The conga-line-of-suckholes’ long march through Australian history

6 07 2008

It’s frightening to consider what the US has been capable of in the name of “national security.” What’s even more scary is what an Australian government once considered acquiescing to in the name of the Australia-US alliance:

Defence files have revealed the United States military was planning to test deadly nerve gas on Australian troops in a far north Queensland rainforest in the 1960s.

Australian Defence Department files obtained by Channel Nine show the US was planning to test Sarin and VX nerve gas on up to 200 Australian combat troops by aerial bombing areas around Lockhart River.

The plan never went ahead, but American survey teams inspected the proposed testing site.

The prime minister at the time, Harold Holt, vetoed the plan.

His former staffer, Peter Bailey, says the Australian government was concerned that its Cold War alliance with the US would be damaged if it did not acquiesce. (ABC News Online)

Sadistic fuckers.

Less than a decade earlier, Australian and British troops and Indigenous Australians had been the victims of nuclear testing at Maralinga, South Australia. British troops were ordered to crawl through radioactive fallout in order to get as much contamination on their clothing as possible. In order to facilitate the tests, the Tjatjara people of the area were removed from their traditional lands to a reserve at Yalata; nonetheless, thousands of Aborigines died of radiation exposure. In 1956, the arsehole that required licking at the expense of public safety belonged to the British government, with which the Australian government collaborated to ensure that the nefarious effects of the Maralinga tests (and those at the Monte Bello Islands off the coast of Western Australia in 1952) remained under a black mist of secrecy. Australia’s chief apologist for the testing, physicist Sir Ernest Titterton, remarked that “if Aboriginal people objected to the tests they could vote the government out,” their lack of citizenship status and ineligibility to vote notwithstanding.

“Yellow Peril” paranoia much?

5 06 2008

Today’s Ninemsn poll:

(“Do you regard Australia as part of Asia?”)

I believe we are in danger of being swamped by paranoid, racist, chauvinistic bogans. They form ghettoes and do not assimilate.

“Religious apartheid”: the role of religion in state education in the UK

5 02 2008

A recent episode of the BBC’s “Big Debate” (hosted by Jonathan Dimbleby) looked at the role of religion in a 21st century state education system. The “negative” side, so to speak, included Richard Dawkins, who maintained that while he favours comparative religious education, faith schools by definition label children with the religion of their parents, a practice he considers abusive. Alongside Dawkins was MP Barry Sheerman, Chair of the DCSF Select Committee who doesn’t mind faith schools, as long as they’re not serious about their faith, and who cited worrying evidence of the unfair treatment of the issue of homosexuality in Catholic schools, and the poor treatment of women in Muslim schools. Speaking in favour of faith schools and religious worship in comprehensive schools was Bishop Peter Price, a former teacher who emphasised the roots of state education in C of E schools in the early 19th century, and claimed that C of E schools have an obligation to teach about other faiths. He also stressed that the history of England is a Christian history–a point he would often return to, as if it were the last word to be had on the topic. Price was joined by Oona Stannard of the Catholic Education Service, who advocates “maintained faith schools” because of their transparency and accountability, given that they are subject to inspections by Ofsted.

The programme also canvassed the opinions of a wide range of stakeholders: RE teachers and consultants, Catholic and Muslim students from both faith schools and comprehensive schools, as well as representatives of various faiths. One of the latter, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, offered a blunt, though in many ways accurate assessment of faith-based education that can be summed up in two words: religious apartheid. Read the rest of this entry »

On the appeal of the appeal to tradition

15 01 2008

I join Ninglun in congratulating Jim Belshaw for having a blog post of his republished at On Line Opinion, but I really must take exception to the following:

Take a question that I have not discussed on this blog, my views on gay marriage.I support civil unions for gays. I support legal recognition of the joint rights of gay couples. I do not support gay marriage because the term “marriage” carries very specific connotations linked back to our Christian heritage, so that the application of the term “marriage” creates tensions and problems among much larger groups in society.

This may change. But for the present, my view is that we need to find a solution that gives gays the legal and indeed symbolic things that they need, while recognising the views of the larger group.

I have a profound love of and respect for our core institutions. Perhaps I can be classified as a conservative in this area, although the views I hold are very much minority views even among those classified as “conservative”.

I can’t get my head around this position at all. Unless I am mistaken, by his support for civil unions Jim is advocating for gays all the rights and privileges pertaining to legal marriage. He just doesn’t think gays should be allowed to call their marriages “marriages”–because, in his view (and that needs to be emphasised), the term “marriage” has “very specific connotations linked back to our Christian heritage,” and if we let the gays use it, that will create “tensions and problems among much larger groups in society.”

Sorry, I don’t get it. The people who are going to get their panties in a twist over the breach of Christian copyright on the term “marriage” are just as likely to object to the legal recognition of the joint rights of gay couples–surely the latter runs counter to “our” Christian heritage just as much as gay marriage supposedly does? If pandering to the sensitivities of these people is indeed a legitimate concern in a secular democracy–even if that means denying gay couples equality before the law–it just seems inconsistent to me to simultaneously oppose gay marriage and support civil unions.

Obviously I don’t think that the marriage laws in a secular (and liberal) democracy should pander to the concerns of those who, for religious reasons, think the law should treat gay couples differently. Nor do I see the relevance of our “Christian heritage” in the framing of our laws–at best, this constitutes an appeal to tradition, and perhaps also an appeal to popularity; in the context of a secular democracy, it becomes something far more sinister. So I’ve never understood the social utility of advocating two legal institutions–marriage, and marriage-that-for-PC-reasons-we’re-not-allowed-to-call
-“marriage”–when one would suffice. That’s assuming that civil unions would confer upon couples the same rights and entitlements as marriages do. If not, that’s a different (and worse) kettle of fish.

If our core institutions perpetuate injustice and enshrine prejudice, I don’t see why they ought to be loved and respected. I guess that’s why I’m not a conservative.

You lost. Get over it.

8 01 2008

(Picture via ABC News Online)

    And no amount of hysterical whining is going to change that.

    Now that’s what I’m talking about!

    27 12 2007

    As readers of my older blog will know, here in Japan I have severely restricted access to the cricket, owing to the fact that the ABC live stream is not available to overseas listeners. (In any case, I don’t have access to the internet at my desk.) When I checked the Boxing Day Test scores last night, things were looking . . . well . . . ominous–and even worse this morning when the Australians had been bundled out for a one-day total. But it seems things haven’t gone India’s way, either. As of 5.35pm local time, they’ve been dismissed for a paltry 196, and the Aussies are back in the middle. And here I am, reduced to “watching” the proceedings on Cricinfo’s live scorecard. No Harsha and Kerry show for me. Oh, well.

    Ninglun informs us that the PM made an appearance on the ABC commentary today. Howard did something similar during the Ashes last year, as I recall: I remember him defending his opposition in the 70s and 80s to sporting boycotts and economic sanctions against the South African apartheid regime.