Tuesday, July 30, 2013


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG offers a theory of why Kevvy did not get shot during his trip to Afghastiland.

Feminism as a form of racism

Below are some angry and foul-mouthed comments from Clementine Ford, an Australian feminist.  She is fired up about women getting more "recognition".   But how is that different from racism?  She sees herself not as an individual, but as a member of a valued group.  In her Fascist mind, people are divided into two groups: Men (evil) and women (virtuous):  Not all that different from Hitler.  Men by contrast don't think of themselves as primarily "men".  They think of themselves in much less broad categories.  My most common self-description, for instance, is "a born academic".  It never occurs to me to mention that I am a male.

And this refusal to treat people as just people, but instead  obsessing over what lies between their legs, is irritating. Feminist assertion tends to produce a backlash. Mostly men just shake their heads at it but, given anonymity, they may say what they really think of it and of the shrews who utter it.  Many people object to racism.  It is equally reasonable to object to feminism

Note her use of "we" in the last paragraph. It could have come from a Hitler speech and is equally deluded and equally angry. She just can't think of herself as an individual. Her illusory "tribe" is all. Women are in fact quite prone to hating one-another, as we see here. And read here the scorn that a female literary critic heaps on Jane Austen!

When UK journalist and co-founder of The Women's Room Caroline Criado-Perez spearheaded a campaign to replace Charles Darwin’s image with Jane Austen’s on a British banknote, her efforts were rewarded by a sustained Twitter attack from some of the more repugnant turds excreted by society’s sulphurous bottom.

Within hours, Criado-Perez’ experience reinforced what female users of Twitter have known since its launch - that the social media site woefully fails to support the vast network of women who are subjected to abuse (often graphic and violent) simply for daring to have claim space in the ‘conversation’ that Twitter positions itself as being the locus of. She is now leading a campaign similar to the #fbrape one conducted a few months ago, with the intention of having Twitter become more accountable for the way their platform is used. Twitter has been threatened with a mass boycott on August 4 from prominent celebrities, MPs and writers should they continue to sidestep responsibility over the issue. (So far, Twitter UK general manager Tony Wang has responded by stating that they are looking at simplifying the process of reporting offensive tweets.)

The question of what can be done to counter gendered online abuse is routinely painted as a woman’s problem to solve with the most frequently offered directive being to ‘just ignore it’. Having experienced such unwelcome intrusions on repeated occasions, I am familiar with those responses aimed at discrediting the justifiable anger of being told, for example, that even though you’re too ugly to rape, you probably still deserve it. ‘Don’t pay attention to them’, such advice dictates. ‘You’re only giving them the attention they want.’ Or, ‘You have X number of followers, and this person only has a handful. Why are you abusing your power like this?’

Occasionally, I have been lectured on my attempts to ‘shut down free speech’ - as if it is my objection to sexual assault being used as a warning that threatens the fabric of society, and not the fact that some people still find it a useful tool of debate.

Criado-Perez quite rightly calls bullshit on this tactic, advocating instead a commitment to ‘shout back’. Ignoring abuse doesn’t make it go away. Believe me, I know. What it does is make you feel invaded, powerless and (if the troll in question seems to have a greater than usual insight into your online activities) vaguely paranoid. Too often, trolls are left untended simply because they are invisible. They are the Peeping Toms of the online world - they can peer through your windows, but you can’t see their faces. So to stop them from salivating over your distress, you become weathered against their hatred.

These misogynists ejaculate their rage all over the internet, using their threat of both a rutting penis and the denial of it to try and keep women in their place. It happened to Lindy West when she criticised the abundance of jokes about rape. It happened to Marion Bartoli when she won Wimbledon, and viewers decided she was too ugly and unf--kable to deserve this honour......

Well, women aren’t going to roll over and ignore it. We’re not going to enable their entitlement by keeping our mouths shut. Like Criado-Perez says, we’re shouting back - and if these misogynist troglodytes don’t like the sound of one banshee standing up for herself, they’re going to really hate it what it sounds like when millions of us do it together.


Coalition proposes tent city as Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison inspects Nauru riot damage

HOUSING thousands of people in tents and leaving refugees in Nauru's slum district on small welfare payments indefinitely are the centrepieces of the Coalition's offshore asylum policy.

After touring the Government's riot ravaged camp, Opposition immigration spokesman Scott

Morrison said he would immediately erect a 2000-person tent city under a Coalition government.

He said almost 5000 asylum seekers could eventually be housed on the tiny Pacific Island, which has a 17km ring road around its perimeter, under a five year plan that would be struck if the Coalition wins the election.

The plan would see Nauru's "Location," a slum disctrict housing more than 1000 people, refurbished to accommodate people with successful refugee claims.

They would move out of processing camps and live alongside residents of "Location" on meagre welfare benefits in line with living costs in Nauru, where average workers are paid $75 a week.

Anyone processed on Nauru who was found to be a refugee under a Coalition government would be invited to apply to move to countries other than Australia, Mr Morrison said.

Mr Morrison said Nauru's intelligence capabilities would need to be boosted after he saw evidence the rioters who caused $60 million worth of damage to the government's camp had pre-planned the night of violence.

"They packed their bags and got their stuff out of their rooms before they burned the place down," he said.  "It underscores the need for better intelligence."

Shadow immigration minister Scott Morrison says he saw evidence that the rioters who caused $60 million worth of damage had planned the night of violence. Picture: Bradley Hunter
He said a Coalition government would train Nauruan security forces.

Welfare payments to refugees housed at "Location" would be in line with Nauru's cost of living to prevent tensions with locals, Mr Morrison said.

He said housing for the refugees would later be handed to Nauruans, many who live in tiny, rundown concrete boxes near Nauru's hospital. 

"There would be no guarantee or resettlement in Australia," he said. "People would be invited to make application for resettlement elsewhere. While they are doing that they would have accommodation, it would be like a bridging visa program in Nauru.

"You can provide the accommodation in terms of any allowances, they would have to be at Nauru levels, not Australian levels, you wouldn't want to create any tension around those sorts of things."

The Nauruan landholders had indicated to Mr Morrison it would vacate a camp known as "State House," which was used to house families under the Howard Government.

It has since hosted a school, government agencies and community groups and could house 2000 people with the tent city and capacity for around 900 in government's camp taking total accommodation to almost 5000.

The Opposition's pledge to leave people in Nauru indefinitely came as Immigration Minister Tony Burke said the first asylum seekers sent to PNG for resettlement would be flown to Manus Island this week.

A tent city is being built on the remote island for the almost 1300 asylum seekers who have arrived since the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced his policy lurch.

"I've always said they'll be sent when the health checks are complete," Mr Burke told Sky yesterday.

"The health checks take in the order of about two weeks so, you know, that two week period that I originally flagged would take us through to Friday."

He acknowledged it could be months before the camp is ready for families.


Regulator fired up over fuel discounts

No discounts for YOU, apparently

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission boss, Rod Sims, looks set to take legal action against the two major supermarket chains in an attempt to stop or at least curtail the controversial discount fuel dockets.

He heralded the possibility of taking action when the investigation into petrol dockets is completed in a few months.

If this is just a case of regulator bluff it is not working.

Having publicly reminded (read warned) the supermarket chains twice that these schemes are being being closely examined, the response from Woolworths and Coles has been to increase the size of the discount and the frequency of their use.

The latest offer (albeit a limited one) allows some supermarket shoppers to receive 45¢ a litre off petrol. When Sims started to get worried about the effects of fuel discount dockets the supermarkets were offering just 8¢ off a litre.

"Even at the level of 8¢ it would be difficult to see how an unsubsidised fuel retailer could compete on a sustainable basis," Sims said.

Fuel discounts are a particularly effective way for the supermarkets to entice loyalty and at the same time mine their customers for data.

If they were of only marginal benefit the supermarkets would have ditched them to appease the regulator, which is already fighting the two industry giants on their treatment of suppliers and potential abuse of market power.

The ACCC has always been sensitive to the perceptions of the general public and how the media portrays the effectiveness of its bite. The behaviour of the big supermarket chains is one that has caught the attention of the media and Canberra. Sims has long wanted to make some inroads into curtailing their power.

The treatment of suppliers was the obvious channel but getting them to break ranks and complain publicly has frustrated the regulator's investigation.

The non-supermarket aligned service stations should be another matter entirely. They should be desperate for redress. But they need to be careful given most independent service stations are also hooked up with independent supermarkets to provide some kind of (much smaller) discount.

The noisiest critic has been Metcash, whose new chief executive, Ian Morrice, recently suggested Coles and Woolworths ramped up the price of petrol to make their discounts appear more generous. But getting between consumers and a discount is always a tricky issue for the competition regulator. The possible breaches of competition legislation won't get support from the general public.

Thus the ACCC has to tiptoe around the issues and be doubly sure that the long-term detriment outweighs the short-term benefits.

It has to mount a successful legal argument that discount fuel dockets will retard non-supermarket service stations or smaller independent supermarkets - potentially putting them out of business and thereby reducing competition which would lead to increased prices over the longer term.

"The ACCC has no power to ban shopper docket offers," Sims says. "As an enforcement body, however, the ACCC can investigate market activity and, where appropriate, take court action seeking injunctions to stop the conduct and seeking penalties in appropriate cases."

Sims has certainly turned up the rhetoric - having mentioned it several times before and most recently at the Budget Estimates Committee hearing in February.

Perhaps his statement that the ACCC has no power to ban shopper dockets is a message to the government (whoever they may be by the end of the year) that legislation needs to be toughened.

The ACCC and the supermarkets are engaged in regular discourse (Sims will be seeing Wesfarmers in a few weeks) at which time his concerns about fuel dockets will be made clear. It appears more likely the supermarkets will respond to the challenge and argue their case in court.


Australians becoming less envious?

Australia is supposed to be the land of the tall poppy syndrome, where the successful are cut down to the same size as everyone else, quick smart. You're not supposed to stand out for intelligence, achievement or, worst of all, wealth.

Less prettily, tall poppy syndrome is "an Australasian modernism for envy, jealousy and covetousness that has been labelled a notable anti-talent", according to a pair of academics from Auckland University, V. Suchitra Mouly and Jayaram K. Sankaran.

But if conspicuous intelligence, achievement and wealth are so socially unacceptable, how do we explain the standout popularity of a pair of national leaders who embody all three?

Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull are the most persistently popular leaders in politics. Each is the preferred leader of his party, according to opinion polls. Yet they are manifestly intelligent. Neither need rely on memorised "talking points" to make a case.

Each has achievements outside politics, Rudd as a Mandarin-speaking diplomat and Turnbull as a barrister and businessman.

And both are monied, Turnbull in his own right while Rudd married one of Australia's most successful businesswomen. Both families count their worth in the tens of millions.

"If the tall poppy was working, then these people should be cut down because of it," says a political scientist at the Australian National University, Ian McAllister.

The Fairfax pollster, Nielsen's John Stirton, says: "It's fair to say that Turnbull has been the preferred Liberal leader since he lost the leadership", which was more than three years ago. As for Rudd, "there's a case that he was the most popular of the postwar prime ministers," says Stirton. And after losing the post in 2010, apart from an initial honeymoon for Julia Gillard, Rudd was so decisively the people's choice as Labor leader for so long that even the Labor caucus had to bow to reality.

What's going on here? Is the tall poppy syndrome a relic of a bygone Australia? Or is there some other factor at work?

"It's fascinating and, on the face of it, it implies that Australians have grown up a bit," suggests Rebecca Huntley, who studies public opinion for Ipsos Research in focus groups she convenes every seven weeks.

She offers two reasons why this might be so. One is economic. "People understand that we are at a crucial point about what sort of economy we evolve into, and about where education fits in. This is something people talk about.

"They want a contest of ideas, a proper, serious discussion between two alternatives."

Second is despair. "Perhaps things have been so bad in recent years that we need a different kind of leader. Rudd and Turnbull both benefit from being compared to leaders who are deeply unpopular," referring to Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott.

"Whereas previously it was a problem to be a silvertail" - the Herald's editorial page cartoonist, Alan Moir, draws Turnbull as a plutocrat in a top hat and tails - "or being too smart for your own good" - a common stereotype of Rudd - "people are no longer worried and just want someone who's not a freaking idiot."

Neither Abbott nor Gillard is a "freaking idiot." Abbott is a Rhodes scholar and Gillard a lawyer. But both speak to the public in scripted "talking points" and use heavy-handed repetition in such an obvious way they demean people's intelligence.

Galaxy research pollster David Briggs also puts heavy emphasis on the explanation of popularity as a matter of contrast: "Rudd and Turnbull had both fallen considerably in their public satisfaction ratings at the time they were deposed. But absence makes the heart grow fonder, and in both cases voters never warmed to the people who replaced them.

"So what was the point of replacing them? Let's have the old ones back."

But does Rudd's and Turnbull's appeal also tell us something about a change in Australian society?

Towards the end of his prime ministership, John Howard told me that in an earlier Australia, a young man watching someone drive past in an expensive car might have felt resentful. But today, said Howard, he was more likely to think "that could be me one day".

Australians had become more "aspirational," he said, a view that gained increasing currency. And where Julia Gillard had "gone the class warfare" , it failed spectacularly to gain any traction.

If the tall poppy syndrome requires envy and resentment as its motive force, is it fading as these sentiments are retired from active service in Australian politics?

McAllister doubts it: "Egalitarianism is still there in Australia. When you ask people in surveys about redistribution of wealth, there is support for it, and there's less tolerance for inequality of wealth than . . . in other countries." In explaining the appeal of Rudd and Turnbull, he says: "I think it's that people see something else other than money and something other than people who got ahead."

And what is that "something else"?

McAllister, who conducts the Australian Electoral Study, says: "The values that voters respond to most strongly are leadership and integrity. I think they see something else they value in Rudd and Turnbull, and I think that makes them exempt from tall poppy syndrome."

If these analysts are right, leadership, integrity, even obvious intelligence are in demand as valued commodities for our leaders. Who said you never read any good news in the newspapers?


1 comment:

Paul said...

"I think they see something else they value in Rudd and Turnbull"

I like to think I could see something of value in both of them. Its something I'd usually use to carve a roast.