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61 responses to “Saturday Salon”

  1. Graham Bell

    Wakey, wakey! I slept in and yet I’m First on Saturday Salon

  2. Mahaut1329

    I am somewhat concerned at the response of the ‘commentators’ to the information about widespread spying on high placed officials and the wider populace in various countries by an agency of the US. I will admit that my sample is limited to the Drum and mostly journalists. But there seems, among them, to be a relaxed tone in commenting on such spying. The views go something like this. ‘Everyone knows their phones can be tapped and, anyway, the countries in question also spy’.
    All of this may be the case but there seems to be a ethical coarseness in such comments. And we would wish that this not be so. Journalists should be one of the accountability mechanisms not just passively accept. The US government, having been exposed doing such things, should at least be asked to explain and justify their actions – with some rigour.

  3. paul burns

    You might be interested to know that, IIRC, our first independent spy agency was the Commonwealth Investigation Service. It was created because during WW1 somebody threw a rotten egg at Billy Hughes during a public meeting. Our spies, and the Brits, and the French, and the Russians and the Americans and everybody else have been spying on each other since before the sun came up for the first time. (Mary Wortley Montagu, among other things, was a spy). I don’t know now with the electronic age, but if you had glanced at intelligence files before mass phone/internet tapping, you may not have been that concerned. Like the famed and irrelevant Wikileaks cables it consisted mostly of gossip or newspaper clippings. The few WW2 intelligence files I’ve looked at were remarkable for their lack of remarkableness, and in same cases, in regard to Japanese intentions for Australia, just plain wrong. Which is probably a bit more of a worry.

  4. Mahaut1329

    Yes, espionage has a very long history. But the scope to listen in on electronic conversations is almost infinite now. But I do think there should be objections. I know that enormous amounts of data are useless without good analysis and more than that ways of using that which is pertinent. There have been times when information was available but not seen as significant. Still listening to leaders mobile phones is just rude and bound to be of no use anyway.

  5. paul burns

    I don’t think politicians or spies, (James Bond excepted) have necessarily been renowned for their good manners.

  6. Graham Bell

    I’ve been amused at all the flurry about spying and information-gathering. One nation-state, The U.S.A. has come in for a lot of criticism and abuse, much of it well-deserved (especially upsetting “Mutti” Merkel; not a good idea!) …. but hardly a word about all the other nation-states, including our really-truly buddy-pals in this hemisphere, doing much the same thing …. and not a word about the intelligence-building by all the non-state entities, such as, for instance, business corporations, sporting competitors, non-Christian religions, academic or artistic bodies, criminal groups, people-traffickers and whoever else feels the need and has the resources to do so.

    It is amazing that the Yanks have all that wonderful technology and expertise …. then toss that winning advantage away by failing to have basic Need-To-Know in place (that’s where someone in one office knows what their colleagues in that office are up to – but doesn’t know what the people in the next office are doing); this was the main reason Snowdon’s revelations were so damaging.

    Wonder if we can reassemble the team that made the film “The Man Who Sued God” to make a world-wide box-office hit? Wendy Harmer, John Clarke, Brian Dawe, Anh Do in starring roles, of course.

    PB: so too were Gertrude Bell and T.E.Lawrence.

  7. murph the surf.

    Are the odds changing with regard to a double dissolution election?

  8. Terry

    I think not, for two reasons. First, the Coalition get a potentially quite good Senate balance of numbers after July 1, 2014, which may not be the case after a double dissolution. Second, they will want to bring down their first budget knowing that they have a comfortable lower house majority, as it is sure to make some enemies.

  9. philip travers

    If there is going to be a double dissolution whilst the Greens may have support on issues even on matters of older peoples employment they cannot be sure they will receive that support.As Ryan is now pointing out on ABC news online the numbers mean more than even she points out..like also buying art craft and services from people within the same age groupings.I heard this morning that a fellow had a partially completed plane for sale in his shed.The reason he couldn’t finish his dream of flying his own craft DIY was as a motor mechanic it got a bit too much financially as he got older.IIt would of been a good thing in a Mens’Shed matter,as a 82 year old he could still do it.As a younger person,I have stuck my nose in magazines devoted to that craft! But out in disability pension land somewhat missing as in Driver’s Licence and many other qualifications I never believed in,the reality of older people doing New Start is deeply troubling.As it is young electrical apprentices failing their maths.It would seem the young need the old,but some people laughing are distressing everyone.There may well soon be a visit by very fit older people soon to the laughing hyenas wherever it takes place for young old and female as well.They cannot hide behind being employers or their lackeys as agents to employ,because they lawfully can.

  10. Salient Green

    Commissioner Ryan regularly puts out these articles but never says what needs to be said. She Knows there are not enough jobs in Australia as I’ve emailed here with the figures. Youth unemployment is just as bad as for the aged. I fear for what that is doing to their work ethic.
    She needs to give governments a bloody good kicking for allowing so many jobs to go overseas but never does. Probably a screaming neoliberal herself.
    Meanwhile, the general populace seem to think there are 6 jobs for every jobseeker lazy bastards on the public teat, rather than the other way around, 6 under or unemployed chasing each scarce job.

  11. Graham Bell

    Philip Travers @9 and Salient Green @10:
    There are probably a hell of a lot more people who really want to work than the conveniently crafted statistics suggest. These people include not only those who are officially “unemployed” but those who are grossly under-employed and, worse yet, misemployed.

    Hell will freeze over before any decision-maker dares to say a word against overly-fussy employERs bludging on the taxpayers, nor utter a squeak against credentialism. What’s next, boys, PhDs and genetic testing for casual labouring jobs? Indeed there will be snowstorms in Hell before any decision-maker cracks down on age discrimination, postcoding, Aussie-bashing and unfair stereotyping based on previous types of employment …. paradoxically, this last one is the punishment for anyone who gets off their blurter and takes on any job they can find, this “crime” puts them in a worse position later than someone who had just laid around watching telly.

  12. Fred Bloggs

    Australian labour stats are indeed carefully crafted, but not in the sneeringly negative way that the uninformed Graham Bell makes out.

    Employment and unemployment stats are designed nationally, internationally and intentionally, as economic indicators. As such, on the input side of economic stats they must match up with the output side: the $ value of production.

    Hence (simplifying) employment begins with one hour or more paid work. Unemployment then thus starts as the complete absence of work, while actively looking for and available to start work. Measured together, in that order, the two make up the pool of labour available for the economy: the supply of goods and services.

    The usefulness and limits of these stats are well-recognised, not least by national stats agencies. That’s why there’s long standing collection of intentionally designed, comparable and related stats at the margins: underemployment eg, and so-called “hidden unemployment” – a tabloid finger-wagging term for marginal attachment (as if it were somehow deliberately left out).

    The Stats Bureau people publish employment and unemployment every month, and matching underemployment and underutilisation every quarter. They include a handy series of articles that explain these deeper details, like here:
    http://abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/[email protected]/mf/6202.0?opendocument#from-banner=LN

    The technical background is also well covered and easily found on the ABS site, covered in exhaustive detail here:
    http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/PrimaryMainFeatures/6102.0.55.001?OpenDocument

    The fact is, our national labour stats are consistent & comparable, over decades, with other economic data, nationally and internationally. Practically every country worth a cracker does its labour stats this way, over decades, by international agreement. Graham Bell simply doesn’t know what he’s talking about and didn’t bother to check, but labour stats are carefully crafted indeed.

  13. Casey

    After burning down the house in order to save the furniture, and then threatening to resign if they didn’t pass his royal decrees, Kevin thought it might be a good idea to stay.


  14. mindy

    And so the sledging of Shorten begins Casey.

  15. Casey

    I can’t imagine why Mindy.

  16. paul burns

    Hawker probably just wanted to make a quick buck, strike while the iron is hot, etc.
    And he’s probably got a pretty low print run. After all, he’s not John Howard.

  17. Mahaut1329

    It would be good if for a short while Labor stopped talking about itself. Sometimes silence really is golden and it could be a time of healing (and thinking).

  18. Graham Bell

    Fred Bloggs @12:
    What gives you the idea that my opinion of labour statistics (and housing statistics, for that matter) is “uninformed”. Just because I didn’t use an argot you might prefer doesn’t necessarily mean that I don’t know what I’m talking about.

    Surely you are not suggesting that hordes of misemployed and underemployed, eager to work but unable to find willing employers, do not exist, are you?

  19. Ootz

    Today ‘Bikies’ – Tomorrow ‘Greenies’.

    Watch Newman doing a Putin when yoof takes up Bernard Keane’s call.

    “Our youth are entitled to wonder whether … they should take some direct action of their own. Action to shut down the loaders and ports that export coal.”

  20. Brian

    Casey @ 13, I should probably read Hawker’s tome seeing as he goes into Rudd’s original demise and me being obsessed with leaks and all. He’s probably right in fingering Mark Arbib as the architect of Rudd’s demise.

    I’ve ordered Maxine McKew’s Tales from the political trenches. I can recommend Jacqueline Kent’s Take your best shot as nuanced, very well written and balanced, though I don’t agree with everything she says. At least she doesn’t see Rudd as a ‘psychopath with a giant ego’ (see K-A Walsh p282).

    BTW Gillard and Rudd were recently sighted walking down a New York street together by an Australian news cameraman. He works for Al Jazeera, so didn’t bother taking a pic. They are both self-reflective and I reckon would have a better take on what happened than their respective supporters.

  21. Fred Bloggs

    Graham Bell: you claimed, uninformedly, that
    “a hell of a lot more people who really want to work than the conveniently crafted statistics suggest…the underemployed…”

    Wrong. As I explained already, the ABS stats do in actual fact count not only underemployment, but preference for more hours, marginal attachment and so on, regularly and consistently with employment and unemployment.

    Economic stats like labour data depend on quite rigorous activity tests, precisely to ensure that population based vs business based stats are consistent in basic concept.

    So no point in trying to put words in my mouth when your own words are plainly uninformed. Not only are the stats readily available – as I explained – the reasons why they are as they are are also fully explained. You just didn’t bother to check, not even when the refs are right in front of your nose. Your loss.

    “Misemployment” on the other hand is a very subjective social notion, much dependent on self-perception. Although ABS labour stats include Quals vs Occupation stats too, such a subjective term would be better looked at by some more personal social survey, rather than an economic one. Given your attitude, you’ll just have to look further into that one yourself.

  22. Casey

    BTW Gillard and Rudd were recently sighted walking down a New York street together by an Australian news cameraman. He works for Al Jazeera, so didn’t bother taking a pic.

    Brian, this is an urban myth. Nothing, no proof, nothing. They weren’t even in the same city at that time, as I have read it.

  23. Graham Bell

    Fred Bloggs @ 21:
    I have high regard for statistics; we would be stuck in the Middle Ages but for statistics. However, I detest the misuse of statistics to deceive for crass political and commercial purposes …. I don’t blame statisticians themselves (who can blame them for wanting to keep their jobs?) but I do blame those who command the statistics they want to support whatever skulduggery they happen to be up to – and, from what I have seen myself, it does not matter at all whether this happens in a democracy or in a dictatorship.

    “Uninformed”? Not really. Think instead of approaching from a rather different direction; a transdisciplinary direction perhaps.

    Underemployment: If the assumptions on which the statistics are ordered to be based are as wrong as Ptolomaic astronomy then it doesn’t matter how elegant the figures are – the public ends up being deceived.

    Misemployment: Far from being very subjective, it is relatively easy to have fairly reliable statistics on misemployment – if the political will exists to have them at all; can’t say I know of any regime anywhere that is falling over itself to have them though.
    The qualification/occupation tool is a pretty crude one but if it helps keep a citizenry docile and feeling that their government is looking into their problems, then it does serve some purpose, I suppose.

    Anyway, I notice you commented only on the first part of my comment @ 11 – and said nothing about the second part.

  24. Brian

    Casey, it would be nice to think they could. I heard they did, then that they didn’t, then that they did, now that they didn’t.

    I Googled and found nothing so I’m happy to think it didn’t happen unless we get more information.

  25. zorronsky

    Kevin Rudd considered staying on as Labor leader on election night, Bruce Hawker campaign diary reveals
    By political reporter Latika Bourke
    Some jilted lovers do that but stalking is never a good look.. bit of a male thing mostly.

  26. Katz

    They were in the US at the same time during October. However, the US is a large, crowded place.

  27. Casey

    Casey, it would be nice to think they could.

    Well Brian, I like your optimism in the face of, well, let’s call it “everything”.

    Ah well, it makes me think of Malcolm* and Gough. I mean who could imagine those two getting jiggy widdit. It didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen when they were around 90 or so. So who knows?

    *Let us consider in our deliberations of that reconciliation, that Malcolm has shifted so far left no one in the Liberal party can actually see him that far over the horizon, bless him. If only he would ditch that patrician accent, we’d have him body and soul.

  28. faustusnotes

    we would be stuck in the Middle Ages but for statistics

    Statistics is a largely very modern thing. We were well out of the middle ages before anyone had thought of any of it, and most of the useful stuff didn’t come around until the 19th century.

  29. Russell

    “If only he would ditch that patrician accent, we’d have him body and soul.”

    No we would not. A sense of noblesse oblige is all well and good, but it isn’t progressive. Casey, do you remember Fraser as Minister for the Army & Minister for Defence, 1975, and his time as Prime Minister? There’s a lot to forgive, and in many ways I don’t think he’s changed that much. He only looks good in comparison to what the Liberal and Labor parties are now.

  30. Casey

    Casey, do you remember Fraser as Minister for the Army & Minister for Defence, 1975, and his time as Prime Minister?

    You are very impertinent Russell. If you must know I was very very busy at the time. I had just become the Our Lady Help of Christians Primary School Elastics Champion and have no memory of Prime Minister Fraser because of my hectic training schedule and the vicious competition I faced from a very fierce competitor with far longer legs than mine. Nevertheless, I was flexible and because of my constant practice on the family pogo stick, I could jump the heads of girls much taller than me. No mean feat for a pict from Avalon. In fact I challenge you to an elastics jumping competition for your mansplaining impertinence. Then we will see …. of what I am not sure, but we will improvise as we go.

    But my point is that Fraser and Gough have mellowed. This may well be because of dementia and they both don’t remember what happened but I am just trying to be amenable and accommodate Brian’s hope that it could happen for Little Satan and Gillard. OMG! Did I just say Little Satan! Smack my mouth, I so did not mean ‘Little Satan’, Brian, I meant Rudd, Kevin Rudd.

    Alright then.

    [gaslightersrus :)]

  31. Casey

    Spelling corrections since blog gods won’t be fixing MINE.

    1. Please imagine a ‘C’ in front of ‘asey’ and block the entire quote which came from Russell who seems to be upset because I think Fraser’s gone a bit lefty in his old age.

    2. Second line ‘pertinent’ should read ‘impertinent’. Although it is true Russell can be very pertinent, I believe he was being rather impertinent having no knowledge of my personal circumstances at the time that Fraser was being such a bastard.

    Yours, witch etc etc.

  32. Russell

    Elastics eh? At the Brigidine Convent we weren’t permitted anything as excitable. The nuns had us construct elaborate, stationary, towers of children – I was always at the base: a shorter child stood on my back, a yet shorter one on his shoulders etc. We thought we were magnificent – 30 boys defying gravity.

    Of course this was all done on the bitumen ‘playground’. My non-Catholic father had a sneering contempt for Catholic schools because, he claimed, all Catholic schools were surrounded by bitumen. True in the case of the Brigidines and later the Marist Brothers (Subiaco) – not a tree in sight.

  33. Casey

    My non-Catholic father had a sneering contempt for Catholic schools because, he claimed, all Catholic schools were surrounded by bitumen.

    Just the bitumen made him sneer? So many things to sneer at – like say, St Anthony finding the $50 note you lost in the backyard and popping in the laundry he did for my mum the other day (don’t argue with the woman), but no – the bitumen pissed him off? Oh people are curious.

    Congratulations on your pyramid feats. Childhood was golden, no? I thank you Blog Gods for just once, fixing my “issues”. I owe one fecundity spell for your kindness, just say when.

    Yrs, witch etc etc

  34. Graham Bell

    [email protected]:
    Yeah. Point taken. I was thinking of accurate consistent measurements but said ‘statistics’; I should have cooled down before responding immediately.

    [email protected]:
    Back in 1990 or 1991 (forgotten which), I was in the audience at a protest meeting in Sydney over foreign ownership of Australian news media – Conrad Black was in the cross-hairs – and it was there that Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser were on the same platform for the first time since The Dismissal in 1975. They appeared to be quite cordial towards each other. Wonder if any other LPers were there on that afternoon?

  35. Russell

    “Childhood was golden, no?”

    Well, bits of it were – but not the bits associated with the Catholic Church. I’m all in favour of the saints though (and Anthony is my middle name) and on my visits to practically every church in North & South America I acquired a few mementos, including a St Christopher medal, for my car.

    A couple of younger work colleagues were recently happily recalling the stories they had been told at school. I had to explain that we hadn’t had normal stories – apart from The Hobyahs (Mother Dolores’ favourite), it was the lives of the saints, or more exactly the gruesome deaths of the saints that were fed to us.

    But the ghastly cultish experience may have helped warp us into the left-wing, anti-authoritarian types we turned out to be. You had to learn solidarity – we poor kids herded, threatened, beaten and abused by those unhappy gaolers. Who wouldn’t identify authority as evil when it was so implacably in your face?

    I do miss the incense though – I loved the smell of that incense.

  36. Casey
  37. Helen Davidson

    Joining the childhood reminiscences…

    Melbourne Cup 1975 was my first exposure to the world of politics. My school class were watching the Cup. Kathleen, daughter of an ALP-affiliated local councillor, booed as John Kerr was shown presenting the Cup. Marie, daughter of a Liberal-leaning family, shoved her. They then proceeded to enjoy a session of hair-pulling and face-scratching, as the teacher tried to seperate them and the rest of us cheered them on.

    Politics doesn’t seemed to have changed much, but at least we had the excuse of being 10 year old girls.

  38. paul burns

    Casey @ 36,
    I can’t wait.

  39. Katz

    That would have been 1976, Helen Davidson

  40. Fran Barlow

    As people know, in addition to being, at least in the minds of some, on the far left (really, these days I’d say I was on the soft social-democratic secular humanist left, but no matter) I’m also keen on humane treatment of animals and opposed to their exploitation (i.e. dealing with them in ways that impose unwarranted suffering).

    I have long had an ethical objection to the use of horses (and dogs) in racing and every Melbourne Cup day, in addition to my objections to the banality of the whole thing and the incipient populistic jingoism, I am reminded of why I don’t like what is called “the racing industry”. (I’m not sure ‘industry’ is the right term as technically, they don’t make anything, but perhaps I’m being pedantic. The Racing Business/Game would be a more apt term).

    Each Melbourne Cup day I remind my fellow staff that after the cheering has died down and the happy snaps have all been taken of massively rich people behaving like massively rich people do, that there’s an excellent chance that some horse with be euthanased after an incident. Most staff say “really?” and affect bewilderment before tut-tutting and reminding themselves that I can be an awful wet blanket.

    Yesterday, after the winner had been declared, I heard that Verema had been euthansed after an incident — the horse had suffered a broken leg. For a horse — an animal that is quite heavy and spend almost all of its time standing up — this is a lethal injury. I’d like to think that a horse with a broken leg could have the therapy needed to at least see out its days in comfort and happiness, but as I understand it, this isn’t feasible, most of the time.

    I do wonder though if the world wouldn’t be a far better place without horse racing. Does this really contribute anything useful to humanity and isn’t the whole thing therefore inevitably an exercise in imposing suffering without warrant as well as a massive waste of scarce resources?

    Perhaps we can’t ban it, but maybe we ought to problematise it and oppose state support for it.

  41. Casey

    Now THAT I remember because Kerr was plastered out of his brain at the Cup and I remember watching confusedly on the teev. I thought he looked like he’d been in an accident. Which he had, the likes of which no one’s getting over any time soon. That’s so funny, I’d forgotten him all staggery at the Cup.

  42. Casey

    I do wonder though if the world wouldn’t be a far better place without horse racing. Does this really contribute anything useful to humanity and isn’t the whole thing therefore inevitably an exercise in imposing suffering without warrant as well as a massive waste of scarce resources?


  43. Katz

    Yeah, well maybe the only ethical way to live is like the Jains who brush the pavement to prevent treading on the tiniest insect. I enjoy a nice rare steak as much as the next person. But coursing with live hares is beyond my pale. Most thoroughbreds don’t get to race at all and end up as dog food.

    Yes the whole MC scene is shallow and banal. And the attention seeking behaviour of Melbourne’s wannabes is a bit sad. But he’ll, it’s only money. Whatever happened to the colts and fillies of yesteryear? Some of the might even be making a honest living.

  44. Fran Barlow


    I enjoy a nice rare steak as much as the next person.

    People have to eat, and although plainly, one need not eat steaks and yet survive perfectly well, I can at least acknowledge that consuming protein and iron is fundamental to health and one can conceivably, produce meat with minimal suffering.

    Horse racing of course, satisfies, at most, the whimsy of humans by pressing into service unwilling sensate beings who are put at risk of injury and as you say, sometimes turned into pet food when their useful commercial life is at an end.

  45. mindy

    @Fran – someone who knows a lot about horses told me that euthanasing a horse with a broken leg is the most humane treatment because in order to heal the break the horse would need to be immobilised for a long period which would be difficult and cruel to the horse. Apparently the blood flow to the lower limbs is low so any healing process is very slow. They tried it with another racehorse who had to be put down after 12 months of treatment, multiple infections etc.

    As to preventing the horse from breaking its leg in the first place, well I think I agree with you there.

  46. Fran Barlow

    Yes Mindy … I queried this with a vet some years ago, and apparently it’s so. Still, it leaves a dreadful taste in the mouth.

    Yesterday, at the “staff meeting” we were all gathered about eating nibblies and people were cheering on their horse in the sweeps, and someone even won $1000 or so in the trifecta. There was a convivial and festive atmosphere, with the principal and deputy both wearing fez-style hats and the deputy pretending she worked for Emirates.

    It was all very light-hearted but as that race was running a race-fit horse — undoubtedly a magnificent animal — was in its last minutes of life. I didn’t know that at the time, but I had a sinking feeling that I soon would.

    And so it proved.

  47. Graham Bell

    Fran and Katz;
    And how about the jockeys and the strappers? The only horse-and-rider activity that could arouse my interest might be some dressage or trail-riding. I went along to the district’s Airline Company Cup function for a nice lunch and to meet some nice people; didn’t know the names of any of the horses until the local money-raising sweeps were drawn; my heartrate remained steady throughout the running.

    Some of the might even be making a honest living.

    What gives you that funny idea? 🙂

  48. Graham Bell

    Helen Davidson @37: Your introduction to politics sounds a lot more exciting than mine – all I had was listening to grown-ups talking about their experiences and expressing their opinions; not even one raised voice and certainly no hair-pulling.

  49. Fran Barlow

    This should probably go in whimsy …

    The Hunger Games Game

  50. Ootz

    Retrospectives are a long time favorite of mine.

    Perhaps the most dangerous one first. I feel vindicated in my ‘opening shot’ and other (more coherent) ‘sorties’, at the recent Gullard/Ridd stoush of doom on LP, when watching Germaine Greer’s contribution on Monday’s Q&A. Imho she gave a brilliant performance generally, but particularly @0:06:30, she pierces the core of recalcitrant patriarchy and mansplaining the issue in terms that most would have to agree. Thus, my question to the coven, has Greer become a humanist rather than a feminist and does one position really exclude the other?

    With Fukushima in recent news again, I have been trawling through some old LP threads on that issue. I would be very much interested on the current view of our resident Japanese expert on location.

  51. Ootz

    Footnotes on Fukushima.
    A compilation of recent commentary on Fukushima event.

    Dr Helen Caldicott on Fukushima back in 2011. At 9:34 she references John Howard who has recently been reported to say in a speech in London on Tuesday night: “Nuclear power – a “very clean source of energy” – shale oil and fracking were solutions to the world’s energy needs.

  52. PavCat

    Ootz at #50, I’d need to know what your definitions of ‘feminist’ and ‘humanist’ are before I could respond to that.

  53. Katz

    Yeah, Ratty is as annoying a snivelling little passive-aggressive creep as he ever was. My recent encounter with his Autobiography has fanned the dying embers of my contempt for the nasty little twerp.

  54. faustusnotes

    That’s a stoush I guess I should contribute to isn’t it Ootz? I note that your compilation of news doesn’t include any peer-reviewed scientific assessments of the situation in Fukushima, even though plenty are available.

    People connected with Fukushima’s radiation-affected communities have been doing ongoing research and it’s started to get published, and the results are surprisingly positive. For example, an assessment of decontamination workers in the area around the plant found no detectable cesium, even in the 7 individuals who didn’t wear masks while they were digging the contaminated dirt. They’re now screening all school children in Minamisoma and finding nothing. Estimates of iodine exposure (a major cause of thyroid cancer) weren’t possible at the time because of terrible planning (and the chaos of the disaster) but estimates based on cesium contamination patterns show iodine exposure was probably not unsafe.

    I think that’s the maximum number of links I can put in a post. These levels of exposure contrast markedly with post-Chernobyl levels, which were higher even five years after hte accident and in areas much further afield. I don’t know why this is – I think the Fukushima event released a comparable amount of stuff. i guess it just depends on prevailing winds and population patterns.

    Unfortunately the Fukushima cancer registry only started full operation in 2011 so we don’t have an objective measure of pre-earthquake cancer incidence in the region, but I think studies are being planned to compare with neighbouring prefectures (as I understand it Miyagi is the gold standard cancer registry in Japan and is quite close). In the affected area itself concern is moving away from radiation exposure towards non-communicable disease – with people now changing lifestyle, a loss of young people, and many people moving into temporary shelters, there is a fear that risk factors for heart disease and stroke will increase.

    The people I’m working with up there are finding it quite easy to manage the radiation contamination risks through lifestyle advice. Basically the only people with any exposure are grumpy old men who refuse to stop gardening (and eating the food they grow). We identify these men by screening and then give them an intervention to try and get them to not eat that food anymore.

    I’m actually going to Minamisoma for two days next week to meet collaborators and talk about non-communicable disease. We won’t be discussing radiation at all – our concern is moving towards the long-term effects of evacuation, stress and lifestyle changes due to radiation counter-measures.

  55. Graham Bell

    Statistics? How about this? http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-11-07/unemployment-steady/5075838
    The student interviewed on the ABC-TV 7pm news probably spoke for the thousands and thousands “seeking more hours”.
    No need to travel overseas to see The Third World; just blink and you can see it without going anywhere else.

  56. Graham Bell

    Thanks a lot for your insights. Just a guess but could it be that in the Chernobyl disaster a lot of irradiated material went skywards whereas in the Fukushima one a lot of it went into the groundwater and the sea?

    Might be interesting to compare effects on people in area affected by the tsunami and the nuclear powerplant disaster with what happened to people after the Chernobyl disaster and after the Mt Pinatubo eruption and lihir and after the Boxing day tsunami in SriLanka, Thailand, Sumatera, etc.

    Let’s know how you got on (so far as you may without breaching any professional confidentiality, of course).

  57. Ootz

    Dr Pav I’d be interested in your assessment of Germaine’s offerings on that Festival of Ideas Q&A panel. She was particularly lucid I thought. Perhaps it was the contrast set by fellow panelist Peter Hitchens and she did refrain from giving the present Prime Minister fashion advice.

    Katz, not sure if I share the same degree of general contempt for Winston. I found that quote of his @51 contemptible. About ten years ago, I came to the conclusion that history will remember him as the Prime Minister of lost opportunities. Although in a recent sharp assessment of the state of affairs, Guy Rundle now places the beginning of the political implosion into the Hawke/Keating aera.

    Sorry to disappoint you faustusnotes, no intentions to stoush here. I really do appreciate your view from the ground though and knew I could stir you up to deliver, thanks for that. Though I notice you have not referred to any political fall out due to the regulatory failings, as well as the lack of trust in TEPCO to allow them to flick the switch on it’s plants.

  58. Katz

    Ootz, until I read Howard’s Autobiography, I dismissed him as an unreflective, “instinctual” culture warrior for his petty trader tribe. On the contrary, Howard vaingloriously reveals himself as a cynical manipulator whose stock-in-trade is the cleverly composed lie.

    But consider the embittering reality of the Australian conservative politician. In opposition they rail against ALP reforms, prophesying doom and promising repeal. Upon attaining office they discover that repeal is impossible. Thus they are doomed to mind the shop until the ALP returns to office to enact their next raft of reforms.

    Howard’s entire public identity is inexplicable except in this context.

  59. Fran Barlow


    She was particularly lucid I thought.

    I sharply disagree, having watched the whole episode on your recommendation. Much of what she said sounded like a loosely connected stream of consciousness and the most lucid parts put her culturally a lot closer to the vacuous official conservative to her immediate left.

    The most lucid person on the panel was Dan Savage but he didn’t actually propose any ‘dangerous’ ideas — and openly admitted he had none until, off the top of his head, he focused on the hoary old ‘population control’ and compulsory abortion, or something — which rather repudiated his left-libertarian objections to the holy roller conservative Hitchens.

    Festival of vacuous ideas would have been a better title.

  60. Mahaut1329

    Great to see your report from on the ground faustusnotes. It’s so valuable to have some of the fog cleared away.

  61. jungney

    This, right here, is at the core of trust in relation to nuclear power:

    The very core of the Fukushima disaster timeline that has been regurgitated by the mainstream media and government agencies alike was almost exclusively based on information provided by plant operator TEPCO — a company that is now on record as having lied to the population of the world in a major way. And there were no signs they would ever tell the truth unless forced to. It wasn’t until an independent investigation revealed the actual levels of radiation released from the plant (around 2 1/2 times more than TEPCO would even admit) that TEPCO was forced to go on record and state that the radiation levels they released were indeed much lower than reality.

    We can only imagine what else they are lying about.

    The division of labour, which we already saw above as one of the chief forces of history up till now, manifests itself also in the ruling class as the division of mental and material labour, so that inside this class one part appears as the thinkers of the class (its active, conceptive ideologists, who make the perfecting of the illusion of the class about itself their chief source of livelihood)…

    The German Ideology.