Friday, December 21, 2012

Sister Deborah - "Uncle Obama"

If you haven't seen this yet, it is simultaneously the best and worst thing you've ever seen.

As I understand it, it's from Ghana and has nothing at all to do with Barack Obama. And I'm quite sure it has little to do with bananas and monkeys either.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Gun control: When will someone say "Enough's enough"?

20 children and 7 adults dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the second worst school shooting ever in modern US history. Is it too soon to talk about gun control? Absolutely not.

"Guns don't kill people - people do."

Yes, with guns. And here are several statistics that make crystal clear the relationship between guns and high murder rates:

* The US has the world's highest rate of private gun ownership, around double that of the second highest, Yemen. It's gun control laws are the loosest in the developed world. Predictably, it also has the highest murder rate in the developed world.

* Compare Japan, a nation of 127 million people, to the USA's 311 million. In 2008, the USA had over 12,000 firearm related homicides; Japan had 11. The difference is that there is no widespread belief in a "right" to own a gun in Japan, and thus their ownership is extremely limited and restricted.

* If you are thinking that perhaps in other countries people still commit murder, only using things other than firearms, consider this. This week, China experienced its own school attack, when a man wounded 22 children and 1 adult with a knife. Wounded is the operative word here. Had he a gun, we would be looking at some quite different statistics.

Yet gun culture is so deeply embedded in the psyche of a huge swathe of the US population that it is likely that nothing substantive will happen any time soon.

An example: former Governor of Arkansas and a man who was almost a Republican presidential nominee, Mike Huckabee, said today that:

"...stricter gun laws would not have prevented the shooting that killed 20 children and seven adults.
'We ask why there's violence in our schools, but we've systematically removed God from our schools.'"

Huckabee might be interested to know that around 65% of Japanese people identify themselves as not believing in God. Whereas "atheist" is virtually a dirty word in the US.

Huckabee, it should be noted, is both staunchly "pro-life" and staunchly pro-gun ownership. If you can't see the flaw in that logic, you are likely to be an American right-winger; these are people who view the lives of fetuses to be paramount, yet think their country is safer with more and more guns, which are expressly designed to kill people who have actually been born.

Huckabee again:

"Ultimately, you can take away every gun in America and somebody will use a bomb," he said. "When somebody has an intent to do incredible damage, they’re going to find a way to do it." 

Sure. Except there is no amendment in the US constitution that stipulates a right to bear bombs. You can't buy a bomb over the counter at Walmart.

Why not? What's the difference? A bomb is just a tool, right, just like a gun or a car... bombs don't kill people, people do...

The underlying reason for the USA's out-of-control gun culture is of course the constitution, specifically the second amendment stating the right to bear arms. And for many Americans, particularly on the conservative side, their slavish belief in whatever the constitution says would put religious fundamentalists to shame. (The same people usually tend to be religious fundamentalists, coincidentally.)

But the men who drew up the US constitution were living in different time and place - a more rural, frontier society, with guns that did not have the same lethal potential as today's semi-automatics. I can't imagine they would still support the universal right to bear arms if they could understand the damage they are causing today.

Conservative- and libertarian-minded people continually beat the drum about the need to stop governments from telling the people what they can and can't do. And to a point, they are right. But if there's anything a government should be able to strictly regulate, it is the possession of a high-powered killing machine.

Barack Obama clearly knows that gun ownership is the root cause of the problem. But is he the right person to lead the charge to tighten gun laws? There is already a strong correlation between passion for the right to bear arms, and believing that Obama is a Satanic Muslim Socialist Manchurian Candidate who is intent on destroying America. He has not yet taken a single step in either of his terms to tighten gun ownership, yet the gun lobby are rapidly opposed to him. If he does take action, he will face a massive backlash from the far right, and probably an assassination attempt or two. Yet in his final term with no need to seek reelection, and with the Republican Party in relative disarray, he may in fact be the perfect person to take this decisive step.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Rudimental - "Not Giving In"

It's been out a few weeks now, but the new single from East London quartet Rudimental keeps growing on me. And its video is also quite wonderful. The song itself does not quite have the game-changing quality of its predecessor Feel the Love, yet it still sounds unlike anything else on the radio since, well, forever. It again combines jungle, which I thought had died out about 10 years ago, with a Stax-era soul feel, built around John Newman's impassioned vocals.

I'm a bit of a cynic and so am not normally one for "uplifting" dance tracks with "inspirational" music videos, yet I still thought Feel the Love was the best song and video I've come across this year. The video for Not Giving In is even better. Beautifully shot in the slums of Manila, it is based on the story of a kid named Mouse who discovered breakdancing and later went on to become the 3-time world B-boy champion.

It's also a reminder of how what to some people may be meaningless pastimes - music, art, sport, dance and so on - can be invaluable in showing people an alternative path to the darker ones we are
so often tempted by.

Racist violence and social class in Australia (@ Peril Magazine)

My latest post for Peril Magazine questions whether racist abuse and aggression is strictly a lower-class phenomenon in this country.
It is common, and not illegitimate, to look at racist incidents as part of a broader spectrum of attitudes towards race and culture in Australia. So you could, for example, find commonalities between an aggressive incident on a bus, and our history of dispossessing Aboriginal people, and our previously discriminatory immigration policies, and the current consternation over asylum seekers. But by the same token, incidents of racist aggression can also be viewed as part of a broader spectrum of anti-social behaviour, be it drug-related crimes, drunken brawls, and other kinds of domestic or street violence. And while there will always be plenty of exceptions, these occurrences are far more likely to be perpetrated by people from a certain strata of society. The reasons primarily stem from living or growing up in an environment with lack of opportunities and role models for success.
Check the full post here.

Saturday, December 8, 2012


Who would have thought that having a vehicle like Twitter to communicate things as soon as you think of them would not result in universal awesomeness? Because if someone hits you, you are just as bad as they are.

Hip-hop samples of video games

Courtesy of SPIN magazine. Not quite the nerdgasm I'd hoped for - okay I confess, I'm mostly digging the Super Mario Brothers samples - but still pretty cool.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Fox News analyses "Gangnam Style" as only Fox News can

Following their election loss, many US conservatives have been pondering why Asians so overwhelmingly voted Democratic. Now there are numerous reasons for this, but my take is that Republicans and their allies are frequently revealed as completely ignorant and
vaguely racist when talking about anyone who is not a white American.

Case in point - this week on Fox News (the station that is basically a mouthpiece for the Republican Party), Bill O'Reilly and guest, psychiatrist Dr Keith Ablow, attempted an analysis of why Gangnam Style has become such a huge cultural phenomenon. If you are wondering about Ablow's credentials as a cultural commentator, well, he once co-authored a book with Glenn Beck, which right off the bat indicates a fairly skewed relationship to the real world.

Whether or not you like Gangnam Style, I'm sure you'll agree that it seems an odd choice for Ablow to hold up as an example of everything that is wrong with popular culture. But that's what makes Fox News so interesting.
Watch this. The stupidity is amazing.

"The most popular music, apparently, is that without intelligible words..."

Yes, he actually said that. If it's not English, it clearly doesn't mean anything. Reinforced by O'Reilly saying there's no comparison between Psy and Elvis Presley because Elvis' song's "had words".

Now there are a large number of ways in which Presley's music is unlike Psy's, but I'm pretty sure that "having words" is not one of them.

What's even odder about this interview is that despite these two conservative commentators putting forth their esteemed opinion on the internet and popular culture, neither of them seem to have ever heard of Google. Because in the time it took for them to spew garbage about how Gangnam Style is a sign of the times because it "has no meaning", they could have jumped on to Google and found hundreds of articles analysing the satirical nature of Gangnam style. Here is but one: PSY's Gangnam Style is South Korean social commentary.

Even to the non-Korean who doesn't know about the satirical subtext to the song, the video is appealing because it is so different to every other video out there. Psy subverts the conventional notions of cool, of what a pop star is meant to look like, and toys with the stereotypes of conventional masculinity. While many of the odd sights in the video have a particular South Korean cultural context, to the outsider, they are simply weird and random, which lends the video the same quirky oddball quality that Westerners find so fascinating about Japanese commercials and game shows.

And it happens to be an extremely catchy song. As are many other songs, such as those by Elvis and Justin Bieber, some of the touchstones that O'Reilly and Ablow refer to. Yet the popularity of Justin Bieber's mega-hit Baby (the second most popular clip on Youtube) is not being used to illustrate why the world is going to hell in a handbasket and we are all vapid fools for listening to it. Even though, if you compare the meaning of Baby with that of Gangnam Style, it's pretty obvious which has greater depth. Yes, it's possible for a song to have meaning, even if it's in Korean. Shocking!

And really, if you cannot work out why more people might possibly like something offbeat, outrageously kinetic and postmodern like Gangnam Style than a saccharine teenybopper hit by Justin Bieber, then you really shouldn't be in the business of analysing popular music at all. And particularly when your analysis includes the phrase "This is a little fat guy from Yong Yang or someplace."

Monday, December 3, 2012

White babies, please. No Eurasians for me.

This has got a lot of buzz in my networks. From Slate's "Dear Prudence" column:
My wife, who is infertile, and I have recently decided to have children—we’d like eventually to have three—using an egg donor. (We decided against adoption because we would have no biological connection to our children.) We have just settled on this option but it has thrown open a whole new dilemma for me. I am white and my wife is East Asian. Her race isn't a problem for me and I would have had no difficulty raising mixed race children, but frankly, now that I have the choice, I’d prefer my kids to be white. We live in a fairly homogeneously white area and at the end of the day I want my kids to look like me, their cousins, and the kids they'll go to school with. I don't think my wife has ever experienced racism, but I think she might understand my point of view. Then I think I maybe I’m just convincing myself about this. I really could use a second opinion before I broach the subject with her.
—Want To Be a Dad
You can read Prudence's response to this dude at the link above.

Now, if the wife is fine with this, then whatever, although that raise issues of its own about her. There's a lot of stuff that people are free to do in this world, but in doing so it reveals them as being messed up in the head. You gotta question the guy's thought process about this. It's so important for his child to look like him - which it will - but he doesn't consider that his wife might want the child to look somewhat like her. With a white child, it will be obvious throughout her life that she is raising a kid that is not genetically hers. That may not be a big deal, but it's an additional layer of scrutiny from onlookers that she may find difficulty to deal with, especially as some women might feel inadequacies (or have them projected onto them) from not being able to conceive naturally.

It's possible that he is actually genuinely concerned about half-Asian kids being the brunt of racist treatment in an all-white area. But is racism against half-Asians really such a huge area in this day and age so as to make their very existence worth negating? I've experienced a bit of racism here and there as a half-Asian, and some minor identity crises, but all in all those problems are far outweighed by  the good things. Being half one thing and half another is pretty cool. Unless "Want To Be a Dad" is living in Klansville, Mississippi or something, his half-Asian kids shouldn't have too much to worry about. His line about "I don't think my wife has ever experienced racism" is also strange. Has he never spoken to her about it? For an Asian-American woman to never have experienced even a small amount of racism is unusual indeed.

It's almost like his wife's East Asian-ness is an inconvenient fact. Or it's something he can handle in small doses, but no more than that. Perhaps he can take comfort in knowing that a lot of half white, half East Asian kids pass for white quite easily, and raised in a predominantly white environment, will likely turn out fairly white in their mentality. But perhaps that's not enough. I wonder if it's a kind of narcissism at play. One of the things people love about their own kids is that each child partly looks like themselves, as well as being reminiscent of their partner. Perhaps this guy wants to go the whole hog and have the kids look like as much as him as possible, and now he has the opportunity.

But it's also a reflection of the reality of some interracial relationships: an unhealthy intersection of appreciation for the person and appreciation of the race that they belong to. Some fetishists are attracted to a partner because of their race, while some others are attracted to a partner in spite of their race. Neither is healthy. No person is merely the sum total of their racial composition, but neither is it a trivial detail that the letter-writer seems to hope it can be.

Friday, November 30, 2012


This is cool. Sort of like that "capture the flag" game we used to play in primary school, only with an additional "dude just beating the shit out of each other" component. It's good to watch, although I don't know if it's the sort of game I'd get into. I'd be the guy trying to convince the two teams to share so everyone could have a turn with the pole.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Racist rage on a Melbourne bus

Welcome to the world of Melbourne's underclass.

This video has gone viral, revealing the ugly racist underbelly that exists in Melbourne, which generally prides itself on being a multicultural and cosmopolitan city.

It occurred on the bus from Mordialloc to Caulfield a couple of weekends ago, on a warm day when a lot of folks had been out having a good time. Some French backpackers at the back of the bus, probably after a few beverages, were singing a song in French. While this is something that most people consider at worst mildly annoying, clearly some people saw it differently.

The man who filmed this on his phone is Mike Nayna, a local comedian. Nayna is of Mauritian heritage, which explains the racist tirade about black people.

You can listen to a radio interview with Nayna about the incident here; there is also some entended footage, although there are so many bleeps it's hard to hear what is going on.

Some comments have popped up around the place saying that the French woman instigated the whole thing by singing in French. To which I would argue that the proper response if you don't like someone singing on the bus is to politely ask them to keep it down. Making sexually violent threats involving a knife and smashing the bus window is probably not the standard way to deal with that situation.

Particularly not when you are pushing a pram and your young son is right behind you. Perhaps those children are the biggest victims here.

Just to show that this sort of mentality is hardly restricted to Australia, check out the parallels with this case in Britain.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The perils of hairdressing while Muslim

In the list of Islamic contributions to science, perhaps we need to add the discovery of “girl germs”.
TORONTO — In case of competing rights, a Toronto woman has lodged a complaint against a barber who refused to cut her hair because he’s Muslim. In June, Faith McGregor requested a man’s haircut at the Terminal Barber Shop in downtown Toronto. Co-owner Omar Mahrouk told her that his Muslim faith prohibits him from touching a woman who is not a member of his family. All the other barbers in the shop said the same thing. “ 
For me it was just a haircut and started out about me being a woman,” McGregor, 35, told the Toronto Star. “Now we’re talking about religion versus gender versus human rights and businesses in Ontario.” 
She has filed a complaint with Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario because the incident made her feel like a “second-class citizen.” McGregor is not seeking monetary damages, but wants the tribunal to force the shop to offer men’s haircuts to both genders. 
“In our faith, I can cut my mother’s hair, I can cut my sister’s hair, I can cut my wife’s hair, my daughter’s hair,” shop co-owner Karim Saaden told The Star. “We are people who have values and we hold on to (them). I am not going to change what the faith has stated to us to do.” 
McGregor rejected an offer from the shop to find a barber to cut her hair. “It’s the principle of the matter…This needs to be discussed and now it’s bigger than what occurred with me that one day,” she told the newspaper. [Source]
To throw one more tidbit of information out there: Saaden and Mahrouk are so strict in their faith that they also serve alcohol at their other barber shop.

I found this an interesting case because while these guys appear to be acting like dicks, is this something for the law to intervene in? You could argue that the bad publicity they will get will be lesson enough – a free market solution rather than a state one.

That said, perhaps this is the sort of thing the organs of the state need to put their foot down about. It may be a pipe dream, but I hope that one day we will see, at least in the West, a secular modernised version of Islam to triumph over the medieval bullshit. This would have to involve Muslims jettisoning a whole bunch of their beliefs and keeping some core ones which are conducive to living in the 21st century – in the same way that Christianity has done. But governments and courts need to play a role in pushing this along. It’d be nice to have a judge decide that freedom of religion does not give anyone license to be a douche.

I wonder what would happen if one of these barbers had to rescue a woman from drowning. Here in Melbourne there was a fuss recently about some Muslim cab drivers refusing to carry blind people and their guide dogs. Just like this case, it gives the impression of Muslims who are so concerned about their own notion of personal purity that they will completely disregard basic civilities.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Where to now for the Republicans? The race and gender problem

With the US election over and Barack Obama back in the Oval Office, a shellshocked Republican Party is wondering how they could possibly lose to that horrible socialist. Questions are being asked and fingers are being pointed, mostly at anywhere but themselves of course.

Romney garnered about 58% of the white vote, but lost badly to Obama amongst minorities. Approximately 69% of Hispanics voted for Obama, as did 93% of Blacks and 74% of Asians. So unsurprisingly, Republican figures like Mike Huckabee were making noises about how they badly need to reach out to minorities, and Hispanics in particular. Even Sean Hannity, Fox News' most aggressive hardline conservative, has "evolved" in his thoughts on immigrants. Of course, had Romney won, Hannity would be ranting about illegals like always.

It's not just racial groups that went solidly for the Democrats. While 53% of married women voted for Romney, 68% of single women backed Obama. And according to one poll, 90% of voters who identified as gay voted for Obama as well.

"The country is divided." That's what you will hear from those on the Republican side as they survey the damage. And to a point they are right. What most of them will fail to grasp, however, is who is responsible for dividing it. They'll say Obama. But if you have been paying attention, it's easy to see how they've been the architects of their own downfall. For all the talk of Obama running a negative campaign, the Right's negative campaign began years ago. Here are some reminders of what's been going on the past 4 years:

Deriding Obama as an "affirmative action President", who assumed the office based on a rigged system and politically correct white guilt and couldn't get there on his own merits.
The long-running hysteria over "Black Liberation Theology", and the refusal to grasp why some African-Americans might have mixed feelings about their nation's "glorious" history.
The interminable speculation about Obama's birth certificate, as well as about his academic records, implying that he couldn't have become president of the Harvard Law Review without doing something dodgy . Glenn Beck's claim that Obama is racist against white people.

Is it any wonder that many black voters doubled down on their support for the first African-American President?

Then let's throw these things into the mix:

Arizona's Republican governor introducing the SB1070 Act to combat illegal immigration, which was widely denounced as a draconian exercise in racial profiling of Hispanics. Mitt Romney arguing for "self-deportation". The Republican Party's long-standing opposition to a path for citizenship for illegal aliens.

Republican hysteria about the mosque being built near ground zero in New York City. Michelle Bachmann and friends dreaming up conspiracy theories about Muslims infiltrating the government. The continual conjecture that Obama is a Muslim, with frequent references to his middle name "Hussein" by Republican-aligned figures, and the implication that being a Muslim is intrinsically a bad thing.

The Republican stance on gay issues is likewise a loser for them. It's one thing to oppose gay marriage; but there are lots of leading GOP figures who fervently believe that being gay is merely a "lifestyle choice", that homosexuality can be cured, and that there is a gay agenda to destroy the traditional family.

Add to that Romney's comments about the "47%", echoed by Fox News vilifying the poor as "moochers" and calls from around the GOP to raise taxes on lower income Americans while lowering them for the wealthiest.

So which side is dividing America, again?

The Repubs are in trouble long-term if they can't modernise. It's worth noting that the conservative parties of the other Anglosphere nations (Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand) would probably be branded socialists by Republicans in the US, as they have far more progressive views on sexuality, gender, abortion and health care.

One of their biggest problems is Fox News. The most popular cable news station in the country, it provides the news that conservatives want to hear, as opposed to actual news. This means that a large percentage of the population exists inside an echo chamber and don't realise that they are being left behind by not just the rest of the country, but the rest of the world.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Lushlife - "Magnolia"

Indian-American rapper and producer Lushlife (aka Raj Haldar) has a new album out this year, in which he continues his quest to be the rapper whose appearance is most incongruous with his sound. It's called Plateau Vision, following on from his 2009 album Cassette City which garnered a bit of buzz around the place. (Check that on my earlier post here.)

Single Magnolia is a thing of beauty, Haldar's Nas-inspired delivery coming correct over production that marries classic boom-bap with nicely sampled vocal harmonies and elegant harp glissando. The video is nice too, featuring an enormous amount of cardboard.

Kudos to me for using the term "glissando".

4 more years

Well played, United States of America.

Cheer up, Mitt. You are still worth around $200 million.

Now for another four years of Chicken Little-esque hysteria from the Right wing about socialism, birth certificates, and what it means to be a real American.

It's started already. On Twitter, Donald Trump called for a revolution. Sounds like he might be a socialist. The perversely fascinating WorldNetDaily will continue speculating about Obama being the Antichrist, and this election being the end of America as we know it. And no, that is not me exaggerating.

It was interesting to catch snippets of Fox News as they covered the unfolding election result, and gradually faced the truth. Presenters like Megyn Kelly tried very hard to pretend that they were journalists rather than Republican cheerleaders, but you could tell they were shattered.

One of the talking points you will hear frequently from the Right is an echo of the "47%" theme; that those who voted for Obama are voting in their own interests, because the President was offering handouts to everyone. Rush Limbaugh, for example, said "It's hard to defeat Santa Claus."

To say that is actually an insult, and is ass-backwards. The progressive side of politics, in the US and elsewhere, is full of educated wealthy and middle-class people who vote for moderate and Left-leaning candidates because they think it is best for the country. There are lots of rich people who will never have to seriously worry about needing affordable health care for themselves, yet think it important for poor people to have access to it. There are lots of people who will never want or need an abortion, yet believe it important for others to have access to it if necessary. Right-wing millionaire media personalities like Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh become angry at the prospect that Obama would raise taxes on the highest earners; yet left-wing millionaire media personalities like Bill Maher or Jon Stewart don't seem to care if they have to pay higher tax. Why would Maher or Stewart be so stupid as to vote against their own economic best interests?

It's called empathy, and it's a concept the Right still struggle to understand.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Why the US should re-elect Barack Obama

When Americans go to the polls this week, the choice they have is relatively uninspiring. One one hand they have an incumbent who once inspired a great many people to dream of hope and change, yet ultimately has been compromised by the ugly reality of politics and has fallen short of the faith placed in him. On the other hand is a man who very few would honestly describe as inspiring, aside from perhaps in regard to his penchant for making money.

Obama as POTUS has managed to disappoint many, but that is largely due to the huge expectations held for him as a young, charismatic leader who was also the first African-American to hold the highest office in the land. Thus he will struggle to inspire the same level of enthusiasm as in 2008. But while the real President Obama was never likely to compare to quasi-mythical Candidate Obama, he's not running against Candidate Obama of 2008. He is running against Mitt Romney, and at the end of the day it comes down to a straight choice between which of the two candidates is better. For me it's no contest.

Romney is a mystery; he has changed his position so frequently on issues that no one really knows who he is. Deep down I actually think he's a moderate Republican whose views on social and moral issues are not nearly as regressive as the base of his party. Yet he has seemingly adopted their positions in order to get to where he is now. In truth, the biggest reason not to vote for Romney is not the man himself, but the party he belongs to, which is dominated by flat-earthers whose views on gender, sexuality, poverty and race have yet to make it out of the 19th century.

As for Romney himself, his primary credentials are economic; he is super-wealthy and many think that this means he can apply this businesslike approach to money-making to the nation's economy. This is fine if you have a blind faith in the trickle-down economic model in which the best way of helping the poor is to make the rich even richer in the hope that they will deign to throw a few crumbs to the undeserving masses. The Republican position is to reinstate the vulture capitalism that fuelled the meltdown of 2008, just this time do it with even less checks and balances.

Romney is an extremely wealthy man who wants to govern for the extremely wealthy. His infamous "47%" comments make that clear. Obama, on the other hand, is a wealthy man whose primary achievement in office is to guarantee available health care to the least wealthy in the country. ObamaCare is far from perfect, but it is something, which is the opposite of what Republicans have offered in this area, ie. nothing.

This picture speaks volumes.
Explore what conservatives have to say about the President, and you will come across a number of reasons why they don't like him, and even hate him with a passion. Some of them are legitimate, but many are not. In truth, a huge proportion of the animosity directed at Obama says less about the man himself, and more about the Fox News-led propaganda wing of the Right to play on the fear, ignorance and xenophobia of the American public.

It's completely legitimate to disagree with things like his handling of the economy, or his stance on gay marriage, or on health care, if you are philosophically opposed to those things. The problem is that many of the arguments against Obama are based not on facts but instead are more about "feel" - as in, that he doesn't seem like a "true" American, or a "true" Christian, and so on. Gotta hand it to the right-wing strategists that play upon this sentiment - they know what they are doing.

We've seen, in the last couple of days, Paul Ryan talking about Obama threatening "Judeo-Christian values." We've recently seen John Sununu claiming that Colin Powell only supports Obama because of their shared skin colour. We've seen Michelle Bachman and friends whipping up fear of Muslims inflitrating the White House. We've seen Donald Trump persisting with the birth certificate nonsense. And yet it is Obama who is frequently charged with dividing America, on Fox News, the station where pundits regularly refer to the poor as "the moocher class".

Plenty of Left-leaning voters have been disappointed by the President's compromising on health care, and his use of drones in Pakistan. Some will be sufficiently disillusioned to not turn out to vote. The result would merely be a President Romney who would attempt to overturn the steps forward made in health care, and whose dealings abroad will only be more hawkish.

A common complaint is that under Obama, other countries see the US as weak. That says a lot about how people conceptualise strength. In truth, the US has long been seen as an arrogant bully, a perception taken to its limits by George W Bush. Obama has done a lot to regain respect from the rest of the world. But Romney has already shown with his limited attempts at dabbling in international affairs that he will undo all that good work very quickly.

Obama is not the messiah, that has been made clear over the past four years. But he's not "the worst President ever" as many Fox News talking heads would have you believe, either. He's been a reasonably good President doing a reasonable job at rescuing the country from a dire situation created by a Republican administration. A Republican Party that hasn't learned from the mistakes of the past, and thus is doomed to repeat them. So why would anyone want to vote for them?

How to speak like a Sri Lankan

"Confirmed bachelor." LOL.

From around the interwebs...

Links and tings.

What does it mean to be Asia-literate?
If this is the Asian Century what does being Asia literate look like for you? Is it learning an Asian language at school? Taking a Vietnamese cooking class or heading to Bali for the hollies? Or perhaps it is about going to live and study in an Asian country? What about for the generations of Asian-Australians?

Moderate Islamic Preachers Gain Followers in Indonesia 
When Mr. Almusawa takes his place, he starts off in a deep, soft baritone before building momentum and pitch as he addresses his subject: How Muslims should shrug off the "Innocence of Muslims" video that spread online. In his climactic thought, Mr. Almusawa calls it a test that Muslims must pass by letting the controversy go. The drums again begin and the congregation's voices swell in praise of the Prophet Muhammad. Speaking later at his home, Mr. Almusawa, a bearlike man with a trim beard and piercing gaze, says Muslims shouldn't allow themselves to be provoked by the Christian group in California that backed the video. "People like them don't understand Islam, so we shouldn't overreact," Mr. Almusawa said. "Otherwise we are just being driven by people who don't love our Prophet and his teachings."

Milk carton 'promoting homosexuality to children' 
Russian authorities are investigating a milk brand after an anti-gay group accused it of promoting homosexuality to children by featuring a rainbow on its milk cartons. The label features a mustachioed milkman and a prancing cow with purple spots under a rainbow. People's Council spokesman Antoly Artukh said the label "immediately put me on alert". "A rainbow appeared on the cartons, a world-renowned symbol of the gay movement."

Rejected as a refugee, accepted as a spinner
AS HE awaits word from Immigration Minister Chris Bowen about his claim for refugee protection, Pakistani asylum seeker Fawad Ahmed has emerged as a surprise figure in Australia's preparation for the Test series against South Africa. Ahmed - who fled Pakistan in 2010 and is living here on a bridging visa - has been plucked from Melbourne club cricket to help Australia's batsmen prepare for South Africa's formidable bowling attack because of his resemblance to Proteas leg-spinner Imran Tahir. Ahmed says he was persecuted by religious extremists in his northern Pakistani province for playing and coaching the sport he loves - receiving death threats for ''promoting Western culture''.

U.S. science fiction used to be fascinated with Japan, from Blade Runner to Neuromancer. Everything Japanese was cooler, sleeker and shinier than our grubby American aesthetic, and Japan was destined to dominate. And then, Japan's futuristic status waned. What happened?

“Multiculturalism is present but seems forced, ” says Ralph Antony, a 24-year-old engineering student. “I think deep down a lot of Australians would prefer less cultural diversity.”

The painful truth about affirmative action
The single biggest problem in this system -- a problem documented by a vast and growing array of research -- is the tendency of large preferences to boomerang and harm their intended beneficiaries. Large preferences often place students in environments where they can neither learn nor compete effectively -- even though these same students would thrive had they gone to less competitive but still quite good schools.

Monday, November 5, 2012

What Americans think about what the rest of us think about the American election

If the President of the United States is the leader of the free world, then why don't the rest of us in the free world get to vote for him? As it is, recent winners of Presidential elections have only gathered around 60 million votes, meaning that one-fifth of the US (so just over half of those that are allowed to vote, registered to vote and can be bothered to vote) gets to determine who leads the rest of us.

Of course, if us rest-of-the-worlders did get to vote, we'd vote pretty solidly Democratic. According to this article in the Washington Post, most of the world prefers Barack Obama to Mitt Romney, and it's not even close.

The only country in the survey that prefers Romney is Pakistan, which sort of makes sense given that forces under Obama's command are currently using drones to pepper the Pakistani countryside.

So why do non-USians have such a high preference for Obama, far greater than Americans themselves? A few reasons.

It's fair to say that a lot of the disillusionment within the US towards their President is due to the economy, and those of us outside the country aren't particularly affected by that.

Obama is also following on from George W Bush, who started two unpopular wars which many other countries are embroiled in, and is widely regarded as a buffoonish sort of character. It's not a hard act to follow. But Obama is the anti-Bush, and the antithesis of the stereotypical ignorant American. He has lived abroad, has a clear fluency with other cultures, and is obviously intelligent and thoughtful.

There is a perception that Americans view the rest of us as somehow beneath them, since the US is obviously the pinnacle in human civilization in some Americans' minds. Bush's behaviour in office certainly gave credence to this perception, but Obama has managed to garner back some of that lost goodwill.

But what is most interesting to me from the Washingon Post article is the comments section, because I'm fascinated by the views of the masses. Now I certainly do not think that what a few people say in the comments sections of newspapers represent the entirety of that country's opinion, by any means. But they can tell you a lot.

That last one makes a fair point about Israel not being listed, but then is possibly implying that Obama's watery liberalism is akin to Hitler's National Socialism.)

Friday, November 2, 2012

Ultimate chavette free after attack on brown guy

(Cross-posted at Brown Pundits)

Few things are as fascinating to me as the behaviour of the barbarians who walk among us, and to that end, this story makes a great case study.
See how many chav-indicators you can tick off on the checklist of chavdom:

Amanda Lowe, 26, was caught on camera stamping on Khuram Nisar’s head after calling him a ‘terrorist’ in Piccadilly Gardens. Lowe left her four-month-old baby girl and her eight-year-old daughter to launch the racially-aggravated assault. The baby’s father Wesley Earls, also 26, and her cousin, Daniel Wray, 21, then joined in the sickening attack. The group were later arrested by police in nearby Oldham Street. Lowe’s conviction for assault was her fourth in six years. 
But she was spared jail at Manchester Crown Court after Judge Lindsey Kushner QC told her it would have had an ‘enormous impact’ on her children. The judge told Lowe – who is pregnant with a third child: “Your record is terrible for violence given that you are 26 years of age. 

With the added benefit of seeing some other articles, I counted:

  • Drinking in the park with kids 
  • 4 convictions for assault since becoming a mother 
  • Stamping on someone’s head is considered acceptable 
  • Smoking while pregnant (while leaving court) 
  • 3-on-1 attack is considered acceptable 
  • “F***ing Paki” and “terrorist” 
  • Said those things in front of her kids 
  • Attacking someone in front of her kids 
  • Attacking someone while pregnant “the baby’s father” who presumably is not the father of the 8 year old 

If you are interested in an Australian story that ticks some of the same boxes, while not being anywhere as barbarous in terms of its violence, look here.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Leslie Jones loves white people

To be honest, I'm not sure I really needed to hear another "the difference between black people and white people is..." -type joke, but this is pretty good.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Why women are bad part II

I received this comment today on an old post about Malaysia's "Obedient Wives Club", an Islamic group which argues that most of the world's problems are the fault of women who don't know their place. Here we get a "Christian" perspective on the matter:

well, women are the main problems in this world. They want to be men's equals all of a sudden and they want power that is supposed to belong ONLY to men. In the bible, in Gensis, God said to Eve: "The man shall rule over thee, thou desire will be to be subject to thy husband" Therefore making men more dominant than women really is natural, and women have to back the hell off.

This is why I am becoming a social science teacher: because there are too many people in this world whose thinking process is severely faulty, and they need all the help they can get. It is a mental flaw that is extremely prevalent in the unquestioningly religious.

The logic of that comment is that men should be dominant over women because God said so. Case closed. That is, if you believe that the Bible is the absolute word of God and there has never been any embellishment or misinterpretation.

Who wrote the Bible? Men. Even if you do believe it to be God's word, it is nonetheless God's word as interpreted and retold by men. So, surprise surprise, it turns out that God favours men.

But then again, if you believe in talking snakes and that the first woman was created from a man's rib... perhaps critical thinking is a step too far for you.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

England vs Serbia U21 football match descends into racist anarchy

Ah, the wonderful world of Eastern European football, where the favourite way for supporters to display their passion for their team is by racially abusing black players. That this happened in Serbia is completely unsurprising, but let me also point out that similar incidents have occurred recently in Croatia, Russia, Spain and elsewhere. (This same weekend, the Danish team complained to FIFA about racist chants during their World Cup Qualifier against Bulgaria in Sofia, directed at Danish defender Patrick Mtliga, who has Tanzanian heritage.)

England Under-21 star Danny Rose has called on UEFA to ban Serbia after admitting that racist abuse he suffered in Krusevac affected his game. The Tottenham defender, currently on loan at Sunderland, said he had been subjected to monkey taunts long before the violent scenes which marred the end of the Euro 2013 play-off.
Sports minister Hugh Robertson today sent a letter to UEFA president Michel Platini urging tough sanctions from the governing body following the "disgraceful scenes" of racism in Serbia. Rose was sent off after the final whistle for kicking a ball in anger in response to provocation as scuffles broke out involving Serbian supporters, players and other officials.
Rose told Sky Sports News: "I remember getting slapped twice and then I got ushered away. "That's when I kicked the ball - and the referee sent me off. I don't understand, the game had finished by then but he still sent me off for kicking the ball. "As I went off again there was monkey chanting, but the monkey chanting started long before I got sent off. "After 60 minutes my head wasn't really on the game. They have to be banned. I don't understand how else they can learn from it, they have to be banned."
Robertson has given his full support to the Football Association, who reported a number of incidents of racism to UEFA. The minister said: "The scenes at the end of the game last night were disgraceful. "I have written to UEFA president Michel Platini, in support of the FA, urging them to investigate immediately. "Racism in any form is unacceptable and must be stamped out. We would expect tough sanctions from UEFA on anyone found guilty of racist abuse." England assistant coach Steve Wigley was caught up in the trouble and was manhandled as he made his way to the tunnel after the game.

Rose said the issues were a culmination of problems which had been brewing throughout the evening at the Mladost Stadium. The 22-year-old added: "It started when we went out for the warm-up. "They started the monkey chanting straight away. I asked the lads if they could hear it and they said they could hear it. "Halfway through the warm-up I went to 'Wigs', the assistant manager, and told him what was happening. "He said I had to try my best to get through it and they would deal with it straight away after the game. "In the first half I went down to get the ball for a throw-in and the fans started again with the monkey chants, but the first half was nowhere near as bad as the second half. "In the second half I had two stones hit me on the head when I went to get the ball for a throw-in. Every time I touched the ball there was monkey chanting again. "After 60 minutes my mind wasn't really on the game after that. I was just so angry and it was just so hard to concentrate. "I could have cost the lads the game because I made a few mistakes through not concentrating. "Then obviously we scored. After 90 minutes' worth of abuse I just expressed my emotions as soon as we scored. "Then the next thing I know all the Serbia players have run over and were all surrounding me, pushing me and a brawl broke out."
Connor Wickham's injury-time strike clinched a 2-0 aggregate success. Sunderland backed their loan player, saying they were "shocked" by what happened in Serbia. Sunderland's chief executive Margaret Byrne said: "As a club we strongly believe that the power of football should be used to promote inclusion and celebrate diversity and there is no place for any form of racism within the game of football and society as a whole. "The scenes in Serbia last night shocked everyone and Sunderland Football Club wholeheartedly backs the Football Association's stance on the matter." [Source]

Of course, despite FIFA's public stance that racism is bad, they will do absolutely nothing about this, apart from uphold Danny Rose's red card for reacting to being called a monkey for 2 hours on end.
The monkey chants are clearly audible in this clip:

Friday, October 12, 2012

Racism in Aussie hip-hop (@ Peril Magazine)

I've got a new post up over at Peril, the online Asian-Australian arts and culture magazine. It's about the changing nature of Australian hip-hop, and how there have been recent complaints of white racist sentiments among some sections of its fanbase.

Yet hip-hop is also a special case. It arose from black American street culture in the late 70s and early 80s, and it still wears its ethnic origin on its sleeve. It has exposed both good and bad aspects of African-American life to the world like nothing else before it. New York City remains the epicentre of global hip-hop just as it was over 30 years ago. Unlike some other black forms of music that have become mainstream (jazz, blues, rock & roll), hip-hop is still mostly a black thing. So how do “white pride” and “white power” elements come to exist in an art form that is so intrinsically non-white at its core?

Check it here.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Scandal as black man has a black accent

In the latest shocking evidence of something or other that right-wing pundits have dug up, Barack Obama has been captured on film in 2007, addressing a black audience and playing up certain "black"characteristics in his voice. And this is important because... I'm not sure exactly.
The Daily Show with Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Oh the Spew-Hannity
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Is Obama's accent really that different when talking to the black audience? I don't really think so, but in any case, it's something I don't find particularly unusual. It's called code-switching, and its something that a lot of people do unconsciously. Particularly bicultural people, or those who navigate between different cultures.

For my own part, I speak differently when I'm around people who don't speak English very well. Every time I go to Malaysia, I have a vaguely Malaysian accent after being there about 2 days. I call people "mate" when around working class white Australians, but use "man" when around younger or more ethnic peoples. And having just been intensively watching repeats of The Wire, more and more bits and pieces of ebonics are creeping into my speech. And all this is pretty much unconscious. It just happens, because like many other people I tend to attune to whoever I'm around. So I'm not at all surprised that somone like Obama does it.

Excellent article on this by John McWhorter at The New Republic.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

South Asians achieving comedic milestones on US and UK television

The always amusing Hari Kondabolu has a nice bit here about seeing a few more brown faces on the small screen these days, with the premiere of Mindy Kaling's new series The Mindy Project.
(This clip is from Totally Biased with W Kamau Bell)

His line that “there are now enough Indian people where I don’t need to like you just because you’re Indian” is so funny because it reflects something real. Often, members of minority groups feel so starved of representation in the media that we will automatically like anyone who ticks that box regardless of how good they actually are. But the reverse can be also true, as we can be overly critical of someone in the public eye who doesn't represent us properly. This might seem silly to some; white people don't tend to feel embarrassed because Honey Boo Boo Child is making white people look bad. But that's because there are enough white people everywhere else on TV that Honey Boo Boo is not going to create or perpetuate stereotypes about all white people. A subset of white people, perhaps.

Meanwhile in the UK, the BBC's first South Asian sitcom, Citizen Khan is well into its first season. Starring its creator Adil Ray, it portrays a British-Pakistani family man who overestimates his influence and importance as a community leader. Its debut episode stirred a lot of controversy and complaints that it mocked Islam and relied on lazy stereotypes. The latter count is true enough - it often feels like something that was made in the 70s or 80s rather than 2012. But it also plays with the stereotypes cleverly enough at times to make it just about worth watching, even if the laugh track seems overdone.
As for the accusation of being insensitive or insulting to Islam... meh. The aspect of the show that seemed to cause the most consternation was Mr Khan's daughter Aisha, who plays the perfect Muslim daughter in front of her parents but leads a rather different life when they are out of sight. But as Homer Simpson once said: "It's funny 'cause it's true." It's reflective of one of the major themes that runs through the show - the contrast between the public facade and the private reality, exemplified by Mr Khan himself. Also cleverly done is the interaction between Khan and the mosque manager, a white Muslim convert.

Funny-wise, Citizen Khan has a few laugh-out-loud moments but overall is well below the standard of the UK Asian sketch show Goodness Gracious Me, and perhaps not even at the level of The Kumars at No. 42. But I actually think this is an important show, even if it's not quite as funny as it should be. Being able to laugh at oneself, and by extension one's own culture, seems to be an important part of fitting into the British way of life. And frankly, if there's one community that needs a show like this, it's the British Pakistani community.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Temper Trap at the AFL Grand Final

Not sure how many people tuned in to watch Sydney beat Hawthorn in the AFL Grand Final this year, but my guess is it's somewhere between "heaps" and "a shitload", in addition to the 99,000 who were at the ground. And apart from those who got up to go pee, millions were watching an Indonesian-Australian guy killing it centre stage as the half time entertainment. Yes, that's Dougy Mandagi, lead singer of Melbourne band The Temper Trap, originally born in Manado on the island of Sulawesi. So forgive my momentary ethnic jingoism as I proclaim my pride that one of my peoples is tearing it up at the biggest event of the Australian sporting and television calendar.

The first song (new single Trembling Hands) is pretty good, the second (Drum Song) is a bit meh, and the third is the money shot - Sweet Disposition, the track that everybody loves. It starts at about the 5:30 mark if you are impatient.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Stuff my students say

The scene: Year 7 Indonesian class, full of 13 year-old girls.

Female Student #1: "Excuse me, how do I say in Indonesian: 'My mother is 40 years old'?"
Female Student #2: "Is she 40? Your mum's a MILF!"
Me: "Er... that's really not appropriate."
Female Student #2: (mouth agape in shock) "How do you know what that word means?"
Me: "Because I'm a grown man. I'm a bit concerned that YOU know what it means."

Friday, September 21, 2012

How to sound Swedish

Courtesy of The Two Ronnies. Dunno if any of you are old enough to remember them.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A right and wrong way to comment on extremism

The demonstration-cum-riot of several hundred angry Muslims in Sydney has been one of the most discussed issues in Australia in the last couple of days. You can read my take on it here.

The rally has been condemned by Australia's mainstream Muslim organisations, who are generally smart enough to recognise that such behaviour perpetuates the very stereotypes they are trying to fight against.

But one paper was brave enough to report on what it saw as the most heinous behaviour of the day - that of the police. That paper is Green Left Weekly, which I used to read back when I was an Arts student, until I developed what grown-ups like to call perspective.
The completely non-ironic title kicks it off in a fabulous way:

 Eyewitness account of police riot against peaceful Muslim protest in Australia
... I think that if the police had left the protesters alone they would have marched, chanted and prayed in peace... The police would be unlikely to have used this level of force against most other protests of 300 to 400 people. But Muslim protesters get different treatment. Muslims have been scapegoated and criminalised by state and federal governments and the mainstream media. Muslim communities are the target of intense racism and have been made fair game in this country. Now the protesters, not the police, are being blamed by politicians and the media of the 1% and even more fear and hate is being whipped up against the Muslim population. We should condemn the police who brutally provoked these protesters and squandered thousands of dollars in a massive show of police repression in the heart of Sydney.

Now I consider myself to be on the left side of the political spectrum, and thus it irks me to share my ideological patch with the sort of people who write these articles. To subscribe to their way of thinking, you need to believe that every bad situation is somehow caused by the State or the 1%, and never believe that members of a minority group could be in the wrong. It's ironic that a publication like Green Left Weekly, which rightly is a strong supporter of freedom of expression, women's rights and gay rights, is so happy to throw its lot in with a mob whose ideology is far more repressive and totalitarian than anything the 1% can dream up... just because that mob is part of a minority group.

This is not to say, of course, that the police definitely didn't use excessive force or tactics that were uncalled for. That may well have happened. But it's somewhat laughable for GLW to claim that "the police would be unlikely to have used this level of force against most other protests of 300 to 400 people", when every other story in every edition of GLW seems to be about how brutal and oppressive the cops are towards demonstrators.

A far better take on the situation was expressed in The Age by the Egyptian-Australian academic and broadcaster Waleed Aly, who again shows why he is probably the best spokesperson Australia's Muslim community has.

That the Obama administration immediately condemned the film in the strongest terms doesn't register. Nor that the White House took the extraordinary (and ultimately unsuccessful) step of asking Google to pull the video. This is invisible to an audience of humiliated souls waiting desperately to be offended and conflate every grievance. Indeed, they need the offence. It gives them the chance to assert themselves so they can feel whole, righteous even. It's a shortcut to self-worth. 
The trouble is that in our digital world, there is always something to oblige. Anyone can Google their prejudices, and there is always enraging news to share with others. Entire online communities gather around the sharing of offensive material and subsequent communal venting. Soon you have a subculture: a sub-community whose very cohesion is based almost exclusively on shared grievance. Then you have an identity that has nothing to say about itself; an identity that holds an entirely impoverished position: that to be defiantly angry is to be. 
Frankly, Muslims should find that prospect nothing short of catastrophic. It renders Islamic identity entirely hollow. All pride, all opposition, no substance. ''Like the Incredible Hulk,'' observes Abdal Hakim Murad, a prominent British Islamic scholar, ''ineffectual until provoked.''

It's an extremely astute article and I'd encourage you to read the whole thing.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Malaysian government reveals new high-powered gay-dar

Thank goodness Malaysians have such a vigilant government that protects them from the most grave perils of the world.

The Education Ministry had endorsed “guidelines” to help parents to identify gay and lesbian “symptoms” in their children so they can take early corrective measurements. The guidelines list four symptoms each of gays and lesbians: 
Symptoms of gays: 
Have a muscular body and like to show their body by wearing V-neck and sleeveless clothes; 
Prefer tight and light-coloured clothes; 
Attracted to men; 
and Like to bring big handbags, similar to those used by women, when hanging out.

Symptoms of lesbians: 
Attracted to women; 
Besides their female companions, they will distance themselves from other women; 
Like to hang out, have meals and sleep in the company of women; 
and Have no affection for men.

“Once the children have these symptoms, immediate attention should be given,” the guidelines warn. According to Sin Chew Daily, the guidelines published by Yayasan Guru Malaysia Bhd and Putrajaya Consultative Council of Parents and Teachers Associations, and endorsed by the Education Ministry, were launched during a seminar in Penang yesterday. The seminar on “Parenting in addressing the issue of LGBTs (lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders)” was organised by Yayasan Guru Malaysia Bhd and officiated by Deputy Education Minister Mohd Puad Zarkashi. 
... Puad is quoted by Sinar Harian today as saying that the exposure of symptoms of gays and lesbians was the best approach to address the spread of such unhealthy phenomenon among students. “Youths are easily influenced by websites and blogs relating to LGBT groups. This can also spread among their friends. We are worried that this happens during schooling time,” Puad told some 1,500 teachers and parents. [Source] 
As you might expect, this has elicited some controversy, probably for the highly speculative findings that gays are attracted to men, and lesbians are attracted to women. Thank you Captain Obvious. Though undoubtedly the contention that lesbians are not affectionate towards men is quite revelatory as it flies sharply in the face of every adult movie I've ever watched.

Also I was interested to learn that lesbians don't like hanging out with women... apart from the ones they hang out with. And that being muscular and wearing tight clothing is a sure sign of being gay. Perhaps I should stop going to the gym now, as at some point I may reach the tipping point of physical development that results in me wearing light-coloured, tight clothing and carrying a big handbag.

Sweet corn roti, Chiang Mai

Bought this at the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, being sold by a woman I presume was from southern Thailand.. It's like a Malaysian-style roti chanai but filled with sweet corn and a beaten egg, and then topped with sweetened condensed milk.

I'm not sure whether that combination of flavours really made sense, but it wasn't bad. I'd order it again.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Congratulations. You just ruined multiculturalism for the rest of us.

In case you can't read the sign in this photo: it's a small child holding up a sign that reads, "Behead all those who insult the prophet." This was seen at the anti-American protest in Sydney yesterday. [Source]

This picture, combined with footage of 300 morons converging on Sydney's CBD yesterday to rant about the film that disrespects the prophet Muhammad, might be the confirmation to me that we need to have a serious rethink about the direction of multiculturalism in this country.

I like being in a diverse multi-ethnic society where a variety of cultures are allowed to be expressed. But the multicultural ideal only works when the cultures it contains share the same basic values. While the majority of Australian Muslims have integrated well and become "Australian", there are certain minority elements, particularly in Sydney, that maintain views that are simply anathema to the values that are fundamental to the society we want to be in 2012. It would be slightly more understandable if these 300 protesters had just arrived in Australia from somewhere less genteel, and we could say that they have not yet got accustomed to the Australian way of life. But most of those men were either born here or grew up here. When people can grow up in Australia and yet grow to adulthood with a mentality that is unrecognisable as Australian, then perhaps there is something wrong with the way our society indulges these idiots.

We should celebrate diverse cultures. No doubt. But somewhere along the line, some people have taken that to mean that it's okay to think like a barbarian.

I have no axe to grind with the majority of Australian Muslims who are by and large pretty good folks. I am the child of a Muslim, in fact. I have numerous friends who are of Muslim background, and I can say unreservedly that Australia is a better place for their presence.

But we need to do something to ensure we don't add to the minority of Muslims who are just f*cking idiots. There are plenty of non-Muslims in Australia who are also f*cking idiots of course, but for all their faults, they generally don't advocate murdering people who insult their religion.

You know what Christians in Australia do when someone insults Jesus? Pretty much nothing. Sometimes they might write a stern letter to a newspaper. When people can insult Muhammad as frequently as they insult Jesus, and nothing happens aside from an increased volume of letters to the editor, that's when I'll feel affirmed that everything is okay with multiculturalism.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Blacks overwhelming vote for Obama; are they racist?

A new NBC/WSJ poll has determined that 94% of African-Americans support Barack Obama, compared to 0% who support Mitt Romney.

Romney is white, and blacks don't like him. Obama is black, and blacks like him. Do the math - blacks are racist, and finally we have the proof.

You can hear this sort of claim from some on the Right all the time, but is it true?

Simply, no. I mean, black Americans are probably about as racist as any other kind of American, but their support for Obama isn't proof of anything much. More important than Obama's race is that he is a Democrat, and blacks overwhelmingly vote for Democrats. Below is from CNN's analysis of the 2004 election in which the incumbent George W Bush defeated Democratic challenger John Kerry.

Blacks voted overwhelmingly for Kerry too, and he's white. They probably would have voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton had she defeated Obama leading up to the 2008 election. As a matter of fact, blacks have voted overwhelmingly for white candidates in every election until 2008. Which is mighty tolerant of them.

Of course, Obama does have a higher level of black support than most previous white Democratic candidates, but it's a matter of degree. Republicans have trouble admitting it, but the reason blacks don't vote for them is because they are the de facto white people's party. The Republicans suck so bad at seeming racially enlightened that they make the Dems look like saints, which they're not.

A more interesting question would be: would blacks vote overwhelmingly for a black Republican candidate?

Well it hasn't happened yet since until Obama neither party had nominated a black candidate for President. Some have tried, yet the campaigns of Alan Keyes and Herman Cain stirred little enthusiasm amongst the black community. Had either of them somehow won the Republican nomination, we could perhaps expect a slight increase in the black vote for Republicans, but little more. Primarily because neither of them was ever a strong candidate.

Hypothetically, Colin Powell would have been an interesting choice. He was often talked about as a nominee, and in 1995 held a press conference to announce he did not intend to run. Against a white Democratic candidate, Powell would potentially have snared a sizable chunk of the black vote. Against Gore in 2000 he could have even got a majority. But Powell is a moderate. Compare him to Mitt Romney. The current Republican nominee seems to epitomise one of his party's central philosophies; that the rich and powerful are that way because they deserve it, and the downtrodden are that way because they just don't work hard enough. Don't expect that to sit well with a community who know full well that life is not a level playing field.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Idiot Watch: The dumbest public statements of the week

This first instalment of Idiot Watch carries the alternative title: "How NOT to apportion blame 101." 

#5: Australian Christian Lobby spokesman Jim Wallace received a chorus of disapproval with his insightful way of analysing health statistics to fit his anti-gay marriage agenda. "I think we're going to owe smokers a big apology when the homosexual community's own statistics for its health - which it presents when it wants more money for health - are that is has higher rates of drug-taking, of suicide, it has the life of a male reduced by up to 20 years," he told the audience. "The life of smokers is reduced by something like seven to 10 years and yet we tell all our kids at school they shouldn't smoke."
Call me crazy, but I think one of the best ways to reduce the rate of homosexuals taking drugs and committing suicide is to stop constantly telling them they are sinful perverts who are defying God and destroying civilisation as we know it. But that's just my opinion.

#4: In Arizona, Superior Court Judge Jacqueline Hatch was quick to spot the greatest moral wrong committed in the case where police officer Robb Evans drank 8 beers, drove to a concert, flashed his badge to get in for free and then walked up behind a woman and put his hand up her skirt.
“If you wouldn’t have been there that night, none of this would have happened to you,” Hatch told the victim. “When you blame others, you give up your power to change,” Hatch said that her mother used to say.
Hatch is a Republican. I don't mention that for any particular reason.

#3: Gina Rinehart (pictured), Australian mining magnate and the world's richest woman, deigned to offer some sage advice for us Poors. "If you're jealous of those with more money, don't just sit there and complain. Do something to make more money yourself -- spend less time drinking or smoking and socialising, and more time working." And presumably more time inheriting $30 million from Dad, as Gina herself did. She also said that governments could make Australians wealthier by lowering taxes on the rich, and lowering minimum wage, comparing us lazy spoilt Australians with African workers who were willing to work for $2 a day. Meanwhile, dear Gina makes around $600 per second, which is still not enough thanks to all those damned socialists in government. She has also been involved in bitter legal disputes with all of her children and her stepmother to gain control of the money, which may go some way to explaining the "spend less time socialising" comment. It's easy to avoid socialising when everyone thoroughly dislikes you. For example, I would like the 1% a lot more if they stopped trying to cut my wages while telling me how lazy I am.

 #2: Clint Eastwood in his now-infamous speech at the Republican National Convention, in which he lectured an empty chair (apparently inhabited by an invisible Barack Obama) about why the man who became President in 2008 was apparently wrong to take America to war in Afghanistan in 2001.

 #1: Indonesian Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali, who said that the best way to stop Shiite Muslims in Indonesia from suffering violent persecution from the Sunni majority is... for them to convert to Sunni Islam.
(In other news, black people who are worried about racial discrimination can triumph over it simply by becoming white.)
Of course, those with a particularly cynical view of human nature or Islam might suggest he's right. But you know, if you are the Religious Affairs Minister, you might first try suggesting that Sunnis just stop f*cking attacking the Shiites to begin with.

Asians impersonating Christopher Walken

Some of these are lame and weird, but the fact that this video exists at all is why the internet is the best thing ever invented.
The first dude is pretty cool.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

More on our friend the comedian who's not racist but tells racist jokes

If you saw the viral clip of comedian Brett Eidman getting punched in the face by an Asian guy after too many dumb racist "jokes", you might find this to be an interesting follow-up. Eidman has a clip up in which he apologises for offending people and talks about his reasoning for doing the character. It seems sincere enough I guess.

But there are some interesting issues that emerge for me here.

Firstly, one of the questions the interviewer asks him is a common one in these kinds of situations, and it seems to me to be something of a straw man. At around the 2:25 minute mark, Lisa Ann asks Eidman to address allegations that he is "a racist".

His response: "Sure... I'm not a racist, I just wanna clear that up, I'm not a racist."

Er, thanks for clearing that up, Brett.

Seriously, how does that clear up anything? Did anyone, upon hearing her ask that question, seriously think his response would be along the lines of "Well as a matter of fact, I am a racist, and I hate Asians and blacks and all the coloured peoples of this earth"? No one, aside from members of explicitly racist organisations like the Klan, is going to answer that question in any way other than the negative. So it tells us precisely nothing about anything.

What is "a racist", anyway? Let's consider these three different accusations that can be levelled at somebody:
(1) "What you said was racist."
(2) "You are racist."
(3) "You are a racist."
(1) refers explicitly to the behaviour. And as long as one can agree on what racism sounds like (which is a whole 'nother issue entirely, of course), perhaps (1) is something we can actually demonstrably prove. And honestly, most or all of us have said something racist at one time or another.

(2) implies that the person has thoughts and feelings that are racist, and that it presumably impacts on the way they behave. How many people does this apply to? Again, I would argue that just about everyone is racist; even if only just a little bit. What separates the "good" people from the "bad" people here is whether they allow that racism to affect the way they live their lives, and treat people poorly due to their prejudices.

(3) takes (2) and turns it into an essential feature of the person accused. Saying that someone is "a racist" seems to imply that racism is a key feature of how that person thinks, feels and acts.

As I mentioned, virtually no one will admit to being racist, or "a racist". That's because we tend to define people as being in one of two categories, racist and not racist, and if you are the former, you are a horrible person.

Some people who say they are not racist are simply lying. Some are not lying, but are too emotionally unreflective to admit to themselves that they actually do have racist tendencies. Then there are another group, which I myself would probably fall into, who know they have some prejudiced attitudes, but see racism as an inherently bad thing and thus try to make sure they don't mistreat people based on prejudice. But if you fall into that category, how do you give that nuanced answer when someone asks you a dumb simplistic question like "Are you a racist?" Understandably, most people would just take the safe option and say "No."

So is Brett Eidman right when he says he's not "a racist"?

Probably. I mean, I don't think he hates Asian people, particularly. Maybe he has some racist views about Asians, although I doubt he actually means them any harm, and he probably has friends who are Asian, for whatever that is worth.

Yet undeniably, his behaviour was racist. I mean, his "Dom Fok" character is one of the stupidest, most insensitive racial stereotypes I have seen in a long time. For him to think it is acceptable is frankly, amazing. So in the unlikely event that I would ever conduct such an interview with Brett Eidman, I wouldn't waste breath asking him "Are you a racist?" 
I would ask: "What does it say about you and your views on Asian people, that you can continually perform as that character, and do it right in the face of two Asian people while hip-thrusting in an Asian girl's face, but yet be surprised when you get punched in the face for it? Would you do a similar thing to an African-American couple?"

So let's focus on the behaviour, first and foremost, rather than letting someone off the hook by asking whether or not they are racist, and acting as if it's some blinding insight when they predictably announce that they are not.


I got into a debate with some people online about whether or not George (the Asian guy in the video) should indeed have punched Eidman. First of all, I don't really blame George, and I might well have acted the same way myself. In fact I'm amazed that it didn't happen sooner. But my general stance is that I don't condone violence acts at all. Most of the time, when someone throws a punch, nothing major happens other than a few bruises and wounded egos. But other times, people get seriously injured or worse, and people get arrested. As it stands, perhaps this particular instance has had positive effects; we haven't heard that George has faced any criminal charges, and Eidman seems to have learned his lesson the hard way, but without more than some minor bumps and bruises. But it potentially could have been a lot worse, for either man. A conviction for assault can devastate one's career prospects, and people have gone to jail in the past for far less. Had it gone down that route, or if Eidman had suffered severe injuries or death, it would be less likely that George's actions would have been viewed as worthwhile.

While I don't blame George, I instead wish that it didn't have to reach the stage that it did. The bigger problem here is that Eidman has been doing this character for 20 years by his own estimation, and no one in that time has made it clear to him (preferably by non-violent means) that Dom Fok is some racist shit that should never have seen the light of day. As well as being a severe failure on his part as a comedian and a human being, I also wonder about all those audience members, friends and fellow comedians who saw that act and saw nothing wrong with it. If some of them had the balls to call him out on it over the last 20 years, it wouldn’t have got to the point where someone feels the need to hit him over it.

Monday, September 3, 2012

From around the interwebs...

 Golden Pig, Coffin Man and Noodles: When Asian tattoos don't turn out quite as planned
On a similar note, one young lady wished to have the word ‘Bitch’ carved into her skin, but the artist took some liberties with the language and instead inked the words ‘Cheap Whore.’

What Do Swedes Think of the Swedish Chef? 
They think he sounds Norwegian. Also, they’d like you to stop asking.

 Asian American youth culture is coming of age in 'the 626' 
San Gabriel Valley locals celebrate the 'fusion lifestyle' they're forging. It draws on U.S. hip-hop and Chinese dialects, includes Instagram and pho. Boba is a must.

What are some English phrases and terms commonly heard in India but rarely used elsewhere?
Soon, her mother will be looking for a suitable boy as she is of marriageable age. Unfortunately, her father expired recently. Her mother wants a foreign-returned or NRI bridegroom. Someone convent-educated from a status-family. Wheatish complexion highly desirable. 

The “Where Are You Really From” Power Dynamic 
“Where do you come from?” is a common question that some Anglo-Australians use to interrogate the identities of people of colour the moment that they meet them. I am a brown man and have experienced this sort of behavior all my life. This is what I have to put up with every single day and I find it very irritating. Do you realise that the question “where do you come from?” immediately sets in place a structure that excludes people, rejecting them with a form of passive racism?