Welcome to 'Middle Ground View' where we seek to find reason, common sense and clarity in all matters of life. It is our firm belief that no matter how muddled a topic is or how emotionally charged, with a bit of investigation a sensible Middle Ground position can always be found.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

I am moving, please follow me

Dear friends, this blog is moving to another location. Please follow me to:

www.middlegroundview.wordpress.com

I hope you will come in for a visit. I am plannig to post heaps in next few days, especially on National Broadband money waste.

You will also be able to read my book there (soon).

Please tune in.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Labour's new thought bubble


I am sure you have seen it by now - staring at you from bus stops and billboards, bothering you in print media and on TV: bubble-people telling you to eat better, exercise more and look after yourself. Sigh! Here we go again. Remember the 'Life - be in it' campaign that ran for 20 years or so? The animation was less flash but it delivered the same old, droning message. As if there is still someone left in this country who doesn't know that going for a walk is better then sitting on the couch, that eating an apple is better then ordering fried chips. Alas, if only it was that easy. My wife told me the other day that all the Government needs to do is fix the public transport. Think about it - there would be less congestion on the roads, people would walk more, it would even help combat that Climate Change that they say they so care about. Except that the public transport system is a disaster. The system is so broken that no-one would seriously trust it to get anywhere on time. So broken that most people I know would be too frightened to go near a train station at any time other then peak hour. Therefore fixing it would be hard. Very, very hard. But throwing some taxpayer money at an ad campaign is just so easy. I only hope that next time Australians will see through the spin and burst this stupid Government's bubble. Until then you can just keep reading my ad-free blog.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Desalination plant crazyness

To all those of you not from Victoria the Sunshine State, let me catch you up. We the Victorians have been paying through the nose for a certain Desalination plant that was meant to save us from slow Climate Change-induced dehydration.

The problem is - it's been raining non-stop last 6 months or so and the plant's construction hasn't progressed much.

Now we find out that the Wanthaggi Desal plant workers have been getting $50 an hour more (not $50 an hour - $50 an hour MORE) then workers in the same jobs elsewhere.

This has made me so mad that I had to write a poem about it. Maybe one of the readers can put it to music. Here it goes:

DESALINATION BLUES
Put back your hard hat and steel cap shoes
while the rain is coming down.
I've got Desalination Blues -
it's the biggest game in town.

Wonthaggi's tills are ringing mad
It's a jackpot - full and proper
while I'm putting Victoria in the red
with taxpayer-funded copper.

You see my friends, I'm not a dweeb.
With my Union's might and power
I sit and watch the raindrops drip
at 100 bucks an hour.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Where are the worms?!




Here is some good news for all those who like something for nothing (that means all of us). The Nillumbik Council will teach you to compost and even give you a compost bin or a worm farm, all for nothing. The programme is paid for by Victorian State Government.




Now there are lots of things we all would love to learn. I personally would love to improve my backstroke, take up knitting or fly a para glider. But why on earth does the State Government feel the need to pick up the bill for those of us who want to compost? Why is composting different from, say mountain climbing. And one more thing, the articles that 'Worms are not included with the worm farm'. So that tapping you are hearing is me composing a letter:


'Dear State Government, I demand an explanation where are the worms?'

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

China stockpiling iron ore - Australia should take note

What's the one thing that can send Australia broke in a matter of weeks. No it's not a natural disaster. We car recover from that. I am talking about the possibility of China cutting of commodity imports. If that happens Australian economy may not recover. The frightening thing is, right now China is rapidly building stockpiles of iron ore, coal and other commodities. Why? To protect Chinese economy, maybe. To exert pressure upon commodity suppliers like Australia? Is that so impossible to imagine? This year's federal budget is completely reliant of Chinese export duties. What if the exports stop? Very frightening.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Red cross endorses an act of petty violence

Peter Gray, the man who threw a shoe at John Howard on Q&A will have his shoe auctioned off by the Red Cross.

It's easy to throw shoes at John Howard or George W Bush. There is no risk, no danger of facing torture and imprisonment as you would in the Arab World. The question is, why would the Red Cross indirectly endorse such a man and such a low act? I thought that Red Cross is suppose to fight violence, not promote it.

Sending immigrants to Malaysia is a very bad idea

Malaysia is a country with a dual legal system: one system for Moslems, one for non-Moslems. Moslems are forbidden by law from eating on Ramadan, drinking alcohol and secluding themselves with a person of opposite sex. Last year at Valentine's day Malaysian police swooped on hotels in the capital arresting Moslems found alone with non-related persons. This is the kind of country Australian government is sending migrants to. What if an Afgani asylum seeker decides to also seek asylum from Malasia after being sent for processing there by? I don't know what the law in this situation would be but the lawyers are guaranteed to have a field day.

'Scienceworks' on the rocks

I took my kids to 'Scienceworks' few weekends ago. It's the kind of thing a father would do with his children but to be honest I was looking forward to it myself. The name implied hands-on science stuff and even though my hairline is receding, I am still a kid at heart. The trip went off without a hitch and the kids had a good time but to be honest, I felt a little disappointed. Somehow the place didn't feel right. One exhibit in particular - about storm water and recycling, left an odd feeling of discomfort. It took a bit of thinking but I eventually worked out why. In the exhibit the smog and rubbish are 'bad' and recycling is 'good'. The 'bad guys' even have suitably scary make-up and voices. This is fine if you are presenting to four-year-olds about toilet etiquette or crossing the road. But these are pre-teens, capable of coming to their own conclusions. And this is science. Science is meant to be about education, not indoctrination. Science is mean to be about understanding the facts, not 'good' and 'bad'. Funny thing is, when I quizzed my seven-year-old son at the end of the day he recalled easily the train display, the historic sewerage pumps but didn't remember a thing about recycling. Herein, I suspect lies the great failure of the education system. Treat children like toddlers and they will forget. Treat them like adults and they will remember.

If you love them - guide them

I was sitting in the lunch room at work one day having a chat about life, politics and gossip. As it often does, the conversation travelled to family and kids when a colleague of my complained that her four year old daughter has started developing body image issues. When visiting the local pool the girl would sit in a corner covered with a towel and shout 'Don't look at me.' 'It's all that stuff they pick up at school.' Said the mother 'And TV. They get it all from TV.' And then as happens to me all too often, I spoke up without giving the situation much thought. 'So if you think the TV is to blame' I said 'why don't you just turn it off?' There was a stunned silence in the room. The woman stared at me for a moment as if I was an alien from Mars and then said incredulously 'Turn it off? What are you saying? You mean turn the TV completely off? Are you serious?'

How much are we prepared to do for our children? Anything it takes, the saying goes. Usually that implies jumping into a raging torrent to save them or giving them the last seat in a life-raft. Thankfully those situations don't come around very often. What does happen, and very frequently, is the multitude of benign situations when the benefit of the child is weighted up against the parent's convenience. We all know that processed food is bad for our children and consequently the sales of 'natural'-labelled food products are booming. That's wonderful. We also recognise that the Television content is bad for them, that violent video game images harm their development, that internet on their computers and now also on their mobile phones can place them in danger. Yet despite this, you would struggle to find a child without almost unlimited access to all of the above. Why the inconsistency? Does anyone think that the emotional diet of sex and violence harms the developing mind any less then junk food harms the body? Or is it just easier to reach for the 'low GI' brand in the supermarket isle then to tackle the fundamentals of lifestyle and behaviour that affect our leisure time choices? Most children of the families I know attend their local Government school. Does this represent the best fit for those children's emotional and developmental needs or is it simply a choice of parental convenience? 'Bullying is just a part of growing up' and 'home environment is what really counts' are some of the more popular excuses given to justify keeping a child in an unhealthy and harmful school environment. But few parents realise just how much harm an unhealthy social environment could do and how different things are from the days when we went to school ourselves. A Government funded 'Headspace' study has found that up to a quarter of young people aged 18 to 25 have mental illness. That's higher then the national average. And in an age group brought up in the age of most regulated food industry, strictest safety standards and most advanced medical care at any time in history. The study also found high rates of alcoholism, drug abuse and violent behaviour. Indeed we have a lot to be concerned about. So how is it that despite unprecedented safety, affluence and education opportunities our young people appear to increasingly make choices that lock them out of society?

Next time you go shopping spend ad extra moment examining the items in the 'Toys' department and you will notice a curious transformation. It all begins harmlessly enough with the products targeted to the age group up to about four years old. There the colours are soft, the words are gentle, the neatly sanitised babies are smiling at you from every box and the key selling point can be summed up in one word - 'educational'. But as you travel up the age bracket, a strange transition begins to take place. For the boys 'educational' gradually gives way to a profile of a hooded, sideways-cap wearing, overtly threatening and antisocial juvenile delinquent whose violence is never explicit but always implied, simmering just under the surface. For the girls 'educational' is replaced by hypesexualised, high heel and fish-net stocking wearing, anorexic and collagen enhanced caricature of female availability. This transition from a child to a stereotype of gender-related antisocial behaviour occurs suddenly and at an age group when most children are still at work mastering the alphabet. I believe that in developmental terms it represents the precise psychological moment at which the parent chooses to withdraw their input, remove their guidance in regard to the choice of toys, activities and entertainment. A point at which fighting the continuous 'I want' becomes simply too hard. A kind of invisible 'opting out'. I am not for a moment suggesting that children's' toys are to blame for the epidemic of mental illness and antisocial behaviour. That would be ludicrous. But for me, the transformation of toys is a kind of symbol. A marker of parental indifference. A proof that those same parents who would never let their children make unguided choices of diet, would and do leave them on their own when it comes to choices of entertainment and play. To those parents I say - stop and reconsider. If you leave them on their own they will reach for the most harmful - it's the nature of children. So don't let go so soon. If you love them - guide them. And whatever small sacrifice it will take on your part, surely it will be worth the effort.

If you love them - help them

Sunday, 8 May 2011

If idiocy was a piece of paper...

I got this letter from 'South Eastern Energy' my local energy company. It appears to be at war with itself. In case you are having trouble seeing let me explain it for you - in the top left corner you got an article about 'Water Efficiency', in the bottom left corner is the article about the flood and opposite are the top tips for using less water in your garden, which is easy to do because my garden is flooded right now as are most of the gardens on my street. It's because of the floods, stupid. Which brings me to the bottom right article - from July this year the water price will increase by 9.9%. Now I would have thought with all this extra free water falling out of the sky... oh well maybe they will explain it better in the next letter. I recommend a flow chart.

Power-board from hell

Let me save you counting time - that power-board has 27 sockets. Guess what my first thought was when I saw it - that's right, the owner of this will have major problems meeting their Carbon Tax obligations. Now let's see if you can work out where I took the photo. Here are the options:

a) A cannabis plantation
b) Aluminium smelting factory
c) Primary school 

Yes, you guessed it - Primary School. Which brings me to my next question. Schools are major consumers of energy. They have air conditioning, computer labs, etc. Yet no-one is talking about compensation. So how do you think schools will recoup their Carbon losses? That's right by charging the parents and that means you and I. The private schools will put up their fees and the Public schools will make new fees. Let's think of a good name ... I know - 'Planet protection fee'. I am sure that will stick.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

The opposite of trees

I went to a funeral today. The mother of a good friend has passed away after a long illness. The atmosphere of the outdoors service was appropriately somber. The undertaker wore his professional expression of grief. In front of the sobbing family he began to speak about life as a circle in which it's the journey and not the destination that matters. About how nothing is forever and how the old must give way to the new.  About the cycle of death and rebirth. There were other clich├ęd references but I don't remember them all. Any way, you get the idea.  I suspect that the same words were used for every funeral. For a moment it appeared to me that I was hearing a speech not about I person I knew, that I was hearing a eulogy written not for people but for .... trees. You know - it all started many moons ago with a fragile sapling, the time moved on and before you know, it was a season of flowering in full glorious bloom, then the time to bear fruit. And so it went one season after another until one day, the thickening bark, the falling leaves, it was a turn of the new ahead of the old, another season will come, and so on and so on. But people are not trees.

The botanists tell us that the distribution of foliage on a plant is not random but precisely arranged. And it's not just about getting the most sun - the leaves also serve to shade over the other plants, to starve them of light. So next time you find a spot of pretty vegetation in you local park - remember that what you are seeing is the battle for survival. And in this battle it's every tree for itself. There are people who live lives just like that. Spending all their time pushing others out of the way. But we are human beings and can choose to live not like trees. To be the opposite of trees. Nurturing and supporting others. Children come to mind of course. But also friends, co-workers, pupils, neighbors, everyone we meet on the journey. And in the process our own physical selves become inevitably diminished. Every parent when prompted will readily narrate the story of things unfulfilled - hobbies put on hold, places never visited. All for the sake of the children. After all when it comes to parenting, sacrifice is not an optional extra. It's not even part of the job. It IS the job. And yet as we become physically diminished, we acquire something else. Something intangible and infinitely more precious. It's a kind of immortality for a small part of our selves - the part we gift away to others. It's often said that life is a journey not a destination, and in a way that is true of course. But after a long arduous journey wouldn't it be nice to arrive at some place that is special and worthwhile? Or better still to know that the journey didn't end, that others are setting off with your precious cargo on board even as your own travel time runs out. When we touch lives of other, there is a part of us that travels on with them - maybe that is the ultimate consolation. I find this view, this picture of a journey that need not ever end a far more comforting image then anything that a professional eulogy can offer.