20 September 2006

The albatross

A few weeks ago an albatross washed up on the beach. Its carcass was mostly eaten clean away, but its huge wings and beautiful head and beak were still intact. I think this one was a juvenile 'shy albatross', but I'm no expert.

Even now, it is hard to write about it because it was an albatross.

During the past week, several of these washed up, too. This one was still alive, so it was thrown back. Did it live? I don't know.

It is a flathead, sold commonly in Australia as characterless fillets. Those extraordinary eye coverings are called 'iris lappets' or 'ocular flaps'. The fringe-eye flathead has another type.

Like other fish, its life is measured by cm.

A fair-dinkum-Aussie test question

Question for the English test:

Where does the apostrophe go in

Princes Highway

Just when you thought it was safe to eat out in Australia . . .

Australia is looking for British chefs, according to The Australian Visa Bureau in its article, Australia deemed pukka for British chefs (the 'pukka' must have been snuck in by some Indian copywriting-centre chap).

12 September 2006

Denature those chain letters

Below is a chain letter that I just received from a friend in India, an otherwise sensible person. As this letter is a clever mix of sense, stupidity, ignorance (such as Lebanese being a language), phobia, historical fabrication and fact-twisting propaganda, I am posting it here so that you can also see its mixed heritage. Much of it is an almost-copy of an American theocratic-Christian chain letter (typical subject title: Be an American).

As Break the Chain shows: "In 2005, unidentified forwarders adapted the message to appeal to international audiences, with Australian and English versions leading the pack."

Australia's Treasurer Peter Costello, who has spouted his own mix of ignorant propaganda, has been a perfect tie-in for these sentiments, so I've followed this chain letter with his own comments and op-ed, and with my own previously unpublished reply.

Now to the chain-mail letter (exactly as received, including the lurid pink):

Arey somebody get this guy to India and make him PM!!!!!!



Three cheers for Australia

Muslims who want to live under Islamic Sharia law were told on Wednesday to

get out of Australia, as the government targeted radicals in a bid to head off potential terror attacks.

A day after a group of mainstream Muslim leaders pledged loyalty to Australia at a special meeting with Prime Minister John Howard, he and his ministers made it clear that extremists would face a crackdown.

Treasurer Peter Costello, seen as heir apparent to Howard, hinted that some radical clerics could be asked to leave the country if they did not accept that Australia was a secular state and its laws were made by parliament.

"If those are not your values, if you want a country which has Sharia law or a theocratic state, then Australia is not for you," he said on national television.

"I'd be saying to clerics who are teaching that there are two laws governing people in Australia, one the Australian law and another the Islamic law, that is false. If you can't agree with parliamentary law, independent courts, democracy, and would prefer Sharia law and have the opportunity to go to another country, which practices it, perhaps, then, that's a better option," Costello said.

Asked whether he meant radical clerics would be forced to leave, he said those with dual citizenship could possibly be asked to move to the other country.

Education Minister Brendan Nelson later told reporters that Muslims who did not want to accept local values should "clear off".

"Basically, people who don't want to be Australians, and they don't want to live by

Australian values and understand them, well then they can basically clear off," he said. Separately, Howard angered some Australian Muslims on Wednesday by saying he supported spy agencies monitoring the nation's mosques.

United States and Canada..... ARE YOU LISTENING?

Quote: IMMIGRANTS, NOT AUSTRALIANS, MUST ADAPT. Take it or Leave It I am tired of this nation worrying about whether we are offending some individual or their culture. Since the terrorist attacks on Bali, we have experienced a surge in patriotism by the majority of Australians.

However, the dust from the attacks had barely settled when the "politically correct" crowd began complaining about the possibility that our patriotism was offending others. I am not against immigration, nor do I hold a grudge against anyone who is seeking a better life by coming to Australia.

However, there are a few things that those who have recently come to our country, and apparently some born here, need to understand.

This idea of Australia being a multicultural community has served only to dilute our sovereignty and our national identity. As Australians, we have our own culture, our own society, our own language and our own lifestyle.

This culture has been developed over two centuries of struggles, trials and victories by millions of men and women who have sought freedom.

We speak mainly ENGLISH, not Spanish, Lebanese, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, or any other language. Therefore, if you wish to become part of our society, learn the language!

Most Australians believe in God. This is not some Christian, right wing, political push but a fact because Christian men and women, on Christian principles, founded this nation, and this is clearly documented. It is certainly appropriate to display it on the walls of our schools. If God offends you, then I suggest you consider another part of the world as your new home, because God is part of our culture.

We will accept your beliefs and will not question why, all we ask is that you accept ours and live in harmony and peaceful enjoyment with us.

If the Southern Cross offends you, or you don't like "A Fair Go", then you should seriously consider a move to another part of this planet. We are happy with our culture and have no desire to change, and we really don't care how you did things where you came from. By all means keep your culture but do not force it on others.

This is OUR COUNTRY, OUR LAND, and OUR LIFESTYLE, and we will allow you every opportunity to enjoy all this. But once you are done complaining, whining, and

griping about Our Flag, Our Pledge, Our Christian beliefs, or Our Way of Life, I highly encourage you take advantage of one other great Australian freedom,


If you aren't happy here then LEAVE. We didn't force you to come here. You asked to be here. So accept the country YOU accepted.

Pretty easy really, when you think about it. I figure if we all keep passing this to our friends (and enemies) it will also, sooner or later get back to the complainers, lets all try, please.

And then we have our "gutless wonders" in Washington, India and Britain who are afraid to "take a stand"

Now, soldiering onwards! An interview with the Hon Peter Costello MP:
"Australian values, Muslim clerics, anti-Americanism, Telstra"

And the op-ed piece by Peter Costello, exactly as printed (their editing):

"Why the message in Christianity is Australia's heritage", The Sydney Morning Herald, May 31, 2004

Why the message in Christianity is Australia's heritage

May 31, 2004

Church leaders must reassert our core values to arrest the moral decay around us, writes Peter Costello.

When Jesus told his disciples they would be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost part of the Earth, the known world consisted of the Roman Empire - the Mediterranean and surrounds. No one in the Roman world, no one in the Jewish world, knew of Australia.

And yet the teaching of Jesus came to Australia. It took nearly 18 centuries. And we can pinpoint quite accurately the first time the Christian faith was preached on Australian soil. It was preached by the Reverend Richard Johnson, chaplain of the First Fleet, on Sunday, February 3, 1788, under a large tree in Sydney. His text was from Psalm 116 Verse 12: "What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?"

This was the critical and decisive event that shaped our country.

If the Arab traders that brought Islam to Indonesia had brought Islam to Australia and settled, or spread their faith, among the indigenous population our country today would be vastly different. Our laws, our institutions, our economy would all be vastly different.

But our society was founded by British colonists. And the single most decisive feature that determined the way it developed was the Judeo-Christian-Western tradition.

As a society, we are who we are, because of that heritage.

I am not sure this is well understood in Australia today. It may be that a majority of Australians no longer believe the orthodox Christian faith. But whether they believe it or not, the society they share is one founded on that faith.

Unfortunately today we see the legacy of our Judeo-Christian traditions fraying all around us. It is almost as if the capital deposit has been drawn down for such regular maintenance that the capital is running out. The maintenance demands are unending. But we are not building up the capital required to service it.

We despair of the moral decay in our community. Drug barons compete for the distribution rights to sell drugs to our children. We see moral decay in much of the rap music which glorifies violence or suicide or exploitation of other people. My partial view of hell is where people pursue their own insatiable gratification at the expense of and to the destruction of others.

We have such a rich heritage but in so many ways it is being squandered.

What should we do?

At this point it is usual for some leading churchman from some well-known denomination to appear in the media to call on the Government to intervene in some way.

I do not want to suggest that there are no initiatives the Government should take. But I do want to suggest that a recovery of faith would go a long way to answering this challenge. And a government cannot, should not, get into that endeavour. If our church leaders could so engage people as to lead them to faith we should be much richer and stronger for it.

The Bible tells the story of the Prophet Elijah who got despondent about the state of decay all around him. He fled to the wilderness. He sat under a juniper tree and asked to die. He felt alone and thought he was the only person left that was true. But the still small voice of God lifted him and told him there were still thousands that had not lowered the knee to the spiritual and moral decay all around him.

And this is the point I would like to make. There are many that have not, in their hearts, acquiesced to the kind of decay which is apparent around us. They do not believe it is right. They earnestly pray for the expansion of faith and yearn for higher standards.

They are law-abiding, taxpaying workers who want their marriages to stay together, their children to grow up to be healthy and useful members of society, and their homes to be happy. They care deeply about our society.

These people will not get their names in the media. They will not be elected to anything. But they are the steadying influence to our society when it shakes with moral turbulence. They embody the character and the traditions of our valuable heritage.

Their inner faith keeps them going. And they join with other citizens who share the blessings that heritage brought to our country, something for which we can all give thanks. And in doing so we determine that we will not take these blessing for granted. We will not become complacent. We will each to our own ability nurture the values which were so important in bringing us to where we are today and which we need so badly to take us on.

This is an edited version of an address given by the Treasurer, Peter Costello, at the National Day of Thanksgiving Commemoration in Melbourne on Saturday.


I sent to this letter to the editors in reply (it was never published).

Subject: Costello's lay preaching

re: "Why the message in Christianity is Australia's heritage" by Peter Costello, May 31, 2004

Arrogant ignorance must be a feature of self-styled moral politicians who equate their religion with their morality. Peter Costello's call to Christian rightists (and their Jewish counterparts) to meddle more than they already have in the nation's politics should be a wake-up call to us here, as there are clearly more intentions to steal democracy from us, as politicians lift up their eyes for guidance, and step on the people's will. Issues like euthanasia have already been decided by this higher authority, so this is not just a ratbag cry for eternal vigilance to rescue some democracy from the Bush-inspired evangelists.

Indeed, Costello's language is inspired by ignorance. He says,

"When Jesus told his disciples they would be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost part of the Earth, the known world consisted of the Roman Empire - the Mediterranean and surrounds."

Yet his known world is as tiny as his mind. Just considering China, for example, he might have the foundations of his attitude to the soul of man and the way he should be governed, shaken to the core.

According to the US Department of Army Handbook on China (CHINACH1.00), China had a highly developed civilization, but it is most interesting to compare the attitude of Christianity to the people, with this:

"Mencius (372-289 B.C.), or Meng Zi, was a Confucian disciple who made major contributions to the humanism of Confucian thought. Mencius declared that man was by nature good. He expostulated the idea that a ruler could not govern without the people's tacit consent and that the penalty for unpopular, despotic rule was the loss of the 'mandate of heaven.'"

The 'known world' in Costello's view shows his own ability to see other points of view, and his interest in looking. His narrowness of outlook and knowledge bears striking resemblance to the world's most powerful man today, a man who prides himself on the narrowness of his outlook, and whose news is filtered for him by his bible-toting staff.

Then, the astounding statement that our nation's critical point of "the critical and decisive event that shaped our country" is a sermon preached by the Reverend Richard Johnson, chaplain of the First Fleet, on Sunday, February 3, 1788, under a large tree in Sydney. would be laughable if it were not pathetic. Bishop Paul Richardson's "Letter from Australia" says,
"When the Pilgrim Fathers landed in New England in 1620 the event was celebrated by prayer and bible reading. By contrast when Governor Phillip landed at Sydney Cove on January 26th, 1788, no religious observance marked the occasion. As one historian described the scene, 'The baptism of the place was performed in libations of liquor and success to the settlement was duly toasted in the flowing bowl.' "

There are many reasons for the failure of the churches to establish themselves at the heart of Australian national life. Settlement began after the Enlightenment had undermined faith in revealed religion. A large proportion of the early settlers were convicts and the Anglican clergy were part of the unsympathetic establishment. One of the first Anglican clergymen to work in New South Wales, the Rev. Samuel Marsden, was popularly known as the 'flogging parson'. Australia acquired the reputation of being 'the most godless country on earth'."

Costello's view could be dismissed, if it weren't so dangerous. His reference to Judea and Samaria is a key to understanding the Australian government's attitude to the landgrab and atrocities committed in the name of Greater Israel, a cruel folly perpetrated under the banner of "God gave it to us". This religious fanaticism is a crucial part of the severe problems we face today, as religious moralists try to shape the world to fit their fanaticisms.

In fact, millions of us should demand an apology for the assumption in Costello's statement, "There are many that have not, in their hearts, acquiesced to the kind of decay which is apparent around us...Their inner faith keeps them going."

As an alternative to Costello's political/moral view, I urge Australians to look again, north, towards India now, where 350 million people recently voted. The mandate was for secularism. And though Indians clearly haven't seen they light, they can't ALL be bad.

(signed) a non-drug-dealing, non-rap-musical, irreligious democrat,
(name, etc.)


Well, that's about it for this post, except to say that the next time you get this sort of stuff sent to you, denature it.

But let's not end with a sermon, but a bit of poetry:

They say that things on earth awry
Will straighten out beyond the sky,
And what we know as margarine
Will rank as butter by-and-by.

A.G. Stevens, 'Hard Lines', in The Pearl and the Octopus (1911)

08 September 2006

Diaphanies: Native indigo and bee

One of the loveliest sights of spring, the flowering native indigo.

Botanical Name: Indigophora australis Family Name: Fabaceae

Native bees are much smaller than these. You can read all about Australia's honey industry and the many honeys from native trees and plants here.