Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A scream and a good lie down

What I love about the fact that the Norwegians have recovered Edvard Munch's famous painting, The Scream, is that now, on days when I feel like this, I can point to it.

I felt quite lost when it was stolen. The Norwegians now have the painting back on display, if only for a few days before it is whisked away for repairs. However, both Munch's The Scream and Madonna, which had been stolen in 2004, can only be displayed lying down, as they are too damaged to be hung.

Well, if I'd been through what they had, I'd need a good lie-down too. Or have a good scream.


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Palm Is death in custody case two years on

I can't believe it has been nearly two years since an Aboriginal man in Palm Island, Queensland, died in police custody and the Coroner's report sparked massive outrage in the Island's Aboriginal community that led to rioting. The police station and court were attacked. It was one of the stories of Australia's racism and police brutality that captured my interest when I started this blog two years ago.

The Coronial inquest into this death in custody will deliver its findings in Townsville in north Queensland today, reports ABC News Online. There is chatter about whether community anger will again flare-up over the Coroner's findings – mainly from mainstream media and Queensland government people. Yet, despite their being unconvinced at what the Coroner will find - and whether justice will be done – Palm Island's Aboriginal leaders are hosing down talk of community violence:
'I don't think that's going to be the case, community leaders have made a commitment to be here to work with police to try to control those sorts of things but we really don't think that's going to happen,' [Palm Island Council CEO Barry Moyle] said.
Considering how badly the Queensland police overeacted last time, I'm not surprised they're keen to avoid further police attacks on their community. Chloe Hooper's story 'The Tall Man' for The Monthly on the Palm Island community's wait for justice is the best I've read on the matter. I recommend it. Go to The Monthly's back issues and scroll down to Issue 11 to read Hooper's story online.

Warning: if you go to the ABC News Online story, beware that they have published a photograph of the dead man and his name, which is counter to Aboriginal protocols regarding Aboriginal people who have passed away.

Update: ABC reports that deputy Acting State Coroner Christine Clements has released her report, finding that the investigation into the death 'failed to meet death in custody guidelines', a previous 'aborted coroner's report' had not mentioned assault allegations, 'which she labelled a serious error of judgement,' and that '[the Aboriginal man] should never have been arrested in the first place'! More damningly, she has dismissed the evidence provided by a police liaison officer, and I think this is bad for the policeman who arrested the man and was present at the watchhouse where/when he died. Note: the quotes are from the ABC news item on the court proceedings, not the coroner's report. [Updated 12.15 pm, 27 September]


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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Million-year high Earth temperatures may trigger 'super' El Nino

ABC News Online reports that James Hansen of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and others, found that:
Earth may be close to the warmest it has been in the last million years, especially in the part of the Pacific Ocean where potentially violent El Nino weather patterns are born.
They make a clear link between human-caused global warming and El Ninos. What country produces more greenhouse gasses per capita than any other? Australia. And where is one of the places worst affected by a really bad El Nino pattern? Australia. Are we reaping what we sow? Can we change it? The scientists say:
"Slowing the growth rate of greenhouse gases should diminish the probability of both super El Ninos and the most intense tropical storms."

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Monday, September 25, 2006

When is a rose not a rose?

When it is torture. David sent me the link to this great Sunday Times article by Andrew Sullman, Torture by any other name is just as vile, on the furore over whether the US has "legally authorised the torture of terror suspects in its prisons".

Yes, US/CIA torture is not new, and I suspect it is not exclusive to the recent 'War on Terror'. However, the difference this time is whether the US government has legally sanctioned it. Or, as they prefer, sanctioned something else:
So we are reduced to fighting over a word, “torture”. President George W Bush’s preferred terminology is “alternative interrogation techniques” or “coercive interrogation” or “harsh interrogation methods”, or simply, amazingly, his comment last Thursday that a policy of waterboarding detainees is merely a policy to “question” them.
Sullman turns to Orwell's famous essay on 'Politics and the English Language' for insight, and quotes Orwell:
“A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outline and covering up all the details. The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink. In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics’. All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer.”
Can Australia be smug about all the use of torture to get information from terror suspects? Many, including I, believe that the only Australian prisoner left in Guantanamo, David Hicks, was tortured – his military lawyer Major Mori has confirmed he was physically assaulted and Hicks is repeatedly placed in solitary confinement – but the Howard government continues to accept the US government's word on it and deny it happened.

The Australian courts have also found that Australian 'terror suspect' Jack Thomas was tortured in Pakistan, and reaffirmed that any statements he made under torture were inadmissable as evidence in Australian courts. What got swept away in the media frenzy over whether the courts were 'going soft on terrorists' was ther fact that Australian Federal Police officers were present during interrogations – torture – and rather than stopping it, proceeded to use Thomas's torture statements as evidence against him.

At least Australia's penchant for not beating about the bush revealed something else about this country: these incidents were not glossed over in arguments over words – i.e. whether this was really torture or 'harsh interrogation'. Instead, there was an argument over whether terror suspects deserved to be tortured to extract information for 'national security'.

If you feel you want to do something about this, take a look at the GetUp! campaign for David Hicks. Or take a look at Amnesty International's work. They've been campaigning against torture across the world for many decades now. A pity they still have to. As Amnesty International says, 'Torture doesn't work to stop terror. Torture is terror'.

[Image: 'war on terror' prisoners at Guantanamo Bay prison]


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Friday, September 22, 2006

Nuclear power is not the solution

I've collected my various blog posts and other pieces on uranium mining and against nuclear power here as an easy guide to why I think nuclear power is NOT the answer to global warming, including some broader posts that mention those issues. I've also included some links to key environmental campaigns against nuclear power and uranium mining here.

This post will act as sort of a 'bookmark', which readers can access via the campaign button on my sidebar.

My key motivation is to encourage other people to think critically about the issues around uranium mining in Australia and nuclear power. I hope you will do something, however small, to encourage others to take the view that nuclear power is not the answer to global warming.

I hope you find these useful:

Quarry and farm – 8 September 2006

Nuclear power will not let us off the hook – 16 August 2006

Drought-struck Australia cannot afford nuclear power – 13 August 2006

Peace/anti nukes rally on Sunday – 04 August 2006

Act now, so our children won't dread their future – 04 August 2006

Digging into nuclear power's myths – 26 July 2006

Leave it in the ground – 25 July 2006

The myth of nuclear power's greenhouse benefits – 15 June 2006

Secrecy and lies vs transparency and democracy – 30 April 2006

This is only a selection, of course. I hadn't realised until I started this exercise of pooling these posts here just how many times I've written on these issues. Fingers-crossed, if Technorati's search tool actually works when you want it to, you will find a lot of my previous posts on this if you use the keyword 'nuclear' to search using the Technorati search tool bar in the right sidebar.

Some environmental organisations running anti-nuclear campaigns have good resources on their websites:
Helen Caldicott has been a leading opponent of nuclear power and the uranium/nuclear mining-power-weapons industry for many years. Her latest book is Nuclear power is not the solution to global warming or anything else. A lot of her work is easily accessed online through her foundation's website.

You can also download the image I made to capture my anti-nuclear sentiments, 'A Nuclear Winter is no answer to Global Warming', and use it to spread the word, if you wish. I have a print of it on the wall in my cubicle at work. I just ask that you email me (or leave a comment) to tell me you've done so, and credit
me for that bit of 'agit-prop'. The post with that image is here. You can also download the 'button' I made from that image (see above) and put that on your website/blog, if you like.

There's lots of other things you can do. I hope you'd share some ideas with me, too.

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth

I went to see Al Gore's film, An Incovenient Truth, yesterday with my partner. It was good, and certainly works as a clarion call for action to stop global warming. I have to say that although I had learned a bit about the science of global warming, and thought I realised the potential for environmental disaster that global warming will bring, Gore's presentation really captured the seriousness of our situation, and rammed it home.

The film is based on Gore's presentation on global warming, which he delivers with a multimedia slide show, the political issues around the response to global warming in America, and the story of how Gore became interested in global warming and what drives his crusade. The story of global warming's impact on the planet is the most compelling, while the insight into what drives this man to take up this crusade helps us to understand a little about his motivations and aspirations. And no, I don't believe this is just a PR exercise to position him for the next Presidential electection race.

I put the film's effectiveness to Gore's good use of images, visual effects, animation and good story telling in his presentation, and the film maker's use of the same tools to tell the story of Gore's crusade. And, of course, a sound grasp of the science of global warming (despite his need to simplify the science for a lay audience, it is still accurate) and a keen eye for understanding how the spin and the petroleum and fossil fuel lobbies operate in the US.

One of the film's weaknesses is that it overwhelming targets an American audience, rather than a global one. It's a pity, as this is a global problem after all and Gore has made a huge effort to take his message (through his presentation) to China an Europe. While Gore presents us with insights into how global warming is already having an impact in Africa, Asia and Europe (not to mention the Pacific), he uses the impacts on the US - especially Hurricane Katrina's devastation of New Orleans – to really reach his audience. 'How can this happen in America?' really resonates here.

However, I also appreciate that America is central to this problem – as the worst greenhouse gas offender, and with an administration and public opinion so overwhelmingly stacked against doing anything about global warming. Considering this, I can forgive the American-centric slant of the film. Anything to get the Yanks (and us?) of their butts and take action on this.

The main message I took away, however, is that we all – I – can do something, in fact have to do something. Check out Gore's campaign website:, and go see the film! But, that's just the first step!

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Monday, September 18, 2006

The heartburn of Australia's McValues meal

The recent furore over 'Australian values' and whether we think we can impose them on those wishing to visit or come live in our country has served nothing but to reinforce xenophobia in Australia, and disguise Australia's true values – an obsession with stuff.

The outcry over Opposition leader Kim Beazley's bizarre proposal to force all overseas applicants for tourist visas to Australia, or wanting to migrate to Australia, to sign a declaration to respect 'Australian values'. did nothing to help us understand any better how we live, or become more conscious of how what we value is affecting our world.

Predictably, with the media's typical short attention span, the 'Australian values debate', if we were ever to have one, has been dropped like a hot potato. Or was it Beazley who dropped the hot potato?

I thought I'd let the dust settle on the debate before I added my two bits. I was also somewhat annoyed at the utter stupidity and arrogance at our so-called leaders' and opinion makers' temerity to define - and thus limit - what we value here in Australia. Attempting to define Australia values - a ridiculous and exclusive exercise if there ever was one - is also an attempt to define what are not Australian, or rather in the jargon preferred by the conservatives, 'Un-Australian'. So, I didn't want to rush in to add my values wish-list to the shopping list being bandied about in the public sphere.

Unfortunately (as far as I could see), no commentators tried to pull together some threads I'm particularly interested in in this 'debate'.

There was an overwhelming focus on immigration, xenophobia and racism - the debate on Australia values was cast in the light of how the values of those wanting to come to Australia may (or may not) be different and somehow dangerous to Australia's values, and thus to its people.

I was appalled at the glorified, soft-focus, back-slapping conversation about how great Australians are, how we value 'mateship', personal initiative ('having a go'), or that greater myth of Australia, egalitarianism.

To my great frustration, there was no attention paid to just what Australian values really are. If anything, Australia values 'bigger and better: get more money, build/buy the biggest house you can, drive the biggest car, send your kids to the best (rather the most prestigious, expensive, high-status) school, eat or cook the biggest, fanciest, hippest meals you can, buy the latest clothes, and install the biggest, latest television (sorry, plasma) or entertainment system.

To me, this preoccupation with stuff - the bigger the better - is best personified by McMansions, those gigantic cream-puff houses that are swallowing up our suburbs, our land and our children's lives. In that weird reversal of the 50s Australian quest for the quarter-acre block where kids could play cricket-chasey-footy-whatever in the big backyard, we have witnessed the explosion of the quarter-acre house.
In a feature on McMansions three years ago, Fairfax journalist Janet Hawley said:
Streetscapes are virtual walls of neat, look-alike, fridge-magnet, big-hair houses dominated by wow factors: big garage doors, big front doors with vaulted entries, feature porticos and columns, big windows with stick-on yellow fake windowpane strips, stick-on shutters, stick-on chimneys, glassy towers, gazebos and gable ornamentation galore.
This is an obsession with massive houses with display front gardens for the neighbours, and pocket-hanky backyards that barely fit the primary-coloured plastic play equipment and massive, designer barbeque. Never mind the Hills-hoist clothes line, just whack a energy hungry clothes drier in the laundry/garage. As Hawley also says,
The traditional backyard has gone, along with its trees, garden, vegie patch, often pool, washing line and shed, where children could let their bodies and imaginations run free and build tree houses, cubbyhouses, billycarts, dig in the dirt and invent games. Now it's indoor computer games, and, given there's no room for a decent run-up in most McMansion courtyards, children are driven to sport and formally organised activities most days of the week.
Is it any wonder that Australia is the biggest per capita emitter of greenhouse gasses? Is it surprising, after all, that Australia consumes so disproportionate amount of resources, compared to the rest of the world?

What is also troubling is the denial of the extent to which Australia's 'way of life' – its values – are directly resulting in the degradation of our planet and our climate. When enivornmentalists such as David Suzuki call for for our patterns of over-consumption to change, they are frequently counted with specious arguments of how cutting consumption will costs the jobs of those who make stuff for a living.

Honestly, I think we can do better than that. We need a debate on Australian values. But, lets focus on the values that are killing us.

[Image: Douglas Roesch ]


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Friday, September 15, 2006

Picasso in a can

I don't usually talk about or recommend software or IT things, but I would make this exception for the great drawing and painting programme for children (and the young at heart!) – Tuxpaint.

Since I installed it on our ageing home iMac, my son Jacob has been really enjoying it, and I've been relieved that he won't crash our Photoshop or change its tool settings or some such technical hiccup. Tuxpaint is easy to use (because it's designed especially for kids), fun, and, best of all, it's free! The images above and below are ones Jacob and I did together, and I have to admit to having a lot of fun with them!

I think it can provide continuing interest as your child grows, and has the potential for making illustrations for kids' school assignments. I first heard about Tuxpaint from my favourite website for kids' activities,, so I will quote their description and recommendation here:
Tuxpaint … features quirky sound effects and a simplified interface that is ideal for younger children. All the basics that you’d expect in a drawing package are available, including brushes of various sizes and styles, shape tools, and a collection of ‘magic’ effects that can be applied to a drawing.

The best feature is a great set of stamps that lets kids plonk down fully formed cut-outs (animals, coins, hats, spacemen, food, symbols etc) into their work of art.
School holidays begin today in Victoria's school term. If you're looking for something that will keep your children engaged and having fun – not just occupied – this is something great. (Also, take a look around the Kiddley site for lots of craft ideas and fun activities.)

You will find Tuxpaint in versions for various computer systems - including Mac OSX. That's a huge bonus for me! Another
drawcard is the fact that it's an open source software project developed by volunteers! Be sure to download the additional stamp pack (which is a separate file, also with different versions for various operating systems) because the stamps are half the fun. Download Tuxpaint online here. Have fun!


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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Eat me

There is a fascinating conversation going on at Sarsaparilla in response to Laura's post on race, culture, skin colour and food advertising on Australian TV. I've had a fair bit to say there, so I won't regurgitate the points here other than to offer this exerpt from one of my comments to indicate here why this conversation is so compelling:
Whether ‘authentic’ or ‘palatable’, we wogs/gooks/ Asians/blacks/ refos/migrants etc are consumed by a whiteness that sees itself as having every right to ‘know’ - view, smell, eat, enjoy, ravish, seduce, experience, own - the rest of the world for its own pleasure and amelioration. It is this arrogance of self, this will to power, almost, that needs challenging.
Go take a look. Love to hear what you think.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Kids taking risks

Derek at has a great take on kids taking risk and how we raise kids.
Life is risky, and one thing kids need to learn is how to recognize and manage those risks. It's a tough task as a parent, as our daughters grow into their early grades at school, for my wife and me to find the line between protection and overprotection.
Check out his full post and the comments. It's enlightening, particularly in this 'post 9/11' age when our preoccupations have become preventing risk. Though I would not suggest this is a recent thing.

Letting our kids take risks requires us, as parents, to take risks with them – we naturally hate the negative consequences of their actions, so must learn to let go.

Somehow, I suspect that allowing our kids to take risks is linked to helping them develop resilience, that latest great catch-cry of contemporary child-rearing. Kids who learn to fall also learn to bounce back. Hopefully.

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Folding nappies

September 11 has become one of those unfortunate iconic events that is the equivalent of the assassinations of John Lennon and JFK for my generation. It elicits that question of of us all: 'Where were you when the planes crashed into the Twin Towers?'

Folding nappies. My partner and I were home that night in 2001, up late (a rare thing for us) trying to tackle the elephant that comes with having a ten-month-old – sorting a pile of clean laundry and folding nappies. The television was providing background noise, rather than anything interesting to watch, when they cut to the emergency news broadcast to report that a plane had crashed into the first tower.

We were watching the footage with some horror and disbelief, trying to make sense of the turmoil on screen, when we saw another plane crash into the second tower. I don't need to go back over the rest of those events. The media will keep reminding us.

Each year since, we are told that the September 11 has changed the world, that everything is different now, what with the 'War on Terror', the War in Iraq, and the Bush-Howard ascendency in the conservative politcs of the US and Australia. Yesterday was no different.

Yesterday's hand-wringing and finger-pointing got me down a bit, as did the triumphalism of the Bush administration's tribute to its War on Terror. No, I don't think 'we' are winning, whoever 'we' is.

But, perhaps my experience of the day would have been different if grief and trauma had been the abiding features of my experience of the day. After all we were safe here in Melbourne, half a world away.

Late last night, I chose to fold a modest pile of nappies to mark this anniversary in a quiet, personal way. It was oddly resonant that five years on, I found myself in a position to be folding nappies again, what with our second child now four months old.

That simple act allowed me to reflect on the events that have changed the world for all of us in many ways, but to also to reclaim for myself that small but not insignificant part of life that keeps going on – the banality of living and of raising children. It is my anchor.


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Monday, September 11, 2006

Reciprocity makes the blogosphere go round

I am finally a good comrade net citizen (comrade netizen?) because I've just updated my list of links – epecially to blogs – as you will see in the right column.

Whether it's laziness, procrastination, preoccupation or busy-ness, I've not kept my blogroll and other links up to date in a while. In fact, for a long time my blog-roll (more like a single sheet of toilet paper) barely went past the three to five original blogs I linked to when I first set up this blog two years ago. Aah, and girl with a movie camera - I have a soft spot for them because they were the first blogs I ever started reading regularly, and they certainly informed my understanding of blogs and blogging in those early days.

Well, my blogging and blog surfing has certainly come a long way since then, and so the links grow. In terms of net citizenry, I've finally included the blogs that I know of that have included my blog in their blog rolls. A big hats off to antipopper, who as far as I know was the first blogger to include to me in his links a while back. And I noticed not the last. Thank you if you've linked to me, and apologies for my tardy reciprocity.

But these
'linkers' are really listed here because I like reading their blogs, and I think other readers should visit them too... (I'm especially enjoying reading Barista and Sarsaparilla regularly, as you may have noticed from recent posts.)

That goes for the rest of the blogs and website I've included in my links lists. I hope I'll be making time to keep these lists growing. Enjoy. And let me know what I've missed.


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Friday, September 08, 2006

Quarry and farm

I had promised more on what I thought of Tim Flannery's keynote address on climate change at The Age Melbourne Writers Festival (MWF). I'm refraining from critiquing the presentation itself, because two weeks later is hardly a timely 'review'. Instead, I'm pulling together some ideas and reflections of what struck me from his talk. I'm also drawing on some thoughts from one of Helen Caldicott's sessions at the MWF.

I am planning another longer post critiquing Flannery's green consumerism approach to solving global warming for another time, so this won't be exhaustive. Stay tuned for that.

One theme stands out from Flannery's critique of Australia's failure to address global warming in a meaningful way. He describe Australia as a 'quarry and farm'. He argues that Australia has for so long seen itself as a source of raw materials – from mining and agriculture – for export to the rest of the world, and that this puts us at a disadvantage in dealing with global warming in two main ways:
  1. Our attitude of 'buyer beware' – that the buyer should bear the ultimate responsibility and costs for the negative impact of the product we sell – can no longer be sanctioned. Flannery argues that Australia cannot just keep digging up coal and uranium from our land and shipping it off without concern for the environmental, social and political impact it has across the globe.

    What Flannery doesn't spell out strongly enough, is that because of the centrality of mining – especially coal – exports to Australia's economy, our government's political will to make any meaningful changes to our greenhouse gas emissions is thoroughly compromised, if not corrupted.

    He makes a clear enough case that a change in this 'buyer beware' attitude is required if Australia were to start mining and exporting more uranium – especially with the threat of nuclear proliferation in our region and beyond, and the dangers in processing nuclear power from the uranium we export. He insists that Australia must take greater responsibility for the dangers inherent in the uranium it sells.

    Unfortunately, the dangers aren't enough for Flannery to disavow his support for nuclear power in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, it appears to lead him to support Australia becoming a site for the storing of the growing nuclear waste that will come from the 'inevitable' increase in nuclear power. His twist is so close to Howard's: that Australia must take responsibility for the waste products from the uranium it exports!

    What is unfortunate about Flannery's stance on nuclear power and waste, in this regard, is that according to Helen Caldicott, he admits to knowing very little about the science of the nuclear cycle. Long-time anti-nuclear campaigner Caldicott told her Writers Festival audiences that she has heard from students who attended others of Flannery's talks that he had admitted to knowing little of the science of the nuclear cycle – much to her and her audiences' shock! She criticises him for recommending something without full knowledge of it, including its dangers – a failure she considers pretty bad for a scientist. Is this a case of Flannery's 'Buyer Beware' hypocricy?

  2. With the 'resources' sector (spinning money from digging stuff out of the ground and shipping it across the globe) and the agricultural industry so entrenched in Australian politics and economy, we are missing the opportunity to turn to manufacturing and exporting renewable energy technologies that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

    Flannery pointed to Australia loosing its leading photovoltaic cell researcher to Germany, who are also pursuing a huge industry programme of R&D and manufacturing solar panels. We have huge potential for investing in research and manufacturing in geothermal, solar and wind generated renewable energy, but without government or industry support, we are missing out. (Not strangely, this is something Flannery, Caldicott and a host of other environmentalists agree on

    I would see this as a problem with Australia's industry overall - the dismantling of Australia's manufacturing industry has long hamstrung us – but so long as the mining sector keeps the finance, IT, insurance and other services sectors happy in this country, we won't look up until it's too late.

    So, isn't this still the 'Banana Republic' that former ALP Prime Minister Paul Keating so disparaged – an economy built on exporting minerals, wheat and wool, and importing everything else? Keating wanted to move Australia beyond primary industry exports, but ended up assisting in the gutting of our manufacturing industry. So much for that.
Tim Flannery's Keynote address on global warming was interesting and useful because it offered some compelling and useful ways at looking at Australia's place in a warming climate. He also took pains to update his audience on the latest research findings that show that the impact of global warming is occuring much sooner that originally projected.

This includes Inuit reports of drowning polar bears (sign of polar ice-cap melt) and evidence of a first-ever polar bear-brown bear hybrid in Alaska (the warming is driving polar bears south due to food scarcity etc).

However, I feel that Flannery has been at such great pains to impart to his audience the sense of impending doom speeding to overtake us faster than expected, that he has become so captured by the panic. Flannery has stared so hard into the abyss that I fear he is not seeing clearly enough anymore, or looking deeply enough into the solutions he suggests to us.

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'S-art, mate!

The guardians of our morality in the media and parliament are apoplectic over the decision of a government funded Climate Change conference in Canberra to employ a 'striptease' show for its end-of-conference entertainment.

If you were to believe all the media beat-up (all over the radio this morning), it sounds like a bad-taste, plastic-raincoat type strip act with lap dancing thrown in. Barista digs deeper to turn up a women's burlesquen. Check his post out, (he also has a photo):
Miss Kitka runs burlesque classes here in Canberra and this was the performance outcome. It was wonderful to see all these beautiful local gals having such fun with the art form, as well as bringing out the inner sex kitten that their friends and family knew was always there…

…this is not your traditional plastic-breasted nudie-sweatie tickle at Mr Stiffie. The oldest person is 58. This is joy, and play and a celebration of the physical.
It's art, mate!

Though it may gave turned out to be rather poorly chosen 'artform' for the organisers of the conference, who now face losing funding from a pissed-of puritan government. The tendency at Barista is to view this as an expression of the new puritanism under Howard's decade.

But, let's not dismiss the fact that some delegates felt decidedly uncomfortable at the performance and stormed out!

So, is this up there with art-censorship and 'Piss Christ', or knee-jerk reactions to an old-boys-science-club's inability to keep abrest of the changes to cultural norms generated since the feminist movement?


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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Katrina's damage continues

I've been way too busy to write for this blog, but I highly recommend Barista's look at Katrina a year on.

He has pulled together some eye-opening information on the damage caused, and how so many people have been displaced and still affected by it. He cites:
Fewer than 35% of New Orleans’ 462,000 residents had returned to the city as of March. Only half are expected to return by September 2008.

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Sunday, September 03, 2006

Happy Father's Day!

To all the dads, Happy Father's Day! In fact, make it a great week. If you're reading this post today, Sunday, then stop! Go hang out with your kids.

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Friday, September 01, 2006

Aboriginal community fights back - against the ABC

If you had been following the saga of how the media reported the beat-up about child abuse and neglect in Central Australian Aboriginal communities, you may be aware of the controversy surrounding whether ABC TV's Lateline programme acted fairly in its reporting of how a paedophile' acted with impunity in a particular community.

While some of the controversy revolved around the identity and alleged links between an anonymous informant interviewed by Lateline and Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough, little attention has been paid to how such negative media attention affects the Aboriginal communities portrayed. Until now. One of this blog's readers has sent me a tip-off of this report from about the Lateline controversy:
Residents of Mutitjulu, the community at the centre of the June 21 Lateline broadcast on s-xual abuse, have lodged a formal complaint (read the full document here) with the ABC today, accusing the current affairs flagship of an “extraordinary attack on the community” that has “continued with a series of self-serving reports and adverse comments".

Dorothea Randall, a community member and one of the signatories to the document, told Crikey that the Mutitjulu community feels defamed and betrayed.

Randall told Crikey that since the Lateline broadcast aired, the community’s funds have been frozen, an administrator has been appointed and Mutitjulu's reputation is in shreds.

“A lot of it's not true, that’s where we’re shocked,” Randall told Crikey. “And it’s very stressful out here because it’s affecting the people emotionally..."

"We’ve just had enough of it and …no-one ever came out here…," says Randall. "We’re just angry…We had no idea the story was going to air, it was a shock.”

Some of the charges in the 55 page document include:

...Lateline used old file footage of Mutitjulu without identifying it as such, including old vision of petrol sniffing, a scourge which has now been eliminated from our community.

...Lateline made no attempt to visit the community of Mutitjulu before or after the broadcast of its June 21 story. To exacerbate this, Lateline falsely claimed publicly that it had unsuccessfully sought permission to enter Mutitjulu on several occasions…

...The alleged paedophile at the centre of the Lateline program was forced out of the community by residents and his employer long before Lateline aired its story (at least seven months). This fact was well known to Lateline…

...Lateline misled its viewers by falsely describing Greg Andrews as a “former youth worker” in its original June 21, 2006 broadcast. Mr Andrews has never worked as a youth worker neither at Mutitjulu nor anywhere else, a fact eventually conceded by Lateline and Mr Andrews…

...Some of the witnesses portrayed in the Lateline story have not lived in Mutitjulu for many years but are depicted as people who are aware of the situation on the ground today, when clearly they are not…

Of public servant Gregory Andrews, who was granted anonymity by Lateline and labelled a "youth worker", Randall said, “Greg never lived here, we hardly saw him…”

“One family member couldn’t believe what Greg did to her…she trusted him… she said he said stuff out of context, made it a mixed story… she felt betrayed…she recognised pieces of her story…but they were taken out of context,”says Randall.

Lateline Executive Producer Peter Charley told Crikey this morning: "I can’t comment until I see the complaint in full but I totally and utterly stand by the story that Lateline put to air and I reject any assertion that we’ve breached codes of ethics or acted in any self serving way in what was a genuine and important story that needed to be told.”

I wonder how the ABC will handle this complaint. I do know that this whole saga has severely dented by trust in Lateline and its compere, Tony Jones. (I've italicised where Crikey quotes from the complaint document.) You can find that Crikey story online here. If you want more of a backgrounder, the National Indigenous Times (who first broke the story of the identity of the anonymous Lateline interviewee, and alleged connections to government) pursued the story.


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