Monthly Archives: June 2010

This sort of taser abuse could never happen here

On a day when Victorian police announce they’re commencing trials of tasers in Morwell and Bendigo, comes this story from the US of how the things can be misused by police, as they tase an 86 year old bedridden grandmother:

According to officer Duran’s official report, Mrs Vernon had taken an ‘aggressive posture’ in her hospital bed.

In order to ensure ‘officer safety’, one of his men ‘stepped on her oxygen hose until she began to suffer oxygen deprivation’.

Another of the officers then shot her with a taser, but the connection wasn’t solid.

A second fired his taser, ‘striking her to the left of the midline of her upper chest, and applied high voltage, causing burns to her chest, extreme pain’, and unconsciousness.

Lona was then handcuffed with sufficient ruthlessness to tear the soft flesh of her forearms, causing her to bleed.

Okay, that sounds bad, but you haven’t seen just how intimidating Lona Vernon is in person:

Terrifying: enough to make the bravest police officers reach for their tasers.

I’m sure the Oklahoma police didn’t make the same promises to their community to use the tasers responsibly as our police have to ours, though. It’s completely different here. We’ve got nothing to worry about.

Gillard policy #1: continuing to discriminate against gays and lesbians

So, no progress there:

Labor policy on gay marriage will remain the same under her prime ministership, Ms Gillard told Austereo show this morning.

“We believe the Marriage Act is appropriate in its current form, that is recognising that marriage is between a man and a woman, but we have as a government taken steps to equalise treatment for gay couples,” Ms Gillard said.

Asked if that was also her personal view, Ms Gillard said it was.

Why? For what conceivable reason? Gillard has announced that she doesn’t believe in any religion, so she can’t even defer to “An Ancient Book Told Me That’s What God Says”. So how on Earth does she justify her government treating gay and lesbian people as second-class citizens?

Strike one.

It might be okay for Iceland’s PM, but not for ours. (Gillard realises that she wouldn’t have to get gay married herself, right?)

Seriously, Julia, you could be gone in a few months. Wouldn’t it be nice to have something positive you could look back on and of which you could be proud? Being the first female PM doesn’t actually make anyone’s life better, doesn’t actually mean anything. It’s just a position. But being the first PM who stood up to centuries of bigotry and oppression, who said “we will no longer discriminate against people on the basis of their sexuality” and actually made it so – that would be something for the history books.

Pity you’re not woman enough to do it.

ELSEWHERE: A European Court rules that there’s “no right to gay marriage”, on some spectacularly specious reasoning (essentially, most governments in our region don’t want it yet, so, you know, stiff); and Google attempts to counter discrimination against gay employees by paying them the amount they’re being ripped off by the state.

And Doug Pollard from JoyFM points out what Gillard could’ve done, if she wanted to be cowardly but wasn’t a complete bigot:

When asked if she supported same-s-x marriage on Kyle & Jackie O, she could have said something to the effect that this was presently the party’s policy, and as leader she was bound by party policy, but that she was open to revisiting the issue in the future…

It would not have made any difference to the party’s stance, but it would have held out an olive branch to the GBLTI community, who had been repulsed by Rudd’s constant pandering to extremist religious elements in his own party and the wider electorate.

But instead of embracing the gay vote — which is more than willing to hug a feisty unmarried female PM back — she decided to chuck it away.

Let’s hope those who believe in equality take note of what kind of a PM we now have.

We know how the “soft on crime” crowd filed this in their tiny heads

NineMSN thinks a finding of not guilty by virtue of insanity is an “excuse”:

By this evening they’d thought better of it: maybe an adult had had a word. It’s now just “Man found not guilty”.

(Via Evan.)

ALP to nominate Cath Bowtell in Melbourne

As expected, it looks like the ALP will be preselecting someone from the left of the party in Melbourne – and it looks like they’re going for someone who’s not physically dissimilar to the new Prime Minister, to maximise the association in the minds of voters:

FORMER senior union official Cath Bowtell is the front-runner to become Labor’s candidate for the inner-city seat of Melbourne, following the shock resignation of Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner.

The Age believes Ms Bowtell has the support of key state and federal ministers in Labor’s bid to hold off a Greens challenge.
Cath Bowtell.

Ms Bowtell, WorkSafe Victoria executive director, was instrumental in the ACTU’s campaign against the Howard government’s WorkChoices policy that helped deliver the Kevin Rudd government in 2007.

You can see the campaign now: they’ll make the election about WorkChoices (one of the few issues remaining where they differ from the Coalition), and try to imply that the best way for Melbourne voters to prevent that from happening is vote for Ms Bowtell, campaigner against WorkChoices. They’ll dishonestly imply – or flat-out assert – that a vote for the Greens somehow helps Tony Abbott. And they’ll try to pinch back some of the feminist vote attracted to a female candidate and a female prime minister – even if they’re as conservative on the issues as the rest of that party.

It’s obvious what they’re thinking:

Insiders say Bowtell was in any case the preferred choice, partly because she is highly regarded in Labor circles, but also for what it suggest about the viability of progressive women within modern Labor.

…as opposed to actually representing the concerns of progressive women within Modern Labor.

Cath Bowtell: I can change Labor from the inside! I really can! I know all those other lefties have tried and failed, but I can do it!

Which they won’t do. They won’t change the “politics as usual” approach of the big old parties. They won’t stop pandering to right-wing conservatives like the ACL. They won’t propose more compassionate, rational policy. Ms Bowtell won’t vote any differently in parliament to anyone else in the ALP – she’ll have a voice in caucus, and that’s it. (And we all know how much the ALP listens to “left” voices in caucus.)

As Greens candidate Adam Bandt points out:

”People will look pretty closely where she takes the party on climate change and the treatment of refugees,” Mr Bandt said. ”On both of those questions the signs from Gillard are worrying.”

So politically aware progressives won’t be fooled by the change in salesperson: they’ll be well aware of the ALP’s nasty conservative policies on refugees, climate change (although expect the ALP to muddy the waters by continuing to pretend that the ETS was “better than nothing” and it’s the Greens who killed it), marriage equality and so on. But those who’re only slightly engaged and just want a change from the same old men in Canberra – they’re Labor’s targets.

The question is, how much of its vast campaigning war-chest will Labor unlock to destroy the Greens with their traditional misleading smear campaign instead of fighting the Liberals – even if by doing so they help elect Tony Abbott?

Louisiana wants deepwater drilling to continue; Texas wants to ban oral sex

Two short bits of news out of the US:

  • Judge overturns moratorium on deepwater drilling at behest of the oil companies that have no idea how to fix it if something goes wrong; and

  • Texas Republican Party announces platform to criminalise gay marriage, ban oral and anal sex, outlaw strip clubs and pornography. (Seriously – not just refuse to recognise gay marriage, but send people to jail for it.)

There’s something very rotten in the Deep South.

The test for Gillard

I’m not the only one preparing to judge the new Prime Minister on what she does, rather than who she is or how she got there. Armagnac highlights one critical issue that will tell us all we need to know about Gillard PM:

It’ll be all too tempting for Gillard to extend the farcical suspension of due process for refugees. It’s all too easy to viciously kick the least empowered, when the window-licking hordes want to see them viciously kicked.

But she should know better. Gillard was a lawyer, and should understand just how critical an injustice it is locking people up and denying them due process. As Armagnac puts it:

Suspending due process is like suspending the Racial Discrimination Act for the NT intervention; it speaks for itself on all the wrong levels.

This is the great moral challenge of her time. If she fails it, we can stop with all the hoo-har about her gender, her eloquent advocacy, her toughness… all mere warbling in the background if she shows that she has no basic ethical or moral fibre.

And this, from an ex-Labor man, should really worry them:

I know you can’t deliver me utopia on this unpopular issue, but please don’t sell out any further. You will, seriously, end up sitting to the right of the liberal party. And if you do that, people really will start putting Abbott above you in the preferences.

Have things got so bad in the ALP that they won’t just be indistinguishable from the Liberals on refugees, but even worse? Neither is acceptable for any principled person with a sense of justice (and thank God we’ve got an alternative in the Greens) but… imagine putting the Liberals above Labor. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

UPDATE: You’d think this kind of pronouncement would appeal to someone like me:

Prime Minister Julia Gillard says she has no intention of pretending to believe in God to attract religiously-inclined voters.

It’d impress me a lot more if she announced she was going to stop pandering to the imagined desires of religiously-inclined voters – if she was to bow to reason and cancel the unworkable and dangerous internet filter, and stop discriminating against gay and lesbian Australians. But she hasn’t (going so far as to retain Conroy in the same position in the ministry) and I doubt she will.

Apparently we’re still a couple of decades behind Iceland.

Greens voters going to ALP: um, why?

Well, that’ll make the ALP Right factional bosses happy. In the first Newspoll since they rolled Kevin and installed Julia, they’ve improved their position against the real enemy:

The coalition’s primary vote support is unchanged on 40 per cent, but the Greens’ vote fell back five points to ten per cent.

Remember: the ALP Right hates the Greens, a party that by actually representing progressive voters in parliament would force the ALP to actually try to address our concerns between elections rather than completely ignoring them, as much as – if not more than – they hate Liberals. The above result is exactly, exactly what they wanted. The Green vote rising was making the ALP left (the timid, abused, patronised, maligned ALP left) worried that they couldn’t get away with just calling themselves progressive every election and then voting constantly for the Right’s conservative legislation, and they were starting to stand up to them a little bit, out of desperate self-preservation. The Greens represent the sort of policies that the ALP Right is so accomplished at killing within the ALP – except that on the floor of Parliament, they don’t wield the same power. When they argue with lefties in public, it highlights to progressive voters just how hostile they are to everything we believe: there’s a reason they want lefties “inside the tent” where they can be crushed quietly.

The ALP Right might pretend that the enemy is Tony Abbott, but except for industrial relations, it agrees with them on almost everything else. They can sympathise with the major party’s dilemma: pretending to represent opposing camps simultaneously. Also, they’ve both a strong self-interest in maintaining the present duopoly: something a representative, policy-based party threatens. And a strong alternative for voters undermines the big old parties traditional fall-back appeal: “at least we’re not the other guys”.

As I said, the ALP Right hates the Greens above all.

And, if the poll isn’t an aberration, the factions have succeeded in tricking some progressive voters into thinking that suddenly the ALP has changed. While Gillard flags an intention to lunge to the Right on policy, it appears that some lefty voters believe that she’ll suddenly represent them because – why? Because she was a lefty twenty years ago? Because she’s a straight-talking woman? It certainly can’t be because she’s promised to seriously address any progressive concerns better than Rudd did, because she hasn’t.

It’ll be a true indictment on the Australian electorate if a major party can fix up its electoral woes not be changing its policies, but by merely swapping salespeople. Seriously, who are these people who were going to vote Green who’ve now shifted to Labor? Why? Can they explain what they’re thinking?

Puppy factories not as cute as they sound

The RSPCA is currently running a campaign against “puppy factories”: operating in Australia, treating animals poorly but – presently – subject to little more than incredibly lax regulation. They ask for your help in changing that – both by signing their petition for legislative change, and by buying your next pet from a shelter or the RSPCA.

Polly, from the RSPCA, endorses this flimsy excuse for a weekend cat photo.

My question: in a world when countless puppies and kittens and other animals are put down every day because homes cannot be found for them, why is anyone who cares about animals buying them from a petshop or commercial breeder?

UPDATE: Max, also from the RSPCA, similarly endorses any post which gives him a chance to show off for the camera:

UPDATE #2: I’d raised a question about the Defence “rising sun” campaign which is kind of irrelevant to the puppy factory issue – and was also based on the fact I didn’t know the ANZAC badge was called the “rising sun” – so I’ve removed that note to keep the comment thread on that topic.

What will happen in Melbourne?

The other shock news of yesterday, of course, was Lindsay Tanner’s sudden announcement that he was going to retire. As expressed here on a number of occasions, I’ve not been a fan of Mr Tanner’s – he may well have been moderately “progressive” in the ALP, but he also regularly ran misleading smear campaigns against the Greens based on cynically capitalising on ignorance about how the preference system actually works. He voted, as do all ALP members, for very conservative positions, and to defeat progressive legislation from the Greens (eg the political advertising ban, or marriage equality).

So I can’t honestly say that I lament his passing all that much. (I lamented his descent into dishonesty in order to save his political skin a lot more.)

But it’ll be interesting to see who the ALP puts in his stead to try to recover progressive votes from the Greens in Melbourne. Odds are that the ALP will put up someone very, very left-wing – someone who still believes that the ALP can become progressive if people work at it from the inside. That is of course incredibly naive – the point of the ALP putting up progressive candidates is to gain progressive votes that it can then ignore internally – but some people still think that the two big old parties are immutable fixtures in our political landscape and the only way to achieve anything is to work from within, even though everyone who’s tried that before them has either given up or sold out.

And it’ll be their best chance of winning the seat. With a green-sounding candidate from the party of the first female Prime Minister, against a Liberal leader even more conservative than John Howard and with a campaign that will be designed to confuse voters into thinking that, somehow, contrary to all logic of how preference voting works, if they vote Green they might somehow help Abbott against their will (even though that’s impossible) – they might be in with a shot.

That’s what I suspect will happen. But what do I know? Until yesterday, I thought Julia Gillard was actually a sort of lefty.

A letter to the new Prime Minister

Now’s a good time to send Julia Gillard a personal message – congratulating her, and reminding her of what you’ll be hoping for from her Premiership. (She will definitely be getting these sorts of messages from groups like the ACL.)

This was mine:

Dear Julia

Congratulations on becoming Prime Minister.

I hope that your election by the Labor caucus means that the ALP will now become a stronger voice for humane policies in Canberra.

I hope that, notwithstanding your rhetoric on your first day about “being strong on border security”, you will be ending cruel present Labor policies like refusing to process refugee applications from countries that are so dangerous that our troops are still dying there.

I hope that you will be able to break with your predecessor’s lock-step with Mr Abbott and Jim Wallace’s unrepresentative mob on issues of continuing discrimination such as by finally enacting marriage equality – it is long overdue in this country for gay and lesbian people to have equal rights before the law as the rest of us. (That will be a historic change and something that would cement your place in the history books as a positive, reforming Prime Minister.)

I hope that you will move to cancel Mr Conroy’s fundamentally flawed internet filter plan that not only will be expensive and curtail Australians’ rights (particularly given its incompatibility with our existing classification system), but will – by driving the criminals further underground where they’re harder to catch, and by giving parents a false sense of security – actually put children in danger. (If you care to look you’ll realise that lobby groups for victims of child abuse oppose the filter.)

I hope that you will push for decent health services, particulary in the long and cruelly-neglected area of mental health.

I hope that you will not cave to the big 3 miners and will stand up to their corrupt bullying of parliament, of the rest of the mining industry, of the rest of corporate Australia.

And I hope that you will negotiate meaningfully on climate change, which means treating the Greens as representatives of a progressive left rather than just ignoring them as a threat to the Labor base that must be destroyed. If, as you say, climate change is a real issue to you, negotiate meaningfully with them, as your predecessor refused to do.

I expect that the ALP thinks that your background will be enough to convince progressive voters to vote ALP ahead of the Greens even if you continue the existing conservative ALP policies – or, worse, if you make them even harsher.

Believe me, this will NOT be the case from me. I look forward to voting for (or at least preferencing) a Julia Gillard who represents the principles that put her into politics in the first place – not the Right faction that arranged the numbers yesterday.

Best of luck in your term of office. I hope that the Gillard premiership is one of which all Australians can be proud.

Yours sincerely,

Jeremy Sear.