Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The first amendment

The American Library Association has just released its annual state of America's Libraries report, reproduced here in a handy infographic.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


Senator Marco Rubio 
As I write this, the United States is gearing up for the 2016 Presidential elections. On the Republican side, Senators Ted Cruz (Texas), Rand Paul (Kentucky), and Marco Rubio (Florida) have formally announced their candidacies. Others, such as former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker may also enter the race.

As things stand today, Hillary Clinton has a very good, but not inevitable chance of securing the Democratic nomination for President. She will be a very formidable candidate. Other potential candidates, such as Governors Lincoln Chafee (Rhode Island) and Martin O'Malley (Maryland), and former Virginia Senator Jim Webb don't yet have her national profile, which is surely a disadvantage.

Looking how the 2012 election turned out for the Republicans, too many candidates ran. Newt Gingrich refused to withdraw from the race even though it was clear he could not win enough delegates for the nominating convention. He selfishly put his personal ambitions ahead of the interests of the party. This disunity meant that there was no clear frontrunner until late in the primary season. The Republicans could well make the same mistake again. They would do much better to choose a candidate with wide appeal.

Should Hillary be the Democratic candidate. maybe the Republican candidate can choose a woman as his running mate. That would be a real game changer. Only this time, make sure she is more eloquent and has a better grasp of foreign affairs than John McCain's running mate, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Guinness, shamrock, and Dave Allen

Buzzfeed has compiled a list of 25 of the best European libraries. I have been lucky enough to visit number 20 on the list, Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. The article omits to mention that the Trinity library also houses the Book of Kells, which is one of Ireland's most treasured artifacts.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

The post in which I indirectly make a reference to Peter Sellers

70 years after the end of the Second World War, the Greek government is claiming that Germany owes it $236 billion in war reparations. As of this afternoon, the issue is unresolved.

When hearing this news my first reaction was to think of The Mouse That Roared, a 1959 Peter Sellers comedy, in which the smallest country in the world, the Duchy of Grand Fenwick, declares war on the United States. It plans to deliberately lose the war so it can receive American financial aid. This film very occasionally pops up on daytime weekend television.

Does the Greek government have a legitimate case against the German government, or is it desperately scrounging around for possible solutions to its dire fiscal problems?

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Narr April

Sometimes amusing April Fool's Day pranks aside, it was also on this day in 1924 that Adolf Hitler was sentenced to 5 years in prison for his role in the Munich beer hall putsch of November 1923. After a failed attempt to seize the government of Bavaria by force, Hitler was tried and convicted of treason. He only served 9 months of his sentence, and it was during this time that he dictated his political biography, Mein Kampf. You cannot help but wonder how history might have turned out if Hitler had actually served his full sentence. He might never have come to power, and the Second World War might never have happened.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Of baguettes and berets

On this day in 1968, the number one song on Melbourne radio station 3UZ's chart was Love is Blue by Paul Mauriat (1925-2006). Born in Marseille, Mauriat was an orchestra leader, conductor and arranger who enjoyed a long and prolific career. This is perhaps his best known hit, and to this day, it remains a staple of AM easy listening radio. On the other hand, 3UZ is now broadcasting as Sport 927, and covers horse and greyhound racing.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Evil versus evil

I love Australia, and I count myself blessed to be living here. Sadly, just as it is in other parts of the Western world, Neo-Nazism is on the rise here. Blood and Honour is one such group. Taking its name from the motto of the Hitler Youth, it is using the recent upsurge in anti-Islamist sentiment to embark on a recruitment drive.

When I saw this sticker affixed to a roadside safety barrier, I discovered that this group is active in my area. They organise underground skinhead music events and give their members combat training under their affiliated Combat 18 movement. The 18 in its name comes from the initials of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler. A and H are the first and eighth letters of the Latin alphabet.

Knowing that this group is active and very likely running clandestine events in Melbourne makes me sick in the stomach. We have one set of extremists preparing to take on another set. Perhaps they envision one day battling Islamists on the streets of Melbourne. Whether it is white supremacist groups or Islamism, evil comes in many forms. We live in dangerous times.