Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Tuesday 13th April in the PIS

Welcome back PIS members one and all! I trust you had an enjoyable and not overly hardworking Easter break – as always a great many things have occurred in the past week, so we might have to leave some for next week.

Keep an eye out for the PIS Trivia night, always a raucous time - it shall be on in a couple of weeks, with political themes and general knowledge to test your wits!

But first, this week the PIS will return to Alice Hoy 102 for lively discussion over biscuits on the following issues of the day, followed by chips and wedges at PA's, as is our custom:

The Turnbull Tale

Last week the erstwhile Malcolm announced his retirement from Federal Politics. Ever the controversial figure, his career was a political rocket, from defeating the long term incumbent for Wentworth pre-selection in 2004, Environment minister until 2007, Opposition Leader and then that whole CPRS/ETS thingy. Had Malcolm run his course? Have the Libs lost a valuable politician or rid themselves of an unneeded divider?

Rudd the Tough Man

Last week came the surprising pronouncement from the Rudd Government that processing of Asylum Seekers from Sri Lanka and Afghanistan was to be halted, owing to the changing situation in both countries. Is this simply a political ploy? Will it function to deter people smugglers? Can it practically function without putting added pressure on Christmas Island and the detention centre in Darwin?

The Teaching/Parenting Revolution

The Australian Education Union appears to be up in arms about the Government's plans to publish the NAPLAN test results on the My School website – and they're threatening to strike – and not supervise the tests. Julia Gillard has proposed asking parents to stand in as supervisors for the tests – practical? Political? Idiotic? Legal issues? Opinions? Etc etc.

Labour's Long Goodbye

Gordon Brown has finally announced the date Britain will go to the polls – May 6th. The Labour Government in the UK has been in power for 13 years, and despite disastrous polls through most of last year, somehow seems to be possibly in reach, with the real likelihood of a hung parliament resulting. The Conservative Party are running on a Change theme, whilst the Liberal Democrats have possibly the nation's most respected politician/economist in Vince Cable. Who's going to win? Who should win and why? Discuss.

So come join for lively discussion as ever :)

Once again the plan is for me, your Secretary, to chair the meeting – I will endeavour to actually attend this time, and apologise for my non-attendance previously.


Monday, 29 March 2010

Tuesday 30th March in the PIS

This Tuesday the PIS will meet at 1pm in Alice Hoy Rm 330 to discuss our usual assortment of politicking and global issues, whilst munching on our wealthy capitalist sweet biscuits. Please note this is a room change for this week only, as our usual room is unavailable.

Just for a change and partly for kicks, Madame President Megan will be taking a break from chairing the meeting this week, to be substituted for by myself, your not-so-erstwhile and otherwise overbearing Secretary. So, to the topics:

The Great Health Debate

Last week Messrs Rudd and Abbott stood in the National Press Club and had a political slanging match that almost rivaled the PIS's livelier moments. What did we think of this debate? Was there a policy point to it or was it a clever political trap from Rudd/Abbott?

Google's withdrawal from China

Early last week Google announced it's withdrawal from China as an internet search provider, citing it's refusal to continue to acquiesce to Chinese Government demands to censor its search results. There's a number of issues here – from the generic internet censorship angle, to the specifics of companies being required to follow such governmental directives, and whether Google is right to withdraw from China, or whether it would have been more useful for them to work from within.

Abbott the Exercise Addict

Yesterday Tony Abbott successfully completed an Ironman event (basically a swim/cycle/run lasting 14 odd hours). He becomes only the second federal politician to complete such an event, after Independent Rob Oakeshott. Is this sort of dedication to exercise a praiseworthy attribute for an alternative PM, or a dangerous distraction for an Opposition Leader?

Benedict and the predator priests

Yes I know that's a combative title, but seriously, here we go again with a flood of controversy over sexual abuse within clergy, this time focused on Ireland and the USA, and with the spotlight very much on Pope Benedict as to his actions (or inactions) as the Cardinal in charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the church body responsible for sexual misconduct of the clergy. What do we think? Should Benedict take responsibility/is he actually responsible for the cover-ups etc? Where does the buck stop in this issue?

Following the meeting we shall wander down to PA's to finish the bikkies and eat chips and wedges, and, given as I'm chairing the meeting, I imagine I will be supplying a jug or so also, maybe Pimm's.

As always, if there's a topic you would like to discuss, either tell Megan or myself, or send us an email and we'll pop it on the roster.

Toodles til Tuesday,


Tuesday, 16 March 2010

The Blog

The PIS has a blog!! Yes that's right, we are with the times and this interweb crazy thing!

Heritage members may actively recall the blog has been in existence for some time, but it has fallen a little silent recently, but now back it comes.

All info on PIS events and general happenings will be published on the blog.

I'd also like to take this opportunity to encourage all members, new and old, to feel free to post on the blog anything in particular you fancy about politics, just ask Megan or myself to add you to the contributors list. This way if you just can't wait til the next tuesday to say your piece, you can do it immediately, and hopefully we can facilitate discussion even over those periods where (shock horror) the PIS doesn't meet, a la holidays :)

Whether you wish to pose a question, or have your say on a particular event, or what have you, you are welcome to do so.

So pop http://mupis.blogspot.com on your favourites list and keep your eyes peeled for everything new and interesting :)


Election Party #1 of 2010!!

South Australia and Tasmania go to the polls this Saturday 20th March, and the PIS will be there to see them. No this is not some dark magic, but rather through the miracle of the interwebs.

PIS will be following the results, laptops in hand, from 6.30pm on Saturday, at the Dan O'Connell Hotel, 225 Canning St, Carlton (Off Princes St, North-East of Melb Uni, between Rathdowne and Nicholson Sts.)

Come along for politics, drinks and dinner, and IF YOU HAVE A LAPTOP, BRING IT, the more we have, the more stats we can watch at once :)


Monday, 15 March 2010

Tuesday 16th March in the PIS

The Political Interest Society meet this week at 1pm Tuesday in Alice Hoy 102 for our usual biscuits and arguments, then hang out at the Prince Alfred Hotel on Grattan St from 2pm onwards.

On Saturday night we will also be getting together to watch the vote counts for the South Australian and Tasmanian state elections. We’ll have more information for you tomorrow on the time and venue, so keep an eye out!

As always, if there are any topics you particularly want to see on the agenda to be discussed at the official club meeting, email polintsoc@gmail.com or just mention it to me on Tuesday and I’ll try to remember.

This week, the PIS will discuss:

Protest in Thailand

Will the massive anti-government protests in Bangkok this weekend result in any positive change for Thailand?

Paid parental leave

We now have Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott shouting at each other over the issue of parental leave. Do we support parental leave? Does Abbott’s proposed scheme, of paying parents on parental leave at their usual rate of pay, seem fair or equitable?

Anti-whaling activism

It’s hard to find people in Australia who aren’t opposed to Japan’s ‘scientific’ whaling practices – although nothing in this club would surprise me any more – so we’re probably all inclined to support the actions of groups like the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, aggressively interfering with whaling boats. But given that they are often quite simply breaking the law, can we justify defending them when they get caught?

Upcoming state elections

The polls are dead close in South Australia and Tasmania could end up with a hung Parliament. This is going to be an interesting Saturday night. Who do we want to win, and who’s going to win?

Monday, 8 March 2010

Tuesday 9th March in the PIS

This week, the Political Interest Society will meet again at
1pm Tuesday in Alice Hoy 102 for biscuits and arguments. After
2pm we will then wander down to the
Prince Alfred Hotel on Grattan

English as the national language
Should we make English the national language of Australia? Should
non-English speaking migrants be expected to meet a minimum
standard of fluency in English? Should bilingual education be
allowed? If we get bored with this, we can talk about the national
curriculum instead.

Do we need state government?
If the federal government can step in and take over the running of
hospitals, traditionally the territory of state governments, what
will be next? Are state governments necessary, or do we just hold
onto them for sentimental reasons of state identity? Might we be
better off with a two-level system of government?

Israel: should we scrap it and start over?
I think that's pretty self-explanatory.

Things we think might be bullshit: Marriage
For years there's been ongoing noise about giving same-sex couples
equal marriage rights with heterosexual couples. But really, what
use is marriage? Might equality be achieved more easily by
scrapping marriage altogether?

If you think the above topics are absurd and I must be losing my
mind, good news! In two months or so we will have the club's Annual
General Meeting, where you will have the chance to replace me with a
less ridiculous President. You could even run for a position yourself
and help the club to be more spectacular.

Even if you can't make the meeting at 1, feel free to join us at
PA's any time after that - you can tell which table is us because
of the Centenary of Federation Commemorative Biscuit Tin on the
table. Unless someone runs away with it. Then you'll be able to
tell which table is the PIS because there'll be a short girl
drinking beer and shouting at everyone. (That's me.) I may also
be drinking beer and shouting anyway, but please don't let that
put you off. I'm very friendly.

By the way, a note for all our members: if there's a topic you
really want to talk about in a meeting, feel free to email me and
ask me to put it on the agenda. I may not put it on the next week,
but I try to include all topics that are requested by members as
long as they're sensible. And sometimes even silly ones. For
example, the first topic this week was requested by Simon.
(It helps if you give me a question, though, and not just "I think
we should talk about Israel." That's how we end up with topics like
"Israel: should we scrap it and start over?")

Madame President

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Reminder: Chris Berg tomorrow at 6:30!

The PIS Presents
Pub Politics with Chris Berg

Thursday 21 May, 6:30pm

INU Bar, 1st floor Union House

Free Entry!

Chris Berg, researcher for the Institute of Public Affairs and regular columnist for the Sunday Age, speaks to the PIS about the Rudd Government's proposed internet filter and other current political issues. Bring your friends, and your questions, too.

Monday, 11 May 2009

This week in the PIS

The Political Interest Society will meet at midday this Tuesday in Doug McDonell 711 to watch TV. From 1pm we will hold the usual bitching-and-biscuits meeting, where we will discuss:

Defence white paper
The government's white paper on defence has caused a bit of a stir. Is an expansion of our military warranted or necessary? Is there a risk of a country the size of Australia fuelling an arms race, as some have suggested?

Medicare and IVF
Funding for IVF treatment through Medicare may soon be reduced. Is IVF treatment something that should be fully funded?

Jumps racing
Dangerous and cruel, or a good way to keep retired racehorses occupied?

Branch stacking
Following the revelations of corruption in Brimbank Council, branch-stacking is starting to look like a widespread problem in Australian politics. Are we concerned about branch-stacking? Is this kind of corruption inevitable in representative democracy?

Followed by a trip to the pub, where we will eat, drink and be merry until we run out of change

Sunday, 3 May 2009

This week in the PIS

The Political Interest Society meet this week at midday in Doug McDonell 711 to watch TV, probably more of House of Cards provided Chris can bring it along again. I look forward to it.

Following that, the regular meeting will begin at 1pm, where we will discuss:

Influenza pandemic

It's been practically the only news story of the past week: a potential flu pandemic beginning in Mexico and spreading to the rest of the world. How serious do we think the threat of swine flu is? Have the Australian government done enough to prepare us?

Australian publishing and protectionism
The Productivity Commission want to lift the ban on parallel importing of books in Australia. Publishers claim this will stifle local publishers and authors; supporters of the proposal say it will bring book prices down. Is it worth bringing down the prices of books if it means decimating local publishing?

Somalian Piracy
President Obama was widely praised for his action on the rescue of a US captain held hostage by Somalian pirates. However, Somalian piracy has been a growing threat for some time. Is there any way to combat the overall problem? Are pirates simply criminals or is Western intervention in Somalia partly to blame?

Victorian Transport
There's been a lot of attention on the proposed bushfire-related spending in the upcoming Victorian Government budget, but transport is quickly becoming one of the biggest issues for Melbournians as our public transport system becomes increasingly dysfunctional. What's wrong with public transport in Melbourne? Can we see a straightforward solution?

After which we will adjourn to PA's where members may feel free to try to find a way to impeach me before the AGM.

In other news, the Law Students Society is hosting a free public lecture regarding human rights:

An Australian Human Rights Act: Dispelling the Myths
A public lecture featuring The Hon Catherine Branson QC, President of the Australian Human Rights Commission.

6:00pm–7:00pm, Tuesday 19 May 2009
Room G08 (Ground Floor), Melbourne Law School, 185 Pelham St, Carlton Vic 3053

Attendees are invited to RSVP on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=93183484273.

For further information and for other Social Justice Seminars, see http://www.mulss.com/social-justice/.

Monday, 6 April 2009

The Political Interest Society meet again this Tuesday at 12 in Doug McDonell 711 for the appreciation of amusing politically-themed TV shows. As usual, we'll decide what to watch when we get there. I have The West Wing and Hollowmen - if anyone has something different they can bring along, like Yes, Minister, Party Animals or something else I haven't even heard of, feel free. (The room has VCR as well as DVD equipment, by the way.)

From 1pm in the same room we will have our regular weekly meeting to discuss:

Is Rudd too close to China? Is improving relations with China a wise course of action or could it damage other foreign relations? (ie with the US?) Is the debate about China just a beat-up in the wake of the Joel Fitzgibbon kerfuffle?

Faked figures in hospitals
Is it a concern that hospitals are falsifying records in order to meet targets? Can this be solved by replacing hospital staff, or is it a problem with the system?

G20 and free trade
For once maybe we'll talk as much about what's said at G20 as we do about the protestors. In a time of recession, is free trade a sensible international policy, or do we favour more protections and the rhetoric of 'buy Australian'?

Bikie gangs
In light of the bashing at Sydney airport several weeks ago, several states have moved to ban certain motorcycle gangs which are seen as criminal. However, Victoria's Charter of Human Rights may make such laws impossible in this state. Do we support the right to freedom of association, or would we rather see these groups banned here, too?

To be followed by cheap drinks and free food at the pub, perhaps long into the afternoon.

In other campus news, on April 21 there will be a lecture at the university by Tom Mann, a congressional scholar, on US politics. It's free, although bookings are necessary. More information can be found here.

Monday, 30 March 2009

The Political Interest Society will meet in Doug McDonell at 12pm this Tuesday to watch amusing politically-themed TV shows. Most likely Yes Minister or Frontline this week, though we're open to suggestions. Feel free to bring your lunch, too.

From 1pm we will be having our regular discussion meeting, where we will eat biscuits and argue over:

Do we want to see legislation allowing assisted suicide? Would such legislation be too open to abuse?

Palestine Solidarity Week
This week is Palestine Solidarity Week at the Student Union. There has been some controversy over the union's financial support for PSW. Should the Student Union be picking a side in a conflict in the Middle East? Should they put money towards partisan political functions at all? Or should they stick to providing student services?

Some background information for those of you who are newer to student politics and have some time to read up:
Palestine Solidarity Week events: http://union.unimelb.edu.au/ed-public/palestine-solidarity-week
Students for Palestine blog: http://union.unimelb.edu.au/ed-public/palestine-solidarity-week
Petition opposing the use of money from the UMSU Welfare and Education budgets to support PSW: http://www.gopetition.com.au/petitions/umsu-students-council.html

And for those who can slog through meeting minutes, there is a discussion of this issue on page five of the most recent Students Council meeting: http://union.unimelb.edu.au/file_download/671/Minutes+SC+M3+12-02-09.pdf

Foreign aid
Recently there was some debate over Australian foreign aid programs supporting safe abortions in Third World countries. Should foreign aid from the Australian government be akin to charitable donations, with no strings attached, or is it acceptable to attach conditions to them?

Internet Filter
Do we approve of the government's proposed internet filter? Is the legislation even likely to succeed?

To be followed by discount drinks and free chips at the Prince Alfred Until 5-ish.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

The new saviours

I simply could not resist.

Monday, 16 March 2009

This week in the PIS - an unexpected change of meeting place

Since the introduction of VSU mid-2006, and the Melbourne Model in 2007, the Political Interest Society has been embattled and sometimes struggled to survive. There have been drastic measures such as the 'infinity percent tax rise' of the $2 joining fee, and setbacks like the failure to produce an edition of our journal, Audi Alteram Partem, for 2009. (If there are any students in the club with journalistic ambitions who would like to help get it off the ground again, we'd love to hear from you!)

This week, we almost suffered another setback of this difficult era in the life of the politically interested when we lost our booking Alice Hoy room 242. Once again, the politically interested masses of the University of Melbourne find themselves estranged from the traditional homeland of Alice Hoy.

Fortunately, after hours of searching through the harsh wilds of Parkville Campus, your PIS committe have found another place where we can eat biscuits and shout at each other, all the way next door in the Doug McDonell building.

So, for this week, and for the rest of semester barring any more similar difficulties, the Political Interest Society will meet at 1pm Tuesday in Doug McDonell Room 711. Don't be put off by all the scaffolding out the front, the place is still open; you can access it by the fire door at the front of the building or the entrance to the lower floor on the northern side.

This week's topics to shout about:

Peter Garrett
Peter Garrett made his name as the frontman of radical green-left band Midnight Oil, but is now a minister in a government that supports policies which are nothing like those he used to support. Is this hypocritical?

Where do we stand on the crisis in Pakistan?

Robert Doyle, Lord Mayor
He wants the bogans out of the city, wants to ban hailing taxis at night and now says Adelaide should be shut down as it has no redeeming features. How do we like the new Lord Mayor so far? And will he ever act on anything he says?

Queensland state election
Is it at all possible for Labor to lose this election? Can Pauline Hanson win a seat standing as an independent or is her time up?

Followed by drinks at the pub from 2pm until we run out of change - which will be later than usual since our trips to the pub now come with free bar snacks - chips, wedges and nachos at the pub will now be coming out of the Political Interest Society's budget instead of your wallets.

Monday, 9 March 2009

The Political Interest Society will meet this week on Tuesday in Alice Hoy 242. The traditional discussion and consumption of biscuits will commence as usual at 1pm. However, as we fortunately get the room from midday onwards, at 12:15-ish we'll have a play around with the DVD player in the room and try putting on some politically-themed DVDs. Exact screening to be decided - but it'll probably be The West Wing.

After the regular meeting finishes at 2pm, we'll all head off to the pub where we'll either keep arguing or talk about all those things I didn't put on the agenda.

The topics for discussion this week:

An Accident in Zimbabwe
The Prime Minister of Zimbabwe was injured and his wife was killed in a car accident a few days ago. Is this a bad sign for the stability of Zimbabwe's government?

Quentin Bryce has been criticised for being too proactive in her role as Governor-General. Is there room for our head of state to meet with leaders from the ADF or meet with other leaders overseas, or should she stick to signing Bills?

Trouble in Northern Ireland

Real IRA have claimed credit for a shooting in Northern Ireland. Is this an isolated incident or the end of twelve years of peace?

Bushfire funds and insurance
Should victims of the bushfires who didn't insure their homes receive more support from charitable donations, or the same amount as other victims? Should home insurance be compulsory in bushfire-prone areas?

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Watch the US election with the PIS!

Join the PIS for drinks as we watch the vote count for this historical election on CNN and drink beer!

10:30am until later
Maori Chief Hotel
118 Moray St (corner of Moray and York streets)
South Melbourne

You can get there by taking the 112 tram (leaves from Spencer St in the city) towards St Kilda and getting off at stop 117, the corner of Clarendon and York Streets, and walking a few blocks east along York St to pub. You can find a map at http://www.maorichief.com.au, along with other useful information like their menu. See you all there!

Saturday, 1 November 2008

As free as China?

Although Australia still waits on broadband for all, its politicians are planning to provide this just in a 'clean' fashion. Clean is the euphemism used to disguise internet censorship on level with free, democratic countries like China, Cuba or Iran.

Please take some time to inform yourselves and take action. The cases of Dr. Haneef, Dr. Moeller and even the Benbrika case are alarming examples that those claiming to represent Australian citizens systematically dismantle democracy.

The internet expanded the connectedness of the little big island Australia, the planned internet censorship returns Australia to the beginnings of this country: Being a large prison.

No Clean Feed - Stop Internet Censorship in Australia

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

PIS 'cluboscope' in Farrago edition 7

Greetings to anyone who took an interest in the advertisement for the Political Interest Society in Farrago, and thank you for checking out our blog. Unfortunately the item in that magazine contained a small but important error - the room in which our meetings are held. This semester we hold our meetings, not in Alice Hoy 109, but in Alice Hoy room 330. At least the building was right.

We do hope to see some new faces at future meetings - people of all political backgrounds and opinions are welcome. The door is always open. Except when other students are being rowdy in the corridor and we can't hear each other. Then we might shut it. But you can always knock.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Keating! the Musical at Federation Square, Wednesday 20 August

Keating! the Musical is a show much loved by many members of the PIS, and which many other members wish to see. It charts the rise and fall of Prime Minister Paul Keating in song, through laments about life on the backbench, election debates in rap, victory songs in reggae and a ballad bemoaning Keating's loss to John Howard. It also has Alexander Downer in stockings.

After a long touring season, the final performance of Keating! will take place in Sydney this Wednesday. However, we will not miss out on this great event, as this last performance will also be streamed live to Federation Square.

The screening will not be on the big outdoor screen, which I presume will be showing the Olympics. Instead it will be in the cozier, less drafty, indoor public space known as the Atrium, which can be accessed from Flinders street as shown on this map. The Atrium also has a bar, Beer Deluxe, just one more advantage it has over the big, windy bit that the sports fans will be watching.

So please come and join the PIS for this great event! Meet at the downstairs bar at 7pm for drinks and laughs before the final show begins at 8pm.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Semester Two - The Honeymoon Is Over

Semester one was a tumultuous time for the Political Interest Society, first with the exile from our traditional homeland, the Alice Hoy Building, and then the resignation of President Fettling, but with hard work and determination we weathered that storm and the new President Rocke came to power with the promise that the biscuit tin would never again run empty, and no politically interested student would ever be left behind.

In Semester 2 we return again to the Alice Hoy building, this time to the loftier heights of Room 330. But there are many challenges in the months ahead, and after two months, the Rocke Administration's honeymoon is over, and they are going to have to produce results.

(Welcome to our new members for Semester 2. We all hope to see you at meetings soon, and I assure you, we aren't always this silly.)

The first weekly meeting of the semester, complete with biscuits for all tastes and ideologies, will be at 1pm Wednesday 30 July in Alice Hoy 330, followed by the traditional drinks at PA's. Another email will be sent out in a few days with the topics for discussion.

This will be followed the next day by the 2008 PIS Non-Annual Trivia Night, so come along and show off your political knowledge, or just come for a laugh. The Trivia Night will be held on Thursday, July 31 at 6:30pm, INU Bar, Union House. Entry is free and there are some great prizes to win.

Audi Alteram Partem is the biannual PIS journal, showcasing a range of political opinions and exchange of views. Matt, the AAP Editor, is currently putting together the Semester 2 Edition, and the deadline for submissions is Wednesday, August 6. If there's any political or social issue that you're passionate about, anything from emissions trading to the US elections to curfews for cats, we want to print it! For more information, contact Matt at m.incerti@ugrad.unimelb.edu.au

That's all for now, but this semester still has many things to come, including the Society's tenth anniversary celebrations and the US Presidential Elections, so come along and get involved!

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Annual General Meeting 2008

This year's AGM was memorable. We spent ages hanging around waiting for enough people to make quorum and ended up with at least ten more than we needed by the end of the meeting. There were barely enough candidates to fill the committee positions. Michael Pountney accepted his life membership with a spectacular display of grandiose waffling. Lindy provided us with lots of biscuits, and we finished twenty minutes early to rush off to the pub, where we all had lots of celebratory beer.

And yet, I have neglected to announce the results of that great election to those unfortunate members who couldn't join us! Please accept the heartfelt of apologies of this new, untested but devoted President.

So, as voted at the Annual General Meeting on April 30, the PIS committee for 2008-9 is as follows:

President: Megan Rocke
Secretary: Charlie Goodman
Treasurer: Stacey Nguyen
Publications Editor: Matt Incerti
Speakers Officer: Alex Davis
Publicity Officer: Simon Coles
Social Secretary: Dean Hallett

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Thanks for the fish

I know, I already promised to stay away from this blog, and probably I managed to scare away all other potential contributors from it, but hell, why shouldn't I be allowed to change my mind?

And actually, it's more meant like a reminder to those who'd like to engage in the PIS committee. Rule 1: Never question whether casting your valuable shining light in a small bag (your vote) changes anything. The PIS is bipartisan, if you dare to leave to holy left-right paradigm, you will be ostracized.

So thank you, Lindy, for reminding me that's it's inadequate to laugh at blatant lies of the soon former Prime Minister, when he's spruiking blatant lies. Thank you for silencing dissent expressed by laughter. Being not brought up in this splendid society, which, unlike Germany, is still f*cking proud of its genocidal history, it makes me laugh to hear any PM stating that all Australian live in prosperity, while during his time as PM more than 10 percent of its population fell below the poverty line.

But laughter seems to be an illegitimate way to air dissent, and is obviously considered offensive when its spontaneously erupts at the wrong moment. I certainly admit that alcohol contributed to the fact I was less inhibited to laugh at JH's lies. I just wasn't aware how socially unacceptable it is within the PIS to react in this way to preposterous lies of the current "leader".

I don't mind losing my bet to Charlie. Although I don't think Australia has any version of democracy that is less phony, corrupt and full of nepotism than any other "free" country in the western world, I'm glad to see that it takes less time (though still way too much) to identify utter incompetency than in my home country, which reelected its conservative government like a roo in the spotlight for 16 years (before experiencing an unprecedented redistribution of wealth towards the owning class under a "left" government).

However, reality-denying statements like I heard on this election night by the happy loser John Howard simply made me laugh. I still fail to see why Lindy felt obliged to tell me off for laughing, and who would be offended by a guy laughing out loud in a pub. I do recall earlier moments that night where I certainly have even been personally offensive with much more tolerant reactions. (I dont wanna mention ur name here, it's all a bit embarassing and confusing for me, but hey, I dearly appreciate your patience and tolerance, no matter how culturally inappropriate I might have behaved more than once we met.)

So I'd like to say thank you to all the people I met in the PIS for all the insights I could gain from some strata of the Australian society, especially to those who don't like me. Your ideas about Australian political reality will no longer be disturbed by a German anarchist (should I mention here how ridiculous the labels "german" and "anarchist" look next to each other? It takes a believer in representative democracy to say this without an ironic smile)

Unless some current members want to take on some committee positions, the PIS will face difficult times. The president cannot be reelected (two term clause), I will step back as treasurer (with a big smile like Costello), as the Melbourne Model encouraged me to dream larger, and learn something different somewhere else. Even the secretary might leave MU (more honourable than me) before being able to finish another turn. Australia wanted a change in government, the PIS change in leadership is inevitable.

Labour managed their grab for power tonight, promising new leadership. Some implications I would like to see (though Labour hasn't promised all of it) within the first 100 days would be:
* Abolition of the IR laws
* Reinstatement of Dr. Haneef working visa
* Signing Kyoto and agreeing in Bali to a target that involves a reduction of CO2 emissions (Kyoto Target is 107% of Australias 1992 (?) emissions until 2005 or 2015 (hell, ask Robin Eckersley, she's the expert at MU for those nasty details))
* Revoking the Anti-Terror-Legislations

What I'm expecting is far from impossible, yet highly unlikely. I consider these expectations to be desirable, yet you might not agree with me (which saves you, as potential labour supporter, from finding excuses why certain promises could just not yet be implemented). The euphoria about the new leadership in Australia prevented any discussion about accountability issues in politics, and demanded piety for the departing leader.

My mission failed, I give up. Claim another victory. Democracy is so much cosier than personal responsibility, which is much more often required than each three years on election day. Follow your leaders. Don't question authority, never ever.

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Fear of Reason


This month, we will commemorate nearly 3,000 victims of the attacks of September 11th 2001. We will not commemorate the million civilian victims killed in Afghanistan and Iraq, nor the 25,000 humans that starve daily, unspectacular, far away from the prying eyes of a sensationalist media.

From a psychological point of view, the unfortunate victims in New York belong to our ingroup. We know little to nothing about the cultures of Iraq and Afghanistan, which easily qualifies them as outgroup. We know even less about the people living in the heart of Africa, the common origin of all tribes of Homo Sapiens that populate this planet.

As humans most care about their perceived ingroup, they can be blatantly ignorant to the faith of their outgroups, even if our genetic heritage does not justify the popular idea of different human races.

The anti-terror laws, that have been introduced in most parts of the world in the aftermath of 911, the Madrid, Bali and London bombings, have already achieved their goals. No terrorist will be able to attack the free world anymore, after the Magna Charta and the rule of law have been suspended to fight the war on terror in most parts of the world, including Australia.

Civil liberties end now where national security starts, and national security is so important that it can’t be defined precisely but falls into the discretion of our wise politicians. Democratic tenets like the decision of independent juries or the separation of judiciary and executive powers were sacrificed, even in countries that have not experienced any terror attack themselves.

The images of the destruction of inner-city skyscrapers makes it easy to transfer the fear into the hearts and minds of anyone who lives in a country that displays the wealth of corporations in the midst of their cities. Fear, however, incapacitates reason, and reduces most decisions to fight of flight. This certainly increases the attraction for someone offering to go to war, even it will last generations.

The war on terror will certainly be perpetual, unless the people of the planet, who have to pay for this war with their taxes and even their life, step back from their fear and start using reason again. Because the war on terror can never be won, no matter how hard you try.

Terrorism lacks a commonly accepted definition, but it’s a fairly save bet that historical figures like Jesus Christ, Nelson Mandela, or Mahatma Ghandi would end up in an American torture camp like David Hicks, or be kept in solitary confinement like Dr. Haneef, or at least suffer from a constraint order like Jack Thomas.

Don’t get me wrong; I just used David Hicks, Jack Thomas and Dr. Haneef as example to illustrate the loss of the rule of law and civil liberties in Australia, not to sanctify them. However, unlike traditional wars against a well-defined enemy, the war on terror fights a method. Addition is a method to relate two numbers in a specific way, frying eggs is a method to prepare them as food.

Do you really believe the war on frying eggs could ever be won? Considering the well-educated audience of the blogosphere, I would be surprised to hear a single yes to this question, but you’ll never know. People develop all sorts of anxieties, and fried eggs might be one of them, but it seems less suited to spread a common fear amongst the majority of the population than the terrifying expression “terror”.

Nevertheless, the Australian government spend already billions of taxpayers money on this war on frying eggs, and will not stop doing so whether Howard remains PM or not.

Western governments fell into a hole after the end of the cold war. The threat of mutual nuclear destruction justified maintaining civil liberties, as those did not exist in the communist world. The tangible enemy allowed direct comparisons, so the Western World carefully refrained from arbitrary jurisdiction, secret prisons, restrictions to the right to strike or have a rally wherever you wanted.

As communism faded away as archenemy of the Western World, the necessity to keep up the illusion of a free society vanished with it. Yet, without fear as motivator for the abolition of rights and freedoms achieved mainly by social movements and direct action, reason might have caused an outrage about the introduction of anti-terror laws.

We are constantly reminded that the terrorists are out there to get us, terror suspects are arrested en masse, foiled terror plots and the memory of 911 keep the fear alive. The constant reinforcement of terror paranoia is designed to stop anyone to use reason to assess the size of the risk.

While we read often enough about the arrest of terror suspect (They are coming to get us, and they will use fried eggs if we don’t stop them!), we hardly hear about convictions. In the US, the two convictions that have been achieved for homegrown terrorists are as convincing as the case of Dr. Haneef.

Although the latest terror attack in Britain luckily didn’t kill anyone, and the perpetrators fit into the terrifying scheme of “home-grown terrorists”, biometrical visa will make the UK safer. However, passports cannot be the problem. Although the contents of the World Trade Centre were mysteriously blown to smithereens on 911, the passports of some of hijackers, which were used to officially cross the American border while being on terror watch lists, were found.

Reason cannot really explain why biometrical identification of every citizen helps defeating terrorism. And reason cannot explain why the WTC 7 collapsed on the afternoon of September 11 2001, although it was not hit by plane. The building closer to the World Trade Centre building 1 and 2 were severely damaged, but did not collapse. Unfortunately, the complete account of everything that led to 911, the 911 commission report, fails to explain why WTC 7 collapsed as well.

But thinking that they will come to get us might stop you from wondering why three massive steel-framed high-risers crumble in freefall speed to bits and pieces, although this never happened before and since then. And it might stop you from wondering whether less than 100 Australian victims, who were killed in the Bali attacks in 2002 and 2005, justify spending far more taxpayers’ money than about 2,500 people that commit suicide each year in Australia.

If they Australian government makes “securing Australian life” its priority, shouldn’t it use statistics to assess the size of the problem? It takes two weeks of suicide to have the same amount of life lost as in all terror attacks, which killed Australians in this century, and about three weeks in road accidents.

As long as you drown in fear, my comparison of the war on terror to a war on fried eggs might appear extremely inappropriate. Once you start using reason again, the advertising campaigns to suspect your neighbour seem like an outrageous waste of taxpayer’s money.

The US went to one war, along with Australia, before it even started an investigation of the events of 911, and to another one, before the results of the dubious 911 commission were known. Yet, both wars were sold to the public as a reaction to the events of 911.

Let me put this in other words for you. Without knowing the results of a forensic analysis (which didn’t really take place in the 911 commission) of the biggest crime case in the 21st century two wars, that killed about a million innocent people by now, were started. Not only did Australia participate in this unjustifiable wars, the cases of David Hicks, the Barwon 13, Jack Thomas and Dr. Haneef demonstrate that human rights and the rule of law are disregarded in this country, due to the (myth of the) global threat of terror.

When I use reason to analyse this situation, I think there is something utterly wrong with this picture. About one hundred people starved to death while you were reading this. They will not be out there to get you. Enjoy your fear.

created at TagCrowd.com

PS: Somehow the 21st century seems not to have arrived in the PIS. The interactive and participatory part of modern digital communication media (such as blogs) remain a mystery to the majority.

I am a bit tired to entertain you here. And I don't want to create the impression that my views would be representative for the club. Or even being said aloud in meetings. However, feel free to check my rants from the centre of the future (which is the fringe of contemporary society) either here, here or here.