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Miscellaneous notes

It was a toss-up whether to note these here or on Twitter. Not that any of them are trivial, but you can’t do a major post on everything, can you?

1. from The Jakarta Post

Leaders of various religious groups as well as anti-violence activists held two separate mass prayers on Monday at the site of the Jakarta hotel bombings, which killed nine people and injured more than 50 on Friday.

Members of the Indonesian Anti-Violence Community, including lawyer Todung Mulya Lubis, Yenni Wahid, Wimar Witoelar and Ayu Utami, came to the site of the bombings to pray for the victims.

Soon after, religious leaders led another mass prayer at the site.

They included Hasyim Muzadi, chairman of the Nahdlatul Ulama Islamic council, Rev. Petrus from the Indonesian Communion of Churches (PGI), representative of the Hindu community Anak Agung Ngurah Ugrasena and Maha Biksu Dutavira, who came to represent Buddhist.

"Although the situation is overwhelming, people must remain alert but not panic," Rev. Petrus said, as quoted by state news agency Antara.

Suicide bombers attacked the JW Marriot and Ritz-Carlton hotels in Mega Kuningan, South Jakarta, on Friday.

2. from The Sydney Morning Herald: The usual terrorism suspects moved from JI to the Noordin network.

In the aftermath of last Friday’s terrorist bombings in Jakarta, numerous commentators have identified Jemaah Islamiah as the organisation most likely to have committed the attacks. One senior security analyst, for example, told ABC radio that the attacks showed that "JI was back in business".

Other terrorism researchers such as Sidney Jones have argued that the jihadist group led by Noordin Mohammed Top should head the list of suspects.

Of course, there is much that is unclear about the details of the Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotel bombings, and firmer analysis needs to await further information about the identity of those involved and the methods used. But I would like to set out reasons why we should differentiate between JI and the Noordin group, and why it is more plausible to regard Noordin’s group as the prime suspect rather than JI.

JI is not a monolithic organisation. Since the late 1990s it has experienced divisions over how it should conduct jihad. For militants within JI, such as Noordin, Hambali and Mukhlas, the fatwas of Osama bin Laden in the late 1990s declaring it an obligation for Muslims to attack the US and its allies resounded like a clarion call. They were impatient for South-East Asian Muslims to strike a blow against what they saw as Islam’s greatest foes. For more moderate elements of JI, bin Laden’s appeals and the subsequent activities of al-Qaeda were either of little relevance for Indonesia or ran contrary to established Islamic law on jihad…

Such specific details are clearly important to any informed response to events such as these. They tend to get lost when we make blanket generalisations about “Muslims”.

3. SMH again: Karl Konrad – Say hello to our new economic slaves: foreign students.

Karl Konrad “is a migration agent. He was formerly a police officer and whistleblower.”

… Nearly 15 years ago, as a young police constable, I wrote a long report on police corruption to the Victorian ombudsman, Barry Perry. That report sparked one of the biggest investigations into police corruption ever seen in this country. I went to the ombudsman because I couldn’t trust the police or the government of the day. They both had something to lose if the truth came out. Never underestimate the power of a good ombudsman.

Students also need an ombudsman independent of state and federal governments. Proper investigations can get to the bottom of mistreatment or, at worst, outright corruption. Students must be assured the Immigration Department will take no action to deport them. Instead, if necessary, they should be placed out of harm’s way into an alternative reputable education provider at no cost to themselves where they can continue pursuing their dreams.

No one is saying all foreign students have negative experiences here. But now the cat is out let’s keep it out and shake this system free of corruption.

4. SMH: Gerard Henderson smells left-wing bias.

He has the nose for it. 😉

If you want to work out who won what was billed as "the culture wars" during the time of the Howard government, tune into SBS One at 8.30 pm tonight. This is the first episode of the three-part series titled Liberal Rule: The Politics that Changed Australia, which is produced by Nick Torrens Film Productions and written by Nick Torrens and Garry Sturgess.

Liberal Rule is a shocker and a disgrace. Torrens obtained interviews with key figures in the former government – including John Howard, Peter Costello, Alexander Downer and Peter Reith along with some former Liberal Party staffers. They were all identified according to their relationship to Howard or the government he led.

Sturgess had been the senior researcher on the successful ABC TV documentary Labor in Power series, which aired in 1993. It is likely that those supportive of the Howard government who were interviewed for Liberal Rule anticipated a similar style of documentary. In Labor in Power, the key figures in the governments led by Bob Hawke and Paul Keating were allowed to state their case and viewers were allowed to draw their own conclusions.

Not so in Liberal Rule. Torrens put it in a directors’ statement which accompanies the SBS publicity: "Being aware that interviews with our `cast’ of John Howard and his senior cabinet figures would elicit recollections with an eye to history’s favourable view, the crucial decision was how to present a balanced picture . . . Garry and I sought an atmosphere of co-operative engagement. To this we would add the necessary layers of subtext."

You can say that again…

I think SBS viewers are probably bright enough to distinguish fact from opinion. Anyway, do we really want hagiography?

5. Cricket

Did something happen? 😉

 

Not again!

Flag-Pins-Indonesia-Australia

For reactions see:

1. Tikno in Kalimantan, Indonesia.

As I read through the ANTARA News website, Hasyim Muzadi, chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama (largest Islamic organization in Indonesia) said "Terrorism is not a religion and so it is not correct to say Moslems were the mastermind of the bombings". Yes, I agree with him that this is NOT related to particular religion. This is the responsibility of individual actors who has done these terror. Some people said that applying the death sentence is the best solution for reducing terrorist act. But I think they are not afraid for death. Right?

2. Rob Bainton, now in Australia but a long time resident in Indonesia.

For any how have taken umbrage at some of the content of this post or the point and purpose of travel warnings or the like, irrespective of whether you leave a comment or not, I offer no apologies as it is a blog and these are my opinions and "out loud" thoughts on this issue.

I love Indonesia and her people dearly. The country has been an integral part of my development as a person, and for that I will be eternally grateful. I will always feel I have received more than I have given (although there are probably plenty of Indonesians who might disagree) but I will continue to give until my days end.

The point about terrorism is not what religion the perpetrators follow and I do not talk about Muslim or Christian terrorists, just terrorists, those individuals that would seek to disrupt the peaceful existence that the majority of us try and find in our comparatively short time in this world. The point is that there are those who will go to any length to kill and maim the innocents in pursuit of a cause and despite the in-roads Indonesia has made in getting on top of terrorism and some notable successes this has led to a degree of complacency and the idea of it being "only a matter of time".

I saw it and I was fearful of it in the sense that I truly believed it was only a matter of time.

Those that hate exist in all societies and they will always at some point in time make their presence known. Friday, 17 July 2009, was one of those days in Jakarta.

3. Lateline, ABC Australia. See also updates from ABC.

Update

There’s a very good article by Sally Neighbour in today’s Australian. In it she mentions the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. Look for Report #46 on terrorism in Indonesia. See also the reports of the International Crisis Group.

Lest I seem to have been unreasonable today in not allowing Kevin’s “non-pc” comment, I have a pretty good idea where he is coming from on this issue; we have been here before. Kevin is entitled to his opinion, but he has also visited the material linked to my side-bar warning on commenting about Islamic-related issues.

 

Oh dear, I agree with Peter Costello!

Peter Costello, Treasurer in the Howard Government, is famously about to drop out of parliamentary politics, even if the majority of voters would have him rather than Malcolm Turnbull as Opposition Leader. Nowadays he writes regularly for The Sydney Morning Herald. Today he weighs into the China syndrome. I am sure many Costello-haters, and there are many, would love to pin “racism” on this article, but I don’t believe that would be fair. What he says, based on my own limited experience of doing business with China, is actually true.

…Stealing state secrets is not a common crime in Australia, and it is certainly not a crime to obtain information about your customers and how they might approach a commercial negotiation. If you do obtain such information, it cannot be a state secret because companies are privately owned.

In China, where the state owns so many companies, commercial information becomes a state secret, which tells you that these are not corporations in the way we understand them.

Supporters of the Chinalco proposal argued Chinalco was just like any other corporation. However, Chinalco was even more intertwined with the Chinese Government than other companies, as its chairman was an alternate member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party.

We should remember that the Australian Government did not rule that the Chinalco bid was contrary to our national interest. It never expressed a view about the application.

Rio pulled out of the proposal under pressure from its shareholders. As it turns out it could raise money elsewhere, and it recognised there was more benefit from an association with the Australian producer BHP than Chinalco – an association it had previously spurned…

As I found, only in China can you get copyright clearance for a whole group of authors by approaching the Department of Culture in Beijing. The state, rather than the authors, controls the copyright.

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2009 in Chinese and China, current affairs

 

Quick thoughts on China

People in China talk of a “cold wind from the north” whenever the Chinese Government (formally/formerly Communist, still “totalitarian”) gets conniptions. They tend to wait out the storm and go, so far as possible, about their own business. There are winds blowing right now, principally over Xinjiang and Urumqi, but also over Chinalco and the “niceties” of foreign investment. Blustering from our opposition doesn’t help much.

Some good background pieces include:

1. John Garnaut in today’s Sydney Morning Herald.

It is unlikely that the company (Rio Tinto) has created its own specific vulnerabilities to China’s harsh and arbitrary criminal system.

But in China, with its enormous system of laws that are seldom enforced, the specifics of Rio’s iron ore dealings are only the starting point in working out how things went so horribly wrong.

"There is always the question: why did they choose to go after these people at this time?" says Jerome Cohen, an expert on China’s state secrets laws at New York University. "Was there such hostility between Chinese and Rio Tinto iron ore that coloured this crackdown?"

The answer to that question is obviously "yes".

The bigger, geopolitical question is why China’s resource insecurity had grown so great, and Australia’s diplomatic leverage had been so diminished, that China’s top leaders saw fit to elevate the iron ore trade into a matter of national security in spite of the inevitable and substantial costs to China’s progress in the world.

The answers are complicated and begin with China’s leadership, who have been groomed and promoted on their readiness to see politics and security at the heart of any policy problem.

The security-first instinct repeatedly hurts China, as the detention of four Rio Tinto employees for allegedly stealing state secrets will also hurt China…

2. Isabel Hinton, “A Cold Wind in Beijing”, New Statesman, 5 February 2009.

…China presents its economic statistics with "Chinese characteristics". This past quarter the country posted 6.8 per cent growth, half the double-digit trend of recent decades and already worrying – but the truth is darker still. As the economics guru Nouriel Roubini points out, China publishes its quarterly GDP figure on a year-over-year basis, unlike the United States and most other countries, which publish their GDP growth figures on a quarter-on-quarter, annualised basis. When growth is slowing sharply, quarter-on-quarter growth may be negative, but the year-over-year figure looks positive. Converting the 6.8 per cent into the more standard annualised figure, according to Roubini, gives a truer picture of the Chinese position as close to zero. That bull might be a little shy of reappearing.

That this spells trouble is no secret in Beijing. The Year of the Ox is also a year of resonant anniversaries in China, many of them unmentionable in official circles. In March, there’s the 50th anniversary of the Dalai Lama’s flight into exile and the 20th anniversary of the imposition of martial law in Lhasa. It will also be a year since the biggest wave of protest across all the Tibetan territories. Spring will bring the 90th anniversary of the 4 May movement, under whose banner patriotic students and intellectuals, outraged that German concessions in China had been given to Japan at Versailles, marched to demand political and cultural modernisation. On 4 June, the 20th anniversary of the crushing of the student occupation of Tiananmen Square will be marked, and 1 October will be the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic. In December will come the anniversary – all but forgotten in China and abroad – of the crushing of the Democracy Wall in 1979, when Deng Xiaoping turned his back on what the dissident Wei Jingsheng resonantly called the "Fifth Modernisation": democracy.

To add to the giddy total, China has just celebrated 18 December 1978, the 30th anniversary of the beginning of Deng’s economic reforms, which launched three decades of industrialisation and double-digit growth. When Deng turned his back on political modernisation in 1979, and again in 1989, he locked China into a political pact that committed the government to delivering rising living standards at the price of continued one-party rule. It’s a pact that has held, more or less, until now, and that recession threatens to undo…

3. Isabel Hinton (2), “Desperately seeking democracy”, New Statesman, 28 May 2009.

…A few days ago a Chinese friend came to meet me, wearing a T-shirt on which were printed three two-digit numbers: 90 30 20. To anyone who has studied China’s century-long search for an accountable political system, the numbers will be familiar: 90 marks the number of years since the May 4 Movement and 30 pays tribute to the Democracy Wall movement of 1979. That year, Deng Xiaoping announced his list of “four modernisations”, all of them economic.

In the extraordinary weeks that followed, a stretch of wall near Xidan in central Beijing became the forum for a passionate debate about China’s political future. The hero of the hour was Wei Jingsheng, an electrician from the Beijing Zoo, with his now famous call for a fifth modernisation to be added to Deng Xiaoping’s list: democracy. Wei was to spend nearly 18 years in prison, writing a long series of closely argued letters to Deng before he emerged, still defiant, in 1997, and was sent into exile.

The last number – 20 – is, of course, the most immediate and most painful reminder: it commemorates the democracy movement that was crushed on 4 June 1989….

4. On Xinjiang: Report by Danny Vincent on the UAE site The National 11 July 2009.

…The riots in Urumqi erupted a week ago when demonstrators took to the streets in protest to ethnic violence which killed two Uighur in south China last month following rumours that factory workers had raped two Han Chinese girls. The riots in the resource-rich region forced Hu Jintao, the president, to abandon plans to attend the G8 summit in Italy. The unrest is comparable to unrest in Tibet last March.

Both are politically sensitive regions where the Chinese government blames external influences on the unrest, while playing down ethnic tension.
Beijing has blamed what it calls the Dalai Lama clique for the uprising 18 months ago in Lhasa.  Officials are using increasingly strong language to denounce Ms Kadeer, linking her to the violence in Urumqi. “If Kadeer and the separatist ‘World Uighur Congress’ wanted to take ethnic relations as an excuse to sabotage China’s unification, we must be vigilant and firmly crush their plot,” Ismail Amat, a former official in Xinjiang told Xinhua news.

“How can such a person represent the Uighur people?” he said.

 

July 09 South Sydney Herald

I have a particular interest in this, but the really big news in this issue is the front page story on the approval of the Pemulwuy Project in Redfern.

So here’s your copy of the paper: SSH_JULY_09 pdf

There’s a lot to read in the South Sydney Herald, and it isn’t all parochial; for example Laura Bannister & Robert Morrison give a fuller account of a story published in the May SSH on “abducted” protesters on behalf of Ugandan child soldiers.

And there’s a story by me too, on the book trade.

ssh0709

You can read it in big writing over the break. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Indian students, racism, theatre news

Given recent concern over attacks on Indian students in Melbourne and Sydney it is fitting that Sydney’s newest theatre company, The Alex Buzo Company, is mounting two plays in August at The Seymour Centre: Buzo’s Norm and Ahmed (1968) and Alana Valentine’s Shafana and Aunt Sarrinah. The first Sydney production of Norm and Ahmed made history. Not long before his untimely death in 2006 Alex Buzo told ABC what happened.

ALEX BUZO: Those words, I mean sorry, the first word, had been used in a lot of overseas plays and so I just assumed it was OK, it was legal.
VIRGINIA TRIOLI: It had been said on stage?
ALEX BUZO: Yeah, it had been said on stage. But because it happened in an Australian play, there was a double standard and they thought it was shocking and the actor was arrested and eventually exonerated.
VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Yes indeed, the whole matter was actually quashed by the Attorney-General. But there was some… there was a bit of a drama to go through until that happened, when the charges were laid and Graeme Blundell and Lindsay Smith were charged with obscenity. There was a great deal of discussion about it in the press.
[VT] Did it dishearten you?
ALEX BUZO: Well, I had actually been boasting in private that my aim as a writer was to put Australian drama on the front page. I didn’t anticipate this sort of front page treatment but, I thought it did have a good result in the sense that people knew that Australian drama was alive and well, whereas up until that point it had no publicity whatsoever, so it did have positive things. On the other hand it was very draining for the actors to go to the Magistrates Court and then the Supreme Court and then it went eventually to the High Court in Canberra. So, it certainly was a wearing process but it did have its upside.
VIRGINIA TRIOLI: In a sense looking back on it, it’s a little disheartening, I guess, that the fight all the way through the courts had to be about two words, had to be about a swear word, rather than something a heck of a lot more important than that. I mean, you can imagine going to the courts in defence of art, but something much more important than just those words.
ALEX BUZO: Yes, I mean, I’d be disappointed if people didn’t think the play had something to say about racism and generational envy. But it is a literary play, it is an art play, it’s meant to be humorous and imaginative, it’s meant to have other things going for it other than the final two words.

I was fortunate enough to meet Alex Buzo on several occasions, most memorably when I played a Rugby League commentator in his The Roy Murphy Show for the Balmain Theatre Group in 1978.

I also see Alana Valentine quite frequently as we have some common interests. I shall go to this double bill if I can possibly do so.

Meanwhile around 4 am on Sunday a couple of Indian students were bashed on Bathurst Street near George Street Sydney. This isn’t surprising, unfortunately, as parts of George Street are notorious for this kind of thing especially in the small hours of Saturday nights and Sunday mornings. I would hesitate to wander there myself. The assailants were respectively 16 and 17.

It is pleasing to note The Times of India reporting on 28 June Indians in Australia are safe.

Australian scientist Jose (Jimmy) Botella, who is attending a three-day international conference hosted by Vinoba Bhave University in Hazaribag, on Sunday said that Indian students in Australia are safe and that reports about repeated attacks on them in Melbourne and Sydney have been blown out of proportion by the Indian media. Botella said that Melbourne and Sydney are cities like Delhi and Mumbai in India where criminal activities are no exception. "This does not mean that Australians are indulging in a hatred war against Indians. In fact, Indian students are very bright and intelligent and Australians like them for this quality."…

True enough. See also Delegation tries to allay ‘racist’ attack fears.

There is, however, another basis for complaint. Some of the “private colleges” students might be lured to are store-front operations of dubious pedigree. Students should conduct careful checks preferably with recognised education sites and the Australian Government before enrolling.

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2009 in Australia, Australia and Australian, current affairs, education, events, friends, OzLit, racism, South Asian

 

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UN Peacekeepers — a quiz

I have to admit this surprised me, so I will let you guess first. This is a quiz, not a poll.

When you’ve done check Prime Numbers: Soldiers of Misfortune in Foreign Policy May-June 2009.

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2009 in amazing, current affairs

 

June review catch-up 1

Yes, I know how long I have been promising a string of reviews on that “sticky” above. ;)  Well, now to get started…

star30 star30star30star30star30 1. Simon Schama, The American Future: A History (2008).

Rather snooty review by David Brooks in The New York Times: “His book is called “The American Future: A History” (which is a puerile paradox before you even open the cover), and it has nothing whatsoever to do with the American future.” When you actually read the book you do get the title: historically “The American Dream” (the phrase itself, if not the idea, first appeared in 1931) has been very much about possibility and the future – witness the ending of The Great Gatsby. Beginning each chapter with vignettes of the 2008 Presidential Election, Schama traces a series of themes back through a number of intelocked and fascinating profiles. The result, in my view, is one of the most subtle portraits of the USA and its evolution that I have ever read. Nothing puerile about the title or the book.

Much nearer the mark is Carmela Ciuraru in The Christian Science Monitor.

William Faulkner once famously wrote that “the past is never dead; it isn’t even past,” a quote that aptly describes the perspective of Simon Schama’s latest book. In The American Future: A History, the eminent British historian and Columbia University professor offers a kaleidoscopic view of our national identity – by way of examining war, immigration, religion, and prosperity.

He sets off these themes with the 2008 presidential election, “impregnated with history,” an event that Schama likens to Thomas Jefferson’s inaugural in 1801, when Jefferson similarly spoke out against divisive rhetoric, proclaiming that “every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle.”

Weaving in original reportage, analysis, and historical events, Schama investigates where our nation of boundless appetite and ambition might be headed. The book (a companion to his BBC documentary series) is both a celebration and a wake-up call. “The American future is all vision, numinous, unformed, light-headed with anticipation,” he writes. “The American past is baggy with sobering truth.” The author is particularly harsh about our country’s recent past, notably “the woeful performance of [former president George W. Bush] and his hapless maladministration.” …

He isn’t striving for objectivity; this book is part history, part polemic. As a scholar and an outsider in his adopted country, he views the Bush administration as an unmitigated disaster. Yet the author is smart enough to (mostly) keep his opinions to himself, and let others do the talking – whether through contemporary interviews or quotes from historical figures…

He’s especially adroit at studying our historical ambivalence toward immigrants, and how religious ideology has shaped our identity. (He notes that American evangelism has always puzzled “habitually secular, skeptical Europeans.”)

American history is endlessly rich and fascinating, but Schama’s travelogue makes it come alive in a wonderfully accessible way. Sure, some of his pronouncements seem a bit obvious, but he includes so many surprising moments (an amusingly candid off-the-cuff encounter with George W. Bush, for instance) that all is forgiven. Schama happens to be a marvelous storyteller, too. Never condescending, his portrait of America’s complexities and contradictions is entertaining, provocative, and above all, hopeful.

The chapter on religion — “American Fervour” – is particularly valuable. It is a nuanced corrective to the polarised and polarising views of the subject one so often sees.* Let’s face it, too much we see and hear about the USA is at the level of cartoon thought, whether it be mindless patriotism on the one hand or subscription to the idea that the USA is at the bottom of all that is wrong with the world on the other.

You can read Chapter One here. Some idea of the TV series may be seen here. A definite Best Read of 2009!

* See also Caspar Melville “Free Market Faith”, New Humanist May/June 2009.

star30star30 star30 2. Stephen Prothero, Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know – and Doesn’t (2007)

I really have mixed feelings about this one.

"Many US high school students think that Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife."

The book is written for a popular audience and serves several good purposes. It contains a useful “encyclopedia” of relevant religious movements and ideas that really does encapsulate much that we all “need to know” to make sense of the world around us. These entries cover most of the main world religions. They are sane on Islam-related matters.

On the other hand much of the historical section is, to my mind, quite odd – a nostalgia for contexts and situations that even the author eventually admits we can’t return to, and probably shouldn’t try.

star30star30star30star30 3. June 2009 Monthly Magazine

I particularly enjoyed Waleed Aly “Patriot Acts”, Fiona Capp “In the Garden” (about Judith Wright and Nugget Coombs) and Peter Sutton “Here I Stand” – a very insightful profile of the undoubtedly brilliant if controversial Noel Pearson: “Peter Sutton reflects on the many facets of Noel Pearson’s thought as it appears in Up From the Mission, the Cape York leader’s comprehensive new collection of writing.”

The blurb for “Patriot Acts” follows.

“American patriotism does not celebrate a country that exists or has ever existed. It is a celebration of the idea of America: of possibility, what Barack Obama calls ‘America’s promise’. Where we may look upon America as the country of slavery and racial segregation, Americans see a country that overcame these things … This is a concept alien to those whose sense of patriotism has an older, more European flavour. The message of Australia’s staunchest patriots is that ours is a great country with a great history and no need for change.”

In “Patriot Acts”, Waleed Aly looks beyond the cheering and flag waving to provide a unique and compelling analysis of American patriotism, its history and complexity, and the lessons Australia can draw from it. “The secret to America’s unique brand of national identity,” Aly says, is that it “coheres principally around not a social culture but a political one”; it is this, he argues, that allows American patriotism to be embraced by even the most marginalised in US society.

“The demands America makes of its minorities are less trenchant than those preferred by anti-multiculturalists. Its demands are civic demands. If Australia has lately had a message for its migrants, it has been, ‘Fit in’. America’s message is, ‘Participate’. The two are worlds apart. The latter expresses a national identity that is dynamic and open, and that offers citizens a belief in their own freedom of conscience and the opportunity to contribute something new. The former expresses a national identity that is comparatively fixed, that makes its demands without inviting input and that, as a consequence, inspires little fidelity.”

 

Quote of the week: Naj on Tehran

I have in the past mentioned the blog Neo-resistance, “…an Iranian woman. I am tired of hearing Iranian women are chained creatures who need sympathy or liberation. I am not a feminist; that is why my tales are those of resilience.”

I would have stood behind Ahmadinejad, if he had not become the face of fascism.

I would have been now cheering the glorious images of a massively attended election, over 42 million out of some 49 million eligible voters participating in the election.

I would have been posting images of happy men and women, rural and urban, rich and poor, lined up to vote.

I would have been standing tall in front of the world, and would have said "look, Iran is not the backward dictatorship that your media is projecting it to be."

I would have … ONLY if the "passionate outbursts after soccer game"-as stupidly uttered by that ugly man–were not faced with bullets and batons!

I would have … ONLY if the headquarters of the opposite parties to Ahmadinejad had NOT been raided, tear gassed, and closed

I would have … ONLY if the foreign journalists were not kicked out and the internal reporters were not intimidated

I would have … ONLY if I had not seen pictures of ununiformed, ugly, angry men holding knives to unarmed gigolos

I would have … ONLY if the result of 42 million votes were NOT released in less than 24 hours!!! If the election monitors were allowed to monitor the count!!! If there was at least a small gesture that "sure, we do re-count for the respect of our democratic process, instead of shedding blood!"

This is NOT religion versus democracy …

This is fascism versus humanity …

— 15 June 2009

Here is one of pictures she posted yesterday.

Violence_Rally

Click on the picture to see more.

 
 

BBC World Service: some food for thought

I tend to listen to the radio for a while before going to sleep at night, usually between 10 pm and midnight. If I happen to tune in to ABC News Radio at that time I get the BBC World Service. While some may see this as a hangover from times past, I rather rejoice in it. Just lately there have been two standouts.

1. The Reith Lectures 2009: “A New Citizenship: Professor Michael Sandel delivers four lectures about the prospects of a new politics of the common good.” I caught the tail end of the first one last night and the audience Q&A. Excellent stuff, and an encouraging perspective on what may emerge from the present troubles. The era from Reagan/Thatcher to the meltdown now feels increasingly like a passing era, not a destination, as many economists in the 1990s saw it – an age of “market triumphalism”. What Professor Sandel is advocating, however, is not the end of globalisation but a new model for the relations of market, state and people.

2. BBC Radio 4’s Analysis: Economy on the edge. There is a podcast, but a summary rather than a transcript. The summary leaves out much that was of interest in the broadcast, but gives the main outline. The panel was particularly interesting: George Soros, Willem Buiter, professor of European political economy at the London School of Economics and former member of the monetary policy committee of the Bank of England, Christine Lagarde, Minster of Economic Affairs, Industry and Employment in France, and Zhu Min, executive vice president of the Bank of China.

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2009 in current affairs, globalisation/corporations, radio

 

More on “Racism? Yes and no”

Rarely does a post of mine excite much discussion, though I have to say that is partly because I don’t really foster massive comment threads. After a couple of weeks I usually close comment. So I have been fascinated by the turn taken in my post Racism? Yes and no….

Comments have been sidetracked a little by Antony Shen, but it’s not a bad sidetrack: after all, what constitutes humour in “making fun” of second language speakers and what constitutes superciliousness or even racism is a good topic, even if it arguably has little to do with the current issue between India and Australia about their students here.

Meanwhile the stories of attack and counter-attack on the subject of Indian students in Australia goes on. There are very serious implications, as Ramana, a delightful gentleman in India and a regular reader, notes in that comment thread.

The focus just lately has been on the western Sydney suburb of Harris Park.

Indian students have protested for a second night in Sydney’s west, calling for greater police protection.

Around 70 young men blocked off an intersection at Harris Park just after 8:00pm, demonstrating against what some claim is racially-motivated attacks against Indian students perpetrated by members of the Lebanese community.

Two men were arrested and taken to Parramatta Police Station. One was released without charge and the other was served a notice to appear in court later this month.

Rippon Singh, a student at the protest, believes they are being targeted.

"We are contributing to the real community, we are paying the taxes, we are doing everything that is possible and we are getting bashed up," he said…

In a speech to India’s Parliament, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh slammed the attacks as senseless violence, saying some of them are racist in nature.

Australian High Commissioner to India John McCarthy says there are not any systemic racist attacks going on.

"Some of the crimes committed against them have had a racial element in them and I think there has been increased concern among the Indian student community as a whole in Australia," he said. "That’s understandable."

India’s Foreign minister, SM Krishna, has urged Indian students to stay calm in the wake of the attacks on them.

"I would like all Indian students to be patient," he said. "They should be restrained. They have gone there to pursue higher studies and they should concentrate on that, rather than retaliate."…

Jim Belshaw makes a useful contribution on the demographics of Harris Park.

I am still “yes and no” on this, and that is not to sit on the fence but to recognise that “racism” is too broad a brush, too much of a catch-all here. While as strongly anti-racist as ever, I also recognise the ease with which this emotive term can blur lines, can indeed be one of those concepts that make us “white folk” (though I am not myself entirely white) feel righteous: see the wonderful satirical blog Stuff White People Like, a great prophylactic.

One of the nastiest racist incidents I have ever seen here in Surry Hills (some years ago) was an Aboriginal man spitting on some passing Chinese. Racism isn’t exclusively a white preoccupation.

Today in The Sydney Morning Herald Paul Sheehan (whose Waiting for the Barbarians in the late 1990s was a singularly inflammatory and unhelpful analysis of our being “swamped by Asians” leading to my regarding him ever since as a thinking person’s Pauline Hanson) does have a point. See Brutal truth about attacks.

…the distorted story of white racism has been helped along by the prevailing sensibilities of reporting of crime in Australia, with skittishness about detailing the gritty reality that most violent street crime in Sydney and Melbourne is not committed by whites. The prison populations confirm this.

The attacks on Indians have followed this pattern, with the crimes committed by a polyglot mix reflecting the streets – white, Asian, Middle Eastern, Aboriginal, Pacific Islander.

The most recent attacks, in Harris Park this week, allegedly involved assailants of the proverbial "Middle Eastern appearance". The assault on Monday night was followed by a retaliatory attack by a big group of Indians. Police said three men "of Middle Eastern appearance" were set upon in Harris Park after about 200 Indian men converged on the street after hearing of the latest attack. In Melbourne, an assault on an Indian student on a train was recorded on video and footage depicting the attack was posted on YouTube. The video shows a swarm of young men robbing and repeatedly attacking the student. Most of them do not appear to be white.

A recent assault on an Indian student in Glebe was committed by a young offender described as Aboriginal…

What Sheehan forgets is that everyone having Australian citizenship, whatever their culture or ethnicity, is Australian. The implication of such thinking as his is that there are “Aussies” and there are “non-Aussies” – Lebs for example. Unfortunately too many fall for this error, including many in the “non-Anglo” Australian camp as well as many self-styled “Aussies” rather over-given to wrapping themselves in Australian flags, a very recent practice that once would have scandalised most Australians. But he is right to point out that “white racism” is at best just one element in this puzzle.

Similarly Miranda Devine a little while back, though she parades her hobby-horses as usual. Even so, Adrian Phoon (an Australian born and bred) remarked at the time on Twitter: “Miranda Devine speaks and I find myself not disagreeing with her, even almost agreeing with her. Is this the apocalypse or just revelation?”

Unfortunately, as Ramana says, the current difficulties have coincided with several other matters to make this a real issue in India. We Australians do need to be careful how we address it.

 

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Obama and the Muslim world – not unexpected or without precedent

There has been much comment on Obama’s speech in Cairo, but its tone and direction are not unexpected. One can even hope that it will be effective in focussing on violent extremism (of any kind) rather than confusing the issue, as past policy has done, by intentionally or unintentionally indicting about a third of the world’s population. It comes as no surprise as Obama’s approach closely follows that of Madeleine Albright in her The Mighty and the Almighty and was foreshadowed in Changing Course – A New Direction for U.S. Relations with the Muslim WorldReport of the Leadership Group on U.S.-Muslim Engagement September 2008 (SECOND PRINTING, WITH A NEW PREFACE AND ENDORSEMENTS February 2009). See my earlier post on this.

One might also reflect on the 1797 Treaty of Tripoli.

Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2009 in America, current affairs, faith, fundamentalism and extremism, Islam, Middle East, pluralism, terrorism, USA

 

I read the news today, oh boy…

Well, it is the anniversary of that album…

But then, whoda believed it a few years ago?

And then, speaking of holes: Bellevue hole an active crater for weeks to come. See Sally’s Sydney Daily Photo.

(More coming. I’m switching to Live Writer…)*

And then, as I was saying before I was rudely interrupted…

020609_cartoon_moir_gallery

Moir in today’s Sydney Morning Herald

Meanwhile.

We have had much merited soul-searching about the targeting of Indian students in Melbourne of late. You will see Ramana took it up here recently. You need only to check this blog under racism to see where I am coming from on such things. However, I did find New Matilda more than a bit po-faced in Sol Was Right: We Are Racist by Ezequiel Trumper. I agree with commenter PaulRobert:

…You’re not seriously trying to argue that there is less entrenched racism in the US than in Australia, are you? There’s very little chance of hysterical protests against chk-chk-boom because no one takes the racist angle seriously – it was so obviously a joke.

Your article reminds me of Robert Hughes’ idea of "linguistic Lourdes": if only we could change the language people use, all the evils of the world will magically disappear – very PC circa early ’90s.

If you want to highlight the damage racism does in this country, get on the case about the appalling attacks against international students in Melbourne. But Trujillo? I’m happy to join with Rudd and give him the "one-fingered" farewell not because of his Mexican heritage but because he was a corporate vandal, a failure and a knob.

I even go along, for the most part, with Gerard Henderson:

…Stories which have a race edge tend to excite journalists in Australia. Not, however, on this occasion. Readers of The Age and, to a lesser extent, the Herald Sun would have been aware of a spate of attacks on Indians beginning about October, primarily in Melbourne’s western suburbs. This led to the establishment of the Police-Indian Western Reference Group in January. At the time about 30 per cent of all victims in this area were men of Indian appearance.

In fact, the number of Indian victims of assault in Melbourne over the past six months exceeds the total number of serious casualties in the Cronulla riots – and revenge attacks – of December 2005. Yet, until last week, there had been almost no coverage of this issue on the public broadcasters. The matter was all but ignored on such important ABC programs as AM, The World Today, PM, The 7.30 Report, Q&A, Lateline and Radio National’s Breakfast, as well as SBS’s World News Australia.

Even the Victorian Government has been surprisingly quiet on what sections of the Indian media have depicted as "curry bashing" incidents. The Premier, John Brumby, issued a media release last Friday following representations from India’s high commissioner in Australia, Sujatha Singh. Better late than never, but still late…

Interviewed on Lateline on July 28 last year, the influential Indian commentator – and one-time United Nations player – Shashi Tharoor criticised Australia’s policy on uranium exports. He made the important point that, unlike Australia, India does not enjoy the protection of the US nuclear umbrella. He also pointed out that, in living memory, India has fought wars with what are now two nuclear powers — China and Pakistan.

Elsewhere, Tharoor has depicted Australia’s policy in this area as a vestige of what he terms "apartheid".

It appears many influential Indians do not fully appreciate that the Rudd Government’s position on uranium exports is determined in part by the Prime Minister’s focus on observing United Nations treaties to the letter, and in part on upholding Labor policy and, in the process, keeping Labor’s left-wing quiet.

Even so, the policy has annoyed the highest level of the Indian Government. And now many Indians are rightly concerned about ethnic-motivated crime in Australia.

It’s time to focus on improving the relationship between Australia and India. A greater concentration by the Victorian authorities on crime, and more restrained policing, would help for starters.

Let’s hope they catch all the low-life responsible for the Melbourne attacks.

* I was composing direct to WordPress but the WordPress media uploader, and/or Google Gears, crashed Firefox three times!

 

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Perception versus fact on crime in Australia

crime There is a brief report in today’s Sydney Morning Herald that caught my eye while I had my morning coffee at Juice & Java.

A DAILY media focus on crime is largely to blame for more than a third of people wrongly believing a terrorist attack is imminent on Australian soil and that the crime rate is rising, experts say.

Three-quarters of Australians believed a terrorist attack would happen in South-East Asia last year while more than a third thought it would happen at home, a survey by the Australian Institute of Criminology has found.

Despite a decrease in the crime rate, 65 per cent of people surveyed for the 2007 report said they believed it had risen, with about half saying it had increased substantially.

Researchers Lynne Roberts and David Indermaur said Australians remained sceptical or ambivalent about the performance of the criminal justice system, wrongly believed courts were too soft on criminals and mistakenly thought they were at much greater risk of becoming a crime victim than was actually the case.

"These misperceptions are generally attributable to the main source of information respondents rely on for their picture of crime and criminal justice – the popular media," the researchers said…

That figures! But there is a lot more in the Australian Institute of Criminology Report than that. I urge you to go there and download a copy. There is much else of interest on the site too.