07 October, 2023

On The Voice

I never tell anyone how I vote. Anyone who has known me for more than a day can probably take an educated guess but I will not say if they are right or wrong because I respect the secret ballot.

Likewise, I will never tell anyone else how I think they should vote. I will share the information I have and offer my perspective on the issues but after that, I encourage you to vote whichever way you want. This is not a euphemism.

This brings us to The Voice Referendum.

It seems to me to be a simple case of

Nothing about us without us.

I think we can all agree it is fundamentally unfair to make laws affecting people without consultation and representation of the people it affects.

Our American friends had a major discussion on this topic around 250 years ago. And while the solution they came up with was a million miles from perfect, I don’t think anyone would deny they were on the right side of history. It was certainly a step in the right direction, which has since been improved upon, albeit not enough.

The question being put at this referendum is:

“A Proposed Law: to alter the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice [to parliament]

Do you approve of this proposed alteration?”

If passed, the new section of the Constitution will be this:

129 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice

In recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Peoples of Australia:

   i        there shall be a body, to be called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice;

   ii       the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice may make representations to the Parliament and the Executive Government of the Commonwealth on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples;

   iii      the Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws with respect to matters relating to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice, including its composition, functions, powers and procedures.

That’s all.

It is not a third chamber of parliament.
It does not have veto power.
It cannot legislate.

It will not take your backyard away or close down your golf course. Some of us are old enough to remember when Native Title was going to take people’s back yards and kick farmers off their land. In the 30 years since then, the only groups who have succeeded in doing this have been mining and energy companies, and they didn’t use Native Title to do it.

 

There are some valid counter-arguments to the Voice:

One is that parliament is there to represent all Australians. By rights, the Voice should be redundant.

However, no matter how well we choose our representatives (and we never do), all they have to go on is their own experience and what they hear from their constituents.

We all laughed when Tony Abbott as prime minister appointed himself as both Minister for Women and Minister for Indigenous Affairs. His response was that there’s no reason why a man should not be able to represent women.

In the abstract, he was right. In a perfect world, any man should be able to understand women and women’s issues enough to represent them. However, we live in this world. I have always considered myself fairly right-on and understanding but it still took me until my mid-40s to realise the fact I will never have to wonder about whether the outfit I choose to wear to the pub might one day be introduced as evidence for the defence. If it took a woke bloke like me half a lifetime to work that out, what hope does a 1950s throwback like Tony Abbott have? Why not just ask a woman?

Likewise, despite my best efforts and intentions, I will never truly understand the Indigenous experience, the connection to the land, the spirituality, the intergenerational trauma. The best I can do is listen to those who know and learn from what they tell me. It’s not much, but it’s a start.


Another counterpoint is that everyone has the right to make representations to parliament through their MPs. Many do already. Multinational corporations do it through spending millions of dollars on lobbyists to get to the front of the queue and make their case directly to government.

So at most, the Voice would give Indigenous communities equal ability to influence government policy as Rio Tinto, News Corp, Price Waterhouse Coopers, or Google.

If that idea scares you, I would politely ask you to reflect on why.

 

It is worth looking again at part ii of the proposed Section 129:

ii   the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice may make representations to the Parliament and the Executive Government of the Commonwealth on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples;

That’s all. The Voice may make representations should it choose to. Nothing more. If it chooses to, the government has to listen. Having listened, it may adjust policy or do exactly what it was planning to before. This is the point made by those who argue the Voice doesn’t go far enough. Plus, part iii gives the Parliament (and therefore the government of the day) the right to choose the makeup of the Voice. To me, this is the most problematic aspect. Both problems can be solved by electing better people.

Then there is the argument that having a Voice divides people by race. If that concerns you, I would direct your attention to sections 25 and 51(xxvi) which have been in place since federation.

25. Provisions as to races disqualified from voting

For the purposes of the last section, if by the law of any State all persons of any race are disqualified from voting at elections for the more numerous House of the Parliament of the State, then, in reckoning the number of the people of the State or of the Commonwealth, persons of that race resident in that State shall not be counted.

51. Legislative powers of the Parliament

The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to:

(xxvi) the people of any race, other than the aboriginal race in any State,
[underlined wording added in 1967] for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws;

I have yet to see anyone who claims the Voice is racist have any disagreement with, or even awareness of, these two sections. If they want them repealed, fair enough. If not, why not?

 

These are the issues as I see them. If you still don’t know, find out. This screen you’re looking at right now is the greatest source of information since the printing press. Use it. Talk to the people it affects. Ask them questions and listen to their answers.

Then, vote your conscience. 

 

 

15 September, 2023

Hunter Biden Indicted

 The most delicious thing about the indictment of Hunter Biden this week is the fact it’s under a law which the very people who have wanted him indicted for no other reason than being Joe Biden’s son, believe to be unconstitutional. 


His right to keep and bear arms is being infringed. And rightly so too! I don’t want drug addicts getting guns, do you?


While the MAGA cult is dancing in the virtual streets over this, I don’t think it’s the home run for them they think it is. 


Having found nothing even vaguely impeachable in Joe Biden’s character, they went after his, shall we say, “troubled” son. They accused him of everything from peddling influence and taking bribes to international espionage. And what did they finally get him on? GUN CONTROL! It’s perfect!


Now don’t get me wrong, if Hunter Biden lied in order to illegally obtain a firearm then he should absolutely be prosecuted and, if found guilty, punished appropriately. Do it tomorrow!


And if this is what it takes to make the lunar right understand that gun control is important, then that’s great! It’s sure as hell better than another dozen dead school kids, which we already know isn’t going isn’t going to change their minds anyway. 


If the MAGA nuts are willing to flip on their professed principles for the sake of scoring a political hit, as they always do, and support the enacting and enforcement of common sense gun control laws, then thank you Hunter Biden. Thank you for your service, however unintentional and dim witted it may have been. 

09 July, 2023

It’s the spectrum which has shifted

I’ve said for many years that it’s not just the right wing which has slid further to the right, the entire political spectrum has shifted significantly to the right over the last 30 years.

There is ample evidence of this. The fact that anyone can be taken seriously when describing the most token progressive policies of the Biden administration or the Albanese government as not only ‘left wing’ but even ‘socialist’ or ‘communist’ proves the words have lost all meaning.

My favourite metric is former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser. Fraser went from being considered a right wing ogre (or titan, depending on your point of view) in the mid-70s, to being viewed as a bleeding-heart leftie by his own party at the time of his death in 2015. This happened without Fraser ever significantly changing his values or views. It’s just that at the time of his leadership, treating refugees like human beings had bipartisan support.

In the US, Ronald Reagan is treated as a deity of the Republican Party but even Reagan would be too liberal for today’s Republican Party – and Reagan was in no way liberal. Hell, even today’s Democratic Party would think twice, and they had the best Republican candidate of the 21st century in Hillary Clinton. Don’t believe me? She loves Wall St money, she’s never seen a war she didn’t want to join, she campaigned on a platform on manifest destiny, she’s crap with technology… Hillary Clinton is a Republican!

Let’s be absolutely clear about one thing: Mark Zuckerberg is still the socially inept moral vacuum he has always been.

And this brings us to the launch of Threads, Mark Zuckerberg’s Twitter clone, this week.

There have been numerous Twitter copies, most of which were launched well before Elon Musk’s takeover but they all got quite a boost afterwards. All of them have been fairly forgettable in their own ways. The bulk of them were set up as safe spaces for the hard right, including Parler, Gab, GETTR and Trump’s Truth Social. Others such as Mastodon have no particular agenda beyond freedom from tech giants, and it’s this Fediverse model that both Jack Dorsey’s BlueSky and Zuckerberg’s Threads are based on. 

The problem with all of them is that non-famous social media users have to rebuild their networks from scratch. Zuckerberg’s masterstroke has been in tying Threads to Instagram, which still has youth appeal, instead of Facebook which, let’s be honest, is social media for your mum. Threads does not yet have all the functionality of Twitter but it surely will by the end of the year.

Musk’s destruction of Twitter has been so complete, you would almost think it was deliberate if not for the fact that Musk is not nearly as smart as he or his fanbois think he is.

Virtually every feature of Twitter, which are now considered basic functions, was added in response to how people actually wanted to use the service. It started out as simply a method of sending an SMS to the public. @-replies, hashtags, retweets, photos, videos, quote tweets and threading were all started by Twitter users. The platform responded by making them functional, and killed off third-party services like TwitPic and TwitLonger.

Musk’s biggest mistake in his management of Twitter hasn’t even been letting trolls and misinformation back on the platform in the name of a disingenuous interpretation of free speech. His biggest mistake has been in trying to mandate how members use the service. Every successful website evolves and adapts to its users’ interests. That’s why clickable hashtags have spread to every social media service (except Threads, for now) and you no longer get interminable Farmville requests on Facebook. Musk, like the bore who thinks he knows how to run the education system because he went to school, expects everyone to use Twitter the way he wants to use it.

And that brings us back to the shift of spectrum.

All the trolls and MAGA nuts who worship Musk for taking a hands-off approach to bigotry and misinformation (but an iron-fist approach to criticising him or linking to competing websites) are now acting like Zuckerberg’s Threads is going to take all the remaining sensible people away from Twitter to have their data sucked away by Big Tech.

They seem to have forgotten it was Zuckerberg and Facebook who aided and abetted foreign actors to interfere in the 2016 US Presidential election by spreading [checks notes] misinformation to help their other hero Donald Trump take the White House. Now somehow Zuckerberg has joined the “woke mob.”

Let’s be absolutely clear about one thing: Mark Zuckerberg is still the socially inept moral vacuum he has always been. It’s just that even he can read the room better than Elon Musk. And the market too. There’s no profit in incels thinking you’re cool.

Angry Aussie said it best here:

There is also the valid concern over all the spyware attached to Facebook/Meta’s services. Twitter has less and Mastodon currently has none, but Tik Tok. But if personal privacy is important to you, what are you doing on social media at all? Facebook’s advertising algorithm currently thinks I’m interested in curvy girl sportswear, diva cups, and Goop-esque crystal spoons, so I’m not too bothered that they know too much about me. As for the ads for guitars and sound equipment? Bring it on!

Musk’s biggest shift on Twitter has been to move it away from what the users want to what he would like it to be. In doing do, he has done Zuckerberg a massive favour. It has dragged Zuckerberg away from the metaverse nonsense he’s been obsessed with recently (which was turning him into a joke) and back to giving the people what they want – a microblogging platform which is free to use, you don’t have to rebuild your networks from scratch, you don’t have to wait months for an invitation, and maybe even fewer fascists.

So, I guess, Thanks Elon?


   
 




09 March, 2023

A difference of opinion

Does pineapple belong on a pizza?

That’s a difference of opinion.

But if you try to tell me the attack on the US Capitol of January 6th, 2021 was simply a peaceful protest which was reported misleadingly by the emessem, that is not a difference of opinion. That is to deny objective truth.

If you think Tucker Carlson’s bowdlerised recut of footage released exclusively to him by a new House Speaker who has already proven he cares more about his personal ambition than the good of both his country and his party, is just a different point of view, then your opinion is worthless.

Carlson himself has been outed by subpoenaed text messages as someone who would rather lie to his audience than lose that audience to even bigger psychopaths. Those of us who understand that objective truth is still a real thing knew this long ago but it’s something else to have it confirmed by the horse’s ass’s mouth. Even liars can tell the truth sometimes, but nobody should ever believe them without confirming sources.

There is an old adage that if one side says it’s raining and another side says it’s sunny, it’s not journalism’s role to report both statements equally; it’s journalisms role to open a bloody window and see who’s lying.

You can blather on about the hidden agenda of CNN, or The New York Times, or any outlet whose name doesn’t have an X at the end all you like. But if you choose to believe the one voice claiming it’s sunny outside, then why are you still dripping wet?

If you think pineapple is a valid pizza topping, then I respect your opinion. If you don’t, that’s okay too. We can all get along.

If you tell me the events at the US Capitol on January 6th, 2021 were anything less than a coup attempt, egged on by the outgoing president himself, that is not a valid opinion. I am going to tell you you’re wrong and I’m going to tell you why.


This was not a peaceful protest

Your mileage may vary



28 February, 2023

True confessions of Generation X

They say that in all the generation wars (which are phoney anyway) Generation X (1965 to 1980) are the forgotten generation.

And that’s the way it ought to be.

We were the ones who were supposed to bring in a kinder, more caring community. But five minutes in, most of us got disillusioned and gave up. And despite all our rage, we’re still just a rat in a cage.

Meanwhile, a lot of the conservatives we like to dismiss as boomers yearning for the past are in fact, Generation X.

Scott Morrison was born in 1968.
Peter Dutton, 1970.
Liz Truss, 1975.
Ron DeSantis, 1978. That’s right, the guy who is taking the Florida education system back to the 19th century isn’t even 45 yet!
Rishi Sunak, right on the cusp having been born in 1980. 

You could accuse me of cherry-picking the worst examples but who else do we have, Liam Gallagher?

It wasn’t supposed to be this way, but these were the go-getters of our generation and we let it happen. This is on us. WB Yeats could have been thinking about Gen-X when he wrote The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.

I don’t hate boomers. I don’t hate millennials. I hate Generation X.

… which is about the most Gen-X thing you can do.

  

 

30 December, 2022

I read 12 Rules for Life


 …and I didn’t completely hate it. Until I did.

Each year, I try to read a book which has been widely discussed as being terrible, so as to have an independent opinion on it. This year’s selection was Dr Jordan B Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life, subtitled ‘An Antidote to Chaos.’

In the introduction, sorry, “overture,” 🙄 he explains how the book grew out of Quora contributions. This makes perfect sense. There’s nothing particularly wrong with the “rules” as they exist in chapter headings. It would probably have made a pretty good long-form listicle but instead, he had a book deal and 400 pages to fill. This means that in describing, explaining and justifying each “rule,” he goes off on bizarre tangents which can end up turning what started out as reasonable suggestions into very, very bad advice.

As mentioned, I did not hate this book straight away. Up until about half way through, I was willing to give Dr Peterson the benefit of the doubt that like, say, Morrissey or Glenn Greenwald, he had started out reasonable (if challenging) and then become so addicted to his own iconoclasm as to lose all perspective.

Yeah, nah.

Dr Peterson’s rambling justifications for his rules boil down into three categories: psychological, evolutionary, and Biblical. In fact, as a psychologist, he makes a fascinating Biblical scholar. I say that in all sincerity. It’s in his interpretation of evolution that he really starts to come a cropper. He dances dangerously close to eugenics but despite this, maintains deep sympathy for men who find themselves at the unfortunate end of natural selection. It’s easy to see why he is the intellectual of choice for young men who want to blame women for denying them sexual gratification.

So let’s address the misogyny directly. It’s clear that Dr Peterson is deeply enamoured of what some might call “traditional values,” particularly when it comes to gender roles, and defines “chaos” as anything which doesn’t conform to these narrow definitions. As such, he delves deep into the animal world for examples of gender inequality. These examples are undeniable of course, except for the fact that humans, while also products of evolution, are not animals. We have evolved to a point where animal behaviour like eating one’s own vomit, procreating in public, and infanticide are now frowned upon. I’m sure Dr Peterson would not advocate for any of those things. We have also reached a point where we can control our own development, meaning if anyone should wish to do a job traditionally delegated to the other gender, they can, and why shouldn’t they?

This is a book written by a man, about men, for men. In Dr Peterson’s view, it’s man’s world. Women just live in it and men tragically have to live with them. At one point he denies the patriarchy exists because a man invented tampons. In the next chapter he says the patriarchy absolutely exists and that’s just the natural order of things.

And this is the point where he falls into the perennial trap of using his qualification to justify what are little more than feelpinions. In defining order as masculine and chaos as feminine, he makes the assumption that his experiences are more valid than anyone else’s for no other reason than that he has experienced them or indeed, is capable of experiencing it. It’s as ridiculous as a woman saying a knee to the groin doesn’t really hurt on the grounds that she doesn’t find it too painful so the rest must all be male drama. There is a good reason no woman has ever said this.

Throughout the book, Peterson reiterates what a big fan he is of Freud. It’s ironic that not since Freud has anyone inadvertently revealed so much about himself while professing to speak about others.

It’s not to say that there aren’t nuggets of wisdom in here. To set your house in perfect order before you criticise the world is undoubtedly good advice. I look forward to a time when Dr Peterson takes it.
   
 

27 December, 2021

Review: The Case for Courage

Alright, I know Kevin Rudd is problematic. He’s the policy wonk who got ideas above his station in a way that even ending a decade of regressive Liberal government wasn’t enough to make up for. He was torn down by his supporters and then, as if to justify their action, did everything he could to destroy those who tore him down, even if it meant destroying his legacy at the same time.

We can only wonder how much better off we would be if Rudd had been the policy brains behind Julia Gillard’s political nous, but here we are. As he points out in this pamphlet though, first you have to win elections, and the fact remains Rudd is the only Labor leader to ever win a majority in the last quarter century. At some point, we have to face up to that fact and the reasons behind it.

So yes, Rudd is problematic but for all that, everyone should read this. It is effectively an alternative manifesto for the ALP and it’s one they should take very seriously. It contains many ideas both rusted-on Labor-right and the progressive left will find, well, courageous, but it’s hard to fault any of them. In fact, if Paul Keating had written this very document – as he well could have – all the Gen X Labor fanbois would be all over it, and rightly so.

There are plenty of potential Gotcha! moments. He calls out the bully boy tactics of the Murdoch media and proposes standing up to them in a way he completely neglected to do when in government. He returns to a pragmatically compassionate refugee intake – the one he threw out the window in 2013 for a chance at leading Labor to a third term. There is also no small amount of score-settling and told-you-so moments, from the early stimulus of the GFC to the NBN, and the truth is, he’s perfectly justified in doing so.

The contradictions are there for all to see but I encourage you to look beyond the chance to shout Aha! and judge the policies and tactics on their merits. Although it’s personal, not official, this is the most mature and forward-thinking policy document I’ve read since, well, since Kevin07.