Posts Tagged current-events

Sydney by-election: what’s strange about this picture?

Browsing through the candidate profiles for the upcoming election, I noticed that the Greens are running an old, rich, white guy who studied commerce/law at UNSW, is a small business owner, used to work for the Reserve Bank, and is married with children. Meanwhile the Libs are running a young, public school-educated white guy who studied arts, worked in marketing, has ‘strong civil liberty, equality and environmental credentials’, and lives with his male, Danish partner, whom he plans to marry in Denmark.

Way to buck the stereotype there…

2012 Sydney by-election – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation).

Chris HARRIS – The Greens

Harris completed Law and Commerce degrees at the University of New South Wales and has been self-employed most of his working life. He had a brief stint as a researcher with the Reserve Bank before starting his business in 1979. Harris was the first Greens Councillor elected to the City of Sydney in 2004, served as Deputy Lord Mayor in 2006/07, and retired at the 2012 election after completing two terms. Harris is married with two adult daughters and lives in Kings Cross.

Shayne MALLARD – Liberal

48 year-old Mallard was born and raised in Penrith where he attended local public schools. He has a degree in Australian History and Politics from Macquarie University and has had a career in marketing and public affairs roles and also working as a small business owner in the inner city. Mallard’s political career started as the NSW State President of the Young Liberal in 1993 and in 2000 he became the first Liberal elected to the former South Sydney Council. He was subsequently elected to the City of Sydney Council in 2004 and 2008, increasing the vote on each occasion. Mallard also contested Bligh against Clover Moore at the 2003 state election. Mallard stepped down as the Liberal candidate for Lord Mayor in 2012 to contest the anticipated Sydney by-election. Mallard describes himself as a progressive Liberal with strong civil liberty, equality and environmental credentials. He lives with his Danish-born same sex partner Jesper, and the two intend to marry under Danish law next year.

*UPDATE*

It gets better. On the Greens website:

Chris Harris.

Chris was also responsible for the City’s Affordable Housing Policy and lobbied the then Labor Minister Borger & the Federal member for Sydney to deliver a 100 apartment complex on the old South Sydney Hospital site at Zetland.

So he is also pro-development and lobbying against Labor NIMBY-ism. I think this is my favourite ever Greens candidate…

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Oh the humanity!

English: Abortion protest sign on North Table ...

This was too good not to share. Although I do take mild offence to the term ‘abortion holocaust’.

I want you to meet my friend and fellow abortion abolitionist, 11-year-old Zoe Griffin. In a world when grown adults ignore, deny or just don’t care about the abortion holocaust that has claimed over 55 million of Zoe’s generation, she is willing to take a stand no matter what people think. Zoe joined her mother and friends to lay thousands of roses outside the site of the Democratic convention and pray for the babies, the politicians and this generation.

There is then a short monologue from said 11-year-old Christian warrior herself:

“The pro-abortionists turned to us and started pointing at different people, saying, “You’re a person! You’re a person! Fetuses are not!” Then the woman saw me crying and said,” You are making this girl cry with your bull____”. I couldn’t stand any more of those lies. They pushed it too far. In the highest-pitched voice I have ever spoken in, I screamed, “THEY ARE NOT THE ONES MAKING ME CRY! YOU ARE! WITH YOUR DARK HEARTS, YOUR DARK MINDS TURNED AGAINST GOD!”

Traumatic hey? But I guess there is hope.

I will never, ever forget what happened last night. I had a dream that night that they all converted to pro-life activists. I hope that dream becomes a reality.

Gotta love self-parody.

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Ivory tower watch: we don’t need free speech protections when we have vague ideas instead

We’re doing well this week – the last ITW even had a response from the actual academic in question. Since I’m on a high, I figure I’ll let it ride – especially as I have just had the rather painful experience of trawling through ‘What to do about hate speech:
 an “institutionalised argumentation” model’ by Kath Gelber.

Gelber doesn’t believe that free speech protections are needed in racial vilification legislation, mostly because she has a magic formula to find out if a statement should be unlawful. First-off, I’ll highlight this passage if only because it re-affirms my general issue with social scientists trying to talk about law. The law faculty can’t be that far away, you would think that she could walk on over and ask about some of these issues before presenting a paper on them.

[I]t has been claimed that the public interest exception was necessary because Australia lacked specific constitutional protections of freedom of expression, although no evidence is provided to support a direct link between the lack of a constitutional free speech protection in Australia and the inclusion of the public interest exception in the legislation. Except for very general comments in parliamentary debate, very little concrete evidence exists that the specific terms or breadth of the exemptions were discussed in detail before the racial anti-vilification legislation was enacted in NSW. [references omitted, my bold]

How is this for evidence of a direct link: if there were a constitutional free speech protection, having the public interest exception built into the racial vilification provisions would be completely redundant as it would just be replicating protections that already exist. The US does not need to include free speech protections in any of its legislation because they are already covered by the first amendment.

But the paper is really about hate speech – Gelber thinks a theory by Jurgen Habermas is all that we need in determining whether a statement should be proscribed hate speech. The statement she chooses as the sole test example?

The incident concerns a woman who was the target of the following comments from occupants of another vehicle at a service station: “You black slut”, “You’re nothing but a coon”, “I’ve shot worse coons than you”.

Using Habermas’ theory, Gelber spends 7.5 pages determining that this statement is, in fact, discriminatory. I hope that comes as a shock to you, because I was certainly blown-away by the revelation.

To summarise her application of the theory:

  1. On one level, it is objectively determinable, and probably untrue, that the woman was, in fact, a ‘slut’ or ‘nothing but a coon’ (short for ‘racoon’) and whether speaker had actually shot any ‘coons’ before.
  2. The statement reinforced the idea that the black woman was inferior because she was black and a woman.
  3. We can’t really know why the person made the statement, but they are probably a racist.

I’m glad we sorted that one out. To me, that statement is pretty clear-cut racial vilification. In fact, it would probably be harassment even if there were no racial undertones. Maybe Gelber could have chosen something a little more ambiguous to test her theory on?

How, for instance, would this test apply to very black Aboriginal activist Bess Price saying to a very European-looking Aboriginal man, “Look, I didn’t know you were a blackfella as well because I’m sitting here and you look totally like a whitefella to me”? Or for Chris Graham, the Founder of the National Indigenous Times and another pale-skinned Aboriginal, calling Price a ‘grub’ in response?

A little more difficult, no? Let’s apply the formula to the first:

  1. Price probably did assume that the man was not Aboriginal.
  2. She was affirming a norm that does exist where appearing black is linked with Aboriginality. Society has a lot of difficulty in determining if this is valid, but it is hard to tell someone who looks like Price that it is not. This criterion is a little vague.
  3. Both Price and the man knew exactly what Price wanted to say.

And the second:

  1. Price is not, in fact, a ‘grub’.
  2. Well, Graham is technically Aboriginal, however there does seem to be something racist in a white-skinned man calling a black-skinned woman a ‘grub’.
  3. His intent was pretty clear: he found it offensive that his Aboriginal appearance was being called into question by Price.

Should this be proscribed conduct? Not so sure now, are we?

But the worst part really is the ‘policy’ that Gelber puts forward at the end:

Might there be mechanisms other than apologies, retraction, fines and workplace-based educational programs that might respond more effectively to hate speech?

One alternative is to provide a hate speech policy which allows for the generation of speech which aims to counter the claims of the hate speakers. This means providing an assisted response to those who would seek to contradict and counter the effects of hate-speech-acts. This means that victims and victim groups would be empowered to respond to, and to seek to contradict, the impact of and the discrimination embodied in, the utterance.

She then spends a while explaining the benefits of this idea. The problem is, this is not really a ‘policy’ – it is a goal.

Apologies, retraction, fines and workplace-based educational programs are policies – they are things that can be implemented in the event that the Act is breached. Allowing the oppressed person to counter the claims of the speaker is not a policy. A policy could be, say, forcing the abuser to sit down with the abused and have at it – although I would question the effectiveness of this.

What I do know is that these vague alternatives have not convinced me that we can get rid of free speech protections in our racial vilification laws.

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Thank Government for that!

English: Barry O'Farrell in 2010.

Barry O’Farrell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: en:Nicola Roxon, federal ALP Member f...

Nicola Roxon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s always great to see Australian domestic issues making headlines around the world. This morning, it is yesterday’s High Court decision on plain packaging of cigarettes that is doing the rounds.

The judgment upheld the benevolent decision by my Government to not allow me to look at all of those cigarette packages that were already hidden away in a cupboard behind the counter of any store.

Thank Government, I say. The temptation from that multicoloured packaging underneath the pictures of cancer and gangrene was so strong sometimes, it was all I could do to pull myself away. Now I guess I will be able to overcome the overwhelming desire of buying a little blue and white box with a huge picture of a diseased eye.

I particularly liked this report from the Jerusalem Post:

Australian court orders drab cigarett… JPost – Health & Science.

Several major tobacco companies challenged Australia’s legislation. But the industry’s attempt to derail this effective tobacco control measure failed.

Plain packaging is a highly effective way to counter industry’s ruthless marketing tactics, Chan said.

It is also fully in line with the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control which was ratified by 170 countries including Israel – but not the US, due to its strong tobacco lobby, and went into effect in 2005. “The Australian lawsuits filed by Big Tobacco look like the death throes of a desperate industry.

Sounds horrifying. Ruthless marketing tactics, Big Tobacco, strong tobacco lobby. Lucky Nicola Roxon and Tanya Plibersek are here to protect us from this evil!

… as they were very keen to point out.

Australian Court Strikes Down Tobacco Challenge – NYTimes.com.

“This is a victory for all those families who have lost someone to a tobacco-related illness,” Nicola Roxon, the attorney general, and Tanya Plibersek, the health minister, said in a joint statement. “No longer when a smoker pulls out a packet of cigarettes will that packet be a mobile billboard.”

Mobile billboard?? Quick! Ban them! We can’t have mobile billboards with cigarette company logos under all those pictures of gangrenous feet and rotten teeth!

Even better was Roxon in Question Time:

 I do indeed have some good news for the House: today the highest court in the country has confirmed legislation that was passed by this parliament. That means that Australians will no longer be subjected to tobacco being sold in packaging which is attractive to young people and which entices them to take up what is a deadly and addictive habit. This decision is good news for every parent who worries about their child taking up this habit.

Attractive to young people? Government forbid! Thanks Nanny Nicola for protecting us from that. As a ‘young person’ myself, it’s nice to know that I am in good hands.

But it’s not just the ALP that is looking out for my best interests. See, a few weeks ago a young man was tragically killed in Sydney’s Kings Cross by a random attack. Fortunately, the perpetrator was found and imprisoned. It seems as though he was on some kind of a rampage at the time.

Luckily, the NSW Liberals know exactly how to respond to such random acts of violence: regulate!

Kings Cross owners plan crisis talks amid crackdown on violence.

The Premier, Barry O’Farrell, has announced the government will introduce a ban on shots, doubles, ready-to-drink beverages and glassware after midnight on Fridays and Saturdays for the area’s 58 venues.

No more than four drinks may be purchased at a time after midnight on Fridays and Saturdays under the changes and from 11pm two responsible service of alcohol ”marshalls” must patrol all venues and alcohol sales must cease one hour before closing.

Clearly there is a problem with alcohol-fuelled violence in Kings Cross after 11pm.

Yes, you could say “well the boy was killed just after 10pm”, or “there’s no evidence that the attacker had been drinking heavily”, or “this was a random attack and is not really evidence of an ingrained culture”. And you would technically be completely right on all counts:

Thomas Kelly Kings Cross killing: Kieran Loveridge charged.

The man accused of murdering Sydney teenager Thomas Kelly, 18, in Kings Cross this month went on a crime spree lasting more than an hour, punching four people in total, police said.

According to police documents, Kieran Loveridge, also 18, allegedly began his crime spree at 10.03pm on Saturday, July 7, assaulting an 18-year-old boy on the corner of Darlinghurst Road and Victoria Street.

But why let a little thing like the truth get in the way of some good regulation? Clearly if I am no longer allowed to keep ordering drinks at night before I wonder out onto poorly-policed streets with no way of getting home, I am much less likely to go around punching random people in the head!

It must be all that alcohol that’s the problem, not the fact that the 3am enforced closing time happens to coincide with cab changeover and comes two hours after all public transport has ended, which actually leaves no way of getting home for hundreds of people.

That couldn’t be it.

This is actually one of those rare occasions where I agree with NSW Labor.

The Opposition Leader, John Robertson, said the measures ”will not put a single extra police officer on the streets and they do nothing to address one of the biggest problems in Kings Cross – and that is getting revellers home on Friday and Saturday nights”.

I know, someone pinch me.

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How would Obama be seen if he weren’t black?

Interesting thought from Walter Russell Mead in response to some uproar going on in America over some stupid comment by one of Romney’s advisors:

Our President the WASP | Via Meadia.

Apparently the aide belonged to the Obama-as-Kenyan-socialist school of thought. In his own way, however, President Obama is one of the neo-Waspiest men in the country. He is not a product of Kenyan villages or third world socialism. He was educated at the Hawaiian equivalent of a New England prep school, and spent his formative years in the Ivies. He has much more in common with Harvard-educated technocrats like McGeorge Bundy than with African freedom fighters and third world socialists of the 1970s.

President Obama’s vision of a strong central government leading the people along the paths of truth and righteousness has “New England” stamped all over it. Puritan Boston believed in a powerful government whose duty was to promote moral behavior and punish the immoral; by 1800 many of the Puritan descendants were turning Unitarian and modernist, but while they lost their love of Christian doctrine they never abandoned their faith in the Godly Commonwealth and the duty of the virtuous to make the rest of the world behave. The New England mind has been open to insights and ideas that come from the third world ever since Henry David Thoreau and his fellow Transcendentalists read the Hindu scriptures in translation, but Obama is no more of a Muslim or an African socialist than Ralph Waldo Emerson was a Hindu.

I can really see this — Obama’s black skin and Arabic name are what prevent him from being seen as the private-school educated Ivy League professor that he really is (although he is still a common working man in comparison to Romney).

Also, I particularly like the way Mead linked the modern soft left big-state-ism to the old Puritans and the way they feel they have “the duty of the virtuous to make the rest of the world behave”. It really captures a line of thought that I have from time to time. There is just something that I don’t like about being told what working-class people want by highly-educated elites with middle-class professionals as parents who went to inner-city private schools and hold graduate degrees from Group of 8 Universities.

There is something horribly patronising in it — surely people from outer-suburban areas who work in trades, not professions, can speak for themselves. Why do they need legions of liberal arts/social science graduates to be speaking for them all the time?

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Why trying to ban LifeChoice Sydney was a tactical miscalculation

There has been a huge shitfight at the University of Sydney over “LifeChoice Sydney”, an anti-abortion club that just affiliated with the student Union (USU). Pro-lawful abortion activists decided to campaign hard against the club being allowed on campus, and the ensuing brawl has been all over the press. It even caught the attention of (long-ago) friend of the blog Dina Rickman, all the way over at HuffPo UK.

In my opinion, this was a huge tactical error on the part of the people trying to shut LifeChoice down.

Student union to fund anti-abortion group.

The University of Sydney student union will subsidise an anti-abortion group after students failed to overturn the endorsement of the pro-life society.

LifeChoice Sydney was endorsed by the student union on Friday, meaning the anti-abortion group is now entitled to up to $4000 of annual funding.

Attempts were made to overturn the endorsement on Wednesday at a board meeting of the University of Sydney Union (USU), where members moved a motion calling for the student body to “consider LifeChoice as discriminatory against women”.

However the motion was voted down 36-34.

Note: the “$4,000” figure is misleading. That is the maximum amount they could qualify for if they use every single subsidy available to them over the course of the year – which is highly unlikely, these things are targeted to specific categories of activities. In reality they will probably only get a few hundred.

In the interest of full disclosure, I probably have to weigh-in on the debate a little before I start talking about tactics. I’ll include a few observations below, but for a number of reasons that are beyond the purview of this post, I am against the idea of banning abortion.

HOWEVER, trying to ban LifeChoice was a bad idea. Even if it had been successful, LifeChoice has had a huge amount of publicity from the whole incident. People around the world now know who LifeChoice are and what they stand for, people on campus who would never have given them a second thought before have now read their material because they wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

I know that these calls are tough – and I say that as someone who worked hard in my day to have some clubs disaffiliated – but you really have to pick your battles.

The first question to ask is “what do we achieve by doing this?”

The best case scenario here is “not much”. For one thing, the vast majority of student clubs disappear after a few months, so it is doubtful whether LifeChoice will really do anything. Secondly, even an active LifeChoice is not changing any minds any time soon – this is quite a polarising issue and I doubt that many students would be particularly amenable to whatever propaganda these students are putting out (plus student campaigning methods tend to be little more than cheaply printed and badly designed flyers). Thirdly, there are already numerous societies at Usyd with an anti-abortion stance – such as various religious groups (Catholics, Evangelical Christians etc), or the “Conservative club”. In fact, I would venture a guess that these are exactly the people forming this club – which means that banning it will not prevent them from campaigning on the issue anyway and it is very unlikely that this club will make them any more or less successful than they already are.

Now, the worst case scenario? That pretty-much just played out. By trying to ban the group, the debate becomes about more than just abortion – now it is about democratic rights and the free exchange of ideas amongst students. A bitter fight in the student body trying to stop a group of people from expressing their beliefs makes the anti-abortion club look like martyrs and the pro-lawful abortion activists look like bullies.

LifeChoice just got themselves a lot of airtime that they would never have had before. People around the world who would never even know that they existed will now be paying attention. They will get discussed on talkback radio, they will be endorsed in columns and they’ll even get mentions on massively influential blogs like this one (at least three people are reading this post who hadn’t heard of them before. AT LEAST).

In short, the pro-lawful abortion activists have ignited a debate around abortion which they begin by looking like the bad guys. Any progress from here will just be recovering face.

If you are right about something, the free exchange of ideas will mean that you win-out eventually. That has happened and is happening in Australia. The debate is not over, but we’re winning. Abortion is legal.

Sometimes, letting your opponents provoke you is just playing into their hands (which applies equally to debates that I spend most of my time on). It may be counter-intuitive, but fighting their message like this only helps them get it out there. The best thing to do in these cases is to just ignore them and keep on doing what you were doing before. Be pro-active and don’t allow them to dictate the terms of debate.

__________________

Observations on the abortion debate: I have a problem with the way both sides conduct themselves (surprise surprise). There seems to be a complete refusal to engage with anyone who holds opposite views, which means that the issue will simply never be resolved. This is why I refuse to use either of the spin terms “pro-life” or “pro-choice” – they both try to pretend that the other side of the debate doesn’t really exist, which helps no one.

I may flesh this out in later posts, but briefly: “pro-life” people argue that an unborn foetus is a human being – or at least will be – and this person has a right to live, therefore it is not anyone else’s place to deny that child life. “Pro-choice” people argue that women should have a right to control their own body, which includes choosing whether or not to be pregnant. Both arguments are right, but neither acknowledges the others’ existence.

The reality is that there are two valid, conflicting rights. Whichever way you decide to go, you are harming some for the benefit of others. Taking either line without admitting that is completely immoral as you are causing suffering without even acknowledging it.

UPDATE: a reader pointed out on Facebook that “pro-choice” people are not necessarily “pro-abortion”, they are just in favour of permitting the choice of lawfully aborting pregnancies. I have changed the terminology to “pro-lawful abortion” as a result.

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I think I’ll start cutting myself

I keep seeing things like this:

Cuts to foreign aid hurt those who need our help.

I was shocked on budget night when nearly $3 billion was stripped from foreign aid spending (”Foreign aid vow broken”, May 9). Not only has a bipartisan promise been broken, but the government has chosen to save fewer lives and to help fewer children receive basic education in the name of a wafer-thin budget surplus.

That itty-bitty surplus could have waited another year. But instead, the child who has no access to clean water will wait. The community that is afflicted by hunger, or the mother who can’t immunise her children will wait.

The government may have achieved its surplus, but there will be deficit nevertheless: the 250,000 people whose lives will be lost because of it.

Rachel Achterstraat Manly

Which is why I was happy to see this, albeit in a publication with far less views:

The politics behind the ‘cuts’ to foreign aid.

The aid program has only been “cut” to the extent that the government has not delivered on promises to ramp up aid spending so that it reaches 0.5% of GNI by 2015-16. The government has maintained its commitment to increase aid to 0.5% of GNI but pushed back the target date to 2016-2017. Sticking to the 2015-16 target would have meant aid spending in 2012-13 of around 0.38%of GNI.

I looked up the word “cut”, here is the definition that I think would apply most here:

Remove (something) from something larger by using a sharp implement

  • – I cut his photograph out of the paper
  • – some prisoners had their right hands cut off

People seem to be following EU thinking, which is not really congruent with — you know — reality. Increasing spending less than you would otherwise have done does not equal “cutting” spending, it’s still an increase.

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Vogue becomes aware of world and I’m taking the credit

I’ve previously proven the awesome power that this blog has over the media, and today has brought yet another feather to add to the Major Karnage cap.

After my little attack on Vogue the other week for being completely ignorant of the world that regular people live in and giving disgusting justifications for profiling a “thin, glamorous” mass-murderer, I’m told that the magazine has re-evaluated its policy and is now including things like this John Powers profile on Katie Beirne, a Democrat spin doctor.

Sure, a lot of people may be thinking “there are like 100 people reading this blog post and they’re mostly Australians in their mid-20s, why the hell would the editors of Vogue care what you think?” or “yeah right, like a massive shift in editorial policy would have been made between your post and now”, but I don’t listen to them. I know it was because of me.

Katie Beirne: The Strategist | Vogue.

Where some political strategists (think James Carville or Karl Rove) revel in playing the garrulous genius, Beirne is allergic to the self-aggrandizement that is the D.C. lingua franca. Her power comes from resisting the limelight. Over lunch at the Monocle, the famous old Capitol Hill restaurant, I try to get her to promote herself, just a little. In vain. She pointedly won’t talk about what goes on behind closed doors. “Our work,” she tells me with her lovely, Vera Farmiga–ish smile, “is largely behind the scenes.”

Which doesn’t mean it’s not exciting.

“I so, so love politics,” she says. “I like the idea of fighting for something. Especially this year. There’s a big question whether we are going to keep the Senate. And what drives me is that we can only keep the Senate if we elect more women. This is the year of the woman.”

This does not quite sum-up exactly what it means to be a party hack like Beirne, but it does a pretty good job of making the world of a political insider seem much more glamorous than it really is — which is definitely a step up from making a brutal dictator and his wife seem much more humane than they really are.

Even more positive is the news that Vogue editors have committed to stop using underage models with eating disorders. After decades of encouraging teenagers to develop a “super chic” body dismorphic disorder, the fashion world’s top opinion maker has finally decided that “health” is in this season.

Of course, the fashion world is notoriously fickle and it could well be that poor health makes a “retro” comeback in a season or two, but this is a positive development for now anyway.

Vogue magazine changes its covergirls from waif-like to fuller-figured | The Australian.

The 19 editors of Vogue magazines around the world made a pact to project the image of healthy models, according to a Conde Nast International announcement.

They agreed to “not knowingly work with models under the age of 16 or who appear to have an eating disorder,” and said they will ask casting directors to check IDs at photo shoots and fashion shows and for ad campaigns.

American, French, Chinese and British editions of the fashion glossies are among those that will start following the new guidelines with their June issues; the Japanese edition will begin with its July book.

“Vogue believes that good health is beautiful. Vogue Editors around the world want the magazines to reflect their commitment to the health of the models who appear on the pages and the well-being of their readers,” said Conde Nast International Chairman Jonathan Newhouse in a statement.

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Proof the community likes shiny things and not effective advocacy

Everyone seems to be creaming themselves over the new poster campaign from AUJS:

Countering Israeli Apartheid Week | J-Wire.

As university campuses around t he nation featured Israeli Apartheid Week, members of The Australasian Union of Jewish Students countered by displaying specially designed posters.

A spokesman for AUJS told J-Wire: “We’ve distributed them to be put up locally in: Victoria, NSW, WA, Queensland, ACT, SA andNew Zealand. They were first put up in Victoria on Sunday night.”

Some of the posters are actually not bad:

But others are pretty awful:

As I have said before, addressing the Apartheid claim is not good advocacy. Meanwhile, demonising Abbas like that is not helping anyone’s image, least of all AUJS’. This is not to say that Abbas’ racist statements and incitement to violence are not a problem, but “smear campaigns” are not the way to go about combating the loony anti-Israel fringe. In fact, by using the “apartheid” epithet falsely, we are not only lowering ourselves to their level but also undermining the struggle of people who genuinely suffered under apartheid — exactly what we (rightly) accuse the “Israeli apartheid” proponents of doing.

Martin Luther King quotes, on the other hand, is a great way to undermine the “celebrities” like Desmond Tutu that they try to use to legitimise themselves.

However, all this is beside the point. The reality is that while poster campaigns may be the most visible form of advocacy, they are also the least effective. For example, Commonwealth Bank spend what probably amounts to millions of dollars promoting itself to students, using not just posters but huge stunts and attractive young men and women handing-out free stuff. That is infinitely more than anyone on campus who is either pro or anti Israel could do and you know what? I have been on campus for six years now and I still bank with Westpac.

The irony is that through its involvement in student politics over the last six or seven years, AUJS has dramatically altered the discourse on campus regarding Israel. When I first went on campus in 2006, to say the atmosphere was hostile would be an understatement. There was a genuinely antisemitic trend within a number of student councils (and I don’t use that word lightly), many of which spent thousands of dollars each year campaigning against Israel. This kind of activity has not gone completely, but it has dwindled substantially.

The community never seemed to care about this, however, probably because you can’t see paradigm shifts while walking to lectures from your car. Posters, on the other hand, stand out to Jews and Israel-haters alike — but to the rest of the student population, it’s just more noise to block out.

It amazes me that in 2012, people can still think that posters like these are going to change anyone’s mind. We are bombarded with so many images each day that any kind of visual advertising like this really has very little effect; our minds are conditioned to just blank it out. If this is what it takes to impress the community so that AUJS’ political activities are funded then so be it, but there are much better things to spend time and money doing.

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Good news: Israel promotes model health and Wire star heals Baltimore

I’m posting something to keep-up my good news doctrine, God knows I could use it. Today in particular, good news was not easy to come by.

Well, here’s one piece: Israel is breaking new ground by banning underweight models. I’m not normally one one for government regulations, but this one makes sense to me, mostly because encouraging people to have a disease in order to work in a certain industry does not seem like something that a healthy society would allow.

New Israeli Law Bans Underweight Models In Ads, Undisclosed Airbrushing.

JERUSALEM — A new Israeli law is trying to fight the spread of eating disorders by banning underweight models from local advertising and requiring publications to disclose when they use altered images to make women and men appear thinner.

The law, passed late Monday, appears to be the first attempt by any government to use legislation to take on a fashion industry accused of abetting eating disorders by idealizing extreme thinness. It could become a model for other countries grappling with the spread of anorexia and bulimia, particularly among young women.

The law’s supporters said they hoped it would encourage the use of healthy models in local advertising and heighten awareness of digital tricks that transform already thin women into illusory waifs.

Meanwhile, Kima from The Wire has been doing some amazing work in Baltimore since the show finished,

Best known as Detective Shakima “Kima” Greggs on The Wire, Sohn has dedicated her time since the show ended to supporting the city that supported her breakout HBO role. A victim of a traumatic childhood that included abuse, drugs, altercations with police, and poverty, Sohn decided that when The Wire ended she wanted to stay in Baltimore and help citizens avoid the problems she once faced.

Sohn founded ReWired for Change with Wire costars Wendell Pierce and Michael K. Williamsm setting a goal of cutting down on crime and violence in Baltimore by educating young people through the arts and mentoring programs. “I felt like I was trapped in this acting game going, ‘What is this all about? What is this all leading to?’” Sohn told NPR. “And in 2008, when I saw the kind of influence that a person who is in the public eye can have in the lives of those who have less, then I began to see, ‘Ah… this is the solution. This is what it was all leading to all this time.’ And once I embraced that, life came into perfect balance. And that’s what it’s all about.”

This is amazing news for a Wire fan like me. Not only did the show manage to give us incredible insights into parts of Baltimore that most of us will never know, while also being the best show of all time, it is having an enduring impact that may be helping to alleviate the awful poverty and crime that we got to know so well over the five seasons.

There, doesn’t that feel better?

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