Corrections to the blogosphere, the consensus, and the world

Monday, August 27, 2007

Buffy the script

Have just read the original script to Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the movie)and god, it's good. Leading to the twin thoughts "How in the name of god did the actual film manage to blow all the good lines?" and "Why doesn't somebody do a remake?"
SMG may have aged too much to carry it off by this time (I'd be prepared to cut her quite a bit of slack, mind) but even without her it's a winner.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Age bin

Howard tells us that “An Australian renaissance, with a new synthesis of aspiration and fairness, has taken shape.” A very Australian renaissance indeed; without Leonardo (scientists have had their funding cut), Michelangelo (artists ditto), or Pico della Mirandola (philosophers won’t get funded until they stop talking about ethics). I suppose, to be fair, that we’ve had rather a lot of Machiavelli, and much of the country is run by merchant bankers....

Friday, August 17, 2007

Age bin

Tony Abbott thinks that "If something is off the record, it in effect doesn't exist and there's nothing wrong with denying something that didn't exist." I’ve heard that logic before, only the other way round; not only is an unofficial announcement officially nonexistent, if it’s an official announcement then what it says must be the case. Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera The Mikado sets out the logic; “It's like this: When your Majesty says, "Let a thing be done," it's as good as done — practically, it is done — because your Majesty's will is law. Consequently, why not say so?” Let’s face it, that’s been the nature of most announcements of Howard government achievements over the last term. Howard announces that the government’s going to win in Iraq/solve the Aboriginal question/defeat the terrorists/lower interest rates/reform IR, and everybody reports it as if it’s actually happened.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Dad's ASIO file

To; Director, Victoria; Director-general
From; Director, NSW
Subject: BORTHWICK family
It is desired to establish the relationship between the following persons;
(a) Eve Mary BORTHWICK nee SAGE
Born 9.5.1888, Gawler Park, SA
(b) Barbara Joan BORTHWICK
born 9.4.1922, Sale, Vic
born 11.9.1925, Kilmany, Vic
(d) Alexander Hay BORTHWICK,
born 3.1.1919, Warragul, Vic

2. It would appear that (a) is the mother of (b), (c), and (d). However, as all the females mentioned have been adverselt noted ffor their association with the persons of interest here, and as Alexander Hay BORTHWICK has been appointed Official Secretary to the Assistant High Commissioner for Australia in Colombo, I would be glad if you could do this and inform me of the result.

10/10/1951, Canberra
Memorandum – Secret
Department of External Affairs (overseas staff)
1. Attached please find personal particulars forms in respect to the staff of the Department of External Affairs who are at present serving overseas. A special check is required in each case.
2. It is requested that the forms related to NSW be forwarded to the Regional Director NSW.
3. Your attention is drawn to the case of A.H. BORTHWICK at present stationed in Colombo. Certain members of his family are on record, but BORTHWICK before his appointment to Colombo personally informed the permanent Head of his Department that some members of his family were not regarded favourably from a political point of view and that he entirely repudiated their views. Again, when completing his personal particulars form he wrote a personal letter to the Secretary of the Department disclaiming any associations with the political views of his family.
4. BORTHWICK is known to members of this Office and he is highly regarded in Canberra.
5. This information is placed before you in order that BORTHWICK’s outlook and reactions to the views of other members of his family should be known to you.

Peter Gilbert
Regional Director, ACT

Memorandum for Regional Director for ACT
Alexander Hay BORTHWICK
Dept. of External Affairs
The abovenamed, who is at present in Colombo, was submitted for a Special Check.
2. In this case, there are certain adverse factors relating to an association between Mrs. Eve BORTHWICK, subject mother, and Mark YOUNGER. There is evidence also that some members of the BORTHWICK family are probable communists.
3. It now requires to complete the case some summary of any adverse facts that may be known as affecting BORTHWICK himself and his activities as far as they are ascertainable in ACT.
4. Please investigate and report.


Memorandum for Regional Director for ACT
Alexander Hay BORTHWICK
Dept. of External Affairs
Reference is made to my memo dated 13 December 1952.
2. No reply appears to have been received at Headquarters andd it would be appreciated if this could be expedited.
3. BORTHWICK was submitted for a Special Check for the Department of External Affairs in his position as Second Secretary at the Australian High Commission on Colombo.


Attorney-General’s Department
D Branch
Memorandum for Headquarters ASIO
Alexander Hay BORTHWICK
Dept. of External Affairs
1. Please refer to your memorandum of 28 August 1952.
2. Nothing adverse concerning BORTHWICK is known in Canberra and for your guidance we are forwarding copy of our memorandum of 13th October, 1951, in which BORTHWICK repudiates his family’s political views.

Regional Director, ACT

12/9/1951, Colombo
Office of the Commissioner for Australia, Colombo
Dear Charles,
I sent down for you last week a form of personal return called for because of the Department’s evident need to have a proper account of the background of its members. I should add for the record though more informally that my mother’s address, 121 Cook Street, Centennial Park, is also the address of my brother-in-law and sister (Mr. & Mrs. W. Simcox). This is only relevant because both, as far as I know, are enrolled members off the Communist Party, not that I believe that that organization would profit much from the support he is able to give, being remarkable for a certain allegiance to preconceived ideas and not for his natural abilities. My mother was associated for a little while with the Sydney Peace Committee until affected by justified doubts of its truly pacific intentions. Before leaving Australia I had acquainted the then Head of Department with these circumstances. It may be necessary to do so at this stage though I might also mention I have five other brothers and sisters whose political associations between them complete the political spectrum, and their views have no necessary effect on my own. With McLeans [sic] and Burgers [sic] dotted about and for all one knows an equivalent to Canada’s spy ring remaining to be detected in Australia, you ought to have this information, though one might hope you do not find it significant.
Yours sincerely
Alex Borthwick

Memorandum for Headquarters ASIO
Alexander Hay BORTHWICK
Dept. of External Affairs
1. As requested in attached minute, we are now forwarding a copy of the personal letter written by Mr. BORTHWICK to the Secretary of his Department.
2. Further, we have advised the Department of External Affairs that BORTHWICK is not adversely recorded.
3. We have now received a request from the Department of External Affairs for a records check on BORTHWICK’s sister Janet. Confidentially, we have been informed that Miss BORTHWICK is on the same side of the fence as her brother.

Regional Director for ACT.

Memorandum for Headquarters ASIO (Director B2)
Alexander Hay BORTHWICK
Dept. of External Affairs
1. Your reference B/3/4.
2. At an interview with Mr. CUMPSTON on the 11th November, 1953, he stated that Mr. A.H. BORTHWICK of the Department of External Affairs whilst Third Secretary of the Australian High Commissioner’s Office in Wellington about 1947, had switched all Australian High Commissioner’s book orders to a shop called ‘Modern Books’, the proprietor of which is a Mr. NUNES, an acknowledged Communist. Mr. CUMPSTON said that BORTHWICK subsequently went to Colombo and is now posted in Canberra.
3. Note: This is the BORTHWICK who dissociated himself from members of his family, who are known communists, in a personal letter to the Department of External Affairs.

Regional Director for ACT.

18/6/1954, Canberra
Alexander Hay Borthwick
Mother friendly with YOUNGER
Relative of Kath KNAGGS
Wrote letter to External Affairs disclaiming any connection with Communism and the politics of the remainder of his family
Stated that in 1947 BORTHWICK as third secretary in New Zealand had switched all high Commissioner’s book orders to a shop which was owned by an openly avowed communist.
Thought to have attended a party given by GW LEGGE.
Accepted an invitation to attend Soviet national Day Celebrations at Hotel Canberra, 1955.
Recommendation – There is a family connection with communism and it is considered that BORTHWICK should be subject to further inquiry.

15/9/1954, Canberra
Department of External Affairs
The Regional Director,
“D” Branch,
Attorney-General’s Department
With reference to my memoranda of 9th January, 1953 and 9 March, 1953, and to your memorandum of 7 April 1953, I should be grateful if you would advise the present position in respect of the security clearance requested for AH BORTHWICK of this Department.
JK Waller,
Assistant Secretary.

Memorandum for Regional Director for ACT
Alexander Hay BORTHWICK- Vetting
With reference to your memorandum of 14 September, 1954, please be advised that subject person is not adversely recorded in the files of this Organization.
2. As subject’s family connections may possibly bring him to notice in the future it is considered advisable to retain the file for the present.


3/6/1963, Canberra
Headquarters, ASIO
BORTHWICK, Alexander Hay
The following is an extract from page 1717 of the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette dated 9/5/1963;
BORTHWICK, Alexander Hay
Present Designation – External Affairs Officer, Grade 3 (£2,293-2,488) Third division
Position to which promoted – External Affairs Officer, Grade 4 (£2,553-2878) Third division
Duties – Deputy Head of Mission at certain posts and senior political and economic adviser to Head of Mission. Attend in representative capacity at other than major international conferences.

Alexander Hay BORTHWICK
BORTHWICK is currently serving as Councillor in the Australian Embassy, Thailand. Although not always sympathetic to ASIOs point of view he has not expressed anti-ASIO views or done anything of security interest. He was not particularly co-operative while Mr. Colin BROWN was arranging courses for the Provincial Police. His attitude would best be described as neutral.
BORTHWICK has nine children, which may contribute to the vague and indefinite manner which surrounds his actions. Allegedly a highly intelligent officer he does not give the impression of being in tangible touch with reality. In this regard the Australian community accepts his presence with a certain puzzled resignation. In dealing with basic fundamentals he demonstrates an unawareness regarding proportions and perspectives; however, he is astute enough when it comes to questions concerning the Embassy directly and could never be treated as a dull fool.
Michael Boyle

Memorandum for Regional Director ACT
BORTHWICK, Alexander Hay
1. Please refer to request by Regional Director, ACT, for Top Secret check concerning the abovementioned.
2. Subject is recorded under [deleted], Operation [deleted]. He is not traceable under this reference and enquiries with Headquarters have also proved negative.
3. His sister, Barbara Simcocks, is similar in name to Barbara Joan BORTHWICK who in 1949 was reported as an alleged C. P. of A. member and to have held meetings under cover of the name of the University Extension Board at the home of Morris FRIEDMAN at Hamilton, Victoria on 28 August 1956. She has never been identified and is not otherwise recorded.
4. Patrick Spence BORTHWICK – brother – appeared on an Army list in 1948 as a probable ACP member. He returned his RSL badge. He died on 28th January 1959. This file is now marked for destruction.

Regional Director, Victoria

24/10/1966, Sydney
Alexander Hay BORTHWICK
Subject of Top Secret Review for External Affairs
1. Vettee is not personally recorded.
2. Vettee’s sister, Barbara SIMCOCKS, is the subject of NSW file 3/13/15.
3. Please refer to NSW memo 4584 which contains an assessment of Barbara Joan SIMCOCKS and concludes as follows;
“Clearance is not recommended”.
4. Please refer to Headquarters memo 2307 to PSI dated 26th February, 1963, headed Barbara Joan SIMCOCKS. This memo reads in part
“Please be advised that there is no security objection to the appointment of the abovenamed person as a Social Worker (temporary) with the Department of Social Services.
For your information, Subject is recorded as follows:
(a) it is reliably reported in 1952 that Barbara Joan SIMCOCKS nee BORTHWICK and her husband, Francis William SIMCOCKS, were members of the Communist Party of Australia.
(b) Earlier items of information held regarding Mrs. SIMCOCKS gavee the impression that she was a communist sympathizer in 1949 and 1950.
5. Vettee’s sister has not subsequently come to notice.
6. It is considered that there are insufficient grounds to maintain an objection in this case.

9/11/1966, Canberra
To; The Secretary,
Department of External Affairs

(a) TOP SECRET CHECK 32314 of 9 November, 1966, has been completed.
(b) There is no security objection to subject having access to matter classified TOP SECRET


Friday, August 10, 2007


Kevin Drum complains that
BY THE WAY: Am I the only person driven up a tree by newspaper reporters who insist on using "more than four out of ten," "close to a quarter," "nearly three-fifths," and so forth when they write stories like this? I mean, is that even remotely helpful? Is there anyone on the planet who's going to understand terms like that who doesn't also understand a simple percentage? Wouldn't it be more helpful (and more accurate) to present all the numerical data the same way so that it's easier to compare?

Mmmm. When I went through math back in the dark ages I was taught that, yes, there was an important difference between one-fourth and 25% - if you said "25%" you meant "more than 24.5% and less than 25.5%", while if you said "one-fourth" you meant "less than one-third and more than one-fifth"; error bars 13 times as large. And given that one-in-a-hundred accuracy is in practical terms much higher than I would expect of almost any claim in public life I rather prefer the laxer format. The use of percentages seems calculated to attach an unfounded aura of scientificity - as in last night's TV, an ad claiming "seventy percent of Australians are affected by cholesterol"

Thursday, August 09, 2007


From Angry Bear:

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Reader Chrisb On Waste in the US Economy

Hoisted from comments, this from Chrisb:

Yeah, yeah, the system's stuffed, but that's a problem for you yanks. What I as an Australian want to ask you, as economists, is how America can have a competitive economy under these constraints. You have approximately 1% of the population in gaol and another 1% looking after them, 2% of the population in the prison system where most other nations have at the outside 1%; that's pure loss. You have a military that's between .6% and 1.2% of the population, depending on how you count reserves, and that's what, 2-3% of GNP? in any case, vastly higher than any other developed country. In other words, between the correctional system and the military you're taking about 5% of GNP and pissing it up against the wall, compared to 2% everywhere else. And you're still surviving and under some measures almost thriving. Is the US economic system really 3% better than anywhere else, allowing you to compete on a more or less even footing? I've never seen an economist address the point, and it's driving me crazy.

My comments...
1. Why do people continue to bring up this fictional "Australia"?
2. I suspect this 3% we're pissing away is partly made up, or more likely completely made up and then some, but the fact that the dollar is still the world's defacto currency. A lot of dollars get printed by the Fed - which means given to the Treasury (in exchange for bonds) for the Federal government to spend - which after a bit of time end up in pallets in the home of a Columbian drug lord or in a plastic bag 2 feet below the ground outside the home of Bhuttanese yak herder. By virtue of being taken out of circulation after it gets spent by the Federal government, that dollar can be spent without contributing to inflation, allowing for more monetary stimulus at very very low cost. And the demand for that dollar by Colmbian drug lords and Bhuttanese yak herders, to say nothing of the Central Banks all over the world, keeps the interest (i.e., rent on that dollar) low... allowing for more fiscal stimulus at very very low cost. Lots of stimulus with no associated pain means lots of growth.
3. Its possible the big military is part of the reason the dollar is still the world's de facto currency.
4. No currency stays the world's de facto currency forever. A hundred years ago, the pound sterling is where the dollar is now. And it wasn't pretty for a long time in England when the pound sterling got pushed off its perch.

posted by cactus at 9:55 PM | Comments (17) | Trackback (0)

Monday, August 06, 2007

Age bin

In today’s Age David Medcalf suggests that it might be OK to sell uranium to India if we require them to sign up to “a strictly defensive nuclear posture based on no first use”. I’m not actually in favour of shipping potential explosives into what is still a war zone, but I must say that the Indians could quite rightly accuse us of hypocrisy if we put caveats on their shipments that we don’t apply to our other favoured clients. The USA has always been absolutely forthright that it reserves the right to first use, and we don’t seem to mind a bit. Indeed, the Republican presidential candidates are currently competing with each other to be the most enthusiastic about using nuclear weapons on Iran, and even the Democrats are debating the merits of using nuclear weapons against Bin Laden’s bases in Pakistan. If the US can bomb Pakistan without Australian objecting, India might reasonably ask, why can’t we?

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