Saturday, October 29, 2016

Saturday Morning Musings - selectivity, ethnicity and universality in Australian schools

Interesting piece in the Guardian by Christina Ho headlined Hothoused and hyper-racialised: the ethnic imbalance in our selective schools. I will just quote the first part of the article:
Growing up in multicultural Australia, I first really understood multiculturalism by going to school. Not via textbooks, but through my lived experience of making friends with kids from a dozen different cultural backgrounds, and being exposed to the range of different ethnic groups with whom I shared my suburb. I learned to get along with people very different from myself, or at the very least, I accepted their right to share my school community.
For young people, schools are unique in their ability to foster these cross-cultural communication skills, and for orienting kids to the realities of our globalising world. British geographer Ash Amin describes schools as “micropublics”, places where people from different backgrounds are thrown together on a daily basis to work together. In the process, they learn acceptance and cross-cultural understanding.
However, not all schools are equally well-placed to achieve this. As families increasingly turn away from the local public school in favour of private schools that are often restricted to particular religious groups, and of course, restricted to those who can afford the fees, Australian children are less and less likely to encounter the full range of our diverse society within their school communities.
The same can be said for selective schools, the focus of my latest research. As education policy increasingly emphasises competition, school choice and elite programs for the “gifted and talented”, a growing number of schools have become demographically unbalanced, so that they can no longer operate as “micropublics” or microcosms of the wider community.
I found myself nodding at certain places. Then, thinking about it, I concluded that I had problems with Ms Ho's analysis because of the way she mixed things together. Take the selective school example. These are government schools which base entrance on competitive merit measured in particular ways. By its nature, a selective school is unrepresentative. It should therefore not be surprising that particular groups with a particular ethos should come to be over-represented. Since Chinese parents, for example, are driven - the stories here are legion - by a desire for their children's success combined with a work ethic that would make the Puritans proud, it is not surprising that their children are disproportionately represented in the selective school intakes.

I saw this at first hand while working with a Chinese parent. The planning, the coaching, even consideration of moving to make it easier to access the school in question, was deeply thought through. As a child, I would not have wanted to go through this, I had enough problems with expectations as it was, but I could understand and even sympathise with what she was trying to do.

That says a lot about selective schools, a lot about the cultures and ethos of particular groups, but not necessarily a lot beyond that. To extend an argument based on the experience in selective state schools to the broader school sector is a stretch. That does not mean that it's wrong, rather that the argument is about the importance of the universality of the school system using the selective school system to provide an example.


At this point, I sidetracked. I was curious first about Ms Ho. She is a University of Technology Sydney Senior Lecturer & Discipline Coordinator, Social and Political Sciences, within the Communications program, based in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.
Christina researches migration, cultural diversity, citizenship and identity, and has focused particularly on Chinese migration, Muslim diasporas and migrant youth and belonging. She is currently working on projects investigating ethnicity and education and community building in urban areas.
She was also a Green's Senate candidate. Here we learn:
I migrated to Australia from Hong Kong with my family as a young child, and grew up in the northern suburbs of Sydney, surrounded by a rich mix of other migrants and longer-term residents. I’m now a resident of Sydney's inner-west, a colourful, multicultural part of the city. I’m inspired by the community around me, by the people who care about their local area and work hard to make it a vibrant, friendly place to live. I know that there are active local communities like mine all around the country and I believe they need to be strengthened and supported. .......
My older daughter started kindergarten this year at our local public school, and I couldn't be more impressed with the wonderful school community we have joined. My area is lucky enough to have some fantastic public schools, full of passionate staff and the resources students need to get a good start to their education. I’m a big supporter of public education and I believe that all kids should have access to quality education, like my daughter is lucky enough to have. .....
I’m a Senior Lecturer teaching social sciences and my work focuses on issues around migration, gender and cultural diversity, issues I have a personal passion for.
 I must say that she sounds a thoroughly nice, interesting and involved person. I also think that the excerpts provide the frame within which her opinion piece is written.

My next sidetrack took me to James Ruse Agricultural High School (and here), one of the selective schools Ms Ho mentioned. The school consistently out-performs every other school in NSW in the Higher School Certificate results.

The competition to enter is intense. According to the My School website, 86% of the school's students are in the top 25% academic student quartile (none are in the bottom half), 97% come from a non-English language background, while the school's ICSEA (Index of Community Socio-Economic Advantage) score is 1262. To put this last in context, the equivalent ICSEA scores for two of Sydney's most prestigious and high fee schools are The Kings School 1163 and Scots College 1166.James Ruse has no indigenous students.

James Ruse is clearly not your representative school! Interestingly, though, agriculture is still an important subject at the school, being compulsory to year 10. I have to say, though, that the art result in the photo is a strange amalgam. Given that so few modern Australians know anything about the country, less about agriculture, it is nice to think that newer groups are receiving some exposure!

The other thing I noted in my investigation is just how modern Australian the school felt. This is a point that I will come back to later, but the school teaches a common curriculum within a common framework. So the description of activities and ethos would fit most schools.To illustrate, this is a shot of part of the cadet corp on ANZAC Day.        

My next excursion was to a 2014 blog post, Will Girls And Asians Dominate HSC Results This Year? Probably. The post is written to entertain, it may annoy some, but it actually shows how HSC results are now dominated by relatively narrow number of schools and indeed of ethnic backgrounds.

My final excursion came after I had posted the first part of this post via a comment from Neil Whitfield pointing to an earlier posts of his, 07 — a controversy — For the record: the great SBHS race debate of 2002. Sydney Boys High School is both a member of the GPS (Greater Public Schools NSW) sporting competition and a selective school. The apparent genesis of the 2002 imbroglio was a feeling among some SBHS Old Boys that the selective school test had become unfair, preventing Old Boys sending their children to the school, thus breaking the nexus between the school and its past. The discussion that followed introduced many of the same themes that we have been talking about.

There is one really big difference between the two discussions, however. The 2002 SBHS discussion was set within a frame of then debates about multiculturalism. The discussion quickly shifted from a question of sport to one of ethnicity. Some of the same elements are there now, but Ms Ho (a committed multi-culturalist) has a very different focus. In a way, she has turned the argument on its head. Selective schools are, she suggests, in fact monocultural, suffering from lack of connection to the broader community.


I accept that I have wandered all over the place, so perhaps time to pull this together.

I am sympathetic to the idea of schools as micropublics in the sense of meeting and mixing with a broad cross-section of people with different views and backgrounds. I know that with my girls when we came to Sydney that I was worried about the relatively narrow slice of the Australian population they were mixing with. I think that it's still true that they know a narrower slice than I did at their age. Mind you, eldest working at HO for a global multinational means that she has a detailed exposure to a very different and especially European slice.

I think the most important learning experience in mixing with different groups is learning when you have to shut up to maintain harmony. This doesn't mean that you have to change your views, but you do learn to deflect, to argue gently, to see the strong points in others even when you detest some of their views.

Perhaps the idea of the Australian public school as a micropublic was always something of an illusion, Australia was always more diverse than people realise, but in any event I think that it's gone beyond recall. I would still support moves to reduce Government funding of non-government schools beyond a certain minimum point with redirection of savings to the public sector, but I don't expect it to recreate a micropublic school system.

My general thinking has also changed here in two important respects. I am less supportive of diversity in education. More precisely, the more the school system moves away from the micropublic model, the more important is is that there is an imposed common core across schools to create a base uniformity.

The second and perhaps more important thing is a formed view that Australian popular culture is, for bad as well as good, far stronger than I once thought. That actually imposes a common world view on people regardless of variations in schooling and indeed parental influence. This was a point I hinted at in the context of James Ruse.

And on selective schools in general? Yes, I think that they should be more representative. SBHS would have been better of if there had been more recognition of Old Boys and the School's past. That view was shared by a James Ruse old boy (boy?) mentioned in Neil's 2002 post. However, in the end I don't think that it matters. A selective school is a selective school; by its nature its unrepresentative. If a small number of groups dominate because of their ethic, that's fine. It will also pass because the world changes.

Mind you, looking at the high socio-economic status now attached to those schools, I would charge fees and then use that money for scholarships to help poorer bright kids attend.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Un and underemployment in Australia. How do we fix the problem?

A week back, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released its latest labour force data for the month of September 2016. I was quite well covered at the time, but I thought that I should make a brief comment.

The attached graph shows the unemployment rate (those who are looking for work but can't find a job) and the underemployment rate (those with some part time work but who want to work more) over the last ten years.

Two points to note. While movements in the two curves generally mirror each other, you can see how the gap has widened over the least two years. I think that reflects in part the continued rise in part time work. The second  point is that the combined total of those out of work or who are underemployed is now well over 14% of the workforce.

The next graph shows the workforce as a percentage of the total population. This is not the same as the participation rate which is the proportion of the working age population actually in the workforce. Consequently, it is affected by the number of children and the number of those who have retired.

So what we appear to have is a steady increase in the combined un/under employment rate at the same time that the work force is declining as a percentage of  the overall population.

Just at the moment, the country needs to maintain workers as a proportion of population  and increase the utilisation of those who want to work. I don't think that we are doing an especially good job of either.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Reflections on Justin Gleeson's resignation

What a lot of things have been happening in that little duck pond called Australia while I have been otherwise engaged, stuck deep the Pleistocene. It was, I think, inevitable that Australian Solicitor-General Justin Gleeson would resign. As he said, the trust between the men was "irretrievably broken".

In a comment on Facebook my old friend Paul Barratt commented "The only honourable course in the circumstances but it's a catastrophe" while Legal Eagle said "what a mess". I don't think that it's a catastrophe, nor while it is a mess nor do I think that it's "what a mess".

When I wrote Brandis, Gleeson and the question of independent advice, I was trying to understand the issues. I had actually never thought on the role of the Solicitor-General. Now I have. That is why, to my mind, it's not a catastrophe nor a total mess. The AG's legally binding directive will be blocked in the Senate, while we are far more aware of the issues raised.

Reading the comment threads on left and right, they were all generally politically partisan. They can be put aside. Sometimes it takes a stubborn man, even perhaps a wrong headed man, to draw issues out. What will be remembered about this affair is not the politics of it, that passes, but the articulation of the issues. Those issue will be picked over in future by lawyers and others. That is the real result.


Listed below is some of the press reaction to the continuing saga. I'm not sure that you will learn much new. Leaving aside the in-principle issues, the political problem is that it's become another major distraction for the Government with people pointing to apparent patterns.


Friday, October 21, 2016

Parramatta and the dynamics of the apartment glut

I was a bit staggered to learn that there are now apparently more cranes servicing high rise apartment construction down the east coast of Australia (528) than in major cities across North America (419). This image is the Meriton Altitude Apartments development in Parramatta now well on the way to completion.

Each day I travel through the heart of Sydney apartment centrals, finishing at Parramatta. According to Greater Sydney Commission chief Lucy Turnbull, Sydney must be "re imagined" as three great cities for its growth to be successful.

The former Sydney lord mayor said the three cities of the future would be the Eastern Harbour City, the Central Parramatta River City, and the Western City in and around the new airport at Badgerys Creek.

I can see the changes in Parramatta. Its quite interesting and in a way exciting to watch the transformation of the city gathering pace. The level of new investment is enormous, billions of dollars. As a consequence, Parramatta has (I think) reached a tipping point. Developments already begun will certainly give the city a metro feel. I am less convinced about the Western City. Actually, I can't see it at this point. Parramatta's growth has been underpinned by the shifting of government jobs. It's a government city. Now that it has achieved something approaching critical mass, other things are following. Indeed, Ms Turnbull has suggested that the NSW parliament could be moved to Parramatta by the middle of the next decade. This was, she suggested, appropriate because the areas' west of Parramatta would increasingly be Sydney’s population, commercial and government centres. “What could be more logical than having our government right in the heart of the city where most of the population is based?” Ms Turnbull reportedly told an audience of the city’s business and political elite.

I shuddered a bit for reasons that you might understand.

At the moment, I can't see this type of dynamic happening in the "Western City". There is no natural focus, although those round Liverpool may challenge me on that, while there is no sign of Government job shifts.

Finishing with two brief points. The first is, and this has been widely reported, is that the level of apartment building in the three largest Eastern capitals has got to the point that a crash is almost inevitable, The second is that we have not looked properly at the dynamics of this in terms of what it means not just for the operation of Australia's largest cities, but for the Australian polity more broadly defined.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Coal Returns - at least for now

Some of the best performing ASE stocks recently in percentage terms have been the penny dreadful small coal plays including Nathan Tinkler's Australian Pacific Coal (AQC). When coal prices crashed, the big miners were prepared to offload coal assets at, in some cases, a dollar a mine if the new owner would take over actual and potential liabilities including remediation costs. The new owners looked to reduce costs and wait for coal prices to recover.

During that period my twitter and Facebook feeds were full of posts especially from New England with the constant theme that coal was dead. As I pointed out at the time, there was always a difference between thermal coal used in power generation and coking coal used in steel production; you just couldn't talk about coal. Now coal prices are up, with rises most heavily concentrated in coking coal, so some of those small coal plays are in the money.

Timing is critical. It does seem likely that thermal coal is in long term decline, but in that process there will be fluctuations around the long term trend that provide investment opportunities and profits.

BHP's  Andrew Mackenzie is cautious about the recovery in the prices for iron ore and coking coal, suggesting that expansion in supply would continue, reducing prices. Meantime, as Greg Jericho noted in this Guardian piece, Australian Treasurer Scott Morrison just got lucky, at least for the short term.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Brandis, Gleeson and the question of independent advice

The current dispute between Australia's top two law officials, Attorney-General George Brandis QC and Solicitor-General Justin Gleeson SC (picture), has many elements of high theater and has attracted widespread media coverage. Examples here, here, here, here. Submissions to the Senate Inquiry plus transcripts of hearings can be found here. It also raises some quite serious public policy issues. 

By way of background, the Australian Attorney-General is the first law officer of the Crown in right of the Commonwealth of Australia, chief law officer of the Commonwealth of Australia and a minister of the Crown. Under the Constitution. Technically, the A-G's are appointed by the Governor-General on the advice of the Prime Minister, and serve at the Governor-General's pleasure. In practice, while the Attorney-General is a party politician, with their tenure determined by political factors. 

The Solicitor-General is the Commonwealth's second law officer. ",  The position is an official one. WThe holders of this office are not members of Parliament. The Commonwealth Solicitor-General gives the Government legal advice and appears in court to represent the Commonwealth's interest in important legal proceedings, particularly in the High Court". 

On 4 May 2016 just before Parliament rose, the Attorney-General George Brandis issued a directive that required all those seeking advice from the Solicitor-General to have the Attorney-General's approval. The Solicitor-General objected that he had not been consulted and a political firestorm broke out.

I struggled a little to understand what it was all about. After reading the submissions to the inquiry and the first day's evidence, I realised that there was a lot more to it than failure to consult.

The formal functions of the Solicitor-General are set out below. .The two main clauses are 12(a) and (b).    
Functions of Solicitor-General
The functions of the Solicitor-General are:
(a)  to act as counsel for:
(i)  the Crown in right of the Commonwealth;
  (ii)  the Commonwealth;
  (iii) a person suing or being sued on behalf of the Commonwealth;
(iv)  a Minister;
(v)  an officer of the Commonwealth;
(vi)  a person holding office under an Act or a law of a Territory;
(vii)  a body established by an Act or a law of a Territory; or
(viii)  any other person or body for whom the Attorney-General requests him or her to act;
(b)  to furnish his or her opinion to the Attorney-General on questions of law referred to him or her by the Attorney-General; and
(c)  to carry out such other functions ordinarily performed by counsel as the Attorney-General requests.
The way that Commonwealth agencies should approach the Solicitor-General was set out in a non-legally binding Guidance note from the Attorney-General's Department. This stated (among other things) that the Solicitor-General would advise the Attorney-General  if approached for advice and provide the A-G with a copy of his advice. The Solicitor-General was concerned about the working of this guidance note, work load seems to have been an issue, and sought to have it reviewed.

One option would have been to alter the guidance note to require those wishing to seek the Solicitor-General's opinion to get approval from either the A-G or his Department. Instead, the A-G issued a legally binding directive (regulation) requiring all those listed in 2(a) above to get the A-G's approval before approaching the Solicitor-General. This, Senator Brandis argued, simply gave legal effect to the guidance note.

This was special pleading. The movement from the guidance note to binding regulation had quite profound effects. Prior to the directive, the Solicitor-General had effective discretion to make a judgement  about whether or not to give advice and, if given, whether or not it should be revealed. The effect of the directive meant, for example, that a Governor-General facing a constitutional crisis when the A-G was part of the Government could not seek advice without getting the A-G's approval. It meant that a Prime Minister or minister who might want an independent and confidential view on a matter could not do so without clearance first from the A-G.

As a regulation, the directive had to be tabled in the Senate and could be disallowed. This will happen. It's already dead. That said, the affair is a warning of the need to exercise vigilance where governments are concerned. If the Solicitor-General had simply rolled over, the issues involved would never have been identified and discussed. 

As a final comment, neither Government nor Opposition Senators on the Senate Committee inquiring into the issue covered themselves with glory. Both were totally partisan. I had to read the submissions and do some web research before I could form any understanding of the issues involved. Here the Solicitor-General himself did his cause no favours. By making the question of consultation the central issue, he effectively concealed the substantive issues involved.    


Since I wrote this post, the second day of evidence has become available. In that, I was struck by this description of his role from the Solicitor-General..Further comments follow the quote:
What happens with any Solicitor-General—this is true of the great Sir Maurice Byers, Sir Anthony Mason, David Bennett, Robert Ellicott, Gavan Griffith and Stephen Gageler—is that one is always balancing a fundamental commitment to the rule of law with a desire to assist the executive of the day and, as I said, occasionally the parliament to comply with that rule of law. Sometimes there is a tension between those matters and sometimes they can be readily accommodated. Any Solicitor-General will try and provide that advice balancing both of those matters. A Solicitor-General will not always necessarily get it right, but what a Solicitor-General will do, because it is a full-time commitment to practice as the premier professional lawyer in the nation, is immerse one's time fully in every aspect of what the High Court is saying about matters and what international courts are saying about matters, read academic articles and attempt to provide the best quality advice. There are tensions in that process because the fundamental way government works is usually policy driven. There is nothing wrong with that; politicians and governments are elected to represent the people and to advance good policies for the community, and there is debate over what good policies are.
A central part of what happens within the government lawyer's work—and most of it is done out of the public eye—is to look at a proposed policy and see whether it complies with the Constitution and whether it complies with the statute law. If it does not, can it be modified to be brought within the law? There are times when any government lawyer, but particularly a Solicitor-General, has to give the hard news that it is his or her view that a particular policy if turned into legislation would be struck down by the High Court. One does not do that overzealously. 
If I might, Senator Watt, there is one other aspect that I think is relevant to that question, which is to explain the relationship, in my mind, between the Solicitor-General and the Attorney-General when it comes to providing advice. The Solicitor-General is the law officer who spends day in, day out providing written opinions after careful consideration of all the precedents. The Attorney-General does not have the time to devote specifically to that topic because he has a far broader range of responsibilities. However, the Attorney-General is responsible directly to the parliament and the people as a minister of the Crown; the Solicitor-General is not. And this has always been one of the points at the heart of the relationship between Solicitor-General and Attorney-General in Australia. A deliberate decision was made by Billy Hughes in 1916 that we would not follow the British model, where the Solicitor-General sits in parliament. The result of that is that there can be occasions where the SolicitorGeneral's opinion, formed conscientiously and after deep study, is regarded by an Attorney-General, after conscientious and deep study, as incorrect. The manner in which I see our constitutional framework working in that unusual case—and it is very unusual—is that the Attorney-General, applying his or her own conscientious consideration of the problem, would write an opinion which would supersede and countermand the Solicitor-General's opinion. The reason I put it that way is that the Attorney-General's opinion on that topic would then sit within the Commonwealth records; it would sit within my office; it would be available to all officers of the Australian Government Solicitor; and everyone within government would know that was now the legal position being taken by Australia's top law officer, which everyone in government, including me, would follow until the High Court or other binding court said otherwise.
So, while I take up the sentiment of your question that the Solicitor-General has a fundamental role in advising to protect the rule of law, it is very important to recognise that that sits together with and is subject to the role of the Attorney-General ultimately to take responsibility and advise in a different direction if he or she thinks so. And within the database records of the Commonwealth, although they are not generally public unless the Commonwealth waives privilege, some of the finest opinions that have been written have been written by an Attorney-General on his or her own or they have been written, occasionally co-authored, by an Attorney-General and a Solicitor-General, and I commend that practice.
There were some aspects of the evidence presented that I was less sure about, including the need to consult the Solicitor-General. It seemed to me that this might be sensible but was not required. However, you did not half-consult. Would be interested in a lawyer's interpretation of the arguments put forward.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

A strange case- the banned export of Herbert Badham's 1944 painting Snack Bar

It seems that I first wrote on the art of Herbert Badham back on 5 March 2008:  Australian History and the art of Herbert Badham. Over eight years' ago! That was a different world.

There was a gap of over five years before I returned to the man as part of A morning at NERAM - Flora, Cobcroft and Badham's Observing the Everyday (26 November 2013). Next day I ran a second post, A note on Herbert Badham, providing more information on Badham since the sources on him were so few. They still are.

On 7 July 2014 I used a Badham painting to illustrate a Monday Forum post, Monday Morning Forum – another open forum. There matters rested. It wasn't that I had lost interest in the man, I still looked out for his paintings in my irregular gallery visits, but there had been nothing new to spark my interest.

Then back in September came news that the export of a Badham painting, a 1944 piece called Snack Bar, had been blocked from export because of its national significance. The new owner appealed, but the appeal was rejected by the appeal tribunal. Now I quote from the newspaper report:.
In its judgement, the tribunal found that the painting showed a critical stage in Australia's history - during wartime and its development as a multicultural nation. 
"The subject matter, which graphically records the interaction of different races, associating in congenial circumstances at a time of great danger for Australia is deeply impressive," it said.. 
I thought that this was plain daft. The painting is quite interesting, but to describe it in those terms strikes me as an a-historical misrepresentation. .


marcellous kindly posted me a link to the appeal decision. I think that it's still daft.Explaining my reasons will have to wait.  .

Postscript 2

In comments, Winton suggested that the Badham painting had no comparison with this one. Perhaps not, but this is arguably Manet's most famous painting, his last major work.

DG suggested "Fine piece of genre art, reminiscent of Norman Rockwell". I hadn't thought of the Rocwell comparison, but could see the point.

marcellous looked at some of the legal issues.
@kvd: I doubt if it is appealable; probably need to show an error of law. Here any "error" is a difference in opinion about the cultural value of the picture and whether it should be allowed to leave our shores. 
"appears" is a kind of tribunial circomlocution for it probably is and nobody disputes it - after all the applicant could always have brought the picture to court if it wanted the tribunal to view the original. So unlikely to be a source of legal error there. 
@2 tanners: issue is not whether present owner will make the painting available, but whether subsequent owners for all time will do so. Legislation is aimed at the long view and in acknowledgement that countries can't do much once an object departs their shores. Once the purchaser paid that much he was always facing a risk because it is the value [for which price is the only real proxy] which indicates the cultural significance.
marecellous went on to clarify value: "I should clarify my comment about the price being a proxy for value: it is a presumptive proxy which enlivens the requirement for a permit".

This, by the way, is a very different Badham

2 tanners responded to marcellous on the appeal point::
I imagine the decision could be appealed on the basis of the fact that the Commission couldn't distinguish between significant and important, or just possibly that the commission dismissed evidence on a painting that it had at no stage seen, preferring evidence from other parties one of whom had initially argued for there to be no ban. 
I doubt that the very last point would hold, But, on the surface, the first might be possible. But then it leaves open another question, why are we "protecting" these things in the first place? .


Sunday, October 09, 2016

Remembering the Bird Lady

It was early morning, light but not yet daylight. I had signed the lease on the new house the day before and wasn't especially happy. In the early morning I left the house where we had been living and walked the few blocks to the new place just to suss out the area. There I met the Bird Lady.

She was standing there, calling. What are you doing, I asked? I am feeding the kookaburras, she said, holding out the meat in her hand. I feed them all, but the kookaburras are my favourite. As I watched, the birds came. I walked on, feeling happier.

Over the next few years, I saw her often in the early morning. We chatted. Never personal stuff, just about the birds.Then, one day, the street filled with police and emergency vehicles. I was in a hurry, so didn't stop Later, I learned that she had been bashed.

A neighbour that I knew gave me a little information about her condition. She never came back, and only today I really learned a little more. They, I'm assuming that it was a they, came at her with some form of knife. Apart from severe head injuries, she was cut in the arm, her thumb was cut off, a finger was almost cut off and then had to be amputated. This put her into long term rehabilitation.

You can understand why she did not want to come to Daceyville. Would you?

We still don't know who hurt her. The kookaburras are gone. Its all very sad.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Mr Trump - you are fired

I made two really bad political calls in the last year.

One was on the result of the Brexit referendum. I knew that it might be close but simply didn't believe that the leave case would get up, although I was reasonably accurate in predicting the geographic distribution of the vote. The second was Donald Trump.

I think that in both cases I allowed my perception of what I thought was sensible (or not) to influence my judgement. In the Brexit case, I thought that it was sensible for Britain to stay in the EU. In the Trump case, I thought that some of his expressed views were so way of the planet that no one would take them seriously.

The responses in Mr Trump's latest storm, the release of a 2005 video containing remarks about women that could only be described as gross, may be another case in point. It is one thing to think that the remarks are gross, a second to conclude that because they are they have done permanent damage to his campaign. There is an element of "should hurt" in this thinking.

I have no idea what the political effect will be. The polls suggest that Mrs Clinton is in front. You would think that this would further damage Mr Trump's campaign, but I just doesn't know.

A bit like Brexit, I haven't really assessed the results of a Trump victory in global terms because it has seemed so unlikely. I guess that we will all know soon enough. In the meantime, and as a previous avid watcher of The Apprentice, .I would like to be able to say following the election, Mr Trump, you are fired!


2 Tanners  included this funny if bad doggerel in comments on the recent presidential debate:

(With apologies to Clarke Van Ness) 

'Twas an evening in October, the debate was less than sober,
Shrewish harping clashed with misplaced manly pride,
They shouted and they muttered and descended to the gutter,
And a pig came up and lay down at their side.
Then they flung mud in the gutter amidst desolation utter,
Till a pundit, passing by, did chance to say:
"You can tell the ones that lose by the company they choose,"
So the pig got up and slowly walked away.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Ten Medieval phrases we use today

I am always interested in the derivation of words and phrases still in current use. A few interesting examples from this story on MEDIEVALISTS.NET 

A phrase I still use, by hook or by crook: 

"Records of this phase date back to the 14th century. One theory for its origin suggests that a medieval law about collecting firewood allowed peasants to take what they could only cut from dead trees by using their reaper’s bill-hooks or a shepherd’s crook."

A second phrase I use, to sink or swim. Now this one I guessed! 

"The phrase refers to the water ordeal, a medieval practice of judging whether a person was innocent or guilty by casting him or her into a lake. The belief was that water would not accept anyone who had rejected the water of baptism, so if the victim sunk they were innocent, but if they floated they were guilty. Chaucer used a similar phrase: “Ye rekke not whether I flete (float) or sink”.

I leave you to look at the rest. I bet you use most of them.