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Once more unto the breach …

This is an important issue – for Kangaroo Island and for the state as a whole. I am still hopeful it will be possible to have a harmonious discussion focussing on the facts.

Why would anyone want oil and gas exploration near Kangaroo Island?

Our society, and every modern liberal democracy, depends on cheap energy. The primary sources of that energy are oil, coal and gas. These energy sources enable us to travel, to heat our homes, to run industry and agriculture, to provide health and education services. No energy means none of these things.

Developing countries need this energy too, to provide these same services, including basic health care, to their people. While foreign aid might be helpful in emergencies, what developing nations really need is power stations, cheap energy. And that depends on cheap fuel.

We all rely on oil and gas, KI residents more than most. While we might prefer oil development to take place somewhere else, it would be immoral to deny developing countries the energy sources Western nations have used to pull themselves out of poverty over the last centuries. Responsible energy development is an important part of our commitment to being part of a global community.

In addition, developing energy resources within Australia improves national security, and reduces our dependence on, and financial contributions to, corrupt and frequently brutal Middle-eastern regimes. It also helps to preserve forests and wildlife. If you are worried about your child starving, or dying because you have no access to clean water or cannot obtain basic medical care, you are not going to be concerned about the state of forests in Indonesia, or the whale hunt at the Faroes. The more prosperous a country or people, the more time and resources go into preserving and caring for the environment.

So private energy resource development should be encouraged unless in a particular situation there are pressing reasons why it should not.

Are there pressing reasons why oil and gas exploration in the Great Australian Bight should not proceed?

There are three main reasons opponents to development have put forward.

1. Oil rigs and other equipment near Kangaroo Island will spoil the landscape, reduce the natural beauty of the area, and consequently reduce its appeal to visitors.

The nearest practical development point for an oil rig within Bight Petroleum’s exploration zones is approximately one hundred and fifty kilometres west of the West coast of KI. If this is on KI or even near KI, then so are Gawler and Keith. If the Eiffel Tower was perched at Cape Borda, and you were standing at the top with a telescope, you would still not see an oil rig at that distance.

2. Acoustic imaging used to map geological structures on the sea floor is harmful to whales, dolphins and other marine sea life.

Acoustic imaging has been used for the last forty years. One of the reasons for this is that it helps developers pinpoint likely productive sites, reducing unnecessary drilling and environmental impact. The possible effects of acoustic imaging on marine life have been extensively researched during this time. No university or other study has ever found any correlation between acoustic imaging and increased beachings, or any other negative effect, for example on reproductive rates or migration patterns. Recent intensive study conducted in Australia by Woodside Petroleum, the CSIRO and Penn State University likewise found no negative effects on sessile and territorial marine life.

Anti-development activists have sometimes suggested that the hearing of whales and dolphins could be permanently damaged by the noise of acoustic imaging. Sperm whales vocalise at about 235dB. The average acoustic array produces about 230dB. Even if the whales were 2 metres from an active array, the sound they heard would be less than the sound of their own vocalisations. To suggest that their hearing could be damaged by this is equivalent to claiming our hearing would be permanently damaged by listening to chatter at a tea party.

3. The possibility of a serious spill.

Spills are far more likely during handling and transportation than during exploration and development. The most significant risk of a serious oil spill near Kangaroo Island is from the transport of oil products to the island.

Australia’s worst development spill, and third worst oil spill overall, was at the Montara well in the Timor Sea. The two worst, from the Princess Anne Marie oil tanker in 1975 and the Kiriki tanker in 1991, were both transport spills. Prevailing winds and currents pushed the oil slick from Montara one hundred and eighty kilometres from the well site. At that distance, the slick was patchy, intermittent, and a few microns thick – less than the almost invisible amount of oil left behind by a well-maintained outboard motor. A spill of this magnitude occurs about once in every 100,000 years of well operation.

If a similar spill occurred at the closest point for any development in the Bight, a few streaks of oil a few microns thick could just reach the Western shores of KI, if wind and currents were behind it. But during the calmer months when development would be taking place, prevailing upwellings would push any spilt oil away from, not towards Kangaroo Island. Oil even from a one in one hundred thousand year spill would not approach Kangaroo Island. In addition, safety standards are improving all the time. The worst year for oil spills in the nineties was better than the best year in the seventies.

In other words, even if a spill occurred, no oil would reach the shores of Kangaroo Island, and the chances of such a spill occurring at all are tiny – one in one hundred thousand years of operation.

To summarise: The proposed oil exploration and development is not “on KI.” It is not even “near” KI in any normal meaning of that word. No oil rigs or other development would be visible from anywhere on Kangaroo Island. Forty years of research has shown no harm to any form of marine life from acoustic imaging. There is no correlation between acoustic imaging and increased beachings, and no evidence of hearing loss in any marine species. Even if a spill equal to the worst in Australia’s history occurred at the development site, oil would not reach the shores of KI. The chances of such a spill’s occurring are approximately one in 100,000 years of well operation.

There are good economic, humanitarian and environmental reasons why responsible oil and gas development should proceed. There are no compelling, truthful, reality-based reasons it should not.

Some people seem to have no idea how serious Australia’s debt is.

Perhaps this will make it clearer:

1. The debt left by the Labor party is so great that we would have to take half of everything earned by every Australian for the next two years to pay it off.
2. The debt left by the Labor party is so great that we would have to stop every Social Security payment for the next three years to pay it off..
3. The debt left by the Labor party is so great that if we spent no money on health for seven years the debt would be paid.
4. The debt left by the Labor party is so great that if we spent no money on education for 14 years the debt would be paid.
5. The debt left by the Labor party is so great that we would have to spend no money on defence or defence personnel for the next 19 years to pay it off.

Just like a family, Government cannot spend more than it earns without getting into trouble.

This is real money and real debt. If money has been paid in wages, or spent on Batts or set top boxes, it has been spent, it needs to be paid.

There are three ways of paying federal government debt.

1. Don’t pay it. It still has to be paid, but it is paid for almost invisibly, through inflation. This means the poor end up paying more than their share, because the price of food, clothing, housing, etc, all go up. This is the route taken by Zimbabwe.

2. Increase taxes. The problem with this is that it punishes anyone who produces anything. The end result, as in Finland and California, for example, is that businesses cannot compete with other states or countries. Farming, mining, manufacturing, all go belly up, or leave. There is a smaller and smaller tax base, and again, the poor end up getting slugged.

3. Reduce government spending. Well, duh! That means not everything can go on being free. It means we cannot pay defence force staff what we would like to. It means university bureaucracies need to be trimmed, and university students need to pay a fairer share of the cost of their education. It means people need to take some individual responsibility for the cost of their health care. It means we can no longer afford to run Australia’s largest media organisation at taxpayer expense.

There is no use complaining about this. The time to complain was when money was being thrown around on pointless projects and compulsory $6000 internet connections.

Just a few thoughts on garrisons for anyone starting in the new WoW expansion, Warlords of Draenor.

Your first large building should be the Barracks. This gives your followers access to patrol missions which level them up faster.

You should keep your followers running missions all the time. They will continue to work even while you are logged out. Take the missions which award garrison resources, rare items, and the purple experience missions. I didn’t think the missions that rewarded gold were worth the cost in resources to accept the mission.

Your followers will gain experience from every mission, even if the mission fails (they just won’t get any bonus items or rewards), so keep them going all the time. Except that the gold missions are a waste, don’t worry about the cost in garrison resources, you’ll make it back later on.

Once you get a couple of followers up to level 100, change from Barracks to Dwarven Bunker. The bunker doubles your chance to gain rare or epic items as quest rewards, and increases their level. If you take this option you will end up with heroic dungeon level gear with no extra effort.

Your first medium building should be the Inn. At level one this gives you extra dungeon quests, not so thrilling, but at level two you can virtually make followers to order with the specs you require, while level three gives you valuable treasure hunter quests.

If you enjoy pvp your second medium building should be the Gladiator’s Sanctum. If not, it doesn’t really matter.

Your first small building should be the Enchanter’s Study. You will have lots of gear to disenchant, and the study lets you disenchant without being an enchanter. When you upgrade the building later, you (or a follower with enchanting), and this too applies even though you don’t have enchanting, can create enchants for neck and cloak.

Your second small building should relate to your crafting profession. This will teach you that skill up to 700, and give you a range of new recipes. If you don’t have a crafting trade, pick the building that relates to the gear you wear.

Simply questing through the zones will give you new followers, and some quests reward with garrison resources. Your garrison also generates resources on its own, so you won’t run out. You will need to save to cover the high cost of later upgrades though.

At 92 you get a couple of quests to access your mine (even if you don’t have mining). At 94 for fishing, and at 96 for your herb garden. Do these quests as soon as you reach those levels, and if you don’t need the resources they give you, sell them on the AH.

Have fun!

People in South Australia know the whole “we must have marine parks to save our fisheries from those greedy stupid fishermen” story is nonsense. But they are terribly concerned about the Great Barrier Reef and logging in Tasmania.

People in Queensland know that moving sand from one part of the sea bottom 50kms away from the reef to another part of the sea bottom 50kms away from the reef is not “destroying the Reef,” and that if James Cook were to sail through the Reef today he would notice little difference in the health and extent of the Reef from when he sailed through in 1770. But they are terribly concerned about depletion of fisheries in South Australia and logging in Tasmania.

People in Tasmania know that the careful harvesting of renewable natural timber resources does no harm to wildlife or the environment, and that if we do not use and manage our resources here where there are careful controls, we will import more timber from places where deforestation and destruction of natural habitats really are a problem. They also know that people who depend on the proper management of natural resources for their livelihoods and future have more interest than anyone else in ensuring those resources are maintained for future generations. But they are terribly concerned about the Great Barrier Reef, and over-use of South Australian fisheries.

These green scare campaigns do real harm. No coal exports from Queensland means more deforestation and inside pollution from smoke in places where people have no access to electricity. Even further reductions in our already under-utilised fisheries means more fish imported from Asia and Africa where fisheries have been so badly managed the seas are like deserts. Less use of our carefully managed forestries means more timber imported from Indonesia and South America, where loss of habitat means disaster for wildlife.

But as long as the greenies get to feel good about themselves I guess nothing else matters…

I have been working on this list for a while, and wanted to get it finished this weekend. It is thirty-six books, plus a few extras. Essential books. One a month for three years. All of these are books you should know, and know well. Read them in a cycle, or pick and choose. If you do read them all, and know them, you will have a deep, well-grounded understanding of much of what makes us who are.

1. The New Testament. Christian or not, you cannot understand Western culture without being familiar with the New Testament. It is about 180,000 words – as many as a long novel, and slightly fewer than Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Emptiness, sickness, despair and death, replaced by brightness and joy, by forgiveness, hope, healing, and peace. This is the foundation stone of Western aspirations, culture, and identity.

2. Shakespeare – Julius Caesar. You could substitute Othello or Hamlet or King Lear or Antony and Cleopatra or The Tempest or Henry V, or read them all in a cycle. Any one of them has as much of value to say as the entire literary output of many nations. I chose Julius Caesar because it has the best quotes, and one for almost every situation, enabling you to sound brainy and learned without too much effort.

3. Chaucer – Canterbury Tales. Not as hard to read as you might think. The tales are great fun, Chaucer’s characters are delicious, and offer useful insights into life and philosophical debates which are still current, like that between nominalism and realism. Go on, look it up.

4. Dickens – Bleak House. Possibly the best novel ever written in English. Honoria Dedlock is kind, rich and beautiful, but her fear creates a bleak house indeed, while Esther Summerson, who appears to have nothing and is disfigured by smallpox, lives in Bleak House, but makes it anything but bleak by her warm hearted generosity. Mrs Jellyby makes her house bleak by ignoring her own family in favour of distant charities. Horace Skimpole is the archetypal character of the irresponsible and self-indulgent 21st Century.

5. Emily Bronte – Wuthering Heights. Another contender for best novel in English. In modern terms, this is a discussion of dysfunctional families and ‘nature vs nuture,’ but unlike many modern attempts to deal with these issues, Wuthering Heights is truthful about the cost of rebellion and selfish passion.

6. Emile Zola – L’Assomoir. Number seven in the twenty volume Rougon-Macquart series, L’Assomoir combines Zola’s beautiful writing and carefully drawn characters with an even now startlingly harsh and realistic picture of poverty and alcoholism. Perhaps one of the most depressing books ever written. There is no romance in being poor.

7. Stendhal – The Red and the Black. Many of the problems of youth could be forestalled by reading and absorbing this book. Except that those who would benefit most from it are least likely to read it. Julian Sorel is from a poor family. He is talented and ambitious and wants to be important. He is also lazy and naïve, and in the end is destroyed by his lack of self-discipline. The red and the black are the colours of the uniforms of church and army.

8. Lewis Carroll – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Cheating a little with two novels here, but neither is terribly long, both have wonderful insights into language and nature of reality, and both have characters (Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the Cheshire Cat, etc) which have become part of Western language and culture.

9. Clive James – Cultural Amnesia. A series of essays of the ideal length to be read while sitting on the toilet. To read, mark, learn and inwardly digest it is to be instantly and though-provokingly informed on many of the most important personalities, events and ideas of the twentieth century. Even if you remember just one key fact about each of the people discussed you will feel very brainy, and you will be entitled to.

10. George Orwell – 1984. If you read this book you will understand why ‘political correctness’ is so dangerous. “Who controls the present controls the past. Who controls the past controls the future.” Star Wars’s ‘Greeto shot first’ heresy is a perfect example of the petty re-engineering of history, symptomatic of a desire to bring the past into conformity with a vision of a perfect future. But the creation of such futures, and of a perfected humanity, whether borg, socialist or islamic, must be forced. The cost is human life and freedom. Stalinist Russia has been defeated, but state attempts to control our thinking are expanding even in Western democracies which claim to value freedom of thought and speech.

11. Anthony Trollope -The Chronicles of Barsetshire. Six books, so this really is cheating. These are easy to read and have perfectly defined characters who develop through the series. What makes this essential reading, though, is his realistic depiction of day to day life, society, money, the little temptations to compromise. Trollope was enormously influential. George Eliot said she could never have written Middlemarch without having read the Barsetshire novels. And Dorothea, the hero of Middlemarch, is one of my favourite characters. So there’s that. If you can’t read all six, at least read The Warden.

12. H Rider Haggard – King Solomon’s Mines. This is wonderfully fun to read. It is the fruit of a five shilling bet between the writer and his brother, was rejected by numerous publishers, became an instant best-seller, and has remained popular ever since. It was the first English adventure story set in Africa, the first lost world novel, and one of the first to use first-person narration, as opposed to the god-like third person view.

13. Edgar Rice Burroughs – Princess of Mars.  John Carter, Confederate soldier, is teleported to Mars where the lower gravity gives him super-human strength. He rescues Dejah Thoris, a fierce princess, wins her heart and becomes Prince of Helium where they live happily for nine years until he is transported back to Earth after saving Barsoom (Mars) from a catastrophe. Yes, it is ridiculous. But it is great fun, and has had vastly greater influence on subsequent science fiction, especially cinematic science fiction, than Verne or Wells.

14. Fyodor Dostoyevsky – The Brothers Karamazov. The last and greatest of Dostoyevsky’s novels. Told from a variety of points of view and in a variety of styles, there is no particular voice of authority. This challenges the reader to engage with the story of the three brothers; Dmitri, Ivan, Alexei, and their relationships with each other, women and the authorities. Like all Dostoyevsky’s work, it is sometimes difficult, but more than worth the trouble. You will come away from this book with a deeper understanding of free-will, morality, and the influence of belief on action, and of action on consequences.

15. F. Scott Fitzgerald – The Great Gatsby. There has never been a good movie of this great book. Baz Luhrmann’s recent extravaganza was moderately enjoyable, but it was Luhrmann not Fitzgerald. Where does Gatsby’s money come from? Anyway, it doesn’t do him any good. He is in love with Daisy, who is married to Tom, who is a dick. The story, told by neighbour and former war comrade Nick Carraway, ends with Gatsby being murdered after taking the blame for the death of a young woman killed by Daisy while driving Gatsby’s car. Makes you wonder what it’s all about, really, and that’s why you should read it. Also, Fitzgerald’s style is crystal bright.

16. J.R.R Tolkien – The Lord of the Rings. Elves, elves and more bloody elves. And orcs. And the meaning of hope and leadership. This is a deeply, though not obviously, Catholic novel, with themes of self-sacrifice, providence and sacrament. But even if you miss those things, and Peter Jackson did, you will still find much to enjoy and ponder. And LOTR sets the rules for almost every subsequent fantasy book, game and movie of the twentieth century.

17. A.A Milne – Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner. Yeah, yeah. Two books again. You could probably read each one in half an hour, so stop complaining. The thing is, you won’t want to. You will want to read them slowly, chuckle, then back up and think for a minute. First published in 1925, six years later Pooh marketing – songs, dolls, games, etc, was worth $50 million a year. Pooh tells us we don’t have to be strong or clever to make a difference. Little things matter, just be kind. He is the Therese of Lisieux of children’s literature. If you don’t love these books you are probably a psychopath.

18. Gustav Flaubert – Madame Bovary. Enough of happy. Emma Bovary is beautiful, intelligent, well educated, married to a kind and hard-working man, Charles Bovary, a doctor, who adores her. But the grass is always greener, her husband is boring, and Emma searches for happiness everywhere except the one place she is likely to find it, with the husband she has written off as dull. She has a succession of affairs, is rejected and commits suicide. Choices matter, and sometimes there is no turning back. So choose wisely. The style of this novel has influenced almost every novel to some after it.

19. C.S Lewis – The Chronicles of Narnia. Start with the Lion the Witch and Wardrobe, then read the series through in order beginning with The Magician’s Nephew. Don’t be put off by the films, which are awful, made by people who had no understanding of or love for the books. Narni, the Italian town, is hallway between Rome and Assisi, and that probably tells you quite a lot about Lewis’s intentions, which include insights into creativity, use of power, the cost of forgiveness, the beauty and purpose of creation.

20. Alessandro Manzoni – The Betrothed. Yes, I know you’ve never heard of it. It doesn’t matter. If some of the other books on this list are bleak and depressing, this one is not. Rich, complex, and beautiful, this wonderful novel is about hope, and especially about hope that comes from faith, and how that hope empowers ordinary people to keep doing what is right, even in the face of what seem overwhelming difficulties and frustrations.

21. William Faulkner – As I Lay Dying. I wanted to include a novel by Faulkner, and it was either this or Light in August. I love them both. Light in August opens with pregnant and single-minded Lena. It is hypnotic right from the beginning. But As I Lay Dying is even better. Each chapter related by a different character, including the recently deceased Addie Bundren. What is it about? Well, everything. Life, death, human nature. Choices. Just read it.

22. Nancy Mitford – Love in a Cold Climate and The Pursuit of Love. Recommended to me about ten years ago by a friend who could not believe I had not read them. Once I had read them I couldn’t believe I had not read them either. Hilarious, tragic, human. We may not choose our destiny, but we choose our habits, habits become character, and character becomes destiny. Probably Mitford didn’t have that in mind at all, but that was what I got from them, along with the enjoyment of getting to know some of the best drawn and most believable characters in English literature.

23. Patrick O’Brian – Master and Commander. The book has little except the main characters in common with the Russell Crowe film of the same name. The film is also very good, just different. Both film and book are exceptionally blokey – hardly a female in sight in either. The bonds and limits of friendship, loyalty, the tensions between love and duty, courage under fire, are all explored in the context of sea battles and betrayal. Forester’s Hornblower and Pope’s Ramage are deeply admirable as characters, great standbys if you enjoy seagoing novels, but do not have the depth of O’Brian.

24. Hannah Arendt – Eichmann in Jerusalem, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Letters and Papers from Prison. Yes, I know it’s two books. Both of them will challenge you in ways you do not expect. How should an ordinary human being respond when all around is darkness? Arendt’s chilling account of Eichmann’s activities during the war, and of his trial in Jerusalem, gives Eichmann’s answer; just be a cog in the machine, do your job, it’s not as if you have a choice. Bonhoeffer’s letters tell us there is always a choice, if only we are brave enough to make it.

25. Jack London – The Call of the Wild. This is short. If you are allowing a month for each book you could read White Fang as well, and you should. It is told from the perspective of Buck, a massive dog kidnapped and taken to Alaska during the gold rush. Buck was born to be wild, but he also yearns for loving human companionship. The underlying questions are about what it means to be who we are, and how we manage different aspects of our nature and desires. Or not. Maybe it is just a book about a dog.

26. Herman Melville – Moby-Dick. “Call me Ishmael.” It is one of the best-know opening lines in literature. When I first read this I was absolutely spellbound. I kept thinking “Can this really be this good?” It is. It is beautifully, magnificently written, not just narrative, but asides about whaling practice and nautical equipment, songs, poems, stage directions. It is a story of the power of obsession, and of human nature, of class and creativity, of harshness of man and nature, and of kindness. It was a commercial failure when first published. It is also one of the greatest books ever written.

27. Umberto Eco – The Name of the Rose. The first and best novel by Professor of Semiotics Umberto Eco (although his latest, The Prague Cemetery, is also very good). By the time you finish this book you will know something about Church history, the middle-ages, literary theory, and the nature of human enquiry into reality. You will also have had a jolly good time cheering on William of Baskerville as he faces the dangerous labyrinth of human fear and suspicion. Or maybe that’s just the library. The rose – “Being fair, you will be unhappy soon.”

29 Augustine of Hippo – The Confessions of St Augustine. “Thou hast made us for Thyself and our hearts are restless till they rest in Thee.” Probably the first autobiography written in the West, Augustine’s Confessions trace his life from infancy to his early forties. What makes them so valuable is the honesty of his accounts of his moral and theological struggles (Lord, grant me chastity, but not yet), the historical context, the love and faithfulness of his mother Monica, and his insights into the philosophical and religious issues of the day. Which are pretty much the religious and philosophical issues of our day. Truth can be simple.

30. Mark Twain – The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Time for something a bit lighter. But definitely not frivolous. This could be read easily and enjoyed by most teenagers. Huck is idle and vulgar, of poor breeding, with no idea of right and wrong. Except he has. He helps Jim, a young black slave, escape, even though all his up-bringing tells him this is wrong. Jim is, after all, someone’s property. Huck is both scheming and innocent, a typical boy, and a loyal friend. A simple and inspiring tale.

31. Jonathan Swift – Gulliver’s Travels. This book has never been out of print since it was first published in 1726, and no wonder. Its insights into the boundlessness of human silliness are applicable in every age. The Grand Academy of Lagado, with its research into extracting sunbeams from cucumbers, and discovering political conspiracies by testing the excrement of suspicious persons, sound very much like some of the madness of modern state-funded scientific research. Also, this is where the word yahoo comes from. And you should know what Lilliputian means.

32. Franz Kafka – The Castle. This book is unfinished. If it had been finished, it would have been Kafka’s masterpiece. But it isn’t, and it still is. OK, whatever. Read The Trial instead if you like. Prisoner K has no idea what he is being charged with, or why. Nothing makes sense, everything goes round in circles. It all ends in death. Sounds like your life? Right. I like The Trial, but The Castle seems deeper to me. And you can make up your own ending. As long as it is pointless and depressing, you’ll be right.

33. Shūsaku Endō – Silence. Wow! Golly! Gosh! This book is good. The story of Rodrigues, a Jesuit priest in Japan, imprisoned and tortured for his faith. Others are being killed. There is no glory in this martyrdom, not that human eyes can see, just horror and agony and emptiness. Rodrigues can end the suffering of himself and the others if he denies Christ and tramples the cross. He won’t. But in the end he hears Jesus speak: “Trample! Trample! I more than anyone know of the pain in your foot. Trample! It was to be trampled on by men that I was born into this world. It was to share men’s pain that I carried my cross.” God does not end suffering but is present with us and suffers and endures with us, in silence.

34. Miguel de Cervantes – Don Quixote. Tilting at windmills. There is more to it than that. The first great Western novel, it tells the story of Alonso Quixano, who has lost so much sleep due to excess reading that his brain has dried up. He sets out in search of noble adventure, and undertakes several quests in order to help people who do not wish to be helped, to defeat enemies who are not enemies, and to win the love the love of the Lady Dulcinea, a grubby neighbouring farm girl, whom he has hardly seen, never spoken to, and who barely knows he exists. Is there any point to all this? That. dear reader, is for you to decide.

35. William L Shirer – The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Long but never tiring, it explains the collapse of Germany with astonishing precision and unflagging interest. Shirer was present for some of the events he describes, and met many of the key people, but his personal perspective never overwhelms the story. This book is perhaps the best way to develop an understanding of events leading to and during the Second World War. It is also a perfect example of how history should be written.

36. Bill Bryson – A Short History of Nearly Everything. Bill Bryson is usually right, usually funny, and always worth reading. This is another “instant education” book, this time about science and technology. You’ll learn a little about gravity, the periodic table, optics, life, time, etc, etc. Not just what we know, but how we came to know it, and that is what make this book different, and better. Because it is how we came to know, and how we know we know, that is interesting. Again, read it and remember one key thing from each topic to be instantly more confident and better informed.

Now start again at the beginning, or make your own list and share it! Austen (weeps silently – I love Emma), Wolfe, Thackeray, Hemmingway, Hugo, Stevenson, Dante, are all missing from this list. What should we read for the next three years?

I have been gobsmacked by suggestions from some people that there is some sort of moral equivalence between Israel and Hamas (the idea that they are both as bad as each other), or even worse, that the current conflict is Israel’s fault.

The present Palestinian people are Arabs, most of whom arrived in the area within the last two centuries. They are unrelated to the Philistines after whom the Roman and Turkish provinces were named.

In 1922 the League of Nations approved the British Mandate over the Turkish province of Palestine, including word for word the text of the Balfour Declaration, which affirmed the historical connection of the Jewish people to the land, and called for the setting up of an independent home state for the Jewish people.

Despite the fact that The British mandate was a tiny proportion of the land of the Middle East, and that it was surrounded by Arab states, the British allocated 70% of the mandate area to be a homeland for the region’s Arabs. This part of the mandate was called trans-Jordania, and then just Jordan.

In 1948 the UN partitioned the remaining area, allocating another third to be divided up between Jordan (the West Bank) and Egypt (the Gaza strip). This left the Jews with 20% of the land of the Davidic kingdom of Israel and of the original mandate, all of which was to have been set aside as a homeland for them. The area left for Israel was the Jewish majority cities of Acre, Haifa, Tel Aviv and West Jerusalem, plus other smaller towns and the Negev Desert. This amounted to approximately one sixth of one percent of the land in the Middle East.

The Jews agreed to this arrangement, the Arabs did not. Surrounding Arab nations announced their intention to destroy any Jewish state, and urged resident Arabs to leave, promising they would be back in days, and able to take up not only their own homes and farms, but those of their Jewish neighbours.

The day after the new state of Israel was proclaimed, the armies of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq attacked the tiny nation, whose land area is about the same size as Kangaroo Island. The first attached picture shows the direction of the invading armies. The day before, Arab League Secretary, General Azzam Pasha declared “jihad”, a holy war. He said, “This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades”. The Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin Al Husseini stated, “I declare a holy war, my Moslem brothers! Murder the Jews! Murder them all!” The second picture is of Al Husseini meeting with Hitler in Berlin in 1942 to discuss the implementation of the Final Solution.

By a miracle, the new state survived. The West Bank and the Gaza strip remained under the control of Jordan and Egypt. Another attack was made by Arab nations in 1967. Quotes from just two of the Arab leaders involved:

“We will not accept any … coexistence with Israel. … Today the issue is not the establishment of peace between the Arab states and Israel …. The war with Israel is in effect since 1948.” – Gamal Abdel Nasser, President of Egypt, May 28, 1967.

“The existence of Israel is an error which must be rectified. This is our opportunity to wipe out the ignominy which has been with us since 1948. Our goal is clear – to wipe Israel off the map. We shall, God willing, meet in Tel Aviv and Haifa.” – President Abdel Rahman Aref of Iraq, May 31, 1967
After the 1967 war Israel took control of the Golan Heights (Syria), Gaza Strip (Egypt) and the West Bank (Jordan), to give a buffer against further attacks. The next such attack took place 1973, on the holy day of Yom Kippur, when its massive and much more populous Arab neighbours again united to destroy it.

Israel is a very different place from the nations which surround it. Israeli law permits no discrimination on the basis of race. Arabs can be and are, members of the armed forces, police, the judiciary and parliament. By contrast, Jews are not permitted to reside in the West Bank (which is the traditional Jewish homeland of Judea and Samaria), or in Jordan or Saudi Arabia. There is no discrimination in Israel on the basis of religion. There are mosques in most Israeli towns, and the Baha’i faith has its centre in Haifa in northern Israel. By contrast, just in the last few weeks, churches, some dating from before Muhammad, have been destroyed in Iraq, and Christians told to convert, leave or be killed. Members of other religious minorities have been subject to wholesale torture and murder. There is no discrimination in Israel on the basis of sexuality. Again, by contrast, a gay man in Saudi Arabia was sentenced this week to 450 lashes and three year’s imprisonment.

Some 850, 000 Jews were ethnically cleansed from Arab nations following the establishment of the state of Israel, and their property seized. Those who were not murdered have been repatriated in Israel. A lesser number of Arabs left Israel in 1948, despite being asked to stay and help build the new country. Many of them and their descendants still live in refugee camps in Arab countries, who refuse to accept them as citizens, despite those countries’ much larger land areas and greater natural resources.

Hamas is the elected governing body in the Gaza strip. Its charter calls for the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews everywhere. When Israel withdrew from Gaza, with the promise from Palestinian authorities that giving up the land of Gaza and the West Bank would lead to lasting peace, it left solid infrastructure including roads, schools, hospitals and some 3,000 greenhouses which produced an abundance of fruit and vegetables.

Israel wanted and wants Gaza to succeed, and it could. It has some beautiful beaches. It could be the Ibiza, the Monaco of the Eastern Mediterranean. But Hamas’ purpose is not to govern. Its only purpose, according to its own charter, is to destroy Israel. The glasshouses were destroyed – remnants of the Zionist entity. Other infrastructure has been allowed to fall in to ruin.

Hamas has constructed over 1,000 tunnels under the border from Gaza into Israel, some several kilometres long, using child labour, and hundreds of tons of cement which could have been used for other construction. Those tunnels have only one purpose – to conduct terror attacks against schools, homes, farms. Since the beginning of this year, Hamas has fired over 3,000 rockets into Israel. Israel is the about the same size as Kangaroo Island, or the city of Adelaide. Residents of some areas have less than fifteen seconds from the sounding of an alarm to get to shelter. How would residents of Adelaide respond to relentless attacks like that from an enemy sworn to their destruction? Hamas has broken every ceasefire in the latest conflict, firing rockets at schools, homes and shopping centres – on the first day after the last ceasefire, on average a rocket every ten minutes. Would you tolerate this? Even if the nearest shelter was 200 metres away, could you and your family run 200 metres in 15 seconds?

Israel is not perfect by any means. No nation is. It has had its share of injustices and poor policy decisions. But Israel’s response has consistently been to say that it is not at war with the Palestinian people and that it wants successful, prosperous and peaceful Palestinian neighbours. Never in the history of any conflict has one side treated the other with such care and consideration. Because Hamas has refused to spend money on infrastructure, almost all of Gaza’s electricity and water are supplied by Israel. Most of Gaza’s food and medical supplies also come from Israel – Egypt despises Hamas and long ago closed the southern border, meaning no trade or traffic from Egypt. On one typical day, 21st August, Israel transferred to Gaza 174 tons of natural gas, 548,093 litres of fuel, and 178 trucks of food medical and general supplies. On that day Hamas fired 68 rockets at civilian targets in Israel.

Hamas uses schools, hospitals, mosques and apartment blocks to fire rockets and mortars. Israel drops leaflets warning which locations are targets. Before any civilian location is fired upon, residents and workers are telephoned by Israel Defense Forces to warn them to leave the building, and finally buildings are door-knocked – a harmless percussion round is fired several minutes before to give people time to leave. Israel has shown over and over again that it does not wish to harm the Palestinian people, it simply wants to live in peace in its own borders. Israel has never tried to enlarge its territory. It has given up territory in return for promises of peace, promises which have never been kept.

You may have seen video of Hamas beating people trying to leave buildings which have received attack warnings. You may have seen video of Hamas dragging the headless bodies of suspected collaborators or members of Fatah through the streets of Gaza. You may have seen Hamas’ statements of support for ISIS, and vice-versa.

As Benyamin Netanyahu said: If the Arabs laid down their arms tomorrow, there would be no more war. If Israel were to lay down theirs, there would be no more Israel.

If you were Israel, what would you do?



For Putin and many Russians, the US is still Russia’s primary rival in global politics.

The projection of Russian power to the Mediterranean and Northern Africa depends on the Black Sea Fleet. The Black Sea Fleet is based at Sevastopol in the Crimea, an independent republic within Ukraine.

Russia will not want an avowedly pro-US, pro-Western government in Ukraine. It will not allow its access to Sevastopol to be restricted.

Russia will fight to protect its interests in Ukraine, if it believes force is necessary.

In 1994 The US and Great Britain signed a treaty known as the Budapest Memorandum, in which they agree to protect the independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine. This was part of a deal in which Ukraine gave up the nuclear weapons based there in the Soviet era, an arsenal larger that those of Britain, France and China combined.

On the basis of this treaty, Ukraine’s new Prime Minister, Arseniy Yatseniuk, has already appealed to the US and the UK for help.

President Obama has spoken with Vladimir Putin and asked for Russian troops to be pulled back out of Ukraine and the Crimea.

Putins’ response: “Russia retains the right to protect its interests and the Russian-speaking population of those areas.”

It sounds alarming, but my prediction is that the West will fail to stand up for Ukraine and the Crimea with sufficient confidence to stop Putin doing whatever he wants.

This looks to me like a repeat of the Sudetenland.

The confrontation will come next time, and it will be worse because we did not confront Putin earlier.

I got an email this afternoon from alleged CFS/Eurosoft scammer David O’Neil. This is what he wrote:

Dear Sirs,


I refer to the above and advise that several postings have been published on your website that are in breach of your terms and conditions and further in breach of the civil and criminal laws both in Australia and Elsewhere.

These postings contain personal details and other relevant contact details. As a result I have received threats against my life and threats to the life and safety of my wife and infant child.

This situation cannot be tolerated and I hereby demand that those personal details and page be removed immediately from your website. Should this not occur I will report the matter immediately to law enforcement agencies for prosecution and or other legal remedies.

I trust such unpleasant steps will not be necessary and look forward to your full co-operation.

Yours Faithfully,

David O’Neil.

Ha, ha.

In breach of my terms and conditions? Seriously?

Then I got this one:

I have now received another threatening phone call and my lawyers have advised the AFP (Australian Federal Police) to take over as this is a serious matter, my life and my families lives are being threatened and we are concerned for our safety. 
Please act upon this email as a matter of URGENCY.

This was my reply:

David If there are particular comments you believe identify you personally or put you in danger, then let me know which ones and I will consider removing them.

But surely you cannot be surprised if you steal from ordinary working people and they get annoyed about it.

Perhaps you could pay back the money you have stolen and get an honest job?

Like that’s going to happen.

What is really intolerable and against the law, of course, is stealing thousands of dollars from ordinary working people and pensioners.  But apparently that is not such a big deal for David.

On the other hand, threats of violence, no matter how angry a victim is, and no matter how right to be angry, are probably not helpful.

The trouble is that it is not clear what else will work. These arseholes have no conscience whatever, and they seem to be very clever at avoiding the law. They have felt no qualms about threatening and libelling me. I certainly feel no qualms about telling the truth about them.

Commenter Doug has pointed out that this same scam has recently been rebadged as OWS or Netway Solutions. Please do not fall for these cons! The awards and testimonials are fakes. The OWS website is a fake. The Shares Magazine website is a fake. OWS and Netway are the same fraud con scam ripoff as CFS, JBC and Eurosoft.

See my earlier posts and comments from readers for more information on the Eurosoft OWS Netway scams .

This is a new short story set in the Warhammer 40k universe. May be on Amazon soon, depending if I can get copyright issues relating to the Warhammer universe sorted out. In the meantime, enjoy!

The Encomium

I have been a Microsoft partner for years, and have spent a huge amount of time and money gaining Microsoft qualifications. But right right now, I hope someone will step into the breach left by Windows 8 and the latest incarnations of Internet Explorer, both of which are absolute dogs.

I was a supporter of Vista, which I thought was unfairly maligned and actually worked very well after some early driver issues. Many people who claimed not to like Vista really had trouble understanding the changes to Office 2007, which came out at the same time, and did not have issues with Vista at all.

I have also been a supporter of Internet Explorer. I have explained to people that while the rendering engine is slightly slower, for most people this is not a limiting factor, and that IE has other advantages; it is easy to set up the way you want, and you need it if you ever do manual Windows updates.

Not any more. The last two versions of IE really have been markedly slower than Chrome, sometimes painfully slower. Gone to Tahiti for a holiday slower. Sent to a gulag in Siberia slower. Not to mention lock-ups, issues with Flash Player, etc. Until these are fixed, I am sticking with Chrome, which seems to me the most mature and stable of the alternatives, and amongst the fastest.

And as for Windows 8, good lord!

I watched a business training video from Microsoft a few weeks ago – two Microsoft “business experts” talking with each other about how great Windows 8 was for business. The only problem was, they never got around to explaining why or how. They spent a bit of time mocking people – yes mocking their own clients – who wanted a start button and menu.

“Ha, ha,” they laughed. “These are the same people who don’t need a start button on their Kindle or iPad, but want one on their PC.”

Good one, Microsoft evangelists! Not content with belittling your own clients, you completely miss the point.

The Kindle and iPad are about consuming content, and usually, doing only one thing at a time.

What made Windows so successful was that it is supposed to enable users to create as well as consume content, to do both efficiently, and to do more than one thing at a time.

I don’t understand why Microsoft find it so hard to acknowledge that people want a clear, simple list of available programmes that they can see while other windows are still open.

Microsoft’s refusal to provide this facility (and the failure to include it in Windows 8.1 means they have not addressed one of the main concerns consumers have) is sheer arrogance.

Until Microsoft are willing to listen to consumers and respond to the needs of the market, sod them.

Stick with Windows 7, and use Libre Office.

Two scams I have seen in the last couple of days.

First, a random caller claiming to be from Microsoft convinced my client his computer was about to crash and urgently needed to be upgraded from XP to Windows 7. Client allowed the caller to take control of his computer. Caller installed a skin to make XP look like Windows 7, and a ‘state of the art security system’ – in fact Microsoft Security Essentials, which is free. Total cost charged to my client’s credit card – just over $500.

Second, a pop-up telling a client her computer was infected with viruses and her data would be deleted if she did not take action immediately. This purported to be from Kaspersky Anti-virus support, but was not. It was from a group calling themselves iresolve247. Client rang the number given and allowed iresolve247 to take control of her computer. They did absolutely nothing, except for installing remote login software on her computer, and charged her $325.

iresolve247 (not giving them a link!) claim to be a legitimate computer support company. But any company that tells a pensioner she has a critical problem with her pc and will lose her data if she does not act immediately, then charges her $325 to do nothing, is not a legitimate computer support company. justechsupport is the same group. There may be other front pages for these same scam operators.

Do not fall for these scams! No reputable pc, software, or computer company cold calls people to offer to fix urgent problems on their pc. And anything that pops up warning you of disaster if you don’t act right this minute is also a scam. If in doubt, turn off your pc, restart and run a full virus scan. If you are still worried, take it to a reputable local technician.

Don’t be ripped off by some hairy dude in a shed in his back yard in Bombay!

I have been a fan of Professor Elizabeth Loftus’ work for many years, so I am pleased to see her getting a hearing in the press at last.

From the Australian ABC news site:

When an eyewitness gives evidence in a trial, how much faith should we place in their testimony? At first brush the answer would seem to be, why not trust them? After all, if an impartial witness says with certainly they saw something—why be sceptical?

However, Elizabeth Loftus, a renowned professor of both law and psychology based at the University of California’s Irvine campus, urges caution. Professor Loftus has been at the forefront of complex and controversial debates around the nature of memory for many years, and her research has made her a much sought-after expert witness in both criminal and civil trials. In fact, she has testified in over 250 trials.

Professor Loftus says eyewitness testimony is the major cause of wrongful convictions in the USA. In one project where more than 300 cases of wrongful conviction were established using DNA testing, the major cause of these wrongful convictions was faulty eyewitness testimony.

Read the rest ..


A little article for our church newsletter:

Why do some Christians make the sign of the cross?

Many of the saints of the early Church talk about this practice. Here are quotes from just a few.

St Ephraim the Syrian:
Go not forth from the door of thy house till thou hast signed the cross. Whether in eating or in drinking, whether in sleeping or in waking, whether in thy house or on the road, or again in the season of leisure, neglect not this sign; for there is no guardian like it. It shall be unto thee as a wall, in the forefront of all thy doings. And teach this to thy children, that heedfully they be conformed to it.

St Cyril of Jerusalem:
Be the Cross our seal made with boldness by our fingers on our brow, and on everything; over the bread we eat, and the cups we drink; in our comings in, and goings out; before our sleep, when we lie down and when we rise up; when we are in the way, and when we are still. Great is that preservative; it is without price, for the sake of the poor; without toil, for the sick; since also its grace is from God. It is the Sign of the faithful, and the dread of devils: for He triumphed over them in it.

St Jerome:
In every act we do, in every step we take, let our hand trace the Lord’s cross.

In other words, like American Express, don’t leave home without it!

We are not just spirit or body, but both, and we worship God, and express our faith in God not just in inner prayer, but in action. This is why we kneel or bow our heads for prayer, and stand to sing and for praise, and why we try to serve and care for others.

According to the early Church fathers, the sign of the cross is a public declaration of faith in Jesus, and it scares the heck out of the powers of darkness because it was on the cross that they were utterly defeated by the love and grace of God. It is also a reminder of our baptism, that we have died with Christ and are reborn in him, that our lives are His.

For many Christians, the sign of the cross is the first thing they do on awakening, with a heartfelt “Thank you Father!”

It is also appropriate at the absolution, when we remember that it is through Jesus’ sufferings on the cross that we receive forgiveness, at the blessing, because all God’s blessings come to us at the cost of the cross, when we think about the resurrection, because new life comes to us through Jesus’ giving of his life on the cross, and when we hear “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” because we see the nature of God the trinity most clearly when we see the cross.

Or any time at all, because for a Christian, the cross is crucial at every moment of life.

I am glad the muslim terrorist attack in Nairobi was so widely reported, even though the real horror of what happened was underplayed – the torture and mutilation of children, for example.

Perhaps this signals a change of heart in the mainstream media, and a willingness to acknowledge at last the reality of widespread jihadist terror – over 21,000 deadly attacks in the name Allah since 9/11, three murderous terror attacks very day.

But why did the even worse attack on a church in Pakistan the following day get almost no media coverage? And why the media silence about the ongoing wholesale murder and torture of Christians in Egypt and Syria?

From the Federalist:

The next day, two suicide bombs went off as Christians were leaving Sunday services at All Saints Anglican Church in Peshawar, Pakistan.

“There were blasts and there was hell for all of us,” Nazir John, who was at the church with at least 400 other worshipers, told the Associated Press. “When I got my senses back, I found nothing but smoke, dust, blood and screaming people. I saw severed body parts and blood all around.”

Some 85 Christians were slaughtered and 120 injured, the bloodiest attack on Christians in Pakistan in history. The hospital ran out of beds for the injured and there weren’t enough caskets for the dead.

The situation for Christians in Egypt has also gone from bad to worse. August saw the worst anti-Christian violence in seven centuries. Sam Tadros, a Coptic Christian and author of Motherland Lost, says that there has been nothing like this year’s Muslim Brotherhood anti-Christian pogrom since 1321, when a similar wave of church burnings and persecution caused the decline of the Christian community in Egypt from nearly half of Egypt’s population to its current ten percent.

The violence of just three days in mid-August was staggering. Thirty-eight churches were destroyed, 23 vandalized; 58 homes were burned and looted and 85 shops, 16 pharmacies and 3 hotels were demolished. It was so bad that the Coptic Pope was in hiding, many Sunday services were canceled, and Christians stayed indoors, fearing for their lives. Six Christians were killed in the violence. Seven were kidnapped.

Maalula, Syria, is an ancient Christian town that has been so sheltered for 2,000 years that it’s one of only three villages where people still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus. Until September 7, when Islamist rebels attacked as part of the civil war ripping through the country.

An eyewitness to the murder of three Christians in Maalula—Mikhael Taalab, his cousin Antoun Taalab, and his grandson Sarkis el Zakhm—reported that the Islamists warned everyone present to convert to Islam. Sarkis answered clearly, Vatican news agency Fides reported: “I am a Christian and if you want to kill me because I am a Christian, do it.”

There seems to be a large dose of confusion in some circles as to what the climate change debate is really about.

Firstly, no one doubts that climate change is happening. The climate is in constant flux. Temperatures are up and down like, well, the Assyrian Empire.


Secondly, there is no doubt human activity has some impact on climate, at least at a local level. The Urban Heat Island effect is one obvious example, and we also know that changes in land use can change local rain and snowfall patterns.

Third, there is substantial agreement that so-called greenhouse gasses are responsible for retaining sufficient of the heat from the sun to enable the earth’s temperature to stabilise at an average just over the melting point of H2O.

Substantial, not compete agreement on that point. Some scientists believe the chemical composition of the atmosphere has very little to do with temperature, and that warmth at lower levels of the atmosphere is a product of pressure. The same way a bicycle pump heats up when you use it.

There is also general agreement that doubling the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere to about 700ppm would result in an increase of about 1 degree Celsius in total.

This mild warming would occur mostly in cooler parts of the world and mostly at night. It would have very little if any negative impact, and combined with the positive impact of increased CO2 (current levels are so low that they almost at starvation point for most plants) which include increased crop yields and resilience, increased forest growth and reduced desertification, would likely be a very good thing.

So what’s the problem?

The problem is the assumption that slightly increased CO2 would result in increased water vapour in the atmosphere, and that this increased water vapour would produce a run away warming effect, raising temperatures by much more than for CO2 alone.

In reality (much abused and ignored!) increased water vapour produces increased cloud cover, which has a cooling effect.

The large temperature increase from increased water vapour is a guess. Various levels of guesses have been programmed into computer climate models used by the IPCC and others. None of them produces results which match reality.


Thousands of scientists from around the world have been saying for years that this is a perfect example of GIGO – garbage in, garbage out, that the amplification effect of water vapour is much milder than that inputted into the models, or doesn’t exist at all, or is negative – that is, that increased water vapour is cooling rather than warming.

In Australia this includes Professor Ian Plimer, Professor Robert Carter, David Evans, and Murray Salby. There are many, many others, whose peer reviewed work is summarised in the work of the NIPCC (the Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change).

Climate alarmism is a mixture of zombie science, profiteering and scams, and a failure of leadership in journalistic, scientific, and political circles. It is the worst and most expensive scientific fraud ever perpetrated.