Monday, 1 October 2018

How to Steal a Million Dollars

      A while ago three men were arrested after a year-long crime spree bringing in $80,000. Sounds a lot, doesn't it? In point of fact, a third of $80,000 is chicken feed for a year's work, and hardly worth risking going to jail. They would have been better off getting an honest job.
     Crime is a mug's game: a high risk, low yield enterprise. If you decide on a life of crime, you are declaring war on society, which means you will be outnumbered and outgunned. No matter how clever or lucky you are, in the end you'll get caught. And apart from the sheer inconvenience of going to jail, once you get out, you can't logically go back to crime, because the police know your name, your fingerprints, your DNA, and your methods. At the same time, anything you steal will have to be "fenced" at a fraction of its nominal value. Even the few who do make it pay - the drug lords, the Mr. Bigs, the godfathers - probably have the enterprising skill to make the same amount of money in business without having to watch over one shoulder for the law, and over the other for their fellow crims.
      A few years ago I wrote an essay about how murder is a lot harder than the books and movies make out. So now I shall explain what needs to be done if you want to steal something and keep out of jail. You shouldn't do it, because (a) it's a bad thing to do, and (b) the danger is still very high. Nevertheless, these are the steps you need to take if you want to have at least some chance of getting away with it.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

The Riddle of the Amazonian Amazons

      Imagine, if you will, that beyond your towns and farms - the only world you know - dwell large settlements of aliens from outer space, of which you know very little, except that they are completely different, and incomprehensible. You see their flying saucers passing overhead, and more and more frequently they themselves are intruding into your domain. But you keep your distance, because oral tradition tells how they once committed terrible atrocities against your kind, or that once there were friendly relations, but then they brought the plague upon you.
     This, essentially, is the experience of thousands of Indians who are literally hiding from the outside world in the fastness of the Amazon jungle. Every time it is announced that the last uncontacted tribe has been discovered, another turns up. But once there were millions of them - only to be wiped out by massacre and enslavement, but mostly, as in North America, by infectious diseases which could devastate whole communities before any white man arrived. And somewhere in this maelstrom of destruction there was lost a community which most people now relegate to mythology: the women warriors after which the Amazon River was named.

Monday, 6 August 2018

The Miracles (?) of Apollonius of Tyana

     Who the heck was Apollonius of Tyana? I first met him in a novel called My First 2,000 Years (about the Wandering Jew) by G. S. Viereck and P. Eldridge (1928), where he appears as a philosopher who raises a dead woman to life, and informs the narrator that he and Jesus had been disciples of the same master in Tibet. (The latter statement, of course, expresses the common Western trope of Tibet as a centre of profound, occult, and mystical philosophy. While Tibetan Buddhism could well be described in such terms, it did not arrive in the country until the seventh century.)
     Naturally, I assumed that Apollonius was a fictional character. Afterwards, however, I kept seeing references to him as a wonder worker, and always juxtaposed, usually favourably, with Jesus. I was later to discover that he had been cited in anti-Christian writers of the late second and early third centuries, and later by anti-Christian writers of the Enlightenment, up to the present day. But who the heck was he? When I finally managed to read his biography, it turned out to be a damp squib.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Hinduism and Buddhism in a Very Small Nutshell

     A while ago, my sister-in-law asked me to provide a short statement on what Hinduism and Buddhism were all about. Needless to say, this is not an easy subject to boil down into a few paragraphs. Both religions involve a tremendous amount of deep philosophical thinking, as well as a hugely diverse corpus of popular devotions and beliefs. One could spend a lifetime studying each. Nevertheless, since the whole outlook of these eastern religions is so completely alien to our own, it is worthwhile putting a brief summary into an article, so here goes.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

The Case for Colonialism

     On my last visit to Singapore, our city guide explained that they are grateful for British rule, because it brought them the rule of law, democratic principles, and education, as well as laying the basis for its emergence as a modern twenty-first century state. One Singaporean historian has made the point that, because they were not conquered, and because most of them are the descendants of immigrants during the colonial period, they do not have a "victim mentality".
    Meanwhile, a poll of 1,008 Jamaicans in 2011 found that 60% of all age groups said they would have been better off under British rule, and only 17% disagreed. By any objective view, they were correct. The same thing must be said about the former Marxist rebels in the Yemen who, in 2010, declared that they regretted driving out the British. Just the same, Kartar Lalvani complained that, in 50 years of living in Britain, he could not find any Briton to say that India had benefited from British rule, so he wrote a book to prove it.
    That colonialism has been, on balance, a benefit to those it governed should be a no-brainer to any knowledgeable person. Therefore, when Prof. Bruce Gilley wrote an article entitled, "The Case for Colonialism", and submitted it to the Third World Quarterly, the editors, seeing that it was heavily referenced, logically argued, and peer reviewed, and in view of the fact that they were a forum for all sorts of opinion, decided to publish it, little realizing that they were committing a thought crime. The PC establishment had an allergic reaction. In academia not so long ago, if you read a paper you disagreed with, your response was to gather your data and write a rebuttal, but that is oh-so-passé in the age of Twitter storms, deplatforming, and the vicious, violent gangs calling themselves Antifas, whose aim is to close down discussion. Fifteen of the 34 members of the editorial board resigned, and two petitions, with a total of 17,577 signatures were mustered to demand the article be retracted and, if possible, the author's Ph.D. be rescinded. Probably only one percent had ever read the article. But when Indian nationalists made credible death threats against the editor, the article was taken down from the journal's website. I doubt if any serious police action has been taken in relation to the death threats.
    Fortunately, the article can be downloaded as a PDF from Prof Gilley's website. It has also been archived. So now I am republishing it, as my small part in support of historical truth and freedom of speech, but mostly to cock a snoot at the rampaging totalitarians who are now seeking to silence every opinion but their own.
    Note that, well researched as it might be, they are his words, not mine.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

The High Cost of Preventing AIDS

     Currently, there are just over 25,000 Australians living with HIV, and the new infections number just over 1,000 each year. By and large, the incidence of AIDS is low because of the use of anti-retroviral treatment. As you are no doubt aware, HIV is the virus, and AIDS the active disease it produces after a lapse of five to ten years. No cure exists, but the disease can be held at bay by anti-retroviral drugs. It is a life sentence, because if once the medication is ceased, the virus is ready to swing back into action and destroy the immune system. Once that happens, an unpleasant death is certain. However, lately a new medication has come onto the market.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

The Panther - and Other Comics You've Never Heard Of

     The reviews of Black Panther have been so good that I shall probably check out the movie when it comes on TV. But I won't be reading the comic. I've now 68, going on 69, and I haven't been "into" superhero comics for decades. Nevertheless, I am reminded of a comic published in Australia during the 1960s ie when I was a teenager, called The Panther. Although the character himself was not black, his costume was, and he was essentially a rip-off of inspired by The Phantom.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Guns in Australia and America

     I'm writing this because I am tired of having to explain the same things over and over again. Whenever there is a mass shooting in the U.S., people over here declare how lucky we are not to have their lax gun laws, while people over there demand that they copy our legislation. Many people over here will tell you that the gun buyback of 1996 and the subsequent tightening of the gun laws has reduced the homicide rate. On the other hand, many Americans imagine that we have outlawed guns and the homicide rate has gone up. Others suggest that Australians would all be safer if we were allowed to carry concealed firearms. All these beliefs are incorrect, as I intend to explain.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Health Insurance in Australia

     I don't know what the fuss is about in America over the Affordable Care Act, nicknamed Obamacare. This is not an endorsement, merely a genuine statement of ignorance. I do not know enough about its costs and implementation to make an informed judgment. However, since I have a lot more readers in the U.S., and even Russia, than in Australia, perhaps I should explain the Australian system of universal health insurance, which is a composite of public and private insurance. It wasn't planned that way; it simply grew as a result of rival political philosophies pulling in opposite directions, as well as financial restrictions. But it works reasonably well. (Of course, nothing works perfectly.)