Monday, December 30, 2013

The $6 Co-Payment - Why The Liberals Just Don't Get It

There's no denying health care costs in Australia are very high - and will continue to increase as the baby boomers enter retirement age - but the government has flagged a terrible (and hitherto unannounced) solution: charging a $5 copayment for people to visit the GP. After warnings that people will instead go to hospital emergency departments, a charge to attend there has been suggested as well. Whilst some are disavowing the idea, many Liberals are digging their heels in. $5 isn't that much after all, and poor people shouldn't expect everything for free.

Now, it may be hard for someone on a skiing holiday in France to understand just how much difference $5 can make to someone who's barely getting by. (The adviser who recommended the charge condescendingly, and inaccurately, compared it to "the cost of a burger and fries" - because that's what they imagine poor people eat). The dole, for instance, is $35 a day to live on - that has to cover everything; food, rent, transport, medical care. A politician or government adviser would have absolutely no comprehension what that's like (are there any members of federal parliament who have been unemployed, or on a pension?). Our Prime Minister is approaching his 20th year in parliament, most of it on ministerial pay; you cannot tell me he can possibly have any idea what it's like to keep a family of four on $42,000 a year. Or less. No wonder $5 seems like nothing to them.

Another factor raised is that this measure will cut down on "unnecessary" visits to the doctor. Is there any evidence that all these unnecessary visits are taking place? Part of the problem is that many employers require a doctor's certificate for even a day's absence (I had an employer who said I'd need to get a doctor's certificate to leave work at 2pm with severe pregnancy nausea - meaning I had to go to the doctor instead of going home and passing out on the bathroom floor, which was all I wanted). With the increasing casualisation of the workforce, many employees are already losing a day's pay if they're sick. It seems a bit bloody much to slug them with a charge to get a doctor's certificate as well.

But the Liberals really, really hate the idea of their money being used on services for the less fortunate. Conservatives treat their money like a toddler treats their toys; you can explain the concept of sharing, that they've got more than they need and the little boy over there has none and it wouldn't hurt to give him some, but they will still scream "NO! MINE". They love to pontificate about how hard they work, as if they really work harder than the single mother of three who works 30 hours a week at Woolworths and can barely afford the petrol to get to work, and then what happens if her kids get multiple bouts of gastro and bronchitis over a winter? Oh but they'll say, people shouldn't have kids if they can't afford it...but abortion is wrong, the easy convenient way out. The cycle of hatred is endless. Most of the well off can't admit, even to themselves, that through health and education and relationships, they're the winners of a lottery that too many other people are losing; then, through cuts to education and health care, they further hamper the chances of those who've already started the race behind; that through economic rationalism, they've destroyed the social contract that says if you work hard and are a good person you will get ahead - and then they claim their success was due to hard work and if only poor people tried harder, they could be successful too.

If the health care system is struggling financially, increase the Medicare levy on high income earners. And when I get back on my feet financially I'll happily pay it. I can't say I'll have much time for the class warfare whining of the wealthy, who apparently look at the social problems caused by the U.S. user pays system and say "ooh, yes please". In health, as in education, we're sliding further down the path of a two-tier system and it needs to stop, now.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

So, You Don't Believe In Global Warming

You don't believe in man made global warming. You think the whole idea is rubbish.

In other words, you believe that the vast majority of scientists, universities, governments, international insurance corporations, international banking, and the media are all in on an massive global scam to just make shit up. And there is more money to be made from this, apparently, than by telling the truth that fossil fuel burning has no ill environmental effects and we can carry on using them.

And only you and a few other brave souls are brave enough to see through this.

And they call the Greens fringe dwellers...

Anyway, if you're struggling with the concept of how there can be global warming when you remember very hot days from your youth, and we still have cold days now, this handy simple chart sums it up:


Although I do notice those who say "so much for global warming LOL, it's snowing in Egypt" never say "well, maybe I was wrong" when we have yet another record-breaking heatwave...

~~~~~

Also, a word on our Facebook page. I resisted setting up a blog Facebook page for a long time, but I've recently set one up, and post stuff there that doesn't quite make a full blog post, but is interesting anyway (well I think so). You can also comment on posts there if you have trouble with Blogger's commenting system. So pop over and hit like, I'm not going to tie you up and force you, and I could, cause I've been going to the gym lately.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The ABC Isn't Lefty Indoctrination - This Is Lefty Indoctrination

Ah, the poor old ABC. Seems like no matter what they do, people aren't happy. From the anguish of the left that Howard era hawk Peter Reith features so prominently on political panel show The Drum, to the eternal accusations that the national broadcaster has a leftist bias. Now they're in power, Rupert Murdoch and his cronies will stop at nothing to crush the ABC, culminating in the bizarre accusation this week by that frothing love child of Andrew Bolt and a particularly ravishing cane toad, Piers Akerman, that the harmless darling of preschool programming, Peppa Pig, pushes a weird feminist agenda.

Accusations that the ABC has a secret plot to indoctrinate kids with a socialist line are nothing new. We all know Jemima from Playschool is a lesbian - she wears overalls, after all -  and what about the Bananas in Pyjamas? Obviously an unemployed homosexual couple; they never get out of the pyjamas and go to work. And let's not even think about all the coming down the stairs.

Look, it's true that in Peppa Pig women have jobs. They even go to a recycling centre - run by a woman. And whilst right wingers may think that kind of thing makes Baby Jesus cry, it's not actually lefty indoctrination. Having a two year old, I see many, many hours of ABC 4 Kids, and none of it looks like lefty indoctrination to me. And I should know. Because I am trying to indoctrinate my child.


Baby G, at age two, has marched (or ridden in an ergo carrier) against coal loaders, to show support for climate action, against mandatory detention, for pay rises for community sector workers. He has listened to his parents explain, to someone queueing up to vote and grumbling what a waste of time it is, why voting is a right to be cherished. He has been to Greens party events. He has been refused permission to carry a Liberal party balloon and been dressed in a t shirt saying THIS IS WHAT A FEMINIST LOOKS LIKE. He has overheard hundreds of dinner table conversations about lefty issues. He's even met Bob Brown whilst still in utero (okay maybe that one doesn't count, but I will proudly tell him about it when he's old enough to know nevertheless). We will continue to explain to him why we believe locking up asylum seekers is wrong, and why same sex marriage should be legalised, and why the original inhabitants of this land should be recognised in the constitution, and that as a white male in a rich country he is in a privileged position, and he has a duty to help those less fortunate. And I suppose we have to brace for a possible adolescent rebellion where he joins an evangelical church and the Young Liberals, but I hope not. I hope he grows up with real values and an urge to take action to make the world a better place. And this is what imbuing a child with lefty values looks like. Not an animated rabbit who happens to be female, driving a truck.

If you disagree with raising a child this way, that's fine; I don't recommend it for your child. I suppose if you're a paranoid conservative, everything seems like left wing bias. But can I say to the right wing commetariat that I know what leftist indoctrination of a child looks like, because I'm doing so. And ABC children's programming isn't it.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Feminism on the Maternity Ward - The Right To Choose A Caesarian

As we hear of yet another instance of a pregnant woman apparently forced to give birth via c-section, I'm thinking of how many others there must be like me - women forced to give birth vaginally, denied their right to bodily autonomy by being denied the right to give birth by c-section as they desired. For those not familiar with my story, I requested a c-section late in my pregnancy due to psychological reasons at the public hospital I was due to give birth at, and was turned down. I ended up delivering by caesarian, but only after reaching 12 day post dates and a failed 48 hour attempt to induce labour. The full story is here. A hospital, seeking to keep it's caesarian rates down, deemed my reasons for avoiding vaginal birth unworthy.

A woman's right to bodily autonomy is not trumped by a hospital's policy to keep c-section rates down. There may be all sorts of reasons a woman wishes to deliver by c-section, very few of them being because she's "too posh to push". Maybe she's been hurt, traumatised, has a fear of pain, past abuse, suffers anxiety. It doesn't matter. It's none of anyone else's business. It's her call to make. Armed with the full knowledge of the risks of both vaginal and caesarian deliveries, it should be the woman's final decision to make if she desires to give birth by caesarian section. If she has suffered from abuse or trauma, she should not have to explain herself over and over to hospital counsellors and social workers, shouldn't have to beg, shouldn't have to leave a decision regarding her basic bodily autonomy in someone else's hands, shouldn't have to suffer to contribute to a figure in an end of year departmental report. Just about every decent person is on board with the idea that it is wrong to force a woman to continue with a pregnancy against her will. Why is it deemed acceptable to force a woman to deliver vaginally against her will? To tell her not everything in life can be controlled and vaginal deliveries are safer for babies and if she can't grasp either concept, maybe she's just not ready for motherhood?

This isn't a concept with much support in feminist circles, alas. Notions of feminist birth and empowering birth often focus on achieving homebirth or birth with as little medical intervention as possible. I'm very glad these voices are being heard. I'm glad we've moved away from the days when a labouring woman was admitted to hospital, shaved and given an enema, and left to labour on a steel trolley for days whilst her husband alternatively paced in the hall or went to the pub. I'm glad the right of women to have autonomy over their birth is changing hospital procedure. But sadly these policies and these women's voices are not speaking in support of a woman's right to choose a c-section. That right is little acknowledged at all, and living in a state where abortion still falls under the Crimes Act, let alone which recently passed laws infringing on women's rights by creating a fiction of fetal personhood, it is hard to imagine such a right being legally recognised any time soon. We'll keep seeing articles lamenting that the c-section rate is too high. But as feminism makes in-roads in the maternity units and birth centres, and more women are able to access the kind of birth they want, it would be nice to see avoiding forced vaginal birth is no longer seen as a privilege.

Edit: I've started a change.org petition to have the right to a c-section for abuse survivors in NSW hospitals enshrined in law.

Please sign and share.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Sleep School: What Really Goes On At Tresillian

Sleep training is one of those emotive parenting topics (and what parenting topics are not emotive?). Should we attempt to get our babies into some sort of sleeping schedule, or leave them to sort themselves out? In the early days of parenting, I firmly came down on the sleep-training-is-cruel side. I left my online mothers group after being supportive came to involve mothers swapping tips on how to stay strong when leaving their six week olds to cry for up to twenty minutes. None of that for us, I thought. We co-slept till BabyG was old enough to go in his cot, which we kept next to the bed, and he was a dream sleeper. I don't know what other women go on about, with the lack of sleep, I thought; this is too easy.

Then the dreaded four month sleep regression hit, pretty much down to the day. BabyG went from waking up maybe twice a night, to waking up every hour - one horror night every forty five minutes - and being bloody impossible to get back to sleep. Naps went all out to hell, too - and so did DH and I. We became bickering, clueless zombies - and I was hit with the full slug of post natal depression and PTSD. Post natal depression can have a delayed onset, but I didn't know this until my excellent GP picked it up and arranged counselling, and strategies to deal with BabyG, and suggested we might all benefit from a trip to Tresillian. Sleep school? Not for us. Sleep training is not for babies who wear amber necklaces and cloth nappies and never get put down.

But the tears and screaming and threats of divorce became too much. So, when BabyG was seven months old, we went to sleep school. I was still afraid of what went on there, but something had to give. As it turned out, I was wrong about a lot of what goes on - and so are a lot of people, to judge from the comment recently heard in a uni tutorial about Tresillian being a horrible place where babies are left in cages to cry (really). So, here's my impressions of what goes on in sleep school. We went to the Tresillian at Canterbury Hospital; I imagine the others are much the same. Incidentally, it's not just a sleep school; they can help with a range of adjustment to parenting issues. I envy those to whom parenting comes easily; it sure as hell didn't for me.

BabyG at Tresilian, failing to be traumatised by the experience

The unit is on the Canterbury hospital campus, but completely separate to it. We checked in about 9am on our first day. It's a five day program, and arrival is staggered; so when you're on day 1, other parents are on days 2, 3, 4 or 5. There's accommodation for about ten families at once. You get your own room with queen bed and ensuite; each bedroom has an antechamber with separate access with cot and changing facilities, so staff can attend to your baby without coming into your room. Then there's a dining room, TV room, indoor and outdoor play areas (we were living in a flat at the time so we all loved this). First day is intake interviews, talking with staff about the problems you're having with parenting, and chatting with the other parents. I'm not a particularly loquacious person, but even I found it really valuable talking with other parents who were going through the same things, like feeling like a failure when it's 3am and you've been trying for ninety minutes to get your kid to sleep and having passing thoughts that you'd like to go back in time to the night of conception and use a condom. Tresillian does take kids up till age two at Canterbury - and up till 3 at other centres - but when we were there most of the babies were between 6 and 12 months old.

Anyway, after the staff (lovely nurses!) work out where everyone is up to, they give you a daily routine to aim for; either a four hourly routine for younger babies; or like G, being put on what is known as the toddler routine (he was only just gone seven months when we went, but like many post dates babies he's always been a big, well developed kid). The toddler routine had the aim of getting the kid to sleep through the night or near to it - seemed an impossible dream at that stage. Also, we got a much better idea of how much he should be eating. BabyG can be a greedy little pig when it comes to food; they put him on the portion size "we normally give to the big ten month old boys" and he wolfed it down. The babies' food is freshly prepared at the centre everyday, good baby friendly food with lots of fruit and veggies. They also have all formulas. The adults' food...it's hospital meals on trays. Sorry about that. The centre is quite close to Campsie and Belmore, so you can go for a walk (or drive) to get food there (you can head off for a walk whenever your kid is awake, which we did a lot as I like exploring new places).

The first night, you leave your baby with the nurses and head off for a full night's sleep. In theory. I'm not going to lie; walking away from him, leaving him in the care of others and not having him in the room with me for the first time since he was born, was damn tough and I cried a bit. But damn I did appreciate the rest. We had recently started comp feeding at this stage, so the nurses gave him a bottle at 10pm; if you're breastfeeding you can go in to do the dream feed.

Day two, you start learning to settle your baby yourself. And yes, this did involve a little bit of letting him cry, which again was extremely tough as it was not something we had ever done before. I explained to the nurses that we favoured gentle parenting methods and weren't in favour of leaving him to cry, so they kept his "crying times" down to a minimum.  I hated the thought of him crying and thinking we'd abandoned him, so I would say softly, "Mama's here, darling, it's time to sleep now". It took some work, over the few days we were there. We also worked on my baby wrapping, which I never got good at (DH was much better...in fact on our first date he told me he wanted to write a book on traditional methods of baby wrapping, and I pretty much stripped naked then and there. Luckily G grew out of wrapping not long after.

Also on the second day, you see a social worker. This was the only part of the program I didn't get on board with; I was already seeing a counsellor at the time, and that was quite enough thank you. But I imagine it's very useful for a lot of parents.

Over the next few days, you find your feet with the settling and feeding, and get to relax and just focus on your kid. It's nice to not have to worry about housework or anything; whilst G was sleeping, I got a lot of time to read, which I hadn't really done since he was born. Also, one evening during your stay, you can leave your baby with the nurses and head out for a date night; we headed to Burwood for a Sichuan feast. The nurses also didn't mind, in the evening, us letting them know if we were heading out to get an ice cream nearby. I was lucky that we lived nearby and due to DH's work, he was able to spend most of the stay with us; it would be trickier if you had to visit alone because your partner had to stay behind and work, as happened to a friend of mine who had to travel down from Newcastle.

By day five, home time, we were all feeling a lot better but apprehensive that we'd be able to make things work. But although there were some hiccups, we all got the hang of it and when we moved to Newcastle a few weeks later, G went into his own room and slept from 6pm to 6am with a dreamfeed around 10pm. We dropped the dreamfeed around age one (I think...). He's now two and a bit, and still an excellent sleeper. We  give him his dummy, say good night and I love you and almost every night, he climbs into bed and goes straight to sleep. And I say a little prayer of thanks to Tresillian and the awesome people who work there.

Look, it's not for everyone. Yes, it does involve some crying. But not too much; you don't have to harden yourself and ignore your natural instincts to be with your baby. And I can't calculate how many tears Tresillian has saved us in the past two years - mine and his. If you want to feed your baby through the night into toddlerhood, that's your choice and none of my damn business. But I know it was definitely the right decision for us, and if you've come here by Google and are considering whether it's right for you, I hope this has been helpful.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Shoot Your Love All Over Me

In this era of divorce, family breakdown and uncertainty, it can be easy to beocme cynical about the prospect of ever finding true love. So thank goodness that News Limited still knows when to share a story of heartwarming romance with its readers, bringing us the tearjerking tale of Matthew Webb and Audrey Mayo. He accidentally shot her in the leg whilst taking shots at deer - now they're a couple. Aww. As the article says, love can blossom in the most unlikely circumstances. Can you imagine a more perfect start to a relationship?

He's a keeper. Photo via Gawker
Audrey Mayo and Matthew Webb officially became a couple on November 21. But that date is also significant for another reason. It's the day Matthew accidentally shot Audrey. The pair were hanging out on the roof of Matthew's mother's house in the small town of LaFayette, Georgia. He spotted some deer across the road and decided to try and shoot one. Ms Mayo stayed on the roof, but soon thought she heard Matthew calling for her. She climbed down from the roof, walked across the street and called out to him. "I was doing like a half yell," Audrey told timesfreepress.com. "I didn't want to scare the deer away." As he hunted in thick bushes looking for the deer, Matthew heard rustling and saw movement. He gripped his rifle, aimed and fired. "And then I heard a gunshot," Audrey said. "And then I felt it. And then I hit the ground."

Of course any decent hunter would be taking targeted shots at animals, not shooting at random at in the hope of somehow hitting the animal. But it would be petty to quibble when this lovely young couple have a whole bright shining future ahead of them. Well, mostly whole:

The bullet sliced through a vein that runs behind her right kneecap, damaging some nerves. She's currently on nine medications and the pain is often unbearable. "If she contracts a serious infection, her leg may have to be amputated."

Still, love conquers all, even cultural differences, such as the astonishingly blase attitude of many Americans to guns:

Audrey's family aren't angry at Matthew. The shooting was an accident, and he's even moved in with Audrey's family to help care for her. Despite the pain, Audrey's family have found a way to laugh about the whole thing. "Once we realised she was alive - and that she was going to be alive - we started to lighten up a little bit," said Audrey's sister, Rachel Mayo Greer.

I don't know. I reckon I'd be pretty freaking furious if someone shot someone I love whilst taking potshots at deer off the roof, but I guess that attitude is one of the drawbacks of living in a society with such restrictive firearms legislation. Who knows how many chances to be happy have been lost without bullets flying around, taking a chance they'll find someone's heart?  I can imagine a few of these stories to remind us that love blooms in the strangest places:

"He was doing donuts in the supermarket carpark when he ran her over - but the thing he really ran over was her heart!"

 "He was cow tipping in the back paddock when he accidentally pushed her over - but the thing he really knocked over was her heart!"

 "When his illegal meth lab blew up, he never realised he'd blast his way into her heart!"

But Ms Mayo and Mr Webb have been together a few short weeks only. We can look to couples whose relationships have stuck together down the years, through thick and thin:

"Their romantic story started when they shared the same parole officer as juveniles. But when in a remarkable coincidence they met again in the court system ten years later, they knew it was meant to be. Last week the fairy tale was complete when Brandeena married Jaysyn in a jailhouse wedding that brought a tear to the eye of the crowd of family, friends, and medium security inmates"

But seriously, I wish the happy couple all the best. I'm sure few couples have as sure a future together as a guy who takes pot shots at deer from the roof whilst high as a kite and a woman from a family who thinks that's swell. (News Limited saw fit to leave out the part about the drugs, but let's not let that tarnish the romance of it all), and when in years to come their five year old accidentally shoots their two year old with a gun Daddy forgot to lock away, they can all laugh and think back to how it all began.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Summer Fun With The HCCC

Received a letter in the mail this week informing me the Health Care Complaints Commission will not be proceeding with my complaint over events leading up to the birth of Baby G. The HCCC has come to this conclusion after a rigorous investigative process which consisted of asking the hospital, and specifically the nurse who initially refused the c-section, if they'd done anything wrong. Both the hospital and nurse have replied that they don't feel they didn't do anything wrong. Well that's okay then! Case closed. Be on your way. I especially like the part of the letter that says "the nurse denies being rude or condescending to you, stating that this is not part of her normal practice". Well of course she's going to say that isn't she. "Are you ever rude to patients?" "All the damn time, you bet I am! You've got to let them know their place".

Sigh.

I have asked for a review, based on the one thing I seem to have on my side right now: the nurse involved is now denying I ever asked her for a c-section at all. Funnily enough I have a letter from the hospital in which the nurse "remembers your meeting and request for an LSCS". So my hope is that even if the HCCC doesn't think refusing me the c-section breaches an acceptable standard of care, they'll take a less approving view of a nurse explicitly lying to them.

Nevertheless, I'm not too hopeful of anything coming of this - the HCCC and Nurse Midwives Board, do seem to be rather concerned with protecting their own. So now what? Civil action? Ombudsman? Going to the High Court of Bogan Australia, i.e. Today Tonight? I'm temperamentally disinclined to just let this go, as that does nothing to stop this happening to someone else. I've been seeking out stories of others who've been let down by the medico-legal system, to see how they've coped. But if they think I'm going to just let this go, I'm not. I won't.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Do We Really Just Hate Kids?

More of the "trouble with kids these days" from an acquaintance on Facebook, and whilst I've blamed the problems of kids these days on economic rationalism, this thread on Reddit made me wonder if the problem with kids these days is that we hate them. For a society that claims to venerate children so much, we sure show in so many ways that we don't actually like them.

Children and parenting are the other; to be kept marginalised and out of sight until the messy, unpleasant business of being a kid is done. It starts early, with complaints about pregnant TV presenters and public breastfeeding; graphic depictions of motherhood should be kept out of the public eye. Then there's the rise of the parent-shaming websites, attacking people for oversharing their parenting experiences. Whilst I wouldn't post about my child's poop myself, early parenthood does involve a great deal of the stuff and you do get a little obsessed (and that's me, who prior to having a baby became wildly embarrassed at the slightest indication that anyone had a digestive system). Parenthood can be very isolating especially those early days when you're largely stuck at home with only a non-communicative creature for company, and it's natural to use social media as a way to connect with people - especially at a time when you're so vulnerable to post natal depression. But the sites promoting mocking and judging of parents perpetuate the message that the messy details of parenthood are something to be ashamed of, and parents should just shut up about it all. It's all right to complain about things at work, or that jerk who cut you off in traffic, but not about the daily routine of caring for a baby. No one wants to hear about that.

If parents get it bad, kids have it even worse. Childishness is not permitted; children must restrain their childish behaviour at all times for the comfort of the adults around them. Children are spoken to in ways we'd never speak to an adult. Notice your partner is grumpy on an outing? Decide to ignore it till they cool down. A grumpy child? They're a spoilt brat, ruining the whole day, and we're going home right now. I've seen teachers on school excursions barking orders and insults at kids worse than anything in the army. It's not all teachers that are like that of course, but a few are. I saw a little boy hauled over the coals for forgetting his bus pass, in tears in front of the entire bus. Parents who want to toughen kids up. You have to show them who's boss. Kids are not seen as future adults to be nurtured, but wild animals to be restrained and trained. (And some of the parent shaming sites feature parents shaming their own kids - not okay). 

 And teenagers. If we don't like kids, just look at the narrative on teenagers. They're running wild, disrespectful. God help them if they leave home to escape abuse - they're being handed money by Centrelink because they're out of control and can't follow the rules. (Incidentally, I planned to write a term paper on teenage abuse last semester, but couldn't, because I couldn't find enough academic sources for a 2,500 word, first year essay. How sad is that?)

Anyway, enough of the child and parent shaming. I'm going to stop feeling marginalised. Children are messy, loud little creatures and I won't feel I should hide my son away. Oh, I'm still going to be a respectful person; quieting him if he's shouting at the top of his lungs, not changing him on food court tables, and so on. But as I said in my last post, respect goes both ways, and it's pretty disrespectful to hide away and shame a great chunk of the population simply because we find their childishness offensive. 

Sunday, December 01, 2013

STFU Parents Should Know When To STFU

The media image of today's parents is as demanding, overindulgent creatures convinced that what they're doing in raising children is a rare and delicate work of genius. There's a tiny nugget of truth in there, and the blog STFU Parents is there to dig it up, as they hilariously lampoon self-righteous parents who throw hissy fits at strangers not being sufficiently attentive to their child, or share with their Facebook audience their children's bowel movements. Sometimes parents can be irritating jerks, just like real people.

And sometimes blogs that poke fun at parents' foibles can be irritating jerks, too. Sometimes STFU Parents ventures so far into "gosh, parents are so awful" territory they become self righteous and irritating themselves. I'm still shaking my head at the post which made fun of the mother of a special needs child for taking pride in her son's achievements, but the latest sanctimonious missive on how parents should behave is the sharing of links suggesting rules for visiting parents with newborns. Not permitted, according to STFU Parents. "Please stop sending visitation rules memos. We’ve already gotten them". Really? Then why have I heard so many stories of people visiting newborns and their parents who wait to be waited on, who show up with colds and flus and weeping conjunctivitis, who stay for four hours and leave behind a pile of dirty dishes? And maybe it's just a little bit hard to mention that with someone directly; posting a list of suggestions for visitors on Facebook is a less confrontational way to say hey, we're trying to find our feet with a six day old in the house, don't expect fine dining and witty repartee.

It goes beyond that. STFU Parents takes umbrage at those who want to follow public health advice, mockingly posting an email from a parent who apologises for being pesky, but asks you not to visit the baby before it's had their first whooping cough vaccination, unless you've had yours. Oh my god, following public health advice to prevent a newborn catching a highly transmissible, potentially fatal disease! That is so inconsiderate of the rights of the childless to spread their germs where they please.

"No one cares about your baby as much as you do". That's definitely something parents should bear in mind when their kid is singing at the tops of their lungs on the train, or just did a massive dump Facebook apparently needs to read about. But it just seems cruel and petty to say that to a parent who's only just had a new baby. I can just imagine what the author of STFU Parents is like visiting friends with a newborn: paying 30 seconds of attention to the infant, then launching into a diatribe about how she can't stand the new guy at work and, when her frazzled friend battling to establish breastfeeding after three solid hours sleep in the last forty eight fails to respond attentively, making a passive aggressive excuse to leave and holding court to her friends at a bar that night on how people become, like, so self-involved and inconsiderate once they have kids.

Look, parents are not inherently superior people to non-parents, and raising children is not the hardest job in the world. It is different to not having kids though, and I don't see too much wrong with requesting people to keep pertussis away from an unvaccinated newborn or indirectly requesting guests to not arrive expecting a full meal and entertainment. Indignant self-righteousness goes both ways, and as ridiculous as it is to send visitors to purchase and assemble your furniture just because you've had a new baby, a little more understanding should go both ways as well.

Monday, November 25, 2013

A user friendly ramble on economic rationalism

Doing the household finances with DH, and realising that there was too much Christmas coming for our slender budget, we discussed how we were going to fix this. "Well", I said, "there's plenty of opportunity in this society for someone who's not afraid of a bit of hard work". And we both had a good laugh over that.

The thing is with society, we're always hearing how it's broken down. To scroll through a Facebook news feed or listen to a taxi driver, children are running out of control, young people are binge drinking, the economy is a mess, there's no respect and crime is rampant. And who or what is the culprit? Variously feminism, permissive parenting, asylum seekers, the Greens (who manage to be both irrelevant and control the country at the same time...). Well if society is going to hell in a Kardashian handbag, we never hear of blame being assigned to the real culprit - economic rationalism.

Economic rationalism - the notion that corporations and government alike must be run to maximise short term profits above all else - has destroyed society devastatingly and simply, by destroying the basic social contract - that if you work hard and are a good person, good things will happen to you. The basic premise of capitalism for the average working Joe (or Jose, or Johanna) was that by working diligently and budgeting carefully, you'd be able to make slow but steady progress up the career ladder, buy a home, raise a family, pay for school fees and holidays and sports, make a comfortable life for yourself.

In an economy dominated by economic rationalism, this is no longer the case. The idea of job security is gone; at any moment, no matter how hard you work or how well your department is doing, you can be called in to a meeting, told your position or division is no longer needed, that it's being sent offshore, replaced with a machine. And even though customers might hate it, and service levels and safety fall, and in the long term profitability of the company suffer, the efficiency boffins who made the decision won't be around to see it; short term profits will rise, and they'll be rewarded with their next contract. Meanwhile you, you poor sap,  are forced to look for work in am economy that's saturated with this mindset of economic rationalism. Employees of three years service on casual contracts that can see them dismissed for any reason at all with one hour's notice. Fear and lack of certainty. Stretches of unemployment, with unemployment insurance to pay the bills if you were lucky (and whilst you were working, few insurers would have touched you if you were a casual), or Newstart Allowance if you're not.

No such thing as choosing a career in public service for safety, either. Witness the thousands of nursing and teaching graduates forced into years of casual employment because budgetary restraints prevent them from gaining the permanent roles they need to build their professional skills and personal lives. Children dying because there aren't enough community services workers to return the calls reporting signs of abuse. Schemes, departments, programs axed because they are not "efficient", human services be damned.

And it affects the housing market too. In the drive to maximise profit, investors have so saturated the housing market that is almost impossible for first home buyers to join the market, especially if employed as a casual or on contract, preventing them from getting a home loan. So we huge numbers of people in insecure employment and insecure housing. No wonder they are angry.

They choose the wrong targets for their rage. It's fair to say that in a rationalised economy, opportunities for working class, more poorly educated men are particularly limited; the men know this, and there's a branch of the men's rights movement dedicated to blaming feminism for this. But it's economic rationalism. We get mad at the offshore call centre employees with semi-coherent English for taking Australian jobs, but it's an Australian CEO who made the decision to cut a huge chunk of their Australian workers. We blame bleeding heart do-gooders who won't let us smack our kids for kids running wild, when it is still legal to smack, and as many parents do as ever, and kids aren't idiots and pick up on their parents' anxieties and they are scared and worried too and scared and worried kids are more likely to act out.

Of course the people who stand to profit from this ethos-of-profit above all else don't want you to think about it, don't want you to question it. So they use their newspapers and TV hosts to whip up fear of asylum seekers, creating the impression that boat people are stealing jobs; they demonise the Greens for questioning the profit motive and not taking donations from corporations; they have all but destroyed the union movement, knowing that workers united was their greatest threat; they respond to any questioning of the doctrine of unrestrained capitalism by proclaiming "socialism!", socialism being such a slur at to shut down all questioning immediately.

It wasn't always thus. In the early days of the Australian Liberal Party under Menzies - much idealised by modern conservatives - social as well as economic liberals were welcome in the party; nation building was seen as a lofty goal, tax rates were high and no one wet themselves with fear that high taxes would cause everyone to quit work and go on the dole. If only it had remained thus. But economic rationalism took over - championed by Labor under Hawke and Keating, as well as the Liberals - and now we have timid, parsimonious governments that have left us with third rate, run down infrastructure. Can you imagine the Sydney Opera House, for example, being built under economic rationalism? It would never, ever happen. Editorials in the Daily Telegraph and callers to 2GB would bristle with anger. "Why should I have to pay for some inner city elites to watch opera?" We'd have the Opera Hut and the Sydney Harbour Punt. People are surprised that 44 years after the moon landing, we've never attempted anything so ambitious again and couldn't even go back to the moon now if we wanted. I'm not. Economic rationalism first came in in the early 1970s, right as the space program would have been making progress. Space exploration is insanely expensive, and sure it might have huge long term benefits for society, but where's the instant profit? Of course it was a bust.

As it is, the new Coalition government have quickly moved to curtail the building of the national broadband network, forcing the nation to run a 21st Century economy on a decayed century old copper phone network. "Who is going to pay for it?", they ask their critics.

I'd like to know who is going to pay for all that we lose. We've lost the very foundations western society was built on - hard work, family, achievement - with all that entails. And yet we are still being sold a lie, that the economic rationalist brand of capitalism is fair, and rewards hard work, and if you fall behind you only have yourself to blame. Dissent, be it Occupy Wall Street Protesters or columns in the Guardian - is quickly shut down, dismissed, vilified as the views of a lunatic fringe who want us all to live in communal mud huts. Well I don't (the thought of living communally breaks me out in a cold sweat). I'd just like to know that if I get a job, the company can't dismiss me as long as I'm working hard and the division is turning a profit. I'd like to see corporations and mining companies put up or shut up when they say higher taxes will force them to leave Australia (the corporations are already leaving...and maybe Gina Rineheart plans to bury her bauxite sin another country so she can mine it there). I'd like to see restraints on destroying farmland that has been in families for generations, and sacred to the Indigenous inhabitants for milennia more, to create mines with a working life of seven years. I'd like to not be faced with a choice of waiting years for surgery or paying thousands to get it done right away, when I need the surgery before I can work to earn that money. I'd like to see all this without giving up home WiFi, and I'm sure there is a way as an economy and a society we can do it. It may not be perfect but anything has to be better than the lie we are being fed now.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

An Open Letter to Tony Abbott About This Unpleasant Business With Indonesia

Dear Tony,

We all know nothing solves international diplomatic fall outs like an open letter, so I'm writing you one now. I'm taking time from studying for my political science exam, but I don't think my lecturer would mind. He likes you. At any rate, he's a big fan of your idol and mentor, John Howard. I came to university greatly looking forward to all the brainwashing I'd receive from leftist academics, but there hasn't been any; the lecturer has taken a decidedly pro-Howard stance. But I digress.

We've been caught spying on Indonesia. Oh dear. Spying is a bit like masturbation; everyone does it but it's frightfully embarrassing when you get caught. The thing to do here is for you to rock up to Jakarta, cap in hand, and do a little humble grovelling to the Indonesian government. We're so, so sorry. We didn't mean to spy on you and we never thought you'd find out and the Australian government doesn't even read the reports from our intelligence agencies - that we got into Iraq is proof of that.

You won't though. You're claiming that all this happened on former PM Kevin Rudd's watch, and it's nothing to do with you. Now your side of politics is famously reluctant to apologise for anything you don't feel personally responsible for, so this is not without precedent. Here's the thing though - with you pouting and saying "No fair. Was Rudd's fault. No fair. Not saying sorry" - the Indonesians don't care. Really. You are our Prime Minister, you have been elected to (god help us) represent us. Indonesia doesn't care about our domestic political stoushes. Australia spied on them, you're head of the Australian government, ergo you, yes you, need to say sorry.

So why won't you? Why do you risk our most important international relationship for the sake of appeasing the Murdoch-reading crowd? Do you think you might lose their support? For it's pretty clear from here there's nothing you can do to make them love you less - not supporting paedophiles, not personally profiting from charity bike rides, not locking suicidal four year olds behind razor wire, nothing. You crap in their faces and they cry "more, more!". And I can assure you there's very little you could do by now to make the rest of us love you less, either. So you may as well apologise. It may even win you some brownie points - your breathless fans will simply blame the ABC, Fairfax, the left and the Greens. We can keep sending our cattle to be slaughtered and our brainless kids to be executed. And when Peta tucks you into bed tonight, you can sleep well.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Still Good Advice: Wear Sunscreen

I first heard "Advice to the Class of 1997" when I was in the class of 1997 myself. The writer Mary Schmich lamented that the advice would be wasted on the young. As it was intended advice for a college graduating class, and I was only graduating high school, it was especially wasted on me. I thought it was a beautiful piece. But it expressed ideals, stages of life I was yet to experience, let alone long for. And now, half a lifetime later, I can still admire the beauty of this piece. I am nostalgic for the girl - young woman - I was - and so much I want to tell her. I understand this poem so much more, having been through so much in the past 16 years, I feel I barely know that child.

And yet I also know that a later me, 57 years old or 75, is looking at the me of today and thinking she was young and naive really, and thought she knew all the ways of the world when she didn't have a clue.

Either way, whether you're 17 or 35 or 59 or 81, this has a lot of good things to say. And wear sunscreen.

Wear sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they've faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you'll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.

Don't worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.

Sing.

Don't be reckless with other people's hearts. Don't put up with people who are reckless with yours.

Floss.

Don't waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The race is long and, in the end, it's only with yourself.

Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.

Stretch.

Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don't.

Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees. You'll miss them when they're gone.

Maybe you'll marry, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll have children, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll divorce at 40, maybe you'll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don't congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else's.

Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don't be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It's the greatest instrument you'll ever own.

Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.

Read the directions, even if you don't follow them.

Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents. You never know when they'll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They're your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft. Travel.

Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you'll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don't expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you'll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.

Don't mess too much with your hair or by the time you're 40 it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it's worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

A Story of Birth Trauma, PTSD and Other Fun Stuff

Trigger warning: contains discussion of abuse, medical procedures and birth trauma.


So, I've shared a lot with my readers...from the year long quest to conceive Baby G, through to my dreams about pornographers. Probably I over share. But now I'm going to tell you a very personal story I've not shared even with people I know...a tale of medical incompetence and the not-so-delightful lead up to the birth of Baby G. And I'm telling you this because I want to add my voice to the brave women who say birth trauma is real, it does matter, and because what happened to me should never happen to anyone, if I have to shout a bit to make sure that happens.

When I was pregnant with BabyG back in 2011, we were still living in inner Sydney, so I booked in to go through the birth centre at an inner city hospital. I have had some very bad experiences at the hands of doctors, so I thought the most natural birth safely possible was the best, least traumatic way to go. We had a doula, and I practiced breathing exercises and visualisation, and took natural birthing drops, which I didn't even believe in but thought I'd try...you get the idea. Also in preparation for making the gory parts of the birth as smooth as possible (are you still with me? This is where it starts getting nasty) at 38 weeks I hopped in the shower to try perineal stretching. Very gently to start with.

The second I tried it, my blood ran cold; I nearly fainted and threw up at the same time. I was horrified. It instantly brought flashbacks to a disturbing incident when I was young; I came out of the shower sobbing. There was no way - no way in hell - I could have a vaginal birth. The stretching was so horrible, I feel sick even now thinking about it. Fuck the birth centre. No one - no doctor or midwife - was touching my hoo hah. Pass the scalpel.

So the next day, I reported to my regular appointment at the birth centre, and explained the situation. Sorry guys, you've been great, but I can't do a natural birth. So they referred me to the clinical nurse consultant, and I went through the whole situation. I've been abused; preparing for a natural birth has triggered flashbacks, I can't face a vaginal birth and I want a c-section.

She said no.

Can you believe that? I can't, still. I've spent the last five years in the community sector, advocating for people. I'm at a loss, shocked, by how someone could lack the basic human compassion to allow an assault victim to have a c-section on request. She was really, really rude actually - told me I should have thought of this before, that if I wanted an obstetrician I'd have to go privately because it was too late now. If I knew then, what I know now, I'd have made a massive scene, demanded to speak to someone, anyone else - but I  didn't.  I meekly said that's fine, I understand. Be nice. Don't give anyone any reason to not like you. And I went home and cried and cried.

As it happened, BabyG went overdue. Really overdue. By day 10, I was overwrought with anxiety - about the birth, about the baby, as another overdue baby a couple of months before had not had a good outcome, and the precious little angel was born asleep. I was terrified, and would have gotten G out with a garden fork if I had to, and I stupidly agreed to an induction. Into hospital we went on Tuesday, 30 August. They shoved cervadil up me, which was fairly fucking horrid. I had been told in advance that once the cervadil was in, I could go home until contractions started. Oh no, I was told now. You can't leave. At all. Not allowed to walk up the street to get my head together. I was already starting to lose it, but they gave me a valium and off I went to sleep in the hope labour would start and this would all be over.

Wednesday morning. No labour. Nothing has happened. No dilation - he wasn't even engaged. Okay, said the midwife with her hand rammed up me (sticking her finger in my urethra on the way in) - the next step is to put a balloon catheter in your cervix.

Everybody out of the goddamn pool, I said. I'd had enough being nice. I'm not proceeding with the induction. Get him out now - I want a c-section, if you won't give me one I'll go home and freebirth. And by the way, being in the hospital in pretty fucking upsetting, considering I'm not even in labour can I just walk up the street and get some food? They told me they'd get back to me. Do you know how long they made me wait? Thirty fucking hours. Thirty hours of me crying, begging for the c-section, not allowed to leave, and having midwives continually giving me cervical sweeps "to see if anything is happening" and pressuring me to go on with the induction.

Finally on Thursday afternoon - 48 hours after arriving at hospital - they gave me the c-section, and BabyG was born. And whoops, no one picked up on that he was 4.5kg with a 40cm head, which should have qualified me for a c-section if I wanted in the first place.

I've lived with this for two years now, and I'm still angry. I'm angry at what I've missed out on - my one experience of birth, and it's just such a horrible, horrible memory. I'm angry that it has taken such a toll on bonding with G. I'm angry at the effect it's had on my marriage. I'm angry at the lack of agency, the disempowerment. Being treated like an object, a piece of meat. I'm angry it was all so damn unnecessary. I'm so angry and I don't know what to do with it. I've complained to the hospital, which was semi-helpful, I guess - but they said I "slipped through the cracks" in the system. No I didn't. It was that damn nurse's cruelty and complacency that allowed this to happen - and you know what? Apparently she didn't even have the authority to refuse or allow a c-section and should have referred me to the head obstetrician. Why didn't you ask to speak to an obstetrician when the nurse said no, the hospital asked? Um, cause I don't know your chain of command. And what about the 30 hours I waited? I was asking everyone by then.

I've also lodged a complaint with the Health Care Complaints Commission; that's still going through the process. I've thought about suing, I haven't decided yet. I've seen a counsellor for PTSD, but I've never been a great fan of counselling; it doesn't work so well for me. I'm on anti-depressants. I've recently started going to the gym and that's nice, but it won't take the need for the medication away. Where to from here? We are almost certainly not having any more kids - a drawback of starting your family after 30 is not having oodles of time to think about it - so the prospect of a "healing birth" is out. Anyway we're looking at moving back to Sydney, back into the catchment of that hospital. Give birth there again? I'd rather burn the place down. Even passing a bus on George St, with the hospital on it's destination board, is upsetting.

So there's my birth trauma story. I was chewed up and spit out by the public hospital system, and I know I should be grateful I have a healthy kid and I gave birth in a safe modern hospital but fuck it, I don't think availing yourself of those services should mean you have to put up with whatever non-compassionate, incompetent treatment they mete out. And I'm furious whenever I hear wails about the c-section rate being too high - I suffered weeks of psychological hell, and 48 hours of physical hell, because a public hospital wanted to keep it's section rate down. I've changed. I no longer meekly accept things to not make waves; I scream, I shout. I'm not a nice person anymore. I used to think I was, but now I'm a furious old boiler who will always speak up. And if what I've said here makes someone think they're not alone it's been worth the pain it's taken to write it down.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Sexual Assault and Alcohol: It's Not Common Sense, It's Not True, and It's Not Helping

Blogger and "media personality" Mia Freedman was making waves at her blog again this week and as much as I dislike responding, I kind of felt I had to. See, she's said that when her daughter is old, enough, she'll advise her to reduce her alcohol consumption in order to avoid the risk of sexual assault. Now, I'm not suggesting that Ms Freedman courts controversy just to get page views, heavens no, but in this case she seems to have seen the controversy coming. This isn't victim blaming, she insists, it's just common sense to tell women how to reduce their risk of sexual assault. Well, maybe it would be good advice - if any of it were true.

The statistics Ms Freedman cites actually show that females' risk of sexual assault peaks between the ages of 10-14 - an age which girls are highly unlikely to be binge drinking. The AMA information paper on risky drinking shows that drinking actually increases throughout the lifespan - as the risk of sexual assault goes down. Lacking evidence on a general correlation, is there any evidence of links in individual assaults? To quote Ms Freedman:

“Victims of sexual assault were more likely to believe alcohol and/or any other substance contributed to the most recent incident they experienced if the offender was a friend (76%). This was significantly higher than the overall proportion of victims of physical assault who believed alcohol and/or any other substance contributed to their most recent incident (59%)." 

Hang on a minute. Let's read that again. So we're not saying that the victim was drinking, merely that alcohol contributed to the assault? It's got nothing to do with whether the victim was drinking or not; what is true is that crimes are far more likely to be committed by people who've been drinking.

Are women responsible for not only their own drinking behaviour but the behaviour of those around them? Because let's be honest, anything that's labelled common sense is a value judgement, and the "common sense" advice given to women to reduce their risk of sexual assault - don't travel late at night, stick to well-lit paths, don't drink to excess - sounds suspiciously like the advice given on how to be a "good girl" in the 1950s. If a woman defies the notions of subservient femininity to venture into the dangerous masculine domain of the night, she has to expect that bad things will happen to her. Are we really saying that the temptation for men to rape is so strong that it's up to women to police and guard it? It's hard not to draw an uneasy comparison between Mia Freedman and Sheik al-Hilaly, he of the uncovered meat. When Mia Freedman writes ‘teaching girls how to reduce their risk of sexual assault is not the same as victim blaming’, she ignores that it is still placing responsibility for the prevention into the hands of the victim. It’s corollary is that if you had the information available that would have enabled you to reduce the risk of assault, ignored it, and were assaulted, at least some of the blame must fall to you for failing to heed the advice.

And there's another very good reason for coming to recognise these "common sense safety tips" are rubbish  - they don't work. The same tired advice has been handed out for the last several decades, and it has done nothing at all to reduce the proportion of women who report being sexually assaulted in their lifetime. In fact this "advice" is worse than useless - it actually has a deterrent effect on women reporting sexual assault, fearing being asked why they didn't follow this "common sense" advice. Why were you walking back from the train station at night? Why didn't you call for a taxi? If you were just watching movies together, why did you have so much to drink you fell asleep on his sofa? Don't you think this might just be partly your own stupid fault?

It's very easy to have an idealistic view of the world - that you can't stop rapists from raping, so just follow these common sense tips to help stay safe. But they don't work. They're not helping - as well as discouraging victims from reporting assaults to police, it also perpetuates myths about sexual assault amongst the readers these clickbait articles bring in. And all this victim blaming - whether you want to call it that or not - is taking time we should be spending talking about sexual ethics, education, and ways to reduce sexual assault that might actually work.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Fires, Politics and The Right Time To Discuss Climate Change

Terrible, horrible, very sad week as monstrous bushfires swept eastern NSW. The worst damage occurred in the Blue Mountains - hundreds of homes lost there, it seems, the emotional damage incalculable - and there were also dreadful fires ringing Newcastle. We're in a heavily built up area of inner Newcastle with no bushfire danger, but only a short distance to the north and south fires were threatening places I've known most of my life - Nords Wharf where I lived as a child for a few months; Caves Beach, our go-to beach in high school; at one stage fire came close to the fuel tanks at Newcastle airport. The sky was thick with smoke, the sun a creepy red, and we all spent a restless, worried night following Twitter for news of friends who were being evacuated.

And the one thought we all had was "my God, if the bushfires are like this in October, what the hell are they going to be like by February?". For we don't have fires like this in NSW in October, halfway through spring. We simply haven't had the horrific combination of a warm dry winter, high winds and 30 degree plus temperatures that have seen these kinds of fires before. Everyone thought grimly, this is climate change, up close and personal, this is what it does and we can't deny it any more. Australia's only Greens federal lower house MP and my second sexiest politician (after the delightful and effervescent Helen Coonan, of course), Adam Bandt, posted this quite reasonable observation on Twitter:


And brought a slew of criticism from the opportunistic right, declaring that it was "opportunistic" to politicise the fires this way. Mr Bandt has been in politics long enough to foresee such a reaction, so it was a gutsy thing to say. The results of climate change were all around us, yet newly minted PM Tony Abbott is planning to make us the only nation to repeal carbon pricing, because along with 6% of the population and 3% of climate scientists, he believes climate change is "crap". So Abbott's plan to remove us from international efforts to combat climate change is putting us at risk. Blame the Greens for politicising the fires? I blame those who have made climate change a political issue in the first place. It shouldn't be. The future of the planet is at stake here, but the right would rather score points to differentiate themselves from the left, than take steps to secure a future for their grandchildren (this, from the side of politics who say they represent "family values").

When is the right time to discuss the causes of the fires, anyway? How long after a tragic road accident before it's okay to discuss the state of the road? Climate change deniers dismiss the most terrible climate change predictions as "scaremongering", then when the most terrible things happen, they say now is not the time to talk about it. They'd rather wait till months down the track when everyone is lulled back into a sense f security. Or they blame anything else - including The Greens for banning backburning. Here is the Greens official policy on hazard reduction, taken from the NSW Greens website:

[S]trategically planned hazard reduction, including controlled burning, where and when climatic conditions allow it to be done safely and where it is consistent with maintaining the ecosystem.

If anyone says Greens policy is to ban backburning, they are lying. We have always had bush fires in Australia. We always will. But this is a horrific new reality in Australia - 30 degree plus temperatures for six or more months a year is not something we've seen before in eastern NSW. And this will lead to more, more intense and destructive fires. To pretend otherwise is dangerous nonsense, and the hysterical reaction of climate change deniers when fires and climate change are linked brings to mind the gun lobby inv the U.S. following the all too frequent gun massacres there. Obfuscation, denial, counter claim - but soul searching, thought, responsibility - never.

I'm proud of Adam Bandt for saying what he said, proud to be Greens (more now than ever after seeing new Labor leader Bill Shorten join the "now is not the time to discuss this" chorus). We need to talk about this now and I'm proud to be on the right side of this battle.

Monday, October 14, 2013

50 Arguments Disproving Climate Change

1. Someone who believes in global warming lives in a waterfront house. Therefore, AGW isn't true.

2. Someone who believes in global warming drives a large car. Therefore, AGW isn't true.

3. Someone who believes in global warming flies a bunch of places. Therefore, AGW isn't true.

4. Scientists have been wrong before. Therefore, AGW isn't true.

5. There were hot days and storms when I was a kid. Therefore, AGW isn't true.

6. There have always been storms and bushfires. Therefore, AGW isn't true.

7. Greenies just want us all to go back to living in huts. Therefore, AGW isn't true.

8. Scientists are lying to get grant money. They can get far more money lying to please socialist governments than they could from telling the truth for fossil fuel producers. Therefore, AGW isn't true.

9. Plants need carbon dioxide. Therefore, AGW isn't true.

10. Carbon dioxide is harmless to humans. Therefore, AGW isn't true.

11. Someone said the Earth has been cooling since 1998. Therefore, AGW isn't true.

12. I don't trust the UN. Therefore, AGW isn't true.

13.  There was a guy on talkback radio this morning talking about how climate change is a lie. He was very funny and nice. Therefore, AGW isn't true.

14. Climate change is caused by complex orbital effects/volcanism/tectonics/major landslips (especially undersea events)/biological activity. Therefore, AGW isn't true.

15. The Earth has gone through many climate cycles. Therefore, AGW isn't true.

16. Man does not control the climate, God does. Therefore, AGW isn't true.

17. Scientists have all been to university and universities are full of socialist brainwashing. Therefore, AGW isn't true.

18. Scientists have all been to university but you can't get real world experience out of books. Therefore, AGW isn't true.

19. There was a cold winter this year in Europe/Russia/The U.S. Therefore, AGW isn't true.

20. We can't even predict the weather tomorrow. Therefore, AGW isn't true.

21. In the 1970s they said we were going to have global cooling. It didn't happen. Therefore, AGW isn't true.

22. No one believed Galileo when he said the Earth was round. Therefore, AGW isn't true.

23. Fear mongering over climate change makes people scared. Therefore, AGW isn't true.

24. Global warming is now called climate change. Therefore, AGW isn't true.

25. There is lots of carbon dioxide in the oceans. Therefore, AGW isn't true.

26. Atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide vary over time. Therefore, AGW isn't true.

27. Someone who believes in climate change is worth a lot of money. They made that money spreading a lie. Therefore, AGW isn't true.

28. Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. Therefore, AGW isn't true.

29. Warmer temperatures would be quite nice. Therefore, AGW isn't true.

30. Fear of rising sea levels has pushed the value of my house down. Therefore, AGW isn't true.

31. Temperature measures are provided by the Bureau of Meteorology. The Bureau of Meteorology is owned by the government. Therefore, AGW isn't true.

32. Thermometres in the past were unreliable. Therefore, AGW isn't true.

33. Scientists have to lie about global warming or they won't get employment. Therefore, AGW isn't true.

34. People who speak out against AGW are victims of censorship and bullying. Therefore, AGW isn't true.

35. Gillard said there would be no carbon tax. I didn't like Julia Gillard. Therefore, AGW isn't true.

36. People like going to holiday destinations with warmer weather. Therefore, AGW isn't true.

37. We have had ice ages in the past and might have another one. Therefore, AGW isn't true.

38. The UN is a powerless, corrupt organisation. Therefore, AGW isn't true.

39. The leader of the Labor party once demanded a hot pie. Therefore, AGW isn't true.

40. Climate change is a hoax cooked up between greenies and the banks to gain control of the world. Therefore, AGW isn't true.

41. Peer reviewed papers don't mean anything; the scientists all share the same group think. Therefore, AGW isn't true.

42. The climate isn't changing. Therefore, AGW isn't true.

43. Well, maybe the climate is changing but there's no evidence humans are causing it. Therefore, AGW isn't true.

44. Okay, the climate may be changing and humans may be responsible, but only a little bit. Therefore, AGW isn't true.

45. And hey, who wouldn't like it to be a bit warmer? Therefore, AGW isn't true.

46. It's warmer now than in the past but people are living longer than ever. Therefore, AGW isn't true.

47. There's a Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change. It sounds very official and important and they say climate change is a lie. Therefore, AGW isn't true.

48. There was that Climategate scandal. What I heard is it proved climate scientists make stuff up. Therefore, AGW isn't true.

49. Climate policy is an attempt to undermine Australia's sovereignty. Therefore, AGW isn't true.

50. I don't want it to be true. I really hope it isn't. Therefore, AGW isn't true.

In writing this post, I did some reading on climate change sceptic sites such as The Galileo Movement and Watts Up With That. It's amazing how they can use thousands and thousands of words to endlessly repeat the same three "facts" - that carbon dioxide is not a pollutant, that the planet has been cooling since 1998, and there is a global conspiracy between banks, governments, socialists and scientists (and what an odd combination that is; as a socialist, I don't find myself wanting to get into conspiracies with banks very often) to spread the myth of climate change. Other than that, they're all over the shop - claiming there's no evidence of warming then two paragraphs later, saying there is warming but hey, we're all healthier and happier with the warm weather, right? The more ridiculous and outrageous statements here are taken directly from their twitter streams and websites. Yes, even the one about the pie.  

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Chris Brown and Unwilling Victims

Serial douche Chris Brown has recently revealed he lost his virginity age 8, and has been the recipient of sympathy from some unlikely quarters. Feminist writers who previously disdained him for his perpetration of relationship abuse have come out to say that he was raped, that he was a victim here, no wonder he carries on like such a tool considering such a horrid thing happened to him as a child. (It's worth pointing out that the girl he had sex with was 14 or 15, according to his story - how would our views change if she had been 8 years old herself?) Now, it goes without saying no 8 year old should be having sex. But Chris Brown does not see himself as a victim. He describes it as a normal experience where he grew up, good preparation for later on. It's pretty icky stuff to read. And it could well be a false face of bravado slapped on to cover up deep hurt; if so, my very deepest empathy to Mr Brown and I hope he can get help to deal with what he's been through. But. But what if it isn't? What if he is not sorry, doesn't regret what happened, looks on it as just another thing that happened when he was growing up, he's kind of proud of it? Do we need him to reject what has happened to him, in order to reinforce our views of what is right and wrong in the world? Is forcing victimhood status on someone who rejects it not just another form of violation?

Several years ago I watched a 60 Minutes interview with a student, I'll call A, who began a sexual relationship with a first-year teacher, whom I'll call B, two months prior to A's 16th birthday. B was at that stage in their early twenties. By the time of the interview, A was around 19 and the couple had broken up, but remained friendly. Liz Hayes was running the interview and prodding A for the emotional breakdown, which she wasn't getting. "You are a victim of child sexual abuse", Ms Hayes said, to which A laughed "No I'm not". Ms Hayes continued undaunted, "B is a paedophile. You are a victim of a paedophile". A said not, that everything was consensual and hadn't harmed them in any way. So how could A coming to the realisation that they are in fact a victim of a paedophile (as if B has a particular sexual interest in children, rather than just this young person a few years younger than themselves) be beneficial for A?

If Chris Brown broke down in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, say, or Barbara Walters, about how this has been a traumatic experience that has shaped his whole view of the world, but he's getting help now, and he has a lot to work through, but he finally realised he's a victim of child sex abuse - is that to make us feel better, or him? There is a cultural divide between male and female victims of child sex abuse it's true, but is insisting to a victim that doesn't see themselves as one - male or female - actually helping them? (I can attest that something vaguely similar this happened to me in my early teens, and the grown ups found out, and their horrified reactions caused me a lot more trauma than anything that physically happened to me).

I don't know. We need to let young men, and women, who have been sexually abused know that what happened to them was wrong, and not okay, and we care and want to help. But is forcing someone who rejects victimhood to see themselves as a victim about helping them, or our views of ourselves? The law is pretty damn unhelpful here, too - witness the insane spectre of 13 year olds being charged with distributing child pornography for sending nude selfies - the child being themselves. Do we need Chris Brown to collapse in a sobbing heap over his abuse? In the article I linked to above, the writer states "thinking of oneself as a victim isn't a prerequisite for an act of abuse to be harmful in ways that might not fully manifest until well into adulthood". Of course not. But is thinking of oneself as a victim a prerequisite for going forward with a meaningful life?

Monday, October 07, 2013

Libertarians Can Kiss My Patootie, But Let's Get Rid of Compulsory Voting

Compulsory voting. We're one of only ten countries in the world to have it, and you either love it or you hate it. Traditionally, the left has triumphed compulsory voting as ensuring franchise for all, whilst libertarians decry compulsory voting as a contradictory attack on their freedoms. Now, I'm yet to meet a libertarian I wouldn't happily give a kilo of sand and a hammer to pound it in with, but if we're to address the decline in our democracy, compulsory voting has to go.

The biggest argument in favour of compulsory voting is that it allows everyone to have a say. But it doesn't really. Most elections come down to a few thousand undecided voters in a handful of marginal seats. Undecided voters, who tend to be less educated and less engaged in the political process, are now calling the shots. Politicians ignore the major issues to chase after the concerns of those who care the least. No wonder our electoral coverage is dire, no wonder political discourse is dumbed down. Compulsory voting is why we can't have nice things. Can we end this now please?

Compulsory voting makes politicians complacent in safe seats and pander to desperate populism in marginal seats. Why is it so important to involve people in elections who just don't want to get involved? Instead of fighting for the votes of people who don't care, let politicians work for the votes of the people who do care. There's the inevitable argument that the end of compulsory voting would leave the system open to abuse - particularly people being kicked off the electoral rolls. But the system is open to abuse now. On election day, I witnessed several young people arriving at the polling booths confessing that they didn't know how to vote, only to be handed a how to vote card by a particular party's volunteers and told "here, it's easy, just follow this".

Or worse. We all saw the frenzy of hysteria the Murdoch press whipped itself into in the lead up to the recent election (and doesn't that editorial seem a bit ridiculous now). Would they have bothered if they knew a lot of their target audience wouldn't bother showing up? More to the point, would their lies have had such effect? I've never seen anything like the number of voters lamenting that they voted Liberal, given Abbott's abysmal performance less than a month in to the job. "All the signs were there, how could you not know?" we ask. They shrug sheepishly. They believed the Murdoch press. These are people who trusted the word of a man who taps dead children's phones. Wouldn't it have been better if they never voted at all? Yes, countries without compulsory voting have vile partisan media as well - but they're preaching to the converted, not convincing the confused.

We should all be grateful for the right to vote in safety and freedom. But we should also be grateful for the right to live in safety in freedom, and some people are so ungrateful their attitude to those who drown trying to reach this freedom is "serves you right". We can't force people to care. It's a lot easier to make someone scared and angry than enlightened and compassionate, and these voters are ripe for manipulation. So let them go. Put democracy back in the hands of those of us who care, and it will save us a lot of time convincing people not to draw dicks on their ballot papers.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Cooking Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce

Because I'm very peculiar, I regularly peruse the recent deaths on Wikipedia, and last week I learned of the passing of Italian cookery writer Marcella Hazan, widely credited as the godmother of Italian cookery. I'd not heard of her prior to her passing, but apparently she was a stickler for purity and traditional techniques - and the apex of this was her tomato-butter sauce. Bloggers raved about it, stating every cook should know this dish and if you did, you'd be a convert to her ways forever. So I knew I had to try it, and hunted down a recipe. For a start, there are only four ingredients. As someone who likes to add lots and lots of different spices to food - I think my spaghetti bolognaise must run to about 43 ingredients, including lemon juice, liquid smoke, nutmeg, and two kinds of chilli - this idea took some getting used to.

Yep, that's it.

Anyway, here's the recipe. I've converted it to metric cause I'm always thinking of how I can make your life easier.

Classic Tomato Butter Sauce 

2 400g tins of whole tomatoes in juice
75g butter
1 onion, peeled and cut in half
Pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan, place over a medium heat and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes. Remove and discard onion before serving stirred through pasta.

Simple, sì? 

So I left it to do it's thing. The house filled with a lovely tomato smell. I did notice the onion fell apart in cooking, and I had to fish the pieces out. Anyway, after 45 minutes of simmering...ta-dah, it was done.


I don't take good photos of food

To be honest, at first I found it quite...bland, like tomato soup. After a couple of forkfulls it began to grow on me; there was a definite rich silkiness to the sauce. But yeah, I don't know if I've destroyed my tastebuds through years of overeager Tabasco consumption, but I did find it a bit flat and tasteless and probably wouldn't make it again. Maybe I did it wrong? (One blogger did say this sauce left "no room for mistakes to hide"). Worcestershire sauce may not be the most traditional Italian ingredient, but I like some in my tomato based sauces just the same.