Wisdom of the sp*mmers

Quite a crop of sp*m comments were stopped by Akismet this morning, as 99.9% of them usually are. I am amused by their fake sincerity and sometimes weird machine-generated English.

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All those, and more, tried to attach themselves, with glorious irrelevance, to my latest recycle post 2010 recycled: GapMinder!  Note the thread of flattery. The last one was trying to sell me upholstery cleaning, or just as likely malware or spyware.

Meanwhile…

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Great sage—“You are amazing! Thanks!” – meditating at the Steelers Club, Wollongong, yesterday.

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Promises, promises!

Yesterday Wayne Swan was hijacked by facts and therefore had to “break a promise!”  The majority of economists, business leaders and commentators are saying it was about time – for example, see Swan eats crow – and not a day too soon.  The Opposition, particularly Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey, have been handed a great Christmas gift and are acting as one would expect – but, as Lenore Taylor notes:

The Coalition has promised always to deliver surpluses but on Thursday Abbott hedged that promise saying, ”based on current figures”. If forecasts change, so might the Coalition’s promise. If it sticks with its pledge, when it comes time to tally the cost of election promises in the new year…

All this set me to thinking about political promises.

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Thanks to RacingB*tch

Gillard, Swan, Wong and all thoroughly painted themselves into a corner over the “budget surplus” promise – very foolish of them in retrospect, especially as so many quite supportive voices pointed out their folly. Had they promised merely to roll back the deficit they would not have had a problem, as they have indeed made very substantial inroads on that front. But they would set a too specific target, wouldn’t they. The splendid Penny Wong tried to look fetching with egg on her face on 7.30 last night, but it didn’t quite work.

Trouble is promises are so often oversimplified and changing circumstances can lead to much biting on the bum. Sometimes the promise is so far over the top as to be impossible from the word go, as was the case with Bob Hawke and “no child in poverty” by 1990 – now Hawke’s greatest regret apparently.

Twenty years after pledging no Australian child would live in poverty, former prime minister Bob Hawke says his comment is one of his biggest regrets.

"It was a silly shorthand thing," Mr Hawke has told News Limited newspapers. "I should have just said what was in the distributed speech."

I venture to say that in the sad race to the bottom we have seen on asylum seekers in recent years, Tony Abbott and the Coalition will rue the day they ever started barking “I will stop the boats!”  It seems to me that they will not, that their reasoning based on the effectiveness of policies of the past decade may well be very flawed.  Paris Aristotle was very likely correct the other day at the Senate hearing.

"At the current rate of arrivals, we could see upwards of 25,000 to 30,000 people coming (in 2013)," Mr Aristotle told a parliamentary committee in Canberra on Monday.

"There is simply no way our navy has the capacity to get to every boat that will get into distress in those circumstances."…

"If we think this is going to be fixed in three months we are delusional," he said.

Some idea of what has changed may be deduced from this graphic from the GetUp blog. Go there for the full graphic and commentary.

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See also There’s no evidence that asylum seeker deterrence policy works and other posts in that Conversation series.

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So good luck, Tony Abbott. I suspect your time for eating crow will come. Another shredded promise just waiting to happen, partly because it has been framed hyperbolically for full drama queen effect in the first place. A shame, too, that it is also a pretty disgraceful policy as well, but that is another matter I have pursued before. See also The People Smuggler.

The People Smuggler pieces together the events and terror that force people to take their chances on rickety boats. It fleshes out and humanises the people the politicians would rather we didn’t identify with and that the 30-second sound bites cannot ever capture.

It forces us to re-think the government’s ‘children overboard’ scapegoating version of events, the actual ways to ‘stop the boats’ that significantly differ from politicians’ postured but ultimately empty promises. It highlights the farcical and inhumane systems we have in place for processing—or not processing, as the case often seems to be—refugees we turn into detainees.

Ali sums up the situation well:

This is the first time I have heard of queue-jumping. I try to imagine this queue. What do they think? That when the secret police are shooting at you, you run down the street yelling, ‘Where’s the queue? Where’s the queue?’

He also writes:

It is unclear why Australians are so strangely concerned about asylum seeks arriving by airplane; maybe because there’re no pictures in the paper or on TV. But they are so afraid of the two percent who come by boat that they lock them up like criminals. As with the Jews in World War II, the refugees’ pitiful plight inspires irrational fear. If Australian people only knew the strength it takes to get on one of these boats, to keep holding onto life after the horrors these people have been through, they would be filled with awe and admiration.

That’s exactly what I’m filled with after reading The People Smuggler. I have a good mind to post copies to our not-so-esteemed ‘leaders’, especially the blustering, ‘I’ll stop the boats’ one who has a penchant for wearing budgie smugglers.

On lying pollies from another perspective see Promises promises: When politicians don’t deliver.

Update

Just a couple of other thoughts on the Wayne Swan/deficit news.

Nicholas Gruen, economist:

As a temporary member of the press gallery I had my ‘gotcha’ question ready for Wayne Swan, but alas didn’t join the shouting match to get my question in. But I can share it with you gentle reader – a little esprit de l’escalier a few hours later.

Treasurer, do you support the Budget’s Paper’s call for the Budget to retain “the necessary flexibility for the budget position to vary in line with economic conditions to support macroeconomic stability” or your Prime Minister’s commitment to return the budget to surplus in 2012-13 come what may.

That promise is the best of promises – and the worst of promises….

— Crikey, May 10th, 2011. A more recent column making similar points here.

Jim Belshaw:

The statement by Australian Treasurer Wayne Swan that the Commonwealth was unlikely to achieve a budget surplus this financial year came as no surprise.  Apart from some rather strange reporting in the Australian (Labor exposed as Treasurer Wayne Swan breaks surplus promise), I think that the major reaction among many was one of relief. I said strange reporting because of the inconsistency between the main take-home message provided by the "story" and the detail contained within it; this is political commentary masquerading as reporting.

Why relief? Well, the numbers have been suggesting for some time that a surplus was almost certainly unachievable. The fear was that in its desire to protect a political promise, the Commonwealth Government would be forced into silly spending cuts. The latest national account figures showed that the Government sector in general is now detracting from growth as a consequence of spending cuts. Further cuts would have added to this at a time when the economy is clearly off the boil. Forget the social policy arguments about the adverse effects of cuts. When the business sector as a whole starts arguing for the abandonment of the surplus target, you can be reasonably sure that there is a problem…

So, finally, Treasurer Swan was forced to face reality, not the atmospherics of politics. A bloody good thing too.

Some say we have just three weeks left…

… so make sure your next few weeks of blog entries are really good! I refer of course to the Mayan Calendar.  (But see also ANALYSIS: Mayan Ruins Describe Dates Beyond 2012 ‘Doomsday’.) On a shorter time frame the weather people have been warning us to keep out of the sun today, which so far is not too difficult.

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Can’t complain about the sight that greeted me from my window around 6am though.

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By the time I got downstairs it had almost disappeared. Bloody rainbows! Can’t rely on them…

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Do visit the photo blog for the December City Daily Photo theme entry, and go to DECEMBER – ‘My Street’ to see other CDP bloggers.

Julie versus Julia–the climax. Holding your breath?

It just may be that this whole ultra-obscure saga (about events which in themselves matter about as much to the welfare of the nation in 2012 as whether or not Tony Abbott had herpes in 1985) could take a turn not entirely in Julia’s favour today – or so the muckrakers known as The Opposition hope. See Gillard gave ‘false representation’ to commission: Abbott – though I still don’t really care all that much.

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That one was a little vent of my own based on yesterday’s episode of Home and Away – sorry, Question Time. Indeed Bob Katter and Tony Windsor were probably the only exemplars yesterday of a genuine use of Question Time which was otherwise the ongoing bunfight or patent Dorothy Dixers….

Some have been mean enough to cast aspersions of a more telling nature against the lovely Julie – telling her to get into the naughty corner. Anyone else remember that one?

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The Telegraph 18 November 2012:

Lawyer Peter Gordon told Australian Doctor magazine in 2007: "We had to fight even for the right of dying cancer victims to get a speedy trial. I recall sitting in the WA Supreme Court in an interlocutory hearing for the test cases involving Wittenoom miners Mr Peter Heys and Mr Tim Barrow. CSR was represented by Ms Julie Bishop (then Julie Gillon). (She) was rhetorically asking the court why workers should be entitled to jump court queues just because they were dying."

Here is an incomplete list from Wikipedia: List of Australian politicians convicted of crimes. Its incompleteness was attested by a Sydney lawyer on my Facebook page just a few minutes ago: “In NSW, there’s Philip Smiles, Liberal, tax offences and Thomas Ley, National, murder, although technically he was not guilty by reason of insanity.”  Just mentioning these for the sake of “compare and contrast.”

The Libs must be keeping an eye on ICAC here in NSW too, even if at the moment the Obeid clan dominate the news from that body.

And reading that story was a tad more difficult than it should have been:

nuisancead

I refer to The Hobbit ad, of course. I couldn’t find its kill button. Could you? And if there isn’t one, what a bad idea!

There are things that matter and things I really don’t care two hoots about…

For example:

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Click that for the latest report from NOAA.

Read in today’s Sydney Morning Herald Where even the earth is melting.

THE world is on the cusp of a "tipping point" into dangerous climate change, according to new data gathered by scientists measuring methane leaking from the Arctic permafrost and a report presented to the United Nations on Tuesday.

"The permafrost carbon feedback is irreversible on human time scales," says the report, Policy Implications of Warming Permafrost. "Overall, these observations indicate that large-scale thawing of permafrost may already have started."

While countries the size of Australia tally up their greenhouse emissions in hundreds of millions of tonnes, the Arctic’s stores are measured in tens of billions…

Geologist Dr Iain Stewart in Earth: The Power of the Planet (2007– )

And so many other things today, reaching a grand climax in THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD!!!! Yes, it’s JULIA, THE VAMPIRE FROM SLATER AND GORDON! JULIA THE GETAWAY CAR DRIVER! JULIA OF BONNIE AND CLYDE FAME!  Or as I said, risking being labelled sexist perhaps, on Facebook last night and yesterday afternoon, especially having watched Julia Bishop’s confected outrage during her press conference:

This "Get Julia" session of Parliament is perhaps the lowest point Australian politics has reached in my lifetime — even counting the Dismissal, which at least was about very serious matters. Right now I couldn’t care less if Julia turns out to have been a vampire 20 years ago. I just want to see her government governing, albeit in many areas not very well — refugee policy for one– and the Opposition looking like a credible alternative and not a pack of slavering bitches — no gender implied…

Congrats Julie Bishop on yr press conference. Succeeded in firming up a vote for Labor with me. Well done! What a heap of ordure this now is…

Julie Bishop: why should I care? I really don’t any more. Try policy debate instead of this crap and let the government govern. I really do not care what Julia may or may not have done 20 years ago according to the gossip and hearsay you are retailing no matter that it’s in a stat dec, which you know as well as I proves nothing except that the declarer asserts he/she thinks whatever it is is true — maybe…

Pissed off because the overblown rhetoric pre carbon tax is now proven piffle? Is that it?

If you can be bothered, here is the latest little gem:

BRUCE Wilson, Julia Gillard’s former boyfriend, said he ”perhaps” asked an AWU employee to deposit $5000 in her bank account, but could not recall it. The PM said she could not remember receiving such a sum.

Mr Wilson, appearing on the ABC, was emphatic that no money from the union slush fund set up by him and fellow official Ralph Blewitt was spent on Ms Gillard’s house. He said that after there were technical problems getting the fund registered, he had asked Ms Gillard to help. ”It was a simple matter that needed to be done, she did it, end of story.”

Mr Wilson said he had not benefited financially from the fund but said Mr Blewitt had taken money out. He had been ”packaging it up and burying it in his backyard” – and some of it rotted away. Mr Wilson felt sorry that Ms Gillard ”has to go through all this because it’s just not warranted”.

MICHELLE GRATTAN

See also Lenore Taylor’s Bishop bluster loses wind in an obvious absence of evidence.

However, some real light on this and related matters does come from these three posts and their comment threads. The three bloggers together represent years of experience in the law, business, and the Australian Public Service and are all far more qualified than I am.

Finally, not a story of cosmic significance perhaps but a nice local one nonetheless — about Yours and Owls and my ex-student Stewart Holt (not “Stuart”) — Illawarra Mercury today.

Charges against the owners of Wollongong cafe-bar Yours and Owls have been dismissed following a graffiti incident at the venue earlier this year.

Two of the venue’s three owners – Balunn Jones and Ben Tillman – stood accused of malicious damage after a graffiti message appeared on the business’s Kembla Street facade in March.

Last month the charges were withdrawn and dismissed.

Mr Jones credited solicitor Stuart Holt – a regular customer who offered his services pro bono – with seeing through the case.

The venue is now hosting a new street art project on its inside walls, but Mr Jones said the trio planned to soon sell the business.

"Hopefully it goes to someone who’s got a similar point of view to us and it doesn’t just fade away. It would be nice if it happened."

Mr Jones said the trio was selling "for a variety of reasons", but did not elaborate.

The men – friends from the Illawarra’s northern suburbs – opened Yours and Owls in 2010.

Monday salmagundi

“Salmagundi is also purportedly a meal served on pirate ships. It is a stew of anything the cook had on hand, usually consisting of chopped meat, anchovies, eggs, and onions, often arranged in rows on lettuce and served with vinegar and oil, and spiced with anything available.” – Wikipedia.

Oh yes!

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Memories of the Albury Hotel, my one time alternative lounge room where I met M and Sirdan, among others — based on a photo by Bruce Part who worked there:

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Why I won’t be watching QandA tonight, aside from the fact Janet Albrechtsen is on it:

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Today Paul Sheehan wrote a total puff piece about Gina Rinehart. If he isn’t already on her PR team he should be soon after this. Talk about fawning! In contrast, please consider More myths from the mining oligarchs.

Australia is in the grip of a group of mining oligarchs, who are spending enormous amounts of monety to shape the economic debate to suit their own very narrow interests. They are opposed to the mining tax (a resource rent tax) and have in the past denied the state (on behalf of all of us) owns the resources that they plunder for private profit. They have also sponsored national tours of leading climate-change deniers (such as Lord Monckton) who are known to trade on distortions of the truth. Overall, there personal resources guarantee them access to the daily media and they use it relentlessly. They also write books which get national coverage and have a record of suing peope who criticise their views. The result is that there is very little critical scrutiny of the propositions they advance to justify their claims. Some of the propositions are pure fantasy yet they have gained traction with the public who have been too easily duped by the promotional onslaught. Here is a little sojourn into the fantasy world on one such oligarch.
The most recent example of this oligarchic-intervention is launch of a new book last week by the richest person in Australia, Ms Gina Rinehart.

I last wrote about Ms Rinehart in this blog – A veritable pot pourri of lies, deception and self-serving bluster.

At that time, the richest person in Australia – mining heiress – who has been fighting it out in the courts with her own children over their grandfather’s inheritance – echoed the Ann Raynd line that the “billionaires and millionaires” create all the jobs and help the poor but the latter are too lazy to do their bit.

She claimed that “billionaires and millionaires are doing more than anyone to help the poor by investing their money and creating jobs”.

Even though the current mining boom has seen her wealth (derived from an inheritance from her father who was a mining magnate) increase by more than $A20 billion in a few year claims that “anti-business and socialist policies for hurting the poor”.

She also claimed that socialism in Australia is “killing off investment in Australian projects” and called for the minimum wage to be cut…

In A veritable pot pourri of lies, deception and self-serving bluster:

… Apparently, socialism in Australia is “killing off investment in Australian projects”.

She wants the minimum wage cut and attacked the poor by saying that:

If you’re jealous of those with more money, don’t just sit there and complain; do something to make more money yourself – spend less time drinking, or smoking and socialising, and more time working. Become one of those people who work hard, invest and build, and at the same time create employment and opportunities for others.

This sounds like it is coming from someone who is “self-made”. The reality is different. She inherited her wealth and didn’t have to do any work to be at the top of the wealth distribution. And then came the socialist state we call China who launched its development phase at just about the right time for Gina – she has made a fortune from companies that dig our resources up, put it into trucks, take it to a ship and send it to China.

Of-course, the empirical evidence is the opposite. The lower income groups in Australia spend less of their budget on alcohol than the higher income earners.

In this 2010 study – Drinking patterns in Australia, 2001–2007 – from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (an Australian Government research body) we learn that (Table 2.6):

… people that are currently employed are most likely to be recent consumers of alcohol.

A lower proportion of the unemployed consume alcohol (within the previous 12 months of the survey) relative in work.

Digging deeper, we find that in terms of the Australia Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Index of Relative Socioeconomic Disadvantage (based on the SEIFA Indexes), which measure how well off a person is across a range of indicators, that the first quintile (“the most disadvantaged 20% of people in Australia”) have the lowest proportion of alcohol consumers and between 2001 and 2007, the proportion dropped.

Conversely, the highest quintile (the most advantaged Australians) are way out there in terms of proportions of that cohort that use alcohol. The AIHW Report concluded that:

… as the socioeconomic status goes up, the proportion of people consuming alcohol also increases.

Later, the Report analyses alcohol use and income and concluded that:

When personal income by alcohol drinking status was analysed, the data show that as personal income increases, so does the prevalence and frequency of drinking … For example, the prevalence of any alcohol consumption is 95% among the highest income group, compared with around 80% among the lowest income group, and there is a fairly constant gradient across these groups. This applies for both sexes.

The March 2012 edition of the ABS Australian Social Trends – carried a feature on “low economic resource households” – which is a cute way of say those who are poor.

The article presented data (for 2009-10) on expenditure on goods and services by the poor relative to the rest of the population.

We learn that:

In 2009-10, the average weekly equivalised expenditure (adjusted to include imputed rent) on goods and services of people in low economic resource households ($500) was 57% of the average expenditure of other households ($872) … Housing, food and transport were the broad expenditure items that accounted for the largest proportion of expenditure on goods and services across both low economic resource households and other households. Among those in low economic resource households, these items accounted for 57% of total expenditure, while for those in other households they accounted for 45%.

In terms of weekly equivalised expenditure, the Low economic resource households spent $A10 a week on alcoholic beverages (1.9 per cent of their total spending) whereas the rest of the population spent $A21 a week on alcoholic beverages (2.4 per cent of their budget).

Spending on other items relating to “socialising” were also much lower in absolute and proportional terms for the poorest Australians…

Inconvenient facts from an economist, eh! Still, I am sure Paul will love her as much as ever.

I considered going up to South Sydney Uniting Church, but didn’t – partly because my neighbour down here asked me to a barbecue at The Bates Motel and I though being neighbourly was important. Had I gone though:

Homily
Reign of Christ, Year B
“Celebrating Community”
South Sydney Uniting Church
November 25, 2012

Psalm 93; 2 Samuel 23:1-7; John 18:33-37

‘Trust

“Is the brutalisation of the weak by the strong just what happens behind closed doors, when families, orders, tribes and forces self-police? Is it, in short, inevitable?” asks Elizabeth Farrelly. “Because it’s not just sex, or violence, or corruption, though those are bad enough. To my mind, this kind of abuse is theft. The child abused by a priest isn’t just sexualised, degraded and humiliated. As surely as Roberto Curti was robbed of his life by spontaneous official torture, the abused child is robbed of his or her budding trust in authority and, by extension, the world. Children are very moral animals, with an intense and intuitive feel for justice. To be betrayed and defiled by the supposed source of truth and goodness leaves a child truly broken hearted. In the case of grubby planning decisions, politicians are the slimy adults and we the broken hearted children, but the destruction is similar. We are the victims of systematic environmental theft” (Elizabeth Farrelly, “Developing a tale of comeuppance”, SMH, 21/11/12).

I’ve been thinking on Farrelly’s words for a few days. Power corrupts, she laments. Without an alternative to abusive power we are doomed to fear and hopelessness. One way out is by way of the victims of abuse – by way of their courage and by way of their critique of the systems of abuse. Michael Mullins, editor of Eureka Street, made a decision last week not to publish an essay on media bias against the Catholic Church. He wrote: “Any hope that the Church has of being a credible witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ depends upon its ability to accept its current humiliation and give glory instead to the sexual abuse victims whom it has humiliated.” God be with you

Searchings — 1

There really have been so many things I have seen or read in the past few days that deserve to be shared, that have provoked more reflection than I can possibly capture in one blog post or even two. But to begin.

God’s Politics asked Is God a Cosmic Jerk?

That’s how I ask the question, but professional theologians use the term theodicy. It comes from two Greek words: theo, which means “God,” and dike, which means “justice.” Theodicy asks, “If God is good and just, then why is there so much evil in the world?” There are many answers to this question. Some claim that God causes evil. In which case, my question becomes relevant – Is God a Cosmic Jerk?

Let’s first examine the word “evil.” Theologian Joe Jones succinctly defines evil in his book A Grammar of Christian Faith “as the harm to some creature’s good” (280). Jones distinguishes between two categories of evil that harms a creatures good. First, there is moral evil – the harm humans inflict upon one another through violence, injustice, and oppression. The second category is natural evil – the harm caused by cancer, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural events…

The older I get the more unsatisfactory the theologians seem to me, and the more “fundamentalist” they are then even less satisfactory are they likely to be – unless you are better at believing a thousand impossible things before breakfast, to paraphrase Lewis Carroll, than I am these days.

"Alice laughed: "There’s no use trying," she said; "one can’t believe impossible things."
"I daresay you haven’t had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

Unfortunately the impression one is left with after much fundamentalist apologetics/theology is that God indeed could very well be a Cosmic Jerk!

This especially plagues the bibliolatrists who constitute the more conservative wings of Judaism and Christianity and, alas, far too much of Islam. The unfortunate tradition of Divine Mouthpieces and Pens is as much a curse as a blessing, indeed I suspect more a curse than a blessing. Infallibility and certainty are among the most dangerous and foolish human constructs.

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Take Monday’s poem from Three Quarks Daily.

For insulting the Quran, "’Thousands of people
dragged a Pakistani man … from a police station …
(and)
beat him to death,’ police said Wednesday."

Insulting Books

Is it even possible
to insult a book?

Has it a soul within its leaves
a heart that beats
an eye that winks
a cord running through its spine
descending from a thing that thinks?

Is a book of inky lines
(of characters not themselves sublime)
capable of being hurt or ridiculed
or cheapened by critiques
either of the wise, or fools?

Has it veins between its covers
salty with the blood of lovers?

Is there something in its pages
(even if put there by sages)
that warrants death to critics?

Is it a thing so lame that priestly brothers
(arrogant, imperious, parasitic)
who worship sheaves of ink on paper
must, for its sake, snuff the holy breath
of others?

by Jim Culleny

11/6/12

Go and read the comments that follow it. An excellent series, those daily poems from Three Quarks Daily. Jim is the editor of this feature and most wide-ranging in his selection and very knowledgeable. Even Aussie poets score there at times.

Back in 2008 I read Rich Merritt’s Code of Conduct and discovered his rather occasional blog But Seriously…

I am reading Rich’s Code of Conduct at the moment.

In Code of Conduct, former U.S. Marine Rich Merritt, explores the secret double lives of Don, Eddie, Karl and Patrick, all currently serving as closeted military men. Agent Jay of the Naval Investigative Service struggles with his past as he follows his own personal vendetta against homosexuality. As hope of President Bill Clinton’s promise to relieve the ban on gays in the military flourishes, Jay attempts to ruin the careers of our heroes. Action-packed, this novel kept me on the edge of my seat, while at the same time beautifully illustrating the passion and love that gay servicemen and women can have for each other.

A fast read, Merritt’s novel explores a fascinating section of the LGBTI community through his and others’ experiences in the military. Although the dialogue reads rather unrealistically, the novel was thoroughly enjoyable…

That last criticism is true at times; it is not the world’s greatest novel. Also, I would that it began differently, without quite so much military-speak and boys’ own adventure stuff so early. That aside, this is a passionate novel on several levels. It could have been even better if it had been written for outsiders rather more than it is. It would, I think, make an excellent movie though, so long as it was a movie-maker with the right political as well as artistic nous.

Rich Merritt was unfortunate enough to go to Bob Jones University from which he was expelled. His latest blog post is about his new novel Spiritual Probation.

What is it about?

Nate O’Connor wants to do right. His senior year of college, though, gets off to a rocky start. He’s a student at Bob Johnson University, the flagship institution of higher learning in American fundamentalism, where he and his best friend are placed on spiritual probation after being accused of disloyalty to the school. Their attempt to repair their reputation backfires and when Nate meets two women–one beautiful and smart, the other wise and charming–his entire belief system is uprooted. Nate’s world is further rocked by tragedy and his life will never be the same.

What are people saying about it?

“Setting his tale inside the closed society of a fundamentalist university, Rich Merritt tells a fascinating story that is alternately disturbing and inspiring. Spiritual Probation opened my eyes and touched my heart.
Joe DiPietro, Tony-Award winning playwright of Memphis

“In every decade, a true classic emerges, which demonstrates the strength of the human will to conquer and survive the ills of its society. Merritt has written such a work in this coming-of-age story of courage and conviction in a world that is perceptively lacking in empathy and compassion for the individual spirit and soul. A poignant ‘must read’ for such present times, which is so heavily burdened with the painful effects of emotional bullying and spiritual abuse, so currently at the forefront of daily life.”
Lynda Mandell, M.D., Ph.D., Board Certified Psychiatrist

Over on Goodreads another Bob Jones survivor says:

As an apologetic alumna of Bob Jones University, I truly enjoyed this book. I sympathized with the protagonist and his exit from fundamentalism as he realized how nonsensical most of it was. I cried with Danny’s family as they dealt with his tragedy. I was frustrated, but not surprised, by the reactions of the university. Even though the events of this book occurred before my time at BJ and some of the rules had changed by the time I arrived, much of the culture of the university has stayed the same, and the reactions to those who are outside the university or who disagree with the university are exactly the same. I would recommend this book to anyone who’s dealt with the IFB and wants to dwell in the big questions rather than accepting all words spoken from a pulpit as truth.

See also Dr Camille Lewis.