They’re not even trying anymore

From The Age today I found the following two articles which just staggered me.  The first is about train level crossings, titled “Liberal Seats Gets Crossing Priority“:

A TRANSPORT Department list of the most dangerous railway level crossings has been ignored by the Baillieu government, which has instead directed millions of dollars towards upgrading crossings in Liberal-held seats.

Well thank the FSM that the Baillieu government has it’s priorities sorted out.  It’s much more about rewarding those who voted this current government in, and far less about saving the lives of Victorians.  I mean really, I should have guessed, it’s quite obvious when you think about it… no wait, it’s not.

The second is about female representation on government boards, titled “Ballieu wants more women on boards“:

THE Baillieu government has adopted a target to have women filling at least half of all positions on state boards, but has ruled out imposing quotas because ”positive discrimination” won’t always lead to the best person being picked for the job.

The Coalition has adopted a statewide target to get women into 50 per cent of government board positions, which are often regarded as a stepping stone to senior roles in the corporate sector, where women are largely under-represented.

”Targets can be very effective because it focuses the mind in making sure women are actively considered, and that their merit is taken seriously … rather than say, ‘well this spot has to go to a woman instead of the best person for the job’,” Ms Wooldridge told The Sunday Age.

I considered blogging about this when the last discussion of women on boards hit the airwaves, but I ran out of time and energy and brain.  Positive discrimination/Affirmative Action/whatever you’re going to call it does have it’s place.  Because if your colleagues on any given board are male, then actually thinking outside that typically “white male is the best for the job” box is rather hard.  And if you are presented with two equally qualified candidates, one male, one female, then far too often the individual selected is the same as the rest of the make-up of the board – which in Australia is generally white men.

So why not put a quota in place?  It won’t hurt, it will give you good quality candidates that you didn’t think of to start with, and if it all falls into a heap, then you can reverse it.  Ah, the joys of being able to change your mind.

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Japan

When I came home on Friday night and found my husband (husband 2 for ease of reference) watching footage of the tsunami in Japan, I was horrified by the sheer devastation.  I had been out drinking decadent (and delicious) hot chocolate with my husband (husband 1), my girlfriend and a dear friend after work and gym, and generally having a fantastic evening.

I stood behind my husband (number 2) and watched the tsunami, listened to the news reports, and watched in dumb horror the destruction occurring to my brothers and sisters to the north (and in winter when everything is going to be so very very cold).

As it happens, my husband (number 1) and I had organised to travel to his brother’s 50th on Saturday, and so that morning piled into the car to drive to Albury for the party.  We stayed at a gorgeous B&B, went to the party (and my FIL didn’t upset me even once – a new record!), travelled home via a friend’s place (where we had tea, scones and deep and meaningful conversations) and eventually got home Sunday night (thank the FSM for Labour Day in Victoria).

On return I turned on my PC and started talking to my sister, while catching up with the news and finding out how much worse the devastation of Japan was.  She shared two links with me, the first a collection of quotes from arsehats suggesting that aid should not be sent to Japan because Japan had bombed Pearl Harbour – or that the earthquake was return karma for bombing Pearl Harbour.  Now for everyone who doesn’t have a grasp of World War 2 history (because clearly that isn’t important to some people), the Japanese did not start WW2, and the US retaliated for the bombing of Pearl Harbour with the ATOMIC bombing of two CIVILIAN cities (not military targets) – an actual war crime. So if Japan was to be paid back in any kind of karma for Pearl Harbour, that nuclear bombing certainly was it and then some.

The whole karma payback for Pearl Harbour thing is also incredibly US-centric.  It certainly doesn’t address anything other grievance that other nations may have with Japan, and given some of the atrocities that occurred during WW2, there are certainly the potential for a lot of that.

The second site my sister shared with me was Karma Japan, a site that started collecting racist and bigoted commentary from Twitter mostly regarding the earthquake in Japan.  Many people apparently suggested that Japan deserved an earthquake because they killed dolphins and whales.  Clearly every other nation that kills dolphins and whales doesn’t deserve earthquakes and tsunamis.  Karma Japan has also published positive commentary from those who are condemning bigotry and racism, and provides counter argument to the hate and ignorance.

My favourite article of all on the earthquake and tsunami that has hit Japan (yes I am serious) is this from The Age, “World Rushes Aid to Japan“.  I am happily stunned by the generosity of past enemies and poor nations (well provinces) towards Japan in her hour of need.  In summary:

  • China’s Red Cross pledged one million yuan ($A150,000) to its Japanese counterpart
  • The Afghan province of Kandahar announced $A50,000 in aid

I feel that I am unable to even grasp the magnitude of this event (and the aftershocks and the possible nuclear meltdown).  It’s going to take Japan a long time to recover and rebuild, just as it will take Christchurch a long time to recover and rebuild.  I wish there was more I could do other than donate money to the Red Cross.

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Democracy by the sword

It always struck me as incongruous that democracy (and not demoncracy which I usually typo) has been imposed on so many sovereign states through Western Imperialism (mostly the US).  The most recent examples are Iraq and Afghanistan, but there is a lovely trail of US led, Western imperialism, democracy imposition (the right type of democracy) in other nations, such as Vietnam and South America.

It’s always seemed really odd that you can invade another nation, tell them that they’re doing government wrong, and then hang around while they do it to your standards (and I’m not a fan of US democracy anyway).  How can you impose democracy?  Isn’t that an oxymoron?

What has struck me about the past month and a bit is the both the people’s uprisings in northern Africa and parts of the Middle East, and the uncertainty of the US and back-footed response of the UN.  Clearly the US had vested interests in the various regimes as they were.  Egypt’s Mubarak was a useful ally, so little attention to was given to human rights violations or the wishes of the Egyptian citizens.  Yemen is an ally in “the war on terror”, so the current regime has been propped up using rhetoric that Al-Qaeda is based in Yemen (it may or may not be, I don’t know).  Libya is different again, with a great friend in Italy, and defrosting relationships with much of Europe – though I don’t think anyone expected Gadaffi to go quite off the rails the way he has.

I’m in awe of the courage that the regular people in Libya, Tunisia, Bahrain, Egypt, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Algeria, and Morocco (list may not be exhaustive), are displaying as they take on their regimes, as they watch their fellow countrymen be beaten, killed or arrested, for standing up and demanding a better say, less corruption, and more rights than they currently have.  I’m honoured to be able to hear their stories and watch them fight for democracy.  I’m amazed at how technology is being used for good (and not just for spying on citizens).

I am living in an amazing time, and I hope that my brothers and sisters who are fighting for democracy get everything they want, that the civil war in Libya ends quickly and that further violence is minimised.

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I’m sorry what have YOU been smoking?

The US Navy has finally decided to ban smoking on their submarines because the risks of second hand smoke are “severe”.

The US Navy is banning its crews from smoking aboard submarines, after a study found the risks of second-hand smoke were severe.

Submarine Forces Commander Vice-Admiral John Donnelly ordered the ban aboard 73 US subs, citing health concerns.

”Recent testing has proven that, despite our atmosphere purification technology, there are unacceptable levels of secondhand smoke in the atmosphere of a submerged submarine,” he said. (The Age)

Seriously?  What year do they think it is?  The dangers of second-hand smoke have been known for quite a long time, and surely the Navy would be far more interested in having their soldiers at peak physical fitness instead of craving nicotine or suffering the effects of second hand smoke.

The US appears to be a much different beast when it comes to smoking than Australia, which started banning workplace smoking in the mid 1980s.  According to Wikipedia:

Although Congress has not attempted to enact a general nationwide federal smoking ban in workplaces, several federal regulations do concern indoor smoking. Effective April 1998, smoking is banned by the United States Department of Transportation on all commercial passenger flights in the United States, and/or by American air carriers.  On August 9, 1997, President Bill Clinton issued Executive Order 13058, banning smoking in all interior spaces owned, rented, or leased by the Executive Branch of the Federal Government, as well as in any outdoor areas under executive branch control near air intake ducts.

Which I thought would have included spaces used by the Navy, which is part of the Executive Branch of the US Federal Government.  Remind me not to take my smoke-free workplaces for granted or to travel in a submarine any time soon.  I value my lungs, throat and mouth… and love not stinking of cigarette smoke after a night out on the town these days.  I’m a happy non-smoker and user of smoke free places.

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Boat People – it’s not a one dimensional issue

The recent tragedy on Christmas Island is beyond words. My sympathies are with the families who are mourning those who did not survive. This post is written because of what has been said since they arrived and their boat disintegrated with some dying and others surviving heavily traumatised, and in a very small way I hope that some people read it and realise that kicking the boat people football is a very bad game.

Unsurprisingly, the recent tragedy has brought out the usual political pundits, kicking the ball all over the place, blaming the Government for the tragedy (both the executive and the legislative arms) and suggesting that as the Labour Government overturned the previous Liberal Government’s Pacific Solution, that they’re responsible for boats arriving to Australia, and that Customs, AFP, Immigration and/or Defence should have known that the boat was nearby (despite the weather and sea playing interference with radar, and the sheer size of territory they’re responsible for monitoring – press release via another website here).

Let’s start with the latter point because it’s fairly simple to address – and I’ve pretty much done so with the fact that a small wooden boat, in high (near monsoonal) seas is going to be hard to spot.  Let’s not also Public Service bash, which is nice and easy with a big conglomerate of faceless individuals, but as a former Immigration staffer, I can tell you that most Public Servants I worked with were left leaning, compassionate and dedicated human beings.  The type of people you’d actually want making the tough decisions that get made.

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Wikileaks

I’ve been collecting articles for this post for the past two days (I would have written this last night but our home internet was shaped), so it will be link and quote heavy, but I think this is an important issue to post about and is going to take me the whole evening, so I hope you enjoy it while I settle down to write what’s on my mind.  And it’s going to be LONG.

What is Wikileaks?

Just in case you’ve not had access to the news and don’t know what Wikileaks is, and why I’d be blogging about it, Wikileaks is an organisation (to put it simply) that releases leaked information (typically about governments) to the media and wider world (currently hosted here).  This year (2010), they’ve published documents mostly on the US Government, causing it quite a lot of embarrassment – releasing leaked documents on the Iraq and Afghan wars and most recently (and what has caused the current shitstorm) it has started releasing over 250,000 diplomatic cables sent between US embassies and the US State Department, drip feeding their release in conjunction with several major media organisations.

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Dear the USA

This post is partially inspired by Chally’s post at Feministe, though on different topics, and nowhere near as well written as her piece – which I’ve just re-read and have fallen in love with all over again.

But anyway… here are some issues that I would LOVE the USA to address, because they piss me off no end.

I don’t live in the US

As Chally pointed out, the world does not revolve around you, not even close.  You are not the only country that uses the internet, though that must come as a bit of a shock.  Internet sites are getting better at noting this, but really, if you are a multinational company, and you sell to countries outside the US, defaulting to the US (especially when you can figure out that my IP is from Australia) is just rude.

Not to mention the number of times when I first started on the internet and put AU as the country code in forums and was asked if I was from Austin…. no, there really are other countries out here.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve read about a job vacancy listed in the LinkedIn groups I’m in and someone has listed a two letter state code, which I presume is somewhere in the US.  Oddly enough I’m not across your 50 states, where they are, what their capital cities are and how on earth to decode their state abbreviations.  If you’re a member of an international forum, for flying spaghetti monster’s sake, just spell out the state if it’s that important to you AND list that this job is in the US (so I can ignore the post and move to the next one).  Every other non-US role I’ve seen advertised lists the country – it’s just the USian jobs, which list two letter codes which could be anywhere, which piss me off.

So yes, start looking outside your borders, realise that there is an ENTIRE world out here, with people who use the internet, shop on the internet and who work and job hunt.

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