Pollie Crackers

The Henry Lawson High School students recently attended the State finals in Newcastle of the annual Science and Engineering Challenge and were placed third, winning the bridge building section in the process.

Students from our small school have always done well, invariably winning the regional challenge for schools in this area, then regularly excelling at State and often National level, and this year’s students have continued that success.

What is the “X” factor here? Other schools believe the Grenfell students are drilled in the various exercises to improve their scores but this doesn’t seem to be the case.

The then Science Master (now Deputy Principal) Brad Robinson once identified the students’ teamwork as the important difference and this is likely on the money.

Having attended many regional challenges at the Young PCYC, it is a common observation that most schools have two or three movers and shakers in each exercise team: however this often leads to long periods of discussion and argument to reach a consensus while the students from THLHS are usually straight into it.

Whatever the reason, it must be greatly gratifying to local parents that their children are attending a school with such an impressive record in some difficult subjects and gaining life skills in problem solving.

Who knows, we might just get some young scientists or even (dare I say it?) engineers out of all this.

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The Australian Federal Parliament has made a major contribution to this column over the last couple of weeks so we might try to look elsewhere this week.

How about the USA? The Donald is continuing to lurch from crisis to crisis, with a guilty verdict against a second former aide, the incriminating confessions of his former attorney with allegations that he did know about hush payments to some former female acquaintances, and a disclosure that some of his senior staff are deliberately thwarting some of his more extreme thought bubbles for the good of the USA.

Is it just me, or have other people also noticed a public cooling in his marital relationship? His model wife is invariably present as his public backdrop, but your scribe is certain he saw her slap his hand away on one occasion. Hmm?

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The one constant with the Donald, disregarding his late night/early morning tweeting, is his ability to deny any wrongdoing or responsibility for anything much, no matter how compelling the evidence.

Walt Disney had an entertaining Donald who was always in trouble for one thing or another, but this Donald is so Teflon-coated that everything washes off his back quicker than a duck’s.

Meanwhile he continues to be the crowd favourite in many parts of the nation.

The sorry part is that these people are generally the more disadvantaged and looking to him for hope, but many pundits believe these same people are going to be the worst affected long term by his trade initiatives (can’t call them policies). Only time will tell.

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Australia has had a couple of recent visitors who would fall under the description of extreme right-wingers, and both have a professed admiration for Trump.

Nigel Farage is on a speaking tour of our capital cities. He is the leader of the UK Independence Party and was the face of the successful campaign to take the UK out of the European Union in the 2016 Brexit referendum.

It was noticeable however that he made himself scarce immediately afterwards when the hard work had to be done. His legacy is yet to be determined.

Steve Bannon is the man credited with powering Donald Trump to the presidency, being on close terms until they fell out last year. He now travels around from venue to venue, seeking outlets for his extreme far-right views on racism, immigration, and populism.

Populism seems to be the name for the tendency to vote in candidates because of their appeal to the ordinary voter. This is usually based in image rather than policies or principles.

Both men claim that a global wave of populism is sweeping irresistibly through their homelands and will soon engulf countries like Australia, overturning normal customs and upending politics as we know it. Maybe it’s happening already?

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American Senator John McCain’s death has prompted an outpouring of sadness and universal expressions of respect for a man who overcame all but the physical effects of years of imprisonment and torture in Vietnam to become a congressman, a senator and a presidential contender twice.

He may have defeated Obama in 2008 but for his unfortunate choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate.

A thing which greatly impressed me about his character was his reply to a rally attendee who had personally disparaged Obama: “No, ma’am. He’s a decent family man, a citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues.” All class and dignity. Imagine an Australian politician saying something like that about his or her opponent.

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She was one of the greats, so nobody should object to another Aretha Franklin song for this week’s dedication to all Australian politicians on behalf of John McCain and his rare ilk.

The song, of course, is her 1967 smash hit, “Respect.” I think I can hear some female Liberal pollies singing along too?

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All the pollsters predicted that the Liberals would go badly in Wagga, but the extent of the fallout has probably been more than most thought.

At the time of writing it is still unconfirmed that an Independent has won the seat, but it is definitely confirmed that the NSW Liberals have lost it after 61 years.

This could only be described as a watershed moment in politics. More later.

Feather Duster No 3

T Lobb