Tag Archives: politics

Australia Days

Cape Leveque
Photo credit: Finn Pröpper

I really like Australia. I was born there, I grew up there, my parents brothers and sisters all live there. I don’t have a single national identity, but ‘Australian’ is the one I put above the others. It’s a physically beautiful and inspiring country. At their best its people are generous, open, welcoming, relaxed and funny. At its strongest Australian nationalism is self-critical. The story of the first European settlers arriving as British criminals  and founding a free nation is inspiring.

On the other hand, our country was founded on the lie of terra nullius which continues to pervert many Australians’ understanding of their country. Indigenous Australians suffer incarceration and ill health at rates that are hard to comprehend, relative to the prosperous, free image we have of ourselves. Explicit genocide, dispossession, unequal treatment and paternalism has been replaced by active neglect and disrespect. Stan Gran’s speech is a must-watch:

Australia’s attitude to immigration has been troubled for a long time. A set of White Australia policies restricted non-European immigration persisted into the 1960s. Even then, non-English Europeans, especially Catholics were looked down on and politically and economically marginalized. During the Second World War, unlike the United States, we interned not only Japanese Australians, but Australians of Italian and German descent – as I like to say, “our racism was colourblind”. Subsequent waves of Southern European, East Asian, and now South Asian and Middle Eastern immigrants are attacked verbally by politicians and physically by thugs.

Finally in the treatment of asylum seekers by Australia since the 1990s has been a stain on our reputation and our moral standing. Governments of all parties have imprisoned men, women and children, in awful conditions, exposing them to horrible abuse – simply for arriving in Australia after escaping persecution – but without their paperwork in order. It’s a continuation and escalation of our history of xenophobic immigration policies.

So January 26th doesn’t get me that excited, but it does make me reflect. I’m glad my employer decided to use our home page the occasion to highlight the historic oppression of our indigenous brothers and sisters. In four months time there will be National Sorry Day, a national day of atonement and reconciliation. That recognizes where we’ve come from, how far we have to go to achieve the standards we set ourselves. That celebrates the aspects of Australian culture that I most identify with.

The Problem With Democracy

The problem with democracy is that the people of a country lose the right to consider themselves independent of government policies. If a government does or says awful things then the people of the democracy have to bear responsibility.

Citizens of totalitarian regimes can’t really be held responsible for what their governments do. I don’t consider the Chinese people as a whole responsible for the repression of Uyghurs or Ai Weiwei. I don’t hold the Saudi people responsible for the domestic repression of religious minorities or for their government’s support for the coup in Egypt.

Australians have elected governments that lock up asylum seekers in private prisons in Australia and in our poor neighbors. The conditions are awful, there is endemic violence (including sexual violence) against the asylum seekers. It’s an embarrassment, but more than that it’s a national shame – a stain on our character as a people.

Israelis just reelected Likud and Benjamin Netanyahu, right after he declared his opposition to ending the occupation and expressed deeply racist concerns about the idea that non-Jewish Israeli citizens actually voting in the election. Not all Israelis voted for him, but as a democracy, Israel as a whole carries the responsibility for his words and actions.

By being the citizen of a democracy we are taking on responsibility for the actions of our government, whether we are in the majority or not. We have the responsibility to speak up and advocate for what is just and right and true. But we can’t escape our shared responsibility for our nations’ crimes and mistakes.

This is what an insurgent looks like

This is happening one state away from me:

insurgent

Pretty scary stuff. I guess at least Americans are bearing arms to overthrow (in their mind) tyrannical government not just shooting at each other out of fear, anger or greed. It shows some holes in many citizens’ view of the social contract though.

Horse Meat

I like horse meat. It’s delicious and healthy. And not so different from beef. I’m really enjoying watching the unfolding European horse meat scandal. Even countries like France where horse is regularly eaten are outraged that they’ve been lied to.

A madrinha alerta

The scandal has exposed the complicated supply chain in the European cheap meat trade. It’s exposed other lovely facts like that a “beef burger” in the UK only needs to be 47% beef. What’s the rest of it? Pretty much anything, but generally protein powder and highly processed meat off-cuts.

In the 1990s the UK banned mechanically recovered meat, commonly referred to as “pink slime”, after it was linked to the spread of CJD, the human form of mad cow disease. Pink slime was replaced by “de-sinewed meat” in cheap meat products until last year when it was reclassified and no longer allowed in cheap burgers. The way I look at it, this means, since we’re in the process of eliminating pink slime, we’re about 15 years away from this scandal here in the US.

I think it’s great whenever people are exposed to their food chain. We need to demand more accountability, transparency and integrity. If that means we can’t afford to eat meat every day, but the meat we do it is of higher quality then that’s a fine outcome.

I’d go so far as to say I’m Lovin’ It.

The full Bradley Manning / Adrian Lamo logs

(06:08:53 PM) info@adrianlamo.com: What’s your greatest fear?
(06:09:24 PM) bradass87: dying without ever truly living
via Manning-Lamo Chat Logs Revealed | Threat Level | Wired.com.

Everyone should read (apparently) this full chat log. In it Manning, a 22 year old depressed man, questioning his gender reached out to Lamo for someone to talk to. While Manning poured out his story of growing up with abusive, alcoholic parents Lamo repeatedly assured him that he was safe to talk to. Manning denied having a “doctrine”, but he did have a clear sense of morality:
(1:11:54 PM) bradass87: and… its important that it gets out… i feel, for some bizarre reason
(1:12:02 PM) bradass87: it might actually change something
(1:13:10 PM) bradass87: i just… dont wish to be a part of it… at least not now… im not ready… i wouldn’t mind going to prison for the rest of my life, or being executed so much, if it wasn’t for the possibility of having pictures of me… plastered all over the world press… as a boy…

via Manning-Lamo Chat Logs Revealed | Threat Level | Wired.com.

When Lamo was chatting to him, Manning had been demoted and had lost his access to classified networks. Any good or ill he had done by leaking to WikiLeaks was over. He was going to be discharged. He’d started to set up his identity as a woman. He was just 22, trying to serve his country, serve humanity and work out who he was.

Emissions taxing and trading in Australia

POLLUTION After many years of proposals, counter-proposals, coups and general disappointment the Australian Government has announced its scheme to allow the economic impact of carbon pollution to be managed by the free market.

I’m really really proud that as a country we’ve reached the point where there’s a plan in place. It’s taken longer than it should have. In 2007 it was a policy of both major parties yet for a while more recently it had been a policy of neither. We’re one of the first countries in the world to pull this off.

The plan announced by Julia Gillard sets an initial price of AUD $23 per ton of CO2 produced, along with subsidies for many industries and tax cuts to low and middle income Australians. A few heavily polluting industries will take a hit, but that’s the idea. Businesses that aren’t pollution-centric seem to largely support the scheme.

There will be a transition in 2015 to a free market emission trading scheme. Amusingly Tony Abbot. leader of the conservative, supposedly free market Liberal Party opposes the idea of allowing markets to determine prices. There’s been some shrill, populist freak-out over new taxes, but the impact is likely to be small enough peoples’ lives that it won’t be an issue at the next election. I’m expecting the bursting housing bubble will be more of a worry.

Donna Dubinsky struggled to get individual health insurance (NYTimes)

The new health care reform legislation is not perfect. Nothing that complex could be. But I have no doubt that the system is broken and reform is absolutely essential. If we are not going to have universal coverage but are going to rely on employer plans, then we must offer individuals, self-employed people and small businesses a place to purchase insurance at a reasonable price.

via Money Won’t Buy You Health Insurance – NYTimes.com.

This is ultimately my big problem with the healthcare situation in the US. I’m sorry that poor people don’t have access to healthcare, but they don’t have access to healthcare in much of the world. The fact that successful, wealthy people don’t have access to affordable healthcare is ridiculous and unusual.