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Showing posts from 2015

A Teachable Moment

A belated Merry Christmas everyone. Like many of you I've been eating, drinking and spending time with family, including my 60ish, conservative leaning, Liberal voting, talkback radio listening father. Now, he knows I'm a massive lefty , so keeps most of his views quiet when I'm around (and certainly I like to avoid political arguments at Christmas, in front of Mr G) . Nonetheless, in a discussion over coffee and cake about the changing face of Sydney, Dad did mention that he finds the full face burqa confronting. And as a straight white middle aged man, he's probably never been confronted by anything in public. So I said "it's interesting that you find yourself confronted by someone in public, because as women, we are aware of risk and danger when we go out in public all the time, constantly, every single time. Because the risk of something happening is real, and that's why you don't sit next to the lone man on the bus, or cross the street when you se

My Tempestuous Relationship With Opal

Ignore the haters who say an arts degree won't get you anywhere. Photo: Business Insider So the Opal card system turned three this week. And it doesn't look a day over what do you mean the bloody Opal reader isn't working. I have a love-hate relationship with Opal. God knows Sydney was long overdue for an automated ticketing system - it was first proposed to have one in place for the 2000 Olympics, but the final product wasn't implemented until 12 years later - and the Byzantine array of weeklies, monthlies, travel tens and excursions needed fixing. Now there's just one reusable card for everything, tap on, tap off, what could be easier and you don't even have to talk to anyone. Tremendous, right? But there are some...issues. The system is infamous for the number of non-functioning readers. Sometimes this means a free journey (though that can be frustrating itself when you're trying to get reward, on which more shortly). But more often, because you can'

RIP Scott Weiland

When yet another of the idols of your youth has died, and yet another little bit of you has died with them. It's a bit weird, cause we all saw this coming for twenty years, we've seen several sources proclaiming his death from reputable sources, and it turns out to not be true. And now it is true, and it may not be a surprise but it's still a shock, and it still fucking hurts. Death thou shalt die; you think you have our measure but you don't. 

No Australian Gun massacres? Not Quite

Following this week's ( this week' s! How we mark these things now) gun massacre in the United States , the usual response swings into place, so rehearsed by now it might as well be scripted. Footage of terrified victims being evacuated, local officials giving statements; President Obama addresses the nation looking grave; and the issue of gun control is raised again. The pro gun lobby will argue that the problem here is mental illness, not access to guns (although in this latest shooting, given the perpetrators were Muslim, it is of course being labelled terrorism); gun control advocates will favour reigning in America's absurd appetite for firearms, pointing to the Australian example, where following the Port Arthur massacre in 1996, a guns buy back was enacted, tough new guns laws enforced, and there have been no mass shootings since. I'm not an American and have stopped trying to get involved in their gun control debates; Lord knows, there's enough frustrating a

Why I'm Really A Lefty

I've heard gay people explain how they knew they were gay when they were six; before they even knew what gay was.  Well, I knew I was a socialist at six before I knew what socialism was, or really anything about politics. Visiting Sydney's home of waterfront mansions, Palm Beach, with my parents I overheard them talking wistfully about "how the other half live". I knew that you got money from work, so I didn't understand - my father worked two jobs, he would be away from home working for weeks at a time, how could you do all that work and not be rich? Were there other ways to get rich? It didn't seem very fair.  My knowledge of political economy has expanded somewhat from there, but my basic political philosophy remains the same. If you work hard, and are a good person, then barring calamity nothing bad should happen to you. If you are unable to work for whatever reason, those who do enjoy that good fortune, through taxes, should allow you to live a life of mo

Newcastle off the Rails

I've been at times a bit rough on my fellow Novocastrians (I will always consider myself one even though I don't live there right now). I've long stated Newcastle's city motto should be "getting all worked up over nothing". Goodness me, how they love to argue! Give them any issue - entry fees into swimming pools, say, or whether some trees should be removed - and they will fight to the death, on twitter and the comments section of the Newcastle Herald, with personal insults and accusations of bias, until you get the impression it's the argument that's the point here, not the issue at hand. However, there is one area where Novocastrians could be justified in getting a little crazy, and that's the matter of public transport. To background: in December 2014, the heavy rail line that branched off the main Northern line into the centre of Newcastle's CBD was closed. The closure came after many years of debate, which people expressed weariness of; th

Acknowledging International Men's Day

November 19 marks International Men's Day. No, I'm not mocking it or the people who celebrate it, and I'm not facetiously asking what other opportunities have their been for the achievements of men to be celebrated. Because IMD isn't, shouldn't be about that. The recent rise of the men's rights movement has. somewhat ironically, proved a point that feminists have been making for decades - that there are issues that affect men and women differently on the basis of gender. It doesn't mean that these issues never affect anyone of the other  sex and/or gender. But this is why domestic violence is frequently, and correctly, framed as a feminist issue; it does disproportionately affect women, and no matter how many times men's rights activists state "1 in 3 victims are men" or "women can be just as violent" it doesn't arise out of a vacuum, or from the individual actions of violent men or women, but from a society underpinned by noti

How does Andrew Bolt get away with this?

I often wonder how Andrew Bolt gets away with writing the stuff he does. No, not the constant stream of vile racist rubbish. We've already been there, done that. I mean how he gets away with - and gets paid for - publishing up to ten posts a day of cut and pasted junk that defies the most basic logic and would insult the intelligence of a bright 11 year old (but not a Herald Sun reader). To wit, today, under a column entitled "What drowning seas?" he claims contradicts the sea level rise predictions of "warmists" (nonce word that, may as well call those advocating for vaccination "diseasists") and then consists in its entirety text taken from another site: I stumbled the other day across a user-friendly website for actual sea-level data (no forecasting or homogenising involved). It’s not one of those sceptic sites, like, but from NOAA, America’s National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration. NOAA tracks sea-level movements around

Kathleen Folbigg is a monster who should not be in jail

What could be more horrific, more disturbing to the fundamental principles of humanity, than a mother who kills her children? Who could be more of a monster, more the epitome of everything we fear and despise, than Kathleen Folbigg? Folbigg achieved notoriety in 2003 when she was convicted for the deaths of her four children – Caleb, Patrick, Sarah and Laura – over a ten year period. She was convicted of manslaughter over the death of her first child, Caleb, and murder of the subsequent three children. The deaths of the earlier children aroused no suspicion and were attributed to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). SIDS is a diagnosis often made in the absence of evidence of cause of death, when an infant dies unexpectedly in their sleep. It was the death of the fourth child, Laura, which drew Folbigg to the attention of authorities; at 19 months old, she was well past the traditional danger age for SIDS, and had been by all accounts a healthy child. There was much debate as to whethe

Dear Baby Boomers: I Hate You

Let's get a few things straight from the start. Baby boomers, I don't hate you individually. I've got nothing against you personally. I know you are an extremely diverse group. Many of you have struggled with poverty, disadvantage, racism, sexism and homophobia. Many of you have spent your lives working towards the betterment of society. You are not the people I'm talking about, here. But I hate "baby boomers", as a group, who have enjoyed massive circumstances of privilege throughout their life course - and now vote and demand that subsequent generations do not share these privileges; and now squeal like stuck pigs when the structural inequality that you have benefited from is pointed out to you. The number one complaint heard from baby boomers is that they had to work hard for everything they got. No doubt you did. But think about it. You could if you wanted leave school at 15 and get a respectable job. You knew that unless you stole from petty cash or turne

Breaking Point

Baby G turned four this week.. We spent the day in a peaceful seaside town, and he was gifted a Transformers set and surfboard amongst other things, had chicken schnitzel at the club for dinner, and ice cream cake, and fell asleep with all right in the world, as we thought how very lucky we are to have him.  The next day the world woke to the heartbreaking picture of a little boy who will never be four, Aylan Kurdi, drowned on a Turkish beach, fleeing the war in Syria along with his mother and brother, who also died. The world reacted with grief and horror, the current refugee crisis personified in the tiny body clad in his little red shirt and blue shorts, alone and wet on the sand. We needed a solution, some way to help these people fleeing a situation more appalling than most of us could imagine, so bad they would risk their lives on flimsy boats to escape. Our Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, had one. Europe could stop asylum seekers drowning by stopping the boats , as Australia claims

Bronwyn Bishop, Phony Solicitor

So Bronwyn Bishop, the worst speaker the Australian House of Representatives has ever seen, was  finally forced to resign yesterday , after weeks of condemnation for her brazen digging in the public till, from taking a helicopter ride to a party fundraiser when it would have been quicker to drive, to commandeering limousines to attend a night at the opera. Don't let the door hit your butt on the way out (actually, she retains her generous MPs salary and lavish superannuation, so she can still grift safely for the rest of her life). So we know she was greedy and thoughtless. But it seems she's also a fraud. Wanting to know a bit more about what lead to this national nonsense, I headed to her Wikipedia article , where I saw this interesting information: "Bishop undertook a five-year LLB program at the University of Sydney.[3] However, she was deemed ineligible to continue after failing a number of subjects multiple times.[4] Bishop failed a total of 11 subjects over six year

On Bob Ellis

Yes he was perhaps the Piers Akerman of the left and could be a bit grumpy and crazy at times (I have seen this first hand and can attest) and yet. When I read "First Abolish the Customer" at 19, it was a political awakening, a fundamental shift in my consciousness, and it set me on the political path I continue today, and my enduring hatred of the stifling parasitic cancer of economic rationalism. (Studying social science, then social work, at university, I think I have referenced that book in every essay I've written). And so it went: Ellis's words and books have been there to illuminate and enlighten every major political event in the nearly 20 years (dear god, so long) since, the proudly defiant Ellis shelf on my bookcase. And now he is dying, and it feels like the pending loss of a grumpy uncle. perhaps, whom you nevertheless had great affection for, and the liver cancer he says will kill him means he will never see the end of the Abbott government. Not here to m

The Most Important Pro-choice Argument

So many arguments between the pro- and anti- choice movements on abortion come down to a key issue - what is a human life and when does it begin? When sperm meets egg, which considering that 50% of all conceptions never implant, which means a sexually active women should probably hold a funeral every time she menstruates, just in case? At the quickening, as was church teaching throughout history? At birth? Here's the thing. When we're talking about abortion, it doesn't matter when life begins. That's not the point. Even if you believe that human life, in all its worth, begins at conception, in denying an abortion to a woman who wants one, in forcing her to use her body to protect a human baby, you are forcing her to use her body to sustain another life. We don't do that in any other circumstance. We don't even do that after death, seeing that organ donation is not compulsory; you can choose to be buried or cremated with your organs even if it means the death of

What The Catholic Church Really Believes About Homosexuality

In my quest for spiritual awareness, I've been keeping an eye on a few Catholic websites and forums lately. As you might expect, they're none too happy about the SCOTUS decision legalising same sex marriage across the United States. They're unhappy because homosexuality is unnatural and evil and disgusting, right? Actually, no. I used to believe that was the Church's stance on homosexuality; I was wrong. It's something quite else entirely; however, I wouldn't be expecting Pope Francis to be rocking the rainbow vestments any time soon. Let's go to the official teaching of the Church, the Catechism : 2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual

Stuff Baby G Says

Baby G is three and a half. An only child. A little odd (can't think where he gets it). This is some stuff he has said. We were enjoying the play area at the Newcastle museum when for no apparent reason he bolted for the door at top speed. Upon catching up and asking why, he said "there was a tiger" and refused to elaborate further. Told no because Santa is coming soon when asking for a toy near Christmas: "Santa will be very happy to see me". Play acting a phone call, as he placed the phone in the cradle: "That was a rabbit". "A talking rabbit?" "Yeah, it speaks English". The night before Easter Sunday, told the Easter bunny is coming tonight: "So will there be eggs for me tomorrow?" Coy parent: "Maaayyybe...." "So there may not?" "When I grow up I'm going to buy Mummy a new ipad, because hers is broken" "And how did it break?" (he stood on it) "...the next one won't br

The Most Disturbing Thing About the Duggar Sex Abuse Scandal

Rumours have been swirling for years; he always did seem a bit slimy, a bit creepy - but today it was confirmed that in 2006 Josh Duggar of the reality show 19 Kids and Counting was investigated for sexually molesting several underage girls over the period 2002-2003. It hasn't been confirmed that these girls were his sisters, but all lived in the same house as him, Josh's parents are named as the victims' parents, and one of them is said to be underage now, in 2015 - his sister, Joy, who was five years old in 2003. I'll wait whilst the bile rising in your throat settles. Josh's father, Jim Bob (yee haw) apparently waited over a year before taking Josh to the police; the investigating officer (who was later jailed himself for child pornography offences) gave Josh a stern talking to but took it no further, the statute of limitations expired, and that was seemingly that. The family reportedly "turned closer to God", Josh married and had several children, a

Abuse at Catholic Schools - I hope things have changed

It's a fairly minor story - an anecdote, really - compared to the horrors being exposed , continuously, at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse; the Catholic school in Ballarat where at one point in the 1970s every teacher was a child sex abuser, the class at that school where 12 of 33 pupils have committed suicide. And yet I tell this little tale of the attitude of a teacher at a Catholic school in the 1980s towards quite probable child sex abuse, to shine a light on how children were viewed at the time, on how signs of abuse were viewed, on how much "pastoral care" was going on, on just how they were able to get away with the whole thing for so long. Whilst I never really had a group of friends, in the late 1980s, in my later years of primary school at a Catholic school in Sydney's northern beaches, I briefly joined a group of girls in my year to draw comics. We all loved to sit on the playground and draw and write stories in stacks o

Mutant Miranda Devine

Just in time for Mother's Day, News columnist Miranda Devine has trotted out a rather bizarre article blaming " mutant feminists " for creating an atmosphere of rape hysteria, where the merest hint of a rape allegation ruins men's lives and turns the accusers into media darlings.  It's the continuing theme of right wing women relentlessly criticising feminism they don't understand, until one of their own comes under attack and they demand to know where is the "sisterhood" (if Julie Bishop, say, comes under sexist attack then I'll condemn that but I still hate her politics). In this case, Devine claims feminists have created such an hysteria about rape claims that . It's telling that Devine uses an example of an apparent false rape allegation from the US; apparently there were no Australian cases worth citing. If we are going to deal in anecdotes, allow me to share one that's much closer to home, literally; a few metres from my house is a

You Can't Compare Chan and Sukumaran to Australian Soldiers

I've seen a couple of remarks from people upset that, following the execution of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran in Indonesia last week, the media have been referring to the repatriation of their bodies as "bringing our boys home". One poster who was very upset - you could tell from the lots and lots of exclamation marks - that this is the same term used to describe Australian troops returning from Iraq. They were very disgusted at the comparison, and they are right. You really can't compare them. Because unlike the people who would have used the heroin Chan and Sukumaran would have imported, the people of Iraq got no say whatsoever at being put at risk of death. Because unlike Chan and Sukumaran, I haven't heard too many Australian soldiers who've returned from Iraq admit that the invasion was a grave mistake. That it was based on a lie, that Iraq never posed any threat to Australia, that hundreds of thousands of innocent people were killed, that the subseq

Asthma and what came after

Gosh, it's been simply ages since I've posted. I've been a bit busy. Starting at a new uni, it not quite working, starting at a different uni, job hunting, house hunting, volunteering on the state election campaign, traffic snarls, political trouble both at home and abroad...but I've promised DH the second all those things go away, we'll have sex . (Except I'm writing this post first. Sorry, honey!). Then there was the small matter of Baby G getting sick. He's always been a robust and healthy kid, not inheriting his father's skin and respiratory issues, and I thought if he didn't develop problems after living next to the coal trains in Newcastle for two years, he never would. So when he popped up one Saturday a couple weeks back with what seemed to be a bit of a cold, I wasn't too concerned. He was a bit lethargic but still cheerful; I rubbed his little chest with Vaporub, wrapped him warmly, planned to make a chicken soup he wouldn't eat.

Can We Save These Two Lives?

Very moving scenes from this morning's candlelight vigil in Canberra to save the lives of Andrew Chan and Muyuran Sukumaran. Some have lamented the amount of media attention these men are getting. "If only we paid this much attention to women killed by domestic violence." I for one am glad of the attention Chan and Sukumaran are getting - the face of a united Australia may be the best chance to convince the Indonesian government to save their lives. But it's not a zero sum game; I also wish this much media attention was given to violence against women. The deaths of women at the hands of their partners is an unspeakable tragedy in Australia that we must start speaking about - 17 so far just this year; the latest the mother of a week-old baby allegedly killed with an axe by her ex-partner the day after she sought court protection from him (I'm a pretty hardened type and it takes a lot to shock me, but dear God). So, how can we save the lives of the next two women

So Angry About Asylum Seekers

Cathy Wilcox The National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention was released in parliament this week - four months after the government received it in November (and at the end of a week when the PM was looking for anything to distract from his own leadership). It contains extremely distressing accounts of the lives of children in detention; the physical, psychological and in some cases sexual abuse; the trauma, the self harm, the bed wetting and nightmares; children who cannot conceive of a world outside of wire and bars and armed guards; babies unable to learn to walk because they have no safe place to learn to crawl. The nation from our leaders on down were horrified, and immediately united to find a bipartisan solution to end this suffering. Well, I wish that were true. Instead, our Prime Minister, the proud head of the policy to keep asylum seeker children indefinitely locked up in detention centres, said that he felt no guilt whatsoever  over the plight of children in de