Archive | May, 2011

Sarah Palin on Qanda. Hazaras in boats. End live exports of all sentient beings. Now.

31 May

At the beginning of Q&A last night a startled tweet manifested on screen. “Eeeek!” the tweeter wrote. “Is that Sarah Palin?”

Kate Lundy (???)

The tweet referred to Kate Lundy, Parliamentary Secretary for  Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, and I had the same sense of dislocation when I saw her. Having just returned from the US where Palin was pretty much unavoidable if you ever turned on the television, I thought I was still in that country, and hadn’t  endured that fourteen hour flight home after all. A quick self-inflicted slap to the upside of my head brought me back to the present.  It wasn’t Sarah Palin on Q&A but dear God, it was too close for comfort.

I have no idea if Ms Lundy is deliberately cultivating the Palin look, and to some degree, the Palin style. She might want to think about what she’s doing or else like Tony Abbott‘s anti carbon tax rally, she might attract groups she’d rather not be associated with. We all know how shallow the punters can be, and appearance can count for much more than it should.

Over at the Drum yesterday I discovered an excellent piece by Deakin University researcher Vince Scappatura,in which he analyses the mainstream media interpretation of a report commissioned by the Gillard government on the push and pull factors thought to influence the decision of Afghanistan’s Hazara population to attempt to seek asylum in Australia.

The report reveals that dire economic circumstances, ethno-political disturbances, mistreatment and discrimination by the Taliban, killings, kidnappings, arrests and subsequent disappearances, and the complete inability of the government to protect Hazaras in remote villages are all compelling push factors in decisions to flee. The research concludes that these factors are of more significance than any pull factors endemic to Australia.

However. Andrew Probyn and Nick Butterfly in the West Australian and the Sydney Morning Herald, claimed the report showed that the main reason Hazaras flee in boats to Australia is for a better life. Their actions are a livelihood strategy, they aren’t fleeing bullets, says Andrew Bolt. It’s a lifestyle choice, dammit!

No mention at all of the multitude of factors in play, including persecution and death, that provoke Hazara people to sell up everything, pay people smugglers, and embark on a journey that 80% of them fear they may not survive, but even so, it’s a better bet than staying where they are. They are also aware that they might spend years in vile detention centres being sent mad with grief and uncertainty. Even this, they consider, is better than staying where they are.

Now the Gillard government intends to export Hazaras to Malaysian refugee camps, where they will be further mistreated, badly fed and physically abused. Mother of God, what kind of people are we?

by Jeff Cavins

Over at On Line Opinion today you’ll find an article by me on pornography, the media and Gail Dines. Dines received wide coverage during her anti pornography campaign here , especially from the ABC. However, there has been comparatively little researched response  published on the ABC to the claims Dines makes about the effects of porn, it’s availability, and the media’s responsibility for the ruination of the sexual lives of men. I have no idea why this is so. Thank you OLO for picking up the slack and widening a very necessary debate.

Finally , I cannot bring myself to speak much of the hideous treatment of cattle exported live to Indonesia, as revealed on Four Corners last night. There is no need for a lengthy inquiry into this trade, an inquiry that will only  delay its termination, and prolong the unspeakable suffering of these animals. Alternatives must be found and found immediately.

This is just one more example of a government that lacks any real connection with human beings and other species, not to mention the planet, who are in dire and extreme situations. A government that lacks imagination, and is bereft of decency, morality and ethics. Unfortunately, the opposition is no better.

Mladic and Bin Laden: which solution is just?

30 May
General Ratko Mladić during UN-mediated talks ...

Image via Wikipedia

Guest post today by author Gerard Oosterman, artist, farmer and blogger. Gerard raises interesting questions about the two situations

They couldn’t believe their luck. Finally, after all those years on the run, the Serbs got their man. Ratko Mladic was indicted in 1995 by the International Criminal Tribunal and was recently arrested after a tip off.

Mladic stands accused of the murder of at least 7500 Muslim men and boys from the town of Srebrenica. This is considered the single biggest atrocity since World War II. Having watched footage on the news this morning there seemed joy by many that he had been arrested, but unlike the killing of Osama Bin Laden, there was no hysterical dancing on the streets as there was in the US when news of that killing broke.

longwarjournal.org

The total number killed as a result of all the attacks on America on 9/11 were close to 3000.

There are no winners in acts of terror on innocent civilians and the world is a better place now that both have finally been caught up with. However, the killing by Ratko Mladic and his henchmen of 7500 Muslims never received the same media attention as Osama Bin Laden’s attacks on the US,  even though the number killed by Ratko Mladic was far greater and surely on equal level of cruelty suffered of those killed by Bin Laden.

The siege of Sarajevo resulted in the deaths of at least another 10 000 people. The relentless shelling of this beautiful historical city of was encouraged by Mladic, who was reported as ordering, “Shell them till they go mad”.

One has to go back to World War II to find the equivalent.

There is, however, a stark difference by which both came to their final moment of justice. One was killed outright followed by jubilation and cheers by thousands of enthusiastic people, mainly Americans. It was seen as fair justice. Not many expressed concern that the shooting dead of Osama, in the head ,was done in front of his twelve year old daughter. Amnesty International was less enthusiastic, and was critical of this peculiar US method of justice, as OBL was unarmed and in bed, at 1am.

Amnesty raised concerns that there was no attempt to capture him alive, and stressed the necessity  to adhere and comply with international Law in  such situations.

Ratko Mladic on the other hand was arrested in a pre-dawn raid on an isolated farm, without any violence. He was immediately brought before a judge.

A few elderly women were interviewed just after the arrest of Ratko and were shown to still grieve for their sons and husbands.

The difference could not be more startling. While America has always been associated with guns, violence and seeking retribution whenever possible, no more so than in the cold blooded killing of OBL, at least the Serbs have displayed remarkable resistance to acting in the same way. Mladic is reported to have had two loaded guns but like Bin Laden, offered no resistance.

There are still many Serbs who consider Mladic a hero. The Serbian Government was repeatedly requested to implement his arrest but fearing a backlash, was somewhat less than enthusiastic. The big stick of refusing Serbia’s entry to the EU was effectively wielded by the European Union, finally persuading the Serbian Government to act.

No doubt the world can give a well-earned sigh of relief that another monster has been caught. Unlike the US action against Bin Laden, the world will experience the process of bringing such a monster to justice when Mladic is tried in The Hague.

Gerard blogs at  Oosterman Treats Blog

Gillard’s gamble, and the Glenn Gould Prize

30 May

The Gillard government’s decision to negotiate a one-off deal with Malaysia to trade the next 800 asylum seekers to arrive in boats for 4,000 refugees currently languishing in camps in that country, may or may not lead to a decrease in boat arrivals in Australia. It’s a gamble. If it pays off the rewards are a de-fanged opposition, and the cauterization of a decade old abscess that’s poisoned our political process to its core.

If it doesn’t pay off and boats continue to arrive, will Gillard attempt another negotiation with the Malaysians who may well up the ante, say from ten to one instead of the current five to one?

Or since East Timor gave her the flick will she use more taxpayers millions to persuade PNG or the Solomons to make it all go away?

The plan is that word will get around to potential boat arrivals that they’ll be sent to Malaysia, and this will be enough to persuade them not to undertake the journey in the first place. The deal with Malaysia has not yet come into effect, and the estimated 100 asylum seekers, including children, who’ve arrived since the announcement of the arrangement in progress are being held in detention, awaiting transfer to Malaysia.

Even if asylum seekers continue to take their chances the opposition are seriously de-fanged, as Gillard goes a step further than even they contemplated in the efforts to rid us of responsibility for those who arrive by boat.

They can now seize the high moral ground with the argument that they didn’t send anybody to be caned and mistreated in a third country.

Those who arrive by plane, on the other hand, will continue to do that without fear of being despatched to a Malaysian camp where they can expect to be flogged, fed pig swill, sent to the back of the queue, and otherwise abused.

What is immediately apparent is the government’s complete inability to maintain a credible position on boat arrivals. Not so long ago, Gillard steadfastly refused any possibility of re-opening Nauru, because that country is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention. Well, neither is Malaysia.

The government also seems to be labouring under the illusion that Australia can somehow exert control over the treatment of asylum seekers we send to the Malaysian camps. This is what’s known as magical thinking if they really believe it, or cynical expediency if they don’t. It’s difficult to see how even the Malaysian government can protect a handful of asylum seekers among some 90,000 from being badly treated. Are they building special quarters with kinder guards?

As former Human Rights Commissioner  Sev Ozdowski points out, re-opening Nauru is preferable to dispatching boat arrivals to Malaysia. At least we control the conditions in Nauru. On the other hand we also have to pay for that privilege. Once asylum seekers are in Malaysia, our financial obligations are at an end.

We do assume financial responsibility for the well being of the potential 4,000 refugees, the majority of whom are thought to be Burmese, for as long as they need us to do that.

The estimated cost of this  trade in displaced humanity is some $300 million over the next 4 years.

A commenter at Club Troppo made this observation on the post “In Praise of Gillard’s Malaysia solution:”

As for Burmese refugees, I welcome them. I think they are Burmese minority peoples like Shan people, persecuted by the Burmese military. As far as I know, the Burmese are Buddhist worshipping, peace loving people, and won’t hate other religions, or commit terrorist bombings killing innocent people.

Of course, boat arrivals are all Muslim terrorists, aren’t they?

The other matter that has been apparent for some time, especially internationally, is Australia’s adolescent unwillingness to accept responsibility for our own problems. Those who arrive by boat are doing nothing more than responding to our open invitation, which we continue to extend as long as we are signatories to the UN Refugee Convention. We are responsible for continuing to issue that open invitation, and for hospitably dealing with those who accept it.

Instead, like irresponsible teenagers, we bitch and moan that we don’t want those guests, we only want the other guests, so somebody else has to take those guests off our hands and give us the ones we want. The nice Buddhists not the nasty Muslims, that is.

Anybody who thinks this tacky and likely racist manipulation has anything at all to do with preventing loss of life by discouraging boat arrivals is, as they say, dreamin’.

As long as we continue to issue an open invitation, we can’t simultaneously complain about mythical queues being jumped, not if we want any credibility in the grown up world.

But I don’t think Gillard is all that interested in being a grown up, or in leading our country into adult land. After all, it’s adolescents who swan around angsting over whether or not they’re being the “real” me. It’s the immature who’ll go to any lengths and pay any disproportionate price to avoid acknowledging, and then accepting full responsibility for their actions.

The reality that we won’t process those who arrive by boat but will send them to a third, non-signatory country makes our open invitation morally foul. This is the real abscess we urgently need to cauterize. This is the abscess that will keep on poisoning us long after the last asylum seeker’s been settled in a Malaysian camp. We are not true to our word. We’re making promises we don’t keep. Or as the man cautions:

Through the days of shame that are coming 
Through the nights of wild distress 
Though your promise count for nothing 
You must keep it nonetheless…

(L Cohen, Heart With No Companion)

Leonard Cohen was in April awarded the Ninth Glenn Gould Prize for enriching the human condition through the arts, so he knows what he’s on about. Gillard is notoriously uninterested the arts, and quite likely has no idea that they can have any influence on the human condition. And what’s the human condition,anyway and do boat arrivals have one?  Does enriching the human condition through the arts count as hard work?

Maybe Gillard should give Leonard a whirl. At least she doesn’t have any grounds to complain about his voice.

Slut bias at The Drum narrowly averted

28 May

osocio.org

I’ve lost count of how many articles were published on The Drum this week about the latest expression of exuberant youthful feminism, the slut walk. In case anybody’s managed to remain unaware of just what a slut walk is, it’s a reclaim the word march invented by some middle class Toronto women (girls, ladies, molls,chicks, whatever) in reaction to a now world famous policeman who recklessly remarked that women shouldn’t dress like sluts if they don’t want to be raped.

I’m not even going to begin unpacking this statement, or the outrage it has provoked.  You’ll find it all in the hundreds of million articles on the Drum this week, from every possible perspective.

As if in a desperate attempt to portray women in another, holier light, Neer Korn offers an article titled Mothers still stuck in the guilt trap. “Selfishness is an aspiration for Australian mums,” Neer tells us. “They admire those women who speak with pride about having a stash of chocolate that no one in the family knows about, or of getting away for a couple of hours each week to indulge in a sport or meet up with girlfriends.”

“Australian mums display an attitude of martyrdom when it comes to balancing life’s needs,” he continues.

I haven’t worked out if Korn’s is a satirical piece or not. It has to be, right?

The piece triggered a memory of  Virginia Woolf’s protests against what she called “the angel in the house.” This was an aspect of herself  Woolf worked like a drover’s dog to herd into a pen, (sorry) having decided it was an impediment to both writing and being. She describes her thus:

She was intensely sympathetic. She was immensely charming. She was utterly unselfish. She excelled in the difficult arts of family life. She sacrificed herself daily. If there was chicken, she took the leg; if there was a draught, she sat in it – in short she was so constituted that she never had a mind or a wish of her own, but preferred to sympathize always with the minds and wishes of others. Above all – I need not say it – she was pure. 

That sounds like Korn’s Australian mum, I thought. Sitting in draughts scoffing chocolate she’s hidden from her family. Her one act of self-care, and she feels guilt-ridden about taking even that. Mind you, it does demonstrate a capacity for rat cunning. I never managed to hide chocolate from my family. I hid it under cushions, wrapped it in Glad Wrap and stuck it in shoes, dug holes in the garden and buried it (the dog got it that time), all to no avail. The only way to be certain I got the chocolate I deserved in my household was to eat it at the check out.

I have to hand it to the Drum for publishing Korn’s piece. In doing so they achieved a whore/madonna balance without which they might have found themselves under serious critical attack for their slut bias.

anti slut walkers

Two voices raised in feminist protest against slut walks are our very own Melinda Tankard Reist, and the woman Ben Pobjie, in a clever satirical piece at New Matilda, calls a “cock-blocker.” Guessed it yet? Yes, that’s right, it’s Gail Dines. Here ‘s a picture of the two of them cozying up at an anti slut walkers conference. Or maybe it was an anti pornography conference. Or maybe it was a how to hide your chocolate from the kids and still be a good mother conference.

I’ve never found the word slut to be offensive. When used as a weapon it says a lot more about the nature and beliefs of the individual using it than it does about its target. Well done, all you slut walkers for sticking it to those who want to put us down through their vicious co-option of language! Well done for reminding us that like the man kicked by a donkey, a wise slut overlooks the insult when she considers its source!

And heed this advice, sister sluts: stay out of draughts, never settle for less than the chicken’s breast, and tell your whining family to get over it, move on, the chocolate’s yours.

2002: UN condemns Australia on refugees. 2011: UN condemns Australia on refugees.

27 May

Mandatory Detention

Australia, 2002: The United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights, Mrs. Mary Robinson, requested Justice P.N. Bhagwati, Regional Advisor for Asia and the Pacific, to visit and report on the treatment of asylum seekers in detention in Australia in 2002, specifically focussing on the Woomera IRPC in South Australia. This report focused on ‘…the human rights issues related to the conditions of detention and the treatment of persons in the immigration facilities…’ (Bhagwati, 2008). Under ‘General Impression’ the first paragraph of the report reads as follows:

Justice Bhagwati was considerably distressed by what he saw and heard in Woomera. He met men, women and children who had been in detention for several months, some of them even for one or two years. They were prisoners without having committed any offence. Their only fault was that they had left their native home and sought to find refuge or a better life on the Australian soil. In virtual prison-like conditions in the detention centre, they lived initially in the hope that soon their incarceration will come to an end, but with the passage of time, the hope gave way to despair…He felt that he was in front of a great human tragedy. He saw young boys and girls, who instead of breathing the fresh air of freedom, were confined behind spiked iron bars…these children were growing up in an environment which affected their physical and mental growth and many of them were traumatised and led to harm themselves in utter despair.

Australia 2011: Change the names, dates and detention centres.

filipspagnoli wordpress.com

A DECADE OF COMPLETE FAILURE ON THE PART OF ALL POLITICAL PARTIES 

All I have is a voice: Christopher Hitchens, Leonard Cohen and Wallace Stevens

27 May
christopher hitchens

Image by the|G|™ via Flickr

Christopher Hitchens, author, journalist, literary critic, atheist, et al, is struggling with the painful indignities and violent assaults of oesophageal cancer. In this essay in Vanity Fair, he writes eloquently about his latest great loss – the loss of his voice.

Agree or disagree with Hitchens, and I for one have done both more times than I can count, this essay moved me to tears. As someone who is in remission, it doesn’t take much to make me weep about this particular topic, however Hitchens’s meditation on living his dying avoids sentimentality and cuts right to the bone.

Hitchens quotes the Leonard Cohen lines:

If it be your will,
That I speak no more:
And my voice be still,
As it was before …

I don’t know who or what Hitchens is addressing when he embraces this poignant and powerful song of surrender, and I don’t know who I’m addressing when I let Cohen’s lines speak for me and in me. But today they both reminded me  of Wallace Stevens’ poem, Notes Towards a Supreme Fiction:

Quint Buchholz. lemaze-studio.com

From this the poem springs:
That we live in a place that is not our own
And much more,
Not ourselves.
 

And for that, I thank them all.

 
 

We’ve come a long way, baby: 25 horribly sexist ads

26 May

25 horribly sexist ads is worth a look if you’re interested in making comparisons of how things used to be and how they are now in the depiction of women in the world of advertising.

Copy such as “Every husband wants his wife to be feminine” in an ad for Demure liquid douche, not to mention Lysol as a remedy for vaginal germs. If you don’t attend to them your husband will reject you and you’ve only got yourself to blame, smelly.

Then there’s the ad for the sturdy Volkswagon’s resistance to dents inevitably inflicted by the wife:  “Women are soft and gentle but they hit things.”

My personal favourite is the man with his foot on a woman’s head. Her body, BTW, has been transformed into a tiger skin rug. Wow.

So, are things better or worse for women in the world of advertising? Is it better to be portrayed as a vaginally stinky, germ-ridden bad tempered car smasher who wants a Hoover for Christmas, but on the bright side, knows how to open a sauce bottle by herself, or half naked in your underwear, spreading your legs, sucking on a lollypop and miming an insatiable desire for a penis in every orifice?

Danged if I know.

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