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‘Hungary is Lost’

Subtitled:  Hungry in Hungary!

Fleeting impressions from a recent visit to Budapest are confirmed in this eye-opening analysis of the recent decline in Hungarian democracy and civil institutions. 

Following the Russian invasion of Hungary in 1956 there was an infamous bloody clash in the pool at the Melbourne Olympics between their respective water polo teams. And as a young water polo player mentored by ‘reffos’ from Hungary in the Bronte club, I’ve had a tenuous link with that country.

Hungary has a population of only ten million souls, but four million live below the poverty line, and one million in extreme poverty. The economy is declining, and a kleptocracy under PM Viktor Orban is ripping off the country and unaccountable EU funds, while stirring up anti-Jewish, anti-foreigner sentiments.

The country was occupied by foreigners for 450 years, but under its leader Miklos Horthy, who was a faithful ally of Hitler, 437,685 Hungarian jews were sent to Auschwitz during WW2. Its modern history is tumultuous – later it contributed to the fall of the Berlin wall by opening its borders to fleeing East Germans.

The pseudonymous author also explains fascinating undercurrents of Hungarian society, drawing on two archetypes. The betyar or Robin Hood ideal of robbing the rich for the benefit of the poor, and the hussar sense of entitlement of the nobility without estates. Both feel above the law and justified in rorting the system. His conclusion is not positive.

‘Banking Bad’

Guest commentator Matt Caine has prepared this review of a recent book by Adele Ferguson, whose journalistic investigations were instrumental in prompting the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry:

This is a brilliant read, so what is it about?

It is the story of the tail wagging a big, stupid dog.

Of barrels full to the brim with bad apples.

Greed at all costs, where cash isn’t everything, it is the only thing.

The story of sycophants just following orders.

Of total incompetence at the highest levels of Australia’s largest companies.

Of their low and inept smear campaigns.

Of a few good men heroically standing up to be counted.

Of the Government’s Finance Minister trying to cut regulation while evidence of theft, fraud and money laundering are staring him in the face.

Of how white collar criminals get off the hook.

Of a failed advertising man becoming Treasurer and a Prime Minister who sells his soul to the devil, both telling us that problems are being addressed, and made to look the buffoons they really are.

How Australia’s major parties are easily bought.

Of Government that forgets who it represents.

A merry-go-round of people working in politics, the financial sector and the regulator.

How a regulator choked of funds becomes ineffectual, and gets cosy with those it is supposedly regulating.

Of people whose life savings are stolen from them by narcissists who still have their jobs or have escaped scot free, with monies obtained by fraud.

Of how media suck up to advertising clients.

A Royal Commission with terms of reference written by those sympathetic or beholden to those being investigated.

And why the Government picks a member of the Melbourne Establishment to head it.

Whether anything will change.

A fascinating horror of a true crime that continues today.

Who should read this?

Everyone who has ever held a bank account.

Anyone who holds a loan, insurance, investments or superannuation.

Everyone who holds shares on the ASX.

Anyone who votes.

Those who care about their fellow Australians.

You owe it to yourself to become informed: it could save your financial future and your life.

Most of all, it is a riveting story, brilliantly told by the journalist instrumental in blowing the whistle on some of the worst criminals of our time.

Adele Ferguson AM, I salute you – a thoroughly deserved AM award – and a true champion for all Australians.

 

Ljubljana Love

Who put love in Slovenia, a pocket-sized country squeezed between Austria, Hungary, Italy and Croatia? While roaming central Europe, your KC reporter was delighted by its capital Ljubljana, a city of 200,000 with its old town centre built around a picturesque canal system. Mountains are visible all round in the distance.

Town buildings offer an impressive mix of architectural styles, and one man is responsible for much of it. Local architect Joze Plecnik made a reputation renovating massive Prague castle in the 1920s. After architectural pilgrimages in Europe and teaching architecture in Prague, he returned home and had design commissions for many buildings in Ljubljana. He and Le Corbusier were outspokenly critical of each other’s ideas.

Plecnik had no family, apparently no lovers, and even declined a marriage proposal so as to concentrate on his work. His preserved studio home is where he worked obsessively, supported by a loyal housekeeper. The house reflects a singular mind, with many design details to suit his daily habits and quirks. Visitors were received in a back room without seats and given short thrift. His single bed was set in the study with his desk. Important guests were invited into a small inner sanctum.

Despite his solitary lifestyle Plecnik was very influential and persuasive in business matters and taught thousands of students. He was forgotten after his death in 1957, until a Pompidou Centre retrospective in 1986 relaunched interest and appreciation of his eclectic work.

Next time in Slovenia I would go further afield to visit the bucolic green countryside and mountains seen only from a train window, including famous Lake Bled.

Go Aussie Gunboat Diplomacy

As predicted, ScoMo has rushed to sign us up for a US ‘mission’ in the Strait of Hormuz, by assigning two warships and 200 troops to help patrol the Persian Gulf, so-named because it’s literally in Iran’s backyard. Ostensibly, the purpose is to protect oil tankers operating through the 39 kms narrow strait. The announcement was slid out quietly under cover of a news cycle full of Pell’s Smell.

Foreign Minister Payne had the Orwellian effrontery to say that this commitment would ‘de-escalate tensions’ in the region. How does that work? Big Donald had unilaterally withdrawn the US from a successful multinational nuclear control agreement with Iran, thus triggering off some tit-for-tat shipping harassment by both sides.

Britain and France are not onboard yet, so we get maximum brownie points with our great ally and protector, Uncle Sam. As usual there is no parliamentary debate, and the Opposition fails to interrogate the objectives of another military adventure far from Australia’s shores. We-will-never-learn.

Folks, this has been going on since NSW sent troops to NZ to help quell rebellious Maoris in mid 19th century. Later, Australian colonies chose to defend the Empire in Sudan, South Africa, China and above all in WW1. Then we changed patrons and followed the US into Korea, Malaysia (just for old time’s sake), Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and others I’ve forgotten.

In Unnecessary Wars, Henry Reynolds traces the inglorious involvement of our colonial troops in the Boer War of 1899-1902. The fabled light horsemen were in fact up to their bloody elbows in cruel mistreatment and murder of Boer civilians, which was then covered up with fake news of heroic actions. 

The causes of Empire (‘one country, right or wrong’) and nation building, combined with a glorification of war and militarism were a heady mix and precursor of Anzac myth making. The states and new Federal parliament did debate the South Africa engagement, but the pervasive pro-war ethos prevailed, and set the scene for 120 years. We’ve since jettisoned the need for even a simulacra of parliamentary analysis. Gung ho!

 

Ten Years of News & Views!

Well, probably more views, but time has flown in a decade of strutting and fretting on the meejah stage, to mangle Macbeth. The 10th anniversary date of the online launch of this august journal was actually on 18 June, so we’re a little late with the self-congratulations. 

Apparently a 10th anniversary is celebrated with tin or aluminium, which is easily acquired at the local bottle shop in handy six packs or slabs of a favourite drop. Don’t you love all those short-hand ways of not referring to liquor? But I digress.

Now listen up folks, this time it’s mainly about you lot, our loyal readers. I dunno all your names but I do know what youse like by perusing our reader viewing stats. No need to guess what your favourite subject is: sex.

Since 2014 our top story Very Wicked Camper has been viewed by an astonishing 54,547 readers, due to a US aggregating website sending it globally viral, as they say, or is that virally global? All because of the naughty dick murals on said vehicle. The power of this internetty thing is a big worry, as they were pretty infantile images with few accompanying words. 

Second biggest story was Sex, Sand & Sculpture, which was really about art, society and censorship, but salacious it definitely was not. Still, it had 4,533 readers, so I hope they also pondered after checking out the evidence of offence to public morality. 

Third comes Magic Pudding, which had no sex – reassuringly – but maybe promised fantasy and a cooking story for kids? But then in fourth place was Eruv Erection Troubles and in fifth position Shark Season. So I conclude that you’re mainly into sex, fantasy and horror. But you suck up the other worthy high brow stuff (another 185 posts!) in between the tabloidy items.

You mob are truly awesome: both intellectual and low brow in one handy package! And very patient. What’s not to love about you. You’ve stayed the course, through good times and mediocre. Hopefully you’ve had some laughs, as we shared a few yarns, prejudices and occasional insight.

Ten years of sharing, togetherness and happiness – how good is that, as ScoMo would say, and gods bless you too. So keep the KC faith, dear readers, and we’ll sail (powered by wind) into that uncertain future together. 

Damnation Dissent

What a helluva (hmm!) fuss Rugby player Israel (perfect first name) Folau stirred up with his damnation by Instagram of sinners to hell! It’s amazing how punters take this medieval idea seriously. Okay, I get that some gay people (no initials here) are unhappy about it, but only if they accept this ridiculous clap-trap.

But what about the other sinners mentioned? This caper needs auditing, at least apropos of Orstralia. At the top of his list were Drunks. Is that permanently inebriated folk, or those of us who have occasionally over-tippled? If the former then most people are unaffected, but otherwise it covers 90+% of Australians.

Homosexuals were apparently the most offended by the damnation call-out. But they’ve had plenty of coverage, so let’s look at the other categories.

Thirdly, Adulterers, which means sex outside marriage. Don’t worry, the rest of you come up later. Surveys show that 10% of spouses admit to cheating, which based on latest population estimates amounts to 915,000 people (cheating rate for men is 12% and women 7%). That’s a shite load of adulterers.

Liars is massive. Is that professional liars like politicians, or even us occasional liars (white lies only of course)? Potentially that covers 100% of Australians! And hey, what about Israel himself – he promised not to bring the game of rugby into disrepute, and then he takes Rugby Australia to court. That was a lie.

Okay, here’s a biggie: Fornicators.  Don’t reach for the dictionary – it means sex outside marriage. So the rest of you having sex are fornicators. I’m pretty sure the bible did not recognise defacto marriage, so you lot are included too. I dunno how to estimate the total number of fornicators in Oz but it’s way huge.

Full time Thieves is probably not a huge number, but if you nicked some flowers from a neighbouring park you could be a borderline sinner. Let’s just say several hundred thousand thieves in Australia to cover all options.

Then my personal favourite: Atheists. By definition we should be the least concerned with Folau’s folly of phantasmagorical punishment. And we make up 10% of the Australian population, that is 2,473,000 clear thinkers. So Israel: sticks and stones….

Last but definitely not least come Idolaters, which is where it gets interesting. Despite my atheist theology, I’ve done plenty of church tourism, particularly in Europe where they built some great temples to idolatry. Yep, lots of Virgin Mary statues, Jesus statues, not to mention assorted saints, religious relics, etc. Catholics are idolaters – they constitute 22.6% of the Australian population, and if we add say half of the 13.3% Anglicans, it makes a grand total of 7,246,000 Australian idolators, ignoring Buddhists or other minority groups.

When you crunch all those sinner group numbers, you have roughly 90-100% of the Australian population going off to Hell sooner or later. I hope the Devil has enough accommodation for his Australian congregation, so to speak, preferably with river views (no oceans in hell?) and Tuesday night pasta specials at the local club. To give us all a warm welcome! 

And come to think of it, is that why we’re Down Under? Thanks Israel for bringing it to our attention. The Devil’s in the detail.

War on Iran?

Oh no, here we go again – I have that sinking feeling in my stomach, or is it my blood boiling. ScoMo is already following that long tradition of erstwhile Liberal PMs sucking up to a US president by offering to support the USA in actions against Iran (following America’s withdrawal from a nuclear deterrent agreement!). All the way with Donald J, who didn’t even request our help. Just like Vietnam back in the day, where we asked to join in. Remember how well that went for Australia, not to mention the poor Vietnamese?

Ironically within days Professor Hugh White, noted academic military strategist, has launched a new book ‘How to Defend Australia’, where he apparently argues strongly that we should shed any further delusions about Australia sheltering under the safety of a US security umbrella. A fictitious treaty obligation used by successive Australian governments to justify going to war alongside Uncle Sam, most recently in Iraq and Afghanistan? Another calamity for all sides involved!

As China rises and US dominance in Asia wanes, we are gunna be on our own, says the expert professor, who also suggests doubling our military expenditure and even discuss getting our own nuclear weapons. Tell him he’s dreaming, which he clearly is! But meanwhile he could drop by ScoMo’s Canberra office on his way to uni, and let him in on the latest strategic thinking. So that we don’t have to risk Australian troops on another needless military excursion into the Islamic world. With no guarantee of US protection insurance. 

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