There’s honour even amongst morality’s dregs? Milo & the alt-right

22 Feb

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Milo Yiannopoulos, Breitbart editor, intellectual featherweight and fascist star turn adored by the alternate right who till yesterday saw him as a warrior king in their battle against “political correctness” and perceived left-wing censorship, has finally come spectacularly undone.

To the point where his followers (amongst them the likes of Rita Pahini, Chris Kenny and Andrew Bolt in this country) who have thus far endorsed his foul outbursts against Muslims, Jews, women and transgender people as an exercise of the right to free speech, have found themselves in unlikely and uncomfortable moral confusion over Milo’s positive attitude towards pedophilia, and overt sympathy for perpetrating catholic priests.

Yiannopoulos was to have given the keynote address at the Conservative Political Action Conference later this month, and yesterday (a bad day for Milo) organisers felt compelled to withdraw their invitation.

Breitbart News, whose former editor-in-chief Steve Bannon is now President Donald Trump’s lead strategist, is reportedly considering dumping Milo. At least we now know the alt-right’s bottom line: slander anyone on grounds of race, ethnicity, sexual preference and gender, but don’t publicly advocate pedophilia. There’s honour even amongst morality’s dregs, apparently.

Publishing house Simon and Schuster yesterday dropped Milo, terminating their contract to publish his forthcoming book. They stood by him while he slandered Jews, Muslims, women and transgender people for money and spectacle, but apparently a line was crossed with his sympathetic stance towards pedophilia.

It’s gratifying to witness the extreme right writhe in unaccustomed moral anguish when confronted with speech even they cannot accept. Who knew there was such a thing?

Yiannopoulos attempted to defend himself: “My book has been canceled”  he wailed on Facebook (Twitter having banned him some time ago) in baffled outrage, getting the spelling wrong in his time of extremity as anyone might.

Wikileaks’ Julian Assange then rushed to Milo’s defence from his lounge room in the Ecuadorean Embassy, tweeting that poor Milo is the victim of “politics disguised as morality” and, god help us, he’s been censored!

Well, Assange is wrong: Milo hasn’t been censored. Any publisher can publish him, he can self-publish, and any organisation is free to extend him an invitation to keynote. If they choose to ignore him that is not censorship, you’d think Assange, of all people, would understand that.

What Milo is experiencing are the consequences of free speech. He remains free to say whatever he wants, in the US at least.  Others have equal freedom to decline to listen and disseminate his speech. Refusing to listen and disseminate is not censorship, it’s exercising the agency and the right to decline to listen and disseminate.

Many among us have experienced the refusal to listen, and to disseminate our points of view, not a few of us from the very groups Milo has singled out for discrimination and contempt. He’s had a good run. Now his masters are done with him. You can’t go round advocating the rape and molestation of young boys, even amongst the alt-right, it seems. Who knew they had standards?

Update: Milo resigns from Breitbart:

And this is just for fun: 

Fake threats, and democracy.

18 Feb

 

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Demands that we be kept “safe” by governments play into the hands of conservatives who simultaneously, and with an alarming degree of cognitive dissonance, express their distaste for a nanny state while instigating extreme measures they claim will fulfil both our expectations of safety, and their responsibility to fulfil those expectations.

All too often those measures are an opportunity for authorities to increase surveillance, harvest personal information and exert unnecessary control over citizens, resulting in an erosion of rights that does nothing to keep us safe but rather makes us increasingly vulnerable, not to terrorists but to the state.

As in the family, so in public life. The greatest threat to our safety is allegedly the stranger, in both the private and the public narrative. So we have President Trump’s seven country “Muslim” ban in the US, designed to make Americans safe. In Australia we have the secretive, punitive Department of Immigration and Border Protection, with their ring of steel around our borders and their concentration camps off-shore. Both governments justify extreme measures with repeated assurances that their only objective is to keep us safe.

However, in the case of both family and country, danger is far more likely to come from within the circle than from without: the family is potentially the most dangerous place for women and children, and terrorism is overwhelmingly perpetrated by citizens/permanent residents of the target country rather than refugees, or foreigners who enter the country with the specific aim of conducting attacks.

In a liberal democracy we are supposed to be participants. We have agency. The degree of safety we demand governments provide is incompatible with the freedoms we rightly expect. Governments are not our parents. While as children we are entitled to protection, as adults we have no such entitlements. Protection and safety must be a joint venture: we have to participate in ensuring our own welfare. Once we relinquish our responsibility, we’re on the road to totalitarianism.

Democracy isn’t just the right to vote. It’s a way of being.

Neither will government assurances of safety from external threat protect us from what is most pressingly dangerous: violence in homes and institutions.

Governments are most reluctant to commit resources to these obvious threats to safety and stability.  Instead, billions are wasted on the containment of fake threats, and we continue to face real threats grossly under-supported and largely unacknowledged. Our protection in this instance does not require state intrusion into personal life: it requires adequate money and front-line resources administered by competent and experienced citizens, not politicians.

This is an example of democracy working. Secretive bureaucracies are not democratic, and neither is taking money from those in difficult circumstances to fund tax benefits for corporations turning billion dollar profits.

The robust exchange of views between Senator Jacqui Lambie and Islamic youth leader Yassmin Abdel-Magied, broadcast on ABC’s Q&A last week, is a complex example of the degree to which fake threats dominate our discourse. It also inadvertently provided a seminar in free speech, when a number of organisations petitioned the ABC to provide a “safe environment” in which Muslims may speak.

Senator Lambie has obviously swallowed the fake terrorism threat, as is evidenced in her noisy opposition to what she perceives as the imminent danger of Australia becoming subject to what she understands as Sharia law. At present, I’d argue, Australia is faced with the rather more urgent matter of dealing with the consequences of Catholic Canon law than with Islamic tenets, sad confirmation of the theory that the stranger is not our largest and most immediate danger.

I don’t like Lambie’s views on the matter of Sharia law, or her manner of expressing them, however, such views exist and attempting to silence them is not a useful option. Currently, the voices of prejudice, fear and hatred seem to have wrenched the mic from voices of reason and good will. We are under the governance of a conservative ideology that values combat and domination over citizens’ and community interests, while offering fake protection from outside forces in order to conceal that ideology’s very real threat to civil society.

Sharia law is not currently an issue for Australia: political negligence on matters of survival such as climate change and social inequality and injustice are.

I don’t yet know how we get the mic back. I don’t think anybody does. I don’t think forcible silencing of opposition is an option. It’s impossible to dictate the tone and language in which opposition is couched. Once again, personal responsibility stands side by side with freedoms. That there are people with platforms taking little or no responsibility for their speech and its possible consequences is truly awful, but it’s reality.

For mine, freedom of speech was exercised by all parties in the Q&A example, including the freedom of organisations to get up a petition protesting the event, and the freedom of their supporters to sign it.

This is how we contest fake threats. By embracing democracy as a way of being, not just something we perform at the ballot box every few years. It isn’t any government’s sole responsibility to keep us and democracy safe, and once we relinquish agency, we have truly lost all hope of safety, and returned to infantile dependence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turnbull’s faith in coal is weak: his home is ready to go off-grid.

13 Feb

 

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Today, FOI documents confirmed that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was advised that last year’s power blackouts in South Australia were not due to renewable energy failures, but to severe weather conditions that caused unprecedented damage to the network.

Turnbull decided to ignore this advice as it does not align with his commitment to fossil fuels and his party’s entrenched opposition to renewables. Instead, he and his ministers seized the opportunity to politicise the blackouts by blaming the generation mix and the South Australian Labor government, despite having been advised by concerned bureaucrats that in so doing, they were disseminating false information to the Australian people.

Federal Energy and Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg claimed that state and federal Labor governments had recklessly committed to ambitious new energy targets, using the SA blackouts as an example of how renewables are allegedly unstable, and allegedly lead to energy insecurity.

These men, along with Barnaby Joyce and other politicians, deliberately misled both parliament and the public, seizing the opportunity to manipulate and obfuscate for their personal and political gain, without any regard for the wellbeing of the country and its citizens. They are traitors.

Turnbull has done an extraordinary backflip from fighting to introduce a carbon price and losing the leadership of his party for his pains, to attacking Labor for “ideological obsession” with renewables at the expense of “energy security.”

However, Turnbull’s commitment to coal and gas does not extend to his personal life. Apparently he is not fully persuaded that coal and gas do indeed provide sufficient energy security. We learned today that the Prime Minister does not seem to be walking his talk, and has installed battery storage in his Point Piper home.

Turnbull also recently upgraded his solar array, to the point where he could almost go off-grid.

As was noted on Twitter, Turnbull is protecting himself and his family from the inconveniences, distresses and dangers of power outages in a NSW market dominated by coal, with renewable technology his policies vehemently oppose.

Turnbull is a hypocrite, as well as a traitor.

In the meantime, the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) which is currently considering a $1billion loan to mining giant Adani, has refused a Greenpeace FOI request for dates and locations of upcoming board meetings, on the grounds that it could encourage protesters and media interest if they were made public. This is an acceptable reason for refusing a FOI request? We shall find out. Greenpeace is appealing the refusal.

Coal-fired generators have no future in Australia, writes Ian Verrender, in a piece that is worth a read.

I’m sure Malcolm Turnbull knows there is no future for coal.  I’m also sure he doesn’t care.

Turnbull will gamble with the future of the country and its citizens, many of whom suffer through upwards of 47 degree heat-waves without the benefit of battery storage, because Turnbull wants to keep the job he bought himself for $1.7 million.

And we thought we couldn’t do worse than Abbott.

How it’s never Pell’s fault.

10 Feb
'It's only a sin if you talk about it...'

‘It’s only a sin if you talk about it…’

 

It really has come to something when politicians call on the Vatican Treasurer and Pope Francis’s right hand man to come out from his Vatican sanctuary, and face up in person to allegations of having sexually abused children.

On Wednesday, a Greens motion calling on Cardinal George Pell to return to Australia from Rome to assist police and prosecutors investigating allegations of criminal misconduct against him was supported by the Senate.

Predictably, Pell launched an attack on the Greens, calling them anti religious and characterising the motion as a political stunt, despite the motion being supported by parties other than the Greens.

Pell is well-known for his bellicose self-defence. In 2012 he threatened to sue comedian Catherine Deveny for a tweet she posted that the Cardinal considered defamatory. He also threatened to sue Twitter, but resiled from that threat.

Then there was the church’s prolonged legal battle against complainant John Ellis, who attempted to sue the Archdiocese of Sydney, at the time under the authority of then Archbishop Pell. Mr Ellis spent more than ten years seeking compensation for the five years of sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of Father Aiden Duggan. Pell later apologised for the “vigorous and strenuous”  battle he ordered the church’s legal team to conduct against Mr Ellis with the aim of discrediting him, thus protecting and vindicating the honour of the institution in which Pell was a rising star. During the apology, Pell refused to even look at the frail Mr Ellis, who was sitting across from him.

In 2013, human rights lawyer and commentator Father Frank Brennan commended Pell for “being man enough and priest enough” to publicly apologise for the torment Mr Ellis suffered at the hands of the church’s lawyers. Four years later, Brennan’s comment seems both naive and misplaced.

In 2014 Pell was transferred to Rome to sort out the Vatican’s complex finances, and, many speculated, to get him out of the sewer that is the church’s increasingly sordid and public history of sexual crimes against children.

We are still not done with Pell. He has consistently responded with belligerent denial to allegations of abuse and cover-ups, at one point claiming that the ABC and Victoria Police entered into a conspiracy against him, and furiously demanding an investigation.  Pell also claimed that Victoria Police leaked confidential information in order to denigrate him, when it was clear the information in question came from victims interviewed by media. Pell also blamed numerous priests and bishops who he alleged failed to inform him of the rampant sexual abuse of children occurring on his watch over decades.

It isn’t possible to judge Pell on the question of child sexual abuse allegedly perpetrated by him, and currently under consideration by the Victorian Office of Public Prosecutions. It is possible, however, to form an opinion of the man based on the manner in which he’s conducted himself throughout the years of the Royal Commission into allegations against catholic clergy, and the cover-ups by the church’s hierarchy that made abuses possible, and ongoing.

The Cardinal’s attitude is not encouraging. At every turn he’s resorted to accusation and blame, in an effort to exonerate himself from all responsibility. If we generously give him the most enormous benefit of the doubt, he must at least be held responsible for what can only have been wilful ignorance, innumerable turnings of a blind eye that resulted in horrific abuse of children over decades, abuse he could have taken steps to prevent.

Instead, Pell appears to have prioritised his own career, and the reputation of the institution that sheltered and promoted him, over the awful suffering of thousands of children. Every single act of sexual abuse affects untold numbers of people, as well as the victim: family, other kids who knew and had to hide their knowledge, friends, possible partners, possible children of victims. The scale of damage as a consequence of every act of sexual abuse is incalculable. George Pell is responsible not only for failing to intervene and protect individual children  when he had the opportunity, but for the consequences and aftermath of the individual child’s experiences.

Thus far Pell has been neither “man enough” nor “priest enough” to face what he has done and the magnitude of the intergenerational repercussions, instead continuing to enjoy the safety and security of the Vatican’s protection while attempting to obfuscate grievances against him by attributing them to anti religious sentiment and political stunts. The man is a scoundrel. That much is clear. The full extent of his scoundrelly has yet to be revealed.

As long as Pell is protected by the Pope no one can trust the catholic church

7 Feb

 

Cardinal Pell comments on being told of incidents of child sexual abuse by priests.

Cardinal Pell, on being told of incidents of child sexual abuse by priests.

 

The Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane, Mark Coleridge, this morning expressed his horror and outrage at the latest report from the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse on the extent of that abuse within his church.

The Archbishop was at pains to reassure listeners that after years of intense and ongoing scrutiny (thanks to former Prime Minister Julia Gillard ordering the Royal Commission which catholic MP Tony Abbott and his catholic henchman did everything possible to sabotage) catholic schools are by now among the safest possible places for your child to be.

While he might have a point he is missing the point: the former head of the church in Australia, Cardinal George Pell, is himself under investigation both for alleged child sexual abuse, and for his role in covering up the offences of other priests.

Cardinal Pell is currently in Rome, in a position that keeps him very close to Pope Francis. Victorian Police yesterday submitted a second brief of evidence against the Cardinal to the DPP. The Vatican is a sovereign state from which Pell cannot be extradited. When last required to appear before the Royal Commission, Pell pleaded a heart condition that left him unfit to fly long distances. He gave evidence via video link.

I would like to ask Archbishop Coleridge how anyone can trust the catholic church in Australia when its former head is under the protection of the Pope. I’m struggling to imagine this situation in a secular organisation in which 7% of employees were guilty of sexually abusing children, and 4,400 alleged cases of child sexual abuse had been brought against it.

Both these figures are conservative: how many victims have not made complaints? How many have suicided? How many made complaints that were mishandled by the church, or dismissed?

As a fish rots from the head, so has the catholic church. I’m neither heartened nor impressed by various catholic clergy and lay commentators wringing their hands at the awfulness of it all. Had it not been for an atheist ordering an investigation, this would still be hidden, and the perpetrators still protected.

I’m willing to bet a great deal that no one, but no one inside the church would have taken action to prevent the sexual abuse of children, or to instigate useful investigations that resulted in prosecutions, and demands for moral accountability.

This will not be over until those at the highest level are held accountable, including the Pope. Until churchmen and catholic commentators are willing to acknowledge that accountability starts at the head, nobody is safe in the catholic system, and the fish continues to stink.

 

Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope

5 Feb

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In one of those serendipitous moments I treasure, such as when a book that contains much of what I need to know about a topic practically falls off the library shelves into my lap without me consciously looking for it, the new President of the United States was elected around the same time as the release of the latest Star Wars movie, Rogue One. This co-incidence provoked a popular association of Trump with the leader of the dark side in that epic cosmic narrative, Darth Vader.

One of the problems for me in this analogy (and there are several, not least of which is that Vader has a presence Trump could never in a million light years muster) is that Darth Vader, like Lucifer, was once an angel, or as we Star Wars aficionados like to call such beings, a Jedi knight. Vader lost his way and chose the dark side, a decision that precipitated him right out of the good graces of heaven, or, if you’d rather, the select community of Obi-Wan Kenobi and the Force.

In other words, Vader began his career as a good guy and stumbled. I can find no evidence anywhere of Donald Trump ever having been a good guy, or ever having been in a state of grace from which to fall.

There are early signs that the Force is beginning to rebel against the evil Trumpian empire in the form of the US judiciary. On Friday judges in two states, Washington and California, issued temporary restraining orders against the continuing enactment of Trump’s Executive Orders on immigration, otherwise known as the “Muslim ban.” Here is the text of one of those orders. Quite a startling read: how often is one likely to see restraining orders against the President of the United States? Perhaps frequently, in this administration.

Oh, my lord. Serendipity (or the Force) strikes again. My auto correct changed the United States into the Untied States. WTAF.

Trump has responded relatively mildly on Twitter, which is where presidential business, foreign and domestic, is conducted in these times:

We quite rightly mocked former President George W Bush for reducing complex affairs to a simplistic binary of good and evil. We argued for nuance, for the moral significance of detail, and against the immature demands of “you’re either with us, or against us.” Back then in the good old days, the Force still had wriggle room.

However, one of the more unfortunate changes rung by the ascension to power of Empire Trump is the successful diminishment of nuance to the status of complete irrelevance, rendering useless our arguments against simplistic perspectives. Nobody in power gives a wookie’s butt about the details of anything, and nuance is for losers:

Trump has (temporarily one hopes) achieved Bush’s goal: to divide the world into those for us and those against us, and to embed those divisions into implacable concepts of good and evil. We are now living in a Star Wars movie. The Empire has struck back, and it has knocked us silly.

The other disturbing difference between Vader and Trump is that in Vader one always senses the possibility, however small, of redemption. One senses no such possibility in Trump.

There’s a scarcity of Jedi knights, the Force is fading, and I can’t find my light sabres. (This is not a metaphor. There were two in this house, and they’ve vanished.)  A woman’s place is in the Resistance, and the Princess’s words resonate as never before:

Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope!

In which Turnbull is thoroughly played by Trump

2 Feb

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Towards the end of the Obama administration, a classified “deal” was made between the then President and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, to send an undisclosed number of refugees from detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru to the US for resettlement. In return, Australia agreed to accept refugees from Costa Rica.

The classified nature of the deal infuriated Republicans, who after the election of President Trump called for details to be released, claiming the agreement covered the resettlement of an estimated 2,400 refugees, some from countries already on Obama’s list of “countries of concern.”

It was on the basis of Obama’s list that Trump formed his own list of seven predominantly Muslim countries from which entry into the US is now forbidden for ninety days, with refugees refused resettlement for one hundred and twenty days.

Both Obama and Turnbull were likely confident of a Clinton win when the agreement was reached, though Turnbull did express confidence that if elected, Trump would honour the agreement.

It was and remains, an unholy deal. The US is the last of a number of countries successive Australian governments have attempted to persuade to take refugees who legally sought asylum in Australia, and were incarcerated  in off-shore camps for exercising those legal rights. Both the LNP and ALP have engaged in increasingly desperate efforts to wash their hands of the refugees, and both parties were relieved and enthused by the US “deal.”

It’s been revealed today through leaks to the Washington Post, that Trump exploded at Turnbull during a phone call over the weekend, telling him it was the worst deal he’d ever heard of, and why did he, Turnbull, expect that Trump would agree to importing the next Boston Bomber. Trump later tweeted this:

The clue as to what is actually going on here is in the tweet, and to understand it, you need to know some context.

In 2011, Trump’s attacks on President Obama’s origins were at their height, the so-called “Birther” controversy. At the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner that year, Obama, who was guest speaker, took the opportunity to thoroughly trash Donald Trump, who was also present. Witnesses to this trashing claim Trump’s humiliation and rage were palpable, and many have since commented that this was the moment that determined Trump to enter the presidential race, and in victory avenge himself, lay his humiliation to rest, and assume power over every Obama initiative instigated during his administration, with the aim of dismantling as many of them as possible.

Much as in our own country, Tony Abbott set about dismantling every Labor government initiative of any note, regardless of its value, simply because it was a Labor initiative, and he could demonstrate his power to be greater than the ALP’s through this destructive rampage.

Trump misses no opportunity to denigrate Obama, either overtly or covertly. This “dumb deal” of Obama’s is being used by Trump to demonstrate to the American people that his predecessor was reckless enough to enter into a secret deal that allowed refugees from “countries of concern” into the US, and in so doing, risk the safety and security of Americans. Trump’s message  is that he is better than this. He knows a dumb deal from the Obama administration when he sees one, and he’s not going to just go along with it.

Turnbull and the refugees are collateral damage. Turnbull deserves it. The refugees do not.

Trump personally loathes and fears Muslims. He is also no doubt genuinely irritated at having to negotiate his way through this “deal” which, should he decide to honour it (and he may yet, the man is mercurial and entirely unpredictable) will cause him considerable embarrassment, given his hardline stance towards countries that are also the homelands of many of those whose fate is in limbo. Politcially, Trump allegedly said to Turnbull, I’ll get killed by it. I don’t want these people.

The future of the refugees is still as uncertain as it has been for years. At the very best, Trump might agree to “extreme vetting:” a process very few are likely to survive, given their homelands, the involvement of many in protests against their ill-treatment, and their demonised reputations, for which Australia is entirely responsible,  having cast them as “criminals” and “illegals” in order to win political favour with the ignorant.

It is with increasing incredulity we now watch as Turnbull and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton attempt to rebrand those they’ve slandered as criminals and illegals, into “genuine”refugees worthy of resettlement in the USA. As we are wont to observe on social media, you could not make this shit up.

Turnbull continues to insist that Trump has agreed to honour the “deal.” However, neither he nor the media are particularly honest in their explanations of this deal: it is not a deal to accept anyone. The terms are such that the US can refuse to take even one refugee, and still honour the agreement. This has been known by the government for some time:

Our politicians seem not to have caught up with events. Trump is feral. He’ll do what he wants. He has no regard for diplomacy, checks and balances, time-honoured channels, or the right way of doing things. We’re in an entirely new political landscape. Documentary film maker Michael Moore claims there’s a coup underway even as we speak, a coup in which a handful of men destroy the US state via the transference of executive power to a small, tight inner circle, over-ruling any efforts by relevant agencies to intervene in their power grab.

The only certainties we can have about Trump is that he will act in ways that benefit and gratify his personal goals, and that his thirst for revenge is a legendary driving force.

Turnbull is in a pickle, and one he richly deserves. This is the karma bus coming to call.

However, he has an opportunity to redeem himself, at least as a human being, if not as a politician. I fear that latter ship has sailed. He could, however, recognise that there is nothing left to do but bring the refugees here, and attend to it without further ado.

At the moment he continues to insist, like a petulant and disappointed  child, that Trump “promised” to keep the agreement, and he won’t stop believing he will. Unfortunately, Turnbull doesn’t seem to realise yet that keeping the agreement does not mean the US accepting any refugees.

Meanwhile, those on Manus and Nauru continue to suffer. Pawns in successive Australian governments’ pandering to xenophobia, fear and ignorance. Well done, both major parties. Now let’s see you get out of this mess.

Trump’s Chief Strategist: I want to bring everything crashing down

30 Jan

 

Steve Bannon

Steve Bannon

In a revealing 2013 interview with The Daily Beast, US President Donald Trump’s Chief  Strategist and Senior Counselor, Steve Bannon, gives insight into his long-term goals:

He never called himself a “populist” or an “American nationalist,” as so many think of him today. “I’m a Leninist,” Bannon proudly proclaimed. Shocked, I asked him what he meant.
“Lenin,” he answered, “wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.” Bannon was employing Lenin’s strategy for Tea Party populist goals. He included in that group the Republican and Democratic Parties, as well as the traditional conservative press…

His goal was to bring down the entire establishment including the leaders of the Republican Party in Congress.

The relationship between Donald Trump and Steve Bannon is an unholy alliance, in which the shared goal is the destruction of institutions, and the undermining of the authority of traditional agents of governance and administration in the US. Their actions thus far have led to the country to the brink of  a constitutional crisis, provoked by the refusal of the executive to honour the rule of law when Customs and Border Protection agents refused lawyers access to illegally detained travellers from Trump’s List of Seven countries, in spite of a federal judge determining that they must be permitted to enter the US.

The Department of Homeland Security issued a statement undertaking to both obey the President’s Executive Orders, and judicial  orders, which led to reminders that employees of the agency swear an oath to uphold the Constitution, not to support the President of the day.

After less than a week, Bannon and Trump have thrown the country into chaos, using executive orders that have bypassed all consultation with relevant departments.

Trump has now granted Bannon regular access to meetings of the National Security Council, where matters of security are discussed at the highest level. Trump has ousted generals from their regular seats on the Council.

Bannon could not be in a better position to “bring everything crashing down” and not only in the US. The global repercussions of Trump’s Muslim travel ban have included causing Emirates to entirely reschedule its staffing to avoid employees from Trump’s List of Seven arriving as flight crew on US-bound aircraft, and being forbidden to enter the country for their regular stop overs.

Far more serious are the hundreds of stories emerging of the distress and confusion faced by those arriving in the US and being detained, and those being refused carriage to the US, separating them from homes, families and work. Dual citizens in many western countries have been affected by the bans. Bannon is causing chaos far beyond the shores of the US, and it’s taken less than a week.

Today in Australia Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, and former Immigration Minister Scott Morrison all supported Trump’s actions against Muslims, with Turnbull suggesting that Trump is emulating Australian policies on border protection, and Morrison claiming Trump is following Australia’s lead in these matters. Australia’s politicians, along with Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, stand out in their support of Trump in an otherwise global condemnation of the President’s actions.

The desire to “bring everything crashing down” is an apocalyptic fantasy that in psychoanalytic terms is an expression of narcissistic rage. It resembles the tantrums of young children when they are thwarted and hurt. It continues into adulthood in those who have been unable to mature beyond the desire to destroy anything or anyone perceived to be a threat or an obstacle. The perceived damage to self-worth and self-esteem results in cataclysmic acting out, the objective being revenge and empowerment, achieved through the destruction and mastery of others.

Both Bannon and Trump appear to display more than their fair share of these tendencies. One is the leader of the western world. The other is his most influential advisor. Between them, they have the power to bring not only the US system of governance crashing down, but, in the worst case scenario, as they have the nuclear codes, the world.

Our government has given them its wholehearted support, in so doing making this country a prime terrorist target, as one of the few allies of the US in this matter.

I can only imagine what it must be like to be Muslim in Australia today. Living in a country in which your own government has allied itself with Trump, and believes Trump’s “Muslim ban” is merely a copycat version of what it has itself already achieved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Australia supports Trump. How does that make you feel?

30 Jan
The Foreign Minister at Hollywood party yesterday, with her partner and Nicole Kidman.

The Foreign Minister at Hollywood party yesterday, with her partner and Nicole Kidman.

 

By now, US President Donald Trump’s executive order denying entry into the US of an wide selection of people, including Australians with dual citizenship, is common knowledge, but here’s an excellent link in case you want to catch up.

World leaders expressed dismay at Trump’s “Muslim ban” and two of the countries on Trump’s List of Seven, Iraq and Iran, have retaliated by denying visas to US citizens.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, when asked to outline our position on the US crisis responded thus:

Australia’s foreign affairs minister, Julie Bishop, said the government would continue to work closely with the Trump administration to implement “strong border policies”. She said: “We share a common view on many issues so we will continue to work very closely with the Trump administration,” adding: “The very best days of the Australia-US relationship lie ahead.”

Take a few moments to think about this statement. Let it sink in, remembering events underway in the US right now.

No refugee from any of the banned countries has ever perpetrated an act of terror in the US. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia supplied the majority of the 9/11 attackers and is strangely absent from the list, as are other Muslim countries in which Trump has financial interests.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has thus far made no comment at all on the deepening crisis in the US. He has assured us that Trump will honour his commitment to take the refugees from Manus Island and Nauru off our hands. In other words, Trump has agreed to save the ugly racist faces of the Australian politicians that so closely mirror his own.

Turnbull has not revealed the price Australia will pay for Trump’s magnanimity. Neither has he explained why, when Trump is committed to the protection of his own borders to the extent that he has defied judicial orders and in so doing has provoked a constitutional crisis, the President is willing to take our refugees, many of whom come from some of the countries on Trump’s List of Seven.

The Turnbull government supports Donald Trump. How does that make you feel?

 

On violence and the Nazi

25 Jan

richard_spencerg_are_jews_people

 

When not preoccupied with US President Donald Trump, public debate has been focused these last few days on the morality of punching a Nazi upside the head.

The Nazi in question, Richard Spencer, founder of the alt-right, was giving a television interview when a black-garbed assailant hit him and ran away.

The question, is violence ever acceptable, even when directed against someone who wants to eradicate you and yours for no reason other than that he or she doesn’t like who you are, is still bouncing round the internet and mainstream media. I’d assess the majority verdict thus far as no, violence is never acceptable.

So to those blessed with such moral certainty, I’d like to pose the following questions.

  1. You are a woman living with a violent partner. So far your partner has attacked only you, but suddenly you are witnessing him/her beating one of your children. You violently attack your partner to save your child. Are you wrong to do this?
  2. You witness an unconscious woman being raped. You physically attack the rapist, because talking to him nicely about why what he’s doing is unacceptable doesn’t seem a feasible option. Are you wrong to do this?
  3.  You are a police officer attempting to prevent a crazed individual from mowing down pedestrians in a car he’s driving through a crowded shopping mall. You shoot this individual to stop him, and save others from death and injury. Are you wrong to do this?

I could go on, but you get the idea.

I doubt there is a more ludicrous statement than “violence is never acceptable.” There are situations in which violence is the only feasible option. The question is, was the situation in which the Nazi got punched one of those situations?

Knowing nothing of the history and motivation of the black-garbed assailant, it’s difficult to assess. If he or she had lost family in Nazi concentration camps, I can fully understand how he or she might attack Spencer for espousing the same vile dehumanising hatred that caused millions of family members to be calculatedly murdered.

I also think that if you are going to argue for the mass eradication of fellow humans because you don’t like who they are, you probably ought to expect the occasional smack in the head. Free speech is always risky.

I very much doubt that if faced with the loss of my family and an individual such as Spencer endorsing their slaughter I would be capable of thinking in the moment, how do we best go about dismantling the structures that permit the rise of fascism, as was suggested by one commentator. I imagine I’d be reacting from my gut and that gut reaction might be physical, even though I’m afraid of violence and don’t enjoy witnessing it.

Yes, we do have to apply our intelligence and imagination to this question, particularly in view of the US President’s fascist leanings and increasing signs of our own government’s tendencies in this area, however, fascism has never been defeated solely by intelligence and imagination: violence has always been necessary.

I’m not overly concerned with the fate of the Nazi. I do wish that even a fraction of the moral outrage surrounding the attack on the Nazi could be directed towards the global epidemic of violence against women. Imagine if every time a woman was punched somewhere in the world, the internet and mainstream media publicly shamed the perpetrator, and entered into vigorous debate on the immorality of punching women. Punching women has become normalised. Punching Nazis not so much, it would seem.

All I can say to those who unequivocally state that violence is never an option, is, use your imagination. Violence is not nice. Violence is frightening. Violence hurts. Only deeply disturbed people enjoy it. There are situations, however, in which it is the only option and if you aren’t willing to even consider the possibility of such a situation, you might find yourself part of the problem.

 

 

 

Dear Chris Kenny. When you lose your reproductive rights, then you can call us petulant.

23 Jan

chris-kenny

 

There are people who should know better who seem to be unclear about the nature of democracy.

I’m thinking of The Australian’s star turn Chris Kenny, who today tweeted that the US women’s march was “undemocratic” and an act of “mass petulance.”

(I’m sorry I can’t re-post his tweet. Kenny and I entered into an exchange of views and he blocked me. Gutted.)

Kenny appears to be claiming that in a democracy an elected leader is owed unquestioning allegiance from those who did not vote for him or her. He also seems to be arguing that protest is undemocratic. Both these assumptions demonstrate an appalling ignorance as to the nature and purpose of democracy, whose definition Kenny and his ilk are apparently attempting to renegotiate.

In pre -Trump times I would have largely ignored Kenny, except in relation to canines, however, in the new world order alternate facts, post truths and just plain old lies have to be challenged, otherwise we’ll all end up being ruled by giant babies excreting giant piles of reeking faecal matter.

I’m not a woman who is inclined to identify with other women just because we all have vaginas. Neither am I likely to exult that I am proud to be a woman, because I can’t see any merit in an accident of birth. However, President Trump’s attitude to women and the Republican Party’s determination to strip women of hard-won reproductive rights stirs in me a profound identification with my sex, and the difficulties that are peculiar to us because of our sex, and I’ll wear a pussy hat in a march any time as an indicator of where my loyalties lie.

Kenny’s dismissal of the global protests of millions of women as “mass petulance” encapsulates the reasons we march. Kenny does not have to fear enduring a backyard abortion because Roe v Wade is overturned. Kenny does not have to fear the lack of resources to see him through a pregnancy because his health care has been terminated. Kenny does not have to tolerate being paid significantly less than his female counterpart for doing the same job.

Kenny cannot deal with being the subject of  television satirists, so quite how he would cope with the myriad daily insults and abuses heaped on women just because we have vaginas, I can’t begin to imagine.

Kenny apparently believes he is justified in “standing up for [his] rights” when he feels abused, but women are not. It’s undemocratic when we do it. It’s a human right when he does it.

Sorry Chris. You won’t be remembered as the journalist called the dog f**ker who stood up for his rights. We’ll just remember you as the dog f**cker, with a big serve of petulance on the side.

 

Giving a damn still matters

21 Jan

mlik

 

Yesterday, in the Melbourne CBD, James “Jimmy” Gargasoulas, 26, used a car to mow down dozens of pedestrians. He killed four people, left a baby fighting for life, and seriously injured more than twenty others.  He was on bail from offences allegedly committed last weekend, including family violence, of which he has a long history. He is well-known to police.

Independent Senator David Leyonhjelm, gun lobbyist who threatened “difficult relationships” with the government if the ban on the rapid-fire Adler shotgun wasn’t lifted and whose favoured slogan is “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people” tweeted the following in response to the Melbourne news:

leyonhjelm

One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts responded in a tweet he later deleted:

There were the predictable efforts by One Nation Leader Pauline Hanson to immediately frame the unfolding tragedy as the work of Muslim terrorists. Victoria Police acted quickly to douse such inflammatory assumptions by confirming that the events bore no resemblance to political terrorism.

The New York Times initially reported the situation couched in the narrative of terrorism, until tweeted protests from many Australians led to a rewrite.

Things worth thinking about

  1. Mass murderers are highly likely to have a history of domestic violence, terrorising their families before taking it to the streets. Therefore, it would make very good sense for us to make urgent and ongoing investment in addressing the crime of intimate terrorism as a first step towards protecting communities. As nothing else has thus far persuaded governments to consistently invest in curtailing the endemic plague of intimate terrorism in this country, perhaps recognition of the wider implications might.
  2. David Leyonhjelm and Malcolm Roberts ought not to be in public office. However, they are,and we have to deal with that reality, just as we have to deal with the reality of President Donald Trump, who also should not be in public office. There’s a view that people such as this ought not to be given oxygen. I disagree, not least because this is completely unrealistic: of course they will be given oxygen, and in view of that, to remain silent is to enable. It’s my intention to continue to call attention to Leyonhjelm and Roberts. Swamp them with your contempt. This is no time for silence.
  3. It’s time to reclaim the word “terrorism.”  It has been appropriated by the likes of Hanson, other politicians and media to the degree that it is now a thinly veiled substitute for “Muslim.” There is political terrorism, state-sponsored terrorism, non state actor terrorism, domestic terrorism, intimate terrorism: these are all valid descriptors of the act of terrorism, depending on its context. “Muslim” terrorism is not. Domestic violence is an act of terrorism in the private sphere. If we use this term it might be easier to see the connection between the intimate terrorist, and the public terrorist who is not acting from political, ideological or religious motives.

Leyonhjelm, Roberts, Hanson and their supporters  have no interest in the suffering of those affected by Gargasoulas’s murderous acts. There really is something deeply awry in their psychology. There will be thousands of people, beyond those immediately affected, who will struggle to deal with the aftermath of this intimate terrorist’s crimes. The witnesses. The police who gave CPR when they could, and drove a critically injured child to hospital, not daring to wait for an ambulance. The paramedics, nurses, and doctors who treat the injured. The relatives, friends, and workmates of the dead and injured. Whole communities will have to deal with shock and grief but none of this is of the least interest to Hanson, Leyonhjelm and Roberts, who see only an opportunity in all this grief and this death and this injury and all this gut-wrenching sorrow, to further their own vile interests.

They are despicable individuals. Tell them this. Don’t be silent. Let them and their followers know that in this country, giving a damn still matters.

 

 

 

Politicians must take responsibility for their greed, wastage and negligence.

20 Jan

if-you-behaved-like-your-government

 

If you go to the website #notmydebt you’ll find fifteen pages of stories written by people who’ve received demands from Centrelink to repay debts the department has falsely raised against them. It’s a harrowing read.

Depending on which explanation you prefer, the aggressive efforts to extract monies from people who do not owe them has been caused by faults in the department’s new automatic compliance system; a malevolent attack by the LNP government on welfare recipients, or a combination of both.

Centrelink has advised some punters that their best course of action is to begin repaying the alleged debt while the review process is underway, that is, before it has been established that they actually owe anything. This places punters in a Kafkaesque bind: repaying a debt is an acknowledgement that you accept its validity. Punters are also threatened that if they don’t agree to a repayment scheme, their alleged debt will be referred to debt collectors, and their credit rating affected.

Regardless of acknowledged systemic faults, and an own-motion investigation launched by the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s Office,  the robo-debt collection scheme is set to widen its net to include pensioners and disabled people in the coming months.

The latest information from Centrelink whistleblowers (who have, by the way, been threatened with prosecution and imprisonment by their overlords, as have welfare recipients accused of fraudulently obtaining benefits) indicates that there are indeed serious faults in the system AND that Centrelink authorities have ordered officers to proceed regardless of these faults. Indeed, officers have been instructed to refrain from acknowledging any errors they discover unless the citizen in their sights spots the error first, causing a crisis of conscience for some Centrelink employees who are obliged to refrain from identifying systems errors to distraught punters.

How any of this can be consistent with legal process is beyond me: it’s beginning to sound very much like the Turnbull government illegally obtaining money from citizens by deception.

Even Tasmanian Senator Eric Abetz has expressed his disapproval of Centrelink’s methods after a member of his extended family received a debt notice.

At the same time, a report from the Australian National Audit Office into the Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s payments for the management of contracts for security and welfare services on Manus Island and Nauru reveals:

…$2.3 billion in payments made between September 2012 and April 2016, which it stated were not authorised or recorded correctly.

“$1.1 billion was approved by DIBP officers who did not have the required authorisation and for the remaining $1.1 billion there was no departmental record of who authorised the payments,” it stated.

The report further stated that contract variations totalling more than $1 billion were made without a documented assessment of value for money. (emphasis mine)

Is there any venture on the planet in which $2.3 billion dollars is spent without proper authorisation and record of authorisation, other than the Australian DIBP? Why is Immigration Minister Peter Dutton still in the portfolio, given that his department has apparently gone rogue?

Add to this the ongoing politicians’ expenses scandals exposing levels of rort (travel expenses being the least of it, it’s the office expenses we ought to be worried about) that if politicians themselves hadn’t written the rules would be criminal, and you have a grim picture of rampant abuse of public money, with minimum accountability.

You also have an exceedingly grim picture of the powerful and privileged attacking the most vulnerable. There is as well the abhorrent spectacle of greedy politicians refusing to take responsibility for their own indulgence and wastage, and instead accusing those least able to defend themselves of fraudulent behaviour.

Prime Minister Turnbull has promised action on politicians “entitlements.” Perhaps if it is made more difficult for MPs to get their entire upper bodies into the trough and wallow, politics will in time become less attractive to those amongst us with the least integrity. One can only hope.

News just in: Get Up has set up a website “Fraudstop” that advises people affected by Centrelink’s false debt claims of their options. 

 

 

 

 

I’m flying myself to the footy & I’m wearing Hugo Boss suck it up you sexist socialist serfs

15 Jan

flying-pigs

 

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Friday made a desperate attempt to staunch the bleeding from wounds inflicted on his government by his own ministers thieving from the public purse for personal gain.

An independent parliamentary expenses authority will be a compliance, reporting and transparency body, he said, applying the tourniquet.

It will monitor and adjudicate all claims by MPs, senators and ministers, ensuring that taxpayers’ funds are spent appropriately and in compliance with the rules…

The sacrifice intended to appease the howling socialist, sexist pack of rabid dogs is former Health Minister Sussan Ley, whose cavorting between capital cities in a hired plane piloted by her own self, cost us thousands more than if she’d taken commercial flights along the same routes.

(By the way, the above link is to a quote from Bronwyn Bishop, late Speaker of the House, now quite settled into her spot in the Sky News Graveyard for Former Politicians, along with the likes of Ross Cameron and Mark Latham. Bishop, you might recall, was also finally brought undone by her penchant for helicopters as a means of transport, and feels Ms Ley’s pain.)

Fairfax intimated that Ley exploited her ministerial position to up her flying hours, and fulfil CASA requirements for commercial pilots.

When confronted with evidence that he’d attended the footy in 2013 at our expense, Minister for Trade Steve Ciobo brazenly declared that people expect Trade Ministers to show up at such events as part of their job description. Unfortunately for Mr Ciobo,  it was later revealed that at the time he wasn’t the Trade Minister at all, merely a lowly back bencher with aspirations. Proving, to my mind, the validity of deep and raucous public suspicions of the justifications trotted out by politicians for entertaining themselves at our expense.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop impulsively cancelled a long-planned appearance at the Portsea Polo when it emerged that last year she attended, with her partner, at a cost of some $3000 to the taxpayer. No doubt she has Ms Ley to blame for ruining her Saturday. The Foreign Minister was to have been dressed for the occasion by couturier Hugo Boss. The story took a totally unexpected turn when  it was revealed with much mirth on Twitter that the Boss fashion house was also responsible for outfitting the SS in Nazi Germany.

It’s a terrible indictment of our 45th Parliament that ministers can’t be trusted to properly manage their expenses. These people are elected to take responsibility for our budget, our legislation, our daily lives, and our country’s future. Yet they cannot be trusted with public money. They are thieves. They ought to be referred to the AFP, investigated and if necessary, charged with fraud.

In Gough Whitlam’s day, politicians were forced to fly economy class as their contribution to reducing the deficit. To paraphrase the man, a pissant is still a pissant even if it flies first class. Or its own plane. Dressed in Hugo Boss. To the footy or a wedding or a book launch or, in the case of Kevin Andrews, a prayer meeting in the USA.

If these people want to live the capitalist dream they need to clear off out of politics and get jobs in the private sector. Politicians are not celebrities or high-flying CEOs. We are not their customers, their clients or their share-holders. We are their employers, and they are servants of the public. That’s neither sexist nor socialist. It’s democracy.

 

 

 

Compare & contrast: Sussan Ley and Centrelink punters

9 Jan

animalfarm1

 

Such is politics in these interesting times that it’s impossible when alerted to one scandal, to refrain from speculating if it has been confected to distract your attention from another.

So it is with Health Minister Sussan Ley’s current imbroglio which seems, at first blush, a nice little “look over here not there” moment arriving right on top of the Centrelink scandal.

In the former, federal Health Minister Ley appears to have spent an inordinate amount of taxpayer dollars travelling to the Gold Coast, including for two New Year’s Eve celebrations (what ministerial duties could she possibly be fulfilling on New Year’s Eve at the Gold Coast?) and, conveniently, at the time of the auction purchase by herself and her partner, a Gold Coast businessman, of an $800,ooo apartment close to his office.

Noice.

Here is an analysis by the ABC of Ms Ley’s spending.

Ley has agreed to in part pay back some of these taxpayer dollars, acknowledging her fraudulent misappropriation of the money was “an error of judgement.” Many of us think of these behaviours as criminal activities that ought to be investigated by the AFP, but it all swings on the narrative.

In stark contrast, the AFP has joined forces with Centrelink to distribute intimidating letters threatening punters with jail if they might possibly have at some time in the last six years fraudulently claimed welfare benefits. People are advised to pay back the amounts Centrelink determined they owed, prior to any evidence that they actually owed anything. Three debt collection agencies have been contracted by Centrelink to pursue debtors, whether the validity of their debt has been established or not. This is an action Australian Lawyers for Human Rights describe as an abuse of legal process.

It does make sense that calling in debt collectors to pursue an alleged debtor before the debt has even been validated might well be an abuse of legal process. Somehow this fact escaped the notice of the Centrelink overlords, or perhaps they simply don’t care. It’s the government’s intention to continue this extortion for the next four years, making a total of ten years illegally hunting down welfare recipients in order to raise $4.6 billion to fix the budget.

In any case, the contrast between the treatment of Centrelink punters and the treatment of Health Minister Sussan Ley could not be more stark. If it was hoped the Ley affair might distract from the Centrelink debacle, well, no. But I do understand that the LNP would think it might, as they are largely brain-dead.

And then yesterday the Australian’s star turn and renowned dog lover Chris Kenny hove into view, with a tweet on the Ley affair to the effect that “there’s a very experienced health minister waiting in the wings.” Ahahaha! the thlot pickens!

Of course that very experienced health minister must be Tony Abbott, and of course Ley was first outed by the Murdoch hacks.

And so, Turnbull is wedged. If he doesn’t demote Ley: trouble from the voters. If he demotes Ley and doesn’t replace her with Abbott, who has long been agitating for a return to the front bench, he’s in serious trouble with the far right-wing.  Ley is also one of Turnbull’s few allies, and he won’t want to lose her from his cabinet.

However this plays out, the contrast between the manner in which Sussan Ley is treated and the treatment of Centrelink punters could not be a more outstanding example of what the Turnbull government thinks of its citizens. Ley, who ought to be investigated for fraud, is permitted to apologise and pay back the money. Centrelink punters are threatened with jail and repayment of monies, whether they’ve committed fraud or not.

Some humans really are more equal than others.

How Turnbull plans to raise $4.6 billion from unemployed.

6 Jan

centrelink_fraud_003

The Turnbull government plans to raise a windfall of $4.6 billion over the next four years, and this is how they intend to do it.

Centrelink is averaging annual earnings over every fortnightly reporting period. This means that you are determined by them to have earned income at the same time as you received unemployment benefits. Therefore, you must pay those benefits back.

First you receive a letter advising of discrepancies between ATO and Centrelink records. You are asked to provide pay slips etc, and declare your income for the year/s in question. When you declare income, your problems can begin in earnest. Declared income is averaged out, Centrelink claims you’ve earned in every fortnightly reporting period, a debt is raised against you, you are threatened with debt collectors and ultimately jail, if you don’t comply.

In fact, you may have been unemployed for six months during which time you were entitled to benefits, then in work for six months. The government intends for you to repay the benefits to which you were absolutely entitled, by averaging out the income you received for six months work as fortnightly income over the entire twelve months.

More and more people are revealing this is exactly what has happened to them. It is the government’s intention to continue this practice for the next four years in order to achieve its $4.6 billion goal.

It beggars belief that this is a systems error.  If this is the case, those responsible for the design and implementation of the system are unbelievably, inconceivably incompetent.  Centrelink’s Hank Jongen claims the methodology hasn’t changed, but no one has explained why, if nothing has changed, the system has begun averaging annual earnings over every reporting fortnight, and raising debts as a result.

At the same time, Centrelink and the AFP announced the implementation of “Taskforce Integrity” to pursue fraudulent claims. As well, the government declared on the Tuesday before the election that they’d discovered  a brand new, unspecified way, to raise $4.6 billion.

The government is falsely  accusing people of fraud, by falsely declaring legitimate welfare benefits to be illegitimate. They are threatening people with debt collectors and jail, if the legitimately claimed welfare benefits are not repaid.  In other words, unemployment benefits have become repayable loans. I don’t recall that new legislation, or that amendment. Does anyone?

They are doing all this in partnership with the Australian Federal Police.

This is a situation out of a dystopian novel. Kafka comes to mind.

This is no systems error. This is deliberate policy. I hope there are lawyers out there all over this. Because we have to establish exactly who is obtaining financial advantage by deception. Increasingly, it sounds very much as if it is our government, by exploiting people at their most vulnerable.

If this mess is indeed an error and not deliberate policy, Centrelink and the relevant ministers have now been made thoroughly aware of it as such. So why do they continue to insist that nothing is amiss, and why do they not halt the distribution of letters until the error is fixed?

Of course, fixing the error may affect their $4.6 billion dollar goal.

Centrelink has now begun using its Twitter account to refer people to Life Line if they are experiencing distress. Life Line is a voluntary organisation given little or no support by the federal government. The government has also ripped millions from frontline services for domestic violence victims, community legal aid centres, and over a billion from aged services. You can bet that these outrageously underfunded services will be stretched to their limits by Turnbull’s latest attack on vulnerable citizens.

I cannot remember anytime in this country when a government department has referred citizens to an emergency service because they are experiencing suicidal levels of distress as a consequence of that government’s policies.

Does anyone?

The LNP war on welfare recipients

5 Jan

taskforce-integrity

 

Yesterday I watched, incredulous (I know, only a fool with no sense of the immediate past could continue to be startled by any action performed by this government) as Minister for Social Services Christian Porter claimed across the media that the Centrelink debt recovery process was working just fine, and the fact that a “few” citizens are being unfairly targeted was of no great consequence. If they’re upset, too bad, get over it, there’s nothing wrong with our process, was Porter’s basic message.

Here are some of the things that are wrong with the Centrelink process.

Porter seemed oblivious to the astounding news that the situation is of such concern A Current Affair, not renowned for warm feelings towards welfare recipients to whom they usually refer in stale Murdochian/conservative speak as dole bludgers, felt compelled to devote airtime to advising those on the receiving end of unpleasant notifications from Centrelink and the Australian Federal Police, apparently threatening jail terms for non compliance, how to cope.

Porter stated that one in five people who receive these letters do not owe a debt. However, the onus is on the recipient to prove to this to Centrelink. In what universe is a government department, assisted by the AFP, empowered to force citizens into the position of guilt until you prove innocence?

Here is how Centrelink is legally obliged to deal with investigating debts.

Quite how the AFP became co-opted as debt collectors for a government department I have yet to fathom. I believe it was a “joint task force” action, Centrelink having morphed from a public service into a “force” in the conservative war on welfare, and the AFP, well, ever since failed Prime Minister Tony Abbott took up lodging in their barracks nobody’s known where they’re at.

This is the first time the AFP logo has been used on Centrelink material. Obviously, the intention is to intimidate.

Porter continued to stare defiantly into the cameras and insist that any problems were the fault of Centrelink “customers”, past and present, not the system. Nor were they inspired by the contempt, ingrained like decades of neglected playground grime, the government has for any welfare recipients, other than the Gina Rinehart demographic.

At one point Porter went so far as to blame Labor for the situation, on the grounds that in his opinion the ALP hadn’t done a satisfactory job chasing up false welfare claims when they were in government. This might be amusing, considering the LNP refusal to address the matter of corporate taxes, were it not so destructive to lives undeserving of government persecution.

Here is how you will only be protected by the Turnbull government if you’re a millionaire.

No part of this latest debacle bears even a remote resemblance to the practice of good governance. Yes, systems develop glitches, we  saw evidence of that very recently with the Census train wreck. In an alternative reality, Porter might have acknowledged the imperfections and failures of the system, and put threatening the populace on hold until the glitches were resolved, thus salvaging some good will and damping down the massive backlash.

He didn’t even have the nous to take that path.

The LNP is enslaved by ideology, to the extent that it will eat itself rather than look outside the narrow confines of its ideological box. Which is fine by me: get on with the cannibalism until you’re a midden of shining white bones, is my position.

Criminalising people is what this government excels at. Unfortunately, the very people deserving of criminalisation generally go free: far easier to target the already vulnerable. There’s nothing wrong with prosecuting people who make false welfare claims. However, as in  so much else, this government has no sense of proportion in these matters and that, combined with its need to create scapegoats in a despicable effort to shore up its increasing unpopularity, has led to a savaging of Centrelink “customers” that has already dramatically backfired, as well it should.

 

 

On politicians and the age of cruelty

3 Jan

 

seneca-on-power

 

Last night for bedtime reading I was flicking through the philosopher Seneca’s Letters from a Stoic.

Seneca was born in Roman Spain about the same time as Christ fetched up in a stable, and for balance, on the back of the book cover there’s this:

Seneca may well be history’s most notable example of a man who failed to live up to his principles.

Be that as it may, Letter XC in part considers the character or lack thereof of politicians. It’s striking that Seneca refers to a “Golden Age” in which politicians were chosen for their character, and in which government was in the hands of the wise:

They kept the peace, protected the weaker from the stronger, urged and dissuaded, pointed out what was advantageous and what was not. Their ability to look ahead ensured their peoples never went short of anything…To govern was to serve, not to rule. No one used to try out the extent of his power over those to whom he owed that power in the first place. 

But with the gradual infiltration of the vices and the resultant transformation of kingships into tyrannies, the need arose for laws…

Reading this gives me some perspective on our current political plight: we are by no means in a unique political situation, though its manner of expression is peculiar to its context. Seneca didn’t have social media, for example from which platform heads of state threaten one another and life on earth with extinction. But the same moral dilemmas are in play. Abuse of power, tyranny, self-interest, contempt, greed, arrogance, stupidity, cruelty and all the vices. Was it ever thus? Is Seneca’s description of a Golden Age nothing more than a doomed attempt at wish fulfilment? It does read like a fairly tale, or a child’s dream of fairness and justice.

It’s difficult to choose, but if I had to single out one dominant characteristic of the Turnbull government, I think it would be cruelty. I was going to write intentional cruelty, then I realised that cruelty is by its very nature intentional, whether that intention is acknowledged or not. I think we have had governments of which this could not be said, and perhaps that was a relatively Golden Age.

Governments such as ours are not only cruel to individuals and groups, they are cruel to the earth in their exploitation of her resources, and their indifference to the catastrophic consequences of this exploitation.

Each new cruelty is justified by the government as an economic necessity, necessary, that is, for the furtherance of the interests of the already comfortable.

For the Turnbull government, power is cruelty. Its members have no other understanding of power, such as that favoured by Seneca and likely regarded by most of us as, after decades of desensitization, as a laughably unattainable ideal. Cruelty has largely become normalised. There are scattered groups who continue to hold out for kindness, but obviously not enough to ensure a government that performs according to those ideals.

I have no idea how we get out of this most ungolden age, this age of cruelty, but I do think the first step is calling it what it is, consistently and unflinchingly. The cruel rarely enjoy being named as such. As Malcolm Turnbull once complained, it hurts when mean things are said about them.

Cruelty isn’t strength, and it is born of weakness. The Turnbull government is synonymous with cruelty. Let’s not call it, or the politicians in it, anything less than weak and cruel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, hello, 2017. From:

1 Jan

battlesheep

 

happy-new-year-new-year-resolutions

Turnbull jumps the shark

27 Dec
washing-of-the-feet

The Washing of the Feet

 

Millionaire Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was asked, as he and his Kaminski-millinered wife Lucy served a few Xmas lunches to people doing it tough, about the death on Xmas eve of Faysal Ishak Ahmed, 26, a refugee held illegally on Manus Island by the Turnbull government.

Mr Ahmed had been ill for some time. According to his friend, Abdul Aziz Adam, he was repeatedly turned away from the IHMS clinic on Manus by nurses who accused him of “pretending” to be ill. After collapsing, Mr Ahmed was flown to the Royal Brisbane Hospital, where he subsequently died of his imaginary illnesses.

“The system is designed to kill us one by one,” Mr Adam said on learning of his friend’s death. This is an observation with which I entirely concur.

It is remarkable enough that the Turnbulls’ chose to exploit underprivileged citizens by using their Xmas day as a photo opportunity. It’s not as if the PM is particularly concerned about their fate, having slashed the very funding that holds at least the possibility of relief to homeless people, those whose lives are in chaos as a consequence of domestic violence, disabled people, pensioners, the unemployed and those of us unfortunate enough to struggle with illness. Actually, the only demographic the PM does look upon with tender concern is bankers, mine owners and the otherwise wealthy.

However, when the PM was asked at this occasion about the death of Mr Ahmed, an innocent man who had been declared by the UN to be a refugee, he defiantly replied that he stood by his government’s policy to protect our borders and stop deaths at sea.

Quite why refugees have to live miserable lives and die in their twenties in order to protect Australia’s borders remains a dark mystery to me.

Quite why it is entirely immoral to let people die at sea, but entirely moral to let them rot and die on land also remains one of life’s even darker mysteries.

The lie (let us not sugar-coat by using the term ‘post-truth’) the lie that asylum seekers and refugees who arrive here by boat have committed a crime, continues to be the foundation of and justification for successive Australian governments’ murderous policies.  This lie is invoked at every turn to justify denial of medical treatment, detention in inhumane conditions, denial of human rights, and destruction of all hope. We do not do these things to convicted murderers and rapists. We strongly disapprove of those who do these things to animals, and when anyone is caught ill-treating animals there is an outcry, sometimes even by Liberals.

What Turnbull accomplished on Xmas day was a staggering performance of hypocrisy that I doubt he will be able to trump in the coming year. In one half hour, from the lofty heights of political position and personal wealth, Turnbull acted out a ghastly and perverted imitation of Christ’s publicly washing the feet of the poor as a lesson in humility to the arrogant.

Turnbull “humbly” served lunch to the very people he victimises. He then instructed the rest of us to “hug” them.

At the same time, he refused to acknowledge that his government’s policies have murdered yet another refugee, who came to us seeking sanctuary from murderers in his homeland.

I think Turnbull’s jumped the shark. Anything that follows can only be pale imitation and dull repetition.

 

 

 

 

On wilful innocence, and hope

19 Dec
Residents look for survivors at a damaged site after what activists said was a barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the Al-Shaar neighbourhood of Aleppo, Syria September 17, 2015. REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail - RTX242XG

Aleppo residents look for survivors

 

I’m re-reading Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, which is, if you are unfamiliar with it, an utterly compelling account of the journey of a man and his young son across a torched and ravaged American post-nuclear landscape, inhabited by bands of cannibal survivors whose murderous violence the pair must evade in their efforts to reach the south.

The man and his child imagine the south to be warm, and more conducive to life than the freezing, ash-filled ruination through which they stoically trudge, dragging their small cart, confronted at every bend by the carnage that ensues when the thin membrane of civilisation is fatally ruptured.

McCarthy’s 2006 novel can of course be read as a metaphor, and one appropriate for the present, as a mighty struggle begins in earnest between those we describe as fascists and the rest of us, a motley and divided crew, ill-equipped to deal with what we ought to have seen coming but mostly didn’t.

So many of us blinded by a wilful innocence: a refusal to acknowledge the depths of hatred, disdain and self-interest of which humans are capable, because we want to believe that as a species, we are better than that. We aren’t. We can’t afford to lie to ourselves anymore about the extent of humanity’s destructive capacities. This is how the darkness of us triumphs: because so many of us refuse to believe that it is real.

There are places in which the post-apocalyptic world McCarthy describes are not metaphorical, but real. I’m thinking today of Aleppo. Like almost everyone else, I have no idea how to assist the children, women and men who struggle to survive the myriad ruptures that have reduced their world to smouldering devastation. We send money that we hope will be put to good use. We protest. We demand that our government take more refugees, for all the good that does.

Increasingly, I’m coming to believe that our only hope is to relinquish our wilful innocence, and find courage enough to stare into the abyss which is undoubtedly our future. We have no magical protection from it.  All the signs are there for anyone to read. The ascendance of fascism. The normalisation of a state of “post-truth.” The increasing domination of ignorance, and contemptuous rage at the expression of any loving sensibility. The mocking of concern. The violent hatred of those who wish to protect and preserve the natural world. The reduction of human beings to units of consumption. The disintegration of community.

The Road is a harrowing read. It’s an account of the author’s gaze into the abyss. Yet tenderness and love break through, frequently in the sparse dialogue between the un-named protagonists.  I can hardly imagine the courage it took to write this book. To survive such imaginings, to fully realise such a world. And then I remember there are people living this imagined narrative. Millions of them.

I can only bear witness to their anguish by refusing the selfish protection of wilful innocence. And I think that perhaps if enough of us do this, if enough of us relinquish our imagined right to turn away, there might one day be enough of us with strength to triumph. I don’t know. But I have to, like McCarthy, insist on the legitimacy of hope, and our capacity to love and nurture, as well as our capacity to destroy and hate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Politicians shame children for caring about others.

17 Dec
A Children's Introduction to UN Global Goals

A Children’s Introduction to UN Global Goals

 

You may have noticed yesterday’s minor furore over primary school children sending a petition to various politicians protesting the vileness, criminality and inhumanity of off-shore detention policies.

The children didn’t use those words of course, rather they asked that politicians show concern for children in off-shore detention and resettle them. They also sent drawings expressing their distress on behalf of detained children.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten claimed that eight-year-olds should be writing to Santa not getting up petitions, and federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham expressed his wish that the teachers involved be hunted down and disciplined for aiding and abetting the children’s budding awareness of human rights. Children should not be “politicised,” it was bipartisanly agreed.

Off-shore detention policies are inescapably political: it is impossible to “politicise” what is inherently political. Shorten, Birmingham et al should be owning the shamefulness of their policies, rather than shaming children for objecting and protesting.

Of course politicians don’t want children knowing, let alone caring, about the crimes and misdemeanours they continue to commit against humanity in the interests of attaining and maintaining power. However, in my experience children are far more aware of the world than most of us give them credit for. They need tools with which to deal with the deceits and duplicities of politicians, and politicians have only themselves to blame for this parlous situation.

What is most wickedly deceptive and destructive is the conflation of concern for the welfare of others with so-called  “politicisation.” We’ve had decades of contempt for “lefty bleeding hearts.” We have now reached a stage at which anyone expressing concern over the state (and compliant media) treatment of refugees, asylum seekers, Indigenous Australians, those struggling with poverty, mental health, disability and the myriad other challenges people face in a country in which increasingly the only concerns that matter are those of the alpha white male and his consort, is immediately accused of the manufactured offence of “politicisation.” Or my particular favourite, Political Correctness Gone Mad (PCGM).

Do we really want to grow children who believe that caring about the fate of others is something to be ashamed of?

The abysmal legal and moral failure by both major parties to fulfil their responsibilities to asylum seekers and refugees under both international and domestic law is the core problem, not children or anyone else protesting this failure.

If you want your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, children you know and or teach to become aware of the human rights of others, I recommend this rather lovely book, titled 2030 Not a Fairytale. In 2015 world leaders adopted the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, setting seventeen Global Goals to be attained by 2030. These goals are simply explained to young children, and are an excellent introduction to caring about the world they’ll inherit and the people in it.

I know I’m being dangerously subversive, suggesting the politicisation of children. Shoot me.

As for whether or not the 2030 goals will be attained, and the usefulness or otherwise of world leaders at the UN setting them, that’s another story we have to tell children at another time. First, let’s brainwash them into caring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Santa, baby

16 Dec

 

jesussanta

 

It isn’t possible to avoid the Christmas palaver unless one is able engineer a retreat to uninhabited regions, I know because I’ve been trying for years.

If you aren’t religious and/or into rampant consumerism, the current performance of Christmas is both bewildering and nauseating, in the Sartrean sense of “sweet sickness” and abject disgust. Indeed, it could be argued that both consumerism and religion spring from the same existential emptiness: there’s a satisfying logic in their coming together at the culmination of the western year, in a union so desperate it becomes impossible to distinguish one from the other.

Thus you will find yourself, as did I last weekend, in the contemporary hell of a large shopping centre, your ears assaulted by a combination of hideously performed Christmas music piped through a hideously distorted sound system; the screaming and whining of innocent children adversely affected by the negative ambience of their surroundings and possessed by the spirit of I want it all and I want it now; and weary, ill-tempered adults who’ll run you over with their laden trolleys in a heartbeat, if you don’t get the fuck out of their way.

We were three adults, with a child each. You’d think with that ratio we’d cope, but we didn’t. We got thrown out of the Elves’ Cave for flattening the reindeer who were left splayed and soggy on the floor after three children sat on them at the same time and the baby chewed an antler. Two of the children are bolters, so there was that as well.

I have seldom known such sensory exhaustion as was induced in me by that hour doing Christmas. I felt, like Sartre’s protagonist, deprived of the ability to define myself against the desperate clamouring of consumerism, backgrounded by Away in a Manger and Silent Night.

I know I have many faults, idiosyncrasies, and traumas. So I can’t tell if my distaste for the Christmas palaver is healthy or perverse. Thankfully, I no longer care.

I hope everyone has a good time. I hope it doesn’t get too lonely if there’s no one else around. And, remember, all things must pass.

Last word to the baby who ate the antlers, a wise child indeed.

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays!

 

 

 

 

Tits up Turnbull

8 Dec

lmao

 

Ever deft, the happiest prime minister continues to nimble his way through the minefields and wastelands of unimagined incompetencies, singular and collective, performed for an increasingly incredulous electorate, 24/7.

Always with a jolly hah hah hah at the ready, one vowel the only remaining distinguisher between him and his nemesis, failed prime minister Tony (heh heh heh) Abbott, who continues to loom from the back benches like an aggrieved shade deprived of proper burial rites, intent on tormenting the living until it is accorded what it considers its due. In this instance, a seat in Chuckles’ cabinet.

There may well have been a more ridiculous public figure than Malcolm Turnbull in our country’s history, but I just can’t think who at the moment. We’re spoiled for choice in the stupidity stakes, but what sets Malcolm apart from your Bernardis and your Christensens, your Duttons and your Morrisons et al, is that they are being themselves, however bizarre that self might seem, while their leader has abandoned all hope of ever being himself and is instead scrambling to imitate the very people he’s supposed to be leading because if he doesn’t they’ll kick him out.

It’s unseemly. The PM lacks all decorum. 

Just yesterday the sycophantic cockwomble  ruled out any possibility of an emissions trading scheme, in the full knowledge that this decision will cost households and businesses some $15 billion over the next decade.  He did this because harbinger of doom Senator Cory (bestiality will be next) Bernardi cawed like a coal-black crow that the proposed scheme was the dumbest thing he’d ever heard. Which prompted me to observe that the Senator has obviously never listened to himself if he thinks the dumbest thing he’s ever heard was articulated by somebody else.

Flailing around for distraction from yet another capitulation to the far right-wing loons, Turnbull took to attacking school teachers, some of whom will next week protest successive governments’ vile refugee policies by wearing t-shirts with relevant slogans in the classroom.In a leap that would test the credulity of even the most ill-informed, Chuckles went on to claim that such action might well exacerbate our disastrous global results in maths, science and reading, as revealed yesterday.

It is inappropriate for teachers to take political action, and they should behave with more decorum, he thundered, in yet another burst of confected outrage that puts just about every chronically outraged Twitterer to shame. Watch and learn, tweeps. Watch and learn.

It is the conservative way, to be far more outraged by the naming of crimes and criminals than by the crimes themselves. It isn’t inappropriate to torture refugees, it is highly inappropriate to protest about it. Teachers are guilty of politicising torture which is actually quite apolitical, you didn’t know that did you?

Wife Lucy winds Chuckles up with a key in his back every morning to get him going, then the loons give him his instructions for the day. He only has to remember to laugh as he goes slowly tits up, like a performing seal stranded on the side of the zoo pool.

Honk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My tiny hands are bleeding: Vanstone on protest

6 Dec
The Exceptional Amanda Vanstone

The Exceptional Amanda Vanstone

 

In yet another piece of bellicose dross on the thoughtlessness of protesters, former Howard immigration minister turned ABC broadcaster and Fairfax columnist (via ambassador to Rome) Amanda Vanstone, yesterday unleashed her inner curmudgeon in this indignant rant titled “The ‘look at me’ narcissistic politics of the left.”

On reflection, her curmudgeon aspect is not that inner, but let’s not digress into personalities.

Briefly, Vanstone suffered trauma when as a young woman, indentured to the Myer group, she was forced to walk the streets of Melbourne bearing a load of something or other tied up with string that cut into her hands so badly she was obliged to make occasional stops in order to lay down her burden on the pavements and give her tiny hands a break.

One day, she was prevented from enjoying even this small relief by a crowd of “well-fed” protesters, upset about Australia’s involvement in the US war on Vietnam in general, and in particular, the napalming of Vietnamese children.

The utter selfishness of them, whines Amanda, in anarchically denying her respite from pain, and quite possibly preventing other people from going to the doctor or shopping in Myers. Yes, there’s no question. Napalm Vietnam to kingdom come, but what is really wrong here is that some Australians are inconvenienced.

This has been the aggrieved tone of almost every comment I’ve read and heard since some WACA activists glued themselves to the gallery in the House of Representatives last week in protest against our torture of and other criminal actions against those who legally sought asylum in our country.

Of course, those asylum seekers, now refugees, also inconvenienced Australians didn’t they, in the manner of their arrival and then sewing up their lips and dying and suffering the worst mental health outcomes per capita of any group in the western world. Now we have to bear global chastisement, and we still haven’t managed to get rid of them to a third country.

We speak often on the topic of American exceptionalism, but rarely do we mention Australian exceptionalism. It’s time to start.

Australian exceptionalism believes we ought not to be put upon by any of the world’s estimated 60 million refugees fleeing conflict and violence, for our sovereignty is of far more consequence than any human life, even those lives we have ourselves contributed towards endangering.  This is the meta level of Australian exceptionalism.

Australians who don’t care about refugees must not, under any circumstances, be inconvenienced by those who do and take to the street or parliament house to express their concerns at the actions of our recalcitrant governments.

This actually applies to public protest in general: there is a class amongst us who abhor protest, it makes their tummies tingle and all they want is to make it stop because they can’t stand a discomfort worse even than having parcel string leave weals on your palms.

This class puts their comfort ahead of every other human concern, and so we have Vanstone and her ilk believing they are deserving of greater consideration than napalmed Vietnamese children and tortured refugees.

It isn’t “lefty” concern and protest that’s the problem here. It’s entitlement, and an unfounded belief in exceptionalism, both national and individual, that is corroding public discourse and daily life. Nobody is entitled to a life free of all obstacles, be they large or small.

Being delayed or otherwise temporarily inconvenienced by protesters who are legitimately expressing their freedom to speak  on behalf of those who are silenced is a very small obstacle and for mine, those who cannot tolerate even this much without complaint are psychologically and emotionally dysfunctional, and they urgently need to get themselves seen to.

 

 

 

 

 

How to “dissolve the fog of lies” Try truth?

4 Dec

 

 

 

Fog

Low-lying fog

 

There’s a piece by ABC journalist Julia Baird in The Age yesterday lamenting the demise of “objective facts” in public discourse.

While politicians, lobbyists and supporters initiate fact-less commentary, the media is largely responsible for propagating a narrative based unquestioningly on emotion and personal belief, rather than fact.

Baird cites the ABC’s managing director Michelle Guthrie as an aficionada of “true diversity.” Diversity in newsrooms is one method of dispersing the fog of lies, Baird argues, on the grounds that most are staffed by middle class white men and a few middle class white women. There is apparently a correlation between middle class white men and women, and fact-less reporting.

It seems to me that one must be middle class in order to score a gig in mainstream media: perhaps it is the class, rather than the colour that is the dominant factor here. Perhaps we need to get rid of the middle class if we want to disperse the fog of lies.

This would be an interesting piece of research.

While I heartily agree with the need for diverse voices, calling up Guthrie as a proponent of objective fact and diversity is astounding, given that one of her first acts was to terminate the ABC’s fact checking unit, closely followed by the axing of the world-renowned Catalyst science program, resulting in the loss of a rare team of scientists talented enough to master the delicate art of conveying complex information in a half hour segment. Science broadcaster Robin Williams described this carnage as “morally and spiritually bankrupt.”

Baird concludes that: There is no simple solution for how to dissolve the fog of lies and fake news that has blurred our political landscape.

Well, actually, it’s not that difficult.  Try telling the truth. Try prefacing reports such as the ludicrous segment on Pauline Hanson’s big day out on the Great Barrier Reef with a caution that “what follows has no factual content.” This simple statement shouldn’t get anyone into trouble. It’s the truth.

The fog of lies and fake news that has blurred our political landscape hasn’t done it all by itself. Note the passive voice. Media hasn’t had a hand in this. The fog has done all the blurring. Damn that low-lying fog. Let’s make people of colour responsible for lifting it.

Baird and the rest of the media can angst about this post fact reality all they like, but it’s a circle jerk. The answer is in their hands, so to speak. In the US, trust in media is at its lowest since 1972, and I’m betting there’s a similar lack of trust in Australia. The longest journey begins with the first step. Try truth. We might eventually get to like you again.

Dear politicians. Parliament is not your safe space

2 Dec

peaceful_protest

 

The reaction of the political class and some journalists to the protest in parliament house on Tuesday is an example of the kind of arrogance and entitlement that has alienated many in the US from their major political parties, and voting patterns would indicate a similar disaffection is well under way here.

Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek advised citizens that if we wish to engage in the democratic process, we need to get ourselves elected. This remark seems to indicate that the democratic process belongs to politicians: citizens, once we’ve elected them, are excluded.

On reflection, this is pretty much what democracy has become in Australia. We elect a government based on many factors, among them promises made by candidates. Government then disregards the very undertakings that enabled their ascendance, and voters are thus excised from the “democratic” process. Plibersek isn’t that far off the mark. Citizens participate only insofar as we vote. After that, we do as we’re told.

Protesters are invariably described in pejorative terms, as if protest in itself is regarded as contemptible by politicians. One Nation’s Pauline Hanson, for example, claimed that she and her staff could “smell the protesters, they hadn’t even bothered to shower.” This is in keeping with the long association of legal protest with “the great unwashed.” During an Occupy Melbourne demonstration, former Human Rights Commissioner for Freedom turned Liberal politician Tim Wilson, tweeted that peaceful protesters should have the water cannons turned on them. Insults such as grubs, vermin, losers are hurled at peaceful protesters: a metaphorical association with “dirtiness” the political class assumes it is entitled to protection from.

The arrogance of the political class, their belief that they are superior to the citizens who elect them and pay their wages, nowhere reveals itself as starkly as in their attitudes to legal protest.When protest occurs in the House at Question Time they are confronted on their own turf, turf they believe to be sacred and protected from the citizens who put them there, citizens who are now irrelevant until the next election.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten claimed Tuesday’s protest was “the exact opposite of democracy.” Really? I thought protest was democracy in action, and  protest in the House of the people the fulfilment of democracy’s promise.

Journalist Malcolm Farr also stated on Twitter that if we want to speak in parliament we should get elected. Or perhaps we should all become journalists with press gallery credentials.

The “us and them” narrative has shown itself in all its ugliness, in these reactions. Perhaps parliament ought to be sacred ground, perhaps the HoR ought to be regarded with the reverence ideally due to democracy’s engine. But a House and a parliament is only as good as the people in it, and it’s been a long, long time since we’ve had good people driving our democracy train.

The only power we have, in between elections, is the power of peaceful protest. Take it right up to them. Protest in the House politicians have so thoroughly defiled.

Peaceful protest is not terrorism, nor is it the threat of terrorism, though they will attempt to frame it as such in an effort to suppress. Politicians want to be protected from the sight and sound of dissent. They want Parliament House to be their safe space. It isn’t. It belongs to everyone. This is still a democracy, Ms Plibersek, Mr Shorten. Shame on you.

No politician can occupy the moral high ground on QT protests

1 Dec

moral-high-ground

 

I have very little time and a whole lot of fury, so here goes.

Driving home from Lismore this afternoon I heard Tanya Plibersek, Deputy Leader of the Labor Party and the Opposition, deliver a lecture on how the protesters at Parliament House yesterday threatened our democracy and prevented debate by interrupting  question time for some forty minutes.

I’ve read the same drivel from Tim Watts MP, and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

To describe question time as either *democratic* or a *debate* is as fanciful as just about anything I’ve heard lately.

Politicians in the HoR were prevented from engaging in the abuse, vilification, insult, lies, duplicity, theatrics, dissemination of misinformation and the hypocrisy that constitutes question time in the Australian parliament. As far as I know, such behaviour is neither democratic nor can it be dignified with the title *debate.*

It’s more than a bit rich when politicians who are responsible for the imprisonment, suffering and deaths of refugees who legally sought sanctuary in this country, attempt to claim the high moral ground on the alleged disruption of democracy by people protesting those same politicians’ inhumanity, and callous courting of xenophobic votes.

The only people who have denigrated our federal parliament are the politicians who work in it. The only people who have denigrated our democracy are the very people to whom it is entrusted.

Both the ALP and the LNP have broken international law, domestic law, and committed and continue to commit atrocities against people who legally sought asylum in this country. They belong in The Hague, every last one of them.

Not one of them gets to lecture the citizens of this country about alleged threats to democracy caused by us protesting their perfidy.

There is no difference between the stand taken by Plibersek, Watts and Shorten, and that taken by any perpetrator who points the finger of guilt at the whistle-blower rather than him or herself. It is a more serious crime to protest in the HoR than it is to torture refugees?

And please note, *torture* is the word used by the UNHCR and Amnesty International to describe successive Australian governments’ treatment of refugees.

The situation on Manus and Nauru is acknowledged throughout the world to be intolerable. If you’ve got those crimes  against humanity on your conscience, you have no moral ground left on which to stand.

 

 

 

Elites, the ABC, & hyena vomit.

30 Nov

 

hyena

 

It was with some disbelief that I watched ABC TV coverage of One Nation leader Pauline Hanson’s quick trip to the Great Barrier Reef last week.

Accompanied by that renowned and reasoning mind, Malcolm Roberts, Hanson’s trip was designed to *prove* that claims of coral bleaching are highly exaggerated, stupid. Look: it’s perfectly fine.

The two senators’ (yes, they are senators in our government and we laugh at the US for Trump) claims are based on Hanson ripping out a few stems of healthy coral and waving them triumphantly at the slavering cameras. That she was diving some thousand kilometres south of where the most serious bleaching occurs hardly seemed to matter.

However, the point of this post is not to argue against gross stupidity, always a thankless task. Gross stupidity should be ignored, in my opinion, as it will not respond to anything that does not wholly support its position. You cannot change grossly stupid people. You may well interpret this as an elitist comment, and I don’t fucking care. By my definition intelligence requires a capacity to listen, weigh evidence, and if necessary be capable of change. It is enabled and enhanced by education, but has nothing at all to do with higher degrees. One of the most grossly stupid people I’ve ever met sailed through university at the age of sixteen.

In our current zeitgeist anyone possessed of a modicum of smarts is verbally abused, even by our millionaire Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (see, money doesn’t make you elite either, apparently) as being elite. Unless of course you’re a sportsperson, when being elite is a good thing. For the rest of us, the PM, following Donald Trump, has redefined the meaning of *elite* to describe anyone who doesn’t agree with him.

Be that as it may, what I want to know is, what were the ABC’s motives in giving this pathetic piece of theatrical trash a whole swag of time on the 7.30 Report? Reason tells me the show is watched largely by *elites* who will become enraged and complain, turn off the telly, bang their heads on the coffee table in frustrated despair before turning off the telly, or, if they have a gun, shoot out their screens which would have been my preferred method of dealing with yet another inundation of grossly stupid, unchallenged, bereft of facts and reason hyena vomit. Except I don’t have a gun.

I think I have a partial answer to my own question. The master plan is to make the ABC intolerable for anyone who does not agree with the government and other lunatics. Then it will be entirely co-opted as an arm of government propaganda, which it very nearly is. I am convinced of this after the recent removal of absolutely ace broadcaster Jonathan Green from Sunday mornings, along with the most original voice in media, First Dog on the Moon. To be replaced by the utterly colourless, utterly boring, utterly talentless but CONSERVATIVE, Tom Switzer.

How is it that conservatives, neo liberals and fascists are so astoundingly humourless and bereft of creativity? Rhetorical question.

Obviously, what is required here is a moneyed elite or elites who are prepared to fund alternative media that will contest the mind destroying drivel now served up nightly by the ABC. A home for the talent the LNP government is, like all good fascists, doing its best to silence. I do not believe in gods, but I am praying for this outcome.

In the meantime, we should all unceasingly point out to whoever will listen  that fact-less hyena vomit is not *balance*, or anything like *balance.* It is fact-less hyena vomit. It is making this country exceedingly dumb. And there is nothing fascists like more than a dumbed down population over whom they have absolute control.

By the way, here’s the latest on the coral bleaching. Not from hyenas.

 

 

March of the white men children.

21 Nov

white-pride

 

“We are proud that there’s absolutely no balance whatsoever. No gender balance. We’re all white. We don’t believe in things like gender balance.”

Thus spake the white man Mark Latham at the announcement of the new panel show on Sky,  featuring former Howard front bencher and proud white male Ross Cameron, and Rowan Dean, white as editor of The Spectator magazine. The show will be called “Outsiders” (owing to them all being white and male, a disadvantaged and marginalised demographic in this country) and broadcast on Sunday mornings, immediately after Barrie Cassidy’s “Insiders” on ABC TV.

The trio also like to be known as “Trump’s Aussie Mates,” and fervently hope for a Trump landslide victory in 2020.

Latham breathlessly expressed the trio’s vision: “We want Trump to abuse the media and for them to abuse him back and we want more lectures from actors…”

I don’t know that anyone has yet characterised Donald Trump as a man-child, however, he seems to me the perfect poster boy for the breed, and it comes as no surprise that Latham, Cameron and Dean have at last found the pack leader they’ve so long been looking for, the man who endorses their regression.

Normalising television shows based on the spectacle of abuse, delivered to us by white men children who are opposed to gender balance (no emotionally mature male would oppose gender balance, let’s face it) may well be our future since Trump let white men children everywhere know that from now on shoving your white dick right in everyone’s face is more than ok, it’s what real men do.

It will end in tears, these things always do, the question is, how long will it take?

Pray for premature ejaculation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You want it darker? We kill the flame

20 Nov

Georgia O'Keeffe

 

Stephen Bannon, chairman of the fascist platform Breitbart News, has been appointed chief strategist in President-Elect Donald Trump’s new administration.

In apparent response to fears that a darkness has fallen on the US since Trump’s election, Bannon countered: “Darkness is good. Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power.”

(Here’s a useful glimpse into the men Trump is considering as his most senior staff.)

The binaries dark and light, good and evil, have long dominated western political discourse. George W.Bush and his axis of evil; Tony Blair and his messianic conviction that the invasion of Iraq and the destruction of Saddam Hussein was a just and holy intervention: the bright light of democracy beamed into the abyss of despotic darkness by the forces of good.

There’s no nuance in the narrative, no shades of grey, and the lack of hue hasn’t changed with the ascension of Trump, it has merely been reversed. Trump doesn’t pretend the light and the good are superior ideals to which we should aspire. Darkness is good. Evil is power. There’s no longer any need to mask the dark with false light, as did Blair, Bush and sycophant John Howard. Trump has dragged us from those layered duplicities into his unmitigated and unmediated darkness. A million candles burning for the help that never came. You want it darker? We kill the flame.

I’m quoting from Leonard Cohen’s final album, released just weeks before he died. As with all great work, it’s both intensely personal and universal. I’ve been listening to it for days, not just because he’s dead and I mourn his loss, but because the album seems to speak with uncanny prescience of our current transition into a Trumpian world.

At first blush the work is about Cohen’s approaching death, but it is also about the dying of our irresponsible innocence, our smug carelessness, our neglect, our wilful blindness to how the Blairs, the Bushes and the Howards led us inevitably to Trump and Bannon, leaders of the killers of the flame, leaders of those who want it darker.

Trump’s vision for the US (and necessarily the world) Fox News, 2014

You know what solves it? When the economy crashes, when the country goes to total hell and everything is a disaster. Then you’ll have a [chuckles], you know, you’ll have riots to go back to where we used to be when we were great.

Bannon, 2016 interview with the Daily Beast:

I’m a Leninist, Bannon proudly proclaimed.

Shocked, I asked him what he meant.

Lenin, he answered, wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.

Meanwhile, at home, the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia found it necessary to release a press statement expressing concern over inflammatory remarks made by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton on the subject of various “cohorts” and “nationalities” welcomed to Australia by former PM Malcolm Fraser. These refugees, Dutton asserts, may well be responsible for producing “terrorist” children and grandchildren. Fraser should have been more careful, Dutton (no doubt emboldened by Trump’s success) claims.

And to top off an increasingly dark fortnight, the UN Human Rights Council has appointed the Saudi ambassador to oversee women’s rights world-wide. The Ambassador will have the right to vote on, participate in and influence the following:

Elimination of discrimination against women
Equal participation [of women] in political and public affairs
Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice
Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences
Accelerating efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women
The right to a nationality: women’s equal nationality rights in law and in practice
Addressing the impact of multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and violence in the context of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance on the full enjoyment of all human rights by women and girls
Annual full day debate on women’s rights
Annual half-day panel on the integration of a gender perspective

Saudi Arabia has among the worst, if not the worst, record on women’s rights in the world.

What I’m seeing in our new picture is even less nuance than we had before, which wasn’t all that much, we could have done with a bit more. Like an individual who decides to thoroughly trash his or her life as a means of effecting change, so Trump and Bannon see disaster and destruction on what could well be a global scale, as a legitimate method to correct perceived wrongs. We’re post fact, post truth, and post nuance.

You want it darker?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Losing privilege is now a crime against humanity.

18 Nov

 

rights

 

It’s becoming rather tiring, listening to privileged people with large platforms complain that their freedom of speech is being denied, and we have to get rid of anti discrimination laws that allegedly silence them.

As far as I can tell such people are incapable of dealing with criticism of their speech, and are unable to distinguish between that criticism, and the oppression of silencing. Criticism is not denial of free speech. It’s criticism. I don’t think they know this, which is surprising.

Neither are you being “silenced” if you don’t have the guts to speak. That’s not denial of free speech, it’s lack of courage. The “I can’t say anything because of political correctness” whine is an admission of cowardice.

“Stop political correctness” actually means, “make the world absolutely safe for me to say whatever I like without fear of criticism” which is in itself interesting, because the “stop political correctness” cohort also seems to oppose the idea of safe spaces for people who might actually need them.

The complaint of denial of freedom of speech currently emanates overwhelmingly from those incapable of tolerating a challenge: they wish to engage in bigotry without anyone calling them on it. Somewhere, in one of their developmental stages, somebody hurt them by giving them critical feedback for bad work and they never got over it.

Apart from all that, it is rather ludicrous when someone with a platform regularly provided and paid for by Newscorpse et al (not to mention those privileged by their presence in parliament) complains they have no freedom to speak. Cowards, every one.

There were mixed reactions when the Human Rights Commission dropped its inquiry into the Australian’s cartoonist, Bill Leak, after complaints were lodged against him under the now infamous Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act

I found the cartoon under scrutiny (you can see it in the first link) obnoxious, an expression of white paternalism, privilege and assumed supremacy. I also believed the complaint would fail under the exemptions permitted by Section 18D, and I can’t see how that potential failure could do anything to further the cause of those racially humiliated by Leak in his cartoon, not for the first time or the last, I might add.

Freedom of speech is a fundamental human right, without which many other rights collapse. We also live in a country in which it is regrettably necessary to have a Racial Discrimination Act, because we are racist, and because the concept of freedom of speech is frequently abused to justify racially motivated attacks.

The two are not always compatible. Section 18C is perceived by some as a threat to free speech or, as Attorney-General George Brandis so memorably put it, the freedom to be a bigot. However, nobody is prevented or can be prevented from being a bigot: they just need to be aware that there may be consequences,  just as there are consequences, positive and negative, for every other choice we make.

I’d prefer to see the words “offend and insult” in 18C changed to “vilify.” I think it’s extremely difficult to make laws about offending and insulting: vilification is far more specific and contains within it the notions of offence and insult. Human Rights Commission President Gillian Triggs is not opposed to rewording the Section.

The concept of freedom of speech is in danger of becoming grotesquely distorted by those who have no need at all to be protected from the loss of it. But this is the neo liberal way: co-opt the safeguards put in place to protect people from vilification and exploitation, and frame yourself as the victim. Losing privilege is now a crime against humanity in the new world order. Oh, yeah.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t give Trump a chance

15 Nov

noam-chomsky-neoliberalism

 

There are situations that arise from time to time in which to act with civility may cost you your life, metaphorically or literally. If you haven’t encountered such a situation may your good fortune continue, however, I’d argue that the world has collectively come up against just this challenge with the endorsement of Donald Trump as President-Elect of the United States.

Over the last few days I’ve read what to me are profoundly stupid calls from the US, from Australia and from other countries, to “give Trump a chance.” He may “settle down” once ensconced in the Oval Office. Actually being president may “tame” him. He “only campaigned as he did to win,” not because he really believes all that stuff about punishing women who have abortions, deporting “illegals,” building a wall, banning Muslim immigration, dismantling the health care system, and men’s freedom to sexually assault women.

The wall is interesting. It exists only as a metaphor, claimed more than a few commentators, it is the wall in our minds. How baffled they must feel to hear that Trump is already discussing materials.  Yes, a wall is a clichéd metaphor (we don’t need no education on that) and, what a surprise, it also has a concrete reality. Ask any number of nations about literal walls. Donald is no innovator in this field. Yet many in the US media did not see this, as well as much else including Trump’s victory, coming.

Here in Australia we have a “ring of steel” to protect our borders, and I feel fairly confident this is a metaphor but who can say for sure anymore?

Australians need to proceed with caution when pointing our shocked fingers at what people who wish to be civil now describe as “only” Trump’s means to his end. Decades of torturing asylum seekers and refugees who arrived here perfectly legally by boat, because an influential number of voters believe it is acceptable to do that. Supporting both major parties in their transgression of every human decency and the UNHCR Convention as well. We are disqualified from planting our flag on the means to an end high moral ground. As was pointed out by Naomi Klein, Trump is at this point still talking about a wall. We already have one.

Trump was “only campaigning as he did to win” has to be a justification given life and voice by those who value winning above all else. Have they forgotten already the vileness of Trump’s campaign, or do they minimise the horror, given that it brought him victory? Is everything secondary to winning? Trump thinks so. When questioned on his campaign tactics he shrugged off all criticism. “I won,” he said.

This piece by George Monbiot describes Trump as the product of a neoliberalism that found its political expression through Margaret Thatcher’s enchantment with the theories of Nobel Prize winning economist Frederick Hayek. Competition and winning the competition is the neoliberal credo: democracy comes a very poor second.

He (Hayek) justifies this position by creating a heroic narrative of extreme wealth. He conflates the economic elite, spending their money in new ways, with philosophical and scientific pioneers. Just as the political philosopher should be free to think the unthinkable, so the very rich should be free to do the undoable, without constraint by public interest or public opinion.

Trump certainly seems set upon doing the undoable (in the sense of the morally and ethically undoable) without constraint of any kind.

Women well know the limits of civility. Asking a man set on harming us to please don’t rarely works, for example. Civility doesn’t work with despots and tyrants and psychopaths, and people who care only about winning. They will sneer at your civility, indeed, they will crap upon it.

Donald Trump is a man entirely willing to cause harm in order to achieve his goals. How any one can doubt this for a nano second is beyond me, given the nature of his campaign and the vile forces of hatred he has unleashed already against anyone who isn’t white and male.  So if Oprah Winfrey advises us to have hope, as she has, I say, WTAF is wrong with your head, lady?

Giving Trump a chance means overlooking or accepting his manner of campaigning, which in itself should disqualify him from high office. Giving Trump a chance means normalising the most base of human instincts. Giving Trump a chance means endorsing a savagery towards our fellow humans that will eventually deaden every communal and societal instinct we possess. Giving Trump a chance means surrendering to the dehumanisation of ourselves and others, a path with which we in Australia are already overly familiar through our treatment of refugees and Indigenous peoples.

This is not the time for civility. This is the time to call a spade a fucking shovel, and refuse to allow Trump’s narrative to be normalised, as it will be in this country unless we fight back, by politicians and media, many of whom perceive great gains in assisting the elevation of Trump’s narrative.

As Monbiot concludes, those who tell the story run the world. Let it not be Trump’s story, and the story told by those in this country who share his beliefs.

Let’s not give him, or them, a chance.

 

On Hanson’s claims that women lie about sexual assault

14 Nov
Michaelia Cash, Minister for Women, hugs Senator Pauline Hanson

Michaelia Cash, Minister for Women, hugs Senator Pauline Hanson

 

My default attitude to Pauline Hanson is that my life is too short to spend much time contemplating her, however, an interview on Sunrise (no, I’m not linking) in which she gloated about the Trump victory and sputteringly claimed that women who accuse him of sexual assault are liars and women in general should toughen up when a man, uninvited, strokes our breasts and grabs our pudendas enraged me to the extent that I have to address it.

Aside: Sunrise enrages me as well, as does all breakfast television: who the hell wants to start the day with overly-cosmeticised women in tube frocks, and self-congratulatory men in nifty suits cackling & exclaiming, not me, I’d rather listen to the parrots & wattle birds brawling outside my window, they make more sense. Somebody thoughtfully sent me a clip of the Hanson debacle. It’s the only thing that’s consistently distracted me from Leonard Cohen up and dying.

Hanson articulates (?) a distressingly common attitude by some women towards claims of sexual assault, an attitude I confess confounds me. Their sympathies default to the accused man, innocent until found guilty as of course he is, but here’s the thing: so is his accuser. It’s quite something to accuse a woman of lying about sexual assault when you weren’t present, have limited knowledge of the circumstances, and are basing your judgment entirely on your feelings for/impressions of the accused, and/or dislike of the woman.

In the event that you are wrong, you’ve further harmed an already seriously harmed woman and added to the entrenched narrative that women lie about being sexually assaulted. That narrative is challenged in the link, and it’s well worth a read.

I recently watched the BBC Channel Four series National Treasure, inspired by the ghastly revelations that celebrities such as Rolf Harris and Jimmy Saville sexually assaulted and molested women and children during their highly successful careers. Paul Finchley, played by Robbie Coltrane, is a celebrity comedian charged with the historical rape of a minor, and sexual assault of another woman. Marie, played by Julie Walters, is his blindly devoted (and controlling) wife, who has long since come to terms with his many infidelities on the condition that he tells her about them.

Finchley’s two accusers are torn to shreds by the defence counsel, demonstrating why so many women do not pursue action against their attackers. However, what for me is most riveting in a series whose every moment is absolutely riveting, is the gradual admission by Marie to herself that her husband has “many layers,” his most obvious being that in which he plays the role of a harmless, loving husband and father, as well as a much-loved public figure.

With great and admirable courage, Marie slowly allows herself to see what has always been present in Paul, but brilliantly disguised: the sexually predatory, self-obsessed, emotionally immature man who believes, if he even bothers to think about it, in his entitlement to gratify his needs and desires whenever and however he sees fit.

(This acting in this series is beyond superb, btw. I haven’t recounted much of the story, in case you haven’t seen it. If you have any doubts about the complexities of sexual assault, this series will go a long way towards unpacking the life-shattering effects those complexities have on everyone involved.)

The point is that even wives and girlfriends of sexual predators can live in ignorance and denial of their partners’ “hidden layers,” so how does Pauline Hanson or anyone else know if a woman is lying about a man sexually assaulting her?   Of course she doesn’t, and what’s so deeply troubling is the need by some women to deny the experiences of other women, when it comes to the actions of men.

Hanson is the current poster girl for this attitude, in her ludicrous defence of Trump, and her vicious attacks on women who’ve made claims against him. Hanson is a member of the Australian parliament. She has a platform and she is inspired by Trump’s victory.  So, much as I resent spending even part of my morning writing about her, I can’t ignore her poisonous views. They have to be challenged. She has to be called.

It is never, ever acceptable to accuse a woman of lying about sexual assault until one knows, beyond a reasonable doubt, if she is.  It is never, ever acceptable to base one’s judgement on dislike of her, or affection for the man she’s accused. Until we as a society get past defaulting to the assumption of false claims there will be no justice for women, and perpetrators will remain free and unaccountable.

 

 

 

 

Leonard Cohen. Donald Trump.

12 Nov

leonard-cohen

 

I will not forget the day Donald Trump became President Elect of the USA, because it’s the same day Leonard Cohen died, and that is almost too much of a coincidence to bear.

It seems excessive, that one should have to deal with the arrival of Trump and the leaving of Cohen in the same twenty-four hours. As the poet departs the soulless prepare to take over: it’s a bad succession and I can’t help wondering if there are too many of us who took the poetry for granted and lost our focus, and while we weren’t paying attention the hollow men moved in.

The two men, Cohen and Trump, represent extreme points on a continuum of human possibility. The former mined the infinite richness of love, sex, loss, grief, joy: the mysteries of feeling, experience and meaning. The latter reduces human experience to its most crude and its most base: not for him the mystical transports of a thousand kisses deep, his desires are far more readily satiated.

It’s the poet’s task to find words that express the inexpressible. The poet/musician Cohen found the chords as well and while he didn’t think of himself as possessing a voice of any great interest, like Bob Dylan his voice, its timbre and rhythms, its hesitations and its forcefulness, its yearning, its anger and its joy, struggled to describe what it is to be here, to be human and divine, to love and to hate, to fully live this inexplicable life on earth.

While Trump knows the power of words as well as Cohen did, he uses them to conceal truths rather than unveil them, and there is no music to be found in him that makes any sense. Trump is discordant, senseless, unconnected, deadly. Cohen knows this darkness:

Give me back my broken night
my mirrored room, my secret life
it’s lonely here,
there’s no one left to torture
Give me absolute control
over every living soul
And lie beside me, baby,
that’s an order!
Give me crack and anal sex
Take the only tree that’s left
and stuff it up the hole
in your culture
Give me back the Berlin wall
give me Stalin and St Paul
I’ve seen the future, brother:
it is murder.

I’m mourning Cohen and I understand that this mourning is complex. That he should die at this precise moment in the history of the world is significant. It’s as if his death is an alert to examine what might have died unnoticed in us, leaving an absence of feeling that permitted the ascension of Trump and those like him. They represent a world without poetry, and I use the word in its broadest sense, that of a sensibility that permits the recognition of another’s humanity, vulnerability and frailty as being common to all of us rather than the characteristics of an alien other, to be despised and denied. A sensibility that recognises tenderness towards others and our earth as strength, and not as weakness ripe for exploitation. Cohen died, but what Cohen represents has been slowing dying in many of us, and perhaps a poet had to die before we could understand what we’ve been losing.

There’s a more personal sorrow: Arnie, my  husband, loved Leonard and bore a remarkable physical resemblance to him, especially, I realised today looking closely at images of Cohen, their hands and fingers. They shared a similar sensibility and they were both Jews, with a certain ambivalence towards their traditional culture and religion. Cohen spent five years living as a monk in a Buddhist monastery, Arnie cherry-picked his religious observances and like Cohen, never quite turned his back on his heritage. I think most days Cohen sang in our house.

So for me, Cohen is inextricably bound up with our love and our life. Losing Cohen is like losing another part of us, and I am staggered, still, to find that there are yet more aspects of us I must lose and grieve over.

Cohen left behind a body of work from which can be constructed a soundtrack for a revolution. This is the man’s miraculous gift: he created a soundtrack for the most intimate of relationships, and a soundtrack for a world that must, if it is to survive, find poetry again. In that poetry must be found the means to overcome the hollow men who today, the day after the poet’s death, the day after the most hollow of hollow men was appointed leader of the most significant country in the world, seem disastrously, unassailably powerful.

Come healing of the reason, come healing of the heart: 

 

 

Leonard Cohen. Democracy.

11 Nov

Leonard Cohen died yesterday, our time. 

He died on the day the USA elected Donald Trump as its next President.

Cohen wrote this song called Democracy.

Listen, & weep.

 

Women in a Trumpian world

11 Nov

trump-women

 

World markets took a frightful tumble when the US President-Elect turned out to be Donald Trump, something I found temporarily mystifying as you’d think they’d be elated at the prospect of a billionaire business man in the White House, what could possibly go wrong?

However, after months of repulsive orations President-Elect Trump managed a nano second of “statesmanlike” rhetoric, made possible, I believe, by the euphoric release of claiming victory after the mounting excitement of witnessing his electoral college votes accrue to the point of certainty.

Buoyed by this split second of Trumpian civility, the markets rallied. I’m guessing we can expect these wild fluctuations to become a regular thing over the years of Donald’s incumbency, given the man’s well-documented volatility.

All well and good for the markets, but what about the ladies?

Only moments after it became apparent Trump was on the road to victory, a marauding mob of young males in a Sydney University bar began chanting “Grab them by the pussy that’s how we do it.” There have since been many reports on social media of women in the US being intimidated by white males, inspired by Trump’s advice to treat women like shit.

There are hundreds of Trump quotes on women, including lengthy extracts from his interviews with Howard Stern, and they all demonstrate ways in which to treat women like shit.

Trump’s elevation to leader of the western world gives license to men who want to treat women like shit. This attitude was no barrier to him achieving his goal, and it confirms what we’ve long suspected: women are not believed to be as fully human as are white men. We are allowed to do more than we used to be allowed to do but how we are regarded and treated is not an issue important enough for many (including women) to consider when electing a president.

And whatever gains we’ve made, we’ve made because they allowed us to. Let’s not forget that.

(Trump also thought Muslims should be treated like shit, an opinion shared by enough Americans to be of little consequence in the electoral contest. However, I understand his master plan to ban all Muslim immigration has vanished from his website which must feel like a betrayal to Pauline Hanson and George Christensen, but there you go.)

The western world just became a much more dark and difficult habitat for women. It would be my hope that our own government will stand up for us against the new president’s misogyny. And then I look at our government and I see there is absolutely no hope of that.

We have a very long way to go before women are recognised as equal in western culture. We are blocked by the men who are threatened by equality, and who will take the opportunities legitimised for them by Trump to express their fear and hatred in university bars, on the street, in the privacy of their homes, in workplaces, in the world. Such men are unrelievedly ignorant and stupid; overtly and covertly brutal. They’ll be celebrating right now, as their leader prepares to move into the White House.

Trump’s ascension will have a ripple effect in every western country. We have already seen Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull shamefully search for similarities between himself and Donald. We are both business men, he said, and the new president will be pragmatic, as business men always are.

However, a true pragmatist would work to establish equality, because a true pragmatist would instinctively grasp the immense gains awaiting us in equality, rather than the abject losses of discrimination that are currently our established norms.

A true pragmatist would refuse to countenance the incomprehensible loss to society of treating women like shit. But we don’t have true pragmatists in charge. We have the men who treat women like shit.

Fasten your seat belts, ladies, & up your flaps. We’re in for a bumpy ride.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Living with Trump

10 Nov

 

president-trump

 

The single most important asset Australia must have to adjust to the new world order we face from next January is a government capable of dealing with the considerable challenges a Trump presidency will bring to us and to our region.

We don’t have such a government. What we have is a gaggle of at best mediocre, self-interested, belligerent geese, irreconcilably divided amongst themselves. None of them have grasped that they are no long in opposition, and none of them have shown the slightest talent for governance.

Their most observable attribute is an aptitude for wedging: this attribute has its place but when it’s the lone core strategy it’s an alarming signal that the government doesn’t actually know how to do anything else. It is also an adolescent triumph that achieves nothing of worth, but does make them feel temporarily clever. The Turnbull government’s need to feel individually and collectively clever by discovering new ways to wedge its opposition reveals a profound emptiness where vision, policies and governance should be.

It’s like being governed by teenagers whose brains have not yet fully formed.

As things stand nobody, including our man in Washington Ambassador Hockey, has the slightest idea of what is going to hit them, and how to deal with it when it does.

The lunatics in parliament such as Abbott, Bernardi, Christensen, Hanson, Roberts and the closet Trumpites (of whom there are more than a few, I hazard to guess) have not yet grasped that Trump is not of their faith. The man is not an ideologue, he will have no more interest in their brand of ideological claptrap than he does in that of his own party. Trump is an opportunist who sees himself as the leader of a movement, not an ideology, and he will cherry pick whatever he needs to maintain that movement’s momentum and his own pride of place at its head.

Indeed, it’s my opinion that he’s done this throughout the lengthy campaign: telling every group he’s addressed whatever he believes they need to hear in order to persuade them to support him. What he will actually focus on when he becomes president is anybody’s guess.

I’m not getting into hand wringing, although I was temporarily disturbed by the Trump family’s collective reluctance to genuinely embrace their patriarch when they all gathered onstage to claim victory. Nobody seemed to want their body close to his. This tells us much about the man.

There’s nothing to be done except pay serious attention as to how we’re going to negotiate this brave new world without going under. Kim Beazley, who preceded Hockey in Washington and how I wish he was still there, made the alarming judgement that our region is likely to be the most severely affected by a Trump presidency. We are ill-equipped to face our future, given the inadequate government we’ve got.

For a start, we desperately need a real foreign minister. As I heard Richard Bronowski remark last evening, Ms Bishop was very well made up and spoke calmly and collectedly, the only problem was she said absolutely nothing. I’ve been observing precisely this for years now.

Will they grow up in time? Are they capable of maturing? Because if ever we needed the adults in charge, it’s now.

As for the woman thing, I’ll leave that for another post.

 

Humour and class

5 Nov
Only a bird in a gilded cage...

Only a bird in a gilded cage…

 

My grandfather, who along with my grandmother raised me until I was seven, started work in a North Yorkshire coal mine when he was thirteen.

He was exceptionally smart and exceptionally funny, and it was from him I learnt a profound disdain for the preenings of wealth and power, and the sense of entitlement generally apparent in the political and ruling class. He also shared with me his contempt for the bourgeoisie who tirelessly aspire to the privileges of their betters, and act as their agents in the control of lower middle and working class rabble.

For my grandfather, these contempts were instinctive and visceral, rather than acquired from education. He loathed pretension of any kind, and his mockery was ribald and witty.

So it came naturally to me when I saw these two of images of mining magnate Gina Rinehart (First Lady of the Birdcage, as some media put it) to guffaw from the gut:

Pride

Pride

 

Before the fall

Before the fall

 

I shared my mirth on Twitter and it wasn’t long before I was set upon by people telling me I wasn’t nice, and it isn’t nice to laugh at another’s misfortune.

Well, I’ve never pretended to be nice (I would rather be described as satanic than “nice,” that insipid word that damns with faint praise) and my contempt for Rinehart is such that I felt not the slightest twinge of conscience laughing at the image of her misfortune.

Had I been present, though I cannot imagine any circumstances in which I would be in the “Birdcage” (what the actual fuck is that, by the way, I loathe aviaries, what kind of twisted individual enjoys looking at imprisoned creatures with heinously stunted lives, the metaphorical implications of the term are entirely negative what is wrong with the ruling elite entirely rhetorical question don’t feel you have to answer) had I been present at Gina’s Fall, I would have called an ambulance and waited with her till it arrived because no one should be left alone in pain and shock, but as I wasn’t, as I was only looking at a photo and I knew she’d suffered no ill-effects, I laughed my fucking head off.

One anonymous man told me it was “undignified” for anyone to laugh, and I told him I couldn’t comment because I’m not the dignity police and he said I was “gaslighting” him and he totally has absolutely no fucking clue about what that term actually means.

There can be little more bourgeois than rushing to defend the ruling and political class against the humour of those they exploit. It’s the Stockholm syndrome: the defenders can’t believe in their own exploitation.

I finally lost my temper with the Twitter twats, and reminded them that Ms Rinehart would metaphorically cut all their throats in a nano second if she believed that act might bring her even a smidgen of gain. You don’t have to lower yourself to her standards, somebody replied.

I am hard put to understand this equivalence. Laughing at an image is in any way comparable to the economic and political manipulation of entire classes of people in the service of personal wealth and power? Get a grip.

The ribald mockery of the political and ruling elite is an act of subversion, as my grandfather instinctively knew though he was unlikely to use that word. It was left to his granddaughter to go to university and acquire the discourse that gave language and context to what her grandfather had taught her to know in her gut.

There is also the matter of gender, in this instance mine. Being a woman, I endure expectations of niceness generally not imposed upon those who bear their genitals on the outside of their bodies. I had an answer for that: You can stick your fucking expectations of fucking niceness up your fucking clackers, I wrote. That touched a nerve, and got a lot of retweets and favourites.

The political and ruling class are, in general, ludicrous as well as dangerous. The bourgeoisie who protect and support them in the hope of favours and privilege are no less ludicrous, and no less dangerous. One of the few ways available for the exploited and controlled to express dissatisfaction is taking the piss. There’s also violent revolution and the tumbrels, but I don’t think that time has arrived yet.

 

 

How can Turnbull make refugees second-class citizens in another sovereign state?

31 Oct

second_class

The Turnbull government, no doubt believing it hasn’t yet done enough to convince the Hansonites they should vote for it, has now decided to create a secondary class of citizens by restricting the movements of refugees from Manus and Nauru, should they be settled in third countries. While everyone else in those third countries is free to apply for a visa to visit Australia, refugees are not.

The reason for this discrimination is that they arrived in Australia seeking asylum on a boat.

I can barely get my head around this much insanity.

This creation of second-class citizens does not, both Immigration Minister Peter Dutton and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull assure us, contravene any domestic or international law, and it does not breach our responsibilities to the Refugee Convention.

I confess myself at a complete loss. I do not understand how this can possibly be the case. The refugees have committed no crime. Their status has been awarded to them by the UNHCR. Yet Australia can, apparently with no legal ramifications whatsoever, cast them as second class citizens of another sovereign nation by refusing them the same freedom of movement other citizens of that nation enjoy.

The New Zealand Prime Minister has already declined to collude with this plan, declaring that his government will not co-operate in creating a secondary class of New Zealand citizens whose movements are restricted by Australia. Surely what Australia is proposing is contrary to every democratic principle?

And how can any country that is a signatory to the Refugee Convention co-operate with the Australian government’s restriction on the free movement of potential citizens who have committed no crime?

Any ideas?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Mr Turnbull. With regard to respect.

29 Oct
Counting Dead Women. Destroy the Joint

Counting Dead Women. Destroy the Joint

 

For quite some time now, you’ve been speaking in mellifluous tone on how lack of respect for women is at the root of violence towards us, with particular reference to domestic and family violence.

There are times when listening to your respect defence I imagine I’m in a courtroom. Your political rhetoric is in the nature of a legal argument, designed to convince, persuade and coax a jury into accepting your narrative, and so extend leniency to your client.

Perhaps I might stretch the analogy and describe your client in this instance as The Perpetrator of Domestic Violence. Your Honour, he is not a bad man, he merely needs to be taught how to respect women, at least sufficiently not to kill them.

I assume you believe that you are respectful of women. I don’t believe you are. I believe that to be respectful of anyone requires not only rhetoric but action, that is, doing everything you can for them when you see they are being mistreated by others. Failure to do this is, in your terms, disrespectful. In mine, it is criminally neglectful.

Action has a two-fold effect, Mr Turnbull. It assists the woman under attack, and it demonstrates to the perpetrator how respect is  a practice as well as a theory.

You are in a unique position to walk your talk in the matter of respect, yet you seem to be running on the spot.

If you truly respected us you would make funding available for the frontline services we so desperately need to save our lives, our health, our well-being and our children’s well-being when we are faced with a violent man who will harm us, and/or kill us. That would be respectful of you, Mr Turnbull.

That you continue to refuse to make this money available is an act of extreme disrespect for our well-being, and for our very lives.

If you truly believe that lack of respect for women is the root cause of the domestic violence perpetrated upon us, then as leader of this country you must demonstrate active respect for us, if you sincerely want to bring about change. Otherwise you are on the side of the perpetrator.

In depriving us of refuges, community legal centres and ongoing specialist services to assist us and our children to recover from unspeakable trauma, you are signalling to the perpetrators that they are free to continue their savagery, and not only are they  likely to get away with it, they are enabled by you to continue, as we have no avenues of escape.

If our government cannot respect us enough to provide the assistance we so desperately need, why should a perpetrator?

I think it was Leo Tolstoy who wrote that respect was invented to fill the place where love should be. His heroine, Anna Karenina, died at his authorial hand, like so many of us die at the hands of the men who control the narrative. You are the man who controls our narrative. You have the power to change our stories. All that is required of you is that you respect us enough to provide resources for our shelter, protection and assistance.

Until you can do that, Mr Turnbull, your rhetoric of respect is a lie, and you, sir, are a liar.

Sincerely, Survivor.

 

 

 

 

 

Government v Triggs

24 Oct

 

messenger-season

It’s hardly President of the Human Rights Commission Gillian Triggs’ fault when the Australian government is the worst human rights offender that Commission has to deal with.

When a government acts criminally, one hope for recourse is that statutory bodies will refuse to collude with or enable that government’s criminal behaviour, and indeed, that such bodies will name and shame the errant government.

The Turnbull government’s accusation that Professor Triggs is “politicising” her role is, like much of this government’s spin, farcical. For a start human rights are inherently political, and secondly all actions by governments are also inherently political. If the Turnbull government is determined to transgress the human rights of refugees currently abandoned to a highly uncertain future on Manus Island and Nauru, Professor Triggs has no option but to hold it accountable, otherwise she isn’t doing her job.

Of course any commentary Triggs runs on the government of the day is necessarily political, favourable or otherwise. There are instances in which even the silence of someone in her position is political.

Is it the government’s expectation that Triggs will ignore human rights abuses because they are perpetrated by the government? In what country are we living?

Triggs isn’t acting in isolation. Amnesty, the UNHCR, professionals who’ve worked on Manus and Nauru, refugee advocates, some thirty nation states, and this editorial in the New York Times speak with one voice to Australia’s refugee detention policies, and that one voice is damning.

There’s no doubt that in some instances, including the New York Times editorial, there’s blatant examples of the pot/kettle affliction, however, that does not invalidate the truth of the protests against Australia’s policies.

In a classic abuser pattern of behaviour, the Turnbull government continues its efforts to destroy the messenger, in this case Professor Triggs, though the government isn’t fussy, the tactic is transferable. The first concern of abusers is to silence accusers, and the government has displayed this pathology innumerable times, not only in relation to the secrecy with which it surrounds Manus and Nauru and threats of retribution, including imprisonment, against anyone who might transgress those secrecy demands.

Last week, the Border Force Act was amended to remove a comprehensive list of health professionals from the threat of two years jail for speaking publicly about conditions they encountered whilst working in the detention camps. The Turnbull government was forced to make this particular backflip because health professionals have spoken out regardless of the intimidation, and even this collection of political grotesques can see the folly of prosecuting them. However, they can still go after Gillian Triggs and deprived of other targets, they’ll no doubt double their efforts.

(Note to Turnbull government: never wise to make threats you can’t carry out. Makes you look wussy.)

Obviously, the solution for the government is to cease persecuting refugees. The pursuit of Professor Triggs is a distraction: don’t look at the refugees, look at this woman who is (allegedly) overstepping her role. It’s a greater offence to (allegedly) overstep a role than it is to torture refugees. Again, we see the classic abuser spin: it is a far worse crime to speak out about abuse than it is to perpetrate it.

It’s been messenger season as long as I can remember, in private and in public life. The paradigm is deeply entrenched in our society. It starts at the top and it doesn’t trickle down, it roars like a river in flood. It’s time to turn it around and put the focus where it belongs: on the perpetrator. In this case, the Turnbull government.

Stand with the messengers. Stand with Gillian Triggs.

 

 

 

Letting loose the inner Trump

21 Oct

trumps-promise-to-women

 

The footage of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s bus ride with Billy Bush in which he owns sexual assault as his preferred method of engaging with women he finds desirable, led to a tsunami of accounts by women who’ve been similarly treated when men let loose their inner Trump.

Journalist Karen Middleton published her account of sexual harassment and assault by MPs and male colleagues in The Saturday Paper.

Leah McElrath broke down Trump’s non-apology for his actions into a series of astoundingly succinct tweets every woman should print out and stick on the fridge as a guide to common manipulative tactics used by abusers.

In fact, Trump has done all of us a great favour. His global performance of alpha male entitlement has given us a textbook example of predatory male behaviour, without us having to bother reading the textbook. He’s created an atmosphere in which women in our millions can comment on our experiences of such behaviour and, in many instances for the first time, give it a name. He’s outed both himself and the toxic masculinity from which predation springs in a way nothing and nobody else could. For this we can be relieved. There can no longer be any doubt that to adherents of that toxic masculinity, women are prey.

Trump also sorted something that has deeply troubled me for the last couple of years. I’ve written on this blog and elsewhere about my childhood sexual abuse and the PTSD that is its consequence. So when I met online friend David in person for the first time I knew he knew my history. When he asked me about it in the cafe I was discomfited: it seemed neither the place nor the time, however, part of my psychological damage from that time is that in certain circumstances I’m unable to make an assessment of my own best interests, so I briefly answered his questions and also told him of my lifelong struggle with PTSD.

When we left the cafe David grabbed me, pulled me to him, kissed me and put his tongue in my mouth. It was one of those moments in which you can’t get a handle on what is actually happening because what is happening is so unlikely. Then it’s over.

I’ve never been able to make sense of why, only moments after listening to an account of prolonged childhood sexual abuse and subsequent lifelong PTSD, a man would grab a woman he’d just met and put his tongue in her mouth.

Until I read a discussion between Donald Trump and Howard Stern. Troubled women, Trump asserts, deeply, deeply troubled women, give the best sex:

She’s probably deeply troubled and therefore great in bed. How come the deeply troubled women, you know, deeply, deeply troubled, they’re always the best in bed?”

Stern said damaged women are “looking for love, they’re looking for positive affirmation, they’re looking for a father figure who will love them and tell them they’re wonderful and they’ll never be enough.”

Well I have a friend, Howard, who’s actually like a great playboy, I mean, I don’t say this about men, this guy does very well, Trump said. He runs silent, runs deep as they say, like a submarine. He will only look for a crazy women. He says, ‘Donald, Donald, please, please, I only want the crazy women.’”

“They’re desperate,” Stern said.

Reading this exchange was like an epiphany. I understood why David had been so overwhelmed by desire he’d felt compelled to grab me and stick his tongue in my mouth, even though you’d hope a man might think twice about violating a woman who’d just spoken about childhood sexual abuse and lifelong PTSD.

But hey, a deeply troubled woman can turn loose a man’s inner Trump, and he can’t help himself  he has to grab her and stick his tongue in her mouth.

Vulnerability turns him on. Damage turns him on. It’s deeply, deeply sexy.

It’s a relief, really, to have my experience explained by Trump and Stern. It’s a relief to know it’s a predator’s thing and how else would we know so publicly, so accessibly, unless men like Trump and Stern shared their opinions?

We’ve known for a long time that women who experience childhood abuse are highly vulnerable to re-traumatisation. But I doubt it’s ever been so clear that this is because there are men who seek us out, specifically because we’ve been damaged.

Think on that, if you can bear to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Charlotte Pass today

20 Oct

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You’re gonna make me lonesome when you go

14 Oct

bob-dylan

 

We’re having dinner at the Molong pub on our way to Canberra, and then to the Snowy Mountains for a month.

We’ve been driving for nine hours on the back roads, avoiding motorways and highways and listening to Bob Dylan because today he won the Nobel Prize for Literature and we’re stoked, and we need to revisit everything he’s ever sung, which you can’t actually do in nine hours but we’ve given it our best shot.

There’s an entertainer at the pub, he’s a little stout and red-faced with silver chains round his neck and he’s singing stuff like The Proclaimers I’m on My Way, and Elvis’s Suspicious Minds, and Joan Jett’s I love Rock n’ Roll, and there’s a woman wrapped around the verandah post, leaning over the singer and going “uh huh” every now and then in relation to pretty much nothing. She’s a little pissed and pretty happy and the singer’s trying to pretend she isn’t there. The sun’s gone down, it’s getting chilly in the beer garden and I wrap myself in a woollen shawl, drink another glass of wine, and consider asking the act if he’ll sing some Dylan.

As stoked as I am by Bob’s win, I’m also sad because if there’s one thing my beloved husband would have wanted to live long enough to hear, it’s that Dylan won the Nobel prize. Babe, if you can hear me, you were right.

Dylan was part of the soundtrack of our decades-long love affair, and Arnie’s knowledge of the man was encyclopaedic. He did a radio show on Sunday afternoons on 2SER just about Dylan. We went to every concert we could, and we only ever walked out of one, at the State Theatre in Sydney when Bob’s performance was so excruciatingly late and then so excruciatingly bad, even we couldn’t hack it. Something to do with drugs in the dunny, I don’t know.

I don’t ask the performer at the Molong pub to sing some Dylan, instead we walk back to our motel and eat chocolate and drink green tea in bed. I’m trying to think of which song was ours, Arnie’s and mine, but that’s the thing about Dylan: there was a song for every shifting phase, even the dark ones, maybe especially the dark ones.

Arnie always came back to You’re going to make me lonesome when you go as his song to me. Which is ironic, because in the end he went and I’m still here and still singing:

I’ll look for you in old Honolul-a
San Francisco, Ashtabula
You’re gonna have to leave me now, I know
But I’ll see you in the sky above
In the tall grass, in the ones I love
You’re gonna make me lonesome when you go

I know there’s all kinds of arguments against the Nobel prize for Bob Dylan. Some of them I probably even agree with. But I don’t care. What he wrote decades ago, personal and political, is as applicable today as it was then, his body of work is vast and varied, and I’ve never anywhere come across images of the kind Dylan comes up with.

As Mick Jagger said, Thank you Bob.

 

 

The debate that told us all about about sexism. In case we weren’t sure.

11 Oct

trump_debate_stalk_rtr_img

 

It’s difficult to imagine a man finding himself in the same position as did Hillary Clinton in the second debate yesterday.

When did you last hear of a man being held responsible for his wife’s alleged sexual crimes?

When did you last hear of a man centre stage in a political  forum, with his wife’s alleged sexual victims as invited audience members?

Aside from Bill Clinton’s alleged sexual crimes, and aside from Donald Trump’s lascivious objectification of women including his own daughter, yesterday’s debate in itself could not have more clearly enacted the sexism endemic in western culture.

When challenged about his attitudes to women Trump reacted by arguing that Bill Clinton is worse, and then went on to list all the things he believes are more important than sexually assaulting women, managing  to further demean us in that tacky investigation into the relativity of suffering.

What Trump unsurprisingly fails to appreciate (and many others male and female share his lack of perception) is that the objectification and sexual assault of women and girls originates in a collective mindset that is so accustomed to dehumanisation it can justify any destructive action against anyone, should it be judged necessary.  If you are part of a dominant group that treats some 50% of your country’s population as lesser beings because they have vaginas, it’s not going to be difficult for you to do the same to anyone else who threatens your fragile sense of who you are, such as people of religions and ethnicities that vary from your own.

Yes, I know Trump seems far from fragile in his sense of self, however, there’s a psychological theory of over-compensation for fears of inadequacy that might be applicable here.

There was a point in the debate when Trump appeared to stalk Clinton, moving in very close behind her as she answered a question, looming, as if to remind her of his hostile presence. It was nasty, almost as nasty as the video tape of Trump leaving his bus ten years ago to meet a young woman he’d only just finished crudely sexually assessing. He asked her for a hug. In those few seconds we saw sexism, intimidation and violation played out: the young woman couldn’t refuse Trump if she valued her career, and so obliged him in his effort to vindicate his boastful claims of sexual irresistibility. She did this in complete ignorance of the crass conversation about her that had just taken place.

If you’ve ever been groped that vision would have caused you to shudder.

I don’t think HRC did very well in the second debate. How much of this is down to Trump’s psychological tactic of ensuring women linked in the worst possible way with her and her husband were present, and his focus on both Bill and Hillary Clinton’s alleged treatment of them and other women, I don’t know. I’m inclined to think quite a bit, as there is simply no other area in which Trump can outdo HRC. It seems she’s got the presidency in the bag, unless something inconceivably catastrophic occurs.

A woman who stands by her philandering man isn’t necessarily admired for that: some see it as more a demonstration of strength if she kicks the cheater out. Whatever your position on this, it’s a fraught topic for women. Hillary is entrapped in Bill’s mess, as women are so frequently trapped in the messes made by men in their lives. Trump is making the most of it, because at this point there’s really little else he can use to cause HRC public discomfort.

How interesting, then, that both candidates have to deal with sexual scandals. And what a comment on women’s place in the world that Trump’s scandals are his own, while HRC’s are those allegedly perpetrated by her husband.

Says it all, really.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Controlling women’s bodies. Trump & Pence.

9 Oct

trump-on-women

 

It neither shocked nor surprised me to yesterday hear a recording of US presidential candidate Donald Trump, made some ten years ago, boasting that his wealth and fame entitle him to grab women by the genitals, and kiss them without consent, because he finds female beauty irresistible:

I’ve gotta use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her. You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything.

Men using their power to gain sexual access to women is nothing new. Bill Clinton has been accused of rape, sexual harassment, exposing himself to a woman who didn’t want to see the presidential penis, and of numerous affairs, the most famous of which involved White House intern Monica Lewinsky, and the most lengthy of which was, it’s said, conducted over some twenty-two years.

These matters are relevant a) because Trump repeatedly points to Clinton as being just as bad: Well, look over there, I’m not the only one who does it and b) because Trump has threatened several times to raise Clinton’s sexual history during debates with Democrat opponent Hillary Clinton, on the somewhat bizarre grounds that any woman married to an unfaithful man isn’t fit to be president of the United States.

HRC, goes Trump’s argument, has enabled her husband to sexually exploit women, therefore is as responsible for harm as is Clinton. This harmful enabling disqualifies HRC from challenging Trump on his attitudes to women because hers aren’t much better, particularly, Trump argues, as Secretary Clinton has allegedly pursued and intimidated some of the women with whom her husband enjoyed intimacy in an effort to ensure their silence.

There is some substance to the theory that tolerating deceptive behaviour is enabling that deceptive behaviour: the unfaithful spouse learns faithfulness is not a requirement for the relationship to continue, and there will be no catastrophic repercussions. I can only guess at HRC’s motives for choosing to remain in a marriage with Clinton, but I’m pretty certain that had they divorced she wouldn’t be running for President today, and she likely wouldn’t have been Secretary of State in the Obama administration either.

HRC is a pragmatist. Anyone running for presidential or other high office, male or female, must have that goal as their primary ambition and be willing to tailor his or her life to the demands of the race. Divorce and the failure it signifies in a country where religious beliefs about marriage and family hold great political sway, together with financial settlements that may reveal far too much about one’s circumstances are situations to be avoided, particularly if you are a politically ambitious woman.

It may well be that HRC long ago came to an understanding with herself that the anguish of betrayal was the price she’d have to pay for achieving her goals. She isn’t the first woman to come to this conclusion, and she won’t be the last.

There are women who find sharing life with a treacherous partner is more than they can bear and that they deserve better, as they do. The cycle of betrayal is a cycle of abuse. Married life with a man such as Clinton would be intolerable for me, but I’m not interested in political office and my priorities are living a life free from abuse and humiliation with a partner I can trust. HRC doesn’t appear to have been in a position (within the confines of the system she inhabits) to both achieve her political ambitions and live free from emotional and mental spousal abuse. She’s had to make choices.

HRC’s pragmatism does not in any way indicate an unsuitability for high office, quite the opposite I would have thought.

Trump’s attitude to women is vile, and it’s on the higher end of a vile continuum. He’s been caught on tape voicing his sordid desires and intentions: we know we’re dealing with a poster boy for sexism and exploitation. But think on this. Mike Pence, Trump’s running mate, believes abortion to be “monstrous” and vows to do everything possible to prevent women accessing the procedure, including attempting to overturn Roe v Wade.  Should Trump win, Pence is next in line for the presidency in the event of some kind of Trump collapse.

Everywhere we turn, we find a man attempting to control women’s bodies, either through sexual exploitation and abuse, and/or control of our reproductive processes. Trump, Clinton, Pence are high-profile performers of a dominant culture that is still, despite its sophistication  and its claims to western superiority, profoundly contemptuous of women, and committed to denying our autonomy and our humanity.

I’m no fan of Hillary Rodham Clinton. There are, in my opinion, many concerns about her becoming the next president of the US. However, Bill Clinton’s sexual predation and the manner in which she’s chosen to deal with it are not among them. But hey, she’s a woman. On that fact alone she’s blameworthy, and Trump knows it.

 

 

 

Truth to Power. Part Two

30 Sep

So, let’s go through this tweet, phrase by anguished phrase.

“MSM truthers.” A truther is “a person who doubts the generally accepted account of an event, believing that an official conspiracy exists to conceal the true explanation; a conspiracy theorist.”

There are 9/11 truthers who believe the terrorist attacks were perpetrated by the US government;  Sandy Hook Elementary School truthers who believe the massacre was a “false flag” government conspiracy, Holocaust deniers, Obama birthers and so on.

Di Stefano attempts to delegitimise any inquiry into the narrative choices made by MSM, describing those who question perceived bias as “truthers,” and implying that merely questioning media choices is the act of a conspiracy theorist. Whether you find MSM biased towards the right or the left of politics, in either case you are participating in a conspiracy and you wear a tin foil hat. Therefore your concerns are invalid, and deserving only of mockery.

When any institution takes this as its default position towards questioners and critics, it has lost sight of its purpose and its parameters. MSM is not now, never has been and should never aspire to be above critique. The tactic of reacting to criticism by denigrating the critic is inadequate and defensive, and only serves to confirm the suspicion that there is indeed something rotten in the fourth estate.

When your mainstream media tell you you’re unhinged (or biased) for questioning them, they’re presuming a privilege to stifle rather than evaluate criticism. This is the antithesis of the values of a liberal democracy. Fortunately we have blogs and social media through which we can contest mainstream efforts to quash disagreement. That the mainstream media has no business quashing criticism in the first place is a fact that must never be forgotten.

Aged-out tribal boomers.

“Aged out” usually refers to a young person who passes an age where he or she is eligible for certain youth benefits, or must leave foster care. Obviously the term wasn’t used in this sense when linked to “tribal boomers” and I took it to be a disparaging comment on people over fifty who are perceived by Di Stefano to be “aged-out” of well, life, really and of participating in or contributing to anything considered by him to be relevant or important.

(I’m not sure about fifty, maybe it’s sixty, but I don’t think that much matters.)

It’s a thing, to blame boomers for a swathe of social difficulties, and to perceive that group as particularly privileged: the hippies who grew up to be successful capitalists and bought up all the houses as investment properties (taking advantage of negative gearing) leaving younger generations struggling to put a roof over their heads.

There are no doubt many boomers who fit that stereotype, however there are many who don’t. For example, hundreds of thousands of older women are expected to become homeless in the near future, and many of these are, in Di Stefano’s terms, aged out tribal boomers.

This is the danger of isolating human groups who have in common only their age, and then pitting them against one another: the real culprits, rampant capitalism enabled by corrupt government supported by complicit media, remain unacknowledged and unchallenged. Responsibility is deflected and as long as the populace is busily engaged in wars against a particular group: boomers, asylum seekers, bikies, feminists, irresponsible whining generation whatever who just need to stop buying coffee if they want a home, those who are actually responsible for society’s ills and have the power to address them, are not held to account.

It’s surely the job of MSM to bring us back to first principles, not to divide and set us upon one another for their amusement and the amusement of their masters.

While Di Stefano didn’t gender his aged-out comment, it is particularly dismissive of women. When did you last hear a man over fifty described as aged-out?

He also used a tweet from a  woman as an example, and it was me who started him off on his tantrum.

I suspect that when a man describes a woman as aged out, this is code for “no longer sexually interesting to me and therefore irrelevant.”

When challenged, Di Stefano responded:

Stinking up Australian politics

As I replied to Di Stefano when he posted his tweet: crap politicians stink up Australian politics, and I’d add to that, crap media who do a crap job are enabling the ongoing production of stink.

I think Di Stefano’s one tweet validates much criticism  of MSM: biased, inaccurate, pushing a bizarre and very personal agenda, defensive, arrogant, ill-informed, divisive click bait crap. I rest my case.

 

"sticks thumb under front teeth"

“sticks thumb under front teeth”

 

 

Truth to power. Part One.

29 Sep

 

truth-to-pwoer

The other evening I was musing on the mainstream media reporting and pursuit of Labor Senator Sam Dastyari over  the Senator asking a Chinese benefactor to cover his travel costs, and then making a supportive statement, contrary to both government and opposition positions, on China’s activities in the South China Sea.

I was comparing this to the relative lack of interest in pursuing Steve Irons, the WA Turnbull government MP who stole taxpayer money to pay travel expenses for himself and his new wife to their wedding in Melbourne and back to Perth. I tweeted this:

The first response was from a Fairfax journalist taking me to task for using the blanket term “MSM.” After hooting a little at the notion of a journalist complaining about the use of “blanket terms” I acknowledge that the term, like all blanket terms, is less than perfect, although most of us use it to signify traditional media as opposed to new media.

There are some very good journalists working in mainstream media, without whom we’d be even more in the dark than we already are. Fairfax, the ABC and the Guardian are home to most of them. Yes, the ABC. There are still some exceptional people there and one can only imagine how they survive.

However, I wasn’t about to list in my tweet every media outlet not pursuing Irons to the same extent it pursued Dastyari, and I stand by my initial impression that the two incidents were handled very differently.

I then received this tweet from Mark Di Stefano of Buzzfeed. I’ve never considered Buzzfeed to be mainstream media so I wasn’t referring to them, however…

 

It is true that Irons didn’t reward the taxpayer for footing his wedding travel bill, as Dastyari rewarded the Chinese. It’s also true that both major parties are significant beneficiaries of Chinese money, for which they are presumably expected to provide favours in return. So why single out and hunt down Dastyari when the Turnbull government Foreign Minister, for example, received an iPad, airfares and accommodation, and a bunch of government MPs scored Rolex watches? All of these people are far better placed to further their benefactor’s interests than was Dastyari (who after all said something nobody much bothered to listen to) and to do it far more covertly.

It’s also true that politicians thieving from taxpayers has become normalised, and without the added spice of potentially treasonous remarks, Irons’ theft was of comparatively little consequence.

This, for mine, is the heart of the problem. “Ordinary” thieving from taxpayers is par for the course in politics, meaning politicians are held to a much lower standard of honesty and punishment than the rest of us. I’d like to know why.

For example, if you are caught thieving items from a supermarket you are very likely to be charged by police, even if you put the items back on the shelf and say you’re sorry. Not so much when politicians rip-off taxpayers. If they are caught, they pay it back and that is the only consequence they face.  They’re still thieves, but they are protected thieves.

No answer to any questions from Buzzfeed, and I’d terminated my conversation with the Fairfax journalist who’d lost his head and started telling me I was “wrong and you can’t face facts because of your bias.”

Interesting, I thought. I’m perceived as biased because I’m questioning the difference in how two matters are handled, and he’s obviously assuming I’m a Labor fanatic because why would anybody who wasn’t politically aligned bother to ask such a question? This is what I mean about the normalisation of crime in politics. You can’t even ask about it without journalists assuming you are only doing so to create trouble for a party other than your own.

At this point several of my Twitter pals joined in to assure the traditional media representatives that I’m equally disagreeable to all politicians.

On Di Stefano’s subsequent points, 1) It’s cheering to see the MSM doing its job by breaking stories, but actually I was querying the subsequent pursuit, and 2) what???

Do you mean MSM don’t pursue unless a political party pursues first? I asked Buzzfeed.

I didn’t say that, came the reply. So what do you mean, I asked. Just trying to clarify because your tweet read as if you were saying that.

Silence.

The notion that matters are not pursued by the media unless first pursued by a political party is unnerving. This is not what one expects from the fourth estate. This is not speaking truth to power, it is waiting until one power gives you the signal to speak a bit of truth to another power, and obediently refraining from pursuit when no permission in the form of guidance is forthcoming. Is this how traditional media decide what issues and personalities to pursue? Taking their lead from politicians?

Well, as you’d expect the conversation by now involved more people than just me and Mark Di Stefano. Many references were made to the “MSM” and I don’t think any of them were particularly favourable, demonstrating the frustration and disillusionment felt by some consumers. Di Stefano maintained his silence until this:

Well.

As you can imagine, there is a great deal to unpack in Di Stefano’s communication. And so I’m dedicating an entire post to its deconstruction, which I hope to publish tomorrow.

Taskforce Integrity. Let’s start with politicians, shall we?

27 Sep

 

You may or may not be aware that in November 2015, the Turnbull government announced the formation of “Taskforce Integrity,” a unit set up specifically to address welfare fraud in the form of undeclared income and non-compliance.

WA Turnbull government MP Steve Irons tweeted his support of the innovation.

Yesterday we learned that Mr Irons charged taxpayers for flights from Perth to Melbourne for his wedding, and he also charged us for flights from Melbourne back to Perth for himself and his new wife, Cheryle.

Treasurer Scott Morrison also charged taxpayers for the cost of his flight to the Irons’ wedding. Both men have since repaid those monies.

Returning money you’ve stolen doesn’t mean you didn’t steal it in the first place. I am reasonably confident that neither thief would have repaid the money had their thieving activities not been exposed, or in danger of exposure.

Irons also charged the taxpayer for a trip he made to the Gold Coast to attend a golf tournament.

I have no problem with addressing welfare fraud. I do have a very big problem with politicians stealing taxpayer money to fund their personal lives, and can’t quite see why they are any different from those who seek to illegally and immorally benefit from the welfare system.

Even with my new glasses, I’m unable to see why those who defraud the welfare system should be charged and perhaps incarcerated, whilst those who defraud the taxpayer are given the opportunity to return the money, face no charges, and no jail time.

Integrity, much?

Yesterday I watched in weary disbelief as Attorney-General George Brandis claimed that his government is holding a plebiscite on marriage equality because the Australian people want a plebiscite, and we made this clear when we re-elected the Turnbull government, thus giving it a mandate.

The Turnbull government has a majority of one seat in the House of Representatives. This is hardly a mandate in anyone’s language.

Let’s quickly revisit the origins of this plebiscite. The notion was introduced by failed prime minister Tony Abbott to placate the rabid right-wing of his party who are incapable of rational thought on the topic of same-sex marriage, and appear to view it as a catastrophic threat to their own heterosexual identities and unions.

Abbott was also inspired by the Irish referendum. He disregarded the fact that Ireland was obliged to alter its constitution to accommodate marriage equality, while we are not. In Australia, it is a matter of a simple amendment to the Marriage Act, changed to discriminate against same-sex marriage in 2004 by the LNP prime minister who lost his seat after taking us into the Iraq invasion on entirely spurious grounds, and without any plebiscite, John Howard. But that’s another sickening story of lies, manipulation, immorality, death, despair and destruction.

Brandis concluded his litany of folded lies with the assertion that unless the opposition agree to a plebiscite, marriage equality will be delayed until the mid 2020’s, assuming the LNP wins the next election.

The Turnbull government is using the LGBTQI community for its own political purposes: delaying marriage equality as long as possible to placate the right-wing homophobes who permit Turnbull to play at being Prime Minister, and to wedge the ALP.

All that is required is an amendment to the Marriage Act, and Brandis made it clear yesterday that will never happen as long as the LNP are in power. This is not because we the people demand a plebiscite, and it is not because of any reasonable argument against marriage equality. It is because the likes of Cory Bernardi and George Christensen are terrified of the gays and lesbians and bisexuals and queers and transgender and intersex peoples. We are going through all this expense and all this angst because some seriously unhinged men, obsessed with the sexuality of others, cannot cope with the idea of difference.

Personally, I think the Marriage Act ought to be abolished. There’s no place for the state in intimate relationships. However, as long as it exists, and as long as it remains the powerful cultural marker that it is, nobody should be forbidden access to its legal and societal privileges.

And on the grounds that some ignorant, terrified, dysfunctional men don’t like what other people do in bed?

Integrity, much?

 

 

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