Harry and Meghan

From the outset I will acknowledge that most Cats couldn’t care less about the truculent and petulant behaviour of Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle.  Conversely, many Cats will acknowledge with gratitude, and perhaps awe, the unswerving devotion to duty and service displayed by the late Queen Elizabeth II.   King Charles has some mighty big shoes to fill. 

I was one of millions who watched the Coronation on the weekend partly because of the pomp and ceremony but also because it was world history unfolding before our eyes.   Nobody younger than around 80 years old will have living memory of the previous Coronation.  And, in all likelihood, it is unlikely I will live to see William ascend to the Throne so, a bit like making out the faint blurry glow of Halley’s Comet in 1986, this was my one opportunity to witness a rare event. 

It is a matter of public record that Prince Harry attended the Coronation alone whilst Meghan remained ensconced in California with their children – one of whom was celebrating their 4th birthday on the same day.  Apparently, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex had demanded the newly crowned King give some sort of ‘shout out’ to the child to acknowledge the birthday but Charles, possibly acting on the advice of his protocol advisers, declined.   Alternatively, Charles was still smarting over the assorted slights Harry had made about the Royal family in general and Queen Camilla his wife, in particular, in the book ‘Spare’.

In any event, Harry’s new book has damaged the cohesion of the royal family and to the glee of monarchists, also inflicted some damage on the royal institution.  In fairness, that their family is just as dysfunctional as many others has been publicly apparent for the past forty years or so.

Anyway, I get it.  Bad blood exists and Meghan will not contemplate any retreat.  She and her husband Harry stepped away from that life and are now ‘independent’ and living in the USA.  Normally, I also don’t give the Markles one single thought but the sight of Harry walking solo into Westminster Abbey depicted him as lonely and dare I say, emasculated. 

In the Sussex’s (or just Meghan’s) battle with the Crown, I think they have made a significant strategic error.  They have further isolated themselves from the very institution that is their raison d’etre and the quasi ghost of Edward the Eighth hangs across Harry  – all for ‘that woman’.  Yet most of all I wondered about the eventual pull of his blood relatives over time.  Can Harry resist the call of his home country and heritage – after all, his father is the King and his own brother will be the King – or will Harry resist and stand by Meghan in the relatively uncultured wilds of California.  Will their children know their cousins and the deep history of the British Monarchy?   

Then it dawned on me…… don’t know, don’t care.  These fleeting thoughts of Harry and that Markle woman have occupied far too much of my viewing pleasure.

God save the King.

Who would you fight for?

Farewell of Hector and Andromache, Sergey Postnikov, 1863

Recently I had a casual exchange with contributor Bruce of Newcastle on the OT. 

The guts of our remarks was the number of wars fought by Russia and how this had shaped their national psyche.  Further, that Western attitudes and policy towards Russia will continue to be largely ineffective, if not counterproductive, until the West at least accepts that Russians don’t think like us.  Their beliefs have been baked-in over hundreds of years and formed their protective stance towards Mother Russia.

This led me off on the tangent of wondering about loyalty.  The Russian populace in Australia is relatively small and certainly by comparison to the Chinese, Indian and Jewish communities and of course, those from the assorted Middle Eastern and Asian nations.

Therefore, I wondered, if push really came to shove, who would leave the relative safety of Australia to fight for their birthplace?  The question is predicated on the person being born overseas and armed conflict between their birthplace and another nation was either commencing, or imminent.   Moreover, any reasonable assessment concludes that the military forces of your birthplace are very likely to be overwhelmed.

Imagine it is all but certain that your birthplace will cease to exist as the nation you were born to.

And if you were to leave to fight, would you do so only as a member of the regular military forces or, would you engage as a guerrilla?  Or, if incapable of bearing arms, would you instead act in a direct support role?

Those thoughts naturally lead to a question about an Australian born person living overseas.  There are several Cats living overseas or who travel overseas extensively for their work.  Would you return to Australia to defend her if necessary, or remain in the relative safety of the country you were in at the time?

Rightly or wrongly, I don’t have any China born friends of whom I could ask the question.  Overwhelmingly my friends are Russian born and for several, I could reasonably guess their  response without even asking.   But, I do have a couple of Indian born friends and rang them to test my question. 

Both said they thought it was extremely unlikely (impossible) that India would be militarily overwhelmed and thus their services would not be required.  Fair enough and almost certainly true.  But when pressed, one of the two said that yes, despite being an Australian citizen of some 26 years (slightly more than half his life), he would take whatever steps he could to protect his birthplace even if that meant leaving his wife and children in Australia.   He did, after all, still have some extended family in that country but if nothing else, would be ashamed of himself if his birth country was effectively destroyed and he had done nothing.

So, what say you Cats?   If your birth nation was facing almost certain annihilation from an aggressor, would you depart (or return to) these shores to defend your birthright? 

Compare the pair

NATO in 1990
NATO in 2023

Millions of words have been written about the creeping encroachment of NATO eastward towards the border of the Russian Federation.

Recent media reports suggest the Turkey will soon drop its objections to Finland joining the bloc with only Hungary’s objections yet to be overcome.  One can only imagine the pressure Hungarian politicians will endure as the sole ‘hold-out’ but those tribulations will almost certainly be soothed by assorted inducement.  

It is well established that the raison d’etre of NATO was largely to contain Russia but since the collapse of the Soviet Union, NATO’s purpose of existence has not changed significantly.  In fact, NATO over the ensuing years has been very accommodating to those former Soviet bloc nations that wished to join.        

But didn’t the Americans agree not to expand NATO eastward?

The answer to that question is mired in assorted recollections but there was never any formal agreement.  After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, a treaty signed in 1990 extended NATO into East Germany, which had been zoned to the Soviet Union.  

James Baker, former Secretary of State told CNN during a 2009 interview “there was a discussion about whether the unified Germany would be a member of NATO, and that was the only discussion we ever had. There was never any discussion of anything but East Germany.”

But others have said that assurances were made, including Jack Matlock, the last U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union, and Robert Gates, the deputy national security adviser at the time.  Gates said the Soviets “were led to believe” NATO would not expand eastward.

Even Gorbachev seemed confused.  He once insisted he was promised NATO would not “move one centimetre further east” but in 2014, he said the question never came up, yet added that NATO’s eventual expansion was “a violation of the spirit of the statements and assurances made in 1990.”

In any event, it’s now moot.  Historians may continue to debate what, if any, comments were made by the negotiating parties during that 1989-90 period but NATO made no written pledge.  There was ‘possibly’ a tacit understanding, but no more than that. 

Which brings us to Georgia.

Hands up all those that think the American CIA fermented the recent disturbances in Georgia.  Yeah, me too. 

Georgia is a small and comparatively insignificant country on Russia’s southern flank but it jumped into world news following several days of protests that were triggered by a bill on the ‘Transparency of Foreign Influence’, that had been initially adopted by the Georgian parliament. 

The bill proposed a national register of “foreign influence agents.”  The register would have listed all non-profit legal entities and media organizations which receive 20% or more of their funding from overseas. 

The reaction to something relatively innocuous may be surprising until you realise the sheer numbers of foreign NGO/NPOs active in Georgia.  In 2020, a report by the Asian Development Bank indicated that of the 12,800 organizations registered in Georgia, the vast majority rely on foreign funding and 7,972 of those operated with foreign founders.  For a nation with a population of only 3.7 million, that equates to around 300 people per foreign NPO/NGO.  

Perhaps not so surprising that many of the foreign (and influential) NGOs immediately understood the potential existential threat of the legislation and acted accordingly.  Their cloak of anonymity would be gone.

Now we get to the guts of the matter.  For the past 30 years, Georgia has become a recipient of US aid receiving an average of (officially) ~$US120m per annum through the US State Department and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

However, the annual budgets of the most influential Georgian NGOs are comparable to the turnover of medium-sized commercial entities.  The Soros Foundation alone invested more than $10 million and the CIA-linked National Endowment for Democracy distributed $1.2 million in grants in one year among a handful of Georgian NGOs.  The main areas of their work were ‘media support’, election monitoring and civil influence over the activities of the executive branch, among others things. 

So, we have influence, money and now threats.

During the recent unrest, the US and the EU warned Georgian authorities that the successful adoption of the law would likely “deprive the country of the chance to acquire EU candidate status and join NATO”.  The bill was dropped although the protests continued for a few more days.

Georgia’s eventual joining with NATO would serve the alliance by creating a border link with Turkey to access Russia via the south.  Covering an area almost identical to Tasmania, Georgia has the right to self-determination but needs to be mindful of the lessons from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.  The voices of some NGOs do not necessarily have Georgia’s best interests at heart.  Beware those offering trinkets and promises of gold – there is a much larger geopolitical game afoot.

Kiev, Ukraine, November 2014
Tbilisi, Georgia, March 2023

Nietzsche’s foreboding insight

From the outset, it must be said that German philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844-1900) was a troubled individual who suffered a wide range of afflictions during his relatively short life.   Having said that, in the preface to his work ‘On the Genealogy of Morality’, Nietzsche wrote:

What if a regressive trait lurked in “the good man,” likewise a danger, an enticement, a poison, a narcotic, so that the present lived at the expense of the future? Perhaps in more comfort and less danger, but also in a smaller-minded, meaner manner?

Considering Nietzsche wrote that in 1887, it was a foreboding insight into our modern world and the decline of the West’s morality.   Nietzsche considered it “the danger of dangers” – namely, that all individuals, even those with the potential to rise above the mediocre mass, are pressured into becoming a ‘herd animal’ whose only apparent goal was to please or acquiesce to the rest of the herd.    

This is most evident in today’s social media platforms, often with enthusiastic reinforcement by the MSM, where critical thinkers are hounded when their conclusions don’t match the groupthink.  Globally, Governments have harnessed this phenomenon to keep those individuals in check who dare to question the approved narrative.   Within our small community at the Cat for example, there are numerous individuals who have been subjected to a variety of punitive responses on social media or by government for daring to question the official orthodoxy during Covid. 

Where an individual is independent and questioning the orthodoxy, that person is deemed by the herd to be ‘bad’ and must be hounded into silence.  Alternatively, those who belong to the herd and conform, are deemed to be ‘good’.   Social media, government and the MSM can combine to judge the outspoken individual and on many occasions, the pile-on can be vicious.  At a minimum, the person’s social standing is damaged and for some, their professional standing is destroyed.  Yet this herd behaviour can overturn society’s growth and evolution.  

So, is this a new phenomenon? 

For millennia, humans have gathered together to form societies (whether tribes, clans, villages and so on) and those societies must have rules for peaceful and productive cohabitation.  As many humans were naturally inquisitive and, necessity being the mother of invention, humankind flourished.  

Of course, assorted rumours, speculation and vendettas arose every now and then with terrible consequences for those deemed outside the accepted orthodoxy.   There are near endless examples in our human history of the persecution of minorities for some alleged or even actual ‘slight’ against the established status quo.  But there is also a veritable conga line of independent thinkers from before Aristotle to after Isacc Newton that made vital contributions to society’s evolution, yet many were initially ridiculed or persecuted.    

Whilst we consider ourselves far more civilised today, is the persecution of the outspoken independent thinker via social media really much different to the baying mob armed with pitchforks advancing on the hapless individual?   Those events usually happened with the consent of the local Chief (who may even lead the attack) – why is this different to our government inciting, and in some cases orchestrating, a vengeful mob? 

Social media has a lot to answer for in our modern society with its insidious and destructive impact on our society being fanned and encouraged by every Western government on the planet.  Government recognised the opportunity to frame the narrative in a social media context and apply (un)official enforcement via the mob.   The rate of transformation, and ferociousness of self-imposed enforcement, must exceed their wildest dreams.   

The MSM, for their part, have long recognised their dependence on government largesse via advertising (or ownership) and that their very existence is governed by legislation.  Every one of us can point to numerous examples where journalists have utterly failed to challenge the government’s statements or actions.   The hand inside the media glove unquestionably belongs to the government.    

Will things change?  The malevolence of the vested interests, and sometimes outright contempt for the people they are supposed to govern, would suggest that the voice of those who question the official pathway will continue to be threatened.  Only sites such as the Cat offer refuge.

Although Nietzsche couldn’t have imagined our society, the principle of silencing questioning thinkers remains – in our time it is a cohort of anonymous social media assailants, MSM and government who persecute those who would rise above the dim-witted and complaint masses; how often have we seen a call to correct some perceived inequality coupled with implied allegations of an anti-social phobia for the non-compliant?

Of course, the desire for control extends far deeper and includes the covering up of government excess (even criminality) or collective censorship of legitimate news or opinion.   If it challenges, embarrasses or confronts the official narrative, the attack dogs of social media and the MSM will do their master’s bidding.  

Finally, Nietzsche’s pertinent warning:

Our highest insights must – and should – sound like follies and sometimes like crimes when they are heard without permission.  Why has an anti-natural morality – a poison which has spread through the entire body of mankind – gained dominion over Western civilization?

I doubt that Nietzsche could have imagined, even in his wildest dreams, the extent to which our social structure has deviated nor the depths to which our morality has descended.  Indeed, many of those who contributed greatly to our developing society over the millennia would struggle to be heard in our enlightened ‘modern age’.     

Battle on Cats, battle on.   

Targa rallying and the death of Peter Brock

Targa rallying is a unique form of motorsport where purpose-built rally cars compete on (normally public) bitumen roads that have been closed for competition.  Starting at 30-second intervals, the cars race against the clock with the winner being the fastest car over all the special (closed road) competition stages.  A typical Targa event will usually have between 20-40 special competition stages across several days that may traverse much of the State.     

Targa events are not for the faint hearted.  Speed can be very high and as the roads are otherwise public roads, the condition of those roads varies widely.  Most competitors undertake extensive road reconnaissance prior to the event but even so, the attrition rate in Targa events is often 20-25% of the field through accident or mechanical failure. 

In giving the following account I will say that much of it is first-hand knowledge with a few aspects told to myself by people I know well (and trust) from their first-hand knowledge.  The full story has only previously been known to a few and to the best of my knowledge, has never been retold in this format. 


Peter Brock, otherwise known as ‘Peter Perfect’, ‘The King of the Mountain’, or simply ‘Brocky’, was one of Australia’s best-known and most successful motor racing drivers.  Brock was most often associated with Holden although he raced vehicles from other manufacturers including BMW, Ford, Volvo, Porsche and Peugeot.  He won the Bathurst 1000 race nine times, the Sandown 500 nine times, the Australian Touring Car Championship three times, the Bathurst 24 Hour and was inducted into the V8 Supercars Hall of Fame in 2001.

On 8 September 2006, while driving in the Targa West tarmac rally, Brock was 3 kilometres from the finish of the second stage at Gidgegannup, about 40 km from Perth, when he skidded off a downhill left-hand bend on Clenton Road in his Daytona Sportscar and hit a tree.   Brock was killed instantly and his co-driver, Mick Hone, was taken to hospital in a serious but stable condition.

Video footage of the crash (provided by a spectator and the in-car camera) was reviewed by West Australian police to help determine the cause of the accident.  Coroner Alastair Hope decided that Brock’s death was caused by high speed and that no coronial inquest would be performed.  

Those facts are publicly available (Wikipedia) but they do not reveal the backstory of the accident.  

In the evening following the crash, full details were still unclear but there was enough information from eyewitness reports and other sources to suggest that Brock was driving noticeably faster than the other competitors.  That was very significant as the competition group consisted of many highly skilled, and very quick, tarmac rally drivers accompanied by experienced co-drivers. 

The day after the crash it was revealed that Brock had attended a reception at Australia House in London barely 36 hours before he was due to be in WA.  Other information confirmed that Brock had been unhappy with the handling of the Daytona and had requested several suspension and other changes be made prior to the WA event.  (The Daytona was an innovative Australian manufactured vehicle with a high performance 6.0 litre V8 squeezed into a vehicle weighing only 1100kgs).  Those changes would significantly alter the car’s handling characteristics but, perhaps tellingly, Brock hadn’t driven the car since the changes were completed. 

Brock’s co-driver in Targa West was his friend Mick Hone who is very well known in the motorcycling fraternity as a motorcycle competitor and retailer.  Hone had relatively limited experience in Targa style events although Brock and Hone had competed in the Targa Tasmania event a few months earlier.  Unfortunately, mechanical issues plagued the car and their joint rallying experience suffered. 

A clear picture of the relevant issues was now emerging.  Peter Brock had attended a reception in London shortly before he was due to drive in Targa West.  He flew directly from London to Perth and arrived just hours before the start of the event.  Meanwhile, the car had undergone changes that altered the handling dynamics and, Brock didn’t test drive it before the competition start.  Brock and his co-driver had not had the opportunity to conduct substantial reconnaissance of the course immediately before the event and yet they were using pace notes* purchased from a third party.  And finally, the speed.  It was subsequently confirmed that Brock’s official stage times prior to the accident were faster than any other driver.  Various eyewitnesses along the previous stage and immediately prior to the crash reported that Brock was “absolutely flat out” in terms of his speed and driving style.

Was Brock jetlagged?  Did the car have a new handling characteristic of which Brock wasn’t unaware?  Why didn’t Brock make time to test-drive the car after the suspension changes?  Did the lack of on-stage reconnaissance to verify the suitability of the purchased pace notes play a role?   Why did Brock use a relatively inexperienced co-driver? (a driver of Brock’s undoubted driving ability would normally demand a thoroughly experienced co-driver).  

Peter Brock was an highly talented driver and his loss was a tragedy for his family and friends, to motorsport and his many fans.  His demise was a classic ‘Swiss cheese’ moment where all of the individual circumstances aligned to produce the outcome.  No single factor was responsible.  Yet, it must also be queried to what extent did Brock’s own actions, or omissions, play a contributing role.  As a professional race driver, he must have (or should have) known that the actions or omissions in car preparation and the preparation of himself and his co-driver would significantly heighten the risk, and he should drive accordingly. 

Tarmac rallying is a thrilling and demanding form of motorsport but it is ruthless towards those who treat it with disrespect.   As mentioned previously, speeds are often very high and there is no room for error with trees and other immovable obstacles just metres away.  Unbridled belief in your ability may mask, but does not diminish, the risk. 

*’Pace notes’ are used in rally events, whether tarmac or dirt, and allow the co-driver to inform the driver of the road conditions ahead whilst the car travels at high speed.  The information will include whether the road ahead is straight after, say, a blind crest or, the comparative tightness of an upcoming corner among other information.   Some semi/professional co-drivers sell their pace notes to other competitors, but it is vital that the purchased notes are re-checked by route reconnaissance by the purchasing competitor.  The competitor can then make any required adjustments relevant to the vehicle being used and comparative skill of the driver.