Gun violence

There’s currently strong push to identify mass killings as expressions of male dominance. Consider this article in that tells us;

Research conducted by Everytown for Gun Safety found that 54 percent of mass shootings between 2009 and 2016 — defined as incidents in which four or more people besides the shooter are killed — involved the killing of a partner or at least one family member. There are certainly outlier cases; it’s not clear that Adam Lanza, who murdered his mother before going on to massacre a bunch of children and school employees at Sandy Hook Elementary School, had any history of domestic violence. But the typical mass shooting case is one where a man attacks a group of people in order to hurt or kill a female partner over whom he wants to exert or maintain control.

Wait, so mass murders that aren’t caused by domineering, pissed off men are outliers? 46% is not an outlier.

You might be thinking; why quibble over this? Surely men exerting domestic violence against women is bad, right? Well yes. But talking about why shooters do it detracts from talking about how they did it; The shooter was mentally ill or depressed or a wife-beater. So, guns don’t kill people, mentally ill, depressed wife beaters kill people. Or so the gun lobby would have it.

When in fact, guns kill people. Yeah, it’d be nice if everyone with violent tendencies could reform their ways, but on the off-chance that this may take a little more than a couple of millennial hashtags about #love, it might be an idea to take away the high powered weaponry.




Kid gets off bus buzzing and happy.

K. N says I’m her friend and she gave me this friendship ring. It’s because we’re friends!

M. Cool.

K. She also says I should wash my hair and conditioner it, because she said she could smell a funny smell and she thought it was me. She said I would look heaps better with shiny hair.

M. Well, you have a shower every day, and you’ve been swimming a lot, so I doubt you’re stinky. But OK, you can use conditioner if you want.

This morning

K. Mum, can I wear talcum powder today?

M. No, we’re walking out the door, it’s too late for that conversation Wait, is this cos N said you smelled bad yesterday?

K. Yeah, she said I should wear perfume, but I told her that my Mum only lets me wear talcum powder, and that’s only sometimes.

M. Ok, let’s get this straight. Sometimes girls tell one another that they should change something about how they look so they look prettier, or that they should smell different. They seem like they’re being nice and being your friend, but it’s actually called; ‘Being a bitch’.

[perhaps could have toned this down a bit, but the kid is used to this kind of straight talk chances are she’ll survive]

M. It’s a bit like bullying where someone tries to make you feel bad, but in this case they’re not necessarily trying to make you feel bad. It’s just a thing that girls learn to do to make other girls feel like they’re inadequate and that they need to do something to themselves to improve themselves.

K. But why do they do it at all?

M. There are a couple of main reasons. The first is that it makes money. Companies do this thing where they tell you there is something wrong with you when there isn’t. But then they make you think there is, and then they tell you they have a product that solves the problem. But there wasn’t a problem in the first place.

Have you got two legs? Are you tired of having two perfectly operational legs? Are the bottoms of your legs always in shoes? Yes! Well, we’ve got the solution, the new Suzuki 1000!

K. I don’t know what you’re on about Mum [exasperated but increasingly common look]

M. Look, companies tell you that something normal about your body isn’t normal. And then they sell a product that will change it. And then they become rich, by solving a problem that wasn’t a problem in the first place. That kind of thinking has become quite normal, so that’s one reason that girls think it’s OK to tell other girls that there is something wrong with them when there isn’t. Make sense?

K. Yep

The other reason is a thing called sexism. Have you heard of sexism?

K. No.

M. It sounds like sex, but it’s really just the old fashioned idea that girls should be pretty and smell nice, and play with dollies, and that’s all they can do. No science. No Operation Ouch. No maths. 

K. No maths? Whaaaat? But we all do maths at school.

M. Yeah, but with sexism girls think it’s OK to not be good at maths, because what’s really important is that they look pretty and smell nice. Imagine if you couldn’t go to the Physics Learning Labs because you were a girl.

[Look of abject horror as this freaky alternate reality sinks in]

M. Yeah, so that’s sexism. The important thing to remember is that N probably isn’t trying to be horrible when she tells you there’s something wrong with how you look or smell. It’s just something some girls are trained to do. So you can still be friends with her, but just be aware that you’ll hear this kind of stuff from time to time. What’s important is that you are aware that there is nothing wrong with you, and you get to decide if you want to change something about yourself. 

A good thing to ask yourself is; would this friend still say this stuff to me if I was a boy? Would N tell a boy that he smelled bad or should use conditioner in his hair?

K. No, I don’t think so.  

M. Ok, that’s sexism, consumerism and body politics covered. Now, try to remember to get your jumper out of your tote tray please, and have a look for missing containers. Here comes the bus.


Artificial grief

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Straight to the pool room

There’s no shortage of issues to be concerned with at the moment, foremost of which is Australia’s energy ‘restructure’ that will have major implications for this country’s emissions…not that you’d know because no-one seems remotely interested in it.

What everyone is interested in is the ridiculously polarised debate over the detainees on Manus island. Honestly, it’s like the two sides of the media collude to create a brainless duopoly. Missing altogether is any mention of the real mandate of the anti-asylum seeker politicians.

It’s all very well to talk about how few asylum seekers are coming to Australia, or how Australia should admit those who’re currently being held in (or ‘released’ from) the Manus island detention centre BUT the main reason Australians continue to vote against asylum seekers is that they think if Australia admits everyone who comes by boat or plane then more will come.

I personally think Australia should take many more refugees than it does – we are currently engaged and complicit in fucking up the Middle East, and have benefitted massively from its general instability, now and in years gone by. Even the most cursory examination of history will tell you how this works. However, that’s my perspective and I know it’s not a popular one.

What needs to be addressed in the refugee debate is the perception that if more can come, more will come. I have only once seen an acknowledgement or discussion of this idea in the mainstream left media (in The Monthly, several years ago).

Now, it’s hard to imagine a more pressing issue than the status of refugees being abandoned in Papua New Guinea. Or at least that’s what I thought until I read our local newspaper this morning.

The front page featured a group of local fishermen petitioning for an artificial reef. It turns out that after 200+ years of European despoil there just isn’t quite enough shit cluttering up the bottom of the ocean. If only there were just a little bit more!

After all, it’s getting harder and harder to catch fish, so clearly there needs to be something that organises them into a more easily accessible area. And actually, while we’re at it, let’s get rid of the Marine Park as well. Because God knows, that thing has heaps of fish in it.

You might think this issue is a little mundane, but that’s where you’re wrong. Because the fishermen are not the only local group furiously sweating into their heavily branded baseball caps this week. There is another group of ‘concerned locals’ who’re being actively concerned in the direction of the Mayor. This group don’t give a shit about the artificial reef. They’re concerned about sea level rise – specifically, the lack thereof.

Our Council has had the audacity to suggest that the avalanche of scientific evidence regarding climate change is probably accurate. Sea levels are likely to rise. But not without a fight. Because nothing turns back the ocean like a group of crimson-faced fatties belligerently sweating into their nylon short shorts. It’s in the bible, somewhere near the back. Check the index for; ‘coastal inundation’, or ‘double-brick’.

Between artificial reefs and sea level rise it’s hard get a moment of peace.

But all is not lost. There is a delightful symmetry here. Because, on the off-chance that protesting sea level rise does not hold off the inexorable creep of the ocean, our local coastline is set to acquire a rather substantial artificial reef, complete with brick-and-tile patio and floor mounted swivelling bar stools. That’s right, most of the region’s waterfront properties will eventually fall into the sea.

The fishermen would love it for the snagging opportunities alone; ‘Fuck, Bazza, I’m snagged on the rotunda’ would enter the lexicon, a development that is certainly overdue.

The fish would love it too – they could lay their eggs in the entertainment unit and hang fibreglassed humans above the bar.

Why I’m not rich is beyond me.

Wooly thinking part two

Does autism correlate with high IQ?

Or is this simply a form of reverse stigma?

I’ve mused about the apparent paradoxes in the diagnoses of autism before but I’ve yet to find anything that’s making me think that most people with autism are bloody geniuses.

There is a study which suggests that many of the genes implicated in autism are also those implicated in high IQ, but, as anyone who knows anything about genetics will tell you, it’s very difficult to identify ‘a gene for X’. Basically, this is the equivalent of searching for The Bachelorette gene.

I particularly enjoyed this article that told me that people with ASD are brainy because compared to the general population,

Nearly half of children (46 percent) who have been diagnosed with ASD have an above average intellectual ability, however, it differs from person-to-person.

That’s right, almost fifty percent of those with ASD fall above the average! Which I guess means that 54% fall below the average. Which tells me nothing except that as a population people with ASD are slightly dumber than those without ASD. It depends, I suppose, on how they define ‘average’ – for me, I take a pretty straight up mean/median approach, (the sample was 10 000) but maybe they decided that the top of the curve was actually a table top.

I see you, kurtosis, and I place a plate and some chips on top of you!

How good is science reporting? I mean, really. This shit is top drawer.

What’s racist today?

When protectionism is racist;

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Here, the Australian left-wing media hangs New Zealand’s Prime Minister elect Jacinda Ardern out to dry because she’s at once too socialist and not socialist enough.

To be clear, there is a difference between social socialism and economic socialism.

Economic socialism views housing as more than a commodity and claims that the free market trade in goods and services (such as houses) must be regulated to prevent the concentration and consolidation of power*.  Ardern has stripes in version of economic socialism**. Economic socialism also does not view people as commodities, to be imported and exported depending on the GDP per capita that quarter.

Social socialism (probably what the vapid, swaying lampreys in the right wing media call ‘cultural Marxism’) means not being a cunt to the Indians living next-door. It means making sure that people who live in your country do not experience prejudice and have the same opportunities as others. Ardern also has stripes in this department.

We see this paradox emerge in the US all the time – Republicans are economically liberal but socially conservative. That was, of course, until Trump, when the socially conservative finally realised that they were economically conservative too – coming clean about the protectionism that engenders their economic strength. They’re still economically liberal with health care though – you limping losers brought that on yourselves.

Which brings me to my final point;

The more astute of you may have guessed that my reference to ‘limping losers’ was a statement whereby I take the position of an anti-healthcare advocate. It is an attempt at positioning both them and me – I believe in publicly funded health and disability care, many Americans do not. If I were a politician, this statement, along with many others I have made online would be enough to get me fired in a fit of internet outrage, no doubt after a Guardian revelation that I’d called disabled people limping losers. Let’s make this easy;

Senator XXX Suspended After Calling Disabled; ‘Limping Losers’. (The Guardian, March 2039)

Tagline; Senator XXX has been relieved of her duties after it was revealed that she once referred to disabled people as ‘limping losers’ in an online blog post in October 2017. 

Let’s have a look at one the BBC prepared earlier;

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Yep, this MAN called women ‘sexy little slags’ in an online review of an Arctic Monkeys something-or-other in 2002 (14 years ago for those playing at home). He also apparently called someone he’d an some kind of sexual relationship an ‘ugly bitch’ during a discussion with her (he denies this).

Conservative MP Mims Davies, chairwoman of the all-party parliamentary group for women in Parliament, said it was “right” that Mr O’Mara had been suspended over his “vile” comments.

But she added: “Why on earth has it taken so long?”

Ummm, let me think about that one….

Firstly, maybe no-one gives a fuck? I am a woman and I couldn’t give a fuck if some bloke calls women ‘sexy little slags’ – and that’s without knowing the context of it. Maybe he was trying to be funny, he is a ginger after all.

Second, no-one is going to call out this behaviour because it opens the Giant Box of Hypocrite. How long till we see ancient online comments from Conservative MPs claiming poor people are best sliced thinly and served with a light vinaigrette?

I’m less interested in the hyper-vigilant confected outrage du jour and more interested in how it is used. It’s like a tractor beam, ever ready to be pointed at the next person to go. Outrage does not ‘do’ complicated political intrigue – no-one’s got the attention span for that. No, it cuts straight to the chase; he called me X. Let’s get rid of him/her.

Politicians are constantly on the knife-edge of inferior wokeness, endlessly surveilled by a foaming media pack ever-ready for salacious, one-line mis-steps in the morass of shrill identity politics.

Who benefits from this hyper-vigilance? The right wing media, who claim that we all live in fear of saying anything at all. Right wing ideologues like Andrew Bolt are increasingly recruiting ‘ordinary Australians’ as the distance between political speak and regular speak grows.


*Houses in Auckland (because that’s where this debate begins and ends) are sometimes bought by overseas investors (often Chinese – thus the Asian racism angle). However, it’s worth noting that although 70% of Auckland’s entry level housing is purchased by investors only 3% is purchased by overseas buyers. Middle aged kiwis are finding Auckland’s housing market almost impossible to access because of Glenys and Murray, not Mr and Mrs Tan. Even though 3% is a small amount, it’s testament to the disquiet about houses being traded as commodities quite so blatantly. After all, even if Glenys and Murray are using their property investment to make money they’re still spending it in NZ – it’s an interesting type of commodification.

**Also worth noting that this reflects a peculiarly Australian viewpoint of racism, focused on anti-Asian sentiment when actually, a good deal of the disquiet about overseas investors isn’t about Asians at all, it’s about the (tiny but high profile) trend of very wealthy global/Americans (Peter Thiel et al.,.) buying large properties within ‘iconic’ New Zealand landscapes. New Zealanders fear their rural and ‘natural’ landscapes becoming an increasingly gated community that they are locked out of. Maori have seen this movie before of course….


Depression and anxiety; The new racism

It’s been a hell of a few weeks. Clearly I am suffering from stress. It could lead to depression, or perhaps anxiety.

Or perhaps I’m just busy and under pressure. Perhaps I’ll just harden the fuck up for a bit and see if that helps.

First; a warning. This is just some out-loud thinking. Sorry if it doesn’t make any sense. I’m stressed etc.,.

Yesterday I heard Frank Furedi speaking about freedom of speech on Radio National. I’ve not heard of Furedi since I was an undergrad student, about 20 years ago. I liked his work then, but have shifted in other directions since.

Yesterday, I listened to him argue that Western universities are increasingly self-censorious. This is because, under a neo-liberal consumerist model, they’re competing for students. There are prizes for the least confronting course content.

Education has become commodified, of course, but it’s happened in weird ways. University is no longer an adult stage, it is a continuation of a cosseted larval form, where endlessly fretting parents shuffle continuously build a fuzzy little ‘happy bubble’ around their children.

Every year the numbers of university students applying for special consideration on the basis of ‘stress’ or ‘depression and anxiety’ increases, as students pathologise the normal pressures of life in the adult world into an ever-expanding rubric of ‘wellness’.

Furedi often writes about this cultural turn but for me it was refreshing to hear someone validate what I myself have said so many times. In fact, I usually go one step further. I think we are encouraged to focus our attention on ourselves so as to avoid looking at the structural inequities and problems that may affect our ‘wellbeing’. This is one of the key ways that neo-liberalism works – it is the cult of the individual; If you can’t make life work, it’s because you’ve got something wrong with you. You have an illness. I’ve moaned about how this insidious cult of wellness operates before.

Here’s the thing; All capitalist systems require a certain degree of labour market elasticity. This is what the NAIRU (Non Accelerating Inflation Rate of Unemployment) refers to. It is simply the rate of unemployment that can be sustained before inflation rises.

In the old days, the easiest way to secure churn at the bottom of the labour market was simply racism – you brought people in to your country and then stigmatised them so they would remain at the bottom. The decline in Empires (something that really only happened with the recession in the second half of the 1970s) has made flat-out racism more unpalatable and immigration much harder to manage. But the market still needs a bunch of people who will buy things but can’t work all the time.

Depression and anxiety is the new racism.

There’s another dimension to Furedi’s comments about education and feeble-mindedness, however. The commodification of a university education under a neo-liberal model has seen a dramatic increase in university enrolments. I’ve written about this in the Australian context before. My point is, universities are now accepting students who are completely unprepared for a university education.

One of the one hand, it’s predatory lending – inviting students to buy a mediocre education where they barely scrape through a general degree, with the help of multiple concessions to ‘stress’ or ‘depression’, is a bad thing.

But I’ve got mixed feelings about this. I myself left school before School C(ertificate*), and hit university in my early 20s. I was hopelessly outgunned. But, after a year I worked it out and did rather well thankyouverymuch.

So I’m cautious about suggesting that university entry requirements should be tightened as it may exclude those who might genuinely benefit.

I’ll leave that there. Apologies for lack of coherent thought.



*School Certificate and Bursary were the two main qualifications one could earn at school. Bursary (silly name, as it didn’t come with money) was roughly the same as HSC, undertaken at the end of Year 12. Only those planning to go to uni sat Bursary.

School C was the main qualification and you sat it at the end of Year 10. Can you imagine today’s year 10s sitting a series of exams at the end of the year? The stress! You’d be weeping into your chai latte.



Here’s a little story….

Two days ago I took my kid and neighbour’s dogs for a walk to the wharf. It’s a thing we like to do at the end of a long day of school and work. We just walk, chat and giggle about the silly dogs. It’s cool and calm down there. Periodically I shout BONDING.

There are other people around – fishermen, some kids on bikes…the usual early evening crowd.

Anyway, there we were, sitting at the wharf with the dogs when a boat pulls into the ramp. The guy gets out of the boat, retrieves his 4wd and then backs it down the ramp. His partner replaces him in the driver’s seat and he gets into the boat. Then he fucks it all up, the boat isn’t on the trailer straight. So he starts yelling at his partner. He’s shouting something about her not putting the car in the right place.

But he’s not just shouting, he’s standing in the boat, screaming at her, calling her a stupid fucking bitch and everything else.

How fucken stupid are ya?

Eventually she gets of out of the car and he gets in, pulling the crooked boat and trailer out of the water and up into the carpark. Then he stands in front of her, with all these people around, and berates her, telling her how fucking stupid she is.

She’s humiliated. She says, quietly – I just didn’t feel comfortable with driving it up….

He screams at her face some more, then eventually she walks off. We too left the scene, but I dropped my daughter home and went back down to the wharf just in case I saw her and could offer her a ride, or cup of tea or a Howitzer.

Thankfully she’d gone. I like to imagine she went home, packed her bags and left him, but I’m sure she didn’t.

I’ve seen this show before but watching this as an adult though I realised there was another dimension to it. It’s something I’d never realised before.

Every single person down there was looking at that guy and thinking – what a fucking cock. He was basically standing on the back of his boat yelling out,

Look at me! I’m the most insecure little cock-smoker you’re likely to see for quite some time!

As we left the wharf he bailed up another woman and started explaining how stupid his partner was. I walked back towards him ready to say something like;

You’re a juvenile shit-stain who can’t take responsibility for your actions…..but I didn’t.

I should have maybe. I don’t know. I wouldn’t have made any difference, the guy would have gone home to his partner, and nothing would have changed.

Later, at home at bedtime I asked my daughter if she remembered that guy who was yelling at the wharf. I started to say some precious social justice shit like, it’s not OK at all for anyone to talk to anyone like that but then she said,

Yeah Mum, that guy was a total cock-smoker (words to that effect anyway).

She thought she was watching something totally abhorrent and strange, which is really all that matters.