Thursday, September 27, 2012


Took me a while but I finally get it.

Myki must be run by Senna Link.

neighbours – episode 1

There is a lovely house in Frankston at the quiet end of a quiet court. It’s now home to The Golden Girls – myself, TO and Aunty [as well as D’Arcy and Maude Schnazuer].

Life in this court is a soap opera – just not of the kind that would keep English TV fans enthralled the way the fictional version does.

Well, fiction is supposed to be entertaining. Advertisers depend on it.

If you were to drive around this part of Frankston you would have little trouble spotting which houses are rentals and which ones are owner occupied. And this is a good part.

Sometimes the rentals have yards with overgrown grass, and driveways clogged with piles of discarded “stuff” that tenants wouldn’t dream of putting out for the hard rubbish collection.
Some houses are occupied by fairly neat people, but the awnings are torn, there are holes in fences, or waving meadows of tall grass growing in the spouting. That sort of thing.

When I first moved to Frankston a few years back I was shocked, because I’d never understood before why rental tenants have always had a bad rep.

Back in the 1950s and 60s when I was a tin lid, we moved around a lot. Landlords were reluctant to rent houses to a single mum with three kids, and sooner or later whatever dump we were able to rent would be condemned, and we would have to move on.
But wherever we lived we tried to keep things nice. No matter how tired a place might be, there’s no need for people to live like they have no respect for themselves, let alone for someone else’s property.


At the beginning of our court there is a two storey house with a lovely bay view from the second floor. It was occupied by renters until a few years ago. The kids were totally feral.

TO caught the kids chucking rotten lemons at our front window one day, but instead of yelling at them she asked them nicely to please not do that.
She’s got a way with kids. Soon, they were being given a tour of the front garden, a chance to sniff flowers and meet dogs and cats. Maybe they weren’t used to someone paying any positive attention to them.
After that, they left our nice house alone, and only tried to trash the other houses in the court.

One night there was a big fire, and the ferals’ house was gutted.
The lady that drives the garbage truck assured me this was the third time these tenants had set fire to a house. It’s what people do, apparently, when they are so far behind in their rent that they are about to be evicted.
According to the garbo grapevine the mother is now languishing in jail somewhere, and the kids have been farmed out to foster homes. It’s a hard call, really, trying to work out whether they are actually better off or not. Fingers crossed, I hope they are.

The shell of the house was on the market for 3 years before someone with some money and vision came along to rebuild it. It now looks a million bucks.


Another 3 houses in the court occupied by renters are neat and tidy, and the tenants mostly keep to themselves.
In a fourth rental house is a workmate of TO’s. She has 3 of the nicest, smartest kids you could ever hope to meet. K moved into our court 2 months ago, from the next suburb.
She’d had a restraining order out against her husband before she moved. It seems he had been a tad aggressive for a while, but after a road accident acquired a brain injury which tipped him over the edge.

The restraining order was not valid for K’s new address in our court. She was told to apply for a new one, but could not do that until he once again did something the police could charge him with.
Not a nice way to live, but after last Friday and three hours at the cop shop she not only has a restraining order, but he has lost access visits to the kids and has been ordered to stay away from them as well.
We’ll see.

After the last cop shop visit, K was contacted by a support group for women who are victims of domestic violence. She told them to not bother calling back. She had packed up her kids one night last year and knocked on the door of their refuge.
“Do you work?” she was asked.
“Yes,” she said honestly.
“We can’t take you if you have a job, you’ll have to go and stay in a motel.”


I think TO might have set me up, but after the family moved in I found myself heading down to get the kids up for school in the morning. 7 AM, so Mum could start work on the early shift.
My body is still in shock.

Six year old S had wet the bed one night, and morning showers were not part of her routine. In fact, it was just about time for the teen to jump out of bed and do his own last minute shower thing, so I brought S down to our place for a shower.

What I know about kids could be inscribed on the head of a pin in letters ten feet tall, but at least I knew not to make a big deal out of night time accidents.

Once I had the water running and S standing under it wearing a shower cap, she looked terrified. What to do? Easy!
I rushed [silently screaming] from the bathroom and said to Aunty “Quick!! We need someone who knows about kids, and isn’t living in a gay relationship!”

Later I heard all about how to encourage kids to wash <i>themselves</i>.
Later still I found out why she was terrified of showers.



In the next episode… things improve when we meet some of the other neighbours.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

bureaucracy gone mad

If you think ‘bureaucracy gone mad’ is a tautology we are already on the same page.

What follows is boring. It’s boring because government forms are boring and because filling them out chews up such a hunk of my life my life is, by extension, also often boring.

This post is a whinge. You won’t read it all unless you are looking for a cheat’s version of a book by Kafka.
Or unless you would find it hard to believe how stupid governments are, and want to find the mistakes in my reasoning.

Just remember what Lily Tomlin said:

No matter how cynical you get, it is impossible to keep up.


Back in a more reasonable era, a form was a long bench people that several people could sit on. [I nearly said “long stool” but would hate someone with a tacky mind to get the wrong idea.]

Now, of course, forms are paper diarrhoea spat out at great speed and with alarming frequency by government computers.

My specific whinge today is Senna-Link related but has nothing to do with age pensions or unemployment benefits. This whinge is about the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card Review.
This “fantastic” benefit is available to people who are officially old farts, i.e. old enough to get an aged pension if they could manage to jump through the hoops but can’t manage it at all.

Mother is above age pension age, but a “self-funded retiree”.
This is not to say she has ever been rich.

During the brief but glorious 2 ½ year reign of Gough Whitlam [Prime Minister 1972-1975] god bless him, several things happened:
  • Women were finally allowed to have full time permanent jobs with Australia Post;
  • Equal pay was phased in; and
  • Australia Post and other Government employees were actually able to join a super fund.

In those days, working class wage or salary earners, for the most part, had no access to any kind of superannuation scheme at all. So when the old girl got herself into Gough’s very generous super fund it was a miracle, because the door slammed shut on the fund the day Gough was given the boot as Prime Minister.

[At the risk of precipitating violence in the streets, I personally think of Mecca as the nursing home where the great Gough now lives.]


So, getting back to Senna Link, even though the old girl receives only 1 dollar and 57 cents per year too much to qualify for an aged pension, every year I still get a million forms to fill out and one of them is the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card Income Review.

Most people’s eyes glaze over when they get government forms. My own eyes glaze over when I get government forms. For people like my mother who only went to grade 6 at school one might understand if they find forms quite intimidating. Ain’t she lucky English is her first language?

The Australian Government
  • Administers the super fund in question;
  • Runs the tax office; and
  • Runs Senna Link which exists mainly to give everyone the runs.

Senna Link and the Tax Office swap yearly gross earnings data. Nonetheless, I get a form every year asking me to tell Senna Link how much my mother received in the previous financial year from this government run super scheme, as shown on her latest Tax Assessment Notice:

Reportable superannuation contributions are the sum of your:
  • Reportable employer superannuation contributions, for example salary sacrifice contributions and
  • Personal deductible superannuation contributions – contributions for which an individual can claim a deduction on their individual tax return.

Back in the day, people used ter get a rebate on the portion of their super income which represented a return of capital. Got that? So, before he croaked, my stepfather used to claim 3 dollars and some cents every year.

The first year I did his return after retirement it was such a piddly amount I ignored it. The last thing I wanted to do was get into a bureaucratic pen pal relationship with the Tax Office and have to prove how many days of the year following his latest birthday had passed before he retired multiplied by the percentage of payments taken as cash relative to the amount retained as capital to fund an annuity. To claim that I would have had to attach an attachment to the return anyway – don’t ask.

You would think if people miss an opportunity to claim something so small they wouldn’t worry. Wrong.
The Tax Office amended his return, sent him a cheque for the extra 3 bucks, and explained he should claim the amount every year.


The question on this current Commonwealth Seniors Health Card Income Review form relates to people who are currently employed full or part time and are still putting money into a super fund - not people receiving an income which includes a return of capital on contributions made 40 years ago. Clear? At least I think so. I doubt anyone old enough to remember the type of deduction available to my stepfather can actually find a job.

I’m just going to write NIL because I’m over it all, and I don’t want to spend 2 hours on hold waiting to confirm it with someone who will just keep repeating the phrase on the form back at me in case he/she gets into trouble for misleading me by departing from the wording on the form.

If Senna Link can’t get the info from the Tax Office [yeah, right] why doesn’t the form just suggest we send back a photocopy of the Tax Assessment notice? Then they could look at the Notice and decide if the amount labelled Superannuation Pension or Annuity [non-refundable tax] offset should be written on the form next to the words Personal deductible superannuation contributions.

Well, the form goes on and on, but I wonder how many people who can’t afford it are paying someone 80 bucks to get help filling out the form.


Now for a somewhat related comment on how much money the government wastes on stupid forms when the money could better be spent subsidising free air travel for retired Members of Parliament…

Every year, on behalf of the Department of Health and Ageing, Senna Link sends me a form asking me to provide an estimate of how much my mother will earn in the following calendar year – as opposed to the first form which is about the previous financial year.

This one is easy. All I do is right down the gross amount of superannuation income for a year. What happens next is the bit that is crazy:

Funding for nursing homes is complicated, but the key factors are:
  • How much a day will the government chip in; and
  • How much a day can the resident afford to pay?

The government takes my mother’s annual income and divides it by 365 point 25 then multiplies it by 14 to get a fortnightly income. It then tells the nursing home how much my mother has to pay per day. The nursing home bills me for the coming month.

Every few months or so there are 5 Thursdays in a month, and every so often when this happens my mother has 3 “fortnightly pay-days” in a month instead of two.
Using my advanced estimate of her income, the government goes “holy crap” – 3 pay-days in a month multiplied by 12 months is a bucketload more annual income than 2 paydays multiplied by 12. Obviously my mother should be paying more per day for her nursing home care.

Every time this happens, they write to my mother and say “Your income has changed”. I put these letters in the bin. The government writes to the nursing home and the poor book-keeper has to credit my mother’s account at the old amount then charge her the new higher amount. It takes a tree load of paper for the nursing home to list all of the adjustments, including the changes the government makes to its daily contribution.

The very next month, the government notes that my mother is now only receiving 2 pays in a month and writes to her saying “Your income has changed”. I put these letters in the bin. The government writes to the nursing home and the poor book-keeper has to credit my mother’s account [paid in advance for the next month] at the higher rate and charge her the new lower amount. At the same time, she lists the higher daily government contribution and cancels the original lower rate listed on my invoice. Down goes another tree.

I could be really cynical here and say they are just doing this to squeeze every possible cent out of my mother, and reduce government debt by a similar amount.
I wouldn’t have to be cynical to think this exercise costs the nursing home a lot more than the government saves out of it, plus it costs the government more than they save, every time the rate changes.

Wouldn’t it be more practical to just calculate the average daily price for the year in advance, and save on manhours, paper and postage?

But here’s the bit that’s really stupid. There is no monitoring of income from investments that aren’t locked in for the next 12 months. It’s all calculated on estimates. I report this amount at the beginning of the calendar year in January, but my mother’s superannuation income is indexed at the beginning of the financial year, in July.
They think they are being shifty, but are ripping themselves off anyway.


Why is life like this? Why must we give so much of our energy to this crap? 
Because our lives are so over-regulated that nobody – nobody anywhere – knows how many stuff-ups like this are already buried in legislation, or how many more are created every time legislation changes.

The Roman Empire did not collapse because homosexuality was tolerated, it collapsed because the Romans had brilliant plumbing. Consuming water conveyed through lead pipes eventually leads to brain damage. The Empire collapsed because it was being run by people with only half a brain.

The end of civilisation as we know it will also be caused because our lives are run = by.people with only half a brain. We don't have lead pipes as an excuse.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

the duck

In between serving drinks one day, a publican looks up and sees a duck waddle in through the door. After he has served a few more customers, he's surprised to see the duck has actually pushed through the crowd and propped himself on a stool at the bar.

“A pot of light thanks mate” says the duck, pushing a ten dollar note forward with his wing.

Strike”, the publican thinks to himself. “A talking duck.” The publican is pretty quick on the uptake, you see. 
Oh well”, he thinks to himself, “so long as he can pay, why not?” and serves the duck his pot of beer, takes the tenner, and puts the change on the bar.

“I was wondering,” says the duck, “if you have any spare rooms to rent. I’m new in town, and looking for a place to board.”

“As a matter of fact we do have a vacancy,” says the publican. “So, are you looking for full board? We can do meals, but you’ll have to make your own arrangements for laundry.”

“Oh yeah,” says the duck, “full board. Unless your meals are crap. Well, breakfast and dinner, but I'd be rapt if you could organise a cut lunch for weekdays…”.

“Oh, you’ll be working around here then?”

“Yeah”, says the duck, “and this place is ideal. It’s so close I’ll be able to walk to work, which is handy really, ‘cos I don’t have a car.”

“No worries,” says the publican. “Look, if you are not in a rush, can I just serve a couple of people first, and then you can sign in. While my wife Doreen is showing you your room and all that, you can discuss what you want in your cut lunches with her, ‘cos she takes care of all that side of things.”
Then the Publican puts his hand out, saying “Pete.”
The duck puts out his wing and they shake on the deal. “Charlie,” says the duck. “Charlie Drake”.

Naturally, the publican was gobsmacked at first but Charlie seemed to settle in well, and after a while they came to be good mates.

The duck must have been boarding at the pub oh, about 3 months, when one day a circus arrives in town. It’s one of the few circuses still moving up and down the coast, and usually arrives in the district just before the September school holidays every year.

The circus owner and the publican have been good mates for years, and the first day the circus owner, Tom, comes in for a drink after setting up the tents, the two of them are having a bit of a natter over a beer. 
Tom tells Pete about his trials and tribulations, which acts have come and gone from the circus. Tom’s quite concerned because one of his main animal attractions has retired.

“Tom,” says the publican, “have I got some news for you. What would you say if I told you I can put you in touch with a talking duck?”

“I’d say you’ve been testing your own beer too often”, says Tom. “Nah, don’t torment me mate, it’s a real problem I’ve got on me hands.”

“No, mate, no bull. It’s a dead set talking duck.”

“Come on Pete, a duck, a parrot, a cockie… what’s the difference? No one is going to be impressed with a talking duck.”

“But Tom, this duck is different. He’s a real   talking   duck. You can talk about anything with him – cricket, footy, politics. Crikey, he even does the crossword every morning when he’s having his breakfast.
“Would you like me to sound him out for you? He doesn’t usually get in til after 5.30, which is too late for you because you’ll be working the evening crowds, but I’ll ask him if he’s interested, okay?.”

Later that night, the publican is having a yarn with Charlie, and asks if he’s ever thought about joining a circus.

Charlie laughs, and says “Oh well, what kid never dreamed of running away with the circus?”

“No, I’m serious Charlie,” says the publican. “The owner’s a good mate of mine – been coming here for years. If you’re interested, I’ll ask him how much a week he’s willing to pay you. Should be more than you are making now.”

“Fair dinkum?” asks the duck. “You’re not having a lend of me? It’s a genuine job vacancy?”

“Oh Yeah,” says the publican. “I was telling him about you today, and he said I should ask if you’d like to work for them”.

“Well, I’d much rather travel and meet new people than be stuck in one spot – which is not to say I’ve got any complaints staying here. Doreen makes the best cut lunches I’ve ever had.”

“Right,” says the Publican. “I’ll have a chat with Tom when he comes in tomorrow morning.”

“Just one thing…” says the duck. “Why would a circus need a bricklayer?”

Saturday, September 22, 2012

a big fox pass*

There was a list somewhere recently of Senator Bernardi’s political ‘thinking out loud crimes’. One of these was his call to ban the burqa – politically incorrect but not hard to understand.

I was torn. On the one hand, Senator Bernardi’s latest gaffe promised a chance to have some fun at his expense. On the other, his latest ‘error of judgment’ was voiced in the context of the debate over gay marriage which has become a big yawn.

Just imagine if, 100 years ago, a politician said something like giving women the vote would prompt calls for more extreme changes. The next step would be allowing women to run for parliament.
Or if we ban slavery, the next thing you know some sick bastard would insist that black people actually be paid the same wage as everyone else.

Bernardi’s latest gaffe a few days ago was to warn that legalising same-sex unions would prompt calls for more extreme changes.

…..There are even some creepy people out there, who say that it's OK to have consensual sexual relations between humans and animals. Will that be a future step?”

One of the great joys in life is turning to the last page of the Saturday Age Life & Style supplement.

Nobody – but nobody – nails it like Leunig:

A footnote to the debate and subsequent demotion of Senator Bernardi:

“Mr Abbott said the Coalition did not support gay marriage but he would not tolerate remarks which were offensive to people in same-sex relationships.

Can Mr Abbott not see the irony in his remark?

*a mistake [from the Fr, faux pas]

yeperenye dreaming

The Book of Genesis, in the Bible, describes how the world was created.
The rest of the Bible describes how God has always existed, the parts he has played in the history of mankind, and how he still exists and interacts with mankind today.

Aboriginal Dreaming is an amalgam of stories of how the ancestor spirits created and formed the landscape, how the spirits have interacted with mankind over time, and how they still exist and continue to interact with mankind today.

Aboriginal creation stories have a great deal more detail than the creation story in the Bible, and relate quite directly to the landscape in which significant spirits reside. The spirits are the landscape.

The most striking example of this I’ve ever seen is the Yeperenye or caterpillar dreaming of central Australia, around the Alice Springs region.

What I have set out here – in sequence – is my version of how a whitefella might visualise this from spirit form to landscape.

The Yeperenye caterpillars are sometimes referred to as processional caterpillars.
  • Clip 1 illustrates how the procession begins.
  • Clip 2 provides a good example of a procession well underway.
  • The panoramic photo of the area provides a good picture of caterpillars as part of the landscape.
  • The dot painting provides an Aboriginal representation of this dreaming.

yeperenye, caterpillar dreaming
by Gavin Arabie

link to source is here

Gavin is an Aranda man, custodian for the main dreaming of Mbantua (Alice Springs): Yeperenye the caterpillar.
This work is also an Aboriginal mapping of Alice with the caterpillar on the left representing the East Mac Donnell ranges and to the right the West MacDonnell Ranges.
Flowing through the Gap, is the Todd river and the concentric circle in the middle refers to an important secret site where initiation ceremonies were performed.

[Late edit - oops, spelled the name Reperenye incorrectly in a few places. Hopefully I now have it right.]

Thursday, September 20, 2012

why us?

Most of us formed conclusions about 9/11, and /or have images burned into our brain that will never leave us.
The most striking of those images and moments for me was the sight of a terrified woman running from the World Trade Centre asking “Why us? Why us?”

How is it that the United States has become the focus of so much extremist Islamic hate and a symbol of so much evil?

Two significant issues spring to mind:

The first is simply one of size. The United States is a Christian superpower, not just in terms of population, wealth, and military strength but also in terms of media reach. Inevitably, as extremist Muslims despise everything western, the United States makes the best target for hate propaganda.

The second is that the USA has a significant Jewish population, and a great deal of Jewish money has made its way from the USA to Israel over the years.

Israel is the enemy and so, by extension, is the USA.


A recent edition of Q&A – Protests and Palestine – contained some interesting moments.

A question from an audience member
… I am of Palestinian descent. My parents were refugees, my grandparents refugees, my great grandparents refugees. The state of Israel was established on the ethnic cleansing of Palestine and the displacement of three quarters of the Palestinian population. Palestinians have since been subjected to apartheid and a military occupation and the continued confiscation of their land and resources. How can we confront the popular pro Israel narrative that Israel is a democracy?

Israeli born historian and panellist
…The Jewish establishment before the creation of the State of Israel has prepared a file on every Palestinian village and neighbourhood in Palestine so as to prepare the Jewish forces when the opportunity would come for taking over these villages and the files had a map and aerial photography and a very detailed explanation of what to expect once the village would become Jewish property in terms of wealth, in terms of number of people and what to accept in terms of resistance.

… every Jewish settlement in Israel is built on the ruins of a Palestine settlement.

Panellist, Sydney Barrister, and a board member of a fund-raising organisation for Israeli civil rights and social justice organisations.
… the real tragedy of 1947 and 1948 was that there was no Palestinian state established.
… The United Nations proposed a partition plan which there'd be a Palestinian State established alongside a Jewish State.
… the Palestinian people announced forcefully and without reservation that they rejected the plan. They rejected the concept of having a Jewish state next to a Palestinian state. Had they accepted the plan, had they accepted the two State solution then, then the opportunity for the war and for what happened afterwards would never have arisen and what happened was that on December the 2nd, 1947 there was a general strike proclaimed in Jerusalem. There were riots. Jewish shops, people were attacked.

The Palestinian leader at the time, Haj Amin Al-Husseini, was a man who had spent the war years, and don't forget this is 1947, this is two and a half years after the end of World War II, the Palestinian leader, Haj Amin Al-Husseini, was a man who had spent the war years in Berlin being photographed shaking hands with Hitler

Stupid behaviour by a Palestine leader does not justify the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. A Palestinian refusal - a Palestinian refusal to accept the partition claim may be justified, may be not be justified. What is not justified is punishing the Palestinians by depopulating half of that ... we have to understand what happened in 1948. Imagine half of the population of a country were forcefully expelled. Half of the villages of the country were destroyed. Half of the towns were demolished. Now is this the right punishment for the wrong vote in the United Nations? Is this the right punishment for a leader who made a stupid mistake during the Second World War? This is not a tragedy. 1948 is a crime against humanity.

Audience Member
After all the pogroms throughout the centuries with Jews never being able to own land in any country they lived in and being forced from their homes time and time again as portrayed so well in my favourite musical Fiddler on the Roof and after the horrors of the Holocaust, isn't it just for Jews to have been given a place to call their own? 

…Of course the Jews were entitled to have a safe place and in many ways the Palestinians were willing to give them a safe place. What they were not willing to give them is the right to take over their homeland.
… imagine if these boat people today would have knocked on the door of Australia and said "My dear people of Australia, 2,000 years ago, it used to be my homeland. You have to give me half of it now and a third of it later on". This would never be accepted by anyone in Australia and rightly so.

Yeah. In light of what the lady ahead said, why is it that other people and nations like the Kurds, Assyrians and Gypsies were not given their right place of a homeland and why was there a special privilege to the people of the Jewish land? …


Whatever we think about the way empires were dismantled or people resettled after World War II, we would be silly to ignore a widespread perception that the United States, The West, or even the United Nations will never side with an Arab nation in a conflict with a non-Arab Nation.

We might conveniently forget the involvement of the British in a great number of conflicts, or that the US rarely acts alone, but will easily remember Americans have recently been involved in wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and in the Persian Gulf.

It took a while for the US to become involved in WWI, but the war itself was partly a war of The West v the Ottoman Empire.

I find it intriguing Irving Wallach thinks an alliance with Hitler is somehow justification for the dispossession of Palestinians. Military alliances are often nothing more than empty posturing or tactical measures, and an awful lot of people lined up to shake hands with Hitler.


The bottom line is that many of us have been born on soil that was once occupied by different peoples. We are also often born where we are born because one or more of our forebears were themselves dispossessed or devalued. Quite frankly, if there is an afterlife and I qualify for a spot in heaven, I’ll be keeping an eye out for Oliver Cromwell.

Behind every category of race, nationality or religion there are real people with real family histories, all struggling to find or keep a place for themselves within a welcoming community.
Those who feel most despairing of ever finding what they need will often settle for what they think they can have.

shovelling smoke

Recently there was a demonstration by extremist Muslims in Sydney. Around the world, radical Muslims have been demonstrating against a film Innocence of Muslims which - assuming at least some of the people commenting on it have actually seen it – ridicules Islam.

To be honest, I tried to watch it and found it a simplistic and preachy, pathetic attempt at humour. I say tried to watch it because it was too tedious to sit through to the end. Does it preach hate? Can’t say, but I can see why it would be as insulting as the worst stuff directed against Christianity or other schools of spiritual thought.

The Sydney protesters did not seek a licence, it seems to have been a spur of the moment thing organised by text message [swarming]. It was barely containable despite the arrival of a huge contingent of police – in fact, several police officers were badly hurt during the fracas.

Children were used to carry placards with messages of hate. Not just messages of hate and intolerance; but a call to violence.


Some time ago Alan Jones – right wing shock jock – said our Prime Minister should be put in a chaff bag and thrown out to sea.

There are some key differences between the Sydney protest and Jones’ comments, though I’m not sure just how much worse one incident was than the other.

We expect sanctimonious hyperbole from shock jocks. It sells.
Alan Jones was only targeting one person.
Both calls to violence were public – a radio audience would be much larger than the number of people in contact with the Muslim protesters in Sydney. But a physical presence is intimidating and – as seen by the number of police injured – can make for fantastic news footage.
The number of protesters in Sydney was smaller than Jones’ radio audience, but worldwide the number of protesters was huge.

Jones’ unforgivably cheap rudeness was a reaction against alleged political hypocrisy.
The extremist Muslim protest and violence was supposedly a reaction to the alleged, widespread intolerance of Islam.

The accusation of intolerance made by the extremists is so generalised it deems millions of Australians guilty with no right of appeal. It seems to assume people are either “with ‘em or agin ‘em” and most people in democratic countries are agin ‘em.

I can’t help but wonder how we ought to define incitement to hatred or violence in a way that lends a sense of proportion to Jones’ outburst compared to the jihadist call for beheading people – most of whom are, at worst, guilty of yawning indifference.

Where should we place the limits to freedom of speech? If we silence people, how will we know how many people are thinking what?


The extremist Muslim interpretation of jihad has parallels with the Christian Inquisition that ruled the western world [and its ‘possessed’ territories of empire] through terror for centuries. The only real changes have been technology, and the ratio of Christians to Muslims.
[Ironically enough, in both cases, Jewish people are targets for genocide, even though the two top teams in the grand final playoffs were Christians and Muslims.]


This violent protest episode has given me pause. I’ve long assumed that we’ve only involved ourselves in the internal conflicts of other countries when there has been a threat to the availability of resources such as oil.

The ‘war on terror’ and the invasion of Iran have been built on a hollow claim about Weapons of Mass destruction, but are we now seeing a political shift from a domino theory about the spread of communism to a domino theory about the spread of radical Islam? If so, aren’t we a little outnumbered, and aren’t we fighting a much tougher enemy?

If the main lesson of the war in Vietnam is that money and might don’t necessarily win against ideology, we shouldn’t be too cocky about trying to stamp out radical Islam outside our own backyard.

It is one thing to fight proxy wars against the USSR’s perverted idea of communism, which ultimately proved as unpopular within the USSR as it became elsewhere – and another altogether to fight a war against an idea not contained within any particular borders.
Extremist Islam is an idea so irrational it could survive just about anything we care to throw at it

Jihad and its greatest weapon, the suicide bomber, have strong parallels with the racial and religious imperialism, and kamikaze cult, which characterised Japan’s involvement in WW II.

While I hate to think that we might ever be able to justify killing innocent people or resorting to atomic bombs, it is widely accepted that bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki was the only way to stop Japanese Imperialism in its tracks.

However, there is no single country we could attack effectively enough to put a halt to the march of extremist jihad.

The leftist hippy part of me thinks it’s long past the time when we should stop dropping bombs from the sky and start dropping gifts. But of course, this is ridiculous because without the arms industry the global economy might well collapse completely.


One problem is that trying to identify exactly who is the enemy is a little like shovelling smoke.
Muslims have very quickly become “they” to some, and there have been many people insisting that the more reasonable Islamic councils in Australia must speak forcefully against extremist violence.
To be fair, some branches of the media are acknowledging that more reasonable Islamic councils have spoken forcefully against this violence, both on this occasion and in the past.

One organization which did not speak out against the violence is Hizb ut Tahirr which, according to Wikipedia, was founded in Jerusalem in 1953. The Wiki article says Hizb ut Tahirr describes Israel as an ‘illegal entity’. The article further says this organisation “explicitly commits itself to non-violence”, so their failure to say anything about the Sydney violence – apart from ‘it wasn’t us’ – seems a tad inconsistent.

We can talk about what should be a crime and how it should be punished, or suggest that another solution is to be more careful about who we accept as immigrants, but little is being said about the root causes of worldwide support for this extremism, or what we must address if we want to prevent the spread of support.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

une vacance sur la plage

TO has been tutoring a workmate who is studying nursing by ‘distance education’. When asked how much she wants, TO gave the usual reply of “Produce? Do you have a veggie garden? A lemon tree?”

A & S have a holiday house at Sorrento they kindly offered for a few days as payment. It’s a very old holiday house, with some very old 1930’s vintage family furniture. 

The beds and linen are top notch though, and S very kindly removed one of the top bunks from the 2nd bedroom so Aunty could get in and out of bed.
The house also has lots of good stuff in it including dishwasher, free wi fi, good cutlery and crockery, microwave and LED TVs complete with pay TV, games, and 3D blue-ray or whatever it is.
Like most younger generation type people, S just assumed we could follow the menus on the TV. Yeah, right.

Just as well we like reading.

For the price and the location, despite some hiccups, this house is a bargain to hire.

The dogs LURVE the massive block the house is on. Ooh, the smells! Naturally it took a nano-second for Maude to locate half a sausage someone had thrown under a shrub. Sausages being what they are – whatever they are – I don’t blame them for tossing it under a shrub.

Once inside D’Arcy was further chuffed to learn this house has a whole heap of new places where he could put a tennis ball, so that TO would join in the game by writhing on the floor trying to retrieve the ball with a broom handle.

Then the doggies settled down on the couch in their doggy sleeping bags – rather warm and comfy they thought. [Free with a bag of Hills Science Diet is the part that appealed to me.]

I’ve bought a spiffy new camera for about 80 bucks, and thought I’d catch a shot of two dogs looking comfy. The camera has a special symbol that appears if the camera is moving. This is overkill. After a million tries at taking a non-blurry photo and concluding the symbol just states the obvious I asked TO take a shot at taking a shot which is at least viewable, though by this time the dogs had decided to spoil the composition by moving around.

Yesterday arve we went to the Atheneum, a theatre so old it was originally built as an entertainment hall. This being Sorrento, the interior has been tastefully converted to a cinema without destroying too many of the original features in the building. 
and if we all lived together”, is a great French movie about old fossils deciding to live together.

At the end of the movie Aunty had her usual battle to climb out of the theatre seat. Continuing one theme of the movie, TO said in her booming stage voice “You need some Viagra to get up, old girl?” Quick as a flash Aunty replied “Can’t you see my knee is already too stiff?”

While we were out we heard that Muslim extremists had taken over a Hungry Jacks store in Sydney. Apparently the burqa’s are better at Hungry Jacks.

The two old aged pensioners piked early while I connected to the wi fi to look at blogs and comments. After about ten minutes the signal disappeared. When I started to get cold a short while later I realised a fuse must have blown and the heaters were off. Gave up and went to bed.

Hmmm, a new smart meter, which I assume was the reason the internet signal had dropped out. This morning TO took a while to work out how to get the meter going again. Naturally the hot water service is electric.

Australia has the longest rabbit proof and dog proof fences in the world, but sure enough after their brekky and bathroom routine, D & M managed to make their way to the other side of the gate, where they waited patiently for TO to rescue them.

The dogs had a wonderful time this morning on one of the dog-off-leash spots along the beach, D’Arcy falling off a rock and discovering he could swim.

Now we’re off to an op-shop to look for book bargains.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

if there’s one thing I can’t stand…

…it’s intolerance.

Okay, I confess that there are many one things I can't stand, but for today intolerance is the one. 

Some of you may be familiar with this face. He’s a hateful twat named Abdul Nacer Benbrika. Currently he’s in jail. As Imam of one mosque in suburban Melbourne, he has discredited our Muslim community by preaching a warped form of jihad – and especially by insulting Australia[ns]. Not nice, mate.


How do fundamentalists and extremists recruit followers for their disgusting causes?

It starts with a gap between rich and poor; with unemployment; with minimal education options; with rapid technological change [or structural adjustment] and with national debt.

Hateful people, if persistent enough, can identify of a group to be scape-goats. This is also sometimes called racism. 
Would-be leaders can easily use the right combination of social conditions to feed their own megalomania, uniting people who feel alienated from society by making them feel special, and providing an outlet for frustration or despair.

No one can live very comfortably for very long with feelings of powerlessness. If reason or a sense of responsibility cannot eliminate feelings of powerlessness, faith in a god becomes a necessary source of solace. Leaders can tap into this faith to lend authority to their proposed solutions.

No, I’m not describing Australia – some of the conditions that helped Hitler to power are still missing. Dare I say, ‘thank god’? 
And despite Australia’s slide into some of these preconditions, the haters in this country are not being alienated by others or by ‘the system’ – they are a minority, and they are alienating themselves.


Yesterday’s Age provided some good news.

“Convicted terrorists are receiving intensive religious and welfare counselling in jails around the state in a program aimed at … prisoners with extremist Islamist views.

This is good news, because religion cannot, on its own, become an excuse for evil nor even encourage it.


After the disgraceful violence at an Islamic protest in Sydney’s Martin Place yesterday, it would be easy to become focused on Islam as a problem. This would be wrong.

Much as the exploitation of children at protests makes me feel quite ill Muslims do not have a monopoly on this unforgivable shit. Nor do they have superior ways of expressing hate. Extremist Muslims are simply more transparent, or less deluded about the fact they hate.

This clip is almost as good as any AFL grand final - Islamic protesters v Atheists at a Melbourne convention this year.

If it’s shocking to see placards calling for the beheading of those who insult Islam, or hear threats of hell, how about these Christians at the same convention?
If all this crap is as tedious for you as it is for me, you could get straight to the nitty gritty on this at 1 minute 08 seconds.

Well, it’s probably just sour grapes because they didn’t make the semi-finals, but for some reason their exhaustive list of people who will burn in hell somehow seems less threatening.

BTW, this tape suggests god hath no fury like a reformed sinner, don’cha think? 
[In this case a cured homosexual.]


[There are two other clips about Global Atheist Conventions on YouTube if you are interested. One shows two blokes pashing for the benefit of the religiously fervent, and the other is one of those “Hitler” clips to which I must confess I am addicted.]


Dumb, Drunk and Racist was a warts-and-all show. You’ll see most of the warts if you just look at this clip between about 5:30 and 7:00. It’s footage of a demonstration by the Australian Protection Party outside the Villawood detention centre.


I’m really quite hopeful the prison program being run by Sheikh Abdinur Weli from the Melbourne City Mosque can make a difference. By sharing a more decent and more representative version of Islam and combining this with a little social work, maybe they can help prisoners find a better way to replace their sense of alienation with a sense of belonging.

The general understanding of ‘jihad’ is the struggle to live a good and ethical life according to the teachings of Islam. The word ‘Islam’ is derived from the word salam, which means peace.

Sheikh Abdinur Weli

It would be nice if some of the Christians over-compensating for their own sense of alienation would turn to a more representative version of their own creed, as well.

Whatsoever you do to the least of my people, that you do unto me.

Matthew 25:40