Everybody likes free and here’s your chance! My book Darlinghurst Road is on Amazon and I’d love to get some reviews from my readers. If you’ve already read the book, then I’d really appreciate you clicking the link below and leaving some feedback.
If you haven’t and would like a complimentary copy to review, shoot me an email with the words “Free Book” in the subject line and I’ll be happy to send you one.
Thanks in advance,
I’ve been thinking quite a lot lately about the amount of negativity in the media. There’s hardly been a story all week that has had any positive aspect to it and I’m at the point where it’s all getting old.
It’s easy to say well don’t read the news but I’m not like that, I like to be informed and know about what goes on around me. I’m a participant in life, not a bystander and I don’t think it’s mentally healthy to live in a vacuum. If I vote then I should be interested in politics because ignorance certainly is not bliss and often leads to government actions that may ultimately affect me in a negative way. It’s a truism to say that if you don’t vote then you shouldn’t complain.
I’m straying from my point but what I’m trying to say is that there needs to be more thinking people in the world not less. With that said, the media can inform and educate without the constant negativity and when I looked back through some of the old posts on this site, I realized that I was just as guilty.
It’s time for a change and for Pull Up a Stump to take off its mourning clothes and greet the day with a smile. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m still the same opinionated old grouch that I’ve always been and I’ll still give voice to things that irritate the hell out of me, especially if it involves any type of injustice. Starting today though, expect to see more of the good and less of the bad. Life’s just too damn short!
On the BBC yesterday, as they offered commentary on the Ukrainian riots, I saw the first mention of that wonderfully loaded word: regime. It seems to be trotted out whenever we disagree with someone and has the wonderful effect of putting in people’s minds the idea that the government of such-and-such country is somehow illegitimate, and deserves to be overthrown. Today, there is talk of sanctions and other reprisals from Washington and Europe, the things routinely used as a way of pressuring a foreign government into doing something domestically that they do not want to do.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not defending the Ukrainian Government nor am I endorsing any of their actions. What I am saying is that it’s none of our business. The government made a policy decision to move closer to Russia and away from the European Union; a decision loudly condemned by Washington. A section of the community is protesting by taking their cause to the streets because it also disagrees with that decision. The government is reacting with riot police to quell the protests and there have been casualties on both sides. Whether we like it or not, this is democracy in action and unfortunately, these things do not always happen peacefully. I would argue in fact, that something like this could happen anywhere including the United States.
Imagine for a moment if the Occupy movement were to gain strength and some of their more militant members called the others to action. A large group forms, perhaps in their thousands and takes to the streets, calling for the overthrow of the government. How naive would we be, how deluded, to think that the United States government would not take violent and unprecedented action to suppress what it perceives to be a threat to its very existence. Of course, how could they not? Survival is a very strong instinct. They would use the tools available in the panic of the moment; riot police and all the military type hardware that the police possess, purchased for this very contingency. Let’s not forget, squads of heavily armed riot police in American cities, just like those in Ukraine, are trained and equipped specifically to put down civil unrest.
It’s a scary thought, but my point is that a situation like the one unfolding in Kiev could happen anywhere. Until the government of that country starts threatening someone outside of their own borders, then it’s no more our business than it would be the concern of the Ukrainian government if there were riots in Washington or New York. Foreign nations sticking their nose in adds fuel to the fire and gives the locals a false hope that they’ll receive support from abroad when the reality is that they won’t. We need to learn to be objective and understand that interference, even if well intended, can often do more harm than good. Some things are just none of our damn business!
I think what gets me about the NSA eavesdropping is the extent to which nobody cares. Every other day there’s a new Snowden leak and we all just stare into our phones or play on our Facebook as though it’s happening to someone else. At what point do we stop and take a reality check? Secretly… secretly, we all know, we have to. We know that when they say that they are not spying on American citizens, we are being lied to.
The government of the United States is on an obsessive mission to gather as much information about individual Americans as it possibly can and that should raise some questions in the public mind. Is it a good thing? Does it protect us from the bad guys? Should we only fear surveillance when we’ve done something wrong? These are all valid questions and it’s fair to debate them but it should be done in a transparent way and not behind the secretive doors of a nanny state that thinks it knows best.
This is a bipartisan issue if ever there was one. It’s time to stop being distracted and force the issue into the public arena by showing that we think it’s important. The only limits for them now are the technology and that needs to change.
“Japanese fishermen rounded up more than 250 bottlenose dolphins in a secluded cove to kill for meat or sell into a lifetime of captivity, U.S. conservationists warned. The annual hunting of dolphins at Taiji Cove highlights the rift between conservationists worldwide who see it as a bloody slaughter and Japanese who defend it as a local custom. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society first raised the alarm over the plight of the dolphins Friday, saying five separate pods of bottlenose dolphins had been “driven into Taiji’s infamous killing cove.” The group warned that the dolphins would “face a violent and stressful captive selection process. Babies and mothers will be torn from each other’s sides as some are taken for captivity, some are killed, and others are driven back out to sea to fend for themselves.” By the end of Saturday, 25 dolphins had been removed from their pod and taken “to a lifetime of imprisonment,” the group said. One of them died in the process and will be butchered, it said. The dolphins will be kept penned in the cove for another night before the selection process begins again Sunday.”
The captive industry sustains the dolphin drive. For each trained dolphin, the hunters can get upwards of $175,000 while a dead dolphin will only bring about $400-700 for its meat, perhaps less depending on species. The butchered dolphins are most often used in fertilizer.
Aquariums all over the world are the customers for the captured dolphins. Here in the United States, SeaWorld would have you think they have no connection to Taiji but that is not true. In the early 1980′s, SeaWorld began buying dolphins from the Iki Island dolphin drives and then moved onto the Taiji drive fisheries.
This brutality would stop if the likes of SeaWorld were not able to put captured dolphins on display for profit. As long as the captive industry needs new stock for their aquariums, the abuse and slaughter will continue. We can stop it by choosing to spend our entertainment dollars elsewhere.
This Duck Dynasty stuff is starting to get on my nerves. You won’t find a bigger champion of the First Amendment than me but enough is enough. To the supporters who are “Standing by Phil,” let’s have a reality check here (pardon the pun). The person you are defending is not real. It’s a bit like standing up for Captain Kirk whenever William Shatner expresses his personal opinion in public. It’s been documented to the nth degree that Duck Dynasty is nothing more than a carefully choreographed sitcom. That’s the problem with Reality TV; it’s written and produced in such a way as to trick you into believing that it’s real. It’s a TV show folks—just like any other—staged, scripted, and acted. When Phil Robertson the actor gives his opinion, it is just that and not the opinion of Phil Robertson the TV character who only exists on your TV screen. We have no idea what the real Robertson family is like any more than we know what Mr. Shatner is like in the privacy of his home. As a Christian, you assume that they share your ideals of faith and family but you only make that assumption because of what you see on TV. From their perspective, just like when you buy a wooden duck call, you are simply a consumer that needs to be sold on the product they are selling. I hate to break it to you folks but this guy and his family is laughing at YOU all the way to the bank.
The rumors were correct: Holden is finished. General Motors has announced the closure of their factories and will no longer manufacture cars in Australia. Ford has gone, Chrysler, Mitsubishi, and Nissan, all had factories in Australia, all gone. Toyota now has the honor of being the only automaker in Australia, and they will be next because the Abbott Government has sent a very clear message that it doesn’t matter if they fail. Every rivet and every screw, in every car on Australian roads, now put in by an overseas hand.
I’m not a big fan of government bailouts for the auto industry but this is not about saving an Australian icon because we want to be misty eyed and nostalgic. It’s about salvaging what’s left of the Australian manufacturing industry. Once it’s gone, it’s gone and there’s no way to recover it. The machinery, built over decades, sold off for scrap because there’s no one left to buy it. The trade skills of machinists and metalworkers, the toolmakers and engineers, gone forever because there’s no one left that needs them.
We have no way of predicting the future and if ever we find ourselves on the wrong end of a conflict, who will make the vehicles and the other machinery of war? The odds against Australia going to war are remote but then they also were back in 1939. During the Second World War, without the factories and without the trades, there would’ve been no way to resupply our military and Australia today might be a very different place.
The current way of thinking, the myopic reliance on the ANZUS treaty and the American alliance, should be frightening to every educated Australian. Talking big about coalitions and allies when invading small countries is one thing, but if the Americans were at war, with another major power at their throat, the goal would be self-preservation, just as it was for Britain in the Second World War. Australia will be forced to stand on her own, and without a strong manufacturing sector, we are finished. History has taught us lessons and we need to remember them, before it’s too late.
The Affordable Care Act, Obamacare or whatever they happen to be calling it today is in the news again. One thing after another, complaint after complaint, how can something so simple turn into such a mess? The website is functional by all reports but the site is unreliable and intermittent. Everybody from the top down wants to apologize but there’s no changing the fact that for all the money spent, the system should have been better. With that said, we all know it’s a mess but a year from now this’ll be old news so let’s move on.
I’m a champion of affordable health care—not necessarily the Affordable Care Act—but affordable health care in general. I’ve said it before and so have a million other people: why do we have such a screwed up health care system in America? It doesn’t make any sense; it really is so simple that it makes you want to grab the politicians and shake them until they get it. Dozens of other countries have figured out how to deliver excellent health care to their citizens without descending into Communism, middle-class misery or death panels; let’s be realistic here for a moment. Ironically people in those countries often have far more choices in their health care than any American Citizen could ever dream of. Critics talk about the restrictions in Obamacare but gloss over the reality of what we have now. The best plan in America, the gold plated executive level option, still dictates that we can only go to certain doctors who work with certain insurance companies in certain areas. The health coverage in other countries is usually nationwide and virtually every doctor and hospital participates because it’s in their financial interests to do so. In America, the doctor often has no choice but to treat someone within the boundaries of what their particular insurance plan will cover. The insurance companies have entire buildings full of people who assess cases and dictate what’s covered and what’s not. Everybody has heard the horror stories, or seen on TV the cancer patient who couldn’t get a particular drug or treatment because the insurance company denied coverage. At least that person had some coverage; up until the Affordable Care Act, tens of millions of Americans did not even have that!
Let’s think back for a minute, in the days before the Affordable Care Act, there was almost universal agreement in America that the health care system was broken beyond repair. For years, nobody wanted to touch it for fear of upsetting the Conservatives but finally, someone had the nerve to push through the negativity and put something in place. Instead of a simple system like in other countries, our elected representatives chose to give us this circus. It might be broken but we have to give them a chance to fix it because unless we want to emigrate then we have to live with it and hope that it’s just a little bit better than what it replaces. I don’t think it can be much worse.
E-cigs: The Truth Behind the Hype
I’ve been reading a lot about e-cigs lately and see them being pushed as the latest way to stop smoking. Governments around the world are putting on their thinking caps and trying to figure out how to regulate the devices in a classic case of the law trailing the technology. For those who don’t know, e-cigs (or ecig) are the electronic version of the Marlboro. They work by heating up and mixing liquid nicotine with other chemicals that the user then inhales or Vapes. The people selling them like to suggest that the vapor is nothing more harmless than nicotine and water but, as you can imagine, there are a bunch of other chemicals in the mix.
Now it’s entirely possible that e-cigarettes are completely benign and cause no more harm than stubbing a toe; the user is breathing something into their lungs so I’m not sure if that’s the case but people always like to hope. I don’t think it helps the case for safety when e-cigarettes are being made by the same Big Tobacco companies that lied to us for so long.
Health effects aside, what does confuse me is the argument for their continued sale without any type of regulation. All I see lately is people making comments on blogs and at the end of news articles, defending e-cigs as though they’re the greatest thing in the world. The argument usually ends with the provocative question: Would you rather I still be smoking?
How do you respond to something like that? Of course not, smoking causes cancer and destroys more lives than we probably realize so naturally, just about anything is better than that. Here’s the confusing part for me though: You’re still smoking. To think that you’re not is a little bit of the old denial at play and kind of like an alcoholic putting down the whiskey and reaching for a beer; less harmful perhaps but the addiction is still there. Whether it’s admitted to or not, there’s still a physical addiction to a tobacco product (nicotine) and a psychological addiction in the form of a fake cigarette. Just like a real cigarette when you stop using them, there is the feeling of missing out on something and that is what will keep you hooked.
My concern is that this product is being peddled, especially to teenagers, who see them as a safe alternative to cigarettes because that is the message being sent by the advertising and the adults who use them. As someone who smoked for a long time, my other concern is that people are deluding themselves into thinking that they’ve stopped smoking when they haven’t and that creates a situation where it simply drags out the misery. Unless you stop altogether, there’s no easy way out and that’s the plain truth. This is the same product from the same companies repackaged for a new generation. Don’t let them fool you.