Category: Politics

“Funny Place Names”

I’ve lived, in my life, in places named Engadine, Koonawarra, Boonerah, Cringila, Wollongong, and Warrawong. When I mention these names to people overseas, particularly Americans, there’s a bit of a giggle, a bit of a laugh at the idea of Australia with its funny place names.

Me, I like these place names.

Cringila was, for a time, named Steeltown. It was renamed as part of a push in recent (I say recent, but it’s been as long as I’ve been alive) years to bring forward the original names of the Aboriginal people that had lived there. Had.

It’s important, to me, that we keep these names, that we hold these names, we, the generation outside and after. The people who, in some cases, never had the chance to make a decision about whether or not to commit genocide and therefore can tell ourselves that we, somehow, would be better, that we would not commit the genocide that our forebears did and in some cases still do. That we would not culturally exterminate, that we would not construct the great machine of colonial power, crafted in Britain, exported to Australia, then recrafted over and over again by people who claimed they were doing no such thing, and merely repairing or adjusting or continuing a tradition.

We need to wear these words.

We need to wear them, because we need to remember that there were people here. We need to feel like these words are odd, and not quite right in our mouths because we have spent our lives erasing the sources of those words. We need to recognise what these places sounded like before we got here, and this sort of small gesture, these tiniest concessions, to the people of Australia that predate us, is something that deserves attention. We need to put these parts of culture around us because then, maybe then we will be willing and able to accept that there were people.

Our Prime Minister in November 2014, said that Australia was ‘nothing but bush’ when the First Fleet arrived. He’s a grown adult. He’s a statesman, a politician, and he’s educated. I have no doubt in my heart that at that point he was convinced he was correct, and there was not some deliberate, clever plan on his part to erase the Aboriginal population of Australia in his mind: I think it’d already been erased from his.

Let us push against the hope that our past will vanish beneath the sand. Let us draw their names upon our roads as scars so that we can never travel about this land without the reminder that, before us, people did terrible things, to earn this bounty before us, and that we owe it to those people left from that time, to make whatever we can as right as we can.

It’s Australia Day, it’s Invasion Day. And I live in a land of funny place names that has done a lot wrong and needs to do better.

Weird Richard Dawkins Ephemera

Ever heard of this Richard Dawkins guy?

I’m personally somewhat sympathetic to Richard Dawkins’ predicament right now, in that he’s a seventy-five year old man born literally in the British Empire and as a beneficiary of same, who has discovered an injustice in the world, and he wants to fix it, but he’s still insulated by these calcified layers of cultural overgrowth, and there’s this very reasonable recognition that the dude’s got some really back-assward views on things. I mean look, you don’t tend to get to the upper levels of British academia by being a massive reactionary.

That said, I think he’s crap at some of the issues he wants to take care of, but there is some good intention and he’s trying for public advocacy on a matter that does actually posess some potentially dangerous power. I think he’s even got at least one good idea, which he’s underscored in his books – that awe in the face of reality is totally acceptable. At the same time, for example, his reaction to Ahmed’s clock speaks to me of a grown man with a child within him that still feels like it never got the approval he feels he deserved. It’s pathetic, but I feel like I know where it’s coming from.

This is all a preface, however, to say Content Warning: Contains Mentions Of Richard Dawkins that are anything but honey jokes and sneering disdain. Also white creationist rap. Continue reading

Random Observation Of A Racist Stranger

So I was at the supermarket and like, I don’t record people, certainly without their permission. That doesn’t mean I don’t get to listen and repeat what I hear, such as when I was at the supermarket in the Meat Area, which is right next to the vegetables. While I inspected some apples, a mother held up a package of meat, in which there was a broader than normal cut of meat, showing more of the bone. If you’re not familiar, this can show a darker segment of bone than more thin ones. Either way, point is, there was a chunk of bone in this meat that the woman couldn’t quite tell if it was good or not.

“Is this dark bit in the bone,” she said, pausing, “okay?”

“You won’t see that shit on the pork, you see?” her husband responded.

Now, you don’t have to be a dialogue writer to have a mental reaction of what? But she held it up and pointed at the bone, in the middle of the packet. “This, I mean?”

“Nah, the Arabic squiggly shit. They don’t bother putting it on the pork.” he said.

Ahah.

See turns out this gentleman was mad that the package of meat his wife was holding had, up in the top right of its label, a small mark in Arabic script. It also had a note in Korean Hangul, and two characters in Chinese on the label – I know, I checked – but the important thing, the very important thing to this man was not what his wife asked and what she’d said… but that someone had written Arabic text anywhere on the packet.

I’m mad about a lot of things but wow, I thought, that was some remarkable pettiness expressing itself as rage at a label on a packet of meat so intense you could ignore your wife asking you a question. Twice.

Enemies Of Misstate

It used to be that I could say to people interested in American politics that, for all of the incompetence and evil demonstrated by Bush II, there were two points in his favour: He unfailingly used his power as President to fight AIDS in Africa (even if that fight was informed by his ideology and may have been more efficient had he done otherwise) and that he was good about trying to suppress anti-Muslim sentiment within the Republican base. He, as a Republican in a position of power, was able to say to the base of that party, hey, show some respect, respond to the higher ideal. In that environment, it was generally not acceptable for the population to openly discuss and dismiss Muslim-Americans, or Muslim-Seemy-Americans as all terrorists.

Then Obama became President, and suddenly, branding him as a Muslim was not just common but mainstream. Political operators with less courage than Bush were unwilling to push back on this idea, or were actively willing to engage it to curry favour with a population they could plausibly deny.

Now here we are.

That overton window has been skewed so hard right now that a Democratic President with the middle name Hussein can’t actually diminish attacks on Muslim-Americans with a call for peace, because the people who hate Muslims consider him part of a conspiracy. And that this idea is mainstream.

How fucking racist is the power structure that literally the President of the United States doesn’t have the power to speak out against racism?

S’fucking weird.

Not A Peeple

It’s great to go to sleep just as America’s news cycle starts up. It means I wake up to a world full of hot takes about silly bad pieces of new tech.

So, Peeple.

Peeple looks like Ello to me.

That is to say: It looks like a pre-failed concept that will appear with a loud proclamation of what it can do, fail to gain legitimacy, and then collapse while the people responsible for it move on to Other Investments.

That legitimacy is the issue. Because I cannot see how this service would ever earn any. I mean who would ever look at Peeple and think ‘this crowdsourced information source is reliable?’ You need a certain sense of momentum. You need some sort of test, some way to actually persist rather than just struggle to exist.

My prediction is Peeple will last for a long time but its entire lifespan will be marked by its creators assuming that tomorrow, tomorrow is the day people take them seriously. Oh they’ll get money, quite a lot, and a lot of Dan Fransiscos will appreciate their services – but it’s like M Night Shyamalan – we give these people money, because we always give them money, and Silicon Valley is awful at knowing what to do with money.

bye, Tony

Tony Abbot once referred to himself in terms of not wanting to be the best politician to never be Prime Minister. He wanted to be Prime Minister so bad. As a political entity, he was whatever he wanted to be, in order to maximise each situation, and so rarely made any comment that wasn’t in its way designed to work. The thing that ties to all of his gaffes and weirdness, it was simply because the man thought he could get away with it.

I’ve dealt with the high school bully and I’ve dealt with the private school bully. Tony Abbott is a man who has no idea how to interact with people he can’t lean on, but who lacks the raw bareknuckle aggression of a bully who actually had to punch someone himself.

Now he’s been replaced by a guy who is… well, really, not much better? Like it’s still the Liberal Party. It’s still a party that got elected on the basis of Stopping the Boats, Fucking The Poor, and Destroying Our Legacies. But at least now the person in charge might be an adult.

I am going to enjoy this little dish of spite, for now.

Anonymous and Stonewall

Roland Emmerich is not a name I really associate with greatness. I get that for some people he’s the shit and Independence Day is untouchable but broadly speaking, every time I hear his name it’s with, at best, a sigh. Roland Emmerich’s being talked about right now because of Stonewall.

I figured Stonewall would be a piece of oscar-baiting bullshit designed to let the Media Capital Hollywood tell itself that it was, in fact, a progressive and liberal bastion, because Feeling Liberal is Hollywood’s conservatism. It was the kind of movie when I heard it was going to be made where I was 100% certain that it would be handled badly. I didn’t know specifics – I was not at the time super well versed in the history of the Stonewall Riots and I rarely go in for betting on things. But I was pretty sure that there’d be a tan pale-haired white gay dude very, very important to the centre of the story.

Mostly, this has been my expectation ever since I learned about Anonymous.

Anonymous is a conspiracy theory film presented as if it’s a historical narrative in which one of the most important artists of European storytelling, a creator of forms and words, was not, in fact, that rye-trading commoner William Shakespeare but was, instead, a white-haired slightly effeminate noble man of wealth, breeding and education.

I’m not really sure how to convey this, but it’s something that’s stuck in my head every time that white-haired gay noble man of wealth, breeding and education that is Roland Emmerich comes up. Especially when we’re talking about stories that seem to centre around issues of creativity or gay rights. What I’m saying is that broadly speaking, from what I’ve seen, Roland Emmerich is the kind of artist who can’t abide the idea that important things aren’t about him.

This is a pretty common affliction for white dudes.

The Surprise Of Trump

The bottomless strangeness of the Trump presidential candidacy is not in that he’s succeeding it’s that people are surprised he’s succeeding. It’s that the United States, a ‘democracy’ turned its electoral politics into a two-year long reality TV show with a relatively meaningless trophy at the end of it all, and people are surprised that a gross, thoughtless billionaire who failed upwards into attention-driven world of reality TV decided to jump into this race and is doing well. I am not surprised when I hear Iowa voters defend Trump’s Christian-ness. I’m not surprised when I watch Rand Paul take pot-shots at Chris Christie on a stage. I’m not surprised to see craven opportunists squall around one another as if they feel they can just survive the bully on the stage, they can just skulk away. As if Trump is not an apex predator to this environment of thought-free id-driven monstrosity politics that they have been spending the past twenty years cultivating.

You gotta remember: American politics are determined by who turns up. And who turns up are diehard believers, and people lucky enough to have the time and money to spend on Being Politically Engaged. The latter and the former do have some overlap – but trust me, the former group aren’t going to care what Trump makes them think, they’re going to care about the R after his name, and until he has that, they’re going to care about how he makes them feel.

There is no way to properly express how unreal these politics are. They’re a space beyond spaces, a time between times, a world full of people convinced that they should be deporting American citizens because of their religion and that that is protected by the Constitution.

And Trump is the school bully to a room full of people who whenever they saw that guy beating up someone between classes thought to themselves one day, that’ll be me.

Red Flags

Just how many things do we want to pass to mute systems?

There’s a lot of stuff lately where we quietly shuffle things off to private spaces where we can let things that don’t have to justify them abnegate our part in what happens. John McCain was asked about the confederate flag, he spoke in South Carolina that The People Of South Carolina can make that decision, which isn’t an answer. What do you think of this thing, he was asked, and he palmed it across to instead to the silent, brooding, un-testable South Carolinan electoral system.

It’s funny too, because the voters of South Carolina, mostly, won’t want to make that decision. Seriously, the majority of the people capable of voting wouldn’t. What remains then is a population who are by necessity a minority of the whole, and those people don’t have to tell you how they voted. Funnily enough, if it was put to a vote, the odds are good that the system would keep the flag.

One of the weirdest things about the Republican Representative system the US uses is that it ostensibly puts a person, hopefully a wise one, in a position to make a decision based on what’s for the best for the people they represent and for the country as a whole. But instead, with even these basic decisions, it’s so easy to mutely say well let’s leave it to the voters. Like the country with broken democracy works best as a broken direct democracy.

 

“Slavery Wasn’t So Bad.”

First things first, a content warning. I’m going to discuss slavery and possibly get into the specifics of what that means, and my own upbringing. I apologise if this makes you uncomfortable and advise you to freely sidestep this post and go do something else. I am a white dude talking about my experience with fundamentalists talking about slavery in the Bible. If you’re a Christian sensitive about literalism or your individual interpretation of the book, well, you might also want to step outside elsewhere, too. Probably won’t make you very happy.

Continue reading

Let’s Not Talk About The Pope

Specifically, let us not talk about the Pope as a nice guy.

I get it. I know that there’s this reputation amongst people like me – white dudes on the internet in their early thirties – to act as if the existence of a pope is a personal affront. I know, there are plenty of religious people who would really like if people would just not bother them about it, or maybe even extend their beliefs some respect, and for the most part I operate in a fairly easy truce about this – where my friends generally understand my position, and generally don’t make an issue of their positions. It makes me feel a bit of a coward when I watch my friends talk about atheism or atheists but I make it generally clear, to myself, that I am not the person they’re talking about, or RTing about.

The Pope is this dude who’s part of a religious institution. It can be very hard to talk about him without at least partially glancing at the power that religious institution affords him.

He’s also a member of what is, to some people, a moral and religious component of their lives.

So.

Today the Pope said, again, that trans people should just miraculously not be trans. This continues with his existing stance that gay people should stop ‘doing gay’ but then mollified it with saying that you should love them anyway –  a familiar dodge to me. This pope is still in a position to exert enormous power over people’s lives and the lives of the children of the people who follow him. And a lot of those people are going to do bad things anyway, and a lot of those people are going to do good things anyway, but there is a percentage of population between those two groups who will listen to what the Pope says and try to live by it. Who will try to tell their daughters and sons that they’re sons and daughters, or who will deny their enby children identity, who will – full of love and good intentions – tell their gay children that they are wrong, and sinful, and evil but I love you anyway.

Don’t tell me this guy’s a nice guy.

It’s super easy to be nice when your day job is ‘be nice, in a palace.’

So please, at least for a while, until the ash in my mouth of yet again, a powerful man with whom I have deep reactions has faded, don’t talk to me about what a nice person he is, or how much better he is than the last one.

Just… don’t, okay?

Mike Huckabee Didn’t Tell A Joke About Being Trans

Okay, first up, content warning: This post features Mike Huckabee. If you don’t know who that is, congratulations on making wiser life choices than me, but basically he’s the ‘cool’ and ‘trendy’ kind of American Republican leader, because he plays a guitar. He’s also a total fucking asshole.

Anyway, he made this joke, before the Caitlyn Jenner Vanity Fair cover that he is now assiduously avoiding commenting on:

This joke has been circulated around on MSNBC, the ‘liberal’ media that Huckabee no doubt believes are the kind of people who don’t think about things, at all (Mike Huckabee is a young earth creationist and global climate science denialist). This joke was being referred to as ‘his transgender joke.’

Now, let me please clarify for you, ‘liberal’ media folks. This is not a joke about being trans.

This is a joke about being a sexual predator.

Just a public service announcement. Mike Huckabee is standing up on a stage in front of people, and saying that he, if the option was available to him, would deceive people so he could violate the spaces set aside for women to feel safe, in a context where they’d be naked.

Hahahahaha.

Note that this argument kinda underscores how important it is to protect trans people using bathrooms. Because there are gross space-violating creeper assholes like Mike Huckabee in the world, and they get laughs and applause for talking about what they’d do.

British Libel Law Is Weird

For anyone familiar with British people, you might recognise, thinking about it, all these aphorisms that they have for things that you could, normally, say are pretty obvious. There’s ‘a brave idea’ or, as the video suggests, ‘tired and emotional’ or ‘gal pals.’ When you hear these things, particularly in the British media, you want to keep an ear out for the sound of lawyers moving carefully in the background. If you state something – especially something in the protected class under British privacy law, such as someone’s marriage status or their sexuality – and that isn’t provably and publically true, then you can get sued rather hardcore for it.

Media and culture reflect one another, rather than defining one another. These libel laws may have amplified behaviour that was already in place, or have been installed to emphasise what was seen as an acceptable cultural behaviour. It’s a bit chicken-and-egg when you delve into this sort of media study! The juncture of it is, however, when you hear people from another culture communicating in a particular way, maybe they have a reason to do so.

This is the less-angry version of another article, which I’m still debating whether or not I should write.

Today, it is Anzac Day.

My grandfather sought to join the military during World War 2. As a very young boy on a farm, he had once whacked a thistle with a stick, sending needles high in the air, tumbling up and down – and looking up at them, the thistles hit his eye and blinded him. Despite being blind in one eye, he lied his way through the recruitment process, and managed to squeak in. When he marched with his comrades, he had to hold his gun at an angle, because a damaged hand, also from that farm youth – and he was discharged from the forces by a general who was visiting the event, declaring that he spoiled the look of a parade. He never fought, and grew up to raise two sons as an open-air campaigner.

My father and his twin brother were drafted into the military during the Vietnam war. Both sons of this man who had sought to join up, they asked for a moral exemption – and rather than argue religious standpoints, my father stood before a judge and simply argued that, if the task was put to him to kill another human being, he didn’t think he could do it. The judge accepted his reason – and my father served out his draft tour in kitchens, and his brother drove trucks. Dad signed up for another tour after his first – once the war was over – and he supported my mother, and my sister, on that salary, which gave him training he needed to get jobs at restaurants and hospitals, which helped him be mobile enough to move across the nation, to the churches he worked at, and eventually helped to raise me.

I am not a fan of my childhood. Religion plays a big part of that.

I am however, occasionally and quietly struck in this time, about how the military in Australia, something to which I am directly connected, works in this twisted paradigm. We hated America for dragging us into Vietnam. We hated Britain for dragging us into Gallipolli. We did Roosevelt’s bidding at Versailles, weaponising our racism, in an effort to appeal to the superpower. We begged Britain for help in World War 2 against threats we imagined and we filled trenches with our blood hoping to appease an empire that had told us in no uncertain terms we only mattered, as we were useful. We clung to the rocks of the familiar and we tried to buy our places there with blood and honour, and we died in the name of our fears and our hopelessness.

I still like Anzacs. I still like our veterans, in a conceptual way. I like the Rats of Tobruk, I like the Ghosts of the Jungle, I like the Special Air Services (Royal). I like what we did with what we had, in the context of wars that existed. I like this video.

I don’t like war. But I can’t hate our warriors. I can’t hate the people who, when given an order to die, in the name of ideals and systems they could not, in that time and place, change, chose to die, in the hopes it would make life better for their friends and families.

Yes, our nation has deep problems. Maybe we shouldn’t be here. Maybe everything we’ve done, everything we are, is rotten, branch and root, and I should be disgusted at myself for not being able to hate these people, and myself.

I don’t know.

It’s Anzac day. Think of the people who suffer and sacrifice. Make the systems better and preserve them from ever having to do the same thing again. Think of impossible holdouts and ingenius solutions and the war machine being stalled by people who refused to die when a superior force told them to be no more.

Oh, and the first politician to invoke the Anzac Spirit to make a point about immigration needs to be spat on.

Re: Tony Abbott

I’m just jotting this thought down here, because I don’t want to say ‘well, I always thought-‘ and have it be some forgotten tweet far off in the past that nobody can cite.

Simply put, if Tony Abbott goes sometime this week, I’ll be happier, but not happy.

A sentiment I’ve heard outside observers say about Abbott is that he was Australia’s Dubya, which isn’t true at all. Dubya was an incompetent supported by a complex interconnected web of relations and friendships, as most of American politics tends to be. Dubya failed endlessly, played at soldier, and had a warmongering, deliberate streak of proactivity that came from an imperial sense of right and wrong. Ultimately, Dubya is a horrible war criminal and monster, but he’s also a bit dim and relies heavily on the plasticity of memory to not be recalled as anything other than an extremely dumb cheerleader, or a lionised-by-history cowboy badass. Dubya had aims. Dubya had ambitions and Dubya wanted to do things.

Abbott’s not really that sorta guy.

A quote of Abbott’s that’s enduring in my mind is he wanted to not be ‘the best candidate to never be Prime Minister.’ Tony Abbott has been trying to be Prime Minister for a significant portion of my life, and he’s been a hardline conservative, a conciliatory reformer, he’s been pro-war and anti-war, he’s been in favour of gun control and he’s been against gun control. He’s an immigrant who opposes immigration. He’s a hard-liner who doesn’t want any of his stances to apply to him. This is a grown adult who stood mutely before a reporter for thirty seconds and left the reporter convinced he had no idea what was going on. Tony doesn’t care about very much at all in the world, but he sure as hell cares about getting elected. Sure, the man’s scum, and when you do hear him say something genuine, it’s usually shockingly horrible, like his comments on how womens’ primary purpose to the nation was to breed. Otherwise? The man’s a boneless reptile. He has interests he services, he has people he opposes, but everything he says and does is calculated to the immediate surroundings.

Tony Abbott isn’t Australia’s Dubya Bush, he’s Australia’s Mitt Romney.

I don’t think he’ll be ousted tomorrow or the day after. I honestly do not hold out hope for anything like that happening, in no small part because I don’t think we get nice things, these days. But the other fear is, if he’s ousted… what then?

We might get someone just as horrible, but who actually believes in shit.

We got concentration camps, oppression of the young, poor and marginalised, invisibling non-binary people, fostering racism, classism, sexism and all-around shitheeliness out of a government that pretty much didn’t give a shit.

I can’t lie to you, I don’t imagine anyone replacing him will be better as long as that party and government is beholden to the forces in media and business as it is.

Australia Day

Revel in our culture. Revel in awful music videos striving to emulate people with money. Enjoy classic dad rock music.

Try not to think too hard about the genocides.

Try not to think too hard about monoptic political structures.

Try not to think about a prime minister who thinks that Aboriginals don’t exist, and the majority of the population that voted him into power.

Internet Infrastructure

I live in a town that, according to some basic research, is slightly over a hundred years old. It has a post office, and it has a school and that is pretty much it for public works. It has a bunch of nice parks, too, which is cool, but broadly speaking it’s the kind of place that you step past if you’re on the highway. Which is legit true – the highway bells around it.

Here, there is basically one affordable internet provider that isn’t a mobile internet provider. The latter group are disproportionately expensive and rely on mobile reception – which, in my house, is awful. Therefore, this one internet provider is… pretty much it.

Today, the internet dipped down to speeds of .25mb/s. I could jiggle cables, test things, but ultimately, my only option was to call my internet provider, wait on the phone for a little bit, then be told, very politely, that after the obligatory checks, they had effectively turned it off and on again – and that jumped it up to ten times its speed. I was quite happy and went back to work.

It’s spotty again, now.

Here’s the thing. I don’t live out in the fucking nowheres. I live in what is essentially a suburb of one of the larger cities in my home state. I live walking distance from another suburb’s public library which has a very, very strong internet connection. I live walking distance from a KFC where I can get better internet than that.

I’m essentially just irritated, really and this is bitching. But please consider what this means if my primary vector for videogames is very expensive physical purchases, or downloads of 20+ gig.

The Australian Biscuit Law

We are a weird fucking culture, okay?

In Australian law there are certain protected terms that are deemed culturally significant. We don’t want people unreasonably claiming connection to things they don’t earn. It’s like how in the United States you can go to prison for impersonating an officer, but here it’s broader than just the military. There are a set of laws, known as Bradman Laws, which are designed to make sure that if you claim connection to something we consider culturally important, you have a legitimate connection. This can be frustrating – if you are, for example, a real estate agent named Joe Bradman, you can’t call your real estate business Bradman Real Estate, unless you can claim some connection to Donald Bradman.

One of the things under this set of laws is the Anzac Biscuit, a type of biscuit made during World War 1 and 2. The biscuits were made out of rationed goods and sent to soldiers on the fronts in Turkey and Southeast Asia, so they had to last in shipping. I don’t know who made the first ones, but the recipe itself is public domain.

The Bradman laws don’t let you call any old thing an Anzac biscuit, though. That would be trading off the term, and that would be fraud. So if you want to sell an Anzac biscuit, it has to comply to – within reasonable interpretation – the recipe. And the easiest way to make the law reference the recipe?

Put the recipe in the law.

So there, sitting in Australian law, is a recipe for a type of cookie.

They’re really good, too!

Cultural Sticking Points

Australia is a nation that has and has had a fairly consistent problem with media piracy. I’m not saying ‘All Australians are thieves’ or anything bullshit like that, just that the nation of Australia, certainly lately, has been a nation that isn’t very good at getting its population to go along with piracy laws, for whatever reason. Even when a government comes into power that recognises the value and need for piracy laws, they face the cultural impossibility of having people comply with those piracy laws, and the laws fail as politically pointless.

Greece is a nation that has and has had a fairly consistent problem with governmental corruption. I’m not saying ‘All Greeks are thieves’ or anything bullshit like that, just that the nation of Greece, certainly lately, has been a nation that isn’t very good at getting its population to go along with tax laws, for whatever reason. Even when a government comes into power that recognises the value and need for tax laws, they face the cultural impossibility of having people comply with those tax laws, and the laws fail as politically pointless.

The United States of America is a nation that has and has had a fairly consistent problem with firearms. I’m not saying ‘All Americans are violent’ or anything bullshit like that, just that the nation of the United States of America, certainly lately, has been a nation that isn’t very good at getting its population to go along with gun laws, for whatever reason. Even when a government comes into power that recognises the value and need for gun laws, they face the cultural impossibility of having people comply with those gun laws, and the laws fail as politically pointless.

I’m not sure where I was going with this. Just that the consent of the governed is expressed in how the people behave, regardless of the laws as incentives.

Why Doesn’t Obama-

WARNING: White guy talking racism here, okay? I’m not an expert. You hear someone better on this topic than me, listen to them.

One thing I’m seeing a lot today is Why Doesn’t Obama Do Something. Or Why Doesn’t Holder Do Something. The question comes up why don’t black people in positions of power do things. The answer I have to this is they pretty much can’t. And that sounds horrible and shitty but that’s the country the USA is.

When Barack Obama compared Trayvon Martin to a son he didn’t have, people went bananas. The press went on about how this was stoking racial resentment, how it was out of his place, how Barack Obama was embracing a criminal, etcetera, and yes that’s all very racist and horrible of them but should that stop him?

Statistics on violence against black folk are pretty hard to find, since most of the people talking about ‘black folk’ and ‘violence’ are white folk arguing their hardest that they’re the real victims here. The statistics show that black people are still assaulted regularly in hate crimes – about six a day (christ, three a day?!). Anyway, those statistics go up in correspondence to events, they go up in the summer (more people are outside), but they don’t go down much in the winter (more people wearing hoodies/concealing clothing, jumpier cops). But there’s a media knock-on effect here: when the media stokes fears over a thing, people are afraid of the thing. Consider how Americans are afraid of Ebola (two deaths a year) and how many are afraid of Heart Disease (600,000 deaths a year).

If the media talks about terror of black folk for three days in response to the President mentioning a black crime victim, how likely do you think it is that Paranoid America will kill more black kids?

It doesn’t even have to actually happen.

Think about it from Obama’s position: If he speaks out in the name of this injustice (that’s like all the other injustices that happen, about five a day), it might fix one of them, and in the process increase a number of other injustices. He might have one person in one state – where he barely has long-term influence – properly indicted for their crimes, and in forty-nine other states, more black kids are attacked.

And the thing is, in this chain of action, everyone can point down the chain at someone. The media can blame Obama (they’re just reporting on what he said), the criminal can blame the victim or the media, and this is acceptable and normal.

Why doesn’t Obama do anything?

What could he do?

Remember, this is a country that bullied its president – ITS PRESIDENT – into showing them his papers. In 2011.

Racism is not just individual words and actions. Racism is about big, structural, systemic things – it’s about engines that, mute and blind, can execute actions without any single person in them feeling like they’re doing anything unreasonable, because the pattern of exploitation and oppression is only visible in wide patterns across whole populations.

This is the ultimate tragedy of the United States: The country as a whole is so racist – racist in its power structures, racist in its culture and racist in its history – that when the highest veto in the country is owned by a black guy, that black guy cannot really talk about race thanks to other power systems binding his hand.

No Gender December And Asshole Newspapers

Today I went to the store and saw the newspaper. I try not to read newspapers, because they by and large do nothing in this country but give a voice for wealthy shitheads. It turns out that the Greens put forward the idea of No Gender December: Which is to say, just stop gendering toys. Advertise toys as Toys, not as Boys’ Toys or Girls’ Toys, which I hadn’t realised was an actual problem. Apparently, toy sellers in Australia have this weird idea that you can’t put two products in front of a consumer and let them decide for themselves whether those toys are for their sons, or their daughters, or their others.

How did the newspaper handle this?

Well, the front page story featured badly shopped together images of the Greens leadership as toys, and began their front page ‘news’ story with The Greens are tireless in their efforts to destroy the Australian Economy

Yep.

Front-page Op Ed.

Fuck these people.

What the Halal

My fucking country, I swear to god.

Okay, so I’m used to bogan asshole idiots talking shit about Halal like it’s a personal invasion of their space. I mean, Australia has never been a country shy of talking shit about things it doesn’t understand, hence our hardcore stance of fear about boat people and lack of fear about anthrogenic climate change. I even associate with religious fundamentalists, which is to say, my family and their friends, who are not shy about the occasional offhanded complaints about ‘halal meat.’

Hearing today that a government backbencher felt that it was somehow acceptable to open their mouth and let this sort of stupid fall out is embarassing for the society and vile for that person. Look, mate, I get it, you’re scared of brown people and it’s much easier for you to be re-elected if everyone’s scared of brown people

But.

I have some basic caution about my government ministers saying things that are pretty much not true. It happens all the time these days but we can at least notice it and talk about it, like I’m doing now. So the argument is that Halal Food might fund Islamic Extremists. Which is true! It is true that it is possible for that to happen. For example, a Halal certification requires at least one person paid to be an expert in Halal food preparation and food inspection, which probably means they’re a Muslim (but, you know, not necessarily), and that means that that Muslim person was probably paid for their expertise (but again, not necessarily), and that means somewhere in Australia, there is money in the pocket of a Muslim person. That person may therefore wind up deciding at some point to send some of their money, which they earned, to some cause like, oh, I don’t know, helping Syrian refugees, and that might lead to supplies that are then stolen by ISIS, and don’t you see how the sticker on your Vegemite has now fuelled global terrorism?!

Meanwhile, my taxes pay the salary of a man who invokes Jesus as an excuse to send refugees to be murdered by religious extremists, thanks to the efforts of the United States creating one of the most dangerous power vacuums in the middle east.

Ideally, when you do this kind of comparison, you do it with a snappy punchline, but all I got is this:

Go Fuck Yourself, Nationals MP George Christensen.

If you didn’t vote-

First things first oh shut up*.

Second, let’s talk about voting in the United States. If you want to know about how voting works you need to know how many people vote and how that number is serviced and how much infrastructure can handle them. In the United States, there are fifty states (see, I paid attention in school), with the most populous being California and Texas. California has 38 million people, Texas has 26 million. Australia has 23 million people. And before you start complaining that I’m comparing a country to a state, those states are individually responsible for managing the voting of their population, so both these units represent a legal voting coordinator.

Now, a bunch of those folk aren’t going to vote in America, because America is like that. Voter turnout in midterm years is about 40% – so, of those 38 million Californians and 26 million Texans, there are about 15 and 10 million respectively that go out and vote. Out of the 23 million Australians, about 22.77 million vote**.

In the United States, if you just happen to be a little bit, let’s say not white, you face poll times about twice as long as white folk do. If you happen to be voting in a poor or urban area, you will face poll times longer than the folk in wealthy areas. In fact, you can wind up facing queue times of five to seven hours.

Then there’s this added bonus, where thanks to the way the US electoral system is structured where your vote is inherently worth less than the votes of other states, and bonus, your vote might be completely worthless, because even if your candidate received more votes, they might lose anyway.

In Australia, we have election results the same day. I’ve never waited more than ten minutes in a queue, even though I’ve taken up to half an hour to vote. We use a form of voting with instant runoff, explained here:

Australia is fifty times larger than California. Australia has more people vote. It still uses paper voting. And we get our election results the same day and we get them without hours of queue time and we get more fair representation of the people who are doing the electing. You cannot tell me the US system is acceptable. You cannot.

So no. No, you do not have to vote to be fucking angry about the system in the United States. You do not have to vote to complain about this bullshit. This is beta model democracy at best, it’s literal vote fixing at its worst and it’s utter bullshit. And this is without even getting started on the Electoral College!

It’s also basically unfixable because the people who can fix this system are the people benefiting from it.


* This is to say, stop saying ‘if you didn’t vote, you’ve nobody else to blame’ to people, it isn’t helpful and doesn’t address the massive structural problems voting has in the United States.

** Voting is compulsory.

 

One In Ten…

Once, I read that in any group of ten people, assume one is not straight.

Once, I read that in any group of forty people, assume one is not cis.

The numbers didn’t match for me. In my first school, there were about thirty kids. Kindergarten through to year twelve, the number varied a little, but broadly speaking, it was always about thirty kids. And in the ten years I was there, looking back through my memories, I can’t think of anyone who I thought of as maybe signalling or hiding or suppressing something.

I sat down to write about this earlier this year, when I realised that I was the one in ten.

I mean, I know, I know, there is some contention about whether or not I count as straight or not Because Reasons and straight passing and all that stuff but still, I was thirty years old before I realised that The Not Straight Person I Grew Up Around was me.

Trust Women

George Tiller, the abortion doctor from Arizona, was shot in the head in church. It’s a story I have heard many times, but there’s a lingering detail that always comes back to me when a new problem breaks out – large or small – on the internet. At his funeral was a wreath that held a banner on which was written Tiller’s personal motto:

Trust Women

That was his guiding principle for working the way he did. He provided a medical service when it was asked of him, because as a doctor he knew how the procedure worked, and the judgement of whether or not the treatment was what that woman did or did not want was up to her.

Trust Women

This past month I have seen numerous women around me treated to abuse, slurs, hate and threats, and one common thread I’ve heard about this is how that didn’t really happen. About events I witnessed, events that transpired in real time in front of me. I’ve seen people claim police reports were doctored, seen people claim that this is not a joke is clearly a sign that a threat was a joke.

Trust Women

This is the world we’ve made, you know. It’s a world where women are told to second-guess what they do, whether they should talk about them, whether they should accept what happens to them even when we wouldn’t. It’s blatant, it’s everywhere, and it’s odious. How about the next time a woman tells you something, you commit an act of rebellion?

TRUST WOMEN

(And when we’ve managed that baby step, hey, let’s talk about non-binary genders sometime.)

Teach, Teach!

Recently my friend abadidea had an experience dealing with people talking down to her about her problems in tech. One thing I saw in the thread of conversation that led to this were well-intentioned people incorrectly identifying the kind of communication she was offering, thinking that she was asking them for help with a problem so simple they could help her, and not just expressing her feelings about a system excluding her.

I see this fairly often, especially in the unmediated public space that is Twitter. Imagine a schoolroom, if you will, full of students. It is a free moment; the teacher is at the front, but the students are free to chatter to one another.

“Hey,” says the teacher, “Does anyone know this?”

Suddenly, peoples’ hands shoot up.

“Oo oo oo!” calls out a student. “Oo, oo, I don’t know!”

What’s happening is someone is so eager to answer a question, to solve a problem, to be right, they want to approach a conversation as a problem. That’s understandable, lots of people like that. We like being right. We all like to be the one in the know, the one who solves a problem. Especially if it gets attention of someone cool. Someone famous. Someone impressive.

But chances are, that’s how you look. You don’t look cool or interesting.

You look like a dumbass.