How my feelings towards the Azzurri and Socceroos shows where I am at.

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Following the Italian national team is for me a relaxing experience. Of course I want them to win. But if they win or lose does not carry much of an emotional load.  As an Italian born I am happy the Azzurri are in the final of the Euros. But not having Optus I am not going to wake up and brave the cold to watch the game live somewhere. Will probably listen to the final stages on the the Italian radio on the web.  I am not nervous or anything like that.  And won’t be upset if Italy doesn’t win.  While this would be a totally different story with the Australian national team.  Why is that?

Italy, football and me. ‘It’s complicated’

My relationship with football, especially in the Italian context is as Facebook would say ‘complicated’. When I was a child in Italy I had conflicting emotions about it. It was everywhere (like it is now) it was a major source of conversation among children and adults alike. My father (like his father) was a life member of AC Milan. He would recount tales of when as a young men he would travel with the team in away games and help shovel snow on the pitch before the game.

I was hopeless at it. I was a fat child with no sporting prowess whatsoever. I do remember playing in the courtyard below when I was a young child of 6 or 7, but when it became more serious and kids actually wanted to win, rather than have fun I stopped going, stayed in my bedroom and listened to the children below acting out their competitive streak.

Still, football had an important part in my life. Especially in relating with my father. I still remember when he took me two or three times at San Siro which I still remember as one of the best things in my childhood. Or  listening to ‘Il Calcio minuto per minuto’ when Milan was beaten in the last match of the season by its hoodoo team Verona to lose the scudetto.  My father almost threw the transistor through the window.

Or watching that amazing Germany Italy match at the 1970 World Cup with a portable black and white TV in front of a caravan during a summer holiday.

Coming to Australia

Instead I feel much more anxious with a Socceroo match.  Why?  Probably because football had a significance to me and tied me to family and my childhood, I used it as a link.  When I go to a football match I somehow feel a connection to my late father and to those moments in San Siro or listening to the radio (I still love listening to football on the radio, whether from Italy of in Australia).  And that connection is created by a sport which is often belittled in this country.  And the National Team somehow signify that link.

I know that football in Italy whether it wins or loses in the EURO final will always be passionately followed by the population.  Italy didn’t qualify for the World Cup and just a few years later in the the EURO final.  This is not the situation in Australia.  I came to Australia in 1974 and by the time I got interested in the Socceroos qualification in 1982 I didn’t realise that I had to go through five agonising qualification failures.  When Italy fails qualifying for a World Cup there is general astonishment and sadness.  In Australia football fans had to suffer taunting from other Australians ‘sport fans’.

So in bocca al lupo Italy.  But when September comes and the Socceroos are playing the first match is when the butterflies will start.

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COVID, EUROS and Australia Felix

 

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Surprise. COVID is the main topic of conversation

There is no surprise that COVID is the main topic of conversation on Twitter at least.  It’s not a nice place.  We have some Victorians being arseholes with their schadenfreude about Sydney having an outbreak.

Just because there were some NSW people being arseholes to us Victorians when we were in the midst of our peak last year it doesn’t mean that the same level of idiocy.  Victorians, and Melbournians especially copped plenty last year.  This was amplified by commentators/journalists who gave a serve to the Victorian government.  I commented on this last year and Tom Cowie describes best in his article:

Meanwhile, up in Sydney, a city which appeared to believe it would never have to shut down like Melbourne, the entire metropolitan area is poised to grind to a halt due to a growing COVID-19 outbreak.

Victorians have copped plenty from interstate over our handling of the pandemic, an experience that is reflected in the different views on what is unfolding in NSW.

One thing I’ve noticed on twitter is that a few Sydney people were – with very good reason – peeved (or worse) at the petty comments coming from Melbourne.

I think Sydney people may not have realised that there were quite a few Sydney people on social media taunting Melbourne when Victorian Health put up the increasing numbers of infected people and those who didn’t make it last year with their ‘Golden Standards’ GIFs and the like. Again. It doesn’t mean that Victorians should retaliate at that level, but it is understandable that some sort of resentment was built up. Especially when Melbourne was locked up with no end in sight. Which brings me to..

THAT Jon Faine article

Ex ABC Melbourne broadcaster Jon Faine wrote an article that raised a few heckles, especially in NSW.

The quote in the tweet I don’t think reflected the overall tone of the article. Faine is an humanist atheist, but there is a bit of being in a confessional there. “Forgive Me Father For I Have Sinned” in having some thoughts that are nasty but can’t help being in your head. I had them myself. Faine goes through those and outlines them and then realises that they are wrong. Perhaps more than a confessional is Gestalt psychology. Our whole being that is much greater than the parts that make up the individual. Our ‘bad thoughts’ are part of us. Recognise them and reject them.

Australia Felix….Heremiticus

In 1836 the Thomas Mitchell dubbed the lush pasture in parts of western Victoria he explored ‘Australia Felix’. (Implications of him being a PR man ‘selling’ Australia to the British and the consequent dispossession of the original inhabitants is something that needs to be noted here). But I would add another latin adjective ‘ heremiticus ‘ remote and secluded.

If there is one thing that Australians like are borders. And it seems like that this is across the political divide. From what I have observed on social media some people who railed against both the Liberal and Labor parties for border restrictions against asylum seekers are quite happy to advocate to slam their state borders to fellow Australians when there are a few COVID cases appearing. But worse is supporting Australians coming home. I can see how this can be dressed up by blaming Scott Morrison for not building purpose built quarantine stations or botching the vaccination, but the lack of empathy in some of the comments is not too far away from those right wingers who are happy thatwe have closed our borders to asylum seekers in the not too distant past.

People who can’t see their families are suffering out there. One example is Jill Stark who regularly tweets about her feelings of being prevented seeing her family in Scotland and how that affects her mental health.

Or ABC Reporter Catherine Murphy

And this is Catherine’s article she referred to.

Now for something different. Ange Postecoglou. From feather duster to rooster

Fortunately football is something I can turn to to get a break from all the COVID stuff. One of the biggest events in the last few weeks was the appointment of Ange Postecoglou to Celtic. Of course it’s a great appointment for an Australian coach, and I think most football people in Australia wants him to succeed. Maybe because of Ange, but also because there is a bit of the reputation of Australian football riding on this. When Postecoglou was appointed there was quite a bit of ‘What an Australian would know about football?’ So if he fails it would confirm this prejudice and probably would be bad news for any future Australian that would like to coach in Europe.

Social media is waxing lyrical about Ange and how good he’s going to be for Celtic. But I remember a time when Ange’s name was riled as the coach of the Socceroos. When in 2016 and 2017 Australia was having draws with Thailand and struggling against other Asian teams. The infamous ‘three at the back’ comments and plenty of commentators were advocating his sacking.

I am no football expert but Ange’s track record is that he’s done very well with teams he can coach day in day out where he can adopt his way of playing. I really hope he does well at Celtic.

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Why booing and being angry at a team is a good sign

Melbourne Victory fans boo and let their feelings known to the players

I my 20s I decided to get into personal growth and part of that was going to group therapy. At one time a participant of the group was a middle aged man. He was going trough a rough patch because his wife left him. Apart from the breakdown of the relationship, what really hurt him was that he had no inkling that his wife was going to leave. It came totally out of the blue and adding to this was that she planned to leave for some time and when she told him she already had a place to stay and all the stuff moved – he had no idea.

One of the clues that the psychologist took was that this man thought that the relationship actually got better because they stopped arguing. The psychologist said to him that when his wife stopped arguing that’s when the relationship was over.

The psychologist went on to say that when a couple argue (or any two people in any kind of relationship) that means that there still involvement. That is the parties care enough to argue. It is not the best communication, but at least is communication. When one of the parties stops caring then it is decided that it is not worth arguing. The other person may be as well be a stranger. There is no desire for any emotional involvement.

Relationship are not only with other human beings. We have relationships with all sorts of things, our work, our house, our car etc.

And of course we have a relationship with a sport team we follow. Otherwise how irrational would be to get excited, happy or sad, euphoric or gutted because of 10 men running on grass trying to kick or head a ball in a wooden structure with a net behind it.

The team we follow needs to have some meaning. It could be because it represents the city we were born or live or our family lived or were born there. It could be because we have formed a social network around it. It could be because we started following it as children on TV and we became attached to it.

So while I do agree that calling players names is unwarranted, I think that a fan that comes to games and take the trouble to boo the team and perhaps even worse, is a better fan than those who say on social media that they stopped caring for the team and stopped going to the games.

The relationship here is important and goes to the heart of what A League teams represent. Do fans follow a team because it has meaning for them in some ways, or purely to entertain? In the former the fan feels some sort of belonging to a team. They want to help the team by being there, by supporting the team in some way. So the relationship is outwards. In the latter, the fan wants to be entertained and feel good. So it’s no wonder if a team loses every week, and badly that these fans stop supporting the team. They support a team to feel good, not bad. The relationship is inwards.

And this is the argument some of the supporters of community teams throw against A-League teams by describing them as just franchises. Concocted teams formed without any community underpinning. And they do have a point. Teams such as South Melbourne, Melbourne Knights etc. may be predominantly based on one community group, but it is a community which has rich emotional links attached to them, something A-League teams do not have as much.

So, perhaps we can see anger against the team as a good sign. The empty chairs and the non membership renewals are the things that Melbourne Victory needs to be worried about.

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When I took the bait and tried to dismantle some COVID fake news.

I am not a good troller in social media. But when I heard that Craig Kelly’s Facebook sites was one which had the highest ratings I had to go in there and give a big ‘don’t recommend’ and a negative comment.

Didn’t get many negative replies (seen in screenshot above, I could have been a smart arse with Daniel and asked him who the hell miss information was and whether she has met her). But one thing that I did notice in the replies is that what Kelly was doing was putting up peer-reviewed articles, and they were therefore scientifically accurate. As an academic librarian this was a challenge. Is this true? I Craig Kelly after all putting up papers that are ignored because they go against the dominant paradigm?

I always talk to students all the time about evaluating information. The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) has a very good infographic about identifying fake news

The thing is that when some say ‘peer reviewed’ there needs to be more examination of the documents themselves. So let’s take the latest issue that Craig Kelly has taken on. Invermectin.

He cites opinions from doctors from the MEDICAL ASSOCIATION OF RIO GRANDE do NORTE. Not a peer reviewed study. Just opinion from some doctors. I found that a study did find that this drug ‘could an important role in reducing Covid-19 deaths. This article was published in the Rio Times in January 22 and it specifically states that is not yet Peer reviewed.

Then he cites these studies from an article in infobae, a news website that was created in Argentina in 2002 by businessman Daniel Hada. This article is from ”Alliance for Critical Care of COVID-19 on the Frontline’ I searched for this study on Google Scholar unsuccessfully. But I followed the link and got me here https://www.researchgate.net/…/348230894_Ivermectin…. That is not a peer reviewed article. It’s a report from ‘The evidence-based medicine Consultancy Ltd.’ I searched for the authors on Google Scholar and while they were there, theat article was not part of their list.

When I searched Google Scholar for anything on Invermectin I always came back to a study done by Monash University scientists that found ivermectin inhibited the replication of SARS-CoV-2 in a laboratory setting – which is not the same as testing the drug on humans or animals.https://www.sciencedirect.com/…/pii/S0166354220302011.(article about it from Monash here https://www.monash.edu/…/Lab-experiments-show-anti…) Ivermectin is a vetenerary drug and here it is stated NOT self-medicate with Ivermectin and do NOT use Ivermectin intended for animals. The article from Monash also states that (a) whilst shown to be effective in the lab environment, Ivermectin cannot be used in humans for COVID-19 until further testing and clinical trials have been completed to establish the effectiveness of the drug at levels safe for human dosing. (b) that the potential use of Ivermectin to combat COVID-19 remains unproven, and depends on pre-clinical testing and clinical trials to progress the work.

And here lies the irresponsibility of Craig Kelly (and others of his ilk). He doesn’t read the small print. He just pick and chooses the bits that fits his ideology. And the irresponsibility is that people may will start buying up ivermectin out of desperation. As an example, despite a majority of evidence showing hydroxychloroquine is not an effective COVID-19 treatment, there was a rush on that drug earlier this year in the USA after President Donald Trump called it a cure. That depleted supply for those who needed the medication to treat lupus and other conditions. In March, an Arizona couple attempted to self-medicate and took chloroquine phosphate, an additive used to clean fish tanks that is also an ingredient in hydroxychloroquine. The woman became gravely ill and the man died.

So consider the sources, read beyond, check the author and see if there are any supporting sources.

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Deadly disease as twitter war

Cartoon of two towers one with 'team Gladys' and the NSW logo on it, and the other with 'team Dan' and the logo of Victoria

Being on twitter at the moment is somewhat disheartening. Perhaps it is a fitting way to finish the bin fire of a year we have had.

The issue of COVID, instead of being a public health issue that we should all be concerned as Australians, has become a twitter shit fight on state/party lines. we have Gladys Berejiklian supporters on one side and Dan Andrews on the other.

What about Dan?

I am a Victorian and I support a Labor Government. I will vote ALP at the next state elections whoever leads it. However there are some issues that needs to be clarified.

Dan is not the Messiah

I support Dan Andrews. But the way some on twitter on the #IStandWithDan is bordering on the messianic and frankly for a Dan supporter like me quite embarrassing. No doubt he got a rough deal from the media, especially from News Ltd. But Dan Andrews is an experienced politician and he was very able to handle the criticism and the questions at his daily media conferences.

And he’s no angel and can be ruthless. No one who has become the leader of the Victorian ALP is a shrinking violet. You can see how he handled Jenny Mikakos at the Quarantine Inquiry. We all admired how he fronted up to the media for more than 100 days. But that was also a very well devised ploy to be seen as in command and also to control the message. It was brilliant and seems to have worked.

Two things are evident. The government was at fault and it has now corrected its failings

Despite the #IStandWithDan ers trying to somehow skirt around the issue it cannot be denied that the second wave was due to the Victorian government unpreparedness and lack of management.

Dr. Norman Swan irked some in NSW when it said that the state was ‘lucky’. What NSW was lucky is that it never had a premier like Jeff Kennett that slashed public services savagely during his term. While NSW kept its public health regional and close to its population, Victoria’s was highly centralised and poorly resourced.

For me the quarantine failure wasn’t the main issue. The main issue was the lack of quick and efficient tracing. And as a social democrat, that believes in the role of governments in making life better for society and the disadvantaged, it pains me that a centre left progressive government didn’t look after public health which should be a fundamental issue for them, probably because they were fearful of being not seen as ‘responsible’ with money and stay in surplus.

It seems that Victoria has now rapidly upgraded its tracing and seems to be up to speed with other states. Let’s hope this is the case and it will never need to be tested.

Overall I have to say that while the COVID outbreak and subsequent second wave was a big failure, Dan Andrews and his government handled the situation brilliantly managing to bring it totally under control.

Fueling the NSW vs Victoria Gladys vs Dan from people that should know better

The Gladys vs Dan thing shows how the political discourse has become polarised and seeing ‘both sides’ of the story or nuances disappear.

The process is like this. Some commentator/journalist either tweets or write an article that is very complementary of Berejiklian and either openly or by implication it compares how well she handled the pandemic unlike others (ie Victoria). (examples below)

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This pisses off Dan Andrews supporters, but often instead of taking the commentators to task, start attacking Berejiklian or worse almost hoping that NSW experiences a second wave.

Who would wish an increase of a potentially lethal disease that has a high probability of causing lifelong health issues just to score political points? It’s sick.

Of course this pisses off people in NSW who then make disparaging comments about Dan Andrews and Victoria and the vicious circle starts again.

That’s the downside of twitter. Elsworth is an openly supporter of the Liberal Party. So that is her position. Hildebrand is and advocate of the Australian equivalent of Blue Labour and while he states he is in the ALP camp hates anything ‘socialist’ or ‘woke’ and by implication the ‘lefty woke’ Victorian ALP government.

Twitters get sucked in this rabbit hole and tend to lose any equilibrium. We can support Dan Andrews and also say that he stuffed up on quarantine and the tracing. We can say that NSW public health was better equipped in dealing with outbreaks and so far Berejiklian did a good job without supporting her political party and her ideas . Just because a Liberal supporting journalist or a right wing Labor supporter say things doesn’t mean we need to take a black or white position.

As an example, expressing the opinion that Dan Andrews was acting politically in highlighting in his media conferences that the number of deaths in private Aged care facilities was attributable to the Federal Government control of them (and perfectly reasonable as Andrews was really under the pump then) my ‘Dan Andrews’ supporting credentials were questioned and I was even called and LNP supporter!

Don’t treat twitter as a reflection of what’s out there

As the second wave in Victoria hit I needed to get off Twitter. But I could not stay away too long as Twitter has lots of positive stuff. I get latest news, opinions from interesting people, and of course it gives me information about soccer that I never get from the mainstream media. But I have learned that it can be a pit of anger, frustration and blind bias.

The mistake is that many (and some like reputable journalists that should know better) see it as a reflection of real life, but it’s not. Hardly anyone from my friends or family is on it. I bet that if I go to a supermarket and asked how many use twitter assiduously I would get very few positive answers.

So don’t worry about the Hildebrands or the Elsworths out there. They are expressing an opinion and are probably negative to elicit responses, it’s after all their jobs.

There is a world out there.

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Why the ‘Democratic People’s Republic of Victoria’ should have followed the Socialist Republic of Vietnam example

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There is a joke among some here in Melbourne about the initials DPRV which stand for ‘Democratic People’s Republic of Victoria’. This is because in the last few years, the state got a reputation of being the most ‘lefty woke’ state in Australia (look at the #DPRV hashtag on twitter). Personally I don’t think so. Victorians are able to vote in conservative governments like anyone else. Although I do think they would like more someone like Malcolm Turnbull than Eric Abetz.

And the State Government, that it’s currently under enormous pressure because of the COVID-19 outbreak, is no beacon of Democratic Socialism. In fact it is precisely because it is not, and has followed the practice of all governments in Australia whether Labor or Liberal to save money by using private contractors, rather than doing the job themselves that got them in this predicament.

 

The role of government

I have limited my exposure to social media. But I go to Facebook to interact with my relatives overseas and the book club I belong to. So inevitably I see posts of people who are talking about the Victoria COVID crisis and came to this one by Gerry Beaton:

“So all the anti worker, right wing shock jocks and Murdoch journos are pointing their collective fingers in every direction proportioning blame for the Covid spread in Melbourne. They all miss the the mark by miles. It wouldn’t matter who was in power in Spring St. O’Brien and his mob (name any of the galahs if you can) are blaming Andrews and rightly so as the determination to use as cheap as possible quarantine security companies is the real issue. the Liberal Party would have done the same. The real culprit is the neoliberal agenda of both parties that has caused so much damage to the world’s population and climate. The need to get rid of the capitalist system that has developed this economic system that enriches a tiny number of bourgeois and leave millions in poverty is imperative.”

I think eliminating the capitalist system in Victoria is a bit of a far stretch. But the point here is that the Victorian government to save money trusted private enterprise to do a vital job. And we have found that these companies’ practices where sloppy to put it mildly.

Since the late 70’s the predominant narrative has been that surplus=good and deficit=bad. The concept of debt being a bad thing is easy for politicians to convey because in household budgets we try to limit debt as much as possible and this is an easy transferable concept to voters.

I have read that equating households to governments is nonsense, but being seen as bad economic managers is poison for Labor considering polling consistently shows people believe that the Liberal Party to be a better economic manager than Labor, despite evidence to the contrary.

Reclaiming the role

The issue here is that we don’t need to overthrow capitalism or being a revolutionary socialist to reclaim a role of government that looks after its people and looks at society and not just at the economy.

The paradigm has shifted so much to the neoliberal area that now governments doing things like solely building roads, distributing resources like electricity and water or running public transport is seen like some extreme socialist practice.

But this is bread and butter Social Democracy. Something that helped resurrect Europe after the Second World War.

So, what’s this thing about Vietnam?

I wouldn’t consider Vietnam a Social Democracy by any stretch of the imagination. For instance out of 180 it ranks 175 in the 2020 World Press Freedom Index, which is pretty awful. In the latest Amnesty International Report Vietnam also fares badly. Amnesty saw a surge in the number of prisoners of conscience. A crackdown on the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.

But its COVID-19 management is a worldwide success. Vietnam has reported no community transmission cases for 3 months

Apart from going early, hundreds of thousands of people, including international travelers and those who had close contact with people who tested positive, were placed in quarantine centers run by the government, which greatly reduced transmission at both the household and community levels. [source].

In the previous post I stated that Victoria should re-open the quarantine station at Queenscliff. , while I was not serious about Queenscliff, as it is now an historic site, it shows that if the government took the responsibility of quarantine, rather than giving it to private enterprise it is likely it wouldn’t be in the predicament it found itself in. We do it for animals and plants. Why not people?

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Re-open Queenscliff!

Quarantine Quarantine Station – General View. [Portsea.] [picture]. (1909).

Probably one of the most fascinating websites you could read now (at least for me) is from the Napean Historical Society titled: Spanish Flu 1918-19 – Deja Vu?

The parallels to what happened then and it’s happening now is uncannily scary.  Implementation of strict measures.  The belief that Australia beat the disease but flare up in new cases (in Melbourne) and closure of the borders with Victoria.

But that page also shows something that didn’t happen this time.  The use of a quarantine station.

Early European settlers knew that Australia was free from diseases and pathogens that occurred overseas (the fact that they introduced disease that killed Aboriginal populations probably escaped them or didn’t want to know).  So the different colonies on the Australian continent established quarantine stations.

In the early 1850s the peninsula of Point Nepean was inspected and subsequently found to be acceptable as the location for a permanent quarantine station.  By the 1870s this grew to be quite a big establishment with cookhouses, large lodgings and a hospital. In the early 1900s even a bathhouse was constructed.

Returning servicemen were considered to be particularly at risk during the H1N1 influenza A virus pandemic, and on April 16th  1919 contracts were issued to build twelve wooden huts of 32 bunks each, based on the drawing below. The first hut was to be delivered within 10 working days with the completion of all within 5 weeks.

1919-flu-huts
from NAA B3712 Dwr 124 Folder 6  taken from https://nepeanhistoricalsociety.asn.au/2020/04/21/spanish-flu-1918-19-deja-vu/

And these huts are still there today.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
From https://nepeanhistoricalsociety.asn.au/2020/04/21/spanish-flu-1918-19-deja-vu/

As the need to quarantine people decreased with the advent of medical advances and vaccines, the station was given to the Federal Government that used it as an army based.

In 1998-99, the buildings were used to house several hundred refugees from Kosovo, offered asylum on compassionate grounds as a result of the Balkan conflict arising from the break-up of the former Yugoslavia.

In 2004 ownership went back to the State of Victoria that has incorporated it into the Point Napean National Park.

Re-opening the station for quarantine not feasible but the principle still valid.

Poor Dan Andrews is copping it from all sides at the moment.  I am a big Dan Andrews fan, but the decision of the Victorian government to employ private security firms to look after the people in hotel quarantine was a mistake.

True.  The government is not responsible for security guards being lax with distancing and other precautions, or even….having sex with the people being quarantined, but as the Conversation article states:

“it should come as no surprise to anyone with a passing interest in labour standards in the private security industry or an understanding of governance issues in supply chains.

To put it plainly, the Victorian government used an industry with a long history of non-compliance with minimum standards for a critical public safety job.”

While we are thinking of contamination, the neoliberal practice of ditching government doing things, and contracting private companies to perform tasks that governments used to do has contaminated governments, including those of the centre left.  My observation that this has been especially true in English speaking countries.  

In the 1980s a belief that private enterprise was better and more efficient in running things than governments became the norm.  Of course started by centre right governments but then it became the dominant paradigm in the media and everywhere and centre left governments were too scared to go against the trend.

In my opinion there are things that governments should not run, airlines for example, but provision of services like electricity, water and gas should be.  But one that is on top of that list is health.

Some will argue that the fact that the Victorian government didn’t manage the hotel quarantine properly by choosing security guards it is proof that governments still are unable to run things properly.  But I would say that the process of giving tasks to private companies, which are not under the control of government is vulnerable for exactly the type of things that have happened.  Especially in an emergency situation. 

So while the idea of government running a quarantine station with properly trained health workers may seem a bit of a quaint idea, if the Victorian government has a ‘Queenscliff’  Victoria most likely would not have been facing this outbreak, or at least not of this magnitude.

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Why I need to have a Twitter break

TwitterBreak

Mongia, A., 2017. Woman Draws Curtain On Twitter. [image] Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/20/sunday-review/maggie-haberman-twitter-donald-trump.html?auth=linked-google1tap&gt [Accessed 1 July 2020]. andreamongia@gmail.com

I have been feeling a bit low lately and with mild general anxiety.  It was a general malaise, but I couldn’t put my hand on it.

I had similar feelings before.  Worse than this but generally there was a direct cause (usually connected to my health anxieties),  I put it down to the general sentiment we are all experiencing, you know the ‘We are living in strange times’ because of the Coronavirus.

But I had no reason why I should feel this way.  OK, there is a general concern about my job, being employed by a university, but this will be something I may need to worry about next year.

Touch wood all my close relatives are healthy.  I am healthy (although since working at home, not riding to work and back every day I think I did put on a couple of kilos).

So, what was happening?

My twitter addiction

I started to think that this was connected to my twitter use. I have had signs of addictive behaviours for some time.  Keeping refreshing the twitter page every second for new tweets, lying to my family about how much I was spending on it, and most dangerous of all it has interfered with my work and family life.

But the COVID-19 provided a perfect storm.  Working at home my temptation to check twitter increased.  Adding to this was news about the virus itself and other things like the Black Lives Matter protests etc.  Irresistible for a news junkie like me.

I found myself having to give up things like going outside for a walk or exercise because I spent most of my free time on twitter.  This was having an effect both on my mental but also physical health.

Twitter is a pit of negativity

One thing that twitter seems to have become is a vortex of negativity that to me at least has dragged me down.  Not sure whether people are like that or whether twitter attracts a particular type of people.  Looking at both sides of an argument is not common.  Everything is commented upon through partisan eyes.

I stayed away from commenting on what right wing tweeters wrote (what’s the point) but the same can be said for lefties like me.  The litany of complaints every Sunday morning about Insiders for example.  Some twitterers seem to watch this program solely because they would search for any bias against the ALP or the Greens.  This journalist was really easy on the Liberal politician but tough on the ALP one!  Why do they have right leaning journalists on it? I can’t understand why people would deliberately spoil their Sunday that way.

And the way some of these twitters would be so HATEFUL against these journalists.  The angriest tweets I received were when I stated that Joe Hildebrand was actually on the left.  A very moderate left, what he writes was stuff I heard a lot from Centre Unity ALP members in my day.  But no, he has to be slain, hated.  Same with Annabel Crabb and her Kitchen Cabinet episode on Scott Morrison.  She is blamed by some that single-handedly made him win the election.  Forgetting that Crabb did heaps of programs on ALP and Green MPs as well.  The one with Penny Wong was particularly moving.  The accusation was that that program ‘humanised’ Morrison.  and that’s very telling about twitter.  Politicians have to be hated or loved no shades in between.  In my opinion, Morrison has crap policies bit I still would invite him to a BBQ if he was my neighbour.

This is also reflected in the tweets about my other interest, soccer.   To be truthful soccer fans have a tendency to be negative, but twitter gives this negativity a fertile ground.  It seems that everything is gloom and doom.  This may have been warranted as the Coronavirus hit all sports, and soccer the hardest.  But to prove a point just weeks after soccer got the best news with being given the Women’s World Cup,  some journalists left their jobs and it felt like they departed for the big commentary box in the sky.  Some even stated that this would jeopardise the future of the code!  It seems that ANYTHING does that for some soccer twitters.

Over the edge

In pre-COVID times my addiction was checked my other things. Going to my workplace, going to a soccer match, doing a bushwalk with my club.  But now as I work at home my world has shrunk.  I work in front of a computer and twitter is always present, luring me like sirens to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island.

The combination of outbreaks, negativity (the anti Victorian sentiment is particularly bad – ‘sing with one voice I am, you are, we are Australian’  – what a load of croc.) and my addiction is dragging me down and doesn’t need to be.  I got lots of things to be grateful for.

It’s not forever

I am not going to give up twitter forever.  When I will come back?  Who knows?  It could be a week, a month a year.  I don’t know.  I think it will be when I feel I have re-established some equilibrium and my mood has lifted.

In the meantime go on as usual.  If someone wants to contact me they can do so on guidolib@gmail.com.

Catch you later and stay well.

Guido

 

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Bushfires: missing the woods for the burned-out trees.

 

 

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A catastrophe, Armageddon. This has been a disastrous fire season. Not over one day but over weeks.

Is it the fault of Scott Morrison? Is it the fault of the Greens? Accusations go back and forth about ‘who is to blame’.

As I live in the inner city I have been fortunate not to experience the devastation of bushfires directly. But there were two episodes,  the Ash Wednesday 1983 and the Black Saturday fires in 2009 since I lived in Australia, and neither had this level of blaming.

The difference this time is that climate change is firmly on the agenda.  And some (I repeat some) on both sides of the political spectrum are using the fires to affirm their positions.  Either that the major parties are criminals in not doing enough to reverse global warming, and in fact adding to it (ie Adani) or that the criminals are the Greenies that have prevented fuel reduction and have therefore created the conditions for these fires to occur.

When I encountered the interaction of emotions and information about environmental management

The environment can be quite an emotional issue for a lot of people.  My first experience of that was when I did my Masters of Environmental Science at Monash back in the early ’80s.  That course had both people who were into ‘Deep Ecology‘ and others such as environmental engineers with hard-nosed beliefs of how to manage the environment.  This was reflected among students who were grouped into two factions.  Those who came straight from a science background and those who came from other disciplines who saw the environment more as a wholistic construct rather than an ecosystem with trophic levels and quantifiable energy flows that had to be managed.

I still remember a heated discussion when we had to present a management proposal as part of a subject.  One of the teams, which had a background of wildlife management and zoology proposed kangaroo culling in an area where the kangaroo population expanded rapidly after a few good seasons but they were constrained by water and farmland.  Now in drought, kangaroos were dying of thirst and hunger.  But some were appalled that any native animals should be shot and killed as a principle.

The reason why I am mentioning this is that the divide between an emotional response to the environment and a more dispassionate approach is not new.  It has been happening since the environment has been developed as an integrated scientific discipline since the 1970s.

What I see now is within this divide I see people, most who are not scientists, who pick and choose evidence to fit their own agenda.

I express openly here is that the evidence of anthropogenic climate change and global warming is overwhelming, and now beyond dispute.

What I am talking about is this discussion about forest management.

Forest management.  Who is right?

Controlled burn of grasslands - 2 - Barton - ACT - Australia - 20180428 @ 10:50

When discussing the fires, I tweeted this in response to a Bernie Sanders tweet.

Then a John Keily responded to my tweet.  Apart from the unnecessary nastiness of it (happens a lot on twitter unfortunately) I was actually grateful for the link he provided of an article written back in 2015 quoting David Packham, a former CSIRO bushfire scientist which warned forest fuel levels have worsened over the past 30 years because of “misguided green ideology”, vested interests, political failure and mismanagement, creating a massive bushfire threat.

That is a worthwhile article to read.  So where that leave me?

Both Scott Morrison and Richard Di Natale are right.  We need a Royal Commission.

Scott Morrison has stated that a Royal Commission is a possibility

Which is what Richard DiNatale has also advocated.

So this would be a great example of bipartisanship (I am sure the ALP would be on board as well.

Some as seen this as a waste of money and a lawyer enriching exercise.  But a major inquiry that has shaped how Australia has managed fire risk was the Stretton’s Royal Commission after the Black Friday bushfires in 1939.  This Royal Commission has been described as one of the most significant inquiries in the history of Victorian public administration.

His scathing 35 page report led to sweeping changes including stringent regulation of burning and fire safety measures for sawmills, grazing licensees and the general public, the compulsory construction of dugouts at forest sawmills, increasing the forest roads network and firebreaks, construction of forest dams, fire towers and RAAF aerial patrols linked by the Forests Commissions radio network. [1]

This was 80 years ago.  Much has changed since then.  Population, the pattern of settlement and certainly the climate.  We need a new ‘Stretton’s Royal Commission’ which is totally scientific and objective, and not created to justify one side or the other.  If it is true that fuel reduction has been mismanaged we need to know that.  If fuel reduction burns cannot occur as much because the climate is dryer and hotter we need to know that and find out how forest management can adapt.

It is said that war is too important to be left to the generals.  Fire management is too important to be left to the politicians.

 

 

[1] Leonard Edward Bishop (Len) Stretton

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Trump, Brexit, Morrison,Johnson…what’s happening?

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Yesterday I saw a tweet…

I guess that was the feeling among left people yesterday. Again an electoral defeat for our side of politics.  But not only that.  Against a candidate (in the case of Johnson and Trump, I think Morrison is not in that category) that on the scheme of things many – including on their side- would have thought it very improbable to ever being a suitable candidate to lead a country.  And the other factor is that in the USA, Australia and Brexit many didn’t expected the right to win, and not just win, but increase their majorities or win convincingly.  In the UK polls predicted a Conservative win.  That was surprising enough considering the bin fire that the Conservatives have been for the past few years, but they actually increased their majority. and here is the clincher: They won seats which were traditionally Labour, where people are socioeconomically disadvantaged, where a Conservative Party has really not much concern for their day to day well being.

Brexit was certainly a factor in the UK.  But in Australia low-income workers swung against Labor too.  And in the USA the white working class helped Trump to the white house.

Media plays a factor. But they are not the main reason

As Sally McManus the influence of the media is not the main reason why socioeconomically disadvantaged people would vote for a centre right party.  I am not saying that it is a factor, but not the main factor.  I see tweets blaming the Murdoch media for this happening, and while the bias there is a factor is not the main reason.  The murdoch media (and other tabloid type media) do not create opinions, but very ably re-enforce any bias readers may have.  And the most powerful one, which seems to have run through all the elections in the UK, USA and Australia is the ‘elites’ vs ‘the honest working person’.

Pitting the ‘elites’ vs the rest

The Murdoch media has very ably created the narrative that the left doesn’t represent the traditional working class anymore but the ‘inner suburban lefty’ who is more interested in things such as transgender issues, identity politics and the environment rather than bread and butter issues.

This argument could be challenged in the case of the UK elections as Corbyn had a very clear socialist democratic agenda which was very much bread and butter, but I think what swamped that was Brexit.  I have a hunch (can’t prove it) that many of the working class people that voted Conservative did so because they felt weren’t listened by the Labour Party on this.  And I would speculate that the Brexit issue in itself wasn’t the main issue, was that they felt dismissed – and here is the clincher.

People may be socioeconomically disadvantaged – but they want to feel respected.

So, instead of taking my reference to right wing media. what really took my attention was something that can be described more on the ‘left’ the 7AM podcast that is part of the The Monthly and Saturday Paper stable.  The 11/11/19 podcast had Lech Blaine who grew up in country Queensland. After the 2019 federal election, he spent several weeks driving around the state, trying to understand what makes it different. He found people with a strong desire to be treated with respect.

What struck me was when he interviewed a miner called Steve who did work as a diesel fitter in a coalmine in Nebo QLD.  Steve didn’t like mining, he didn’t like to stare at 20ks of scarred earth every day.  He knew that it wasn’t good for the environment but he couldn’t see many other alternatives for steady work in the area.  He was especially affected as he was in logging and that was scaled down, then in cattle that were affected by live export bans, and now he’s in coal mining he feels again his job is under attack by concerns down south from people that seem not to care about his predicament. Blaine says that the feeling of being abandoned started much earlier than Adani.

Steve in Nebo continues that “I know that a lot of people think we are just dumb coal miners, bogans and the rest of it which is how some portrayed us when Labor lost, but a lot of people I work with hate coal mining, we are trying to set ourselves up so when we have kids we can send them to Uni in Brisbane so they don’t have to work in sitty coal mining jobs”. So Blaine here makes the point that these people working in coal, want their kids to have the same opportunities they resent in others. Ultimately what motivates these people is their children’s future, to have a way out. And further he states that they didn’t believe Scott Morrison was going to deliver much, as they realise he didn’t have policies, just they felt he didn’t look down on them.

True? It does not matter, perception is the key.

 

Now I can hear retorts that most people on the left didn’t ‘look down on them’, but perception is the key. But some did and they were those that the right wing media concentrated on. And here I come back to the issue I said before. Right wing media may not change opinions by themselves, but they are very able to take a perception (inner suburban lefties looking down on regional workers) and embellish it with commentary that these people are out of touch and want to close down their places of employment and the game is done. This is after all a mantra of News Ltd. and Sky News.

The issue here is that we can complain that the perception is wrong, but if that is what is believed this changes voting patterns. Perhaps this is what Albanese and others have felt in their post elections Queensland tours.  That is why Albanese has not advocated for a stop to coal exports.  Joel Fitzgibbon has gone to town with advocating the inner suburban lefty vs coal miners argument. I guess a 20% swing against you towards One Nation does that to you.

But lets go back again to our coal miner from Nebo. If people in these areas don’t want their children not to be miners,want a government that gives them options, especially for their children (yes aspirational) That is equality of opportunities. That is what a social democratic party should be all about.

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