Archive for the ‘Political musings’ Category

Christie Cheramie - rehabilitated, but never to be released.

Christie Cheramie – rehabilitated, but never to be released.

More than three and a half years ago, we wrote about the disgraceful case of Christi Cheramie, a 16 year old sentenced to life without parole for a murder she did not commit. Despite our best efforts, we have been unable to find out whether Christi has since been released. (And we would value knowing.)

Now a bi-partisan group of U.S. senators have announced the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, new criminal justice reform legislation that would end extreme sentences for youth, including life without parole, in the federal justice system at least.

This bill has been in the works for quite some time, and we are thrilled that senators included this provision: we appreciate Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) for their leadership of this effort on both sides of the aisle. Thanks also to Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Dick Durbin (D-IL), John Cornyn (R-TX), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Mike Lee (R-UT), Lindsay Graham (R-SC), and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) should be noted for their vital support.

This proposal is consistent with national trends; fourteen states have banned life-without-parole sentences for children. Nine of those have occurred within the last three years, including laws passed this year in Connecticut and Nevada which become effective October 1.

Progress has been painfully slow. Over twenty years after the 1989 UN General Assembly vote to open the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) for signature and ratification by UN member states, the United States remains one of only two UN members not to have ratified it. The other is Somalia. The Convention outlaws life without parole sentences for minors.

The USA is the only country in the world that regularly sentences children to life without parole. Although plenty of other countries, including Australia, the UK and France, have life sentences for juveniles tried as adults, they are subject to review, on the understanding that even the gravest debts to society incurred by adolescents can eventually be repaid.

jail_1716047c“The propriety of the sentence is, in many ways, uniquely American,” says Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative.

“We are much more comfortable with this idea that somebody is permanently irredeemable or beyond rehabilitation, or that they have forfeited forever their right to be free.” This is the principle of justice as revenge rather than justice for the protection of society or for the rehabilitation of the offender.

Around 2,500 people are currently serving strict life terms for offences committed before they were old enough to vote, serve on a jury, or legally buy cigarettes.

Even if the law explicitly rules our eternal sentences for children, there are ways round the restriction. In Pennsylvania, for example, criminal homicide is excluded from juvenile law. But last October, a ten-year-old was charged with murder, in the adult system, after reportedly confessing to killing a ninety-year-old woman. There are around five hundred people locked up indefinitely for youthful crimes in the state – more than anywhere else.

In the last decade, the American legal system has started to recognise that children tried as adults for serious offences merit special treatment. In a landmark 2005 decision, Roper v Simmons, the Supreme Court ruled that juveniles cannot be sentenced to death because, by their nature, they are less culpable than adults.

Teenagers are not adults. A simple principle, but one that is applied patchily.

Teenagers are less able to assess risks and consequences and more susceptible to peer pressure, noted Justice Anthony Kennedy, in his majority opinion. “From a moral standpoint, it would be misguided to equate the failings of a minor with those of an adult, for a greater possibility exists that a minor’s character deficiencies will be reformed,” he wrote.

A 12-year-old juvenile in his windowless cell at Harrison County Juvenile Detention Center in Biloxi, Mississippi. The prison is run by Mississippi Security Police, a private service.

A 12-year-old juvenile in his windowless cell at Harrison County Juvenile Detention Center in Biloxi, Mississippi. The prison is run by Mississippi Security Police, a private service. Photo: Richard Ross

Five years later, in Graham v Florida, the court held that the Eighth Amendment to the US Constitution also prohibits life without parole sentences for minors who commit crimes other than murder, citing emerging neuroscience showing that adolescent brains are not yet fully developed, particularly in areas associated with impulse control.

“What the court has said is that kids are fundamentally different, that their unique characteristics as children have to be accounted for, and that our harshest of punishments are not appropriate.” says Jody Kent Lavy, director of the Campaign for Fair Sentencing of Youth.

In one landmark case (Miller v Alabama) the Supreme Court decided that mandatory sentences for children should be quashed and the offenders re-tried and re-sentenced. But in states that have begun reviewing old life sentences, (it is a very slow process), many defendants are being re-sentenced, in effect, to life without parole. The Governor of Iowa, for example, simply commuted the sentences of all affected prisoners to a minimum of sixty years, regardless of their crime or the extent of their rehabilitation.

A number of organisations have approved policy resolutions against life-without-parole sentences for children. This body of support illustrates the growing momentum and strong coalition against the use of these extreme sentences for youth.

American Bar Association – resolution enacted February 2015
“With the adoption of Resolution 107C, the American Bar Association has sent a clear message to the legal community and policymakers across the country that children should never be sentenced to die in prison,” said ABA President, William C. Hubbard.

American Probation and Parole Association – resolution enacted February 2015
In addition to calling for an elimination of life-without-parole sentences for children, the resolution also recommends that governments, “provide youthful offenders with meaningful periodic opportunities for release” and “acknowledge the mitigating factors of age.”

American Correctional Associationresolution enacted August 2014
The American Correctional Association opposes life without parole for children in this resolution, and also states that, “youthful offenders convicted of serious and/or violent crimes should be held accountable in a way that reflects human rights, values and moral beliefs” and that “youthful offenders have much greater potential for rehabilitation and should be provided every opportunity to heal and rehabilitate.”

National Association of Countiesresolution enacted July 2014
This resolution supports eliminating life without parole and asks that lawmaking bodies across the country do so as well. From the resolution, “We therefore, call upon State Legislatures across the country and the U.S. Congress to enact legislation that abolishes life without parole for children and provides them with meaningful and periodic sentencing reviews. These legislative changes should be applied both retroactively and prospectively so that no child is allowed to have their human rights violated because of when they were sentenced.”

Let us hope that the USA’s legislators put an end to this monstrosity before much longer. After all, the principle is pretty straightforward has been so for centuries.

The quality of mercy is not strain’d,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
Merchant of Venice

“If Donald Trump becomes president, that will be the end of the world,” Lawrence told Entertainment Weekly during an exclusive interview promoting The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2.

Lawrence, 25, apparently regards the possibility of a President Trump as well as her character Katniss Everdeen regards the ruthless President Snow in The Hunger Games, and openly wonders whether the Republican frontrunner’s campaign is indeed legitimate.

“I genuinely believe that reality television has reached the ultimate place where now even things like this might just be for entertainment,” she said. “It’s either that or it’s Hillary’s brilliant idea.”

Two of her Hunger Games costars seemingly agree.

Something of an un-reality show, frankly.

Something of an un-reality show, frankly.

“It’s a publicity stunt,” Josh Hutcherson told EW. “It can’t be real.” Liam Hemsworth, meanwhile, doubles down on Lawrence’s prediction that a Trump presidency could lead to the apocalypse.

“I’ll back you up on that,” he said.

Lawrence added that while Trump’s blunt style might appeal to some voters, his uncensored straight talk leaves her shaking her head.

“I was watching him on the campaign trail and one guy said, ‘I love Donald Trump because he’s saying everything I’m thinking and I just can’t say it because of the PC factor.’ And I’m thinking, ‘You are absolutely right. That’s who I want representing my country, somebody politically incorrect. That will just be perfect.’ ”

A few more people making the same simple point wouldn’t hurt before the world assumes that a great chunk of America has gone stark-staring moon-barking mad.


Pope Francis says he didn’t have the time because he already had a date eating with the homeless. In fact, he is not only going to be eating with them, but serving them. The meal will take place at St. Patrick’s Church in Washington, D.C.

Rather than try to write some great prose about this situation, we will simply quote Eric March from the website Upworthy, because he nailed it:

Unlike some of his predecessors, Francis has reminded journalists and world leaders time and time again that the church is for the poor, blasted the global financial system which causes so much poverty in the first place, and called on Catholics across the globe to take action and start lifting up the most vulnerable among them.

He’s also spoken out forcefully against economic inequality.

Including some of the worst, most exploitative labor practices in the world, which create conditions that allow hardship and desperation to thrive.

Blowing off John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi to serve the homeless is pretty much the kind of badassery we’ve come to expect from this pope when it comes to speaking up for the world’s most hard-up.

“Pope Francis is the ultimate Washington outsider. His priorities are not Washington’s priorities,” said John Carr, director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University.

“We think we are the centre of the world. We are not the centre of Pope Francis’ world. He is frankly more comfortable in the slums of Argentina than in the corridors of power.”

Frank is also very comfortable trying to get the politicians of this world to understand that Climate change is real, and that it is caused by humanity, and that screwing the planet is not the sort of stewardship God intended us to follow.

We really like this guy. Really like him. He’s our type of Christian, and our type of leader.

We sincerely hope someone doesn’t shoot him, or that he doesn’t have a very convenient heart attack. And no, we’re not kidding.

Some years ago, we predicted with shattering accuracy in this blog exactly what was about to occur in Syria. Before it started.

If the future conflict in all its horror was clear to a blogger thousands of miles away in Australia, we cannot understand how it was ignored by all the great and good, by those who are paid to know, by those who are tasked to avoid these things.

Instead we stumbled into an entirely avoidable civil war, with hundreds of thousands of dead and injured, with vast swathes of land now ruled by a murderous end-of-days fundamentalist regime that murders and destroys at will and is very likely un-defeatable, with other areas controlled by an Al-Qaeda affiliate that is apparently now our ally, with 4 million refugees, and a once relatively wealthy country reduced to rubble. And with a disgusting fascist regime clinging tenaciously to power, supported by a superpower ally who is now steadily installing forces in the regime’s defence on the ground.

You may wish to consider purchasing this t-shirt. It is consistently one of the most popular I sell, and the most commented on when I wear it myself. Buy a shirt, change the world, one person’s opinion at a time. It might not seem much, but it’s better than doing nothing. And the great strength of the design is that it doesn’t matter which side of the conflict you “support” … and it is also, of course, applicable to a variety of other conflicts worldwide.

Stop bombing civilians

Buy the shirt, change the world one person’s opinion at a time.

Oh, and if you’re one of those asking why Syrian refugees don’t go back where they came from, well, this is why.

Destroyed buildings in Syria's besieged central city of Homs following shelling during fighting between government and opposition forces.

Destroyed buildings in Syria’s besieged central city of Homs following shelling during fighting between government and opposition forces.


In what has been hailed as the new Leader of the British Liberal Democrats “facing down” the activists in his party, the LibDems just rejected a motion calling for Trident to be scrapped.

This is what happened.

We show below the original motion in normal text with the original line numbers, and lines through the text which was deleted by conference. In italics we show the text inserted by virtue of conference voting for Amendment 1:

Motion begins:

1 Conference notes that the go-ahead for building Successor submarines
2 for the Trident system is scheduled to be decided upon in 2016.
3 Conference believes that British possession of nuclear weapons is
4 inappropriate and unhelpful to today’s needs.

5 Conference rejects the projected spending of £100billion on the system
6 over its lifetime, believing the money could be better spent.

In line with our existing policy as set out in policy paper 112, Defending the Future – UK Defence in the 21st century (2013), and our recent General Election Manifesto, conference resolves to oppose like-for-like replacement of the Trident system as proposed by the Conservative government.

Conference believes that the ‘Maingate’ decision to proceed with Trident replacement is such a fundamental question affecting the UK’s national interest that it should be subject to a binding vote in Parliament and not simply a government decision; and calls on Liberal Democrat Parliamentarians to vote against any such proposal should it come before Parliament. Conference further calls on the Federal Policy Committee to:

1. Commission a Policy Working Group to develop policy on the future of Britain’s nuclear deterrent, if any, following a full consultation within the party.

2. Include within the remit of the working group consideration of:
a) A full assessment of potential strategic threats to the UK.
b) Prospects for the promotion of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament and the UK’s potential role in these efforts.
c) The implications of a non-nuclear defence posture for the UK on conventional defence capabilities and the UK’s place in the world, including its contribution to the security of Europe through NATO.
d) The scope for and implications of a scaled-down nuclear deterrent.
e) Independent costings of options.
3. Bring a policy paper back for debate at Conference within 18 months, including if necessary options for conference to decide.

7 Conference therefore calls for the plans to renew the Trident system to
8 be scrapped, and for the earliest decommissioning of the existing Trident
9 forces.

So what (by a narrow margin) has the Lib Dem conference just actually decided?

"Helpful and Appropriate"

“Helpful and Appropriate” is rather in the eye of the beholder, one feels.

Well, if one looks at the lines deleted by the “wrecking” amendment, one can now see that Conference decided by default that Britain’s possession of nuclear weapons IS appropriate and helpful to today’s needs.

Yes, to be sure, the amendment opposes “like for like” replacement of Trident, but this was essentially just whitewash. What the amendment specifically allows for is Trident’s replacement by another nuclear weapons system.

The clear implication in the terms for the future enquiry that is now proposed (which will, of course, be utterly irrelevant to the real world as it will take place AFTER the British Government makes it’s decision, a point that can not have escaped the understanding of those drafting the amendment) is that the UK’s place in the world will be somehow diminished by it not possessing nuclear weapons, and that its contribution to the security of Europe would be similarly diminished. in other words, in the event of external aggression to the continent of Europe, the party believes it would be a sensible option to drop nuclear weapons on Europe’s borders.

Which leaves the party – now led by an evangelical Christian who says he would never launch the weapons if he had the choice – in the curious position for a supposedly radical party of supporting the idea of Britain independently attacking someone (presumably Russia) with weapons of mass destruction that would slaughter umpteen millions of innocent children, men and women civilians.

The Liberal Democrats (of which the author of this article is a member, and has been a member, with a few stutters, over 40 years) is a party that has become largely irrelevant to the mainstream political process through a disastrous collapse of its support that shows little imminent signs of turning around, and which is generally full of nice, somewhat wooly-minded middle class people who largely think they sit in the middle ground of politics, full of rational discussion and mutual respect and eschewing the nasty tribalism of the left and right.

Nevertheless, despite it’s historical weaknesses, and it’s current electoral nadir, the party has always played – and it would be good to think will continue to play – a useful national and international role as an incubator of good ideas, as provokers of attention to issues that other parties largely ignore, and of a group of people who are less hidebound by “that’s the way it’s always been done” than most. In the past, when it’s level of elected support was about where it is now, the Party nevertheless “punched above its weight” in this regard. The party also keeps alive an affection for ideals of political plurality, free speech, and individual liberty, both economic and social.

trident_2469358bBut given the chance to dramatically play that role now by arguing that Britain should lead the stalled world disarmament process, what they have just done, in reality – because of the inexorable timetable for the Trident replacement decision – is actually to fall in lock-step behind a radical right-wing Conservative Government that would never consider Britain giving up nuclear weapons in a pink fit.

As a result, they will now inevitably be outflanked on one of the most vital decisions facing the country in the coming little while by the new left-wing leadership of the Labour Party, and by the surging Scottish Nationalists, and will inevitably be seen by the public to be dithering over a crucial moral and strategic issue when the Government inevitably acts.

The membership should be under no misapprehension: the Liberal Democrats just missed a huge opportunity to provide their party with the distinctiveness that they need if they are ever to reclaim any real degree of power at local, European and Westminster levels, and an equally significant opportunity to provide moral leadership to the multilateral disarmament efforts that the world has largely abandoned in recent years, which they would have achieved by stating “we do not need these bombs, we reject their use, we cannot afford them, and we will seek other ways to relate to the world around us”.

New Lib Dem Leader Tim Farron

New Lib Dem Leader Tim Farron

Responsibility for those missed opportunities lies directly with the new Leader of the party, Tim Farron, and those with their hands on the levers of power inside the party who advised him to make this matter a “test” of his leadership, and then made that argument directly to members in a variety of ways.

In truth, Farron arguing that he wanted a “full debate” before a decision is taken is a complete furphy, a fig leaf to cover the moral cowardice of the amendment. Or, as one Lib Dem speaker in the debate, Reece Edmends put it, “If you support nuclear weapons, if you want one, two, three or four subs, have the intellectual honesty to say so.”

The speakers in favour of the amendment largely did not state their preference for keeping nuclear weapons clearly. One complete piece of intellectual dishonesty was an argument that the Ukraine had just given up nuclear weapons and been invaded (albeit in a very limited way) by Russia. So what exactly were those speakers arguing? That Ukraine should have attacked Russia with nuclear weapons? To have done so would not only have been ludicrously disproportionate, but would have invited an immediate and overwhelming response from Russia that would have obliterated Ukraine from the map. Which neatly encapsulates, of course, the complete pointlessness of spending 8% of your GDP on nuclear weapons, as Britain does. You can’t actually use them. Ever. Even in a real fighting war.

There were also dark warnings about Russian expansionism, despite the fact that as we have shown with historic detail, the Russian action in Crimea was proportionate, discrete and nuanced.

We have a lot of time for Farron, but we are disappointed and worried by his actions in this case. Shock and dismay at his position is already evident on the activist wing of the party, and he will need to somehow heal the breach he has now opened with those who were his most fervent supporters for the Leadership.

What he and others clearly thought was if the party committed itself to disarmament of Britain’s independent nuclear weaponry they would be castigated as “irresponsible” or “too left wing”. Now they will be castigated as mere ditherers. Had they allowed the original motion to stand they would have been able to make the case for the scrapping of Britain’s nuclear weapons stockpile between now and when the decision will be made, putting useful light and space between them and David Cameron’s increasingly nationalistic and unpleasant Government.

Such moral determination might just have ameliorated the Government’s intentions somewhat, although the idea that it would turn around their view in toto is probably fanciful and this writer would not argue that case. In reality, what the Lib Dems think or do at the moment doesn’t currently matter much more than a reasonably small hill of beans. But any decision to replace Trident made in 2016 will still be in its early stages of implementation by the time of the next General Election in 2020. That would have given the Lib Dems, along with others, four years and innumerable opportunities to win the national debate, and possibly the next election.

But they squibbed it, and the party – chock full of new respectful members – let them.

Mehdi Tutunchi, himself a sportscaster, said his wife Niloofar Ardalan could not lead out the national team at the September 21-26 championship in Nilai, because it coincided with their seven-year-old son’s first day at school.

Ardalan went public to plead her right to represent her country at the first women’s tournament of futsal — a form of five-a-side football — organised by the Asian Football Confederation, in a case that captivated Iran’s social media.

Niloofar Ardalan. Photo: Facebook

Niloofar Ardalan playing football. Photo: AFP

She appealed for a change to the law, in force since the Islamic revolution of 1979, that bars women from leaving home, let alone the country, without the permission of their male guardian.

“I wish authorities would pass a law for sportswomen so we can defend our rights in these circumstances,” Ardalan told Iran’s NASIM news agency.

“As a Muslim woman I wanted to raise the flag of my country, I wasn’t going there for fun.”

Just as Iranian boys who have not completed their military service get temporary permits to attend sport events abroad, “something must be done for us women too,” she said.

Niloofar Ardalan has played football for 20 years. Photo: Facebook

Iranians took to Facebook to express sympathy for Ardalan and condemn her husband’s decision.

“To publicise this in Iran… This woman is very brave and selfless,” Atefeh Amin wrote on a women’s rights Facebook page.

Another user criticised the husband.

“Mr. Tutunchi, you are depriving a human being of her first right to live her own life. Whatever the reason, you cannot do this,” wrote a user going by the name Samaneh.

But as the outcry intensified, Ardalan backed down, saying it was a private issue and that she was sorry that “anti-revolutionary media” had exploited her case.

The story has caused outrage on social media. Photo: Facebook

“I’m a Muslim Iranian woman and my absence from these games is a personal and family matter,” she told NASIM.

“I only described my problem and asked for a solution for it,” she said. “It’s no one else’s business.”

Unlike in some Muslim countries in the region, Iranian women enjoy the right to drive, vote and join a profession, and the majority of students enrolled in universities are female.

However, women are required to wear the Islamic headscarf and are barred from certain activities, such as watching men play sports in stadiums, singing solo at concerts or riding a bicycle on the street. And apparently, their husbands are incapable of taking a child to school.

Moderate President Hassan Rouhani, who took office in 2013 on a platform of more social and political freedom, has three women vice presidents.

As we said back in July, "if this isn't the next Prime Minister of Australia, then god didn't make the little green apples, and it don't rain in Indianapolis in the summertime ..."

As we said back in July, “If this isn’t the next Prime Minister of Australia, then god didn’t make the little green apples, and it don’t rain in Indianapolis in the summertime …”

We have long been a supporter on this blog of the urbane character (and political philosophy) of Australia’s new Prime Minister, Malcom Turnbull.

We predicted, regularly, (some would say, ad nauseam), that Tony Abbott would not make it to the next election, and we were beating that drum longer and harder than most, and that the very talented Turnbull would replace him.

So why were we so sure?

The answer is easy. As Prime Minister, from Day 1, Abbott was hoist by his own petard.

The very same ability that made him able to connect with the people over the terminally unpopular Gillard and Rudd governments – the ability to coin simple, aggressive phrases that seemed to sum everything up – was exactly the wrong ability to bring to The Lodge.

It is easily forgotten that Abbott did not really win the last election. Labor lost it, through a hideous morassive mixture of internicene squabbling, incompetence, and failure. In reality, this was the most “drover’s dog” election since Hawke defeated Fraser.

Here are the psychological moments that killed Abbott’s leadership:

The flags

flagsSurrounding himself with the Australian flag as he constantly “stuck to message” on combatting the “death cult” of Daesh (ISIS) didn’t ring true with the Australian people, even as they simultaneously and constantly noted his “strength” on defence and security issues.

But Abbott was badly advised. The ridiculous tableaux-style presentations smacked of a gung-ho triumphalism that sat badly – deep down – with a people who have proportionately suffered more in war than most Western nations, and who understand that sending young Australians overseas to fight wars should never be a cause for celebration, even mutedly, and especially not in a manner that smacked of Americanism. He struck the wrong note, time and again, as social media went into overdrive wondering how many flags he could squeeze into every press conference. Would the photographers need to start using wide angle lenses?

In advertising we have a phrase to condemn clumsy communications. “Ooops, your strategy is showing.” While the flags were symbolic – and not in the way Abbott intended – the continual harping on about the threats to Australia eventually started to rebound on Abbott. That the PM’s Chief of Staff Peta Credlin and her crew couldn’t see that happening was just one of many mis-steps the Abbott team made.

Slugging pensioners to visit their Doctor

patient doctorThere is no question that Australia’s admirably robust health system is low on cash. The problem will have to be addressed.

Attempting to plug the gaps by hitting the poorest and most vulnerable customers of the system – who were over-heavily represented in the supporters of the Government – was an idiocy of breathtaking proportions.

The Paid Parental Leave Scheme nobody asked for, or wanted

baby-money1Way to go Tony.

Announce an unfunded, wildly generous and extravagant scheme without any thought to how it could be implemented or even whether your own party agrees.

Then dump it when the very people it was supposed to help make it perfectly clear they think it’s madness, and anyway what they really want is more childcare places, not money in their pockets, because no matter how much money they’ve got they can’t find a child centre with room for little Johnny and Jane.

Big thinking, for sure.

Just big dumb thinking.

It makes you sick

budget cuts health spending doctor holding piggypankDespite promising – repeatedly – before being elected that he would not cut health spending, Abbott duly introduced a vast range of cuts to the health budget.

Each one upset someone.

There’s no easy way to trim expenditure on health spending. But usually the public want to see it balanced by reinvestment in more modern facilities, in more efficient care, in better health outcomes. This was the story Abbott abysmally failed to sell.

Oi! That’s my tele you’re messin’ with, bro.

logos abc sbsAbbott swore he wouldn’t inflict cuts on the ABC and SBS, both of which are national icons and hugely appreciated.

In the event, he cut $43.5 million from them. Needless to say the networks reported the pain, again and again.

It was not a big enough cut to make any major difference to the national plenty, but plenty big enough to hurt the corporations and enrage their loyal audiences. So why do it? Only Tony can answer that for you.

Children in detention

Abbott and his advisors were right that Australians, taken as a mass, were and are deeply concerned about refugee arrivals. Australians are a long way from anywhere, feel isolated in a sea of Asian countries, and from “the Yellow peril” onwards the population has had a dichotimal view of immigration.

kidsWhen you add to that emotional confusion the horrors of the live trade in people across the storm-plagued seas around Aussie shores, “Stop the Boats” was a popular policy.

What was not popular, though, was the government’s tight-lipped refusal to comment on “operational matters”, for which the arguments were weakly made, and which simply made them look simply shifty and secretive. Why should we not know what was being done in our name?

What was not popular was the refusal to let journalists into the detention centres on tropical northern island nations from which leaked continual stories of mental illness, suicide, clashes with the locals, murder, rape, and worst of all, the distress of children left to rot behind barbed wire.

Australians are a generous and compassionate people. They might want to stop the boats, they were much less comfortable with the inevitable out-workings of that policy.

“Shirt fronting” Vladimir Putin

putinOutrage over the shooting down of MH17 by Russian-backed rebels in Ukraine was real and universal.

But as further evidence that Abbott could turn any gold into dross, his blokey threat to “shirt front” Russian president Putin just made him – and the country – look ridiculous.

When what was needed was austere, cold anger and statesmanlike comments, what we got was a one-time amateur boxer sounding like he was still holding court in the Students’ Union bar.

Captain’s Picks

It is hard to overstate the utter derision of the Australian people at Abbott’s repeated preference for thought bubbles, publicly announced, over carefully-plotted policy.

pphillipWhen he revived Imperial Knighthoods people snorted in disgust. They are – and were always – a rotten echo of a colonial era that Australia has long since rejected.

At a stroke, he made himself look ridiculous – and looking ridiculous is the most damaging thing any politician can do to him or herself.

When he then proceeded to announce that his first choice for a knighthood was Prince Phillip, the die was cast. It was weeks before the hoo-ha died down, sucking vital oxygen from the Government’s agenda.

We’ve upset the old. Now let’s upset the young. Oh, and their folks.

student-loansAbbott forced students to repay their debt earlier by lowering the wage they need to earn before payments kick in and increased student debt by increasing the interest on their fees.

It wasn’t just the youngsters who were pissed off.

Up and down the country their middle class parents – most of whom remembered the days of free tertiary education they enjoyed, and which they knew full well current Government Ministers had enjoyed as well – were depressed and irritated too.

All they saw was life becoming even more un-affordable for their offspring, which would inevitably increase the burden on them too. The dramatic unaffordability of the first home market didn’t help.

The “economic crisis” disconnect

Abbott came to power talking about the “structural deficit” in the Australian budget, as an excuse for a stingingly brutal first budget which was duly heroically mishandled by both himself and Joe Hockey.

BBQWhilst things hadn’t been exactly looking financially blooming for most Australians, in reality people were feeling reasonably well off.

To get people to go along with the budget, Abbott desperately needed to convince people that a Government taking in less money than it gives out – permanently – was an unsustainable proposition.

At the time, we advised him to focus on the credit card argument – to wit, you can’t live “on tick” forever, sooner or later the credit card payment falls due. Instead, demonstrating the tone deafness which characterised his hold on the highest office in the land, Abbott comprehensively failed to explain why such a dramatically recessionary budget was necessary. That failure to engage was the moment his fate was ultimately sealed, because so much else flowed from that glaring failure.

Abbott isn’t now out of power because of Turnbull’s shenanigins or, indeed, a “febrile” media or any other excuse. He’s out of power because he just wasn’t very good at his job.

Which will be the hardest thing of all, we are sure, for this intensely driven and self-critical man to accept.

We will now make our first prediction of this new era.

The Liberal/National Coalition will win the next Federal Election. You heard it here first.

The ruling Coalition in Australia has agreed to provide 12,000 Syrian refugees with permanent safety in Australia.1 It’s a complete turnaround on Tony Abbott’s decision last week not to increase refugee intake – and a victory demonstrating the power people created when we stand together in hope and compassion.

Less than a week ago, we all awoke to the harrowing photo of little Aylan Kurdi, drowned. We read the story of a family torn apart by a tragedy marked by global indifference. And we saw our government’s attempt to shut down compassion with their usual mindless, endlessly-repeated slogan, ‘Stop the Boats’.

The pressure group Get Up decided to take action in response to our government’s indifference. To shine a light in the dark – with thousands of us organising and attending vigils all over the Australia, vigils that hit front pages, headlines, and news bulletins all over the country.

Together, GetUp members and our friends across the movement transformed the community grief and despair from the death of Aylan Kurdi into powerful public pressure to offer safety to Syrian refugees. Now the lives of 12,000 people fleeing danger will dramatically change for the better.

This is an incredible new beginning. We have broken through the wall of cruelty that has stood around Australian refugee policy for far too long. Now, let’s bring it tumbling down completely.

We must not stop until fairness and compassion are always the Australian response.

The story of a successful movement of voters.

On Monday, GetUp members and friends, family and allies came together to act – lighting the dark in the tens of thousands in cities and towns across the country. And images of those vigils didn’t only light up the front pages and nightly news; they lit a fire under MPs and leaders on both sides of the political divide. Politicians arguing for generosity pointed to our vigils as a sign of powerful public sentiment.2

The effect of this mass movement demanding compassion is clear. On Monday morning, Tony Abbott was still refusing to move more than a token amount. But after the nationwide vigils began, on Tuesday morning this was the remarkable front page of the right-leaning Murdoch-published Victorian Herald Sun:

Front Page of Herald Sun 8 Sep 2015

And today? Today we’ve changed everything.

For the first time in so long, the Australian government is acting with true humanity towards refugees, providing real, permanent safety to those in need, genuinely beginning to step up and play its part in the biggest refugee crisis since World War II.

Last Thursday, many of us felt helpless. But today, we can be filled with pride in Australia, and hope for what comes next. 

Because of what ordinary people did. Stood up and were counted.

The Prime Minister’s announcement isn’t perfect. But it’s so much more than anyone imagined was possible last week. Together, the people have moved the national conversation from fear and boats to understanding and welcome. We’ve moved from talking about whether Australia will help, to talking about how much Australia will do. Our headlines have been full of politicians of all stripes calling for Australia to do more for refugees, and be the generous country we know we can be. The same change of heart has been seen in most Western countries – with the very obvious exception of the USA. Of that, more another day.

The tide has changed.

Adelaide Light The Dark - SA crowd
Light The Dark - Syd crowd

LIght The Dark - Melb kid
Light The Dark - Perth mom & kids
Light The Dark - Perth crowd

Extraordinary moments like this can’t happen in a vacuum – they’re only possible because of the tireless work of volunteers, organisers, allies, and the incredible commitment of so many people all over the country. Well done to them.

When it comes to Australia’s treatment of refugees, hope can be hard to come by. But by standing shoulder to shoulder this week, we proved just how much is possible. So a big thank you and congratulations to all the communities and people who have raised their voices this week, including the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Amnesty International Australia, Welcome to Australia, Love Makes a Way, Refugee Action Coalition, ChillOut, Care Australia, Oxfam, and so many more for being a part of Light the Dark events and making bold statements for a better Australia.

[1] ‘Australia to accept an extra 12,000 Syrian refugees and will join US-led airstrikes’, The Guardian, 9 September 2015
[2] ‘Tony Abbott to confirm Syrian airstrikes as pressure grows over refugees’, The Guardian, 8 September 2015.

Most of all, a big thank you to the ORDINARY Australians who stood up to the counted – teenagers, mothers with small babies in their arms, fathers, brothers, Grandparents, working class, middle class, workers, retirees, people in suits straight from city offices, tradies in their overalls – the most mixed crowd we have ever seen at such an event. Ordinary people, saying “enough is enough”.

If people want to make an immediate donation to help 4 million Syrian refugees, the most direct way will be via the UNHCR Syria Crisis – Urgent Lifeline Appeal.

Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito

Image copyrightGetty/AP Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito were eventually acquitted after a legal saga lasting eight years

Italy’s highest appeals court has criticised “glaring errors” in the investigation into the 2007 murder of British student Meredith Kercher. Ms Kercher, 21, was stabbed to death in a Perugia flat she shared with Ms Knox.

The court acquitted Amanda Knox and her ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito of the murder in March.

Critically, it said there was an “absolute lack of biological traces” of either defendant in the room where Ms Kercher was killed or on her body.

The Court of Cassation, which exonerated the pair, published its reasoning on Monday, as it is required to do under Italian law.

It issued a damning assessment of the quality of the prosecution case, saying its high profile nature had an effect on investigators.

“The international spotlight on the case in fact resulted in the investigation undergoing a sudden acceleration,” the court said.

Several mistakes in the investigation were outlined by the court in its reasoning, including the fact that investigators burned Ms Knox’s and Ms Kercher’s computers, which could have yielded new information.

Kercher murder: Timeline

Meredith Kercher

Meredith Kercher – the mystery over her tragic slaying now intensifies.

  • 1 November 2007: Kercher is killed at her apartment in Perugia. Police find her a day later.
  • 6 November 2007: Kercher’s American housemate Knox is arrested, along with Sollecito and Congolese national Patrick Diya Lumumba.
  • 20 November 2007: Rudy Guede detained in Germany and extradited to Italy. Mr Lumumba released without charge
  • 28 October 2008: Guede sentenced to 16 years. A judge rules Sollecito and Knox will face a murder trial
  • 4 December 2009: Knox and Sollecito found guilty of murder and sexual violence, and jailed for 26 and 25 years
  • 3 October 2011: Knox and Sollecito acquitted
  • 31 January 2014: Convictions re-instated
  • 28 March 2015: Court of Cassation acquits Knox and Sollecito in final verdict

The court also wrote that the Florence appeals court which convicted the pair last year ignored expert testimony that “clearly demonstrated possible contamination” of evidence and misinterpreted findings about the knife allegedly used to slit Kercher’s throat, in what prosecutors had described as a sexual assault.

“The kitchen knife, found in Sollecito’s house and the supposed crime weapon, was kept in an ordinary cardboard box,” the judges noted, adding that no traces of blood were found on it.

The judges said that one of Ms Kercher’s bra clasps, which had been a key part of the case and which prosecutors argued carried a trace of Mr Sollecito’s DNA, was left on the floor of the murder scene for 46 days, and then “was passed from hand to hand of the workers, who, furthermore, were wearing dirty latex gloves”.

Another man, Rudy Hermann Guede, born in Ivory Coast, was convicted of the murder in a separate trial and is serving a 16-year sentence. The court’s ruling against Guede stated that he did not act alone, but the acquittals of Ms Knox and Mr Sollecito mean that no-one now stands convicted of acting with Guede to kill Ms Kercher, who remains frozen in time in the photograph of her that is now so well known. Who acted with Guede? Will we ever know, now so much time has passed pursuing Knox and Sollecito?

What was Amanda Knox guilty of?

What was Amanda Knox guilty of?

So what was Amanda Knox guilty of? Possibly just of being terrified of being questioned in a tense atmosphere by Italian police when her own command f the language was rudimentary, and giving nonsensical answers as a result. Guilty of being young, and in a foreign land. Guilty of trying to blame someone else, for which she has been punished, and for which she has apologised, in a desperate attempt to get out of the Kafkaesque situation she found herself in. Guilty of occasionally smoking a joint, and having a sexual relationship with someone her own age.

It appears Sollecito was equally “guilty”.

And perhaps, she was guilty of not constantly look suitably “guilty”? Smiling at her parents. Composing herself (most of the time) in court. In fact, Knox’s public demeanour led some people to assume she was somehow sociopathic or hiding something. It never seemed to occur to some people that she considered it important to behave in a collected and discrete – even shy – manner, because that was her natural persona.

Australians in particular will remember how that same character trait condemned another woman to years in jail for a crime she didn’t commit, also convicted on the basis of dodgy forensic evidence. That, of course, was “A dingo’s took my baby” Lindy Chamberlain and her husband Michael.

“Why didn’t Lindy cry in court?” was the constant refrain of journalists and armchair commentators at the time.

Lindy and Michael Chamberlain

Lindy and Michael Chamberlain

The final resolution of that notorious case was triggered entirely by a chance discovery. In early 1986, English tourist David Brett fell to his death from Uluru during an evening climb.

Because of the vast size of the rock and the scrubby nature of the surrounding terrain, it was eight days before Brett’s remains were discovered, lying below the bluff where he had lost his footing and in an area full of dingo lairs.

As police searched the area, looking for missing bones that might have been carried off by dingoes, they discovered a small item of clothing. It was quickly identified as a crucial missing piece of evidence from the Chamberlain case, namely, baby Azaria’s missing matinee jacket

Discussing how that scandalous episode could occur, Lindy’s own website comments:

Was it because Lindy was never seen to be crying on television? That does not mean she didn’t cry, it only means that the controllers of what you saw on television did not choose to show that. Was it because she didn’t behave like people thought they would in such circumstances? Sure, that was part of it, but how does anyone know how they would react under horrific circumstances they will most likely never have to face? There are no guidebooks written to help one through such circumstances, and Lindy was doing her best to keep it all together. She is proud of her independence, and only shows her emotions to those very close to her. A lesser woman would probably still be in prison today.

Let us hope other miscarriages of justice are addressed with equal attention, but we suspect they will not be. Knox had the advantage of being beautiful and having a family who could – at great personal cost – organise a defence on her behalf. There are plenty of poor, ugly people who get locked up without her advantages. She served four years – disgraceful and avoidable – but they frequently serve a life sentence, or worse.

Imagine if Australia or Italy still imposed the death penalty, and as arbitrarily as some other states do. There would be no bringing Knox and Sollecito, or Lindy and Michael Chamberlain, back from that.

Those interested in that subject should checkout the great work done by The Innocence Project by clicking this link.



An intake of refugees from Syria would provide an economic boost to a host country like Australia, according to a leading economic commentator.

While a humanitarian crisis has been declared as millions of Syrians seek to leave their war-torn country, nations that agree to take in refugees are also likely to benefit economically. 

Speaking at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas at the Sydney Opera House on Sunday, Helen Joyce, international editor of The Economist, said the Syria situation is the greatest migrant crisis since the Second World War. 

“At The Economist we are in favour of the free movement of labour, capital and people,” Joyce said.

“If you’re a Syrian refugee camping out in large numbers in other countries, then that [working] capital is locked up and cannot be used by other countries.”

Joyce said the Syrian refugees should be moved to a stable country and given the right to work, a development that will benefit the entire host country.

“The evidence suggests that immigrants pay in more [money to the state] than they take out, providing they are allowed to work,” Joyce said.

“Let them in and let them work so they can integrate to become an Australian, German or British citizen.”

Joyce also stressed that the Syrian refugees are “motivated people.”

“You don’t get on a boat to do an incredibly dangerous journey unless you are a motivated person,” Joyce said.

“I understand that it’s politically unpalatable to say this to people who believe that immigrants are taking the jobs, but the evidence we have says that immigrants are not stealing the jobs.

“Immigrants are coming in and increasing demand and helping the economy. Real leadership from a politician would mean making this argument,” Joyce added.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics have also stated that the idea of refugees taking Australian jobs is a myth, as humanitarian migrants have the highest rate of business ownership of all recent migrants, meaning they are creating more jobs for the Australian economy.

(Yahoo Finance)


Refugees are not breaking the law. They should always be treated with respect, and with courtesy. They should not be met with armed guards and batons.

They are not the problem. They are the result of the problem.

When our countries sell arms to dictators to attack their own people, we create the problem.

When through our own lack of care those arms find their way through nefarious means to extremist groups, we create the problem.

When we prefer war-war to jaw-jaw, we create the problem.

When we allow, through our indifference, those that rule us to carve up the world into opposing camps that jostle and claw for preference, we create the problem.

When we demonise those we disagree with as sub-human, not-like-us, dirty, feckless or dangerous, we create the problem.

Every time we applaud a simple slogan uttered by a self-seeking politician or media commentator, instead of working harder and seeking to understand the depth of a situation, we create the problem.

When we keep the wealth of the world gathered into our hands instead of sharing it fairly, when we allow traders to destabilise whole country’s economies to achieve a profitable statistical blip on their trading charts, and when as night follows day when those countries dissolve into riots and civil strife, then we create the problem.

Refugees are not the problem. They are the result of the problem.

And we cause the problem.



If you want to make an immediate donation to help 4 million Syrian refugees, the most direct way will be via the UNHCR. Click here.

Three storms have been found simultaneously belting their way through the Pacific Ocean for the first time in measured history. And although tropical storms Kilo, Ignacio and Jimena haven’t made landfall, they’re making part of the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii resemble a scary version of a Van Gogh painting.


Here’s a photo showing Hurricanes Kilo, Ignacio, and Jimena from left to right. Photo: NOAA


This is the first time three Category Four storms have been seen in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean at one time, according to The Weather Channel. Category Four hurricanes have wind speeds anywhere from 209 to 251km per hour.

Hurricanes are categorised primarily by wind speeds: the higher the sustained wind speed, the stronger the hurricane.

A Category One hurricane has winds up to 119 to 152km per hour, and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says even those are typically expected to cause some damage to buildings as well as power outages for a few days. These aren’t Cat 1. They’re ALL Cat 4.

A Category Four hurricane is considered catastrophic, with severe damage to buildings and power outages for weeks if not months.




Climate Change Deniers like to find any random fact they can to debunk the reality of climate change. Why is a more complex question to answer, as they and their children are threatened just like everyone else.

Recently they have taken to noting that the year 1934 was a very hot year in the United States, ranking fourth behind 2012, 2006, and 1998. Skeptics like to point to 1934 in the U.S. as proof that recent hot years are not unusual.

However, this is yet another example of “cherry-picking” a single fact that supports a claim, while ignoring the rest of the data.

Globally, the ten hottest years on record have all occurred since 1998, with 2005 and 2010 as the hottest.

Remember, global warming takes into account temperatures over the entire planet. The U.S.’s land area accounts for only 2% of the earth’s total surface area. Despite the U.S.heat in 1934, the year was not so hot over the rest of the planet, and 1934 barely holds onto a place in the hottest 50 years in the global rankings – in fact it ranks 49th.

global_warming3The fact that there were hot years in some parts of the world in the past is not an argument against climate change. There will always be regional temperature variations as well as variations from year to year. These happened in the past, and they will continue. The problem with climate change is that on average, when looking at the entire world, the long term trend shows an unmistakable increase in global surface temperatures, in a way that is likely to dramatically alter the planet.

In fact, the recent uptick in hurricane activity is consistent with recent climate-change-affected El Niño predictions. What climate change deniers (like most of the Liberal Government in Australia, and virtually everyone on the right of politics in America) fail to understand is this simple equation:

The scientific community agrees (well over 95% agreement across a variety of scientific disciplines, not just climatology but also biology, oceanography, geology and so on – way in excess of the agreement we should need to feel “certain”) that humanity’s activity in the last 250 years or so has caused the planet to get hotter.

  • Yes, the planet has warmed in the past, but never as fast, never as consistently, and never like this during the period of human civilisation.
  • Global Warming causes Climate Change.
  • Climate Change doesn’t mean everywhere will become warmer. It means some areas will be colder, some hotter, some wetter, some drier, some windier and some less windy.
  • In addition, the seas will become more acidic, reducing biodiversity in the oceans, affecting the food chain, and threatening a widespread die off of species.

This is just the latest example of “extreme weather events” becoming more common, emphasising the need for concerted international action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from “dirty power” generation, heating, vehicles, farm animals, and industry.

So what’s your latest head-in-the-sand response to these storms, Dear Climate Change Denier?

alison parker


There has been a lot of well-meaning commentary in the media that it was too shocking – too visceral, too intrusive, too disrespectful – for many media organisations to show the footage of a young American news reporter and her colleague being shot in America.

We respect those arguments. One of the better ones is here.

We also, respectfully, disagree.

One of the issues with gun violence – indeed, violence of all sorts – is that it is frequently sanitised before being presented to us. Filmed from outside a scene. Or blurred. Bodies are pixelated. Streams of blood are avoided or covered up. Body parts are swept away.

But in our view, only when people confront the truth might they be shocked into actually doing something about the problem.

The exactly similar debate occurs when we consider photo coverage of wars, or for that matter famines. Not for nothing was the Iraq war coverage reduced to mostly nonsense through “embedding” tame journalists. The Governments concerned knew that was the only way they could maintain support for the obviously illegal invasion.

In our view, we must all be made to turn our eyes to the reality of the state of the world. not glimpse it in a stilled frame or hear it in a sound grab. We need to look our world square in the face, and take responsibility for it.

Not because we are voyeurs, or because real life real time violence is manna for our satiated media-swamped pallets. Both those criticisms are fair, but they are not the point. We need to confront shocking truth because as the poet says “if any man dies, his death diminishes me”.

Alison Parker and Adam Ward deserve to be remembered not only for how they lived, but also how a mentally disturbed man with a legally-obtained gun ended their worthwhile lives, and cast their loving families into misery.

Because if we have the willpower, we can do something about mad people with guns – we can improve the connectedness in our society, we can  improve respect for law, we can make guns more difficult to get and keep, we can improve mental health provision, and we can build a world view that says taking another human being’s life should be the hugely horrible exception and not the norm. We can do all this, if we are moved to act together, and with determination.

We will never make our societies perfect. That way lies madness and the simple sloganeering of fools.

This is what war looks like. War is not how we see it on television. Every time someone cries "Drop a bomb!", this is what it means.

This is what war looks like. War is not how we see it on television. Every time someone cries “Drop a bomb!”, this is what it means. It means innocent deaths by the uncountable thousands – 500,000 innocent civilian deaths in Iraq alone, thus far.

But if we are to create coalitions of the willing to oppose the steady and seemingly inexorable slide towards casual violence and disrespect for others, then we need to face up to the truth.

If the innards of Dachau and Auschwitz and the rest had been seen in popular media in America and the United Kingdom in 1942 the Second World War would have been over sooner and fewer lives lost.

If the Gulags of Siberia had been exposed rather than just whispered about, Stalin would have been overthrown.

If the murderous indifference of Mao that led to umpteen dozens of millions being deliberately starved to death as political policy had been exposed in all its shocking brutality then he would never have come to rule one third of the world as a heartless despot.

How did Pol Pot do what he did? Why did the West stand by and support him – step forward Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan – because he was a bulwark against Vietnam? Because that disgusting realpolitik judgement was never balanced by pictures of two million Cambodians slaughtered with pick-axes, machetes, sticks and pistols. No lens ever captured their suffering until it was too late.

Do you know why Kim-Jong Un is still in power in North Korea? Because saying “mothers are made to drown their babies in prison camps” does not have the same effect, even though it should, as showing those mothers’ hysterical, tear stained faces and the floating corpses of their children.

Too harsh? Too horrible?

Maybe. But it’s the truth. And the truth is also that the look on Alison’s terrified, innocent face as she confronted her insane, hate-fuelled murderer needs to be seen.

She deserves us looking into her eyes, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us.

Because only then will people demand that she is the last – or if not the last, sadly, then a very rare event indeed – of all those innocents slaughtered for no good reason by sociopaths who hold their life to be unimportant – or at least, not as important as what their own sick views or desires.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the families, and all those traumatised by this horrible event.

In their own words: why people were celebrating International Go Topless Day on Sunday

Women and men in approximately 60 cities across the globe took part in the International Go Topless Day on Sunday.

Demonstrators in cities like New York, Paris and London took to the streets in order to break taboos around female nudity, protest against double-standards and to make it easier for women to breastfeed.

In their own words, here’s why people were willing to bare their chests in public:


We’re not protesting. We’re exercising our right to bring awareness to the subject. This is about equality. There’s no problem with men not wearing shirts at the beach. I made the drive here to take away the stigma for women.

As long as men are allowed to be topless in public, women should have the same constitutional right. Or else, men should have to wear something to hide their chests.

  • Claude “Rael” Vorilhon, founder of


In our society, men and women are supposed to have equal rights. But women are commonly arrested, fined and humiliated for daring to go topless in public, a freedom men have had for decades. To protest this unconstitutional gender discrimination, is holding National Go-Topless Day events in cities nationwide. Thousands of women will be baring their chests that day in the name of equal rights.

  • statement

It’s logical. Why can a man go outside topless and a woman can’t? We should be able to do it without anyone harassing us. It’s just meat, it’s just breast and it’s nature.

  • A demonstrator in New York speaking to the Guardian


It’s absurd that someone has judged topless women as obscene, and yet topless men is considered normal in our culture. We just abhor the double standard. We are practicing our rights. We think everyone should try it — it’s a lot of fun.

  • Carolyn Estes, a demonstrator in Austin, Texas, speaking to NBC

The significance is really to challenge the double-standard and to challenge this notion that there’s something morally reprehensible about women being topless when men have been able to be topless for so many years. It’s just about loving your body in whatever state it is in.

  • A demonstrator in New York speaking to the Guardian


A woman’s nipple being criminalised and so hyper-sexualised make certain things like breast-feeding really difficult, especially in public … It is discrimination based on gender to tell women to cover up.

  • Demonstrators speaking in New Hampshire

The main problem people have with breast-feeding is they sexualise breasts, so it offends them. If we could make them less taboo, breast-feeding would be much more acceptable in society.

  • Jessica Wardell, a demonstrator in New Hampshire speaking to Reuters

There should be no reason why my breasts should be different from his chest.

To which we can only say, “HEAR HEAR”. This is a topic we have discussed on this blog before, and will again. This double standard is simple sexism, and should be done away with. Womens’ bodies are not “dirty”.

Last but not least – have a look at this photo, doing the rounds in American media. Why the f*** do you have to PIXELATE a nipple? Have Americans never been on holiday in Europe?

Don't look too closely, the demons will get you.

Don’t look too closely, the demons will get you.

Bizarre. Simply bizarre. The human body, in all it’s wonderful and weird shapes and sizes, is beautiful. We should celebrate it. Most of all, we shouldn’t let one half of the population do something the other half of the population isn’t allowed to. Patriarchal bullshit. So there. Harumph.


And meanwhile, our new Kickstarter project just went live – whoo hoo!

The decision follows the Federal Court’s move to overturn approval of Indian mining giant Adani’s $16.5 billion Carmichael coal mine in central Queensland.

“This government will repeal section 487.2 of the EPBC (Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation) Act which gives activists the standing to sabotage decisions,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott told parliament on Tuesday. The change was approved by federal cabinet on Monday night and went to the coalition party room on Tuesday.

Despite widespread community reaction, it is expected to be introduced to parliament this week.

It has been argued that the $20 billion investment in Carmichael could create 10,000 jobs, although estimates of jobs created in coal mines have previously been hugely over-estimated.

Summarising the Liberal-National Coalition’s position, Attorney-General George Brandis said the laws as they stood allowed “radical green activists to engage in vigilante litigation” to stop important job-creating projects.

“(It) provides a red carpet for radical activists who have a political but not a legal interest, in a development to use aggressive litigation tactics to disrupt and sabotage important projects,” he said. “The activists themselves have declared that that is their objective.”

Senator Brandis called on Labor to support the bill. In response, manager of opposition business Tony Burke urged the government to table legislation so Labor could scrutinise it. It will be interesting to watch and see if Labor just rolls over on this issue, again showing how close, in reality, the two major political parties in Australia really are.

Phil Laird from the Lock the Gate Alliance said the law change would also ensure farmers could not challenge coal mine approvals.

“The laws are there for a reason, to level the playing field between landholders and the community and the big mining companies,” he said in a statement.

Liverpool Plains farmer Andrew Pursehouse said the government had now approved three open-cut mines on some of the best food-producing land in the country. “Now they want to limit who can go to court to challenge it,” he said.

(AP and others)

Wellthisiswhatithink says:

This proposed change to the law sets an ugly precedent and tells us a lot about the mentality of the Government.

Why should environmental objections – or, indeed, any lawful legal objection to development – be limited to people in the immediate vicinity? For one thing, pollution is no respecter of artificially created legal boundaries. Water pollution can spread far from its original source, and once in the environment chemical pollutants can end up hundreds if not thousands of miles from the source. (Witness the radioactive material from Fukushima reaching the West Coast of the USA, for example.) Air pollution can spread over thousands of miles. And why would it only be the interests of those near the Great Barrier Reef, for example, if a development was proposed that threatened its existence or well-being? Or Kakadu?

More and more, the Abbott Government acts like a petulant child every time it finds itself opposed.

abbottAbbott himself – and Brandis, amongst others – adopts a discordant, hectoring tone that is superior at best and utterly dismissive of any opposition to their whims at worst.

This attitude is very unpopular with voters – rightly so – and is one of the main reasons the Government is so “on the nose”.

As it stands, it is clearly un-electable again.

That recognition is what’s feeding into renewed concerns about Abbott’s leadership, as swathes of anxious Liberal MPsDeputy opposition leader in the Senate senator George Brandis face losing their seats if opinion polls stay anything like they are now. We have always said that having been near-mortally wounded in the first challenge to his leadership it has always been a matter of time before another came along.

In our view, there is a strong argument that until “clean coal” technology actually eventuates – which it may never do – that the environmentally and socially-responsible thing for government’s worldwide to do is to slow-peddle on new coal developments. For one thing, they are likely to be only marginally profitable, hence the reluctance of many banks to get involved in financing them. This doesn’t deter coal companies from trying to establish new mines, of course. After all, they’re coal companies. It’s what they do. Turning around a company from its core purpose to do something else is so difficult that very few organisations ever even attempt it.

That doesn’t mean the rest of us need to fall into line.

Unsurprisingly, as it’s made from trees, Coal is the most carbon intensive fossil fuel. According to the United Nations Environment Program, coal emits around 1.7 times as much carbon per unit of energy when burned as does natural gas and 1.25 times as much as oil.According to the groundbreaking, peer-reviewed “Carbon Majors” study, tracing all historic greenhouse gas emissions back to specific companies and entities, the coal industries of the world own 51% of global greenhouse gas emissions from 1854-2010.

Renewable_EnergyInstead of fiddling with the law to remove legal protections put in place by their own Howard Government (how ironic) the Liberals and Nationals need to take a leadership role in moving away from coal as it’s default answer to energy, both here and overseas. As Greenpeace note: the world doesn’t need more coal, it needs an energy revolution. We have enough technically accessible renewable energy to meet current energy demands six times over. 

Our Energy [R]evolution blueprint shows how renewable energy, combined with greater energy efficiency, can cut global CO2 emissions by almost 50 percent, and deliver half the world’s energy needs by 2050.

The case against coal is very strong. This American argument lays it out in terms anyone can understand. Yes, moving away from coal requires investment, political will, bi-partisanship and imagination.

That doesn’t mean it can’t be done, no matter what coal industry lobbyists might say.

Warning: this article contains NSFW offensive language and an excruciating gaffe.

Friday marked 100 days until the official release of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 – be still our beating hearts – and the franchise managed to celebrate in the worst way possible.

The Hunger Games’s official Twitter account released a (now deleted) poster where the worst-of-all-never-let-it-be-breathed-in-public C-word was accidentally strewn right across dear old Jennifer Lawrence’s face.

Now we know JLaw’s a sport, but really. Gentlemen. NONE of you noticed before you did this?

Find art director. Fire his or her sad ass.



Thanks to The Independent for the spot. And most of the rest of the internet. Jennifer will be starting to wish the damn thing had never been invented.

For more F*** Ups, just put F*** Up in the search box to the top left of this page. Enjoy.

Why do we not show a more graphic image to illustrate this story? Because that would be playing precisely into IS's hands.

Why do we not show a more graphic image to illustrate this story? Because that would be playing precisely into IS’s hands.

Why does the so-called Islamic State engage in such brutal and shocking practices as beheadings, not to say crucifixions and burning people alive?

Of course, the practice of beheading is invoked in the Koran, and certain Muslim States still use it to inflict the death penalty – most notably and regrettably the Western ally Saudi Arabia – but only the most extreme Islamic non-governmental militants carry it out in the modern day. Why?

Psychological warfare is a key part of the Islamic State’s military strategy

Even where outnumbered, as they were in Mosul in June, the IS fighters have used their reputation for terror to dissuade Iraqi forces from ever seeking battle.

Which poorly paid soldier wishes to risk decapitation, impalement, or amputation for the sake of a distant, crumbling government?

As strategists have noted from the Roman Empire onwards, fear is a uniquely effective weapon. Down through history, regimes and insurgents have all behaved in hideously violent manners to discourage their opponents from fighting effectively. This is one reason IS is so deliberately and theatrically brutal.

Seven-year-old Bosniak child, Nermin Divovic, lies mortally wounded in a pool of blood as unidentified American and British U.N. firefighters arrive to assist after he was shot in the head by Serbian snipers in Sarajevo Friday, November 18, 1994. The U.N. firefighters were at his side almost immediately, but the boy died outright. Serbs terrorized Sarajevo civilians and killed at least 1500 children in the besieged Bosnian capital. (Photographer: Enric Marti)

Seven-year-old Bosniak child, Nermin Divovic, lies mortally wounded in a pool of blood as unidentified American and British U.N. pesonnel arrive to assist after he was shot in the head by Serbian snipers in Sarajevo on November 18, 1994. The U.N. firefighters were at his side almost immediately, but the boy died outright. Serbs terrorized Sarajevo civilians and killed at least 1500 children in the besieged Bosnian capital. (Photographer: Enric Marti)

By no means is this limited to terrorist organisations, or Muslim extremists. The tactics of the indiscriminate use of snipers, wholesale slaughter of populations, systematic rape of the civilian population and more were all evident in the conflict in the “civilised” Balkans in the recent past, enacted by all sides.

It has been acknowledged that the initial Allied assault on Iraq’s capital was intended to create “Shock and Awe”, to the point of naming the assault precisely that, to deter the local population from supporting the regime and to encourage the largely poorly trained conscript army to lay down its weapons.

The atomic slaughter of hundreds of thousands of civilians at Hiroshima and Nagasaki by America was deliberately designed to force the Japanese Government to sue for peace. It was undoubtedly a “terrorist” act – designed to sow terror – but it has been long argued that the terror was justified to shorten the war and prevent a greater loss of life. That is as may be – the argument will continue forever – but it was unquestionably the most dramatic example of psychological warfare before or since in the history of mankind

Brutality is a form of deterrence

Slicing through the neck and vertebrae of a journalist or aid worker is one thing. With horrible calculation, IS understands that Western governments are, to some extent at least, dissuaded by the prospect of a British or American soldier meeting with a similar fate. It would mean not just political embarrassment, but also an unimaginable propaganda boost for the jihadist cause. Which is why, two days before declaring their caliphate, IS threatened to attack the US if they were targeted militarily. Their rhetoric presently outstrips their capabilities, as former MI6 chief Richard Dearlove has argued, but the track record of massacre and torture gives these threats, to Western audiences, added menace. Brutality is therefore also a form of deterrence, affecting both politicians and public.

Propaganda by the deed

The murderers of British soldier Lee Rigby - beheaded on the streets of London - knew exactly what they were trying to achieve.

The murderers of British soldier Lee Rigby – beheaded on the streets of London – knew exactly what they were trying to achieve.

Terrorism is a form of propaganda by the deed. And the more chilling the deed, the more impactful the propaganda. The graphic nature of beheading, the focus on the individual, and the act of bodily desecration involved all render this far more chilling than the explosion of a bomb, even where the latter’s death toll is greater.

In the UK, the killing of Trooper Lee Rigby was uniquely horrific because of the targeted, mechanical quality of the murder.

There’s little new in this approach, particularly the massacre of captives and the method of beheading for the purposes of terrorisation. The American journalist Daniel Pearl was beheaded in Pakistan in 2002, the American businessman Nick Berg in Iraq in 2004, and several others thereafter.

Does all this actually work?

It can. But there are two ways in which a strategy of brutality can backfire, as well.

The first is that it can induce your enemies to fight even harder, because surrendering is such an awful option. One academic study showed that the Wehrmacht’s policy of treating Soviet POWs brutally undercut German military effectiveness on the Eastern front. Moreover, the Soviets’ own relative brutality to Germans meant that German soldiers fought harder in Russia than in Normandy. The lesson? IS can make its enemies flee, but it would be a foolish Iraqi unit that surrendered – and the net effect is that the “Islamic State” has to fight all the harder.

The second problem is that IS says it is in the state-building game: creating “the caliphate”. It is out to conquer, not merely to annihilate. But it was precisely such excessive and indiscriminate violence that proved the downfall of IS’s precursor, al-Qaeda in Iraq. Sunni groups, armed and protected by a surge of US forces, turned on the group in the so-called Awakening, expelling it from the same Sunni-majority areas in which it’s now encamped. Although IS initially sought to restrain itself in the places it seized over the first half of this year, its record has been patchy, to put it mildly. Iraqis may be accustomed to being ruled by terror, but it doesn’t mean they like it. The conjoining of local Sunni militia (some of which have previously been in conflict with the USA) to fight IS is happening again now. The West’s attitude – especially given the extremely variable quality of the Iraqi army in contesting ground with IS – is obviously “better the Devil you know”, or, if you like, “the lesser of two evils”.

This is one of the reasons – in addition to the Islamic State’s megalomania – that the group was expelled from al-Qaeda earlier this year. As Osama bin Laden wrote in a letter, pursuing jihad “without exercising caution … would lead us to winning several battles while losing the war”. Thus the modern jihadist’s dilemma: when does a strategy of calibrated terror turn into a self-defeating orgy of violence?

One more factor, however, is especially chilling. It is that IS doesn’t really care if it wins or not, and might even be doing all it can to “lose”. It has been argued that the eschatological “end times” cult actually believes it will be defeated by a coalition of opponents on the fields of Iraq – reduced to 5,000 fighters – but in that moment Jesus Christ will return and defeat the invaders, ushering in the end of the world. Read more in this brilliantly researched article in the Atlantic at What does IS really want?

For the end times to happen, IS needs to suck in as many foreign opponents as possible, by becoming increasingly violent and threatening. But as The Atlantic article says:

… the risks of escalation are enormous. The biggest proponent of an American invasion is the Islamic State itself. The provocative videos, in which a black-hooded executioner addresses President Obama by name, are clearly made to draw America into the fight. An invasion would be a huge propaganda victory for jihadists worldwide: irrespective of whether they have given baya’a to the caliph, they all believe that the United States wants to embark on a modern-day Crusade and kill Muslims. Yet another invasion and occupation would confirm that suspicion, and bolster recruitment. Add the incompetence of our previous efforts as occupiers, and we have reason for reluctance. The rise of ISIS, after all, happened only because our previous occupation created space for Zarqawi and his followers. Who knows the consequences of another botched job?

Acknowledgement: Partly taken from an article by Shashank Joshi, Senior Research Fellow of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) and a PhD Candidate at Harvard University in the Telegraph newspaper.

We told you we’re obsessed. And now, thank goodness, we have remembered this. And found it. Productive afternoon.

How jolly, jolly good Python were at their peak. They manage to skewer medical pomposity and the incompetence of most health systems in one wince-inducing spot. Enjoy!

What’s your favourite Python sketch and why?


Fresh back from chucking umpteen bazillion dollars at Adelaide in a desperate attempt to shore up Coalition support in South Australia, where about four Coalition seats look very vulnerable to voter anger over the decline of the ship-building industry – Hey! Remember “We’ll build 12 subs in Adelaide” before the last election”? Guess that was a “non core promise. Also called “bullshit” – Tony Abbot was today in Geelong assertively announcing “Everything we do is focused on jobs and growth.”

“Everything we do”? A cheery message to a regional city that has seen it’s car manufacturing industry decimated and it’s ship-building in decline.

Sadly, this was also the day that saw the jobless rate “jump” – the ABC’s word, not mine – from 6% to 6.3%. Against expectations. And a major news item, unsurprisingly.

Could Abbott have chosen his chest-beating words more carefully? Assuredly.

Does he ever come into contact with the real world outside the Canberra bubble?

We wonder, frankly.

We’re with the kid at the front.

‘Heat dome’ covers the Middle East to bring temperatures up to bring ‘feels like’ temperatures up to 74 degrees.

An “heat dome” has fallen on the Middle East to create “feels-like” temperatures as high as 74 degrees. The people of Iraq were given a four-day holiday last week after the government declared soaring temperatures too much to deal with. Authorities in the Middle East cautioned residents to drink plenty of water and stay out of the sun.

earth on fire
The Iranian port city of Bandar-e Mahshahr recorded an extreme feels-like temperature of 74 degrees on Friday based on a calculated heat index. The formula combined the actual air temperature that peaked at 46 degrees with the highest humidity – or dew point – temperature reading that topped 32 degrees. A dew point exceeding 26 degrees is said to be oppressive on the human body as it struggles to deal with the heat through perspiration.

“That was one of the most incredible temperature observations I have ever seen, and it is one of the most extreme readings ever in the world,” said AccuWeather meteorologist Anthony Sagliani in a statement. Sagaliani pointed to a high-pressure system that has cloaked the region since July for the heat surge, making one of the world’s hottest places even hotter.

The heat dome is a high pressure ridge over the region which makes normal hot temperatures seem even hotter.

The UK’s Telegraph newspaper reported that the “heat index” – a measurement of what weather feels like – is the highest ever recorded. The scientists monitoring the heat index say Iran are probably enduring among the hottest temperatures ever experienced by humans.

Meanwhile it has been warm across the globe with the north-west US and eastern Pacific starting to feel the effects of El Nino in recent weeks following the deaths of hundreds in May’s heat wave across South Asia.

climate-change-denial-350x242And Australia has since an unusually early start to bushfire season with one blaze in the Blue Mountains being fought into its forth day only two weeks after the mountains were blanketed in snow. Northern Australia also had record-breaking July with Gympie noting its hottest July day since records began in 1908 with the temperature reaching 29.4 degrees, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

It’s happening.

And it may already be too late to prevent the low end of temperature rise predictions, let alone the high end. Tell someone.