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Saturday, February 4, 2017

Trump's Gag Order banning abortion will increase abortion & kill more women

Trump's Gag Order banning abortion will increase abortion & kill more women


One of Donald Trump's first proclamations as President was to issue an Executive Order banning American funds being paid to organisations that either perform abortion or give advice on abortions. This essentially applies to any family planning centre and will particularly hit hard those Non-Government Organisations in developing countries. This is affectionately known as the 'Gag Order' or 'Mexico City Policy'. In other words, NGOs are banned from mentioning the 'a' word ... abortion.

There is empirical evidence that shows that the restriction on NGOs increases the number of abortions because the Gag Order means contraception and family planning advice isn't provided, resulting in unwanted pregnancies and unsafe terminations(1).

Trump's Gag Order is not new. Every Republican President going back to Reagan, has implemented it and every Democrat President since then has lifted it. This means there is plenty of evidence available to see its impact globally.

Those who are celebrating the Gag Order thinking it has just saved millions of lives, have not only condemned millions more foetuses to an unsafe abortion, but also put the lives of thousands women at risk. Not only will there be an increase in the number of abortions, there will be an increase in the number of deaths of women who undertake abortion.

One of the many lies that were told by Trump during the election campaign was that Hillary Clinton was in favour of late-term abortions. The gullible 'pro-lifers' ran with this and started sharing their own lies about it. In one of the debates, Trump stated that 'you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month on the final day'. What Trump and his loyal band of unquestioning pro-lifers didn't seem to get was that the word for this is birth ... by Caesarian Section(2). No-one aborts a baby on the ninth month on the final day.

As for actual late-term abortions and so-called partial-birth abortions, these are only done to protect the life of the mother or if the life of the foetus is unviable. Late term abortions are not done out of convenience. They are extremely rare and only performed to save the life of the mother or when the foetus cannot possibly survive. Perfect foetuses, or those with minor abnormalities are not terminated during the later term of the pregnancy(3).

Trump's abortion decree is an abortion of a policy that will kill more people than it claims to save.

Strict abortion laws do not stop abortions. For instance, the World Health Organisation published a report showing that the abortion rate is 29 in 1,000 people in Africa and 32 per 1,000 in Latin America. Both these areas have strict abortion laws. Whereas in Western Europe, the rate is 12 per 1,000, even though abortion is legal. Those countries with strict abortion laws, tend to find an increase in unsafe abortions. Restrictive abortion laws have little effect on abortion rates, only on the method and safety of abortions(4). There are likely at least two reasons why abortion rates are lower in Western Europe: better access to contraception and less poverty.

In America, when abortion was legal, the death rate of women was 0.6 per 100,000 procedures. In nations where there is a higher incidence of unsafe abortions, the death rate is 220 per 100,000, effectively 350 times higher. The WHO's report identifies that unintended pregnancy is a big cause of abortions and that one of the most effective ways to reduce this is to fund appropriate contraception programs.

A comprehensive study by Stanford researchers in 2011, examined abortion rates in 20 African countries from 1994 to 2008, covering 260,000 women. During the first seven years, Democrat Bill Clinton was President and had lifted the Gag Order that his Republican predecessor had implemented, while the last seven years were under Republican George W. Bush who reinstated the Gag Order. Abortion rates under Clinton were 10.4 per 10,000, while under George W. Bush the abortion rate rose by almost 40%, to 14.5 per 10,000(5).

Impact of Gag Order (Mexico City Policy) when implemented in 2001(5)


Part of the reason for the increase in abortions was that the Gag Order impacted on contraception, resulting in more unwanted pregnancy. One NGO, Marie Stopes International estimates that a cut just in their funding alone would result in 6.5 million extra unwanted pregnancies, 2.2 million more abortions and the deaths of 21,700 women over the next four years of the Trump administration(6).

One argument that pro-lifers will use for banning abortion is the emotional impact it has on women. Yet a study conducted by the Bixby Center for Global Research and published by the academic journal PLOS ONE, indicates that 95% of women who have abortions do not regret it. In fact, anti-abortion protesters who picket abortion clinics, tend to cause more emotional distress than having the abortion, with 16% of women reporting that they were upset by the protesters. However, within a week of having an abortion, women who experienced protesters reported no more distress than those who hadn't experienced protesters and did not regret their decision. In others words, the protests make no difference(7).

While banning abortion may appeal to Conservative Christians, it is a very simplistic approach to a complex problem. It's simplicity and lack of fore-thought makes it more dangerous than legal abortions.




It was significant that the signing of Trump's Executive Order on abortion was done so in the presence of a cabal of men. Not one woman was present.

Trump has stated that he wants women punished if they have an abortion(8). His Executive Order will do exactly that by driving abortion underground(9). Rather than stop abortion, it will bring back the coat-hanger - the stereotypical tool of trade for backyard abortions. Under the Gag Order, backyard abortions will be a booming industry for two reasons. Banning funding of NGOs who provide or advise on abortion, will reduce the access that women in developing countries have to contraception, increasing the likelihood of unwanted pregnancies and meaning more women will seek out abortion. Without having access to safe and medical abortion, many will try other methods that not only kill the foetus but significantly increase the risk of women dying in the process. In some cases, backyard abortions fail, often leaving the foetus alive but severely damaged so when born, the baby is suffering from significant injuries and will live life with severe disabilities.

Abortion is not a simple procedure, even when undertaken through a medical clinic. Every effort must be made to ensure that those who seek it, have access to the best possible care.

Signing the Executive Order banning the funding of NGOs who provide or advise on abortion


Furthering Trump's desire to punish women for abortion, Arkansas has just passed a law that lets rapists sue to stop their victims from having an abortion. Dilation and Evacuation (D&E) abortions will be banned and for those who do have one, there is the risk of a $10,000 fine or six years in prison(10).

Banning abortion doesn't stop abortion, it drives it underground.

Many women who want or need an abortion will find other, more dangerous methods to abort an unwanted pregnancy.

Restrictive laws do not stop women from having abortions(11)



The Republican Gag Orders do not reduce abortion(12). Previously, the Gag Orders have resulted in the closure of clinics, a reduction in contraception and an increase in unsafe abortions(13). If Trump and the pro-life lobby are truly concerned about reducing abortion, they would ensure there is adequate poverty-reduction measures in place and access to contraception. For instance, this could come in the form of foreign aid. Of course, the problem with this is that the right-wing tends to be opposed to foreign aid and look at ways to reduce it.

Domestically, poverty and financial stress, could be reduced through raising the minimum wage, but again most right-wingers oppose any increase in the minimum wage. What about job security and providing people with a realistic number of hours per week instead of putting them on casually for a couple of hours. The payment of a living wage would go a long way to reducing the number of abortions.




Bannning abortion does not stop abortions, it will only result in women seeking illegal and unsafe abortions which will increase their likelihood of dying.

40% of women who experience complications during unsafe abortions, do not receive medical care. It is estimated that the annual global cost of unsafe abortions is $232 million, and if all women who experienced complications were to receive medical treatment, the cost would be $562 million(4).

The primary driver of abortion is poverty or financial pressures(4). Access to adequate contraception is also a significant cause. To reduce abortion, we need to address these drivers.

If the 'pro-lifers' genuinely care about life, then they will address the issues that cause women to seek abortion, namely poverty and war. Financial stress such as that caused by costs of health care can be alleviated through a working health care system. Pro-lifers who opposed Obamacare are contributing to abortion levels, not reducing them. Similarly, pro-lifers who oppose a living wage or an increase to the minimum wage, are contributing to the abortion levels. Pro-lifers who support wars such as the US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, have contributed to abortion levels. Pro-lifes who oppose the resettlement of refugees in western countries, such as in Europe, the US or Australia are also contributing to abortion levels. Pro-lifers who support Trump's ban on funding NGOs who provide advice on abortion are contributing to abortion levels and an increase in mortality rates of women who have abortions. Pro-lifers who oppose Foreign Aid are contributing to abortions globally. Pro-lifers concern for foetuses ends at birth. If they wish to truly stop abortions, then they must take a far greater concern for the welfare of people globally, this can only be done through sharing wealth and knowledge, yet Conservatives will scream that wealth redistribution and publicly funded health programs are a Communist plot.

Catholic nun, Sister Joan Chittister nailed the hypocrisy of those who claim to be pro-life but then oppose measures to reduce the causes of abortion:

'I do not believe that just because you're opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don't? Because you don't want any tax money to go there. That's not pro-life. That's pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is'.

Many pro-lifers think that all they need to do is oppose the legalisation of abortion; that this is all that's needed. But as shown above, the law is not the solution. Ending poverty, providing free or affordable health care, providing employment and living wages, delivery social justice: these are things that will reduce the number of abortions across the globe.

Following Trump's inauguration, more than one million people attended rallies across the world, protesting Trump's position on abortion, refugees, Islam, racism and of course his own misogyny and sexism. This sign at one of the rallies showing a coat-hanger and the comment 'Never Again' encapsulates the reason all people who value life should oppose Trump's Gag Order on abortion(14):



As distasteful as abortion may be to many people, it would be safer to legalise abortion so that women have access to safe and affordable medical terminations than to seek out unsafe back-yard abortions.

Some may claim abortion is murder, but as Gandhi stated:

Poverty is the worst form of violence.


References


1. The Atlantic, Anna Diamond, 'Trump Strikes at Abortion With a Revived Foreign-Aid Rule', 23 January 2017, https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2017/01/mexico-city-policy/514010/. Accessed 4 February 2017.

2. Forbes, Tara Haelle, 'No, Late-Term Abortions Don't 'Rip' Babies Out of Wombs -- And They Exist For a Reason', 20 October 2016, http://www.forbes.com/sites/tarahaelle/2016/10/20/no-late-term-abortions-dont-rip-babies-out-of-wombs-but-they-are-needed/#4031e85b1bc4. Accessed 4 February 2017.

3. The Huffington Post, Dr Jennifer Gunter, 'Terms And Partial Birth Abortions: The Mythical Arch-Nemeses Of the Anti-Choice Movement', 23 October 2016, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/term-and-partial-birth-abortions-the-mythical-arch-nemeses-of-the-anti-choice-movement_us_580d4427e4b02444efa3f33a. Accessed 4 February 2017.

4. 14. World Health Organisation, Guttmacher Institute, 'Facts on induced abortions worldwide', January 2012, http://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/unsafe_abortion/abortion_facts/en/ and https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/induced-abortion-worldwide. Accessed 4 February 2017.

5. World Health Organization, Eran Bendavid, Patrick Avila, Grant Miller, 'United States aid policy and induced abortion in sub-Saharan Africa', 27 September 2011, http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/89/12/11-091660/en/. Accessed 4 February 2017.

6. The Huffington Post, Anna Almendrala, 'Trump Blocked Global Abortion Funds, So the Dutch Government Is Stepping In', 26 January 2017, http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/entry/netherlands-global-gag-rule-abortion_us_58890a2fe4b0024605fd7844. Accessed 4 February 2017.

7. UCSF's Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health, Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH), Diana Green Foster, Katrina Kimport, Heather Gould, Sarah C.M. Roberts, Tracy A. Weitz, 'Effect of abortion protesters on women's emotional response to abortion', 6 September 2012, http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0128832#sec013. Accessed 4 February 2017.

8. The Guardian, Lucia Graves, 'Trump once said women should be punished for abortion. Now he's making it happen', 24 January 2107, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/24/trump-once-said-women-should-be-punished-for-abortion-t. Accessed 4 February 2017.

9. The American Prospect, Nathalie Baptiste, 'This is What Happens When Abortion is Outlawed', 17 June 2015, http://prospect.org/article/what-happens-when-abortion-outlawed. Accessed 4 February 2017.

10. Independent, Charlotte England, 'Arkansas Passes law allowing rapists sue victims who want an abortion', 4 February 2017, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/arkansas-abortion-law-that-will-let-rapists-sue-victims-husbands-second-trimester-a7561066.html. Accessed 4 February 2017.

11. Guttmacher Institute, 'Restrictive laws do not stop women from having abortions',  https://www.guttmacher.org/infographic/2016/restrictive-laws-do-not-stop-women-having-abortions. Accessed 4 February 2017.

12. Guttmacher Institute, Susan A. Cohen, 'U.S. Overseas Family Planning Program, Perennial Victim Of Abortion Politics, Is Once Again Under Seige', 8 November 2011, https://www.guttmacher.org/gpr/2011/11/us-overseas-family-planning-program-perennial-victim-abortion-politics-once-again-under. Accessed 4 February 2017.

13. Guttmacher Institute, Sneha Barot, Susan A. Cohen, 'The Global Gag Rule and Fights Over Funding UNFPA: The Issues That Won't Go Away', 3 June 2015, https://www.guttmacher.org/gpr/2015/06/global-gag-rule-and-fights-over-funding-unfpa-issues-wont-go-away. Accessed 4 February 2017.

14. The Pueblo Chieftain, Nancy Benac and Ben Nuckols, Associated Press, 'Over 1 million join anti-Trump women's marches worldwide', 21 January 2017, http://www.chieftain.com/news/top/5563925-120/trump-washington-women-america. Accessed 4 February 2017.











Thursday, January 26, 2017

Australia Day - Changing the date will achieve nothing if nothing changes for indigenous people

Australia Day - Changing the date will achieve nothing if nothing changes for indigenous people



For many indigenous people, 26 January is seen as Invasion Day. It is the date the First Fleet landed in Botany Bay and has come to symbolise the massacres, displacement and human rights abuses of indigenous people that followed and which continues to this day.

As a result, there is a push to have Australia Day celebrated on a more appropriate date.

26 January is the anniversary of an invasion and of the establishment of a British colony, it isn't the anniversary of the establishment of Australia. That would be 1 January 1901. However, as that is already a public holiday, Aussies would lose their collective gum-nuts if New Year's Day was coupled with Aussie Day.

To compound the indignity of 26 January, it has been hijacked by white nationalists. It is the day when racists come out of the woodwork, flying and wearing Australian flags and demanding that non-white's, those from different cultural backgrounds, turn their back on their cultures and morph into some ill-defined Australian 'culture'. Whatever that may be.

Prime Racist Pauline Hanson, has long been bagging out multiculturalism, claiming it has failed. What her and the far-right forget is that Australia was built by multiple cultures, including our own first peoples, and then migrants from numerous lands, such as Asia, Middle East, Europe, the South Pacific. And of course, they were of various religions, including Islam, the religion that the bigots love to hate.

Australian culture is a potpourri of everyone else's culture, so it's a tad rude to expect people to forget those cultures.

26 January has been seen as a Day of Mourning almost as long as it's been acknowledged as Australia Day. It wasn't until 1935, that all states and territories agreed on 26 January being Australia Day. In 1938, at the 150th anniversary of the First Fleet landing, aboriginal leaders met in Sydney for a Day of Mourning and Protest. As a national holiday, Australia Day is still relatively young. It was only in 1994, that all states began holding public holidays on the same day(1).

Australian Aborigines Conference - Sesquicentenary Day of Mourning and Protest(1)


However, will changing the date of Australia Day from 26 Januaray really be anything more than a symbolic gesture? Sort of like former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's apology to the Stolen Generations. While it was a good thing and long overdue, in the end it wasn't followed up with any other action. Yes, it acknowledged that generations of indigenous people had been stolen from their parents, which is important for those most affected by it, but in the end was it more about white people assuaging their guilt, feeling warm and fuzzy, and feeling that was all they needed to do. It wasn't followed up with any effective action to combat indigenous issues.

Changing the date of Australia Day will not change the jingoism, the racism, the ignorance that is prevalent throughout white Australia. One only has to look at the uproar and the threats from the ultra-right wing over a billboard in Melbourne showing two young Muslim girls in hijabs celebrating Australia Day. Talk about hypocrites. On one hand, the bigots bang on about Muslims having to embrace Australia and to love the nation, but when they do the same bigots get upset. The billboard was taken down as a result of this uproar. After all, we can't upset the delicate feelings of the ultra-right who take offence at anything that doesn't fit with their extremely myopic view.

Thankfully, thousands of Aussies realised this was unacceptable and a crowd-funding campaign raised more than $160,000 to put the ads back up on billboards around the country. This was a great kick in the guts of the bigots. There was an argument put forward by some on the left that while the crowd-funding was well-meaning, it just reinforced the denial of the genocide and displacement of indigenous people. This has merit, but is conflating two very important issues. Of course we shouldn't ignore the significance of 26 January as the anniversary of the invasion and subsequent brutality against indigenous people. But we also shouldn't tolerate intolerance against modern Australians. Australia Day, whether the date is moved or not, will continue to be a celebration of Australia as a nation, and as such the message needed to be sent to the white nationalists that modern Australia is a land that welcomes and is replete with people from all sorts of religions and cultures.

Following the crowd-funding campaign, billboards were put up and not surprisingly, the bigots went off their collective nuts. Once such billboard was at the Canberra Theatre, which received threats of violence and bombing(2).

Patriotism has become synonymous with racism and exclusivity, and disturbingly, this has permeated society to the point that it has become normalised. Criticising racism often results in accusations of being 'unAustralian'.

And then there was the uproar over the Meat and Livestock Association's annual advertisement for lamb. The 2017 ad drew criticism on a number of fronts, not least of which was that it failed to mention Australia Day. Some years ago the MLA decided to hijack Australia Day in order to promote lamb as the traditional food of Aussies on Aussie Day. There has never been an official food for Australia Day. This was purely a capitalist campaign at making money through sales of lamb. Nothing more. It has nothing to do with patriotism, yet the bigots condemned the MLA for being unAustralian because their adverisement didn't mention Australia Day.

The ad started out with aborigines having a barbeque on the beach and then boats arriving from all over the world with stereotypes of migrants. The ad ended with the comment, 'aren't we all boat people'. While it's not the greatest ad, the message it was trying to send is important; that Australia is a culturally diverse nation, and importantly, that refugees should not be demonised as we are all boat people. Some may feel it belittles the suffering of indigenous people or reinforces cultural stereotypes, but in the end it was a great message ... and an important one ... about tolerance, inclusion, understanding and acceptance.

Moving Australia Day will mean nothing if we don't challenge the ignorance and the intolerance that underpins it. Instead of fomenting racism and using it for political gain as Tony Abbott, Cory Bernardi, George Christensen and their ilk do, both the Liberal Party and the Labor Party must do their best to expose the ignorance behind racism. Additionally, it is up to Australians generally to dispute the racist garbage that bigots spout and the right wing media often publishes.

If Australia Day is moved it is likely that the intolerant will say that the do-gooders got what we wanted and then expect us to shut up and move on, accusing us of never being happy. Will moving Australia Day affect the dialogue around the invasion, the genocide, the stolen generations, the ongoing abuse and marginalisation that indigenous people experience to this day?

Moving Australia Day will not change the fact that white settlement was a racist invasion.

But hey, this is just a 'black arm-band' view of history isn't it?

A black arm-band is a better than a white blind-fold.

The so-called 'black arm-band' history is at least truthful and ensures that history is not forgotten. It also means that we can understand the causes of today's inequality and abuse of indigenous people and take effective action to counter the inequality and abuse.

26 January is a divisive date. On the one hand, there are those who will celebrate Australia as a nation, as a land of freedom and opportunity. Some of the people will be bigots, but many are ordinary Aussies who are proud of their nation and grateful they don't live in a country that persecutes them. For that matter, many of the people celebrating Australia Day are migrants or refugees who truly do love this nation. On the other hand, there are those who commemorate 26 January as Invasion Day. Many will march at Invasion Day rallies around the country, ensuring that the suffering of indigenous people is not forgotten and calling for real action to combat the poverty, prejudice, inequality, to remember the stolen generation and the deaths in custody, to challenge the white blindfold view of history and ensure the heroism of the indigenous warriors in the Frontier Wars is remembered.

While 26 January is an offensive date on which to celebrate being Australian, will the protests against it stop if it is celebrated on another day? Will those of us who see 26 January as Invasion Day, then join in the celebrations on another day? Perhaps.

There is a lot to celebrate about Australia. We are a wealthy, peaceful nation, largely free to live out our lives and achieve our goals.  If we can ensure the wealth is sustained and shared, we have the ability to do a lot of good for people domestically and internationally. We can knock down barriers of intolerance and build a nation of harmony, regardless of the many cultures and religions that are represented here. Australia is supposed to be the land of the 'Fair Go', then everyone should be treated fairly, not forced to become clones of a myopic few who fail to recognise or understand the history of Australia.

If Australia Day is moved to another date, then celebrate Australia's diversity and beauty. However, 26 January should become a national day commemorating the invasion. There are few cenotaphs that memorialise the frontier wars, so this would be a time to remember and pay respects to the indigenous people who suffered and died in the defence of their lands.

The holiest day on the Australian calendar is Anzac Day, in which the country is awash with cenotaphs thronged by people paying their respects to those who fought and died for Australia, largely in foreign wars. Yet when in 1988 an aboriginal man laid a wreath on Anzac Day in Sydney to commemorate the indigenous people who died defending their own lands, he was stopped and taken away(3).

Australian poet, Bruce Dawe, describes the lack of remembrance in his poem, For the Other Fallen:

You fought here for your country.
Where are your monuments?
You resisted the invader as best you knew how.
Where are your songs of those days?
When you were captured you were not prisoners-of-war.
That would have been awkward.
You had the misfortune of occupying 'unoccupied land'.
You had to correct your gross error.
There was a pioneer tradition waiting to be unfolded.
Tales as resilient as ironbark.
Your share in them was minimal and negative.
You were rather slow to understand this.
The bush and the stone and the stream.
The tree. The plain.
The special green. The faded calico blue,
They were your last line of resistance.
You fought here for your country.
Where are your monuments?
The difficulties we have in belonging
- these, these are your cenotaph.
(Bruce Dawe)


Regardless of whether Australia Day is celebrated on 26 January or another, this is the challenge to all of us:
  • Never forget Australia's black history and it's human rights abuses (4)
  • Never forget the genocide, such as in Tasmania where almost every aboriginal person was murdered 
  • Never forget the killing fields in which the Native Mounted Police exterminated large numbers of aborigines(3)
  • Never forget the frontier wars and the massacres of indigenous people
  • Never forget that indigenous people were prohibited from speaking their languages and practising their culture
  • Never forget that indigenous people were once treated no better than flora and fauna.
  • Never forget that aborigines were once denied freedom in their own land, subject to curfews and having to obtain permits to travel and to marry(5)
  • Never forget that we nuked aboriginal tribes at Maralinga
  • Never forget the stolen generations, the rape and abuse of indigenous people
  • Never forget that many indigenous people worked for no wages or their wages were garnered by the government and put in trust accounts and the money was rarely given back to the people who earned it(6)
  • Never forget the deaths in custody, which continue to this day
  • Don't turn our backs on indigenous history
  • Genuinely work together for true reconciliation with the first peoples of this land
  • End the unequal treatment of indigenous people, whether it be in the justice systems, health, education, employment, housing or society.

Certificate of Exemption - Mary Rose Woods(7)

As an example, Certificates of Exemption such as the one above, were issued to a few aborigines who had displayed a character that the white people were happy with. The Exemption meant that they could 'open a bank account, receive certain Commonwealth social service benefits, own land and purchase alcohol', however, the holders of the certificates were 'not allowed to live with their families on reserves and even had to apply for permission to visit them'(8). The exemptions could be revoked at any time without warning or appeal. Aborigines were prisoners in their own lands. 

A common argument that non-indigenous people will put forward is that all of this was decades ago, that it is time for indigenous people to move on. 

Firstly, denying history denies people an ability to move on. How can there be reconciliation with indigenous people if we deny the abuse that they suffered? How can we move on from history if we fail to understand it or the reasons behind it? if we don't understand our history, we are doomed to repeat it.

Secondly, what many don't seem to understand is that the abuse didn't end decades ago. It continues to this day. Indigenous people are greatly over-represented in prisons, often being arrested and sentenced for crimes that white people are rarely if ever charged with. Indigenous people are eight times more likely to be imprisoned than non-indigenous people. Indigenous people represent 3% of the Australian population but 27% of the prison population. Many of them are imprisoned for trivial crimes, including fine default.(9) Part of the solution, is to improve education and employment opportunities and to end the racist actions of law enforcement officers who feel led to arrest indigenous people for minor crimes. 

It's been more than 25 years since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. The 1989 Royal Commission investigated 99 deaths in the previous 10 years (an average of around 10 deaths per year). In the subsequent 25 years, 340 indigenous people have died in custody(10) (more than 13 deaths averaged per year). Few of the 339 recommendations have been implemented and meanwhile non-indigenous Australia is in denial about the abuse and persecution of indigenous people. Is it any wonder then that the rate of indigenous deaths in custody has increased since the Royal Commission. 

Non-indigenous Australia can't simply say that indigenous history was decades ago and to get over it. It is still happening.

It wasn't luck that made Australia the 'Lucky' Country. Australia got rich through the deliberate theft and rape of indigenous lands and resources. It was also the hard work of indigenous people and migrants from all lands and religions that made Australia what it is today.

Certainly celebrate our great nation, its diversity and its wealth, but never forget its history.

Whether Australia Day moves from 26 January or not, Australians should acknowledge and remember our brutal past, understand its discriminatory present and build a peaceful and harmonious future that benefits indigenous people and appreciates their culture. Unless this happens, changing the date will be a symbolic gesture only.

Moving Australia Day from 26 January will achieve nothing, if nothing changes for our first people.


References

1. Australia Day, History, http://www.australiaday.org.au/australia-day/history/. Accessed 26 January 2017.

2. ABC News, Ewan Gilbert, 'Australia Day billboard with girls in hijabs prompts online call to 'bomb' Canberra Theatre', 25 January 2017, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-01-25/canberra-theatre-threatened-after-aus-day-displaying-billboard/8210680. Accessed 26 January 2017.

3. Pilger, J. (1992), 'A Secret County'. London: Vintage.

4. Reynolds, H. (2000). 'Why Weren't We Told? : a personal search for the truth about our history'. Ringwood, Vic. New York, N.Y. Penguin.

5. Frankland, K. Queensland Department of Communities. (1994). 'A Brief History of Government Administration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in Queensland', http://www.slq.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/93734/Admin_History_Aboriginal_and_Torres_Strait_Islanders.pdf. Accessed 26 January 2017.

6. Kidd, R. (2000), 'Black Lives, Government Lies'. Sydney: UNSW Press.

7. National Museum Australia, From Little Things Big Things Grow: Fighting for Indigenous Rights 1920-1970, Programme to be White, Mary Terszak's story of surviving assimilation, http://www.nma.gov.au/exhibitions/from_little_things_big_things_grow/behind_the_scenes/programmed_to_be_white. Accessed 26 January 2017.

8. Australian Human Rights Commission, 'Bringing Them Home, Chapter 8, Assimilation 1936 - 1962',  https://www.humanrights.gov.au/publications/bringing-them-home-chapter-8. Accessed 26 January 2017.

9. ABC News, Lauren Day, 'Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody: Grieving families lament lack of reform', 14 April 2016, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-04-14/grieving-families-lament-lack-of-deaths-in-custody-reform/7327630. Accessed 26 January 2017.

10. The Guardian, Calla Wahlquist, 'Aboriginal deaths in custody: 25 years on, the vicious cycle remains', 15 April 2016,  https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2016/apr/15/aboriginal-deaths-in-custody-25-years-on-the-vicious-cycle-remains. Accessed 26 January 2017.


Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Republican Party's degenerate trajectory: from Nixon to Trump


The Republican Party's degenerate trajectory: from Nixon to Trump



The election of Trump is culmination of more than 40 years of Republican Party degeneracy.

The Republican Party has been on a downward trajectory of crime and morals since at least the 1970s. It has been a decline that has seen Republican presidents outdoing each other in criminal and ethical turpitude. So why is it portrayed as a party of family and Christian values?

It was the 2016 election that showed the true heart of the Republicans: one which idolises power, wealth, partisanship, racism, sexism, Islamophobia, homophobia, xenophobia, and which has no respect for truth, love and respect. It is no longer a conservative party, but an ultra-right wing one.

It was this election in which the Republican Party threw off the sheep's clothing and revealed the amoral, greedy, bigoted wolf beneath. 'Trumpers' proudly showed themselves to be wolves in sheep's clothing.

However, the destruction of the Republican Party hasn't happened overnight.

It was Nixon who really kicked off the avalanche of corruption within the Republican Party. Watergate became a term that defined American politics in the 1970s, and led to Nixon being impeached and eventually resigning. Numerous Republican politicians were sentenced to jail over it.

Instead of Nixon also being jailed, his successor, President Gerald Ford, issued a full and unconditional presidential pardon for any crimes that Nixon 'committed or may have committed'(1). The presidential pardon was met with disbelief, yet there it was. One Republican pardoning another for crimes committed in the highest office in the land. Not surprisingly, Ford was a one-term president.

Nixon's crime was that during the 1972 presidential election campaign, burglars linked to Nixon broke into the Democratic National Committee (DNC) office in the Watergate Hotel, installing wiretaps on phones and stealing sensitive information which was then used to support Nixon's re-election campaign. Nixon denied knowledge of the operation and attempted to cover it up.

Fast forward to the 2016 elections and the DNC's computer servers were allegedly hacked by Russia and sensitive information released in order to discredit Democrat Hillary Clinton's campaign and strengthen Republican Donald Trump's bid. Trump denied knowledge of it, but he benefited from and exploited the information that was obtained and released through Wikileaks. Trump successfully won the presidency, however numerous intelligence agencies are now investigating the links between Trump, his campaign team and Russia(2).



Here's a tip: not only will Trump be a one-term president, but he will be impeached before his term is up.

After Ford, the next Republican president was Ronald Reagan, a B-grade Hollywood actor. Reagan continued Nixon's legacy of corruption, defining the 1980s with Irangate(Iran-Contra Affair)(3), in which Reagan's administration illegally sold weapons to Iran in exchange for assistance in securing the release of hostages being held in Lebanon. The provision of arms to Iran was illegal because of trade and weapons sanctions against it. To compound the problem, funds from the sale of the weapons were then illegally channelled to the Contras who were a militant right-wing terrorist group fighting against Nicaragua's ruling Marxist Sandanista government. The Contras committed untold human rights abuses and hundreds of terrorist attacks. The United States was happy to not only fund the Contras terrorism, but to also divert funds from their War on Drugs to support the Contras large-scale drug-smuggling operations(4). But the Republicans justified it to themselves because they couldn't possibly allow a successful socialist government in Central or South America.

Like Nixon, Reagan denied knowledge and blamed rogue intelligence agencies. However, a number of these agencies, including the CIA, claim to have advised Reagan that supplying arms to Iran was 'a bad idea'(5).

In 1989, Reagan was succeeded by President George H.W. Bush, also a Republican. Bush, like Ford, then issued presidential pardons to a number of Reagan's administration who'd been implicated in the Iran-Contra affair, raising questions about what Bush was trying to cover-up(6). Bush was vice-president under Reagan during the Iran-Contra affair and had previously denied any personal involvement in the scandal, however his own diaries tell a different story in which he wrote, 'I'm one of the few people that know fully the details ...'. Bush failed to disclose the existence of the diary to officers investigating the Iran-Contra affair in the event that it would affect his 1988 presidential campaign(7).

Just like Ford, Bush served one term. There must be something about issuing presidential pardons that doesn't bode well.

The next Republican president was George H.W. Bush's son, George W. Bush. George, George, George. Just when one might think that Republicans couldn't stoop lower than Watergate and Irangate, in comes George W. Bush.

Bush was a fuck-up from start to finish ... not to put too fine a point on it.

In mid-2001, he ignored intelligence reports that said arch-terrorist Osama Bin Laden, founder of the Al Qaeda terrorist franchise, was plotting a major attack on US soil(8). Who needs to know about potential terrorist attacks, right? Surely not the President. On 11 September 2001, Bush suddenly discovered why he perhaps should have paid more attention to that little snippet of intelligence when more than 3,000 innocent people were killed when Al Qaeda hijacked four commercial passenger aircraft, flying two into the World Trade Centre, one into the Pentagon and one crashing into a field in Pennsylvania after passengers managed to wrestle control from the terrorists.

As an aside, some years later, Republicans tried to blame Democrat President Obama for not stopping the terrorist attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi that killed four Americans including the US Ambassador, and seven Libyans. So where was the Republican outrage over a President who ignored warnings of a terrorist attack on US soil that killed more than 3,000 people?

In retaliation to 9/11, Bush launched a war on Afghanistan where Bin Laden was allegedly holed up. Bin Laden evaded Bush and was eventually caught 10 years later in Pakistan during an operation directed by Democrat President Barack Obama.

Bush decided to compound his military failure by manufacturing a reason to invade Iraq and depose Saddam Hussein. He justified this through his puerile and completely false claim Hussein 'tried to kill my dad' - a reference to President H.W. Bush sending the troops into the First Gulf War.  His daddy (President H.W. Bush) however, had the good sense to listen to intelligence reports warning that deposing Hussein would create a power vacuum. So, as it turns out, neither Hussein or Daddy Bush tried to kill each other.

The feckless George W decided to run with a campaign of fear to justify the invasion and invented stories about Hussein having Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and was allied with Al Qaeda. He then garnered support of some western allies whom he called 'The Coalition of the Willing' and warning other nations that they were 'either for us or against us'.

A Senate Intelligence Committee found that Bush exaggerated intelligence reports about Hussein's WMD and links to Al Qaeda (which were non-existent)(9). Similarly, the Chilcot Report(10) in Great Britain also found there was no immediate threat from Hussein and that non-military options had not been exhausted, that intelligence reports were flawed and not challenged.

Bush invaded Iraq in 2003, costing hundreds of thousands of innocent lives and $2 trillion(11). It also created the power vacuum that resulted in the establishment of Al Qaeda in Iraq, which morphed into the Islamic State (or ISIS) that has been so active of late in Syria and Iraq. Tony Blair, then Prime Minister of Great Britain, has since admitted that the Iraq War gave rise to ISIS(12). The Chilcot Report, which investigated Britain's involvement in the Iraq War, rightly concluded that the Coalition had ignored warnings of the fall-out from an invasion and failed to adequately plan for an Iraq without Hussein leading it(13).

Thirteen years later the world is still feeling the impact from this disastrous military campaign through the presence of ISIS in Syria, Iraq and its influence in terrorist activities across the globe.

Just when the world thought that the Republicans couldn't get any worse than George W. Bush, in steps reality TV star, Donald Trump. The Republicans had previously elected a B-grade Hollywood actor, so what could possibly go wrong?

Like Nixon, Trump's campaign benefited from information stolen from the DNC; this time by Russian government hackers.

The Republicans have a habit of illegally acquiring DNC information during election campaigns.

Inexplicably, Conservative Christians continued backing Trump even with his confessions of sexual assault (who can forget him boasting about grabbing women by the pussy), when he said(14):

'I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn't get there, and she was married. Then all of a sudden I see her, she's now got the big phony tits and everything .... I did try and fuck her. She was married ... I'm automatically attracted to beautiful [women]—I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. Just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you're a star they let you do it. You can do anything ... Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything'.

But hey, the Bible is his favourite book ... so he says.

As a businessman, Trump is a con-man, having racked up numerous bankruptcies, law suits, cheated contractors and disillusioned share-holders(15).

His campaign was riddled with populist and contradictory claims with Politifact declaring that only 4% of his claims were wholly true, compared to Hillary Clinton's 25% of claims being wholly true(16).

What does Trump stand for? Trump. He claims to put America First, but it will be Trump first, America a far second and only as it benefits him.

Most disturbingly is the apparent existence of a dossier that claims Russia has incriminating evidence against Trump(17). Then President Obama and President-elect Trump were briefed by joint intelligence chiefs of the contents. The Republican Party themselves had commissioned a former MI6 operative to investigate Trump. It was this investigation that revealed that Russia may have incriminating personal and financial information regarding the man who is now the 45th President of the United States. If these claims are true, this could leave America exposed through having a President that is being black-mailed by a foreign power. Does this explain why Trump initially denied Russian involvement in the hacking of the DNC?

As Lenin stated, 'there are no morals in politics; there is only expedience. A scoundrel may be of use to us just because he is a scoundrel'.

The Republicans have made use of many scoundrels over the years, with a string of immorality and criminal behaviour from Nixon to Trump.

Trump's populist rhetoric has been based on fear in order to manipulate the population, creating an imaginary enemy through racism and bigotry.

Pink Floyd founder, Roger Waters, described this phenomenon as, 'This is how you control your domestic population – by making people afraid and by identifying an enemy'.

Speaking of Waters, he performed a concert in 2015 in Mexico(18), resurrecting the classic Pink Floyd song, Pigs, in honour of Trump and his ilk:

Big man, pig man 
Ha, ha, charade you are 
You well heeled big wheel 
Ha, ha, charade you are 

Trump has used racism to invent enemies, whether it be whipping up fear of black people, Mexicans or Muslims.

Ironically, during the Civil War, it was Republicans who fought against the racism of the Democrats who who wanted to maintain slavery and were willing to break out of the Union to keep it. While there was more to the Civil War than fighting against slavery, it was a primary reason for the Civil War in order to maintain the Union. Robert Smalls, a former slave who went on to become a Republican politician once described the Republican Party as, 'the party of Lincoln … which unshackled the necks of four million human beings'.

Back then, Republicans were fighting against racism, today they are fighting for it. 

The Republican Party is decrepit. Given its history of increasingly degenerate Presidents, it would be a bold call to say that the Republicans have reached some sort of moral nadir, however, after the Trump presidency, surely the only way is up. Surely ...

The lies that Trump has told to manipulate the gullible have become known as post-truth and has become the hallmark of many right-wing politicians around the globe, including Australia's own Pauline Hanson who never lets the truth get in the way of her racist fear-mongering.

The Post-Truth Era is the new Dark Ages.

The thing about the Dark Ages was that it was the result of the ultra-religious, not unlike the Christian Right's blind backing of Trump. The Dark Ages eventually gave way to the Renaissance, which of course was led by artists and poets. It's not a coincidence that many of the people opposing Trump are in the field of the arts, whether it be actors, musicians, writers, painters or poets.

We may see a renaissance of philosophical thought based on a renewed search for now abandoned truth ... eventually.

During the election campaign, Trump felt led to defend the size of his hands and his ... er ... tackle. Following his inauguration on 20 January 2017, the braggadocious Trump was again boasting of his size; this time the size of the crowds who attended the inauguration. Not surprisingly the claims were exposed very quickly as lies. On NBC's Meet The Press, host Chuck Todd put the suggestion to Trump's senior advisor, Kellyanne Conway, that the claims made by Trump's publicist, Sean Spicer, were lies. Conway wasn't going to give any quarter. These weren't lies ... they were 'alternative facts'. There you have it. Day 1 and Trump has to lie about his size. Post-truth indeed.

'Alternative Facts' is the new Trump-speak, or doublespeak, for lies(19).

Sadly though, we have now entered a new Dark Ages where politics (and even religion) is governed by feelings rather than fact, by manipulating people's behaviours through fear, greed and desire in which facts are fluid and just another commodity to trade and twist for populist politics and power over others.

The Far-Right wing ignores history at its peril. Even a cursory glance at Republican history over the last 45 years should serve as a warning of where this is going to end; war, impeachment, crimes. A look further back at history and we see the danger of demonising others and how that played out in Nazi Germany. Surely it is a concern when neo-Nazis are embracing the policies of the Republicans and welcoming Trump with open arms.

In the meantime, it is only the Republican Party who can arrest their degeneracy. Trump will lead a government in which Republicans control both the House of Representatives and the Senate. If America goes to hell in a hand-bag, then the Republicans have only themselves to blame.

A short summary of the downward spiral from Nixon to Trump



References

1. History.com, Watergate Scandal, http://www.history.com/topics/watergate. Accessed 22 January 2017.

2. The Guardian, Guardian staff, 'US intelligence investingating Russian links of leading Trump associates - report', 20 January 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/20/us-intelligence-investigating-russian-links-of-leading-trump-associates-report. Accessed 22 January 2017.

3. The National Security Archive, 'Iran Contra at 25: Reagan and Bush 'Criminal Liability' evaluations', http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB365/. Accessed 22 January 2017.

4. The National Security Archive, 'The Contras, Cocaine, and Covert Operations', http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB2/index.html. Accessed 22 February 2017.

5. The New York Times, James David Barber, 'How Irangate differs from Watergate', 9 August 1987, http://www.nytimes.com/1987/08/09/opinion/how-irangate-differs-from-watergate.html. Accessed 22 January 2017.

6. Brown University, 'Understanding the Iran-Contra Affairs, The 1992 Pardons', https://www.brown.edu/Research/Understanding_the_Iran_Contra_Affair/thepardons.php. Accessed 22 January 2017.

7. The National Security Archive, 'The Iran-Contra Affair 20 years on - Documents Spotlight Role of Reagan, Top Aides', 24 November 2006, http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB210/index.htm. Accessed 22 January 2017.

8. Daily Mail, Evan Bleier, 'Bush administration ignored CIA warnings in the months before 9/11 that 'spectacular' terrorist attack on the U.S. was imminent and 'just didn't get that we were going to be struck', former top agency officials reveal', 15 November 2015, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3318493/Cofer-Black-George-Tenet-say-Bush-administration-ignored-CIA-terrorist-warnings-two-months-9-11.html. Accessed 22 January 2017.

9. The New York Times, Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane, 'Senate Panel Accuses Bush of Iraq Exaggerations', 5 June 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/05/washington/05cnd-intel.html. Accessed 22 January 2017.

10. BBC News, 'Chilcot Report: Findings at-a-glance', 6 July 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-36721645. Accessed 22 January 2017.

11. Reuters, Daniel Trotta, 'Iraq war costs U.S. more than $2 trillion:study', 14 March 2013, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-iraq-war-anniversary-idUSBRE92D0PG20130314. Accessed 22 January 2017.

12. The Guardian, Martin Chulov, 'Tony Blair is right: without the Iraq war there would be no Islamic State', 26 October 2015, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/oct/25/tony-blair-is-right-without-the-iraq-war-there-would-be-no-isis. Accessed 22 January 2017.

13. The Iraq Inquiry, 'Sir John Chilcot's public statement, 6 July 2016', http://www.iraqinquiry.org.uk/the-inquiry/sir-john-chilcots-public-statement/. Accessed 22 January 2017.

14. Washington Post, David A. Fahrenthold, 'Trump recorded having extremely lewd conversation about women in 2005', 8 October 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-recorded-having-extremely-lewd-conversation-about-women-in-2005/2016/10/07/3b9ce776-8cb4-11e6-bf8a-3d26847eeed4_story.html. Accessed 22 January 2017.

15. Financial Times, Barney Jopson, 'Bloomberg assails Trump's business record', 28 July 2016, https://www.ft.com/content/71f18200-5465-11e6-befd-2fc0c26b3c60. Accessed 22 January 2017.

16. Politifact, 'Comparing Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump on the Truth-O-Meter', http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/lists/people/comparing-hillary-clinton-donald-trump-truth-o-met/. Accessed 22 January 2017.

17. CNN Politics, Evan Perez, Jim Sclutto, Jake Tapper and Carl Bernstein, 'Intel chiefs presented Trump with claims of Russian efforts to compromise him', 12 January 2017, http://edition.cnn.com/2017/01/10/politics/donald-trump-intelligence-report-russia/. Accessed 22 January 2017.

18. Roger Waters, Z√≥calo Square, Mexico City, 1 October 2016, Pigs - Three Different Ones, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QWLBtMz5OuY. Accessed 22 January 2017.

19. The Guardian, Jill Abramson, 'Sorry, Kellyanne Conway. 'Alternative facts' are just lies', 23 January 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/23/kellyanne-conway-alternative-facts-lies. Accessed 23 January 2017.

Updated 23 January 2017.





Monday, December 5, 2016

The Factophobic Far-Right's aversion to truth, knowledge and criticism

The Factophobic Far-Right's aversion to truth, knowledge and criticism 
(Political correctness and anti-intellectualism in a post-truth age)


Far right-wingers are obsessed with freedom of speech, yet try to stifle dissent against their ideas by labelling criticism as 'political correctness' or 'intellectualism'. Yes ... one can apparently have too much knowledge and applying or discussing said knowledge, constitutes intellectualism.

If political correctness is the trait of the left, then anti-intellectualism is the trait of the right.

Try presenting facts to some of these right-wingers and they'll come back with witty retorts, such as 'you don't understand the real world', or accusing their adversary of being a traitor for daring to question their opinions or ideologies. But apparently it's ok to bust out Nazi symbols and tattoos, even though Hitler was a enemy number one back in the day. Hmm ... who's a little traitor then?

It's one thing to have an opinion, but quite another to confuse that opinion with fact.

It isn't 'politically correct' to call out lies. It is kind of the astute thing to do. Sadly, a number of people's opinions are founded in falsehoods and misinformation.

It also isn't being 'politically correct' to disagree with someone's opinion.

One of the most incredible explanations people gave for voting for Donald Trump, was that they were sick of being labelled racist, homophobic, Islamophobic, misogynistic, xenophobic and so on by the 'politically correct, leftist, elites'. Apparently, this is a good reason to vote for a racist, homophobic, Islamophobic, misogynistic xenophobe.

If people don't want to be labelled bigots, white supremacists, neo-Nazis, then don't hang out with bigots, white supremacists and neo-Nazis; don't espouse and champion the same ideas as bigots, white supremacists and neo-Nazis.

The right accuses the left of being sensitive about political correctness, but then gets all touchy about being called out for their behaviour. Why shouldn't bigotry be called out when we see it. Particularly, when it is dressed up as truth. Even worse when so-called Christians buy into the same hate-speech and fear-fuelled rhetoric as the right-wing extremists.

Hilary Clinton claimed that 'you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic – you name it. And unfortunately, there are people like that. And he has lifted them up'(1). Trump's followers took this criticism as a badge of honour, even printing t-shirts and stickers boasting of their deplorableness. Rather than being appalled by bigotry, they wallowed in it and gloated about it.

Challenging bigotry and hate-speech isn't being 'politically correct', it is the right thing to do. Racism, and for that matter, Islamophobia, xenophobia and misogyny, are based on one group of people believing they are superior to another.  Why shouldn't this be challenged? Particularly, when there is context, history and straight out facts that show that there are no grounds to support this bigotry, and if anything, a reason for people to be a little more self-reflective, to look at the plank in their own eye before picking on the speck in the eye of others.

To quickly deconstruct this, a phobia is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as:

An extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something.

While many people who oppose marriage equality may not have an irrational fear of homosexuality, they do have an aversion to it. (Aversion meaning to have a strong dislike of something). However, some also do have an irrational fear of homosexuality and will go to great lengths to demonstrate this. For instance, they'll argue that marriage equality will lead to people marrying their dogs (who can forget Australian Senator Cory Bernardi's multiple claims along these lines which were defended and repeated by many evangelical Christians). That sort of aversion, that sort of fear-mongering IS a phobia ... homophobia.

As for Islamophobia, many people do have an irrational fear of Islam. However, the fear is often based on misunderstanding or generalisations. There is no Islamification of the West. Terrorism isn't the modus operandi of Muslims. In fact, most attacks on US soil have been caused by white supremacists(2). For that matter, much of the killing in the Middle East has been caused by the war on terror led by the United States. Calls to ban the burqa, halal and mosques represents a severe aversion to Islam and is based on irrational fear and, for some, blatant hatred. It IS a phobia ... Islamophobia.

And then of course, there is xenophobia: the fear or aversion to foreigners. Given that the common denominator of far-right groups is anti-immigration, anti-refugee and anti-foreigner positions, labelling the far-right xenophobic is self-evident.

These are phobias, no matter how much denial and anti-intellectualism the right wishes to hide behind. Simply saying that one isn't afraid of homosexuals or foreigners or Muslims while opposing their very existence, their culture, their lifestyles, doesn't mean that one doesn't have a phobia. Aversion is as much a part of phobias as fear is.



By denying the facts and opposing intellectual discussion, the right is indulging in their own form of political correctness. One in which criticism of the right-wing is practically prohibited and the right is sold a message that they are the victims. This victim mentality is driving them to seek alternative parties and for many, driving them to embrace far-right wing politics, whose messages are based more on fantasy and fear-mongering than fact. This victim mindset motivates the herd mentality of the right-wing in which facts are meaningless and defending some arbitary and imaginary line in the sand is paramount. Establishing this arbitrary line in the sand against an imaginary enemy facilitates white supremacy and even religious exclusivity, because after all, Christ is a white, pro-war, gun-toting, capitalist in the minds of many who clearly haven't understood the bible.

This mindset is not only used to portray the right-wing as victims, but to shame and blame the real victims; those who have suffered exploitation, persecution, abuse and violence at the hands of their white overlords who are in denial about the harm they cause to others.

Civil liberties were established to ensure that all people are treated with the same respect as each other and given the same opportunities in life; particularly that one group of people is not denied opportunities that others have. Somehow the far-right has concluded that equal rights are an attack on their freedoms. Just because someone is given the same rights as you, does not mean that you're being persecuted. Freedom of religion and Equal Employment Opportunity for example, are not persecuting Christians and white people. They just mean that non-Christians can worship how they want and marginalised groups are not excluded from the same employment or education opportunities that the non-marginalised take for granted.

Another of the excuses for the right wing voting for Trump was that they felt screwed over by the big-end of town lobbyists who have manipulated government for their own benefit. So they countered this by electing a big-end of town lobbyist to lead the government. Yeah. Great thinking. What could possibly go wrong?

This reason is closely linked to another one, in that right-wingers feel marginalised by 'elites' who aren't listening to their concerns. Yeah ... Elites. About that. The right-wing elected a billionaire who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth! Because. they. don't. like. elites! Think about that. Take all the time you need! Apparently this particular billionaire is a 'man of the people'! If you believe that, I have a plot of rainforest on the moon to sell you.

Remember the anti-intellectualism position of the right? This is where it all falls down. People aren't analysing or scrutinising the claims they hear. Instead, if the message matches their bigotry it is accepted without question.

The truly unbelievable aspect of Trump followers is that they sincerely believe that Trump speaks the truth and isn't swayed by political correctness. Rather than analysing the criticism of Trump and his rhetoric, his followers hunkered down and took all criticism as a personal affront, as a direct attack by the 'politically correct' on their freedoms. So what that Trump's truthfulness was tracking at much less than 10%. His followers just refused to believe it. No questions. No analysis. No self-reflection. Just blind refusal to believe. It was everyone else's fault that their fallacies were being questioned. It wasn't Trump who lied, but the media and the leftist elites and their politically correct agenda ... according to his supporters. There was no concept that many of their beliefs were based on fallacies.

They were like sheep being led to the slaughter by a wolf because of their anti-intellectual, victim mentality in which it is everyone else's fault but their own.

In fact, even a Trump surrogate, Scottie Nell Hughes, made the amazing claim that 'There's no such thing, unfortunately, anymore as facts'.(3)

Trump and his supporters accused Hilary Clinton of constantly lying during the 2016 election campaign, while establishing Trump as the bastion of truth. Yet, the truth shows the exact opposite. The fact-checking website, Politifact, identified that 72% of Clinton's statements were true, whereas only 14% of Trump's were true(4).

Just like any voting bloc, Trump's supporters were a mix of educated and the not so educated. However, in this age of information what excuse does anyone have for believing the garbage of Trump or the right-wing parties. What excuse does anyone have for bigotry and ignorance in an age when access to information is at unprecedented levels, meaning that we can all gain a better understanding of others and, for that matter, of our own beliefs and their foundations.

The only reason to argue against 'political correctness' is in order to defend the right to be a bigot. But, hey, as Australia's Attorney-General, George Brandis once stated, 'everyone has the right to be a bigot'.

Indeed they do. And everyone else has the right to challenge said bigotry.

So what is 'political correctness' about? It's kind of a vague catch-all term used by the right to shut down any argument or position that they disagree with. Often what they are arguing against are positions that suggest all peoples should be treated with respect and dignity; that we treat others as we would like to be treated. Essentially, the right is arguing in favour of disrespecting and abusing others.

Tom Toles ©2016, The Washington Post(5)


Funnily enough, these anti-intellectuals like to quote the respected civil libertarian and philosopher, Voltaire, when he said, 'To learn who rules over you, simply find out who are you are not allowed to criticise'. Clearly, we are not allowed to criticise the right because that will be political correctness gone mad ... and guess who just won the election, who will be ruling over us? These anti-elites believe that political correctness demonstrates the intolerance of the left who believe that they are tolerant ones. Freedom of speech cuts both ways. People are free to speak their minds, which includes the criticism of others (otherwise, the right would have no right to criticise the left and vice versa). But typical of the right's victim mentality, any criticism or challenge of their bigotry and anti-intellectualism is interpreted as intolerance.

At the risk of being accused of intellectualism, I'd like to quote philosopher Karl Popper who wrote about the paradox of tolerance, concluding that for the world to be a truly tolerant place, 'we should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant'.

While the right-wing bangs on about freedom of speech, they are really just wanting approval to deny freedom to others, such as the freedom for people to marry whomever they want regardless of gender, the freedom to have an abortion, the freedom to worship at a mosque, the freedom to claim asylum based on the Refugee Convention, the freedom to protest.

Forget 'political correctness' as being a threat to our freedoms. We are in a post-truth age, where truth is less important than stoking people's fears and appealing to their emotions. It is this that feeds xenophobia and bigotry. And no amount of labelling critics as the leftist elite changes the fact that these fears are rooted in falsehoods purely for the political expediency and popularity or right-wing politicians.

The Far-Right is 'factophobic': they have an aversion to the truth and fear the facts that would destroy their already weak arguments and beliefs.

No amount of argument will change the minds of those who refuse to see. As non-conformist minister, Matthew Henry, once stated, 'None so deaf as those that will not hear. None so blind as those that will not see'. However, this is no reason to stand idly by and not challenge bigotry and anti-intellectualism. After all, if the right-wing is so big on freedom of speech, they would defend to their deaths the left's right to speak up whether they agree with our views or not.

This current swing to the far-right goes beyond freedom of speech. It is blatantly racist, xenophobic, homophobic, mysognistic, Islamophobic. It is a movement of hate and extremism. To sanitise this the far-right invented a more family-friendly, dare we say it, a more politically correct way to describe themselves: Alt Right. The Alternative-Right. Essentially rejecting traditional conservatism and replacing it with an ill-defined ideology that has at its heart, white nationalism(6). Alt Right is just a rebranding to make themselves more appealing to the masses. To term themselves Neo-Nazi is a little confronting for many people, however, that is what the Alt Right is. Just as Hitler hijacked the term 'socialist' in order to trick the left-wing into attending his meetings, Neo-Nazis are utilising the term 'Alt Right' to trick the right-wing into believing they are a legitimate political cause. They aren't. They are Nazis, white nationalists, white supremacists. Obviously, not everyone on the right wing  agrees with these extremists and have moved to distance themselves. But those who remained and voted for Trump and his policies of white nationalism and supremacy, are rightfully labelled as Neo-Nazis. As George Orwell stated, 'A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves and traitors are not victims ... but accomplices'.

The only way to overcome bigotry is for bigots to have a revelation of the deplorable manner in which they speak about and treat others. It is only when people have this revelation that they will understand how unacceptable it is to hate others because of their race, gender, religion, sexual preferences or other identifiers. Children's cartoonist and writer, Dr Seuss, opposed racism and fascism. He was an active political commentator and in one of his cartoons he illustrates the necessary defogging of the bigoted mind.

Dr Seuss(7)

The left isn't trying to shut down freedom of speech, it is trying to explain that one group of people isn't superior to another and that intolerance of other people is often based on falsehoods and misconceptions.

Dr Seuss published numerous cartoons condemning racism and promoting harmony. The world will be a better place when all races and peoples have respect for each other and work together.

Dr Seuss(7)


References

1. The Guardian, Ben Jacobs, Hillary Clinton regrets 'basket of deplorables' remark as Trump attacks, 11 September 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/sep/10/hillary-clinton-basket-of-deplorables-donald-trump. Accessed 4 December 2016.

2. The Washington Post, Maggie Ybarra, Majority of fatal attacks on U.S. soil carried out by white supremacists, not terrorists, 24 June 2015, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/jun/24/majority-of-fatal-attacks-on-us-soil-carried-out-b. Accessed 4 December 2016.

3. Esquire, Jack Holmes, A Trump Surrogate Drops the Mic: 'There's No Such Thing as Facts', 1 December 2016, http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/videos/a51152/trump-surrogate-no-such-thing-as-facts/. Accessed 4 December 2016.

4. Politifact, Comparing Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump on the Truth-O-Meter, http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/lists/people/comparing-hillary-clinton-donald-trump-truth-o-met. Accessed 4 December 2016.

5. The Washington Post, Tome Toles, What does it actually mean when somebody complains about political correctness, 5 January 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/opinions/wp/2016/01/05/what-does-it-actually-mean-when-somebody-complains-about-political-correctness. Accessed 4 December 2016.

6. The Nation, Ian Allen, 'Alt-Right' Is Not a Thing. It's White Supremacy, 23 November 2016, https://www.thenation.com/article/alt-right-is-not-a-thing-its-white-supremacy. Accessed 4 December 2016.

7. Regents of the University of California San Diego, Dr Seuss Went to War - A Catalog of Political Cartoons, http://library.ucsd.edu/speccoll/dswenttowar/index.html#ark:bb7065726h. Accessed 4 December 2016.



Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The shame of Dutton's blame game

The shame of Dutton's blame game


Australia's Liberal Party has waged war on refugees and asylum seekers ever since Prime Minister John Howard took the helm in 1996. Whenever, the Liberal Party's popularity dipped, Howard would roll out another boatload of asylum seekers to scare the population into believing that only he could protect us from this 'invasion'.

Truth never really factored into these unwarranted attacks. For instance, the lies about Children Overboard were exposed in a Senate Enquiry. Not that it made much difference because people ignored the truth and believed Howard's lies. Including the whopper that boat people are illegal entrants. Under the Refugee Convention that Australia is a signatory to, asylum seekers are not to be punished for entering a country in a manner that would normally be considered illegal. So Australia detained them indefinitely and subjected them to cruel and inhumane punishment, in contravention of a number of UN Conventions, including the Refugee Convention, the Convention on Torture and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The demonisation and scapegoating continued with a passion under Tony Abbott who took to having billboards driven around the country advertising how many boats were entering Australian waters when the Labor Party was in government. Every boat arrival was grist to Abbott's mill. It meant that the Libs could now blame Labor for this fabled invasion of asylum seekers.

Most recently, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has upped the ante by extending the blame from Labor to one of his own. Dutton now blames the Liberal Party's former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser. During the 1970s, Fraser ran a compassionate refugee program that allowed thousands of refugees in from Vietnam, Cambodia and Lebanon.

Dutton has stated that two thirds (22 out of 33) of the Australians charged with terrorist-related offences are second or third generation descendants of the refugees that Fraser bought into the country almost 40 years ago(1). Therefore, Fraser stuffed up ... according to the feckless Minister Dutton.

Process this: second and third generation.

Process this: NONE of the thousands of refugees who Fraser brought in were charged with terrorism-related offences.

Just when we think the government's racism and xenophobia can't get any worse,  Dutton jumps the shark.

Is Dutton suggesting that the Department of Immigration now vet the unborn off-spring of refugees? I'm going out on a limb and suggesting that this could be problematic. How many unborn generations are they supposed to assess before issuing visas? Should they stop at the third generation or the fourth? Maybe the fifth?

Rather than taking cheap political shots at others, Dutton should focus on the effects of the Liberal Party's refugee policies. Policies which legitimise torture and child abuse. Policies which have been criticised by the United Nations, Amnesty International and human rights lawyers for legitimising human rights violations of vulnerable people fleeing persecution.

These are policies which physically, mentally and emotionally abuse already fragile people. These are policies that keep families from being reunited, that pay refugees less than the dole while preventing them from gaining employment or undertaking training. These are policies which reinforce to refugees that they are second class citizens in Australia.

These are policies which have caused people to suicide or self-harm.

Yet Dutton and his Liberal Party colleagues continue to blame everyone else for their failures while failing to acknowledge the damage they are causing to asylum seekers and refugees in order to score political popularity with an electorate driven by xenophobia.

So unethical is the Liberal Party's approach to refugees that they are now wanting to ban any refugee, any GENUINE refugee, from entering Australia if they initially came here by boat.

Just a reminder of Article 31 of the UN Refugee Convention(2):

'The Contracting States shall not impose penalties, on account of their illegal entry or presence, on refugees who, coming directly from a territory where their life or freedom was threatened in the sense of Article 1, enter or are present in their territory without authorization, provided they present themselves without delay to the authorities and show good cause for their illegal entry or presence'.

These refugees have come directly from their countries of origin to Australia. If travelling east from Africa (e.g. Somalia), Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and so on, then Australia is the first country they will come to who is a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention. The Convention doesn't say to go to the nearest country. It says that they are to come 'directly'.

Then there is the matter of refoulement, in which refugees are returned to their country of origin where they could be persecuted, tortured or at risk of disappearing or being killed. Article 33 of the UN Refugee Convention states(2):

'No Contracting State shall expel or return (“refouler”) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion'.

The federal Liberal Party is hung up on the rule of law and constantly labelling people 'illegal', yet their own actions are illegal under international law. Interestingly, the government's own website acknowledges that asylum seekers should not be referred to as 'illegal'(3):

'The UNHCR emphasises that a person who has a well-founded fear of persecution should be viewed as a refugee and not be labelled an ‘illegal immigrant’ as the very nature of persecution means that their only means of escape may be via illegal entry and/or the use of false documentation'

Dutton's blame game is his shame. It speaks volumes about the character of a man who is more interested in casting dispersion on people who can't defend themselves than he is in acknowledging and rectifying his own faults and those of his Party. Faults which have broken up families and driven innocent people to the depths of despair, to suicide, to self-harm.

If the government is so concerned about Australian Muslims becoming radicalised, then they should be spruiking policies of inclusion, not exclusion. People who are marginalised, criticised and made to not feel welcome in their own land will always be at risk of radicalisation. To counter that, all people need to feel welcome and valued, not vilified or harangued because of their religion or race. But policies of inclusion, tolerance and acceptance don't win political points, so Dutton and his ilk will resort to their go-to position of scapegoating and stereotyping.

Of course, any criticism of the government's policies by those who've experienced them firsthand is all but banned, with whistle-blowers risking two years jail if they speak out. It seems the Libs are happy to criticise others, but to expose their brutality and inhumane operations is to see them cower behind laws aimed at stifling dissent.

Fraser may not be able to defend himself against Dutton's asinine attack on policies that were far more compassionate and successful than those of today's Liberal Party, however, he had defended his record on numerous occasions when he was alive. Around 90% of asylum seekers who arrive by boat in Australia are found to be genuine refugees(3), and Fraser once commented, 'I do not believe you need the brutality of the policy of deterrent... If they are genuine refugees, there is no deterrent that we can create which is going to be severe enough, cruel enough, nasty enough to stop them fleeing the terror [they face] in their own lands'(4).




References

1. ABC News, Stephanie Anderson, 'Peter Dutton suggests Fraser government made mistake by resettling Lebanese refugees', 20 November 2016, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-11-21/peter-dutton-fraser-made-mistake-resettling-lebanese-refugees/8043624. Accessed 20 November 2016.

2. United Nations High Commission for Refugees, 'Convention and Protocol relating to the status of Refugeeshttp://www.unhcr.org/en-au/3b66c2aa10. Accessed 20 November 2016.

3. Parliament of Australia, 'Asylum seekers and refugees: what are the facts', http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/rp/rp1415/AsylumFacts#_Toc413067441. Accessed 20 November 2016.

3. ABC News, 'Former PM Malcolm Fraser calls for royal commission into Australia's management of offshore processing', 25 July 2013, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-07-25/malcolm-fraser-manus-island-asylum-seekers-immigration/4842884. Accessed 20 November 2016.