24 August 2014

Tim Blair and the Right's Adventures in Muslimland

You almost have to admire the mental gymnastics of the right. The twists and flips of logic required to lead them to their positions on the major issues are quite astonishing. Saw again today on a News Ltd blog a common refrain from the right on Islamists - "the loony left and the loony extremist Muslims are comrades in arms!". Yep, lefties love Islamic fundamentalism. Our vision for society - marriage equality, divestment from fossil fuels, sharia law. As a feminist, I want to see harsher penalties for violence against women, reproductive freedom, equal pay, and to be locked away in purdah unable to work or go to university. Do right wingers ever actually think about how absurd they sound?

Then of course they're defending their "need" to watch videos of the beheading of James Foley. "We must be fully aware of the evil posed by these Islamic terrorists", they harrumph between handfuls of popcorn. See no, most of us can ascertain that cutting someone's head off is evil just by reading about it, without having to see the thing happening, despite the victim's grieving family begging the world not to watch. I assume those who would watch the video because they need to also feel a need to watch child pornography - only, you must understand, because they need to see for themselves just how ghastly it all is?

But the right's bizarre attitude to Islam was perhaps best illustrated this week by The Superfun Adventures of Tim Blair in Lakemba. Blair, one of Murdoch's favourite house pets, set off to Sydney's Islamic heartland for a gander and reported back to his loyal audience just how ghastly it all is. Oh, the food is great, Blair assures us. (Bringing to mind echoes of, "but their kids are so darn cute"). But the rest...well, a few angry young men yelled some things, and an Islamic bookshop had some offensive books. The horror! Blair is particularly offended by the fact Lakemba is "monocultural", as if it isn't entirely natural that a group constantly demonised by the mainstream media would want to stick together.

If Tim Blair wanted to be outraged by what he finds in a Sydney suburb, there's another place he could go where he would speak the language. A place that has seen racist riots. A place with stores selling items depicting sexual exploitation of women. A place with regular outbreaks of violence. A place with bookstores selling tracts saying women are subservient and gay sex is an abomination. A place where foreign culture is imposed on Australians. A place where a few years ago I was called a fat pig by some Aussie surfer dudes. And guess who supports all this by having his office smack bang in the middle of it all?

But I'm sure Mr Blair would feel more comfortable there. It may be a haven of drunken racist sexist violence, but it's his kind of drunken racist sexist violence. So go spend the day in Manly Mr Blair, drop in and see your friend Tony, and leave the residents of Lakemba alone.

17 August 2014

Literally Unbelievable: ICAC, the Liberals and Newcastle

I told you things were about to get interesting.

Anyway it all came to a head this week; following the ICAC hearings into illegal donations, the Liberal MPs for the neighbouring NSW state seats of Newcastle and Charlestown resigned from parliament after finally admitting they took illegal donations from Newcastle developer (and now Lord Mayor) Jeff McCloy during the 2011 state election campaign. Some have referred to this as a shock. Well for Andrew Cornwell, maybe (pinned as one of the rising stars of the NSW Liberals, he now has such a bright future behind him). But what about Tim Owen, disgraced former member for Newcastle? Now that it's been conclusively established he's been lying through his teeth every step of the way, including lying directly to the commission on Monday (an offence carrying the possibility of jail time), is there anyone who didn't think there was something just a bit off all along about "one term (HA!)" Tim?

When allegations of impropriety were first raised in May, Mr Owen tearfully fronted a press conference in Newcastle to announce that yes, it seemed there had been illegal donations made to his campaign, but honestly, he'd had no idea. With hands cleaner than Pontius Pilate, he'd serve out the rest of his term, but would not, as a matter of honour, seek re-election in 2015.

As I wrote at the time, are being asked to believe that illegal donors secretly gave the money to Tim Owen's campaign and never said a word to him about it at the time or ever contacted him regarding influence or any other matter in the intervening three years? I didn't buy it, and for good reason; it was a bunch of bullshit all along. Owen took money from McCloy (whilst sitting in McCloy's parked Bentley on Hunter Street), last Monday told ICAC he gave it back, then on Tuesday admitted he'd kept the money for his campaign. So he's gone, and good riddance.

But the caravan of disbelief was only just getting steam. Yesterday, Premier Mike Baird published an open letter to the voters of Newcastle, apologising for how we have been treated by our elected representatives - for he, himself feels let down - but reminding us of the Liberals' excellent record in the Hunter, unlike the dastardly Labor party.

Excuse me? No, Premier Baird, if you've been caught out, apologise without sticking the boot into the other party, spare us the "yes, but..." hahoo. When eight of your MPs have now been caught out at ICAC, it is not a case of a few bad apples; there is a systemic problem which you need to take responsibility for. And your excellent record in the Hunter? Like ripping up the rail line nearly everyone wants to keep? Selling the Port of Newcastle and funnelling the money into Sydney instead of hospitals, transport and schools here? Appointing a Minister for the Hunter from Sydney's North Shore whose acquaintance to the region prior to her promotion was apparently a wine tour or somesuch? And you think this is not taking us for granted? Really, Mr Baird. You are taking the piss.

Then just to put the rotten cherry on the rotten sundae, just when you couldn't believe they were expecting us to swallow anymore of their BS, today it is announced that the Liberal party will not field candidates at the 25 October bi-election for the seats of Newcastle and Charlestown as...an act of atonement. WTAFF? Atonement?! "We are so sorry, we're forgoing electoral funding just to make it all better?". No. No. Does anyone actually buy this? They're not fielding candidates because they don't want the protest vote, don't want the swing against them, don't want Antony Green applying the Hunter swing to projections for NSW. And cause they're cowards, frankly. They don't want to send candidates out on the hustings, knowing the abuse from the enraged electorate they'd face (and frankly, I don't blame those undeserving individuals for not wanting to face that, either), and they're too cowardly to face what the results would mean for the party as a whole.

There are a few who defend the Liberals in all this...Owen wasn't actually influenced, so it's okay, at least the Liberals are doing something...but most Novocastrians are as furious as I probably come across in this post. My bruised hometown deserves so much better, and even as we likely settle down for another long uninterrupted spate of Labor representation I wish that if we were not to be forgotten, it was for something other than this.

13 August 2014

Israel, Right Or Wrong

As the war in Gaza rages on, something that perplexes many is the unquestioning support of the vast majority of Jewish people for Israel. It seems no matter what the accusation of Israeli wrongdoing, most Jews vehemently defend the actions of the Israeli government and army, attacking those who dissent - as in this article by Israeli journalist Gideon Levy, who has faced death threats after articles in the Israeli press questioning the war. Levy points out that the criticism has come as much from the liberal readers of his paper, Haaretz, as other sections of Israeli society. We see the same from other Jews who would be considered politically liberal, but nonetheless take a hardline pro-Israeli stance.

But why do most Jewish people - with their values of democracy and tolerance, let alone their history of suffering - defend the actions of the IDF and disregard Palestinian suffering? I recently came across something that explained it all. A Jewish parenting site I visit was discussing the rising tide of anti-Semitism, and no longer feeling safe in their own communities. A reader living in Israel advised those in the U.S. to make aaliyah, the move to the Jewish homeland. She assured fellow readers "Jews are safer here than anywhere else in the world. We have each other, and we have an army". It is a theme that comes up again and again on Jewish websites I visit; the belief that another Holocaust is imminent, and the only thing that will protect the Jewish people is the IDF.

Obviously, those who frequent websites specific to Jewish interests will be more inclined to strongly identify as Jewish as a key part of their identity and feel solidarity with the Jewish people, so it's a skewed sample here. But the Holocaust is not merely an historical event for many Jews; it is something that they feel personally, that but for time and place it could have happened to them, and further that the whole world secretly wants all Jews dead, even if they don't come right out and say so (such references come up in the most seemingly unrelated articles - a piece praising the 2012 Olympics performance of Jewish gymnast Aly Raisman, for instance. And it comes up in articles about explaining the Holocaust to kids - that it could happen again at any time, and most of the world would be happy with that.

So taking this combination of fear, solidarity, and a need to not question too closely claims that Hamas uses human shields, and you've got a pretty good explaination for why so many Jewish people feel the way they do - that no matter the actions of the Israeli government and army, they are necessary to prevent another Holocaust - indeed, this is the only thing that can prevent it, and opposing this is wishing the destruction of the Jewish people. (And what happens, I wonder, when refugees from anti-Semitism do move to Israel - and all need housing? Where are they going to settle?).

Of course not all Jewish people feel this way. But many do, and it does, I think, help explain their unquestioning support of the war, the cries of anti-Semitism whenever anyone questions the Gaza attacks. We may not agree, but we can try to understand. 


10 August 2014

Is There Life After Mine?

With all the controversy flying this week after Senator Eric Abetz spruiked the thoroughly discredited line that abortion causes breast cancer, I threw this up on Twitter today:




It got a few favourites, no one attacked me over it, the internet seemed entirely untroubled by the implied revelation I've had an abortion. I don't regret what I share, but it's not just me I have to think about anymore. The internet is forever, as the Melbourne University Young Liberals are the latest to find out. How will what I've shared online affect Baby G in the future?

I've recently locked my Instagram account for similar reasons; G is about to turn three, and is now more recognisably a person instead of Infanta Generica, and I don't want classmates or anyone other random person able to freely access pictures of him. But what happens in future if classmates - or their parents - stumble across my blog? Will parents be wary of sending their kids to play at "that strange woman's house"? Will there be judgement and bullying over the PTSD stuff, or what I've written about living on welfare, or simply for our political beliefs? Would - my heart breaks - G be teased in the playground over something a six year old has heard their parent say about me?

How do other parents deal with this? If you share personal or controversial stuff online, how do you feel about your kids finding it? How do you feel about your child's friends, or friends parents, finding it? Have their been any issues? I'm keen to hear of people's experiences.