February 2017 summary

But first a replay:

Signs of autumn

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Leaves are beginning to turn… It is generally exotics rather than native trees that do this in Australia.

The most viewed posts in February 2017 have been:

Home page / Archives  795 views in February 2017
Restoration Australia: Keera Vale  134
Friday Australian poem: #NS4 – A B Paterson “The Old Australian Ways”  24
Friday Australian poem: #NS6 – Mary Gilmore “Old Botany Bay”  21
What was I up to in October last year? 20
All my posts  20
Some things watched lately  20
Tangible link to the convict ship “Isabella” and the immigrant ship “Thames”  20
HSC syllabus gets overhaul  15
On keeping one’s head  14
Family history–some news on the Whitfield front  14
Body language, cross-cultural communication, Trump etc…  13
Tom Thumb Lagoon  13
Just a side-note on recent events  12
So this is what I was up to today…  12
Random Friday memory: 1 – John Mystery, my brother, Illawong  12

The blog has averaged 60 hits a day in February, up from 51 in January.

SBS: Is Australia Racist?

Just to remind you: here is a Friday market day in The Gong:

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And here is some of what I saw on SBS last night: I thought it was great!

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That last one:

A middle aged man has been secretly filmed as he abused a young Muslim woman in a niqab during SBS’s new show, Is Australia Racist.

“Where’s your f—ing face? What are you hiding from? F—ing Allah?” a white man in his 50s can be heard yelling at a woman whose garment only allows her eyes to be made visible to the public.

It is just one of many incidents of racism and bigotry highlighted during the hour-long documentary presented by Ray Martin.

The abuser in the above incident had no idea the veiled woman, Afghan refugee Rahila Haidary, was a volunteer for the SBS program.

The man approached Haidary in the street and almost immediately began to verbally attack her in full view of stunned onlookers.

“You’re in my face like that,” the man yells.

“You’re in our country because we helped save you from where you came from, from where you’ve been persecuted and you wear things like that.”

The woman responded by asking the man how she should dress. He retorted she should dress like other Australians.

Charming eh! See also SBS’s Is Australia Racist? exposes a shocking insight into everyday bigotryIs Australia Racist? SBS documentary makes for uncomfortable viewing and Is Australia Racist? Ray Martin thinks he has the answer, but you may not agree.

“I don’t think we’re racist,” says Ray Martin, who presents the one-hour documentary of that name that kicks off SBS’s Face Up to Racism week. “I think our attitudes are generally much better than they were. The discussion of racism, of anti-discrimination, of reconciliation and so on is far more widespread and stronger than it was when I was a kid.”…

This latest show combines the findings of an academic survey into attitudes about race and racism with some hidden camera stunts to illustrate those findings. So we see a black-skinned woman in African dress being harassed in public by two young white women. We see a woman in niqab (a veil covering the head and face, but not the eyes) confronted by an angry white man in a town square. We see how people respond to an African man who greets football fans outside the MCG with a placard reading “Stop Racism Now”….

All of which might lead to the conclusion that yes, Australia is indeed racist. But then you have the results of this survey of 6001 Australians, conducted by Professor Kevin Dunn at Western Sydney University, that point the other way. To some degree, at least.

It found that 80.4 per cent of respondents believe “it is a good thing for a society to be made up of different cultures”, 77 per cent believe “something should be done to minimise or fight racism in Australia”, and 76 per cent “would stand up for someone who was being discriminated against” on the basis of their culture, ethnicity or religion.

The hidden camera results suggest that yes, indeed, some people would stand up for someone being victimised because of their ethnicity. And for Philp, that was a positive. “It was good to know that people would stick up for me,” she says….

…there are fewer people who think they are prejudiced against other cultures (62.7 per cent) than there are thinking there is racism in Australia (79.3 per cent). It’s always someone else who is at fault, not me.

And that, says Martin, is where this show helps shine a light on the contradictions and the consequences around the question of our disputed racism.

“The value of doing a show like this is that it focuses on real people,” he says. “It focuses on the injustice of people saying these knee-jerk things without thinking about it – without realising how hurtful and dangerous it is.”

Some might be wondering how Muslims become part of the show’s brief; after all, Muslims are not a race, are they? The answer is that there is such a thing as cultural racism: see Muslims Aren’t A Race, So I Can’t Be Racist, Right? Wrong.

Need more proof that Islamophobia is a form of cultural racism? Consider the experience of Inderjit Singh Mukker. Mukker was assaulted in September 2015 for “looking Muslim”; he was dragged out of his car and beaten to a pulp by a man screaming “you’re a terrorist, bin Laden!” The twist here is that Mukker is not even Muslim; he is Sikh. The perpetrator of this crime looked at Mukker’s turban and thought “he’s a Muslim. He’s dangerous.” A cultural symbol, in this case, was used as a signifier to judge an entire group of people, however wrongly. Is this racism? Most definitely. Even Sikhs suffer from Islamophobia.

Ultimately, the issue here is “racism without race,” as sociologist Eduardo Bonilla-Silva calls it. The more we assume that race is limited to skin color, the less we understand about contemporary racism faced by Muslims at home and abroad. Now is the time to teach youth that racism is much more than the white-black dichotomy. Racism is changing in its form, but the beast is still very much alive and well.

And here and now in Oz we have rancid groups like the Q Society, and worse. For a thorough demolition of the Q Society and all its works see Inside the sick, sad world of the Q Society and the Australian Liberty Alliance, a must-read if ever there was.

So, again, why the concern from the Q Society and others on the political far right?

Josh Roose, the director of the Institute for Religion, Politics and Society at the Australian Catholic University, puts it down to “paranoia”. This paranoia has strange expressions.

In 2011, the Liberal member for Cowan, Western Australia, Luke Simpkins, presented a petition in federal parliament on behalf of constituents concerned that unlabelled halal food was so common in Australian supermarkets that “you cannot purchase the meat for your Aussie barbecue without the influence of this minority religion”.

He used the occasion to show off his knowledge of Islam, quoting Mohammed: “The nonbelievers will become Muslims when, amongst other things, they eat the meat that we have slaughtered.”

Simpkins emphasised the point. “This is one of the key aspects to converting nonbelievers to Islam,” he said. “By having Australians unwittingly eating halal food we are all one step down the path towards the conversion…”

That is plain bonkers. But then I may be a “victim”: see my post Munching halal and Japanese bikers again!

Update on Q Society and halal paranoia

See Q Society, Australian Liberty Alliance campaigner apologise to Halal director.

The anti-Islam Q Society and Australian Liberty Alliance campaigner Kirralie Smith have apologised to the director of a Halal certification company, settling defamation proceedings out of court.

Mohamed El-Mouelhy, Chairman of the Halal Certification Authority, claimed that a video now removed from YouTube implied that he was “part of a conspiracy to destroy Western civilisation from within” and “reasonably suspected of providing financial support to terrorist organisations”.

Those behind the video have apologised for the imputations.

“The Q Society, its board members and Kirralie Smith apologise to Mr El-Mouehly for the hurt caused to him as a result of the publications,” they said in a joint statement to the NSW Supreme Court.

“In light of the above apology Mr El-Mouehly withdraws the comments he made about the Q Society, its board members and Kinalie Smith.”

The apology comes after a two-year legal battle.

Inevitable outcome given the sheer idiocy of the premise of the action.

So this is what I was up to today…

To Sydney for  lunch with M in Chinatown. We just went to a food court where M ate Korean while I had barbecued duck and barbecued pork. Cheap and good.

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And here is this poor old beggar in the train between Central and Redfern on his way back home to The Gong.

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Yes, Junior HP went to Sydney too. And not far away at the time  Australia, Indonesia to restore military ties in wake of talks between Turnbull and Widodo. Not that I saw anything of that.

Time to assert the critical role of media professionals

Today for example the Sydney Morning Herald brings us an important interactive page on the 2003 invasion of Iraq — a must read. Such media voices are now under attack from the most powerful office in the world, and we must all fight back with everything we’ve got.

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Thanks to jollyjack on Deviant Art

Now for some signs of these times. First:

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD—A few minutes into his CPAC speech Friday, esteemed and honest president Donald J. Trump said people were so excited to hear him speak that, “There are lines that go back six blocks. I tell you that because you won’t read about it.”

In a sense, he’s right. You won’t read about it, because they don’t exist…

Second:

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Friday hand selected news outlets to participate in an off-camera “gaggle” with reporters inside his West Wing office instead of the James S Brady Press Briefing Room.

The news outlets blocked from the press briefing include organisations who President Trump has criticised by name. CNN, BBC, The New York Times, LA Times, New York Daily News, BuzzFeed, The Hill, and the Daily Mail, were among the news outlets barred from the gathering.

Instead, the press secretary hand-picked news outlets including Breitbart News, One America News Network, The Washington Times, all news organisations with far-right leanings. Others major outlets approved included ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox News, Reuters and Bloomberg…

Third:

“I can run a little hot on occasions,” he admitted at the conservative freak show known as the CPAC conference. Judging from his rare public outing on Thursday, that would be an unusual example of diplomatic understatement.

Bannon spoke disdainfully and at length about the real threat he identified facing the nation: a critical media that he likes to call “the opposition party”. “They are the corporatist, globalist media that are adamantly opposed to the economic nationalist agenda that Donald Trump has,” Bannon yelled.

Bannon clearly shares Trump’s burning sense of resentment at being excluded from the establishment. For his boss, that reached a peak with the humiliation of President Obama’s jokes at the White House Correspondents Dinner.

For Bannon, now safely inside the West Wing, that means still seeing the world through the lens of the Breitbart website that shocked the media conscience with so much alt-right trash. At one point on Thursday, Bannon even used the phrase “we at Breitbart”, as if there were no real difference between his old job in digital far-right media and his new job as a presidential adviser.

Bannon predicted the media would fight “every day” against the Trump agenda…

Fourth:

Trump used the opening of his remarks to again denounce the media, saying many stories about his administration are “fake news” with stories that rely on anonymous sources. Trump pointed to a Washington Post story this month that cited nine current and former intelligence sources who said Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn discussed US economic sanctions on Russia with that country’s ambassador before Trump took office.

Trump said he didn’t believe there were nine sources. “They make up sources. They are very dishonest people,” Trump said. The Post’s stories helped lead to Flynn’s resignation after further disclosures that he had misled administration officials, including Vice President Pence, over the nature of his conversations.

“We are fighting the fake news,” Trump said. “It’s fake, phony, fake.”

Fifth:

President Trump’s speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference at National Harbor in Maryland was littered with some of the president’s favorite and frequently cited falsehoods. Here’s a roundup of 13 of his more dubious claims, listed in the order in which he made them:

“I saw one story recently where they said, ‘Nine people have confirmed.’ There are no nine people. I don’t believe there was one or two people. Nine people. . . . They make up sources.”

Trump is referring to a Washington Post article that disclosed that then-national security adviser Michael Flynn privately discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with that country’s ambassador to the United States during the month before Trump took office, contrary to public assertions by Trump officials. The Post report prompted a firestorm that led to Flynn’s firing by Trump, because it turned out that Flynn had misled Vice President Pence and other administration officials about whether he had discussed sanctions.

The article cited information provided by “nine current and former officials, who were in senior positions at multiple agencies at the time of the calls.” (Calls by the Russian ambassador are monitored by intelligence agencies.) No White House official has disputed the accuracy of the article — and indeed, it resulted in Flynn’s departure from the administration…

Sixth:

There is reason to be concerned about the integrity of American political and legal institutions as the president and his advisors have thrown them open to question and manipulation. The president seems not to have thought through how these tactics will affect the future political trajectory of the country — a fact that contains stark similarities to the way the leaderships of Egypt and Turkey have leveraged institutions to meet immediate political challenges and, in the process, consolidated the authoritarian nature of their respective political systems.

Finally, with my teaching hat on, from the International Literacy Association:

If we have time to teach our students only one thing this school year, let it be critical literacy! There are few topics more crucial for students today than those that enable them to analyze information critically.

Gone are the days when trusted teacher- and peer-edited textbooks were the main providers of knowledge. So long to a time when most fake news existed at the checkout line in supermarket tabloids. These days, our students are flooded with information, and without the proper skill set for identifying fact from fiction, it will be difficult for them to determine legitimacy. Modern media come in many different formats, including print media (books, magazines, newspapers), television, movies, video games, music, cell phones, various kinds of software, and the Internet. Knowing how to read these media critically is the key to literacy and understanding for today’s learners and information consumers…

One way is to teach students to use the 5W’s for Critical Analysis, recommended by Donald Leu, Deborah Leu, and Julie Coiro in their 2004 book, Teaching With the Internet K–12. They suggest it is helpful for students to ask the following questions while consuming information: Who is saying/writing/creating this? What was their purpose of the particular media that was used? When did they say/write/create? Why did they say/write/create it? Where can we go to check for accuracy?

Tailpiece 10am:

Part of the developing picture.

AUSTRALIA’S best-loved children’s author, Mem Fox, was left sobbing and shaken after being detained for two hours and aggressively interrogated by immigration officials at Los Angeles airport.

Fox says she’s unlikely to ever travel to the United States again after being made to feel like “a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay”.

President Donald Trump had created the climate for this sort of behaviour, she said, adding: “This is what happens when extremists take power.”…

“I am old and white, innocent and educated, and I speak English fluently,” she said. “Imagine what happened to the others in the room, including an old Iranian woman in her 80s, in a wheelchair.

“The way I was treated would have made any decent American shocked to the core, because that’s not America as a whole, it really isn’t. It’s just that people have been given permission to let rip in a fashion that is alarming.”

The irony that the two most popular of her more than 25 books published in the US, Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes and Whoever You Are, are both about diversity, was not lost on her. Nor was the fact that the theme of the conference she was attending was inclusivity and diversity.

Fox has visited the US more than 100 times since 1985, and is widely known there as an author and literacy educator…

Well, the mad uncle is out of the attic now…

That quote from an Australian government minister refers to the latest self-promotion by former but currently disgruntled Prime Minister, Tony Abbott.

Tony Abbott has told Liberal defector Cory Bernardi he hasn’t given up hope of a return to leadership, but would not make a public tilt for Malcolm Turnbull’s job…

Mr Abbott’s supporters are describing the Turnbull government as ‘the Malcolm vanity project’, a reference the former PM alluded to in a speech…

A Liberal minister has told Sky News Mr Abbott has little support in the party room for any challenge.

‘Well, the mad uncle is out of the attic now. But Abbott’s got no support,’ the minister said.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, who was a strong supporter of Mr Abbott throughout his prime ministership, told Sky News he was saddened by his decision to provide ‘more and more destructive’ commentary.

‘He’s not helping our cause, he’s not helping our country, he’s not helping himself, much of what he says is either wrong or inconsistent with what he did,’ Senator Cormann said….

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See also Tony Abbott’s five-point plan for the ‘winnable’ next election will infuriate Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott: Coalition in danger of becoming ‘Labor lite’

FORMER Prime Minister Tony Abbott has penned a highly critical analysis of the Turnbull Government, highlighting voter “despair” and concerns “the Coalition has become Labor lite.”

In a stark manifesto, the leader of the Liberal Party’s Right said the next election was winnable and outlined his own plan that would take the Coalition to victory, from “scaled back immigration”, to scrapping the Human Rights Commission and ending the pandering to climate change theology.

Mr Abbott also acknowledged the disappointment in his own Government and said he could understand why support was surging for One Nation….

Suggesting policy changes, Mr Abbott declared: “The next election is winnable.”

Controversially, he suggested the Government “scrap” the Human Rights Commission and refuse to be an ATM for the states, to allow micro-economic reform in schools and hospitals.

“If we stop pandering to climate change theology and freeze the RET, we can take the pressure off power prices,” he said.

But see also Tony Abbott’s spray against Turnbull Government policies dismissed by senior ministers.

Tony Abbott has certainly guaranteed that I will never support him or his approach, but that is hardly surprising. Take his pandering to the denialists with “we stop pandering to climate change theology.” Goes down well with the house columnists at the Telegraph of course. But such phraseology is so quaint in 2017. I commend Skeptical Science again, explaining climate change science & rebutting global warming misinformation. And here is one for Catholic Tony:

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