Friday, October 09, 2009

Blackface row over Australian TV show

Must not use black faces to portray Michael Jackson's backing singers apparently. I kinda thought they WERE black. Shows how much I know!
"An embarrassing row has erupted during the second Hey Hey Its Saturday reunion special, after a a Red Faces skit featuring singers in blackface performing a Michael Jackson tribute.

American singer Harry Connick Jr, who was appearing on the segment as a guest judge, led a chorus of criticism over the Jackson Jive skit, prompting an apology from red-faced host Daryl Somers, the Herald Sun reports.

The singer gave the troupe a score of zero and said the act would not have gone down well in the US. He said he needed to "speak up as an American" to say the skit was in bad taste.

But the man who dressed as Jackson in the segment, which was an encore of the skit first performed on Red Faces 20 years ago, said the group had checked with the show's producers on whether it should go ahead. Dr Anand Deva said the act was meant to be a tribute to Michael Jackson and if Hey Hey staff had expressed concern, it would have been axed. "It certainly was not meant to be racist in any way at all," Dr Deva said. "I think he (Connick Jr) is taking it the wrong way."

Dr Deva, whose face was painted white in the skit to portray Jackson, said he and his friends came from ethnic backgrounds and were all too aware of racism. "Two of us come from India and one of us comes from Lebanon so we can't afford to be racist to be honest," he said. "If we did offend him (Connick Jr) we truly didn't mean to."

Source (See also the video there)

Conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is not much impressed by the role of Harry Connick Jr. in the matter. The skit has made it big on American TV news and other media. Americans find it hard to accept that their neurosis about race is not universally shared. Even Australia's Leftist Deputy Prime Minister has defended the skit as being innocuous and most Australians have said likewise in online polls.

Seriously, can't we have a laugh anymore?

A NEW division has been set up within the Federal Police to deal with a scourge on society. The Fun Police will conduct raids on homes across Australia searching for evidence of jokes about blacks, Jews, sex, cyclists or fatties. Anyone seen laughing, snickering or smirking at jokes deemed to be in poor taste will be punished.

"Those in possession of humorous material, without government authorisation, will be sentenced to a year detention in the home of a member of the Australian Family Association," says AFP boss Tony Negus.

The list of offenders is as long as your arm. Kyle Sandilands faces two months without pork (including makin' bacon) for joking about weight loss in concentration camps. Magda Szubanski must ride to work for 12 months after encouraging drivers to knock over cyclists. John Safran's eyes will be plucked from his head for masturbating to an image of Barack Obama in a Palestinian sperm bank. Reporters on the ABC's Hungry Beast will cop a tongue-lashing from Liz Ellis for gags about gang-banging the Australian netball team. And Daryl Somers will be sent to a re-education camp on the life and times of Malcolm X after a blackface skit on Hey Hey It's Saturday.Seriously - why can't we just have a laugh any more?

We all know that dying children, injured cyclists, concentration camps and slavery aren't funny. But black humour (oops, sorry, I mean dark humour - oh, actually, how about satire?) is a way of coping with tragedy. Comedy is a vehicle (not the type used to kill cyclists) to help us escape our banal, day-to-day existence. It's supposed to be edgy, to challenge our way of thinking, to push our boundaries. Whether its funny or not is a matter of personal opinion.

Let's take the Jackson Jive segment on Red Faces, for example. The lead singer (incidentally, a plastic surgeon) wore white make-up while the rest wore black to pillory Michael Jackson's grotesque quest to deny his African-American heritage. Wacko Jacko impersonator Dr Anand Deva says it's ironic he has been called a racist, given his Indian background. Judge Harry Connick Jr took offence, saying if the skit had appeared in the US it would have been "hey, hey no show".

"I'm one of the thousands of viewers who were offended by John Blackman's last name," writes one blogger. "What a nerve to call himself Blackman when he is clearly white!"

In the dark (whoops, there I go again!) old days of slavery, black humourists made fun of white people as a coping mechanism. But when the tables are turned, all hell breaks loose.

In the hilarious movie Tropic Thunder, Robert Downey Jr stars as an Australian actor playing a black soldier in a parody of Apocalypse Now. "I'm just a dude playin' a dude disguised as another dude," the character famously says. Like the Hey Hey sketch, the film ridicules the Black and White Minstrel's use of blackface makeup. But Downey Jr was lambasted in the press with banner headlines screaming, "It's Racism".

The self-appointed moral majority is also outraged by guerilla comedian John Safran encouraging a Palestinian man to masturbate in an Israeli sperm bank. Whether you view this as an "edgy comedy sequence about cross-cultural harmony" (ABC press release) or a desperately unfunny grab for ratings, there's an easy solution: either watch it, or turn it off. Ditto Kyle Sandilands, Magda Szubanski and the hundreds of other entertainers who make their living trying to make us laugh.

Wanna know what makes me laugh? The hypocrisy of it all. Magda bags Kyle for making fun of starving Jews then jokes about injuring cyclists. Robbie McEwen says Magda "deserves to get hit crossing the road" while Tour de France rider Michael Rogers makes a fatty jibe: "Maybe Magda should ride a bike a bit more." It's the same rationale used by pro-lifers who firebomb abortion clinics to save lives.

So who are we allowed to poke fun at? In his best-selling book Stuff White People Like Canadian Christian Lander skewers middle-class, Caucasian, urban-dwelling folk, who "pretend to be unique, yet somehow they're all exactly the same". And guess what? No one seriously accuses him of being racist.

Back home, the brief for the Fun Police is simple - if the joke targets a minority, it's offensive. If it's about middle-aged white people, say what you like.

Law firm Slater & Gordon is preparing a class action on behalf of comedians who suffer financial loss and public humiliation as a result of the new laws. Their defence depends on whether the jokes are actually funny.


Integration, the missing ingredient of immigration

The recent call for a review of Australia's migration intake has, in my opinion, a great deal of merit. In fact, I am pleasantly surprised that the usual assortment of jibes attacking those who advocate a more measured migration program hasn't yet taken place. Perhaps that's because this time the advocacy comes from a leftist Labor politician. I have no doubt that had a conservative made such a call the cries of "xenophobia" and "dog-whistle politics" would have been deafening.

I have benefited from migration more than most Australians. My father came here from Italy in 1958 and my wife is an Irish migrant. I have an extended family comprising Australians who have originated from Malaysia, Denmark, Austria, Ireland, England and Italy. They all add to the richness of my life and that of our nation, which is why I don't want any of you to construe what I am writing here as being anti-immigration. Nothing could be further from the truth.

But there is something clearly wrong with the migration system in Australia today, and it is about time we had a decent conversation about it. Unfortunately, it is a conversation that many conservatives shy away from due to the vile and outrageous pot-shots it often provokes. I recall receiving a most abusive e-mail from an ABC journalist over a previous comment of mine in which I dared to raise the subject of benefits given to those entering our territory illegally and claiming asylum.

However, the immigration problems we need to deal with are not limited to illegals. Our authorised migration processes are clearly not working effectively either. The past few years have seen what can only be described as an explosion in race-oriented violence, ranging from riots in Cronulla and terrorist plots to gang stabbings and gang rape. The question is: why?

Shooting from the hip, my view is that it comes down to lack of assimilation. Unfortunately, too many new Australians put their faith, their clan or their longstanding hatreds ahead of the values of their adopted country. They seek to use our freedoms, our systems and our tolerance as a means of undermining our values and indulging in behaviour that is anathema to most Australians.

The suggestion that our migrant intake should be reduced to ensure sufficient vetting of applicants and their background is a step in the right direction. But I believe there is a bigger problem. Evidence suggests that the many so-called "race" problems are not caused by the original immigrants but by their radicalised children. Somehow, the progeny of those who have been offered a better life in Australia are keener at continuing ancient rivalries or religious hatreds than their forebears. Such beliefs can only be cultivated by the same extremist poison that is far too prevalent in the United Kingdom, Europe and parts of Africa and South East Asia.

The question many ask, but too many of us avoid answering, is: where does most of this indoctrination of hate begin? For some it is in the home, but evidence suggests that for many it begins in the mosque. Yet to say so is to subject oneself to claims of intolerance and bigotry. Frankly, it is time for the excuses to stop.

For how long can we be expected to accept sermons of hate explained as being incorrectly translated? Surely, it is right to ask how the so-called "religion of peace" can be so regularly used, by the very people it proclaims as scholars of its holy book, as an excuse for murder and destruction.

Recently, the activities and arrest of an alleged Islamic terrorist were blamed by one of his relations on the Australian welfare system. Let me tell you: if this was a genuine reason for the dismantling of the welfare state, then I'd probably join the campaign. The problem, though, is that this claim, like many other rationalisations, is nonsense. It is simply an excuse to seek to exonerate the vile alleged activities of a religious extremist.

In Australia we are yet to see the openly public protests advocating death to infidels or other displays of bilious hatred that have occurred elsewhere. The day we do and are expected to accept it as freedom of speech is the day our nation ceases to become the egalitarian one previous generations have fought so hard to defend.

You may ask, as I do, how we can prevent the expansion of racial and religious hatred from infecting Australian society. Unfortunately, I don't have the answer. However, it is clear to me that unless we are prepared to stop making excuses for those who support the doctrine of intolerance and hatred, and until we are prepared to talk openly about the problems associated with a clearly flawed immigration policy, we will be ignoring a battle that we must win.

Winning that battle requires great courage from our politicians, honesty from members of the fourth estate, and greater advocacy by members of the public. We must now be willing to engage in the same debate that too many nations have ignored to their own regret.

Unless we are prepared to learn from the experience of others, the difficulties we are experiencing today may just be the genesis of a problem that could change our country forever.


Unmonitored patient left to die in NSW government hospital

Staff switch off "annoying" monitors that are there to save lives

A YOUNG mother at risk of sudden death from a brain cyst was left without a heart monitor for 20 hours before going into cardiac arrest at Westmead Hospital. Monitoring systems in the hospital's high-dependency unit were ''less than perfect'' when Rashpal Hayer died in July 2007, the NSW Coroner Mary Jerram said yesterday.

She was delivering findings after an inquest into Ms Hayer's death, which examined the failure to reattach the monitor and heard evidence of ''a 'culture' of silencing irritating alarms in that ward''.

Ms Hayer, 36, went to hospital with a severe headache. A CT scan revealed she had a colloid cyst, ''a very dangerous condition in which sudden death is known to be a possibility'', Ms Jerram said. A neurosurgeon instructed staff to monitor her closely, but a cardiac monitor was removed before a scan on July 2 and was not replaced when she returned to the ward. Ms Hayer was found in cardiac arrest at 6am on July 3. She never recovered brain function and died four days later.

Ms Jerram said nurses on the night shift and three doctors - including neurosurgical registrars - either failed to notice or saw no problem with the fact that she was without a cardiac monitor. Ms Hayer could possibly have been treated if a monitor had been fitted and sounded when she went into arrest, she said.

The inquest also heard that a finger probe monitoring Ms Hayer's pulse and oxygen levels had detached half an hour before her cardiac arrest. It should have sounded warnings.

Ms Jerram said it was possible the alarm connection to the nurses' station was not working, or that ''the alarms were deliberately silenced at some stage … not necessarily from any malice''. She accepted evidence from a nurse that the ward had a culture of ''silencing irritating alarms''.

Ms Jerram made no formal recommendations, noting that the hospital conducted three investigations into the death and had policies to remedy some of the problems highlighted.


Warmist laws guaranteed to swell bureaucracy

Just what the country needs: Another army of tax-eating paper shufflers who produce nothing

ALTHOUGH the Rudd government's emissions trading scheme will put serious pressure on jobs in industries such as mining and agriculture, it will prove to be a significant boon for the federal public service.

Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull's decision to stake his future on securing concessions from the government over its climate change legislation will do nothing to avert this, regardless of what he can wring at thebargaining table to protect jobs in these industries.

The government is already well advanced in establishing a super bureaucracy to administer compliance with these laws even though its Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is still awaiting its fate in parliament.

At the heart of this is the Australian Climate Change Regulatory Authority, which will be supported by a new division created within the Department of Climate Change.

Informed sources say that about 100 staff and officials will initially be involved in this operation, but this is likely to blow out dramatically when the full implications of what will effectively amount to a federal consumption tax on carbon emissions become clear.

This new regulatory agency will have sweeping powers to enforce the government's climate change regime. It will also issue and auction emissions permits and collect the revenue from these. The bill to provide for this agency went up to a Senate committee inquiry earlier this year but it received little attention as the focus was largely on the scope of the CPRS proposals.

In the May budget the government said this new agency would take over the existing functions of other regulators, limiting the risk of conflict, streamlining procedures and reducing the burden for business. Farmers in NSW won't be holding their breaths for this eventuality, having just found their rates have jumped by up to 120per cent after the state government created a new rural super bureaucracy.

Media advertisements for the head of a division of stakeholder support and engagement within the Department of Climate Change give some insight into how this new structure will operate. The division will be responsible for "building communications, outreach, audit and compliance capabilities for ACCRA". The job description goes on to state the division will develop and manage relationships with key stakeholders and devise and implement a range of communications, education and marketing strategies to build confidence in the regulator's administrative processes that will, in turn, support effective regulation and "foster voluntary compliance".

But the terms of employment for members of the regulatory agency and its support division inside the department show that businesses will be expected to make available highly sensitive commercial information about their operations.

In fact, legislation to establish the regulatory body says that given the potential scope and sensitivity of commercial information that will now be collected, penalties for its unauthorised use and disclosure are essential. As a result people working in this area will require a secret security clearance.

All this looks strikingly like the way the Australian Taxation Office operates. For example, the ATO works on a system of self-assessment supported by audit. And it is in this latter area that the requirement for significant staff numbers is generated.

And in setting out the qualities it is looking for in the head of its stakeholder support and engagement division, the department says this person will need to understand the importance of audit and compliance functions that will underpin the effectiveness of its CPRS regulatory framework.

So where does this leave business? Well, apart from meeting endless state-based compliance requirements and filing an annual tax return as well as quarterly business assessment statements, it will now also have to complete an annual energy or environmental tax return.

Tomorrow night Turnbull will address a key business function in Melbourne organised by the Liberal Party. The $1100-a-head dinner was primarily designed as a rallying call for business to get behind the beleaguered party. But Turnbull's response to Rudd's ETS has, instead, increased speculation about his leadership abilities and the possibility of a damaging split in the parliamentary party.

Rather than looking for a way to bring the government and the opposition together on an ETS to avoid the consequences of a double dissolution, Turnbull should be detailing an alternative to what is a clearly flawed policy. More to the point, he should be outlining his broad strategy for a fight back to the Treasury benches.

The reality is that his approach to the ETS issue is just confirming the fears of many Liberals that the party has lost its point of difference and become an mirror image of the ALP.


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