The whingeous right redux

9 10 2008

Coalition senators are conducting an inquiry into the refusal of evil leftist academics in Australian universities to pander to the cherished opinions of persecuted Young Liberal students.

Several academics will appear before a Senate inquiry into Australian academic freedom in Sydney today.

NSW Greens MP Dr John Kaye says the inquiry was set up by Coalition Senators at the request of the Young Liberal movement.

“It’s looking for Australian academics and teachers who are, in the words of the Young Liberals, trying to impose their ideological, political or cultural prejudices on students,” he said.

Dr Kaye advises those academics facing this kangaroo court to tell the inquisitors (in so many words) to go fuck themselves. As well they should. A mature and robust education system cannot be founded on an affirmative-action programme for ideas.

Sadly, it seems the youth wing of the Liberal Party and its fellow-travellers in Parliament are still besotted with the neo/theo-con movement of the United States, which uses Orwellian-titled “Academic Freedom” bills to legislate and lawyer its cherished beliefs onto university and high school syllabi. Purveyors of both the young-earth and intelligent-design strains of creationism have long used the “teachers trying to impose their ideological, political or cultural prejudices on students” meme to attempt to force educators to pander to their worldviews. In Australia, the high-water-mark of this brand of high-RWA anti-intellectualism and anti-rationalism was reached when the Howard Government Education minister Julie Bishop asserted in October 2006 that “Some of the themes emerging in school curriculum (sic) are straight from Chairman Mao” . . . typical of the Howard Government’s schtick of demonising teachers (presumably on the basis that the teaching profession in Australia is highly unionised, and whose members—I am guessing—are generally not likely to support the Coalition).

I hope, then, that Australian politics (including the mainstream Liberal Party) have grown up a little since then, and this inquiry represents the feeble, plaintive bleatings of a whiny vestigial minority. We don’t want to go down the American road.

Only a lobotomised nation could have sanctioned this with a smile on its face

25 09 2008

If you want a vivid demonstration of the abject sociopathy of authoritarian-follower morality, in which the harm principle is trumped by self-righteousness and aggression towards outgroups, look no further than the immigration detention regime presided over by the recently-deposed Howard Government. The People’s Inquiry into Detention, the product of documentary evidence, 200 testimonies at 10 public hearings, as well as 200 written submissions, “heard heart-breaking evidence of the unnecessary cruelty inflicted by the Howard government on people seeking asylum in Australia. It places the stories of detention on the public record from the perspective of those most affected by the policies and practices” (ABC News Online). The inquiry documents the deaths at sea of more than 360 asylum seekers between 2000 and 2001, the placement into desert prisons—often for years on end—of those waiting for their refugee claims to be processed, and the savage conditions within those detention centres.

It was told of people being forced to steal food to feed their children, of assaults on both adults and children, of physical and mental health care so inadequate that many former detainees now have serious, permanent disabilities. A lack of accountability created a culture of violence and self-harm within detention. Protests were routinely met with armed force. The inquiry was told of people eating glass and gravel and pouring boiling water on themselves, and presented with images of self-harm too graphic to publish.

A boy who spent three years in detention said:

The worst thing, I will never forget it, was people cutting themselves. It was horrible. I remember one time a person was harming himself up a tree and his children was crying under the tree. His wife was crying and yelling under the tree. His blood was dropping from the tree.

Once released from detention, many refugees told the inquiry their experiences had irrevocably changed them. Many were unable to forget the violent images they had been exposed to in detention and suffered ongoing mental health problems. Others told how the uncertainty of their temporary visa status compounded their anxiety.

Christian organisations, including the Brotherhood of St Laurence and UnitingJustice Australia, were among those in the front lines fightng to bring an end to the cruelty; other Christians, including many of those in the then-Liberal/National government, were among its most vocal supporters.

But none of this is really news for those who have been interested enough to follow Australia’s mistreatment of asylum seekers. The evil leftist ABC, SBS and Fairfax press—latte-sipping dibber-dobbers that they are—have been documenting such tales at a steady rate since Tampa. The aspirationals lapped it up, hailing as a national virtue the kicking in the guts of the downtrodden, and voted for Howard in increasing numbers. You can still see the vestiges of this crowd in the comments section of the already-cited ABC article, propounding the same “they were asking for it” apologetics they’ve been pushing throughout this decade-long debate.

Intelligence Squared: Panglossian politics and the housing crisis

27 08 2008

Intelligence Squared is a series of debates, broadcast live on the Sydney Morning Herald website and the ABC, on a range of social, political and public policy issues. I just caught a truncated version of the July debate, “By 2020 only the rich will be at home in Australia.” Those arguing for the affirmative included ACTU president Sharan Burrow, ANU economics professor Bob Gregory and UNSW sociologist Michael Pusey. The speakers for the negative were Fairfax economics columnist Ross Gittins, company director Elizabeth Proust and John Roskam, executive director of the Institute for Public Affairs. You can view the debate in its entirety on the IQ2 website, or you can listen to an abridged version at ABC Radio National’s Big Ideas site.

The debate was “won,” insofar as these things are able to be decided by popular vote, by the negative side. It is not difficult to see why, given that their arguments—particularly those advanced by Roskam and Gittins—traded so heavily on equivocation about the meaning of the term “rich.” In common parlance the definition of “rich” (in the financial sense) is difficult to pin down—I guess it’s one of those things we can’t define, but we “know it when we see it.” But as I gather from Gittins’ presentation there is actually a narrower, technical definition of “rich” in economic circles, which is something like the top two percent of income earners. It then became very easy—though by no means was this a very honest move—to paint the opposition as defending the proposition that “by 2020 only the top two percent of income earners will be at home in Australia,” which was clearly not what the affirmative team was defending, and therefore can be classified as a strawman.

Roskam’s strawmanning was even more egregious. Pusey opened the affirmative case with a demonstration (by way of statistics) that whereas it was once feasible to service a mortgage and raise a family on a single income, today at least two incomes are required to achieve the same goal, and even that is becoming increasingly difficult. Roskam’s response was to claim that the affirmative team “really” wanted to take Australia back to the 1950s, when it was unthinkable for women like Burrow to head the ACTU, or women like Proust to be company directors. Strawman. Pusey was not arguing for a return to the days when there was only one (male) breadwinner in the household. Nor was he arguing against double-income households. He was simply pointing out the fact that if it now takes two incomes to service a mortgage whereas it once took one, housing affordability has worsened by definition. Read the rest of this entry »

A closer look at Howard’s 2001 election meal ticket

6 02 2008

I’ve added a new entry to my blogroll: HaZaRa NaTiOn, authored by a Hazara living in Australia.

The Hazaras are the third-largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, and for centuries have been the targets of violence, persecution and discrimination at the hands of their neighbours, in no small part because of their Shia affiliation (but also because of their physical and linguistic differences). The Taliban governor of Mazar-i-Sharif declared in 1997:

Hazaras are not Muslim, they are Shi’a. They are kofr [infidels]. The Hazaras killed our force here, and now we have to kill Hazaras. [. . .] If you do not show your loyalty, we will burn your houses, and we will kill you. You either accept to be Muslims or leave Afghanistan. [. . .] wherever you go we will catch you. If you go up, we will pull you down by your feet; if you hide below, we will pull you up by your hair. Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Naomi Wolf: Ten steps to closing down an open society

11 12 2007

Lately I’ve been listening to the offerings at the Canadian left-wing blog Paulitics: Paul’s Socialist Podcast. The latest episode features feminist author Naomi Wolf offering a distillation of her latest book, The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot, in which she draws parallels between historical instances of fascism–especially in Europe in the early twentieth century–and proto-fascist tendencies in contemporary America under the Bush Administration. She notes, for example, that the term “sleeper cell” originated in Stalinist Russia as a propaganda term denoting so-called “capitalist terrorists” disguised as good Soviet citizens and hiding among the general population. She also talks about the Bush Administration’s use of the the “no-fly list” against Bush critics, such as Princeton law professor Walter F. Murphy, and even Wolf herself.

Wolf tracks authoritarian trends in Bush America against a ten-step “blueprint,” which she argues was crafted by Mussolini and adopted by leftist and rightist totalitarian regimes throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first. She expands upon these steps in this article, but here’s what you need to do in order to close down an open society:

  1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy
  2. Create a gulag
  3. Develop a thug caste
  4. Set up an internal surveillance system
  5. Harass citizens’ groups
  6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release
  7. Target key individuals
  8. Control the press
  9. Dissent equals treason
  10. Suspend the rule of law

Do you agree with the comparisons Wolf is making between the drift towards fascism in the twentieth century, and America under Bush (or, for that matter, Australia under Howard)? If so, do you think the results of recent elections in the US and Australia (2006 and 2007 respectively) hint at a trend away from proto-fascism in these countries?

Read the rest of this entry »