Currently reading…

Yes, the Proust project continues in fits and starts. I find I can travel over to Proustland and stay for several hours with enormous pleasure, then go elsewhere for a day or a month and return where I had left off to take on that special world once more.  I am now into The Captive – so I have made progress since July. See Proust: visiting a demented relative? Thanks, Kobo – but it does mean I am reading via eBook the old Scott Moncrieff translation. See also: All about the new Penguin/Viking editions of Marcel Proust’s great novel, À la recherche du temps perdu, once known in English as Remembrance of Things Past but now more accurately titled In Search of Lost Time.

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Loved John Lanchester’s Capital. From The New York Times review:

Lanchester, a brainy, pleasure-loving polymath, is a novelist, memoirist and journalist who writes sagely and elegantly about food, family, culture, technology and money. He’s still best known for his delectably wicked first novel, “The Debt to Pleasure,” which blends murder with gourmandise. But he has also written a well-reasoned nonfiction book entitled “I.O.U.: Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay,” which closely analyzes the current financial collapse. Now, with “Capital,” he readjusts his sights and zooms out, framing a larger, more inclusive picture that shows how the easy-­money era affected not just greedy speculators but the society that fattened around them.

The fiction I am currently savouring is The Importance of Being Seven, the sixth collection of episodes set in Scotland Street, Edinburgh, by Alexander McCall Smith. I read the seventh one in December: Bertie Plays the Blues. But no matter that I am out of sequence; the delight is undimmed.

Non-fiction just now is A Wild History: Life and Death on the Victoria River Frontier by Darrell Lewis. Tom Griffiths on Inside.Org rates it one of the best (overlooked) books of 2012.

If Ned Kelly had been gentler and more learned but just as much a bushman he might have written A Wild History: Life and Death on the Victoria River Frontier (Monash University Publishing, $29.95). Darrell Lewis’s book is a distillation of bush wisdom and scholarly tenacity, of courageous fieldwork and equally adventurous archival sleuthing, of forty years of learning the country and of a lifetime of listening to history. Lewis has walked the Victoria River District in Australia’s northwest, swum its crocodile-infested rivers, got to know its plants, animals and people, slept under its stars, inspected its caves, recorded its inscriptions on rock and tree, and then pursued its material diaspora wherever it may have migrated. I am reminded of a great landmark work in Australian history, A Million Wild Acres, a book about the Pillaga Scrub by another bush scholar, Eric Rolls. Lewis’s book is full of frontier stories, superbly researched and skilfully told. And the book to look out for in early 2013 is The Archaeology of Australia’s Deserts (Cambridge University Press) by Mike Smith. It’s the most important work in Australian archaeology since John Mulvaney’s The Prehistory of Australia (1969).

See also John Rickard in The Australian Book Review:

The Victoria River District is unusual in its lack of family dynasties with roots in the pioneer generation. The early settlers, who were occupying vast tracts of land, tended eventually to sell up and return to something more like civilisation. Lewis puts this down to the harsh climate, and to the remoteness and isolation, which lacked the ameliorating influence usually provided by country towns. With the high turnover of station staff, there has been ‘a weak transmission of local knowledge’. The irony is that Aborigines, who, unlike the settlers, ‘don’t come from somewhere else, stay for a period and then leave’, are actually ‘the “keepers” of much “European” history’. Lewis knows the District’s Aboriginal communities well, and is able to draw on the perspective on European settlement of those who so fiercely resisted it.

Lewis stresses the sophistication of Aboriginal land use, particularly in the deployment of fire. ‘They knew that burning at the appropriate time would promote the flowering of certain plant species, and the growth of particular food plants, or would attract desirable animals to the burnt area, and they knew that if they burnt certain food plants in patches over time, the plants would fruit over an extended season.’ This seems consistent with the argument recently advanced by Bill Gammage in his prize-winning The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia (2011), which presumably was not available to Lewis when
he was writing A Wild History

At the heart of A Wild History, however, is a meticulous account of the halting progress of European settlement and the varied opposition it faced from the District’s thirteen or so Aboriginal peoples or language groups…

A Wild History is a fine piece of scholarship, exemplary in its judicious interpretation of both white and Aboriginal oral tradition, as well as the documentary sources. Just as the story begins with ‘the aura about the country’ firing Lewis’s imagination, so at the end it is the landscape, majestic, beautiful, forbidding, that has the last word. Keith Windschuttle could learn a lot from this book.

I doubt KW would, alas – but I have been finding the book quite a revelation.

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from the cover of A Wild History

And then there is William James.

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The Varieties of Religious Experience

A Study in Human Nature

William James

To
E.P.G.
IN FILIAL GRATITUDE AND LOVE

1902

Yes it is dated, but on the other hand what a great classic it is!  Makes you wonder whether we really have learned a great deal that matters since 1902.  I certainly am enjoying this very belated first acquaintance.

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NITV best option for Christmas Night–in my opinion

Why?

  1. 7:30pm Jimmy Little Tribute Concert

    To celebrate Jimmy Little’s life Australian musicians from around the country will gather and sing. Family and friends will come together to honour the contribution of this extraordinary Australian. News (TBC)

  2. 9:00pm Women of the Sun

    As the seal-hunters discovered the rich bounty off the southern coasts, they supplemented their isolated lives by kidnapping Aboriginal women. Drama (M)

  3. 10:00pm Bush Bands Bash Bush Bands Bash is the biggest concert on the Alice Springs calendar and one of the most vibrant Indigenous events in Australia.

Last night ABC News 24 repeated an Australian Story from April 2012.

This is a story of rags-to-riches and back again, introduced by actor Heather Graham.

From a working class upbringing in Adelaide, Scott Neeson built a career as a top Hollywood movie executive, promoting blockbusters such as Titanic, Braveheart, Independence Day, and X-Men. It was a glamorous lifestyle, walking red carpets, partying with celebrities and dating models.

But after a holiday in Cambodia, Neeson made a deliberate choice to give it all up. Gone are the slick designer suits, traded instead for the cargo pants and hiking boots required to navigate the rubbish dumps of Phnom Penh.

He now owns ‘nothing’ but says he couldn’t be happier as he works to help some of Cambodia’s poorest children.

The spirit of Jesus of Nazareth – and the compassion of the Buddha – is alive sometimes inside and just as often outside the community of believers.

SEVERSON: Neeson says he doesn’t belong to an organized religion but leans toward Buddhism, in part because it accepts suffering as part of life and has helped the kids endure their own suffering.

Mr. NEESON: And the one thing it’s really taught me, even more than, I think, spirituality, is the resilience of the human spirit. What these kids have been through is remarkable, and they come here, and they have a sense of real happiness.

And on a smaller scale, witness the kindness of the lovely Helen and the staff at the Yum Yum Cafe.  Here is what I scored this morning.

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Bertie Plays the Blues

This is the second most recent in the 44 Scotland Series by Alexander McCall Smith.

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This reviewer finds, in contrast to the No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, that these books indulge rather too much in inner speech and philosophising.

I find that this in fact is one if the great delights of 44 Scotland Street, and of Bertie Plays the Blues in particular. The novel ends with a version of this Celtic spiral based on the Book of Kells.

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Those interlocked hands symbolise the secular Christianity that is at the heart of McCall Smith’s benignly conservative world view.

But it would be wrong to become cynical,
Would be wrong to dismiss the possibility
Of making bearable the suffering of so many
By acts of love in our own lives…
How foolish I once thought I was
To believe in all this; how warmly
I now return to that earlier belief;
How fervently I hope that it is true,
How fervently I hope that it is so.

That is from a poem by the artist Angus Lordie in the final chapter. Chapter 63, about two-thirds into the novel, is titled “Solastalgia Explained” and is another key aspect of McCall Smith’s world view, one that many of a certain age share in, including myself to a fair degree and others I know to a greater or lesser extent. I really commend pages 241 to 243. I would cut and paste them if I could! On the novel see also Bertie Plays the Blues – Alexander McCall Smith.

The term solastalgia is an Australian coinage!

Solastalgia is a neologism coined by the Australian philosopher Glenn Albrecht in 2003 with the first article published on this concept in 2005. It describes a form of psychic or existential distress caused by environmental change, such as mining or climate change.

As opposed to nostalgia – the melancholia or homesickness experienced by individuals when separated from a loved home – "solastalgia" is the distress that is produced by environmental change impacting on people while they are directly connected to their home environment. A paper published by Albrecht and collaborators focused on two contexts where collaborative research teams found solastalgia to be evident: the experiences of persistent drought in rural New South Wales (NSW) and the impact of large-scale open-cut coal mining on individuals in the Upper Hunter Valley of NSW. In both cases, people exposed to environmental change experienced negative affect that is exacerbated by a sense of powerlessness or lack of control over the unfolding change process.

What a useful word. It may be applied to a lot more than the psychological effects of environmental change – as indeed McCall Smith does. I suspect Jim Belshaw will find the idea resonates.

See also Clive Thompson on How the Next Victim of Climate Change Will Be Our Minds (Wired) and Glenn Albrecht, The age of solastalgia.

The built and natural environments are now changing so rapidly that our language and conceptual frameworks have to work overtime just to keep up. Under the intertwined impacts of global development, rising population and global warming, with their accompanying changes in climate and ecosystems, there is now a mismatch between our lived experience of the world, and our ability to conceptualise and comprehend it.

No longer is the “wisdom of the elders” relevant to how we should live in the here and now, and this loss of historically informed knowledge has implications for social cohesion.

I experienced the connections between mental health and changes to a once predictable and loved home-environment when examining the impact of open-cut coal mining in the Upper Hunter region of NSW. My own eco-biography, the seminal influences in my life that have influenced my feelings about the natural environment, had attuned me to the importance of a positive “sense of place” in people’s lives, and to the significance of what the geographer Yi-Fu Tuan called “topophilia”, or the love of place and landscape…

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Croker Island Exodus

Croker Island Exodus is a documentary to be screened on ABC1 next Tuesday. I think I had heard of the story and in an odd way it intersects with some things in my life – with a place at least – and Jim Belshaw will be pleased to see there is an Armidale connection.

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1941, all white women and children are evacuated from Darwin. Japanese invasion is imminent. On a tiny Methodist mission on Croker Island in the Arafura Sea, the Superintendent and three Cottage mothers are responsible for 95 stolen generation Aboriginal children allocated to their care by the government. The missionaries are given the option of evacuating but how could they leave these children? However food supplies are running dangerously low and no help comes through the long Wet. February 1942, a message by pedal radio, Darwin has been bombed, the missionaries will now have to move the children off the island themselves. So they begin their perilous journey.

Their first destination requires a trek over many miles of open savannah and the harsh beautiful stone country of Arnhem Land. When the old truck becomes bogged, the children help push it to harder ground. They gather armfuls of water lily stalks and climb for berries in the bush plum trees. At night they make camp, using their dwindling supply of flour and yeast to make damper. It will still be many miles walking.

At Oenpelli they expect to stay 3 days but it is weeks before word that they will have to walk another 60 miles to meet government trucks. With help from the traditional Aboriginal men they cross the flooded East Alligator River by dug out canoe. The river is home to saltwater crocodiles but despite falling into the river they make it across safely.

After many days, they meet up with the trucks. But arriving in Pine Creek they find an American army base, no beds just the Butcher’s Paddock on the outskirts of town.

They finally board a cattle train en route to Alice Springs and their destination a Methodist Farm on the outskirts of Sydney. In 44 days these brave women and their young charges travel from Arnhem Land across the continent, a truly heroic and untold journey.

But this is also an epic story of human endurance and resilience.

In 1946 Margaret returned to Croker with the children including Alice, Netta and Jessie who are now in their 80s. They have endured so much in their lives but their friendships forged on Croker remain strong and feisty. These Aboriginal women still call Margaret, now 99 years, ‘sister’. It is their shared stories of love, humour and compassion that are central to this film.

They ended up at Otford, arriving no doubt in a train like this – as I also did in 1959 to attend a camp in the very house where these children stayed!

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The Armidale connection is through this book, which I have just reserved from Wollongong Library.

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a Reflection of Childhood Memories, 1942- 1946: Children from Otford, New South Wales and Croker Island, Northern Territory.

This wonderful first told tale of a unique childhood spent at Otford Public School with Aboriginal children evacuated from Croker Island during World War II.

Set in a rural setting outside Sydney, the author shares personal memories of an important time in Australian history, and reflects her own sense of cultural awareness at an early age.

Kardoorair Press was established in 1979, primarily as an outlet for poets based on the Northern Tablelands, New England Region of New South Wales or writers with an affiliation with the region.

An online history of Helensburgh, next station on the Illawarra Line towards Sydney, recalls the time of these events.

… During the ‘40s Australia was mainly absorbed with the War effort and post-war reconstruction. Stanwell Park beach was littered with concrete tank traps and coils of barbed wire. The old rail tunnel to Otford was blasted. Some installations were constructed and a small RAAF force settled in to await the attack. Naturally a number of the local men joined the services and the ladies auxiliaries set to for the war effort. Knitting, collecting old aluminium pots and pans became the order of the day. Otford served host to a group of Aboriginal evacuees from Crocker Island north of Australia. The school was enlarged to handle the influx of children. The Helensburgh branch of the Red Cross was reinstituted and set up shop in the Anglican Church Hall. Soon homes and public buildings alike had their windows covered with "black out" paper. Wartime want, rationing and the like, was thrown aside on 19th August 1945. It was "Victory Sunday". Services of thanksgiving were held in all the local churches to celebrate the end of the War.

During the post-war reconstruction a clothing factory was built in Walker Street providing some local employment to the women of the town. The old rail tunnels were used for mushroom production, another useful local employer. On the political scene the Bulli Shire amalgamated with Wollongong in 1947 to form the Greater Wollongong region. It was a controversial move and can still start a good debate…

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That appears to be the whole school…

In one neat package, this terrific doco explores our World War II history, the process of Aboriginal assimilation, the work of 20th-century missionaries, and the extraordinary personal stories of individuals involved. In the early 1940s, a mob of indigenous kids from the Top End were rounded up and sent to a new Methodist mission on Croker Island – off the coast from Darwin – and into the care of a young woman, Margaret Somerville. Not long afterwards, they were ordered to evacuate when the Japanese started bombing Australia’s northernmost city. Unfortunately, no one in authority bothered to do anything more than issue the order, leaving it up to Sister Somerville to almost single-handedly get 95 kids from Croker – via Arnhem Land and the Red Centre – to, eventually, Sydney. It was an incredible journey by boat, canoe, truck, train and foot, and it’s brought to life beautifully by clever re-enactments, as well as archival footage and interviews with survivors. The old aunties who feature are great characters, as is Somerville, whose memoir forms the basis of the program. It’s also a beautifully structured and balanced story that, among other things, gives one of the most nuanced and compelling insights into being ”taken away” we’ve seen on the small screen.

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Sharings

Highly local

The Blue Mile: “Let’s go on a journey investigating the history of the Blue Mile area! The Blue Mile is located along the shore line in Wollongong from Flagstaff Hill to North Beach.”

Local but international

Nick Southall, based in Wollongong, is a thoughtful Marxist. I am an agnostic on this as on many matters. I do commend Global Revolt and the Struggle for Democracy, however.

…the struggles for democracy will be very long. In fact they will take the rest of our days. For, if we want rich and rewarding lives, authentic and loving relationships, decent work and living conditions, sustainable development and environmental protection, these are things we need to create and recreate every day. It is when we stop looking to those who hold power over us for solutions, and start to create those solutions ourselves, that democracy is understood not just as a goal to be struggled for, but as the immanent ability of people to self-organise and govern themselves. However, it remains unclear if recent collaborative struggles can maintain their multiplicity of organisational forms and extend participatory democracy. Questions now facing those in revolt are; can the spaces, times and experimental practices of real democracy be widened and extended? Are new subjectivities, capable of genuine democratic relations, creating the practices, processes, infrastructures or institutions that can sustain and expand a long-term global revolution?

A Muslim on the seal of the confession

Waleed Aly in today’s Herald.

Suppose a paedophile’s desire for forgiveness and absolution is so strong that they are prepared to take the risk and confess anyway. Then what? Canon law prohibits a priest from revealing a confession even under the threat of his own death. Should we expect him to buckle under the threat of a prison sentence? Here it’s essential to understand that any priest who violates the confessional seal faces excommunication.

That might mean nothing to you. You might even see this as the threat that underpins a dangerous fairytale. But you are not the one hearing the confession. What matters is what this means to priests and, in Catholic terms, excommunication is as serious as it gets – far more serious than any prison sentence. This leaves us searching for a very strange creature indeed: someone devoted enough to enter the priesthood, but not devoted enough to care about eternal damnation. And we need lots of them. We’re betting on a team of rogue priests. That doesn’t sound like a plan to me.

You can’t legislate away people’s religious convictions, however much you might want to. And you can’t ignore them simply because you hold them in contempt. What matters here is the stuff outside the confessional box: the lame responses to abuse that seem calculated to protect paedophile priests rather than their victims; the legal manoeuvring to avoid paying compensation; the failure of police to follow through on investigations. These are the things we should be pursuing relentlessly. This should be the focus of our desire for justice. Let’s not dilute that by getting lost on some doctrinal excursion it’s clear we don’t understand.

He should be a Cardinal! Better than the one that is there now in Sydney anyway. I saw the whole Pell press conference on ABC News 24 and was mightily unimpressed.

Richard Ackland on Hardie’s, hypocrisy and Bernie Banton

See Morality question as dust will never settle.

It seemed like exquisite insensitivity for the NSW Court of Appeal to reduce the penalties originally imposed on directors of James Hardie Industries on the day the second episode of Devil’s Dust went to air on ABC TV.

This was a major and engrossing piece of documentary drama, based on the book by ABC journalist Matt Peacock with the delicate title, Killer Company.

We saw the story about how, at first, James Hardie attempted to hide the dangers posed by the mining and manufacture of asbestos then, when its liabilities were dramatically mounting, to spin-off its asbestos subsidiaries into the Medical Research and Compensation Foundation, taking the remainder of the company offshore.

The story was told through the eyes of former Hardie employee Bernie Banton, his wife Karen, the dogged Peacock and Hardie’s PR man.

In the TV drama, the spin doctor is called Adam Bourke, although in real life we know it was Greg Baxter, who later went to work as the corporate affairs person for Rupert Murdoch’s Australian operations.

The identity and character were changed in order to import a dramatic device of having Bourke’s wife struck down with mesothelioma – the result of home improvements in the early days of their marriage.

The idea was to create a sort of tacit, last-minute bonding between the protagonists – although there was drama enough without this flourish.

At the core of the TV and real-life dramas was Hardie’s attempt, in effect, to thwart claimants receiving a fair level of compensation for their asbestos-related diseases…

See my previous post.

Taking Australia’s Temperature

This was a quirky, good-humoured  attempt to reduce the shrillness of the alleged “debate” on global warming by throwing up actual facts about what has really, really happened objectively considered in Australia over the past century. Only an ass could deny what we we were shown, surely. Sadly, rusted on Moncktonites won’t have been watching, or if they did watch are no doubt torturously finding “evidence” to neutralise what we clearly saw.

Dr Karl Braganza
Temperatures around Australia have risen by about a degree. Um, less chills, more fevers. And some regional variation in that as well. So some regions are heating up more than others.
NARRATION
Essentially, what the records show is that global warming isn’t something that’s coming – it’s here in our backyards already. It’s pointless now to ask, ‘Is this climate change or natural variability?’ What we see is one acting on top of the other.
Dr Karl Braganza
So, every parcel of air, every ocean current, every weather system is now about a degree warmer. And when you go through and do the physics, that’s actually a hell of a lot of energy added to the climate system in general.
Dr Jonica Newby
You know, of all the things I learned on this investigation, it was that comment from Karl that really struck me. It was like, ‘Aha! I finally get it.’ There’s one degree of extra heat across the whole planet. That’s just a lot of new energy in our weather system. What happens when you add another degree? And another?
NARRATION
So what WILL happen in the future? Well, I’m obviously going to have to spend some money on a retaining wall. And, like the rest of us, I’ll try to do my bit. But I’ll continue to toast my sunset, pray to my snow gods and get as much joy as I always have out of the parts of Australia I love. I do think I should do so with eyes wide open, though, and not pretend there’s no change to see.

Well, let’s hope so.

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In a similar vein from The Netherlands see Climate Dialogue: Exploring different views on climate change.

Searchings — 2

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. To continue…

Sunday and Monday we had the two compelling episodes of Devil’s Dust.

An intensely personal drama based on one of Australia’s most shocking corporate scandals, Devil’s Dust tells the story of ordinary Australians caught in a web of deception in the James Hardie asbestos saga.

The two-part series follows four people – led by everyday hero and ex-Hardie’s employee Bernie Banton (Anthony Hayes) – thrown together by a tragedy that becomes a high-stakes battle through the corridors of corporate, political and media power.

Spanning four decades, Devil’s Dust shows industrial manufacturer James Hardie first cover up its knowledge of the dangers of its asbestos mining and products and then threaten compensation plans by moving the company overseas.

But it is not just a story of court cases and corporate legalese. Devil’s Dust depicts Australians from all walks of life whose lives are ripped apart by a deadly dust that looks so innocent, yet is so lethal.

In the 1970s, Bernie Banton works on the James Hardie BI factory floor in Parramatta where asbestos dust is piled like snowdrifts. Little does he realise the impact the dust will have on him, his family and his colleagues – and that he will inspire a nation with his determination to hold his former employer to account.

Young and tenacious ABC journalist Matt Peacock (Ewen Leslie) uncovers the dramatic gap between the dangers of asbestos known to international scientists and the public position of James Hardie and its allies.

When Matt meets Bernie during an interview for The 7.30 Report he anoints him the unofficial spokesperson for the asbestos compensation campaign. As the two become fixated on pursuing James Hardie, it’s up to Bernie’s wife, Karen (Alexandra Schepisi), to pick up the pieces at home. Karen helps Bernie handle the emotional burden of fighting for victims of asbestosis and mesothelioma, the cancer caused by asbestos – and to face his own asbestos fate.

The fictional character of James Hardie spin doctor Adam Bourke (Don Hany) is Matt and Bernie’s nemesis, as he works hard to protect the interests of the company’s shareholders. But far from being ruthless and uncaring, Adam experiences terrible moral dilemmas when he realises that the health and survival of thousands of Australians is jeopardised by the materials his company manufactured.

Based on interviews with those who have survived and the stories of those who have died, Devil’s Dust is inspired by the work of Matt Peacock, author of the book Killer Company.

The legacy of asbestos will continue for decades to come. By 2030, asbestos-related illnesses are expected to have killed more than 60,000 Australians, more than our country’s death toll in WW1.

Remember one of Tony Abbott’s less noble moments, from 2007?

Still putting his size 10s in his cakehole in 2012, I see…

That the events depicted dramatically but essentially truthfully in Devil’s Dust should serve to destroy any naive belief in the intrinsic goodness of capitalists, entrepreneurs  and markets is so obvious as to be hardly worth saying, and on an even greater scale consider the book I am now reading: Inside Job: The Financiers Who Pulled Off the Heist of the Century, by Charles Ferguson, Oneworld 2012. Thanks, Wollongong Library.

Charles Ferguson’s Inside Job, winner of the 2011 Academy Award for best documentary feature, is essential viewing for anyone who wants to understand the causes of the financial crisis. Although narrator Matt Damon brought Hollywood glitz, the film’s stars were the bankers, regulators and academics interviewed by Ferguson. The director’s gentle interrogation and good humour coaxed his subjects into attempting to explain their actions. Most failed. Like all good political documentaries, it informed and infuriated, while the creator remained in the background….

So begins a rather critical review in The Financial Times, linked to the book title above. As for me, I am thus far drawn in and impressed by Ferguson’s narrative, and by his anger which strikes me as well justified and rooted rather firmly in facts.

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See also Inside Job: how bankers caused the financial crisis; Corporate criminals gone wild by Andrew Leonard; Heist of the century: Wall Street’s role in the financial crisis, an extract from the book.

…The Obama government has rationalised its failure to prosecute anyone (literally, anyone at all) for bubble-related crimes by saying that while much of Wall Street’s behaviour was unwise or unethical, it wasn’t illegal. With apologies for my vulgarity, this is complete horseshit.

When the government is really serious about something – preventing another 9/11, or pursuing major organised crime figures – it has many tools at its disposal and often uses them. There are wiretaps and electronic eavesdropping. There are undercover agents who pretend to be criminals in order to entrap their targets. There are National Security Letters, an aggressive form of administrative subpoena that allows US authorities to secretly obtain almost any electronic record – complete with a gag order making it illegal for the target of the subpoena to tell anyone about it. There are special prosecutors, task forces and grand juries. When Patty Hearst was kidnapped in 1974, the FBI assigned hundreds of agents to the case.

In organised crime investigations, the FBI and government prosecutors often start at the bottom in order to get to the top. They use the well-established technique of nailing lower-level people and then offering them a deal if they inform on and/or testify about their superiors – whereupon the FBI nails their superiors, and does the same thing to them, until climbing to the top of the tree. There is also the technique of nailing people for what can be proven against them, even if it’s not the main offence. Al Capone was never convicted of bootlegging, large-scale corruption or murder; he was convicted of tax evasion.

A reasonable list of prosecutable crimes committed during the bubble, the crisis, and the aftermath period by financial services firms includes: securities fraud, accounting fraud, honest services violations, bribery, perjury and making false statements to US government investigators, Sarbanes-Oxley violations (false accounting), Rico (Racketeer Influenced and Criminal Organisations Act) offences, federal aid disclosure regulations offences and personal conduct offences (drug use, tax evasion etc).

Let’s take the example of securities fraud. Where to begin?…

Supplement “Redfern Now”

I have already mentioned the excellent drama series Redfern Now. Supplement your viewing with the independent local paper The South Sydney Herald, a monthly. The November issue is out now and includes a feature on “Redfern Now”.

GUEST EDITORIAL

Safety issues in Waterloo and Redfern

Michael Shreenan

Simmering social concerns are reaching boiling point in Waterloo and Redfern. A community meeting held on Tuesday October 16 at The Factory Community Centre noted the disconnect between what the police are working on, and Housing NSW allocation policies that house those with the most chaotic lifestyles and complex needs without much thought for the impact on communities. Police are dealing with a disproportionate number of recently released ex-offenders, people with mental health needs, as well as increasing drug availability and associated crime and anti-social behaviour.

Serious assaults, a number of suicides and numerous daily incidents are creating communities of anxiety out of communities that have historically been caring and neighbourly. Over-stretched and under-resourced services (both government and non-government), especially for those with mental health problems and ex-offenders with little post-release support, are creating an environment of fear and uncertainty. The meeting heard stories of “unauthorised” occupants standing over people, taking over properties and taking money, as well as damaging property to gain access, drug-dealing queues in internal corridors, ineffective security contracts and little care from most government agencies.

The meeting suggested inviting Probation and Parole into discussions and looking at the way allocations are made. The Factory and its partners, Waterloo Safety Action Group, REDWatch and Redfern Neighbourhood Advisory Board, are calling for a more integrated approach to human services, and more early prevention strategies to community safety challenges.

At a community meeting on Tuesday October 30, called to discuss the installation of the afterhours Needle Dispensing Machine outside Redfern Health Centre, Sydney Local Health District’s Chief Executive Dr Teresa Anderson announced the creation of a part-time community health liaison role in Waterloo and Redfern. Hopefully this will encourage other agencies to look more closely at how they can better respond to complex issues in our area.

— from the November South Sydney Herald.

Of course you do realise I have in the past written for the SSH! But despite that I really do commend it. Smile