Corrections to the blogosphere, the consensus, and the world

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


So John Howard emphasizes the need for a balanced reaction to climate change. I can’t help wondering how Australia would have fared if he had been prime minister in 1941 instead of Curtin.

“My opponents argue that today Australians face one overriding challenge: the Japanese invasion. Yes, the Japanese invasion is a major priority of the Government. At the same time, we know independent action by Australia will not materially affect this war. Australia kills fewer Japanese soldiers in a year than the United States or China do in a month. Do we need to reduce the Japanese threat over time? Of course we do. But to say that the invasion is the overwhelming moral challenge for this generation of Australians is misguided at best, misleading at worst. Other challenges are just as real and pressing. This single-minded concentration on invasion feeds ideological demands for knee-jerk policy reactions that would destroy jobs and the living standards of ordinary Australians….”

Roll on November.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Commonplace book: misc

“Every man for himself and God for us all”
as the elephant said when it danced among the chickens.

When the bankrupt Duke of Buckingham was told that his means no longer permitted him to keep an Italian confectioner, as well as a French chef and an English roasting-cook, he exclaimed, in natural horror, “Good Gad! Mayn’t a man have a biscuit with his glass of sherry?”

The stoical scheme of supplying our wants by lopping off our desires, is like cutting off our feet, when we want shoes.”
Jonathan Swift

It is the business of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to distribute a certain amount of human misery; and the man who distributes it most equally is the best Chancellor.
Robert Lowe

Commonplace book: Plantagenet law

I have laboured to make a covenant with my self, that affection may not press upon judgment; for I suppose there is no man that hath any apprehension of gentry or nobleness, but his affection stands to the continuance of so noble a name and house, and would take hold of a twig or twine-thread to uphold it: and yet time hath his revolution, there must be a period and end of all temporal things, finis rerum, an end of names and dignities, and whatever is terrene, and why not of De Vere ?

For where is Bohun ? where's Mowbray ? where's Mortimer ? &c. Nay, which is more and most of all, where is Plantagenet ? they are intombed in the urnes and sepulchres of mortality.

Crew CJ in Lord Willoughby of Eresby's Case (1625) W. Jones 96, 82 ER 50,

Commonplace Book: Kingsley Amis

To find his sexual drives had ceased
For Sophocles was no disaster;
He said he felt like one released
From service with a cruel master.

I envy him – I miss the lash
At which I used to snort and snivel;
Oh that its unremitted slash
Were still what makes me drone and drivel!

Christmas 1993


Christmas, birthday, new year; anniversaries whose only value to the bitter and twisted
Is to enable the year’s disappointments to be listed
As an aid to prospective parents deciding this is no world to bring a child in to
However ineffective this propaganda has in the past been (and yes, Toz, Kath, Janet, and Prudence, we’re looking at you).
Rose has finished her book on facilitated communication training to be published in January by Columbia University (Teacher’s College Press)
Which she sees as inadequate compensation for DEAL being defunded by Kennett and having its approaches to Howe for alternatives meeting with no success;
Anne has been hounded into conformity with the pretentious and enervated shibboleths of academic self-congratulation
To the point of finishing her degree and facing graduation;
Chris kept on with occasional research and report work for VicHealth
Leading him to VicWisdom but unfortunately not VicWealth;
The cat was rushed trembling in a carrybag to the vet to be treated for a damaged paw,
And the house itself suffered severely from prolapse of the bathroom floor.
Still, I couldn’t say it was all bad (with my memory, there may have been wonderful things happen that I can’t remember)
And I shouldn’t speak ill of the dead year, and it is already December,
And so we hope you all finish 1993 in a manner appropriate alike to the optimistic and the bitter and twisted
By getting thoroughly pissted.

Chris Borthwick
December 8, 1993

Commonplace book: Larkin's letters

Faint heart never fucked the pig

Life is its own justification, of course: except in cases where it isn’t, of course.

I am a corpse eaten out with envy, impotence, failure, envy, boredom, sloth, snobbery, envy, incompetence, inefficiency, laziness, lechery, envy, fear, baldness, bad circulation, bitterness, bittiness, envy, sycophancy, deceit, nostalgia, et cetera…

I have my little depressions and fits of spleen, certainly, but nothing like the flu has touched me; boredom, yes, irritation, with all my heart, but nothing requiring tablets.

Looking back on my first 40 years, I think what strikes me most is that hardly any of the things that are supposed to happen or be so in fact happen or are so. What little happens or is so isn’t at all expected or agreeable. And I don’t feel that everything could have been different if only I’d acted differently – to have acted differently I should need to have felt differently, to have been different, which means going back years and years, out of my lifetime. In a way I feel I am still waiting for life to start – for all these things that are supposed to occur as a matter of course.

You can’t dip litmus into poems and say whether they are bad or good; you can say whether or not people like them but even if people don’t, this still doesn’t negate the pleasure one has take in writing them. Still, some poems are by common consent ‘good’, so are these? Well, I should say that they just don’t begin to be poems in the professional sense any more than your dancing or golf or piano playing would be professional unless you really worked at them. A poem is a highly professional artificial thing, a verbal device designed to reproduce a thought or emotion indefinitely; it should have no dead parts, and every word should be completely unchangeable and unmoveable. Your poems are hit or miss, rather verbose affairs, remarkably articulate and at times vivid but essentially conversation, not poems. Someone once defined poems as ‘heightened speech’; does that suggest my meaning? Features such as metre and rhyme help this heightening; they aren’t just put in to make it more difficult to do.

We judge a writer by the resonance of his despair.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Joshua Frydenberg quotes “Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, constantly on guard against those who seek to destabilise his regime” as saying “Shiites are mostly always loyal to Iran and not the countries where they live.” Am I the only one who sees echoes here of the slanders of disloyalty traditionally levelled at Jews (and, occasionally Catholics)? I can see why Mubarak would push this line – he is, after all, aware that “those who seek to destabilise his regime” include, among others, the bulk of the population of Egypt, and any scapegoat is better than none – but I’m still surprised to see Australians parroting it.

If you want to avoid destabilising the Middle East, don’t invade Iraq (or Lebanon). If you want to control nuclear proliferation, start with the one power in the region that already has nuclear weapons. If you want a serious debate, don’t begin by creating bogeymen about the Protocols of the Elders of Qom.

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