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Helen Bamber

Last night Andrew Denton interviewed Helen Bamber. The prepublicity had been – basically — Helen who?

I had read Neil Belton’s The Good Listener: A Life against Cruelty [1998] some time back – see Only the demons are dancing… – and looked forward to seeing and hearing her for the first time. I was not disappointed.

bamber01 ANDREW DENTON: What is it about the world today that scares you?

HELEN BAMBER: When people, when victims are thrown up through man’s inhumanity, whatever it is, through war, through ethnic violence, whatever it is, I feel the banality of and the denial that accompanies people’s stories and people’s claim for protection when they’re really in danger. Very, very problematic indeed.

ANDREW DENTON: I’m struck by what you said before though when you became upset, you said that these stories have to be told over and over again. Why do people have to be reminded? Why have they forgotten?

HELEN BAMBER: Yes some people don’t know and don’t want to know and have no historical sense of what’s gone on even for their parents or their grandparents, It is the denial of people in a consumer society that we have in our midst, people who are living in danger, who fear danger if they are returned, who may be deemed and (I don’t know whether this is a word that’s used in other countries), may be deemed to be failed asylum seekers. And therefore they are denied protection, they are denied benefits and they’re denied accommodation and healthcare. And I find this extraordinary in a civilised world, a civilised country, a civilised Europe…

ANDREW DENTON: Are you optimistic for the future of humanity?

HELEN BAMBER: I wish we could learn better, both in psychological terms because there’s so much knowledge, and in political terms, and especially in historical terms. I wish we could learn.

ANDREW DENTON: Helen, I’ve asked you to bring in one thing from your life that means something to you. What have you brought?

HELEN BAMBER: Oh yes, yes. I thought about it and course, because I am a collector, there were hundreds of things…but there’s this, this was given to me in Belsen. You know after liberation and when people got better we began to develop a kind of structure within the camp because people were going to be there for so long. I don’t think people realised but people remained there until 1950, many years there was nowhere for them to go. No doors were open for them, and so workshops were set up and a committee was set up, and a theatre was set up and this is one of the things that was made in the workshop, and this was given to me by a young… I don’t know how old he was – probably 16, 17… and he said don’t forget me. When I was holding this and talking my colleagues said you know your holding it a bit like a microphone and it’s interesting you know, telling the story…

A great woman.

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2009 in History, Holocaust, human rights, humanity, media watch, memory, TV

 

Ross Gittins today and last Monday’s “Media Watch”

I am about to do what so many bloggers do – refer to a newspaper item, quote part of it, and make a brief comment. That this practice is exercising the minds of the media owners was made clear in a very interesting Media Watch (ABC) on Monday:

The Philistines, in Mr Murdoch’s view, are the bloggers and aggregators, from Crikey to the Huffington Post, who, he claims, survive by commenting on the stories that newspaper journalists dig up.
And they’re also the search engines, the Googles and Yahoos, who Mr Murdoch says reap a fortune by making news available without creating it – and feed none of that money back to the content creators.
But Rupert Murdoch and his son James, the heir presumptive to the News Corporation empire, believe the public must be made to wake up too.
The free ride is over:

James Murdoch: Yet it is essential for the future of independent digital journalism that a fair price can be charged for news to people who value it.
— Edinburgh International Television Festival MacTaggart Lecture delivered by James Murdoch, 28th August, 2009

Now for Ross Gittins. Today he offers a quick diagnosis of our current evolutionary dilemma. I tend to agree.

… At one level we’re smart enough to have dreamt up all our amazing machines and ways of organising society; at another we’re people with caveman brains struggling to cope in the space age.

We’ve been too successful for our own good. When humans lived in small groups on the African savannah we were hardwired to be preoccupied with the pursuit of resources, which were scarce. Since our ancestors often couldn’t obtain all the food they needed, they were programmed to grab all they could find…

The greatest consequence of our transition from scarcity to abundance is that human economic activity, which at first was puny relative to the huge natural environment, is now so big – so many humans in the world enjoying such high material living standards – it’s doing great damage to the ecosystem that provides us life.

Climate change is the most pressing instance of that damage, but our politicians seem blissfully ignorant of the threat.

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2009 in Australia, climate change, environment, media watch

 

Last night on ABC and this morning’s news…

… had a mix of the bizarre and the tragic. You wouldn’t read about it, would you? Hollywood couldn’t invent stuff like this.

Let’s begin with the tragic.

Terror in Mumbai (originally on UK Channel Four) was last night’s offering from Four Corners.

…Their first target was the Leopold Cafe where they killed 11 people. From there they planted bombs inside taxis as the moved across the city. Terror in Mumbai follows the young men every step of the way using telephone calls made between the raid’s masterminds in Pakistan and the gunmen in Mumbai. Those calls combine with the testimony of the captured terrorist Ajmal Kasab, to create an extra-ordinary chronology of the attacks.

The calls reveal how the young men are continually reminded they must kill as many people as possible, making sure that whatever happens they must not be taken alive.

Ajmal Kasab, speaking from his hospital bed tells how he and another man attacked the city’s train station slaughtering more than 50 people…

As the film progresses the relationship between the attackers and their controllers at the other end of the phone comes into clearer focus.

At times the young men appear utterly ruthless, at other times they break away from their conditioning and register their wonder at the hotel they have taken over. They talk of computers and expensive furniture as if in a wonderland.

As the film progresses the terrorists are told to kill as many people as they can in the Taj Hotel, and then to start a fire. The purpose? To let the world know a symbol of India and the decadent west is being destroyed.

As the phone calls continue it becomes clear the young men are not always willing to kill on command. In one chilling episode one gunman is told to kill a hostage. He stalls for time. Then an hour later he is ordered to shoot. A gunshot is heard…

It was riveting and incredibly sad. The Svengali on the other end of the phone gives new manifestation to the concept of pure evil. The psychology of the perpetrators, one of whom was “sold” — according to the program and his own testimony – to Lashkar e Toiba by his own father so that his siblings could afford to marry, reminded me so much of Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent. The father was a poor street yoghurt seller.

… The 10 gunmen had sneaked ashore in Mumbai around 9pm on 26 November, having sailed from Pakistan in a hijacked Indian trawler.

Less than an hour later, during a killing spree across the city which included the main railway station, four gunmen entered the luxury Taj Hotel. Young Pakistanis from villages in the Punjab, who had never set foot in a modern hotel before, let alone the vast suites on the upper floors of the Taj, they could not contain their amazement. The first few hours of intercepts at the Taj show them struggling to keep their minds on the task of burning down the hotel.

‘There are so many lights… and so many buttons. And lots of computers with 22 and 30-inch screens…’ says one.

The other chilling piece of evidence we obtained during the making of this film, was told by one of the gunmen, Kasab, who was taken alive by Indian police and his questioning recorded.

‘What’s your gang called? Your team?’ asks one policeman.

Kasab seems not to understand.

‘Your organization, your gang, your team?’, some of the other officers round the hospital bed chime in.

‘Oh… It’s Lashkar e Toiba.’ …

It is as well – again – to remind ourselves that it is not all of Islam we are looking at here, but a perversion. Jim Belshaw has also taken up that theme: For Tikno – selection, perception, bias and the MUI Fatwa. The comments from Tikno in Indonesia and Ramana in India enhance Jim’s wisdom on this. You may also listen to this: “Young Indonesians have made use of social networking sites to protest against terrorism.” The India-Pakistan situation has complicating strands of history involved – the mess of the Partition and the unsolved dilemma of Kashmir. (I studied Indian History at university and have ever since taken an interest.) Further, in relation to Ramana’s comment, there is no single body that can speak for Islam. To a degree everyone is his or her own mufti, and the result is amazing diversity. This can be good, but also complicates things terribly. The media do focus on the violent extremists, though Tikno’s point about the majority being against violent extremism is almost certainly a truer picture.

Now for the bizarre.

Malcolm Turnbull. Well, he is human, as that Australian Story episode shows, but a bit of a goose too. The show was filmed behind the scenes as the Utegate Imbroglio was occurring, and today all that became more bizarre still: I wrote fake email: Grech.

And then there is that sleazy Radio 2DayFM The Kyle and Jackie O Show. So glad I never listened to them, especially after Media Watch revealed how bottom of the barrel the show has really been.

More 10 to 17 year-olds, by far, listen to 2DayFM than to any other Sydney station.

Yet up to now ACMA has done nothing about Kyle and Jackie’s obsession with boobs and willies, their parade of vaginas and penises, their discussions of anal sex, and oral sex, and faeces-eating during sex, and other such breakfast-time delights.

And then there’s the program’s routine humiliation and emotional manipulation of its ‘guests’.

Tonight, while Austereo reviews its ‘principles and protocols’, we’re going to look at a particularly sickening example. It wasn’t about sex, or juveniles.

It was about heartless exploitation…

About as funny as a pile of dead rats.

 

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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? ;)

 

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.

 

Just a tad loaded, don’t you think?

A quickie today as I have to see Dr C in the morning and tutor this afternoon.

After yesterday’s update to my entry on “framing” and the literacy debate I was struck by today’s Yahoo7 poll: “Is Kevin Rudd buying his popularity?”

morganpoll

What happened to (for example) “He’s doing a good job” or “The Opposition have been pathetic”? No prizes for guessing which response is winning. It isn’t the last one…

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2009 in Australia, media watch, Political, politics

 

Two from The Oz

1. Malcolm Turnbull

I am not going to go here much. Neither has anyone else so far as it stands at 2.20pm with COMMENTS: 0 at the end. Sure is great at phrase-making though – almost Keatingesque:

It is bad enough to have Rudd trying to turn himself, in the blink of an eye, from an adherent of the cautious, responsible economic conservatism of Howard into a slightly more genteel version of a foaming-at-the-mouth radical such as Hugo Chavez.

But to add to that effrontery, we see him every day in the parliament denouncing neo-liberal extremism as he describes me as "the member for Goldman Sachs".

Which seems to be one of Mr Turnbull’s principal beefs in a piece that carries ad hominem to new heights.

I congratulate the Rudds, especially Therese Rein, on their success. Their business grew into a very substantial one in Australia and as other countries followed the Australian approach, grew there as well exporting the expertise developed by them when they seized the opportunity created by Howard’s decision in 1998.

But what are we to think of the wealthiest Prime Minister Australia has ever had, a man greatly enriched by the privatisation and outsourcing of government services, standing up again and again to denounce the very policies from which he and his family have profited so extensively.

It is more than a bit rich. It is as hypocritical, as chutzpadik, as his essay is absurd.

Whether or not Rudd’s essay – which I have read—is the world’s greatest analysis is beside my point really; I would agree that he glossed over the Hawke-Keating years in that essay. On the other hand he is far from alone in his concern that “neo-liberalism” is bearing fruit as we speak.

Whether Mr Turnbull’s essay prevents the Cato-like return from the plough of Peter Costello remains to be seen.

It is probably a good idea to compare Mr Turnbull’s essay with Michael Stutchbury’s feature in the same paper: Too big to resist. Makes Turnbull’s essay seem quite unimportant.

2. Phillip Adams

It’s probably fair to say that Phillip Adams writes and talks far too much, and sometimes it shows. Of course the last person who should say that is a blogger as obsessive as I am. Today is one of his better days.

Early in my newspaper career one of Australia’s most respected educators sent me a stern letter.

Dr James Darling didn’t mince words in his eagerness to mince me. "Dear Mr Adams, I do not approve of you. I do not like what you write. However, I understand that you may have some influence with young readers." He proceeded to attack my most recent column in which I’d been unusually pessimistic about the state of the world.

I’d got a bit rabid, and morbid, from a bite of the black dog, to employ Churchill’s metaphor for depression. Instead of being moist of nose and waggy of tail, as was and remains my puppyish style, a crisis in the Cold War had me snarling at the reader, provoking Geelong Grammar’s most famous headmaster to thrust quill into inkwell. Darling told Adams the cries of pain I was hearing in the world – and these are his exact words – "are not the pains of death but of birth", and recalled other moments in human history when observers had made the same mistake. Confusing – and these are my words – the deathbed with the labour ward. Among his scholarly examples, Greece in the 4th century BC.

Time to reread the old darling’s letter. At a time when the news is not merely of deficit and depression, but of Armageddon and apocalypse. When editorials read like suicide notes. When Obama in his inaugural and Rudd in every other utterance have the sky falling and the end nigh. The bears have killed the bulls and black dogs prowl in packs.

Dr Darling, later Sir James, was right. Forget dodos and dead parrots and cheer the arrival of stork and phoenix…

…This could be the time for the biggest rethink in generations. For improvements to the way we run our businesses, farms, governments, societies, personal lives. We should listen to the Dr Darlings and the Ismail Serageldins because pessimism is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s not enough to rebuild Henry Ford’s Detroit. It’s time to build William Blake’s New Jerusalem.

So why can I share the hopes, but not necessarily the optimism? Because I well remember another moment like this. And so do you. It was quite recent. The end of the Cold War…

The orchestrated dread of communism yielded to the dread of Islam – or what Christopher Hitchens called "Islamic fascism". It was as if we were addicted to fear and couldn’t live without it. The Cold War was reborn as the War on Terror – and we returned to paranoia. The moment was utterly, tragically lost.

Let’s demand better – the best – from our governments, societies, scientists, corporations and ourselves. Let’s not lose this moment.

 

Another great Monday night on ABC

Coincidentally, visitor #320,000 (Sitemeter) came to the Floating Life blogs at 6.43 this morning from the ABC. The visitor read yesterday’s post on the 7.30 Report and Indigenous history.

But what a night Auntie gave us last night! We really are blessed with our non-commercial broadcaster.

6:30pm Talking Heads

7:00pm  ABC News

7:30pm  The 7.30 Report Website

8:00pm  Australian Story Website

8:30pm  Four Corners Website

9:20pm  Media Watch Website Download Watch Clip

9:35pm  The Cut

The Cut is a very promising program, commencing last night – as good as classics like Frontline or The Games, I think. Talking Heads was inspiring. Australian Story last night raised some troubling dilemmas. Four Corners was so powerful I will give it a separate entry, and Media Watch has rarely bettered last night’s episode, which revealed the poverty and venality of commercial tabloid current affairs yet again, but the first issue dealt with would have to be the bottom of the commercial barrel. Standards? You are joking…! See Young Australian of the Year Smeared.

What this nasty little piece suggests is that Jonty Bush and her secret lover have somehow conspired to rip off money from a charitable foundation and had it paid to her as an improper bonus: or as Kate Donnison so pithily put it – remember? – it accuses Jonty Bush of:

Kate Donnison: …dishonesty, deception and a secret affair with a married man.
— Channel Nine, A Current Affair, 22nd January, 2009

Dishonesty? Deception? Look who’s talking! ACA presents not a skerrick of evidence for its allegations, and all the evidence we’ve found shows them to be a pack of lies.

Read it all. It is utterly disgusting. Moral: don’t touch programs like A Current Affair until they mend their ways. They are the pits.

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2009 in Australia, best viewing 2009, current affairs, media watch, TV

 

Lots to think about – international, national, local

Back in July 2008 in Reset – Dialogues on Civilizations | Essays: Benjamin Barber I presented the then latest from the author of the excellent and prescient Jihad vs McWorld. Now the Arts & Letters Daily has pointed to Barber in the US progressive magazine Nation: A Revolution in Spirit.

As America, recession mired, enters the hope-inspired age of Barack Obama, a silent but fateful struggle for the soul of capitalism is being waged. Can the market system finally be made to serve us? Or will we continue to serve it? George W. Bush argued that the crisis is "not a failure of the free-market system, and the answer is not to try to reinvent that system." But while it is going too far to declare that capitalism is dead, George Soros is right when he says that "there is something fundamentally wrong" with the market theory that stands behind the global economy, a "defect" that is "inherent in the system."

The issue is not the death of capitalism but what kind of capitalism–standing in which relationship to culture, to democracy and to life? President Obama’s Rubinite economic team seems designed to reassure rather than innovate, its members set to fix what they broke. But even if they succeed, will they do more than merely restore capitalism to the status quo ante, resurrecting all the defects that led to the current debacle?

Being economists, even the progressive critics missing from the Obama economic team continue to think inside the economic box. Yes, bankers and politicians agree that there must be more regulatory oversight, a greater government equity stake in bailouts and some considerable warming of the frozen credit pump. A very large stimulus package with a welcome focus on the environment, alternative energy, infrastructure and job creation is in the offing–a good thing indeed.

But it is hard to discern any movement toward a wholesale rethinking of the dominant role of the market in our society. No one is questioning the impulse to rehabilitate the consumer market as the driver of American commerce. Or to keep commerce as the foundation of American public and private life, even at the cost of rendering other cherished American values–like pluralism, the life of the spirit and the pursuit of (nonmaterial) happiness–subordinate to it….

Then here in Oz The Monthly hits the newsagents today with Kevin Rudd’s The Global Financial Crisis.

From time to time in human history there occur events of a truly seismic significance, events that mark a turning point between one epoch and the next, when one orthodoxy is overthrown and another takes its place. The significance of these events is rarely apparent as they unfold: it becomes clear only in retrospect, when observed from the commanding heights of history. By such time it is often too late to act to shape the course of such events and their effects on the day-to-day working lives of men and women and the families they support.

There is a sense that we are now living through just such a time: barely a decade into the new millennium, barely 20 years since the end of the Cold War and barely 30 years since the triumph of neo-liberalism – that particular brand of free-market fundamentalism, extreme capitalism and excessive greed which became the economic orthodoxy of our time.

The agent for this change is what we now call the global financial crisis. In the space of just 18 months, this crisis has become one of the greatest assaults on global economic stability to have occurred in three-quarters of a century. As others have written, it "reflects the greatest regulatory failure in modern history". It is not simply a crisis facing the world’s largest private financial institutions – systemically serious as that is in its own right. It is more than a crisis in credit markets, debt markets, derivatives markets, property markets and equity markets – notwithstanding the importance of each of these.

This is a crisis spreading across a broad front: it is a financial crisis which has become a general economic crisis; which is becoming an employment crisis; and which has in many countries produced a social crisis and in turn a political crisis. Indeed, accounts are already beginning to emerge of the long-term geo-political implications of the implosion on Wall Street – its impact on the future strategic leverage of the West in general and the United States in particular.

The global financial crisis has demonstrated already that it is no respecter of persons, nor of particular industries, nor of national boundaries. It is a crisis which is simultaneously individual, national and global. It is a crisis of both the developed and the developing world. It is a crisis which is at once institutional, intellectual and ideological. It has called into question the prevailing neo-liberal economic orthodoxy of the past 30 years – the orthodoxy that has underpinned the national and global regulatory frameworks that have so spectacularly failed to prevent the economic mayhem which has now been visited upon us…

Some of the critique offered (predictably) by Gerard Henderson is worth noting, despite the predictability.

The essential problem with Rudd’s essay is that it is ahistorical. The fact is that what he terms neo-liberalism has not prevailed in Britain, the US or Australia. Moreover, if it did, then the likes of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown in Britain, Bill Clinton in the US, and Bob Hawke and Paul Keating in Australia did nothing to turn it back. The conservatives in these three nations did not substantially cut regulation or taxation or spending (along with the welfare state that it underpins). Indeed, in Australia, it was Hawke and Keating who started the economic reform process in the early 1980s. Rudd mentions this briefly in his essay but does not seem to appreciate that this reality undermines his thesis….

Whether the thesis is undermined by the somewhat partisan history given by Rudd is itself open to question. He may have sought to minimise the bipartisan nature of the problem, but that does not mean the problem is not pretty much as diagnosed. Paul Keating skated around the issue of bipartisan blame on Lateline last night, though I have to say I do like (in contrast to so much we hear) Keating’s folksy idiom. Keating rightly cautions against seeing the USA as the fixer in this mess. And there doesn’t seem to be much joy in substituting one partisan reading of history for another, which is perhaps all Henderson has done.

Kind of related: I commend Ross Gittins this morning:

… It’s important to understand Mr Rudd is not talking about a $115 billion decline in budget revenues from where they are now, but rather that they will grow by $115 billion less than formerly expected.

The $115 billion is spread over the next four years – that is, it averages less than $30 billion a year – which means it hasn’t happened yet and is just an estimate of what may happen.

The actual figure could be more or less than $115 billion – Treasury’s record on accurately predicting budget figures isn’t too flash – and we have known about $40 billion of it since November.

Given all that, Mr Rudd could be accused of making it sound both bigger and scarier that it is. If so, he’s adding to the gloom and doom.

Why on earth would he do that? Because he’s anxious to ensure the blame for the slide from budget surplus to deficit goes to the global financial crisis, not to him and his Government.

Who’d be silly enough to blame Labor for a budget deficit at a time like this? The Opposition…

And very local: the February South Sydney Herald is out today: ssh_feb09.

And it’s a big, 20-page issue, with stories on climate justice, tax justice, public housing and the dangers of tasers.

There’s much more — there’s the ABC childcare debacle, Yabun 2009, a feature on reskilling older workers, a feature on Tanya Plibersek MP, and reviews of The Wrestler starring Mickey Rourke, The Lieutenant by Kate Grenville, and the new record by Howling Bells. Soul-folk singer, Itu, talks about recent inspirations, and you’ll also find details about St Jerome’s Laneway Festival on February 8 and Family Day at the Block on February 21.

I’ve been commissioned to cover Mardi Gras Fair Day on 15 February – I and the Casio, that is. Should be fun.

 

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Freak shows – or how Irfan Yusuf spoiled this post with some bloody facts!

I wrote: That dolt who several years ago advocated giving the wife a good kicking** and that "Christian" terrorist who drove into the abortion clinic in St Paul, Minnesota, have much in common with one another and little in common with most of their respective coreligionists. The other thing they have in common is far too much publicity.

Freak shows were always popular, I suppose.

On Alleged Dolt #1 see Irfan Yusuf: CRIKEY: Jonathan Greene’s piece on the Abu Hamza pseudo-scandal … : the whole thing was a Silly Season Confected Outrage Piece – and even worse he is not such a Dolt after all it seems – aimed at selling papers and feeding the Current Affairs swill and talk-back radio. Unfortunately it also causes harm, especially when Kevin Rudd doesn’t know when to shut up sometimes… It would have been much better if Rudd had just said “I think we all know what we think of that, and I’ll tell you something: most Muslims would agree with us on that one…”

If afterwards Rudd, as I have just done, read Irfan’s post he would realise that the source of the story, the Herald-Sun, has doctored what Abu Hamza actually said:

Anyone who watched the video will see that News Limited and/or the lecture organisers have done a rather clumsy edit. It is quite clear from the video that, far from promoting domestic violence, Abu Hamza was emphasising just how evil it is.

Today, the tabloids are going nuts over Abu Hamza’s comments about Australia being allegedly a nation of drunks and gamblers. Again, a complete fabrication. If it is true that Abu Hamza really did make this gross generalisation about Australians, is it any worse than Rupert Murdoch’s gross generalisation to the effect that all Muslims suffer from genetic defects because they marry their cousins?

Of course, none of this detracts from the fact that any suggestion that marital rape is OK should be condemned in the strongest possible language.

Reading on you will see we have been ill-served, not for the first time, by our irresponsible tabloid media.

Rather spoils this post though. A guy with a beard said something not all that outrageous after all, so the second character (assuming we can believe the media there) turns out to be the more evil bastard…

Too much publicity is still true, and it is terrible how these stories become memes. You can be sure just about everyone has swallowed the Herald-Sun beat-up. If you are looking for a villain in all this, just visit the Herald-Sun.

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2009 in Christianity, Islam, Kevin Rudd, media watch, religion, weirdness

 

Behind the news: Rosemeadow NSW

Some stats, which merely indicate some dimensions of what’s going on and why…

rosemeadow6 image

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He sneers, he smears, he ponces, he attitudinises…

piers akerman …and he gives conservatism its ugly face and a bad name. I refer of course to Piers Akerman. In his piece today he manages to make me, for one, sympathise with Malcolm Turnbull. Perhaps because I am one of the beneficiaries of Kevin Rudd’s “sugar hit” I rather resent the following, which must be some kind of record for smears and insinuations per line:

Don’t look for a change at the top of the Coalition now though. The Newspoll was taken last weekend when pensioners, carers and other welfare recipients were looking forward to receiving their “sugar hits” in the form of unearned dollars from the Rudd government in the name of economic stimulation.

A fistful of money can be extremely stimulating, as bootleggers supplying illegal grog to Aboriginals at up to $170 a slab in Western Australia have found, whether such spending leads to the protection of jobs in the long-term is yet to be seen.

That is simply vile.

Of course Piers knows so much about economics, doesn’t he? And yes, no-one knows for sure what the effect will be. What I do know is that for me the payment is a Godsend… Of course my dollars are “unearned” – unlike the payouts and “sugar hits” CEOs in finance and elsewhere have been conditioning us to accept in recent years; after all they really “earned” their sweeteners, didn’t they? They really produced something tangible which we can all recognise in exchange for their rewards…

Honest conservatism I don’t object to at all.

Akerman’s smarmy superciliousness simply makes my blood boil. I am just relieved that he is not actually responsible for anything real, just for being a performing seal week after week. I suppose he does that well, if you like animal acts…

Ignore the bastard. I am so glad I am not Piers Akerman.

 

Camden on the Gold Coast?

I promoted Muslim Schooling on Gold Coast by Postkiwi Duncan Macleod on Neil’s Shared Items yesterday, but it is worth a post here too.

The Gold Coast where I live has hit the news headlines this last week as a group of Christians petitioned, and protested against the establishment of a Muslim school in Carrara. Australian International Islamic College, based in Durack, Brisbane, is proposing to build the Gold Coast’s first Muslim school right next door to the Dream Centre, a large AOG church.

Tony Doherty, a minister with the Dream Centre, is coordinating the Concerned Carrara Residents Group, mobilizing the local residents against the proposed school. The group’s expressed concerns are about the increase in traffic, reduced security, the disturbance of the peace (look how upset the group is and the school hasn’t started yet), a lack of community cohesion relating to the long standing churches and social clubs in the area, a concern that a separated Muslim community would take over the area, and the loss in property values.

It’s obvious that this protest is based on a concern about the school being Islamic. There’s a major school just down the road run by an interdenominational group of Christians that would have ten times the amount of traffic.

One of the comments from the Church is that it doesn’t make sense to have a Muslim community next to a Christian community. Where else would you place them if you wanted them to live harmoniously within the wider community?…

My emphasis. It all has a familiar ring, hasn’t it? Duncan, a Uniting Church minister, continues:

I think it’s time to affirm what being Australian means. We live in a secular society, in which people of all walks of life can have access to education and employment, no matter what their creed. That includes access to State schools, as well as the right to provide faith-based education that fits with the State’s syllabus…

Let’s keep our eyes on this one.

Speaking of Uniting Church, it is hardly a secret that The South Sydney Herald is a community project of South Sydney Uniting Church. I was interested to note, when I attended the end-of-year party, that those involved testify to its inclusiveness, however, ranging from Andrew (editor and minister) through a group including older leftie/anarchist activists, young bright journalism types, including one Liberal Party member, artists, atheists, gay lesbian and transgender, and just lately as a guest contributor Brendan Nelson! The Paper, as those involved call it, has developed quite a lot this year and really is appreciated in the local area – that is Newton, Redfern, Chippendale, Rosebery, Surry Hills, Darlinghurst, Kings Cross. They have broken some important stories during the year and been quite a little ginger group all round. They also do much to give voice to local performers and artists, the local Indigenous community, and quite a few others.

Update

While not directly related to the subject of Duncan’s post, OPINION: Second Column in Crescent Times … by eminently sane Australian Muslim lawyer Irfan Yusuf is a good companion piece.

So here’s my solution to prejudice – prove the agents of prejudice wrong. Yes, Muslims have a soft spot for the Palestinians (as indeed do many Jews, especially in Israel). But that doesn’t mean we should assume all Jews have an anti-Muslim agenda. We should leave this kind of simplistic logic to simpletons who attend Republican Party rallies or who seek to take over the NSW Liberals.

That means we should build networks with like-minded people. And under no circumstances should we tolerate any group in society to be marginalised.

 

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