Revisiting October 2016

And so that’s October 2016 done!

Posted on October 31, 2016 by Neil

First a gratuitous image from The Gong:

I reposted that in December 2014 at More photoposts – and a health note. It was originally at June 15, 2014. I used it again in November 2015.

Guess I just like it…

Tram politics

Posted on October 16, 2016 by Neil

So it appears Labor has won again in the Australian Capital Territory election yesterday. Like Tasmania ACT uses the amazingly complicated Hare-Clark system for counting votes. I won’t even try to explain: read Antony Green instead. It appears it was a win for trams. This is what Labor proposed for Canberra:


Now I am personally rather fond of trams, as you may see in The silence of the trams (2014) and posts linked there.


A Railway-bound tram in Cleveland Street Surry Hills in 1960

But it appears tram politics is not an always easy thing. NSW Premier Baird’s Parramatta tram scheme seems to have hit a roadblock: Parramatta light rail costs blow out to more than $3.5 billion. And not everyone has been happy with the way the Sydney Light Rail is progressing: Felling of 150yo fig tree ‘a huge loss’, as NSW Government makes way for light rail project.

The shame in Sydney is that we scrapped our tramway system in the first place. See Shooting Through: Sydney by Tram whence comes this evocative photo of Sydney’s CBD:


Post script

I should have mentioned Time for Wollongong to look at light rail, though I doubt anything will come of it.

University of Wollongong academic Dr Philip Laird, a transport consultant to state and federal government, said the city needed to get on board the idea of light rail.

“It should be looked at,” Mr Laird said.

“Everyone else is either doing it or looking at it. It’s been very successful on the Gold Coast, which is now proceeding to its second stage and the mayor up there wants the third stage rolled out…”

Fight night in Vegas – greatest show on earth

Posted on October 20, 2016 by Neil

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Awkward! This is not a parody


This is a parody – I think


This is just clever…

Well, what to expect in the “debate” (more accurately “performance art”) today our time? I’ll be watching!

Apparently one of The Donald’s star acts in the audience in the third debate is Barack Obama’s half-brother. See Presidential debate: Why is Donald Trump bringing Barack Obama’s half-brother Malik? That’s The Independent (UK), but even more interesting is this July 2016 story in The Hindu (India).

United States President Barack Obama’s half-brother Malik Obama, a long-time Democrat, has switched allegiance to the Republican Party and intends to vote for Donald Trump because he believes the business tycoon “speaks from the heart.”

Mr. Malik (57), an accountant in Kenya, used to live in Maryland in the U.S. and is still registered to vote there…

‘Barack, Hillary killed friend Gaddafi’

Mr. Malik is also annoyed that Ms. Clinton and Mr. Obama “killed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi”, whom he called one of his best friends. He dedicated his 2012 biography of his late father to Gaddafi and others who were “making this world a better place.”

But what bothers him even more is the Democratic Party’s support of same-sex marriage.

“I feel like a Republican now because they don’t stand for same-sex marriage, and that appeals to me,” he said.

Malik has 3 wives

Mr. Malik currently has at least three wives.

The President’s and Malik’s father, Barack Obama Sr., left Kenya in 1959 when Mr. Malik was a year old and his mother was pregnant with his sister Auma. Obama Sr. enrolled at the University of Hawaii, where he met and married the President’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham.

They first met only in 1985

Mr. Malik did not meet his younger half-brother until 1985. Mr. Obama (54) has seven half-siblings from both sides of his family. Mr. Malik, the eldest, is the director of the Barack H. Obama Foundation, a controversial Virginia charity named after his father.

For more on Fight Night and also the source of my top pic see the UK Daily Telegraph Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to clash in Las Vegas ‘Fight Night’ debate: US election briefing and polls.

But if the election is subject to the vagaries of all those dead people voting and is rigged from the start, as The Donald insists, you may wonder why they’re bothering. Perhaps a coup would be easier and more certain?  And I wonder if they will take drug tests before the show?

Finally some good reads, the first two from a US writer, John Scalzi. A cousin of mine (who is a strong evangelical Christian) commended the first a few days back as the best analysis he had thus far seen.

At this point there is no doubt that Donald Trump is the single worst major party presidential candidate in living memory,almost certainly the worst since the Civil War, and arguably the worst in the history of this nation. He is boastful and ignorant and petty, disdainful of the Constitution, a racist and a sexist, the enabler of the worst elements of society, either the willing tool of, or the useful idiot for, Vladimir Putin, an admirer of despots, an insecure braggart, a sexual assaulter, a man who refuses to honor contracts, and a bore.

He is, in sum, just about the biggest asshole in all of the United States of America. He’s lucky that Syrian dictator Bashar Hafez al-Assad is out there keeping him from taking the global title, not that he wouldn’t try for that, too, should he become president. It’s appalling that he is the standard bearer for one of the two major political parties in the United States. It’s appalling that he is a candidate for the presidency at all….

The comment thread is instructive. Next, the latest post is Reporting in From Trump Country.

I live in Darke county, Ohio. In 2004, Darke county voted for Bush, who got 69.5% of the vote. In 2008, it voted for McCain, who got 66.9% of the vote. In 2012, it voted for Romney, who got 71%.

So you may not be surprised when I tell you the area in which I live is heavily tilted toward Trump in this election, and when November 8 rolls around, I expect him to win my county handily, likely gathering something like 70% of the vote.

Do I live among idiots? No. I live among wonderful people who will clear your driveway when it snows and watch your pets when you go away, who love and care for their friends and families, who are decent people in their day-to-day lives and are folks I am proud to call neighbors…

Finally, former NSW Premier and former Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr.

Amid the bleakness of Shakespeare’s King Lear one character, Edgar declares: the worst is not/so long as we can say “this is the worst”.

Just when you think it can’t get any worse – Trump as candidate – here comes a more troubling prospect: the Trump next time, four years off, who defeats an unpopular President Clinton.

It’s easy to tick off what gave the Republican nomination this time to a bossy, ignorant demagogue – the loss of industrial jobs, anxiety over borders and trade, racist resentment of minorities. Perhaps, as well, bewilderment at a multipolar world where America can’t get its way.

None of these is about to fade.

The old jobs aren’t coming back. China is shrugging off traditional manufacturing so the plants in America’s industrial belt aren’t going to be opening again. In any case the robots are arriving to disrupt manufacturing and services alike.

The anger of white working-class males, incited by Trump, is bound to simmer angrily at a distrusted woman in the White House imposing background checks for gun buyers and appointing three or four liberal justices to the Supreme Court…

I think he is spot on….

Thanks to Tim Blair…

Posted on October 25, 2016 by Neil

Just on ten years ago my then blog got a boost thanks to Tim Blair: see I’ve been Timmed. One outcome of that was my long-running but now former sparring partner Kevin from Louisiana. He was quite a Tim Blair fan but lamented the 2008 shift to the Murdoch tabloids: The Death of Tim Blair.

These days I often read Tim over lunch of a Monday when he shares intellectual space with Andrew Bolt in the Daily Terror. This habit may not be good for my digestion, I fear, though I do tend to skim as both are more than a bit predictable. BTW, I don’t buy the paper, as City Diggers supplies it for free.

Yesterday after an Assange/Triggs spray, TB went on to provide a very handy list of institutions and people.  I suspect he wasn’t recommending them after all, but it was kind of him nonetheless to give us pointers to some of the most enlightened folk out there, along with an occasional crazy. Any I am not already familiar with I must check out.

South Australian senator Nick Xenophon has called for the formation of a new government-run cult-busting operation….

The new operation could look at busting groups with extreme policies and secret internal structures that indoctrinate their members with outlandish philosophies.

Following the formation of Xenophon’s new task force directed at smashing cult-like organisations, police anticipate numerous prosecutions of: Greens politicians, Friends of the ABC, the Australia Institute, editors of the Guardian, the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Sustainable Population Party, anti-mining group Lock the Gate, the Refugee Council of Australia, the Human Rights Commission, the Clean Ocean Foundation, all members of Toyota Prius ownership clubs, Socialist Alternative, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, the Press Council, The Australian Natural Therapists Association, editors of Green Left Weekly, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Ecotourism Australia (and anyone running any organisation with an “eco”prefix), staff and publishers at Mamamia, Greenpeace Australia, The Australia Council for the Arts, GetUp!, anyone on Twitter who has used the phrase “social justice” approvingly, the Arts Law Centre of Australia, the Wilderness Society, the Australian Republican Movement, the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, Solidarity, the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, Screen Australia, the United Nations Association of Australia, the Australian Progressives, People for Nuclear Disarmament, the Clean Energy Council, the Womens International League for Peace and Freedom, Occupy, the Australian Network of Environmental Defenders Offices, the Alternative Technology Association, Vegan Australia, the National Union of Students, Architects for Peace, Destroy the Joint, the Atheist Foundation of Australia, the Australian Egalitarian Movement, the Climate Council, Ausdance National, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, the Australian National University, World Vision Australia, everybody who has ever corrected the mispronunciation of “quinoa”, Amnesty International Australia, Australian Marriage Equality, the Public Transport Users Association, the United Nations Refugee Agency Australia, editors and columnists at Fairfax’s Daily Life lady pages, the Australian Anti-Bases Campaign Coalition, ArtsHub, the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, the Australia Day Council, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Friends of the Earth Australia — and, of course, every single member of the Nick Xenophon Team.

One of TB’s more outlandish performances in recent years was this in 2014:


Par for the course at The Terror. Naturally some actual Lakemba residents – that is people who have been there longer than 24 hours – responded. See Dear Tim Blair & the Daily Telegraph and Comment: Enough fear mongering, let’s give Lakemba a fair go.

Welcome to Lakemba – the seething hot-bed of radical Islam and anti-woman, anti-infidel hatred.

That’s the picture portrayed by Daily Telegraph columnist Tim Blair, in his divisive and offensive feelpinion titled “Inside Sydney’s Muslim Land”.

It’s an insidious emotive piece, instructive for its glaring factual omissions, which misrepresent a vibrant, multifaith and multicultural community.

Lakemba may be only 30 minutes from the centre of Sydney, yet it is remarkably distinct from the rest of the city. You can walk the length of crowded Haldon St and not hear a single phrase in English. On this main shopping strip the ethnic mix seems similar to what you’d find in any Arabic city. Australia may be multicultural, but Haldon St is a monoculture.

It goes on to depict an enclave teeming with malevolence and fundamentalism; a bricolage of things all just too decidedly foreign – yes, in Lakemba we have signs written in squiggle, women who walk round in bedsheets, and there are shops which sell burgers made from dromedaries…

If I wanted to portray an entire community as angry, aggressive, radical Muslims, I’d certainly ignore the fact that the largest ethnic group within that community were Bangladeshis – the vast majority of whom follow a moderate, Sufist form of Islam. I’d certainly not mention the Christian Samoan community, or the Chinese, Indian or Greek shopkeepers running businesses on a street apparently only home to hate-peddling Islamic bookstores…

In fact, it’s striking how little resemblance Mr Blair’s cursory overview of Lakemba bears to the suburb I call home.

In my Lakemba, I walk to a cafe where the barista is an Algerian with a weathered face and dry sense of humour. Asked how he is, he assures me he ‘can’t complain’ in a voice that hints that should I scratch deeper, he’d happily share with me a litany of woes. Mention football though, and all that changes. His eye’s come alight – the Fennec Foxes (the Algerian national side) did all of Africa proud in the recent World Cup, pushing eventual champions Germany to extra-time. He regales me with stories of Porto’s 1987 European Cup winning side – and the night the mighty Bayern Munich succumbed to the sublime backheel of the great striker, Mustapha Rabah Madjer – also Algerian.

I compare Mr Blair’s dystopic nightmare of angry young radical Muslim men with the block of twelve units I live in. Next door is a softly-spoken young Jordanian guy studying nursing, and working nights in a kitchen to make ends meet…

Downstairs lives a Greek woman – she works as a receptionist and raises her son by herself. Elsewhere in the building live an Indian family, a young Lebanese plumber, and Indonesian, Chinese and Filipino families.

Why is it that our pictures of Lakemba are so different, Mr Blair? What is the agenda that drives you to misrepresent this community?

I’d love to believe this was just lazy or sloppy journalism, but coming as it does from a vastly experienced, senior columnist, amid a climate of increasingly shrill anti-Islamic rhetoric, I have profound misgivings….

Related: Media Watch 27 June 2016.

Munching halal and Japanese bikers again!

Posted on October 30, 2016 by Neil

Chris T and I dined at the excellent Samaras again yesterday. The question of how long Samaras has been in Wollongong came up and is answered here.

A family that plays together stays together, and so does one that works together.

Mohamed Nemer remembers how, from the age of seven, his daughter Samara would plead for him to one day open a restaurant.

Keeping his promise, Mohamed opened a restaurant with his family five years ago [@2013] and named it Samaras.

Amid the array of canvas photos inside the Wollongong eatery is one of a woman making bread and another of a man picking peaches from a garden in the mountains of south-eastern Lebanon.

The Middle Eastern passion for food has been embraced by Mohamed and his children Omar, Macey, Alyca and Samara…

So eight years then.

Last time Chris T and I were at Samaras was in August: With the Japanese bikers in the halal restaurant…. Odd, but not quite so strange, that there was a pair of Japanese bikers of mature and beneficent appearance yesterday as this weekend Wollongong is hosting a sizable gathering of Harley Davidsons….

Back at Samaras: we resolved on two items we had had before: grandma’s olives and the meat-lover’s platter. You may read about grandma’s olives on Munching against the fear of “the other”…

Yes, “Grandmother’s Olives!” The lovely young woman serving us assured us they were indeed from her very own grandmother, that in fact she had herself helped harvest them at one time. They proved to be delicious, not over salty. There was an enlarged photo on the restaurant wall of said grandmother in her olive grove…

I look back on Grandmother’s Olives now with even more wonder. Is not our world enlarged, even by a meal such as we had yesterday – and halal the lot of it too.  “Reclaiming” Australia = Impoverishing Australia, in my opinion. (See also Reclaiming Australia Persian-style in Wollongong.)

And the platter FOR ONE! You’d have to have some appetite!


What we tried for the first time was an entree called Za’ahtar.

Screenshot - 30_10_2016 , 8_21_26 AM

Also Romanised as Za’atar: see Wikipedia.

There is evidence that a za’atar plant was known and used in Ancient Egypt, though its ancient name has yet to be determined with certainty. Remains of Thymbra spicata, one species used in modern za’atar preparations, were found in the tomb of Tutankhamun, and according to Dioscorides, this particular species was known to the Ancient Egyptians as saem.

Pliny the Elder mentions an herb maron as an ingredient of the Regale Unguentum(“Royal Perfume”) used by the Parthian kings in the 1st century CE.

In Jewish tradition, Saadiah (d. 942), Ibn Ezra (d. circa 1164), Maimonides (1135–1204) and Obadiah ben Abraham (1465–1515) identified the ezov mentioned in the Hebrew Bible with the Arabic word “za’atar”…

In the Levant, there is a belief that za’atar makes the mind alert and the body strong. For this reason, children are encouraged to eat a za’atar sandwich for breakfast before an exam or before school. This, however, is also believed to be a myth fabricated during the Lebanese civil war to encourage eating of za’atar, as provisions were low at the time and za’atar was in abundance. Maimonides …, a medieval rabbi and physician who lived in Spain, Morocco, and Egypt, prescribed za’atar for its health advancing properties.

The things you can experience without leaving Wollongong!