasonable accuracy.

  • And the best, most stable, most efficient form of government is a benevolent dictatorship or an oligarchy based on merit. No wonder Asimov postulated a Galactic Empire.

Yes, I think ‘democracy’ has run its course, or will have run its course in the foreseeable future. What do you think?