Showing posts from January, 2015

How Prince Phillip Got His Knighthood

SCENE: mid-January, a meeting at the office of Prime Minister Tony Abbott to discuss who shall be appointed to a knighthood under the revised Australian honours system. Present are the Prime Minister himself; his Chief of Staff Peta Credlin; secretary of the department of Prime Minister and Cabinet Michael Thawley; Abbott's Chief of Communications Mark Simkin; Deputy Secretary Dr Heather Smith; adviser on Honours, Symbols and Territories, Peter Rush; and numerous administrative and advisory staff. The decision to award a knighthood to retired airforce chief Angus Houston was met with general acclaim, but the issue of who else is to be honoured has stalled after several hours of at times heated discussion. Everyone is looking forward to getting out of there when Credlin says "I don't know, why don't we just give it to Prince Philip or something?" There is general mirth in the room. Abbott sits quietly for some long seconds, a half smile on his face, his eyes slight

No, we can't all just get along

Something we're hearing a lot as Australia Day approaches, with the attendant debates on whether it's appropriate to celebrate given what the day means for Indigenous Australians, is "come on guys, we're all equal! Why can't we all just get along?" Here's why not. Saying that race doesn't matter and we've moved on sure sounds plausible to the sort of people who believe that unless you're spouting off on Facebook that Aboriginals are all drunken layabouts that trash the palatial houses the government provides them, you're not racist. But in fact insisting we're all equal is perhaps the very definition of white privilege. It's denying the racism that is still a very real factor in the lives of black people in Australia today. How do I know this? From reading and listening to the lived experiences of black people. And they're under no obligation to present those experiences in a warm and fuzzy way to alleviate whitey guilt. They ha

Is a Serial Killer Targeting Sydney's Gay Men?

Media speculation is growing that the deaths of 61 people in the Manchester canals in the last six years cannot be explained away by accidents and may be the work of a serial killer  - a killer who is possibly targeting homosexual men in the gay district of Manchester surrounding Canal Street. It can take many years before a pattern becomes apparent in a string of unexplained deaths, and a noteworthy case in Australia is the so-called Bondi Gay murders. The Bondi Murders were a string of  up to 80 unexplained deaths of gay men and transgender women , largely in Sydney's beachside suburbs, stretching from the 1970s to the 1990s; you can also view a documentary on the case here .  The deaths included bashings, stabbings and most notably, an unknown number of men thrown off cliffs at Sydney beaches, often near known "gay beats" where men would meet for sexual encounters. The wave of violence was not recognised as a coordinated campaign against gay men at the time; the deaths

Making Circumcision a Men's Rights Issue is a Mistake

As someone who's been opposed to infant male circumcision for many years, I was somewhat startled to see a new voice in the debate recently; men's rights groups claiming that it's feminism's fault that cutting baby boys' genitals is not taken as seriously as when it happens to girls. It's frequently said that "you can't compare female genital mutilation to male circumcision", mainly by people from cultures where male circumcision is normalised, and not wanting to carry on the idea that if the latter is okay, the former must not be so bad either; actually, there are a lot of us who think both are pretty terrible. Not according to the men's rights movement though; it's feminists who have trivialised and stifled debate on circumcision, and the idea is getting airtime not just on MRA forums, but in the mainstream media, such as this article from the UK's Telegraph , where the writer blames acceptance of circumcision on: "...the world

The Two Types of Climate Skeptic

There's two types of climate change skeptic you see in the depressingly frequent "debates" on this issue. The first lot aim for an ( non -warming) air of legitimacy, with sites such as  Watts Up With That  and the very official sounding  Non-Governmental Panel on Climate Change . They have their celebrity spokespeople such as  Lord Monckton , and their own science too, with claims of manipulated figures, heavy use of phrases such as "anthropogenic", "natural cycles" and "global cooling", claims climate scientists are only in it for the money , and of course the oft-repeated claim that global warming  stopped in 1998 . (And it's always adorable when online commentators lose track of how many years it's been). They're a small group with a hell of a lot of funding on their side. The second lot, though...they make no pretence at evidence or credibility; they simply don't see the need. They say things like "well I don't th

Donald Trump, the Duggars and Guns In America

The rather odd attitude of sectors of American society to gun ownership could be summed up in this picture: Image from Duggar Family Blog It's Jedidiah Duggar, of the Duggar family of 19 Kids and Counting reality TV and evangelical fame, posing with the gun he was given as a 16th birthday present. Whilst the picture has attracted much criticism, defenders of the Duggars want you to know it's all okay. The official endorsed Duggar family blog  posted that the controversy misses a key point , the Duggars' stance on gun safety: The Duggars understand the importance of teaching their kids how to safely use firearms in order to prevent or minimize the likelihood of accidents.   Here is what Jim Bob Duggar said about the issue when it was brought up by the media in 2011:   "We believe it is important for children to learn safety about guns and knives. To learn how to use them properly and to learn not to use them to hurt others but to use them as a tool."   The Duggars

I'm Also Done Apologising

When I was 18 I travelled with a large group of other Australians to Tokyo. I know - lucky kid, huh? What a great way to celebrate adulthood and finishing the HSC. All that culture, electronics, great food - I should have had the time of my life. I hated it, and I couldn't quite fathom why. I remember getting a subway to Ginza, standing in a six-story electronics department store, and freaking out, tears rolling down my cheeks. It was awful. It was too much. I couldn't cope, and I couldn't understand why everyone else was having such a great time. I assumed everyone found Tokyo, the world, life as overwhelming as I did, but they handled it better; I was just a spoilt brat, weak, wrong. I didn't know I was different. Oh, well of course I knew. I was always told I was weird, boring, that no one liked me, that my meltdowns were the sign of a bad character, that I was just wrong. No one made allowances or took any of my quirks into consideration; it was all my fault and it

Halal Choices

New year, renewed to-do about Halal foods in the supermarket . Although many common food items have been Halal certified for years, the bigots and racists are only making a fuss about it now. Of course, they deny being racist on the grounds "Islam is not a race!" even as they refer to "ragheads" and "sandn******" who need to go back to their own country, said country not being Australia, which is apparently reserved for whatever they have deemed to be the Australian race. Okay... Anyway, they want you to know they have really good reasons for boycotting Halal food: Halal fees fund terrorism (really? Any evidence of that? Well, don't just post it on your Facebook pages, contact the federal police).  They resent having to pay an extra fee for Halal certification of foods, even though such a fee is so negligible as to be laughable - you'd have to buy over 100 jars of Vegemite to pay a cent towards Halal certification (would you bother to pick up a 5c