September 26, 2014 | Ronda Jambe

How to be a feminist and a Muslim

This morning Fran Kelly had a woman on who was introduced as ‘a feminist and a Muslim’.
The conversation quickly turned to questions about the burka and its appropriateness in situations like Parliament House, or a bank.

The interviewee trotted out the old line: ‘it’s ok to wear the burka if the woman chooses to’. But her analysis did not extend to the fine line between social norms and social pressure, much less the sort of violence that is often used to enforce these ‘norms’.

In fact, she skirted the issue of violence against women and children, although this is a key issue for feminists everywhere.

She was also asked about the security and burka issue, and replied that taking off a face covering in a bank, like the compulsory removal of a motorcycle helmet or balaclava, is justified if the woman can then put it back on.

But no one gets to put their helmet or balaclava back on in a bank, so what’s the difference here? Is she saying Western women should therefore be allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia? Cultural relativism is meaningless unless it is reciprocal.

Fran Kelly rightly pointed out that many Australians find the full burka confronting and a symbol of female oppression, but the interviewee didn’t address that in a meaningful way.

My position is that men should do as they ask others to do, especially as the sight of a man’s bare arms or hair tends to excite me. Semi-baldies, such as my spouse, are nearly safe.

And if I can’t drive, neither should they.

The interviewee, who says she doesn’t wear a veil, also alluded several times to her sect, the Allawites. This is the group Assad in Syria belongs to. Are we expected to think: oh, that’s ok, then, they’re a really enlightened bunch. A few chemical weapons against civilians can be overlooked, a million refugees and countless dead, in the name of exactly what?

By doing that, she just reinforced the factionalism that is tearing so many Muslim countries apart. She said there are different interpretations of Islam, but didn’t take a stand on the need to treat women equally to men, with the same rights to determine their manner of dress, whether they drive, vote, work, study or control their own fertility.

Exactly what does she think a feminist is? And why did she get a spot with Aunty?

Any person calling themselves a humanist, much less a feminist, must scream out against the violence being perpetrated against civilians. Cultural relativism does not trump human rights.

Posted by Ronda Jambe at 2:14 pm | Comments (5) |
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September 23, 2014 | Ronda Jambe

Global Climate Opinion heats up

The joy and relief of being back in Australia, and the gorgeous, green and peaceful landscape of Canberra in particular has been somewhat deflated by the threats against us made by certain violent nut-cases. It would be a mistake to credit their violence with religious dogma, as no religion preaches genocide.

It would also be an error (not to mention a lack of dot-connecing ability) to disregard the connection between climate change and an increasingly violent world. The very cradle of civilisation, that broad span of fertile land in the middle latitudes of the most massive landmass, which Jared Diamond wrote about in Guns, Germs and Steel, is precisely where civilisation is now falling apart.

Enter climate change, and you owe it to your general background to at least read some of the reviews of Christian Parenti’s book Tropic of Chaos: climate change and the new geography of violence. Better scholars than me, or he, have linked the Syrian and Egyptian uprisings with drought, rising food prices, and populist revolt. Same goes for Yemen, Somalia (remember the line about the over-fishing in the modern pirate movie Captain Phillip?)

People tend not to sit back and think of England when they are hungry. Or, thinking of England’s colonial depredations, as Parenti describes, can incite some severe responses.

The climate change event in Canberra was more subdued than the one in New York, which attracted 300,000 people. Probably the last time Times Square saw that size protest was Vietnam war days, and I am proud to say I was there.

Ever larger numbers are now demanding action, and you can look up ‘5 reasons why NATO should be talking about climate change’. Security and climate are entwined. Stallholders at the Canberra gathering covered bees (nasty chemicals that Europe has now banned are still legal here), veganism (having cut way back on meat, I now have to think about all the dairy I enjoy) and electric cars (we test drove a Tesla in New Jersey, and are just waiting for the smaller, cheaper, other side drive version to hit Australia).

But the big one on my plate now is divestment, and whether I divorce the NAB or just go to counselling with them. Stop all fossil fuel investments, or I will apply for custody (of my money).

Another one you can look up (try USA Today, if you don’t trust NOAA) is the temperature: more records set for last month, get used to it. Hopes of limiting the increase to 2 degrees this century are going up, in smoke.

Posted by Ronda Jambe at 12:26 pm | Comments (4) |

September 03, 2014 | Graham

Living with the hypocrites – showing on SBS

Imagine my surprise to see Gregory Storer and Michael Barnett starring in the first instalment of SBS’s Living with the Enemy. These are the two gay activists who tried to put On Line Opinion out of business four years ago costing us tens of thousands of dollars, editor Susan Prior her job, and now me my early mornings as I edit it in my own time, all because we dared to publish some articles critical of gay marriage.

Particularly this one by Bill Muehlenberg.

Yet there they were on TV pretending to engage with an Anglican priest opposed to gay marriage.

Perhaps they might be prepared to donate their appearance fees to repairing the damage that they caused?

You’ll forgive me for the profanities that I uttered at the TV.

A quick recap for those not familiar with the case.

At the time Julia Gillard was prime minister and had told her backbench to go out and find out what their electors thought.

We received an article by gay activist Rodney Croome and decided to help her out, starting with Rodney’s offering. All in all we published 20 something articles on the subject, with 75% in favour.

That wasn’t enough for Storer and his partner Barnett, trading under the name of Mikey Bear. They demanded withdrawal of Muehlenberg’s article as well as some comments.

I properly refused.

They then lobbied all of our sponsors, and our major advertisers. The sponsors stayed, but fearing gay reprisals, the advertisers left, including the ANZ and IBM. Our $50,000 worth of annual advertising almost entirely evaporated over night. You can read my account at the time here.

We received considerable support, including from Christopher Pearson, himself gay, at The Australian. Unfortunately little of the support was monetary.

It also led to us falling out with some of the blogs we had worked with, particularly Larvatus Prodeo, where Mark Bahnisch personally, and via a sock puppet, made it clear that he had a limited understanding of the concept of freedom of speech.

So, after having laid waste to Australia’s longest running online attempt to foster dialogue between opposing viewpoints, here they are, exposing themselves in an SBS program that attempts to foster dialogue between opposing viewpoints.

One wonders what the difference is.

Perhaps 4 years has mellowed them.

Or is it that they want to be the centre of attention?

One thing is sure. Rewarding vandals like this with further publicity is not the way to foster greater understanding and tolerance in society. SBS should have done their homework better before using them as the centrepiece of their doco.




Posted by Graham at 10:12 pm | Comments (8) |

September 02, 2014 | Graham

Another promise honoured at a reasonable price

Bill Shorten thinks it is a “dirty deal” done “dirt cheap”, but the repeal of the Mining Resource Rental Tax merely returns money to its rightful owners.

The decision by Gillard Labor to mug the mining industry may have been justified by it on the basis that these minerals are “our assets” but in fact it was theft of money that belonged to the states and to shareholders.

Miners have always paid for the minerals that they mine to the people that own them – the electors of the states where they are found. There was never any ethical justification for a further charge – a reality that Labor effectively accepted when it allowed mining companies to deduct any increase in royalties from the MRRT.

“Super profits” in the mining industry was another excuse. As any mining investor knows “super profits” are generally followed by “super losses”. Averaged over a reasonable period of time mining industry profits are so-so.

So, the grime is all on the Labor side on this issue.

Which leaves us with “dirt cheap”.

The issue that Shorten has latched on to here is the deferral of increases in the superannuation guarantee levy.

He’s right. This was a dirt cheap price for the government to pay. Any increase in superannuation would have to be offset against increases in income.

This is what happened when the superannuation guarantee levy was first introduced, and was an integral part of the Wages and Prices Accord – wage moderation in return for increased saving.

Any Australian wanting to increase their superannuation to 12 or 15 per cent can do it voluntarily via a salary sacrifice. So the government, and Australians, paid no price for this.

Don’t expect the government to point this out, as it would embarrass the PUP, and they need to do more deals with them.

And don’t expect the Labor Party, or the superannuation industry, to point it out either, because they both know that absent compulsion, very few of us will save the additional money in super.

Labor wants to pretend that workers have suffered a detriment, and the superannuation industry is grieving the loss of additional fees (with Australians being ripped off by their super fund fees compared to the rest of the world).

Labor accuses Abbott of breaking promises, but apart from some nitpicking, the Liberal government is honouring all the major promises it took the election. When it does a deal with the cross bench it is not to break a promise, but to keep one. If it has to balance promises, it chooses to trade off minor ones against major ones.

The public seems to have no appetite for a double dissolution, in which case this has got to be good government.

Which ought to help to restore people’s faith in Australian government.


Posted by Graham at 10:46 pm | Comments (3) |
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September 02, 2014 | Ronda Jambe

Hungering for the truth on climate change? or just hungry?

‘Triangulate your research’ was one bit of advice that served me well. That means taking in data from several sources.
And if you don’t trust the climate scientists, maybe pay attention to what the bankers are saying. And if you still aren’t convinced, the agricultural scientists and water experts have perspectives worth paying attention to.

If you don’t trust or believe any scientists, then you are left with Fox news, who of course never have a ax to grind.

So I offer two articles about food and climate change. Water is an equally hot topic, but that’s for another day.

Please note that even the social scientists acknowledge that drought and food prices were important factors in the various Middle East uprisings over the past half decade. Christian Parenti’s book Tropic of Chaos pulls a lot of that together.

For good measure, peak oil will also have negative impacts on food production, but you can google that yourselves.

Here they are:

(1) The combination of rising temperatures and air pollution could substantially damage
crop growth in the next 40 years, according to a new paper. And if emissions stay as
high as they are now, the number of people who don’t get enough food could grow by
half by the middle of the century. Research shows rising temperatures are likely to
lead to lower crop yields. Other work suggests air pollution might reduce the amount
of food produced worldwide. But nobody has considered both effects together until
now, the authors say, and the results suggest a greater threat than previously
feared to global crops. (By Roz Pidcock)

(2) Climate change may disrupt global food system within a decade, World Bank says
The world is headed “down a dangerous path” with disruption of the food system
possible within a decade as climate change undermines the ability of nations to feed
themselves, according to a senior World Bank official.

Posted by Ronda Jambe at 6:24 am | Comments (9) |
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