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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Melbourne Book Launch of Singing Johnny Cash in the Cardiac Ward

"The trouble with heart disease is that the first symptom is often hard to deal with − sudden death.”
Dr Michael Phelps.
I shouldn’t be writing this. I should be brown bread. Translating that good Cockney rhyming slang, that’s become part of the Australian vernacular, I should be dead. I say this because of my jam tart, my heart. Thanks to modern medical science I’m still here, and it’s been proved beyond all reasonable doubt that I have one, a heart that is.
I had a six-and-a-half hour heart operation in 2011 to replace my aortic valve with a mechanical valve. My book Singing Johnny Cash in the Cardiac Ward-A Personal Story of Heart Disease & Music is a serious attempt to raise awareness about heart disease that kills one Australian every 23 minutes.
This book is also a story about music and my relationship with it through 25 years of broadcasting radio. It’s also a story of my connection with Wellington in Central West NSW, Katoomba in the Blue Mountains, and Australia’s two biggest cities Melbourne and Sydney.
I want to share my experiences of: The restrictive lifestyle I had to bear for the best part of 2011 while waiting for the operation.The operation itself and my time in hospital.The six-week recovery period.The life I’m living now.
I hope this will raise awareness of cardiovascular disease in general and heart disease in particular, which is a major killer globally. This isn’t just a descriptive account of my experience with heart disease; it’s also a serious attempt to help reduce the large death toll caused by it. A large fatality count that in many cases is mostly preventable.
John/Togs Tognolini 18/9/13
 "It's a good read folks, especially if you have just had a heart attack." Gary Foley.
About the photo on the front cover
Russell Crowe, Amanda Dole and myself outside Radio Redfern on May Day 1989. Russell had just performed a few songs on my show, Radio Solidarity. In 1988, Radio Skid Row was evicted from our studios in the basement floor of Sydney University’s Wenthworth Building. We were taken in for eighteen months by the Aborigines/Kooris at Radio Redfern, who now broadcast across Sydney through Koori Radio, until we built and opened the Radio Skid Row studios in Marrickville in 1990. Photo by Frances Kelly.
Monday September 30 6.30pm, The Post Office Hotel, Sydney Rd Coburg

Sunday, September 15, 2013

John Pilger:From Hiroshima to Syria, the enemy whose name we dare not speak

On my wall is the front page of Daily Express of September 5, 1945 and the words: "I write this as a warning to the world." So began Wilfred Burchett's report from Hiroshima. It was the scoop of the century. For his lone, perilous journey that defied the US occupation authorities, Burchett was pilloried, not least by his embedded colleagues. He warned that an act of premeditated mass murder on an epic scale had launched a new era of terror.

Almost every day now, he is vindicated. The intrinsic criminality of the atomic bombing is borne out in the US National Archives and by the subsequent decades of militarism camouflaged as democracy. The Syria psychodrama exemplifies this. Yet again, we are held hostage to the prospect of a terrorism whose nature and history even the most liberal critics still deny. The great unmentionable is that humanity's most dangerous enemy resides across the Atlantic.

John Kerry's farce and Barack Obama's pirouettes are temporary. Russia's peace deal over chemical weapons will, in time, be treated with the contempt that all militarists reserve for diplomacy. With Al-Qaida now among its allies, and US-armed coupmasters secure in Cairo, the US intends to crush the last independent states in the Middle East: Syria first, then Iran. "This operation [in Syria]," said the former French foreign minister Roland Dumas in June, "goes way back. It was prepared, pre-conceived and planned."

When the public is "psychologically scarred", as the Channel 4 reporter Jonathan Rugman described the British people's overwhelming hostility to an attack on Syria, reinforcing the unmentionable is made urgent. Whether or not Bashar al-Assad or the "rebels" used gas in the suburbs of Damascus, it is the US not Syria that is the world's most prolific user of these terrible weapons. In 1970, the Senate reported, "The US has dumped on Vietnam a quantity of toxic chemical (dioxin) amounting to six pounds per head of population". This was Operation Hades, later renamed the friendlier Operation Ranch Hand: the source of what Vietnamese doctors call a "cycle of foetal catastrophe". I have seen generations of young children with their familiar, monstrous deformities. John Kerry, with his own blood-soaked war record, will remember them. I have seen them in Iraq, too, where the US used depleted uranium and white phosphorous, as did the Israelis in Gaza, raining it down on UN schools and hospitals. No Obama "red line" for them. No showdown psychodrama for them.
The repetitive debate about whether "we" should "take action" against selected dictators (i.e. cheer on the US and its acolytes in yet another aerial killing spree) is part of our brainwashing. Richard Falk, emeritus professor of international law and UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine, describes it as "a self-righteous, one-way, legal/moral screen [with] positive images of Western values and innocence portrayed as threatened, validating a campaign of unrestricted political violence". This "is so widely accepted as to be virtually unchallengeable".

It is the biggest lie: the product of "liberal realists" in Anglo-American politics, scholarship and the media who ordain themselves as the world's crisis managers, rather than the cause of a crisis. Stripping humanity from the study of nations and congealing it with jargon that serves western power designs, they mark "failed", "rogue" or "evil" states for "humanitarian intervention".

An attack on Syria or Iran or any other US "demon" would draw on a fashionable variant, "Responsibility to Protect", or R2P, whose lectern-trotting zealot is the former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans, co-chair of a "Global Centre", based in New York. Evans and his generously funded lobbyists play a vital propaganda role in urging the "international community" to attack countries where "the Security Council rejects a proposal or fails to deal with it in a reasonable time".
Evans has form. He appears in my 1994 film Death of a Nation, which revealed the scale of genocide in East Timor. Canberra's smiling man is raising his champagne glass in a toast to his Indonesian equivalent as they fly over East Timor in an Australian aircraft, having just signed a treaty that pirated the oil and gas of the stricken country below where Indonesia's tyrant, Suharto, killed or starved a third of the population.
Under the "weak" Obama, militarism has risen perhaps as never before. With not a single tank on the White House lawn, a military coup has taken place in Washington. In 2008, while his liberal devotees dried their eyes, Obama accepted the entire Pentagon of his predecessor, George Bush: its wars and war crimes. As the constitution is replaced by an emerging police state, those who destroyed Iraq with shock and awe, and piled up the rubble in Afghanistan and reduced Libya to a Hobbesian nightmare, are ascendant across the US administration. Behind their beribboned façade, more former US soldiers are killing themselves than are dying on battlefields. Last year, 6,500 veterans took their own lives. Put out more flags.

The historian Norman Pollack calls this "liberal fascism". "For goose-steppers," he wrote, "substitute the seemingly more innocuous militarisation of the total culture. And for the bombastic leader, we have the reformer manqué, blithely at work, planning and executing assassination, smiling all the while." Every Tuesday, the "humanitarian" Obama personally oversees a worldwide terror network of drones that "bugsplat" people, their rescuers and mourners. In the west's comfort zones, the first black leader of the land of slavery still feels good, as if his very existence represents a social advance, regardless of his trail of blood. This obeisance to a symbol has all but destroyed the US anti-war movement: Obama's singular achievement.
In Britain, the distractions of the fakery of image and identity politics have not quite succeeded. A stirring has begun, though people of conscience should hurry. The judges at Nuremberg were succinct: "Individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity." The ordinary people of Syria, and countless others, and our own self respect, deserve nothing less now.

11 September 2013
This article first appeared in the Guardian, UK
Follow John Pilger on twitter @johnpilger

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Prime Minister Abbott Happens, A Time to Organise by John Tognolini

This a letter I wrote earlier this year to my union's journal, the NSW Teachers' Federation's Education, not all of it was published. It is not a time to mourn but to organise and fight.

Yes Abbott Happens is prime minister, he won the race to the bottom on a election based on fear and ignorance. And amongst his targets are not just refugees but also workers' rights and the concept of a society. Sheer greed and welfare to the rich are his goals. We going to have to fight him and his plans. And the union "leaders" who have been on the nod for the last six years while the ALP has been in power, can go to hell if they want to sidetrack any fight back to a re-elect the ALP in 2016.

“re-elect Labor Campaign”

I’m so glad Maurie Mulheron [senior officer] has stated that Federation does not have a “re-elect Labor Campaign”.Not only is it such a forlorn hope in both the federal election this September but also the next two NSW elections in 2015 and 2019. Will there be an ICAC investigation not involving a former ALP state minister by 2020? That’s a fair question to ask colleagues.

As someone who’s home town is Melbourne. I saw firsthand the attacks on the public service including public education that Jeff Kennett carried out. Not only has Kennett been a role model for O’Farrell but also Newman in Queensland. I was also a witness to the ALP in their ten years of government following Kennett’s defeat, not reinstating one of four thousand permanent teaching positions that Kennett abolished. The ALP also did not reopen any of the schools and hospitals that Kennett shut down.

Now that Gillard has called the date of the federal election I feel that I would like to quote Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet and say, ”A plague on both your houses”. The thing is I’d feel sorry for the poor plague. Some people won't wear any critical comments of the ALP. Sorry they stink. They are the Alternative Liberal Party and their whiffy. Yes Abbott will be prime minister. It’s not something to look forward to.

I couldn't watch the ABC's Q&A the other week. Tony Abbott’s attack poodle Chris Hinde was on it, our future education minister. Flick. And can I find any reason to like the ALP? Well apart from Eddie Obeid’s appearances before ICAC providing a consistent source of amusement about how greed is such a big factor in the ALP. No I just can’t. He and other former ALP state ministers remind me of something Groucho Marx once said "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them…well, I have others." Old Groucho was only joking about it, the ALP do it for real.

I believe we should build on last year’s Community Day of Action with building May Day 2013 with a Defeat O'Farrell's Cuts theme or a Fight Back Theme. This is actually taking place in Orange and is a useful project for the Local Union Community Groups to work towards. These groups could build May Day within their unions and help get their members to May Day events across the state.