Laugh and think, this is Australia

Peter Hartcher in the Sydney Morning Herald has a very good article on yesterday’s reaction in Australia to the cafe siege.

When I chanced to walk through Martin Place a little after 11am on Monday, I saw the police clustered closely around the Lindt Cafe. I saw the police cordon as I stood among some hundreds of onlookers.

The police evidently had the situation in hand. The crowd was curious, but might as well have been watching a busker for all the tension in the air. Some onlookers snapped photos. Some left as others arrived. The scene was perfectly calm.

It was only when I turned on the TV an hour or so later that I realised the magnitude of our dimwittedness. We were supposed to be terrified.

The Prime Minister led in shaping our responses. He called a press conference but had no information to offer on the incident except that he had held a meeting to discuss it. He took only one question, to explain that he had no details but that the NSW police did.

“We don’t yet know the motivation of the perpetrator,” he said, then freely speculated that he was politically motivated. It was “very disturbing”.

Indeed, the police operation seemed to me (from my vantage point locked in a building five blocks away) to be exemplary – buildings evacuated, police lines erected, negotiators brought in, calm officers on the television (notably, the exceptional Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn) telling everyone to stay calm and get on with their day, a “steady as she goes, freeing the hostages is our number one priority” press conference to end the day, all with remarkable efficiency.

Even the media did a decent job, even if, by mid afternoon, they had run out of people who might have been in Martin Place if they hadn’t missed their bus to interview, and had moved on to showing news stories about who was reporting what. By 7pm, when I got home, they had all been talking for so long that speech had descended into verbal soup. I swear I heard one newsreader (I’m looking at you ABC24) speak a single sentence that managed to mention international news coverage of the incident, the plight of the hostages, hashtags trending on the internet, ISIS flags, how muslims were mostly nice people who thought terrorism was bad, and Barack Obama’s senior security advisor in no more than thirty words. It was very impressive, but terrifying, so I turned it off and watched Martin and Saga find more dead bodies instead.

By tomorrow morning, most of the media will have started removing their pants in order to inspect each other’s fundaments. Yes, sometime tomorrow some dickhead will say something stupid about jihad, or an even bigger (or perhaps just younger) dickhead will make a big man of himself by making fun of some woman threatening society by doing her shopping in a hijab, and a feeding frenzy will begin. There will be hashtags and counterhashtags and burka videos, for and against. Someone will let Jackie Lambie out of whatever box they had her stashed in today and she will say something dumb and racist. Politicians will have serious press conferences to tell us that terrorism is a terrible thing, and how the answer is another filter or letting Scott Morrison poke brown people with a pointy stick.

The idiot with a gun will get, as Mr Hartcher describes it, the overreaction that is the measure of his success.

Hopefully, God (or more likely the skills of those police negotiators) willing, somewhere amongst all that lot, the hostages will walk out to safety.

Whatever happens, the thing that stands out for me is how today was, as Mr.Trowel described it, “quiet and much like any other day” in my office and, I suspect, thousands of other offices and shops throughout Sydney.

After the flurry of texts and calls to friends and loved one had died away, everyone got on with their day. People wandered into to other people’s offices, just to check they were ok, or took breaks together to find out what was happening. Coffee runs were made. The Partners’ lunch stretched to “everyone grab a plate and one piece of bread only”. I had meetings with a couple of very clever young women, and at about 3pm, when the building reopened, most people quietly went home.

I’m not suggesting that being calm in a serious situation is some special Australian trait.

Whether it’s planes flying into buildings, or tsunamis, or bombs on trains and buses, or just a broken gas main, people, on the whole, just buckle down and get on with it, save what they can, offer what comfort they can, and go home for a drink.

Tomorrow, come good or bad news, the media and political circus begins in earnest.

If only we could just leave them to it – get on with our day, be nice to each other, comfort those who need comfort, and go home for a drink instead.

But my love for you endures, and remains forever more

So, it’s been a shit of a week, and it’s not over yet. Amongst all the horror and sadness and stupidity, I offer you a moment of pure joy.

In New Zealand the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill, introduced by Labour Party MP Louisa Wall (the lovely Māori woman in the rainbow coat) passed with 77 votes to 44. On receiving Royal Assent from the Governor-General, the bill will become law and same-sex marriages will be available in New Zealand from mid-August.

When the bill was passed, this happened:

Kia ora to all my Kiwi friends (particularly the lady in the fabulous hat).

Pōkarekare ana, ngā wai o Rotorua
Whiti atu koe hine, marino ana e
E hine e, hoki mai ra, ka mate ahau i te aroha e.

Tuhituhi taku reta, tuku atu taku rīni
Kia kite tō iwi, raruraru ana e.
E hine e, hoki mai ra, ka mate ahau i te aroha e.

Whatiwhati taku pene, kua pau aku pepa
Ko taku aroha, mau tonu ana e.
E hine e, hoki mai ra, ka mate ahau i te aroha e.

E kore te aroha, e maroke i te rā
Mākūkū tonu i aku roimata e.
E hine e, hoki mai ra, ka mate ahau i te aroha e.

The waves are breaking, against the shores of Rotorua,
My heart is aching for your return my love.
Oh my beloved girl, come back to me, I could die of love for you.

I have written you a letter, and enclosed with it my ring,
So your people could see it how much I’m troubled for you.
Oh my beloved girl, come back to me, I could die of love for you.

My poor pen is broken, my paper is spent,
But my love for you endures, and remains forever more.
Oh my beloved girl, come back to me, I could die of love for you.

The sun’s hot sheen won’t scorch my love,
Being kept evergreen by the falling of my tears.
Oh girl, Come back to me, I could die of love for you.

Strewn with salt

I haven’t posted for a while. Life has been a little complex. Not least, my father (I’m 93, so you can imagine how old he is) fell and tore the quadriceps ligaments in both his legs and is in hospital unable to walk, so I have been dealing with the fallout of that.

However, I need to come out of my temporary exile to remind you that, in addition to some kind of Presidential election, Tuesday also brings votes on gay rights in Minnesota, Maryland, Washington and Maine. Gay rights are human rights, so get out and vote.

I’ll leave the bulk of this post to Chris Kluwe, who becomes sexier and angrier and more erudite with every day. Here he is, with his final posting at the blog of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, condemning the paper’s editorial which claimed to present a neutral view of both sides of the marriage amendment, and railing against lies and bigotry, with the gnashing of the teeth and the lamentation of the women. It is indeed righteous.

How does this piece lie? It lies in statistics. “Some argue that as a practical matter there seems to be less interest by same-sex partners in actually being married than in redefining what marriage is. In Iowa, for instance, Wikipedia reports, that only 815 same-sex couples married in the first year after legalization.” It’s unfortunate that the editorial board does not comment on the fact that the actual link in the Wiki article leads to a page not found.

This is not journalism. This is cherrypicking “facts” you hope no one has the inclination to look up, because if one looks up the actual facts one would see that 815 marriages equates to 20% of the same-sex couples in Iowa choosing to marry that first year, a not insignificant amount. If one looks up actual facts, one would find that 13.6% of all marriages in Iowa in 2010 were same-sex marriages, another not insignificant amount when you consider the gay population of the United States is estimated at only 3.5%.

How does this piece lie? It lies in every mealy mouthed, “Love may be love, but even now there are any number of prohibitions around marriage between consenting (heterosexual) adults.” Name them. Oh that’s right, you didn’t. It lies in every five sentence vote yes argument compared to a one or two sentence vote no stance. It lies by juxtaposing “It is a decision both about what the definition of marriage should be, whether it is about children and the biological family or about consenting adults”, as if gay parents can’t raise children as well and all they want is to have sex with each other.

How does the piece lie? It lies, oh how it lies, when it talks about supporters of traditional marriage being bullied, being painted as victims, weeping and moaning about the “members of the (vote no) movement are aggressive”, wailing and gnashing teeth over “For those who hold traditional beliefs about marriage, increasingly the force of law will be brought to bear on matters of education, speech, and practice”; all the while not mentioning a single gay person denied THEIR right to be treated as a human being, silent on the issue of gay children bullied in school, completely quiet about a gay support group forbidden to march in Anoka.

How does this piece lie? It lies, most simply, in this sentence, “the Pioneer Press is not endorsing one way or another.”

You have made your endorsement, gentlemen. You chose your side. What you did not choose, what you refused to face, was the courage to stand for your convictions, to attach your names to the position your actions claimed. That is why I will no longer associate with you, why I decline to give you page views and ad revenue any longer. The only reason I’m posting this piece here, and not somewhere else, is because I said I would, and I believe that one’s word is not something to be given lightly.

I will not stand for the continual eroding of society. I will not tolerate the presentation of a biased argument under a thin coat of presumed neutrality. I will not contribute to the cheapening of discourse and thought that decays every single news as entertainment outlet in this country. I absolutely will not compromise my ethics and morality, ideals that lead me to treat others with empathy and honesty, to demand truth not only from myself but from those around me.

I reject you, and I encourage others to do the same – to you, and to all others like you. To those who perpetrate deception and fraud. To those willing to hide the truth of their beliefs. To those who value flash over substance, short term gains over long term consequences.

Without honesty, we have nothing.


Lift up your voice

Via Sullivan and John Gehring at the Faith in Public Life blog comes this link (pdf) to the weekly bulletin of the Blessed Trinity Catholic church in Cleveland, Ohio.

On page 2, Father Doug Koesel takes aim at the Vatican and its attack on the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in a column which can truly be described as righteous.

I think it’s important to highlight this, first as a counter to those who, whenever the Catholic church is so much as mentioned on here, screech that anyone who remains in the church is a criminal co-conspirator, and also because it provides a fine counterpoint to the reports that Cardinal Timmy Dolan is a bare-faced, shit-pants liar who paid pedophiles to retire and then lied through his pointy teeth about it.

However, the most important reason is because, in the current environment in the Catholic church, this is a fine example of a brave man standing up to be counted on the side of the angels and bugger the consequences.

You should go and read the whole thing, but this will give you the flavour.

This is what annoys American Catholics. The Vatican is hypocritical and duplicitous. Their belief is always that someone else needs to clean up their act; the divorced, the gays, the media, the US nuns, the Americans who were using the wrong words to pray, the seminaries, etc. It never occurs to the powers that be that the source of the problem is the structure itself. We can say that now with certainty as regards the sex abuse crisis. It was largely the structure of the church itself, the way men were trained and isolated, made loyal to the system at all costs and not to the person, that gave us the scandalous cover-up.

US nuns work side by side with the person on the street. They are involved in their everyday lives. Most cardinals spent less than five years in a parish, were never pastors, are frequently career diplomats.

Religious women in the US refuse to be controlled by abusive authority that seeks to control out of fear. They realize that Jesus taught no doctrines, but that the church, over time, developed what Jesus taught in a systematic way. Nuns have always tried to work within the system. This time their prophetic voices may take them out of the system. They may take a lot of Catholics and a lot of their hospitals, schools, colleges, orphanages, prison ministries, convents, women’s shelters, food pantries and, of course, the good will they have earned over the centuries with them.

This investigation is not about wayward US nuns. It is the last gasp for control by a dying breed, wrapped in its own self-importance. It is a struggle for the very nature of the church; who we are, how we pray, where we live, who belongs, why we believe. The early church endured a similar struggle. The old order died. The Holy Spirit won. Happy Pentecost Sunday!

I think the Vatican has bitten off more than it can chew attacking the nuns. There’s nothing scarier than a nun in a bad mood, and I imagine those rosary beads hurt like hell if they get you in the nuts.

Let us glaze our asses to the queer old Dean!

David Cameron’s coalition Conservative/Liberal Democrat government announced last year that it would introduce legislation to allow same-sex civil marriage prior to the next general election, due in 2015. A period of consultation will be undertaken from this month, not on the merits of gay marriage, but rather on how the change can be introduced.

Cameron has stressed his personal support (or at least his recognition that gay marriage is probably a net vote winner in the electorate (if not his own party)), saying:

Conservatives believe in the ties that bind us; that society is stronger when we make vows to each other and support each other. So I don’t support gay marriage in spite of being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I am a Conservative.’

Of course, this has prompted much screaming from the old men. The former Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey stated that:

Like many others, I was baffled by this statement. Not because I begrudge rights and benefits to homosexual couples. I was baffled because this Government’s proposal constitutes one of the greatest political power grabs in history.

The state does not own marriage… The honourable estate of matrimony precedes both the state and the church, and neither of these institutions have the right to redefine it in such a fundamental way.

and the current Archbishop, Dr Rowan Willams, appears to agree with him.

Apparently neither of these gentlemen had a problem with it when UK governments were passing laws to define marriage in a manner of which they approved.

Now the Catholic church has entered the fray, distributing a letter from Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, which was to be read at all masses held today. The letter is, of course, the usual senseless blather from celibate know-it-alls in dresses about marriage being for the purpose of bringing about little Catholic babies or, as Bishop Nichols puts it:

Male and female we have been created, and written into our nature is this pattern of complementarity and fertility.

Changing the legal definition of marriage would be a profoundly radical step. Its consequences should be taken seriously now. The law helps to shape and form social and cultural values. A change in the law would gradually and inevitably transform society’s understanding of the purpose of marriage. It would reduce it just to the commitment of the two people involved. There would be no recognition of the complementarity of male and female or that marriage is intended for the procreation and education of children.

If you want, you can listen to Archbishop Nichols here, although I do warn you that two minutes of the good bishop is equivalent to about 10mg of rohypnol and a hammer to the right temple.

Opinion polls suggest that the churches are on the losing side – or at least those polls that aren’t written and paid for by Catholic organisations.

Even worse for the bishops, they seem to have lost old Rupert, with the Times coming out strongly for gay marriage:

Stable gay relationships are a part of national life. If marital law cannot accommodate them, the purpose of marriage will eventually be brought into question. Gay marriage will be a notable but still evolutionary social reform. And the marriage contract has changed historically to take account of shifting mores.

Earlier ages considered that allowing women to own property was against God and nature. Changing the law abolished a gross injustice and thereby enhanced the legitimacy of marriage. It is time to lift another form of discriminatory treatment. Reforming the law would enrich the lives of same-sex couples who wish to marry in order to affirm by rite that they love and are loved in return. By that commitment, they will enrich the society and culture that their fellow citizens share.

I could be wrong, but I suspect the gay marriage ship has already sailed, and it is simply a matter of time before the UK joins such heathen and anti-religious nations as Spain, Portugal and Belgium in the wanton rending of the fabric of their societies.

At least Archbishop Nicols will have a nice frock to wear when he gets carted off in chains and forced to gay-marry Boy George.

It’s time

I have a soft spot in my heart for Australia, and I have spent a lot of time there over the years.

Usually I was visiting to check on my mining investments. I got into uranium on the ground floor after a particularly drunken weekend with the Roosevelts in early 1939. Once Eleanor had a couple of my special gimlets under her belt, you could get anything out of her (and I mean anything). It was a very lucrative couple of days.

I’ve also visited in a more professional capacity. After I had assisted in resettling Harold Holt into his new life as a Thai ladyboy, I got a bit of a reputation in the service for being able to speak Australian, and so I was sent there several times for fieldwork. For a few years in the 60s, it felt like we were overthrowing a new Prime Minister every year or so.

In between, I fell in love with Australia a little bit. What can I tell you? It’s a nation of burly footballers in short shorts whose idea of a big weekend is to not stop from the weekend before, and whose idea of moderation is to have a bit of a spew so more beer fits in. It makes decent wine and you can have good e and an ounce of dope delivered to your hotel room within an hour of your plane landing. It has hopping rats and tree bears and more things to make fur coats out of than you can poke a dead dingo at. What’s not to love?

Happily, there is a sanity still to their political discourse that has long been missing in these United States – if indeed it ever existed. It even extends (on occasion) to their legislatures – a right that hasn’t gone full nutcase and which sometimes recalls the old meanings of the words “conservative” and “liberal”, a centre that is actually in the centre, and a left that even gets to have a say in running the country every now and then.

Read the rest of this entry »

Telling to the Revolution

The sound is crappy and hard to understand at times, and I generally have reservations about people who want to throw themselves into the abyss that is YouTube stardom* – even when it’s a devastatingly cute serviceman from Alabama who still calls his dad “Sir” and says “Oh my lord”.

Nevertheless, this made me cry:

Google “Don’t ask don’t tell” and you will find a huge number of articles which mention members of the armed forces coming out as a result of the repeal, some publicly**:

FOX News: It was the tears of Marine Captain Sarah Pezzat, whose nickname in the military is “Short Shot,” that put a human face on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and what it’s repeal means for the estimated 65,000 gay members of the military currently serving.

On Capitol Hill today she said before a bipartisan group of Senators: “I’m 31 years old. I’m a woman. I am a Marine,” and this is where she chokes back tears, “and I’m a lesbian.” She then says, “I’m sorry… Prior today if I said that I could be discharged.”

and others much more quietly:

“I still have quite a few friends in the military who are looking forward to this day. Some of them will come out some won’t,” Almy told Fox News on the eve of the repeal. “I have a good friend named Todd. He is currently serving on active duty. Tomorrow he will not make a big announcement, but he is going to go to work and he will put a picture of his partner on his desk.”

Consider this: over the next few weeks and months (or perhaps, in some cases, years, because fear and the closet are powerful things), hundreds, thousands of nice, ordinary American servicemen and women of various ages, creeds, colors and preferences for pink, squishy bits, from all over America, are going to come out to someone, are finally going to say “This is who I am” to their mother, or their best friend, or their commanding officer, or their entire platoon, or their little community in Alabama, or even just to themselves.

It’s the biggest mass coming out since the Castro 1969.

It won’t all be easy, and not every dad is going to say “I love you, I will always will, no matter what”, but there’s just a chance it might change America for the better.

* Blogging being, of course, a pursuit entirely unmotivated by vanity or greed.

** I wouldn’t normally link to Fox News, but it’s not a bad article aside from the one paragraph of “illegitimate blah blah gays will touch each other in the shower and did I mention that the President is blackity black black and probably a gay” vomit from some poor sad arsehole at the end.