Two questions

I have two questions. I ask them purely because I am curious, and NOT because I have an agenda. Furthermore I am DEFINITLEY NOT a Trump supporter, just in case my questions give you the wrong idea.

  1. Dov Levin (Institute for Politics and Strategy, Carnegie-Mellon University) calculated that between 1946 and 2000, the US attempted to influence the elections of other countries as many as 81 times – and these figures do not include its support of military coups or attempts to overthrow the regime following the election of a candidate the US opposed. Why is Russian interference in the American Presidential election different from US interference in other countries? Size of country? Relative global importance of county?
  2. Given the current prevalence of ‘fake news’ and rumour that seems to shroud the White House in an almost impenetrable fog these days, how will anyone manage to determine for sure whether the President did or didn’t pass on sensitive information to his Russian guests? Who can anyone believe?
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Daily prompt: Looking around


Yesterday was my 49th wedding anniversary – provided I’m still allowed to call it that given the other half the wedding died 26 years ago. Me, I don’t see why not. It was, after all, the day we were married, and my husband’s early demise doesn’t change that. Nor have I replaced him.

There were those (men) who suggested after his death that I should remove my wedding ring to show that I was available. They found themselves the recipients of what my children call ‘the look’. Haven’t seen it myself (don’t practise in the mirror) but it does seem to have a shrivelling effect. The ring stayed on because I like it (it’s medium width beaten gold) and because it made life easier for my children (still at school) to have a mother who conformed to the standards of the day. Men don’t think of these things.

Tomorrow would be my parents’ 80th wedding anniversary, but sadly, they are both long gone. My father would have turned 112 last week.

But life does indeed go on. A week ago, by eldest granddaughter turned 13. OMG for two reasons: first that she is 13, and secondly, that she is only 13. She is, of course, very beautiful and very intelligent (got 20/20 for her last creative writing exercise) and seems much older than that. While I am in Sydney, I’m going to teach her to write limericks.

And yes, I am in Sydney, which is where the precipice comes in. I’m perched on the edge of it as my sister undergoes a major operation today. That’s what makes it a good day to put life in a wider context. She will be fine (I insist). It will be good to have that confirmed.

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Daily prompt: Each to his own


It’s funny how things change. Hospitality used to be a personal thing. Now it’s an industry. A career for which you train, perhaps in the hope of becoming manager of one of those whoop-di-doo resorts where people play golf, drink cocktails by the pool, eat cake, see and be seen.

Those places have never appealed to me, fortunately. Polished luxury makes me uneasy – like the parlour maid caught in the parlour when the guests arrive. I could wind myself up to it if I had to, I guess. I was taught which cutlery to use, how to smile and nod convincingly, how to sweep on through instead of scuttling.

But I wouldn’t enjoy it, with or without the luxury. Resorts, cruises, boarding schools, prisons… All places where they decide what’s suitable to the occasion. The big difference is that I could afford prison – they provide the uniforms – which is why it’s fortunate I’m not beguiled by the other three.

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Daily prompt: The value of having a conscience


I didn’t want to get out of bed this morning. The air was chill, the bed was warm, and nothing on my calendar suggested anyone would know let alone care if I spent the day tucked up in my bedly burrow.

But nowhere in the maze of shoulds and should nots that constitute my conscience was a sign that said This way to self-indulgence, so I crawled out and made coffee instead.

This is really silly, if I look at it objectively. What possible harm could it do anyone if I spent the day in bed? Except me, possibly. I’d be depressed by mid-afternoon and unable to sleep at night, but in the general scheme of things, so what? I blame this resistance to self-indulgence on Anglican boarding school indoctrination, where Love thy neighbour was never accompanied by as thyself, but that was a lot of years ago and I could be expected to have got over it by now.

But then I turned on my computer to check the day’s news and saw that companies and hospitals around the world have been attacked by ‘ransomware’ – they have to pay money to get their computer systems back up – and thought that having a conscience, however petty its dictates, was better than being a true-blue bastard who would risk lives to satisfy their own greed – or perhaps simply because they thought it would be fun. Or maybe because their girlfriends cast aspersions on the size of their equipment, who knows.

The tool used in these attacks is apparently a piece of cyberware developed by the National Security Agency, which isn’t just ironic, but speaks to the stupidity of current values. In my opinion.

Not that anyone cares what you or I might think. The movers and shakers are too dazzled by their own cleverness and high on their own power to recognise ‘collateral damage’ as actual living breathing people. With actual lives they might quite like.

See? I should have stayed in bed after all.

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Daily prompt: Another trip to la-la land


I have to admit that I’ve always regarded ‘the pursuit of happiness’ as one of those la-la things that don’t have much to do with real life.

Perhaps this is because I was born right in the middle of WW ll when ‘happiness’ wasn’t the first word on everyone’s lips, and my younger years had more to do with planning, rebuilding and rehabilitating than with an all-out drive to chase bluebirds.

But even in my early twenties, when happiness became a ‘right’ for baby boomers, I wasn’t convinced. Life had taught me a few things by then, and not one of them suggested that happiness was a finite goal. And while smoking pot might create an illusion of happiness (wouldn’t know, never tried it), it wasn’t a long-term guarantee of a rosy future and red Porsches didn’t fall from the sky while you sat on your butt and thought ‘which way happiness?’.

If you’re in some reasonable facsimile of your right mind, you don’t flit about the garden chasing fairies, and to me, pursuing happiness is pretty similar. It is a nebulous, ephemeral thing with no rules regarding time and place and no instantly recognisable shape or form, and if you assign it these things, it’s quite likely to pass you by without you recognising it.

Contentment, now… And serenity. Yes, if you’re lucky and work hard both mentally and physically, you can ultimately organise yourself a peaceful, contented life. But those rare moments when your whole soul shines with active happiness… You don’t find them. They find you.

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Daily prompt: Hello to the budget


As of today, Australians will be running around like chooks with their heads cut off, thigh-deep in media analysis of last night’s federal budget: What the Budget Means for You.

But it will be a temporary madness, fortunately. It always is – or almost always. The big exception was the budget brought down by our previous PM and his cohorts amidst loud proclamations that ‘the age of entitlement is over’ – which to them meant that the poor are lazy buggers who needed to get their acts together and the rich should be rewarded for their diligence.

A lot of the measures in that budget never made it through the Upper House, the PM in question was ultimately shuffled off to the back bench by his own party and the Treasurer was lured away from politics altogether with the post of Australian Ambassador to the US, thus ending our very own foray into Trumpery.

There will inevitably be those who hate the budget. This time, it’s those who recognise that this budget takes the wind out of the Opposition’s sails by addressing issues of health, education and infrastructure in a manner likely to please voters, and pleasing voters never pleases the Opposition when it’s in Opposition.

Oh how I hate politics! Not because I am dedicated to a particular party and desperately want them to win. On the contrary, I am a proud swinging voter. No, my problem is a hopelessly outdated sense of idealism. I want politicians to be honest, honourable, and committed to their constituents and the overall good of country – and it ain’t gonna happen.

I blame this unrealistic attitude on my parents, who brought us up to believe in things like honour and honesty, and lived in the belief that while there is bound to be the odd rotten apple in any barrel, leaders were, on the whole, to be respected. Today is my father’s birthday. If he were still alive, he’d be 112, which possibly says it all.

I realise of course that high aspirations are a lot more widespread than used to be the case (when we all knew our place in society and stuck to it like good kids), so it’s inevitable that Getting to the Top requires more ruthless determination than might have been common among our forebears. And staying at the top in politics demands a well-developed ability to manoeuvre, manipulate, satisfy, sledge and (let’s be honest here) bullshit.

But acknowledging it doesn’t mean I have to like it.


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Daily prompt: Good for a laugh – for the time being


Don’t get the idea I’m bitter about this, or bursting with righteous indignation. More inclined to see it as good for a laugh, although you might have to take that on faith since outsiders seem to think the Australian sense of humour is weird.

Anyway, here’s what I’m talking about.

The first phone call between newly-elected President Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull ended abruptly with Pres T hanging up in PM T’s ear. Yeah well…

In two separate briefings regarding this little spat, White House spokesman Sean Spicer referred to Mr Turnbull as ‘Mr Trumble’. Aah…

Last week, Mr Turnbull travelled to the US for a face-to-face meeting with President Trump. The meeting was scheduled for 4pm to last for an hour, but seems the President was too busy to keep the appointment and it was moved to 7.15pm, giving them a quick 30 minutes to gallop through top level discussions on Korea, China, trade agreements, allied military presence in the Middle East… before attending a ceremony aboard the decommissioned USS Intrepid to mark the anniversary of the WWll Battle of the Coral Sea.

So far so good(ish). The President thanked Rupert Murdoch (who introduced him to the stage), Greg Norman (with whom he played golf once) and Anthony Pratt, who has just pledged $2 billion for American manufacturing jobs – presumably the only Australians Trump considers worth mentioning (or perhaps knows). All of whom are now effectively American. (Lots of eye-rolling from Australians.)

He also addressed ‘the phone call’, though perhaps not as eloquently as one might have hoped for from the world’s No. 1:

 They said we had a rough phone call, we really didn’t have a rough call, did we?
Everyone’s talking about this phone call. The media was saying ‘what do you think about the phone call? You didn’t really hang up?’

No, we had actually a very nice call, right? Good. Now the record is straight all those people back there. Thank goodness, it’s true we had a very nice phone call.

Got a little testy, got a little bit testy but that’s OK. We’ve had a very good relationship and I’m very proud of the relationship.

And following this all-round jolly affair, Reuters referred to Malcolm Turnbull as Brian Trumbull.

Now as I say, this whole rolling fiasco is good for a laugh, over here. Why waste emotional energy being bitter about such a ridiculous sequence of events?


Australia is not as big as America. Not as powerful. Not as important. Malcolm Turnbull is not as important as Donald Trump and should be grateful for crumbs from the President’s table, right?


Mr Turnbull might be a mere candle in the global firmament in Donald Trump’s opinion, but he is still a head of state, and international diplomacy as well as common courtesy require that he be treated with the respect due to his office. For a start, the President’s spokesman might get his name right.

Australia is also the only nation since Trump’s election to express loyalty to the US, and it might be worth the President’s while to realise that whatever Mr Turnbull says, Australians themselves are increasingly dubious about any such loyalty given the wars it’s led us into and the President’s cavalier attitude – and in Australia, everyone votes and he/she with the most votes wins.

We might get bored with this joke and stop laughing.


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