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.