[The following appeared in a facebook quote.  I’m reposting it here in accordance with the author’s (Dr David Pascoe BVSc PhD OVH Repro) request that it be shared widely.  It was first published in December, 2014, yet it is sadly even more relevant today.]Image may contain: 2 people

Dear Men and Women of Australia,

There are two photographs on this page, and they almost look like father and daughter. One is of a young woman, the other is of an elderly man.

The photograph of the woman was taken in the Great Depression of 1934. Her name was Florence Owens Thompson, a 32 year old mother of seven children who was sitting homeless in a tent. The photograph was published in the newspapers of America and it enraged the nation, because people could not believe that Americans could be treated in such a way. It forced President Roosevelt to act, to step up and become a leader for his times: he launched soup kitchens, work gangs, programs for the homeless, dams and roads and railways were built – and he gave his people hope.

John Steinbeck later wrote a book called The Grapes of Wrath which became an American literary Icon. It was about a drought that made the farmers penniless – and how the banks had forced them off their land so they could sell it on o the big corporations. What happened to the farmers of Oklahoma carved a deep and shameful scar across the American identity that was felt throughout the Twentieth Century.

The second photograph on this page is of Charlie Phillott, 87, an elderly farmer from Carisbrooke Station at Winton. He has owned his station since 1960, nurtured it and loved it. He is a grand old gentleman, one of the much loved fathers of his community.

Not so long ago, the ANZ bank came and threw him off his station because the drought had devalued his land and they told him he was considered an unviable risk. Yet he has never once missed a single mortgage payment.

Today, Charlie Phillott, Grand Old Man of the West, is living like a hunted down refugee in Winton, shocked and humiliated and penniless. And most of all, Charlie Phillott is ashamed, because as a member of the Great Generation – those fine and decent and ethical men and women who built this country – he believes that what happened to him was somehow his own fault. And the ANZ Bank certainly made sure they made him feel like that.

Last Friday my wife Heather and I flew up with Alan Jones to attend the Farmers Last Stand drought and debt meeting. And after what I saw being done to our own people, I have never been more ashamed to be Australian in my life.

What is happening out there is little more than corporate terrorism: our own Australian people are being bullied, threatened and abused by both banks and mining companies until they are forced off their own land.

So we must ask: is this simply to move the people off their land and free up it up for mining by foreign mining companies or make suddenly newly empty farms available for purchase by Chinese buyers? As outrageous as it might seem, all the evidence flooding in seems to suggest that this is exactly what is going on.

What is the role of Government in all of this? Why have both the State and Federal Government stood back and allowed such a dreadful travesty to happen to our own people? Where was Campbell Newman on this issue? Where was Prime Minister Abbott? The answer is nowhere to be seen.

For the last few months, The Prime Minister has warned against the threats of terrorism to our nation. We have been alerted to ISIS and its clear and present danger to the Australian people.

Abbott has despatched Australian military forces into the Middle East in an effort to destroy this threat to our own safety and security. This mobilization of our military forces has come at a massive expense to the average Australian taxpayer which the Prime Minister estimates to be around half a billion dollars each year.

We are told that terrorism is dangerous not only because of the threat to human life but also because it displaces populations and creates the tragedy and massive human cost of refugees.

Yet not one single newspaper or politician in this land has exposed the fact that the worst form of terrorism that is happening right now is going on inside the very heartland of our own nation as banks and foreign mining companies are deliberately forcing our own Australian farmers off the land.

What we saw in the main hall of the Winton Shire Council on Friday simply defied all description: a room filled with hundreds of broken and battered refuges from our own country. And all over the inland of both Queensland and NSW, there is nothing but social and financial carnage on a scale never before witnessed in this nation.

It was 41 degrees when we touched down at the Winton airport, and when you fly in low over this landscape it is simply Apocalyptic: there has not been a drop of rain in Winton for two years and there is not a sheep, a cow, a kangaroo, an emu or a bird in sight. Even the trees in the very belly of the creeks are dying.

There is little doubt that this is a natural disaster of incredible magnitude – and yet nobody – neither state nor the federal government – is willing to declare it as such.

The suicide rate has now reached such epic proportions right across the inland: not just the farmer who takes the walk “ up the paddock” and does away with himself but also their children and their wives. Once again, it has barely been covered by the media, a dreadful masquerade that has assisted by the reticence and shame of honourable farming families caught in these tragic situations.

My wife is one of the toughest women I know. Her family went into North West of Queensland as pioneers one hundred years ago: this is her blood country and these are her people . Yet when she stood up to speak to this crowd on Friday she broke down: she told me later that when she looked into the eyes of her own people, what she saw was enough to break her heart

And yet not one of us knew it was this bad, this much of a national tragedy. The truth is that these days, the Australian media basically doesn’t give a damn. They have been muzzled and shut down by governments and foreign mining companies to the extent that they are no longer willing to write the real story. So the responsibility is now left to people like us, to social media – and you, the Australian people.

And so the banks have been free to play their games and completely terrorise these people at their leisure. The drought has devalued the land and the banks have seen their opportunity to strike. It was exactly the excuse that they needed to clean up and make a fortune, because once the rains come – as they always do – this land will be worth four to ten times the price.

In fact, when farmers have asked for the payout figures, the banks have been either deeply reluctant or not capable of providing the mortgage trail because they have on-sold the mortgage – just like sub-prime agriculture.

This problem isn’t simply happening in Winton, but rather right across the entire inland across Queensland and NSW. The banks have been bringing in the police to evict Australian famers and their families from their farms, many of them multigenerational. One farmer matter of factly told us it took “oh, about 7 police” to evict him from his first farm and “maybe about twelve” to evict him from his second farm which had been in his family for many generations. You think they are kidding you. Then you see the expression in their eyes.

And there was something far worse in the room on Friday: the fear of speaking out against the banks: when we asked people to tell us who had done this to them, they would immediately start to shake and cry and look away: They have been silenced to protect the good corporate image of their tormentors called the banks. What in God’s name have the bastard banks been allowed to do to our people?

This is a travesty against the rights and the human dignity of every Australian

So it’s only fair that we start to name a few of major banks involved: The ANZ is a major culprit (and they made $7 billion profit last year). Then there is Rabo, which is now owned by Westpac (who paid CEO Gail Kelly a yearly salary of some $12 million) According to all reports, the NAB is right in there at the trough as well – and all the rest of them are equally guilty. For any that we have missed, rest assured they will be publicly exposed as well

But here’s the thing: when these people are forced off their farms, they have nowhere to go. There are no refugee services waiting, such is the case for those who attempt to enter the sovereign borders of this nation. The farmers simply drive to the nearest town – that’s if the banks haven’t stripped their cars off them as well – and they try and find somewhere to sleep. Some are sleeping on the backs of trucks in swags. There is basically no home or accommodation made available to take them. They camp out, shocked and broken and penniless – and they are living on weet bix and noodles. If there is someone that can lend a family enough money to buy food, they will: otherwise they are left completely alone.

And consider this: not one of them has asked for help. Not one. They just do the best they can, ashamed and broken and brainwashed by the banks to believe that everything that has happened is completely their own fault

There is not one single word of this from a politicians lips, with the exception of the incredibly courageous father and son team of Bob and Robbie Katter, who organised the Farmers Last Stand meeting. The Katter family have been in the North since the 1890’s, and nobody who sat in that hall last Friday could question their love and commitment to their own people.

There is barely a mention of any of this as well in the newspapers, with the exception of as brief splash of publicity that followed our visit.

The Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce attended the meeting in a bitter blue-funk kind of mood that saw him mostly hunched over and staring at the floor. He had given $100 million of financial assistance in a lousy deal where the Government will borrow at 2.75% and loan it back at 3.21%.

The last thing these people need is another loan: they need a Redevelopment Bank to refinance their own loans: issuing a loan to pay off a loan is nothing more than financial suicide.

The reality is that Joyce cannot get support from what he calls “the shits in Cabinet” to create a desperately needed Redevelopment Bank so that these farmers can get cheap loans to tide them through to the end of the drought.

Our sources suggest that those “shits in Cabinet” include Malcolm Turnbull – Minister for Communications and the uber-cool trendy city-centric Liberal in the black leather jacket:, Andrew Robb – Minster for Trade and Investment and the man behind the free trade deal, the man who suddenly acquired three trendy Sydney restaurants almost overnight, the man who seems to suddenly desperate to sell off our farms to China – and one Greg Hunt, Environment Minister and the man who is instantly approving almost every single mining project that is put in front of him.

At the conclusion of the meeting, we stood and met some of the people in the crowd. My wife talked to women who would hug her for dear life, and when they walked away people would suddenly murmur “oh, she was forced off last week” or “they are being forced off tomorrow” . Not one of them mentioned it to us. They had too much pride.

The Australian people need to be both informed and desperately outraged about what is being done to our own people. This is about every right that was once held dear to us: human rights, property rights, civil rights. And most all, our right to freedom of speech. All of that has been taken away from these people – and the rest of us need to understand that we are probably next.

In the last four weeks the Newman Government has removed all farmers rights to protest to a mine and given mining companies the rights to take all the water they want from the Great Artesian Basin – and at no cost to them at all.

And all of this has happened under the watch of both Premier Newman and Prime Minister Abbott.

Until Friday, we used to think of Winton as the home of Waltzing Matilda: it was written at a local station and first performed in the North Gregory Hotel. I think it was Don McLean who wrote, “something touched me deep inside…the day the music died”… in his song American Pie, and for us, last Friday was the day music died.

We will never be able to sing Waltzing Matilda again until we see some justice for these people, and all the farmers of the inland.

This is no longer the Australia we once knew: no longer our country, no longer our people, no longer the decent caring leaders we once remembered.

Right now, the banks, the mining mates, the corrupt politicians and all the ‘mongrels in suits’ have won – and the Australian people don’t have a clue what has been done to them.

Like the American Depression and the iconic photograph of Florence Owens Thompson, there is a terrible, gaping wound that has been carved across the heartland of this nation.

We need to fully grasp that, and to understand that our people – dignified, decent and honourable old men like Charlie Phillott – have been deliberately terrorized, brutalised – and sold out.

So if we are ever going to do something, then we’d better realise that its two minutes to midnight – so we’d better move fast.



Please share this as widely as you can across Australia. You are now the only truthful means we have to spread the message.
Contact politicians, contact newspapers, radio and television stations. Demand that your voice is heard.

Charlie Phillott (left) The Australian December 2014: 
Florence Owens Thompson (Dorthea Lange) March 1936 (originally photographed in b&w)

Chicken Liberal*

My friend, neighbor, and fellow-activist Garry Muratore posted this earlier today on his facebook page.  I’m re-sharing it here, with his kind permission, for the greater good of all mankind1.  The item you see in the photo appeared in a local paper in Jersey, UK. 

*Additionally, the reader not acquainted with British or Australian politics must understand that the Liberal National Party are only liberal when it comes to corporations. In all other respects, they tend to espouse right-wing (social) policy.  Garry’s comments allude to items that have appeared in the media2 over the past few months.

Imagine if this was happening here in Victoria. If it did it would go something like this……

Liberal Opposition Leader Matthew Guy would claim chicken crime up 72% since Labor came to office and if elected in November his government would show zero tolerance to chicken gangs.

The Herald Sun3 would devote 27 front pages to chicken gangs and somehow tie them to John Sekta and the CFMEU. Several editorials will question “why are the courts soft on chickens.”

Local State LNP MP’s would use tax-payer funded printing to letterbox hundreds of suburbs claiming “Labor plan to build more coups, is your suburb next?”

Peter Dutton4 goes on Sydney’s 2GB telling Ray Hadley, people in Melbourne are scared to go out due to fear of chicken gangs.

Pauline Hansen5 will call a press conference pointing out that chicken is Halal (wake up people!)

KFC6 would receive a $2 Billion contract to process rogue chickens on some Pacific Island. The ABC7 would be banned from visiting.

The Panama Papers would reveal that Malcolm Turnbull8 has huge investments in poultry related technology companies. All profits are declared in the Bahamas.



“Rounding Corrections”, by Sandra Haynes, and “The Floor”, by Melissa Hall

Passing these along from the folks at io9 on planet Gizmodo:

What might life be like in a future where every citizen was guaranteed a universal basic income? Two very good short stories imagine the sociological and cultural changes that might happen, in poignant and chilling ways. One of them was good enough to earn a sizable cash prize and you can read it now.


Meltdown and Spectre: What they are, who’s affected, and what’s being done about them

ArsTechnica has a concise, well-written article on two recently-disclosed vulnerabilities found in nearly all Intel processors and some AMD and ARM processors.   Particularly worrisome is the impact these flaws can have on virtualised environments, which includes cloud-based virtual machines and their hypervisors.  Remedying these vulnerabilities will ultimately require replacing the processors.  However, near-term software-only solutions have been developed and are already being deployed.   This article gives a good, moderately technical overview of the what, who, and how of the flaws and the fixes.

A Gentle Introduction to Quantum Computing

A very good, truly gentle intro to quantum computing.  A basic understanding of probability and complex numbers is required.  But, if you’re truly interested in gaining a basic understanding of QC’s mathematics, you’ll likely already be familiar with those.

ABSTRACT: Quantum Computing is a new and exciting field at the intersection of mathematics, computer science and physics. It concerns a utilization of quantum mechanics to improve the efficiency of computation. Here we present a gentle introduction to some of the ideas in quantum computing. The paper begins by motivating the central ideas of quantum mechanics and quantum computation with simple toy models. From there we move on to a formal presentation of the small fraction of (finite dimensional) quantum mechanics that we will need for basic quantum computation. Central notions of quantum architecture (qubits and quantum gates) are described. The paper ends with a presentation of one of the simplest quantum algorithms: Deutsch’s algorithm. Our presentation demands neither advanced mathematics nor advanced physics.

Noson Yanofsky et al.


Aida … or, Operation Desert Spiel

One could say that Verdi’s Aida is an opera about a love triangle.  A love polygon would be more accurate, as Aida has several more facets.    You see, Amneris, the high-priestess of Isis, is hot for Radames, who is hot for Aida, who is Amneris’ slave and, unbeknownst to anyone is also the daughter of Amonasro who is the king of Ethiopia, which is about to attack Egypt, the king of which is the father of Amneris.

With me so far?

Radames wants to impress Aida, and what would be more impressive than, say, winning a war against a rival nation? What woman wouldn’t be charmed by a gift of diamonds, gold, and a couple of slave pool-boys?  And the nation  Radames will conquer for her? Why, Ethiopia, of course! Radames hopes that Isis will choose him to be the conquering general. Knowing that Amneris has a thing for him, he figures he’s got an “in” with management.

As our story opens, Radames comes storming out of the gate with Celeste Aida, a brilliant tenor party piece with beautiful pianissimo high B-flats that no one ever sings pianissimo.1.   The name means “heavenly Aida”, but the gist of it can be summed up as “If I were a gen’ral … yedl deedle deedle didle didle didle didle dum.  All day long I’d yedl deedle dum, if I were a ge-ner-AL!”.   The Egyptian goddess Isis2 speaks, through Amneris3, saying that Radames will lead the armies of Egypt in battle against the Ethiopians.   The act wraps up with a big finale wherein Ramfis4, Amneris, and Radames lead the Egyptians in a ceremony of thanks and praise to the Egyptian god Ftha5. They beseech him to look upon them favorably and help them kick Ethiopian butt all the way back to the source of the Nile. All then retire to the banquet hall for a beautifully prepared buffet dinner and dancing.

Act II: Radames and his armies win the first battle and present the captured Ethiopians to the king as slaves. But, wouldn’t you know it! Amonasro, Aida’s father, is among these slaves. He whispers6 to her not to reveal his true identity. The king, always flattered by people’s gifts – especially when the gifts themselves are people – asks what honor Radames, as conquering hero, would like.  Aida discreetly pulls Radames aside to tell him that that slave, right there … no, the other one… yes, the big one … is her father, and suggests he ask for all the slaves to be freed as a sign of generosity and goodwill.  Radames, really turned on by her whispering in his ear like that, mindlessly repeats her suggestion to the king, who’s been politely pretending not to see or hear any of this exchange.     Amneris and the priests start to wonder whether maybe Radames has been sniffing the sacrificial incense a little too much, and counter his proposal by saying  Amonasro and Aida should remain in Egypt as hostages. The king agrees, and everybody – everyone except Aida and Radames, that is – goes off to party.

Act II: She’s not the sharpest ceremonial sword in the vestry, but it finally dawns on Amneris that Radames is in love with Aida. She tricks Aida into admitting this7, and then tells her that she’ll never be good enough for Radames because she’s not royal, like Amneris. Aida avoids what could have been a literal royal smack-down scene and keeps her royal standing to her royal self and goes off to console herself by singing something down by the river in the next scene. Amneris, meanwhile, stays put and sings about how great life will be once she’s married to Radames.

Act III, scene 2: Amonasro, having seen how whipped Aida’s got Radames, reckons he can prevail upon  her to get the inside dope on the Egyptian battle plan. First he tries the soft approach, telling Aida how much he missed her, how glad he is to see her, how great it’ll be when his army kills all the Egyptians so they can all go home, back to Ethiopia, and live happily ever after. Just one small problem. He needs her to get Radames to tell her where he plans to attack. She tells her father that she’s “very conflicted”, but decides that she cannot betray the man she loves. So, Amonasro starts to mess with her head. He berates her for denying her people, for forsaking her country and her heritage, for leaving the lights on after she’s left the room – it’s a “dad” thing, ok? — and reminds her of that time she crashed the family chariot right after she’d gotten her learners papyrus. This all cuts deep, but still, no sale. Finally, he goes all Reb Tevya on her and threatens to disown her, telling her that she’s no longer his daughter, just another slave of Egypt.   This is more than she can bear, so she relents and reluctantly agrees to get the information from Radames, adding that  it was her sister, Mildred, who was driving the chariot, not her.

Act III, Finale

Radames and Aida meet secretly in the sacred rock garden.   Radames shows up, all glad to see Aida. Aida, caught between a rock and … well … another rock, begs Radames to come and run away with her to some other country8.  Radames mutters something about leaving behind the fame, the glory, and the awful-tasting beer. Aida says, yes, but we’ll be together, dear. Radames, who’s beginning to sense that this is one of those “unwinnable arguments”, asks how she expects him to forget his home, his country, his beer? Aida gives him a look that says “Do I really need to answer that?” and gives him one last chance before she pulls out the big guns. Radames, now wishing she’d just asked him something he knows9 how to answer, like “Does this dress make my butt look fat?” tries to take the easy way out by changing the subject and sweet-talking her. No deal. Aida tearfully fires the next salvo: “I guess you must not love me anymore!” Radames thinks “Oh, Ftha! Here we go again.” “What do you mean, I don’t love you?” Aida replies, “I saw the way you were looking at her, I know you want Amneris.”  Radames swears this isn’t true. (We’re just friends, honest!) Aida stands firm, and Radames, who, with all that military training, knows when he’s beat, says “Fine! We’ll run away together.”

Now, the opera could have just ended right here. The story was a bit contrived, but still believable10. Aida and Radames could have run, ridden, chariot-ed, or otherwise been conveyed into the sunset to, say Chad, or maybe Argentina. Instead, we are now subjected to a climactic series of Really. Dumb. Moves.

Dumb Move#1: Instead of saying “ok, let’s go”, Aida asks Radames HOW they’ll escape. He says he knows where all the armies are, so he knows which road out of town is unguarded. “Which one might that be, honey?”, asks Aida. “Napata Drive.”, he replies. I guess Radames must have been cutting class at General School the day they went over why they put the word SECRET in the term MILITARY SECRET. Or maybe, since he lives in a desert, the meaning of “Loose Lips Sink Ships” was completely lost on him. In any case, Amonasro, who’s been hiding behind another rock, overhears this, bringing us to

Dumb Move #2: Suppose you’re commanding an army and you just found out where the other army’s gonna be hiding. Do you call up the other army and taunt “I know where you’re hiding, I know where you’re hiding! Neener neener neeeeeener!”? Of course not.  But, that’s pretty much what Amonasro does. He jumps out from where he’s been hiding and declares that he now knows where to attack the Egyptians. Understandably, Radames becomes pretty grumpy with Aida, and with himself for being so stupid, but … there’s still a chance to recover. He’s got options. Option 1: Kill Amonosro and tell Aida he’ll do the same to her if she breathes a word to anyone, then continue with tomorrow’s attack as planned. Option 2: pretend to run off in shame, but in actuality run back and tell the Egyptians that he’s tricked the Ethiopians into thinking Napata Drive will be unguarded so they’ll be lured there to their doom, unsuspecting. But he does neither, opting instead for

Dumb Move #3: He resigns himself to running off with Aida and her dad, leaving his armies to be slaughtered at the hands of the Ethiopians.

Right about this time, Amneris, who’s been lurking about behind yet another rock, has had about all she can stand of this idiocy (and there’s more to come) so she jumps out along with the priests and guards11, and declares Radames to be a traitor. Amonasro, backed up by basically no one, threatens to kill Amneris.  Radames stops him, asking, literally “Are you nuts?” This brings us to

Dumb Move #4: Radames urges Amonasro to take Aida and flee. Now, if you were Radames, wouldn’t you sorta want to get out of Dodge yourself, with them? Does he? No. He turns to Amneris and her posse and surrenders himself to them. The upside is that we have a really nice “tenor moment” when Radames cries “Sacerdote, Io resto a te.”, which, loosely translated means “I would like to speak with an attorney.

Act IV: Scene 1 – Judgement

Radames is called before the high priests and the king. Ramfis, the high priest, tells him to defend himself, to explain his actions, but Radames remains silent. (Considering it was his big mouth that got him into this mess to begin with, he’s probably better off not saying anything.) Amneris begs Radames to come up with an explanation that will make sense of what he’s done, and allow him to escape his doom. But, as we’ve already seen, Radames isn’t all that fast on his feet when it comes to thinking12, so … he remains silent. In the end, Radames is condemned to be entombed alive13.

Act IV: Finale – the Tomb Scene

Radames mopes about the tomb while an unimaginably large slab of rock is positioned over the only exit. “I’m so screwed” – or words to that effect – he mutters to himself. As he laments no longer being able see the light of day, and how he will no longer see Aida, the gravity and enormity of his blunders being to dawn on him. “At least Aida is still alive”, he says, trying to console himself. “I hope she will find happiness, and soon forgets what a big jerk I’ve been.” (Being somewhat anal-retentive he further laments not having had mail and newspaper delivery cancelled.)

Suddenly, he hears something14. A sigh? A ghost? A vision? Nope. It’s

Dumb Move #515: Instead of heading back to Ethiopia with daddy, Aida decides, instead to hide out in the tomb and die with Radames. Why is this dumb? If she was able to sneak INTO the tomb without being noticed, don’t you think it might have been possible to sneak OUT of the tomb the same way? So she, too, had some options. Option 1: sneak in, leave a note, flowers, candy, one of those little plastic cats perpetually waving bye-bye, and sneak right back out. Her conscience would be assuaged, Radames would have his final “I love you” from her.  Sure, it’s still a sad ending, but, like the man said, at least she gets to live. Then there’s option 2: sneak in, wait until Radames shows up, then go to him RIGHT AWAY and show him how she snuck in and how they can both sneak out, run off to Monaco (don’t take Napata Drive – it’s a little backed up today), and live – I repeat, LIVE! – happily ever after.

No. She waits until the friggin’ tomb has been sealed shut with that humungous rock and only then does she pipe up. Rather than try to save some oxygen and prolong their last moments together, they use up what little breathable air they have left by singing what is arguably the most beautiful death scene in all of opera.   The opera comes to its tragic conclusion with Amneris singing a song she co-wrote with Ramfis praying for peace as the two lovers suffocate in each others arms.

Although the opera ends here, a recently discovered manuscript by the librettist offers us some clues as to what a sequel might have looked like:

Amonasro defeats the Egyptians and then goes back to Ethiopia.   Rather than die on the throne like all the kings before him, he turns over the family country to his first son-in-law – Mildred’s husband – and moves to Florida where he ended his days after suffering a stroke16.

The king of Egypt gets caught up in some sort of pyramid scheme, loses his entire fortune, and spends his final years living on cat food and dying in the Nile.

Amneris and Ramfis leave the priest[ess]hood and team up to pursue their common passion for music theatre, writing such hit musicals as “How to Succeed in Memphis Without Really Trying”, “Annubis Get your Gong”, and “A Horace Line”.

Copyright © 2011,2017 Nick Seidenman, All Rights Reserved.