Archive for July, 2010

Once A Pedophile…

In Brisbane there is a convicted child molester facing court over an attempted abduction of a 12 year old boy. It seems he was released from prison last July and was supposed to be wearing an electronic monitoring device. He grabbed the boy from behind in a park but the lad managed to escape. I presume that is how the police pinged him once the boy escaped and reported the time and location. This worm had allegedly been through the counselling and what have you that made him safe to return to society. He was on an 8 year parole like program for sex offenders. And yet it all failed. He returned to his old habits.

It begs the question whether a leopard can change his spots. In the case of these sick people, I say no. They are sick, mentally very ill. If one believes that being not like most people as being ill (a person with cholera is not like those without cholera) when it comes to such vastly different behaviour, then he is ill. It has to be something in his ‘wiring’ that makes him want to do this, that makes him think it is alright to go ahead and give in to his urge.

I have sympathy for the mentally ill, probably more so than many men of my generation, but there comes a time and a place when you have to stop being understanding and start being firm and definite in your choices for dealing with these criminals. They are criminals, even if the motive stems from mental illness. What they do is a crime and that needs to be addressed. In the case of mental illness causing the crime, perhaps punishment is the wrong path to follow. I don’t think rehabilitation works, it hasn’t in this case. So what are we left with but isolation. Is that a trip we wish to take as a society? For the sake of our kids we isolate pedophiles for the rest of their lives? Why not do the humane thing and euthanize them? But that would be capital punishment and we have agreed we are not punishing them for being ill…

You can see from that paragraph how complex the debate can easily become, even a hypothetical discussion on a blog quickly uncovers the paradoxes. So don’t be too quick to condemn the authorities, the corrective services, the psychologists and the law makers. It is not a problem with an easy to find solution. If it were, that 12 year old boy would never have been at risk.

France Bans The Burqa

France has passed legislation that bans the wearing of face coverings in public. This falls into line with legislation about entering banks while wearing motorcycle helmets but of course it is far more than a mere public safety measure designed to make it difficult for bank robbers to operate. It is at the very heart of social issues that are tearing Europe apart in many places as more and more Muslim migrants pour in for a better life.

I guess one could argue it is a case of reap what you sow. For centuries European countries colonized third world countries and many of them were Muslim. Now the pendulum is swinging back the other way. Some reports claim in a few decades they will outnumber ethnic Europeans and I don’t doubt that is possible. Some say the same about Australia and point to birth rates far in excess of our own. Of course the situation is somewhat different here because we are a nation of migrants, our own indigenous population is only 2-3% of the total number of Australians.

I have to admit I find the sight of a woman in black from head to toe with just her (usually lovely brown) eyes showing somewhat confronting. It isn’t our culture and it is not something we Aussies (especially from Anglo origins) are used to. A poll on Yahoo as I write has 88% of respondents voting in favour of a similar ban of the burqa here in Australia. Recently a bank was robbed by someone wearing a burqa to disguise themselves. It had to happen sooner or later I guess but I confess I am not concerned about a crime wave of black clad Muslim women taking our banks to their knees.

The same must be said about those who cry ‘terrorist!’ whenever this debate is aired. While it is true that at the moment most terrorists seem to be Muslim, not all Muslims are terrorists. There are  over a billion of them in the world and the total number of terrorists would be well under a million and probably, worldwide, in the low hundreds of thousands. That means the odds are your Muslim neighbours are as anti-terrorist as you are. Unless you live in a capital city the odds of having Muslim neighbours are pretty slim also, so why the panic, the angst and the negativity? Fear. Fear which is brought about by ignorance. Knowledge dispels fear and action dispels fear so take action and read up on Islam and the histories of some of these peoples, from the Pashtu and Pathan to the Bedouin and Tuareg and closer to home our neighbours the Malay peoples.

But getting back to the burqa. I see it as a symbol of medieval thinking that has no place in modern Australian society. It is not religious, it is regional. It is a cultural affectation only a few of our Australian Muslims follow. In France they say less than 2000 out of 5-6 million Muslims wear the burqa. Yet it is so completely in contrast to our culture the few who are around tend to be in the same areas and give the wrong impression that they are ‘taking over’. It is a very clear demonstration of being different and humankind has forever used visual differences to discriminate between friend and foe.

While it is a process that has helped us survive over the generations, it is no longer as relevant as it once was. In olden times if someone lobbed up on your front door step and dressed and spoke differently to you, especially if they looked physically different, you could be pretty sure they weren’t there to borrow a cup of sugar. So being able to discriminate by how people looked was a valuable survival mechanism, at the very least it made you wary of strangers and put you on your guard. We still feel that way today yet society has moved on.

Not being a Muslim I find it difficult to argue with the logic that if you go to all the trouble and expense to move across the world to a new culture and community then it is up to you to assimilate into that community. Of course you still want to cling to the things you are comfortable with and have known all your life but you have to let some things go and embrace new ones. Otherwise why are you here? I am sure many migrants aren’t here to be Australian, they are here to live a better life and plan to return home in triumph one day. No worries, sport, but while you’re here, do the right thing, OK?

I will reiterate. I don’t like to see burqa clad women on our streets, it is not something I am familiar with or believe is healthy for our society. But that society is a pretty tolerant one and while too often this tolerance seems one sided, it is what makes us so attractive to others to migrate here. I wonder at the attitude and mentality of the women who allow and some even staunchly support the habit. For it is a habit as much as any nun’s (pardon the pun) and it is not part of Islam as such. I wonder what the husband thinks of our women and if, like that Pakistani doctor did some years ago, actually encourage his sons to treat Australian women with complete contempt and rape them. Mind you, that man’s wife did not wear the burqa as she came from a different cultural group despite being Muslim. In fairness to those who do have their wives burqa-up I would say they would follow the Koran more closely and thus not commit such a heinous crime. The incidences of ‘anti-white’ rape by Middle Eastern Muslim males in this country are conducted by men from families where the burqa is not worn.  The prevalence of the crimes versus the few who follow the burqa habit clearly point to other Muslims committing these crimes.

I do know that decent Muslims are as angry at such outrages as any in our society. There are far more decent Australians of the Islamic faith here than bad ones. Our own, home grown criminals far out number the total number of Muslims in the country. This is not about religion or Islam, it is about choice. These people choose to follow their old customs in their new land. We can ban these customs but that only makes them criminals if they continue to choose to follow their old ways. Surely it would be far better if we could present them with reasons to choose a less confrontational look, reasons not to wear the burqa?

My wife says it would be less confronting if they chose another colour, black really does make them look sinister. More so with the ones who choose to wear black gloves. I know it is silly but I can’t help humming the tune to ‘The Addams Family” whenever there is one in line next to me at ALDI.

They’re creepy and they’re kooky,
Mysterious and spooky,
They’re all together ooky,
The Addams Family. “

Having said that, I recently stepped in and told a couple of yobs to leave one lady alone. They were jeering and cat calling as she walked to her car with her child and shopping. That is not on as far as this Aussie is concerned, firstly we don’t harass people for being ‘different’ and secondly she is a woman and with her child; she’s hardly in a position to sort the two mongrels out. They wouldn’t say boo if her husband had been with her.  The pair gave me a look that told me all I needed to know – bullies and cowards – before they skulked off hurling racial invective at the woman and a few other epithets at me. Yeah right, whatever. I wished the lady ‘Salaam Aleikum’ and she replied “Aleikum Salaam’ and then thanked me in as broad an Australian accent as you will ever hear. You see, you never know who is behind the veil, but then that is part of the argument.

A Good Idea At The Time MKIV

For many years I was employed in the security industry as a ‘doorman’ or bouncer. In that time among many lessons I learned that the world is full of dehydrated idiots, just add alcohol. The things otherwise sane, decent and sensible people will do once they get lubed up never ceases to amaze me. What is more amazing at times is how they get away with it as often as they do. Take this MENSA candidate for example…

A man left a Broome, Western Australia pub and decided it would be fun to sit on the back of ‘Fatso’. ‘Fatso’ is a 5m (16 feet 6inches) Estuarine or Saltwater crocodile. The same creatures that have been seen swimming hundreds of kilometres out to sea further north and even battling tiger sharks! And this doorknob figures he is going to sit on the back of a not too tiny one? Please, tell me he has had a vasectomy, surely he can’t be allowed to breed!

He escaped with a minor leg wound but that might be badly infected and he might even die from the wound. You see crocodiles have trouble flossing so there is a lot of rotting food matter between their teeth (of which they have a lot). He is in hospital, recovering from the wound but how do you recover from stupidity? Fortunately for him stupidity isn’t a criminal offense but he might get done for trespass.

I have been drunk a few times in my life when I was a teenage soldier, but I was never so drunk I would do anything this stupid. This mental midget is 35 years old! By the time I was in my twenties I had my enjoyment of alcohol well under control, but even when I get drunk I just laugh and fall asleep, I’m harmless. Nowadays I get a few under the belt once a year, sometime around my birthday (and usually under parental guidance) but still nothing that will make me feel wicked the next morning. I also drink a lot of water to rehydrate, a trick I learned while working in the liquor industry as a brand manager.

Moderation is the key, a lesson I was taught as a boy and one I have found to hold true. That’s not to say I have never done anything wild, spirited or risky. I have. Just not stupid. Stupid is as stupid does, right Forrest? This bloke in Broome was stupid! If the animal had killed him there might have been consequences including the destruction of the crocodile, increased insurance premiums for the crocodile park, traumatic memories for whoever found the remains and so on.

There was a media led public outcry when Steve Irwin carried his baby son while doing a show with a large croc a few years ago. While perhaps not the safest or the smartest thing to do given the cotton wool culture we seem to live in today, if anyone knew what they were doing around crocs it was Irwin. I think, despite his onscreen persona as something of a larrikin, Steve would look at this bloke, shake his head and say “Crikey he’s stupid!” And he’d be right.

Can You Hear The Fat Lady?

There is an old saying that is probably not PC enough for today but it runs along the lines that ‘the opera ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings’. The same is true for life and life threatening situations. It ‘ain’t over ’til it’s over’! A man drove himself to hospital the other night after receiving several stab wounds. No doubt he made the conscious decision he wasn’t going to die. He wasn’t giving in.

Very often that is all it takes, that conscious decision to fight, to survive. Not to just roll over and die. Sadly, in Afghanistan we lost our 17th Digger last night. Another IED (Improvised Explosive Device) or ‘roadside bomb’. As a former Engineer I was trained to find and neutralize IEDs and even in training the tension was considerable. One can only imagine what our young men and women face every day serving their country in that long running war. And they are young.

This last casualty was just 23. We often disparage the younger generation, it was ever so when I was his age and it has ever been so going back to the days of the Ancient Greeks. The reality though is that these are our best, the cream of their generation and they are always the ones to pay the price, as their great grandfathers did in World War 1, their grandfathers in World War 2 and Korea, Malaya and their fathers in Borneo, Vietnam and the Cold War. I include the Cold War because while casualties were mainly in training accidents, we did lose service members who will never be remembered by the issue of a medal, but they are with us all the same.

These soldiers are a different generation with their iPods and email and You Tube helmet cams but their mission is no less lethal, nor is their professionalism any the more wanting. Casualties are a fact of war. We should be grateful we have lost so few for the large amount of good they have done for the people of Afghanistan and not wring our hands when another falls, no matter how deeply we feel their loss.

You see the job’s not done and those soldiers would be the first to demand they be left to finish it. They are not losing. They are positive, upbeat and their morale is high. They are professional soldiers and they are aware of the risks, they accept the possible consequences, they only ask to be left to get on with the job and not be tried by media for every squeeze of the trigger.

They have esprit de corps, instilled during the training process as they are molded into a fighting force that looks after each other. They know the love of men at arms for one another, a bond that is hard to replicate outside the military and even harder for civilians to understand if they have never had the privilege of serving with such men. They aren’t afraid of the Taliban, they’ve got the means to hurt the enemy, they just need the political and public will to let them get on with the job. They’ll do the rest. They have the kit, the training and the will to win. And that is what it is all about, either in Afghanistan or Australia, the will to win. Never give up, never give in. Not until the fat lady sings and we pay the fat lady, not them.

A Good Idea At The Time MkIII

I love this photograph. The things boys will get up to! I remember sticking my head between some railings and almost having to call for help to extricate myself. Like many things in my life I was lucky with this one, too. I managed to get myself unstuck and avoid the embarrassment. Not so this poor lad. You have to wonder what was he thinking? Perhaps it was a simple case of carrying the chair over his head and it slipped down as it grew heavy, then before he knew it the thing was stuck there.

Or perhaps he was just curious? They say curiosity killed the cat but the truth is that every invention we have today came about because someone was curious, usually a man. Without that inane curiosity we would never have discovered the world or made it to the moon. The discovery reason is a bit dodgy as the world was always there and so too were the myriad civilizations already existing in these newly ‘discovered’ lands. It adds to the ‘Euro-centric’ view but given history and geopolitics I guess that is understandable.

Sometimes these good idea at the time things actually pan out. When they do we call them strokes of genius. When they don’t…

Back To The Future – Today

I often wonder how some people even make it to their own deaths. The risky things that can happen to people who aren’t even trying to live dangerously are more than plentiful yet some insist on going that little bit further and inviting harm, perhaps even wanting it. For the rest of Life’s victims, there is chance and circumstance and sheer bad luck. The old wrong time, wrong place equation.

I’ve listed below the main links in the Yahoo News for this morning, the 7th July 2010, two days after Marty McFly made it to the future in “Back To The Future II”, according to a hoax put out on Twitter by a UK publicity mob. The real date was October 2015, so we have a few years yet  before those hover skateboards and cars need make their appearance on our streets and sidewalks. The scary thing is that dumb people will get a hold of them and endanger us all because, as in 1985, we still have dumb people and unlucky people as well as some out and out mean and nasty people.

What one should ask oneself after reading the above list of what some editor has decided is ‘news’, is what didn’t make it onto your web page? What stories of struggle and sacrifice have been left out? There is an old saying in news media, “If it bleeds, it leads”. There is another belief that proximity plays a major part in what makes the news. If a baby girl was killed in another city it is in, but a grown woman would need to be right here in Sydney to make the headlines unless it was a slowish day. Interstate needs two or three bodies while in the USA or Europe we like to read of ten car pile ups and if it were Asia or Africa thent he body count has to be in the dozens, even hundreds to make it. The poorer the country, the more suffering we seem to be able to accept on their behalf before we need to know about it.
How has my society, and therefore myself, changed since Marty left 1985 and landed in my here and now? What’s new since then? CDs were just starting to make an impression with ‘Brothers In Arms’ by Dire Straights being the first CD to sell a million copies. I didn’t buy my first CD until the next decade. Commodore introduced the Amiga computer that year, Steve Jobs left Apple for NeXT and Palestinian terrorists were killing, kidnapping and carrying on. The world was still a dangerous place then, as now. Has it ever not been so?
I didn’t have a mobile phone then, I had a pager that beeped when someone wanted me. I had to find a phone and call the office and get the message. Finding a public telephone was problematic then due to vandalism, today they are just few and far between based on the presumption everybody carries their own communications device. I guess most of us do nowadays and they will soon be wrist sized units. Already Apple’s iPod 4 is offering video calling I believe. I saw a flying car make its debut the other day so there is another future icon gaining on us.
Back in 1985 my car was computer chip free. Are there any today that do not rely on computer chips to run efficiently? While the immediate concern is that if they break down then they are too hard for the average bloke to fix, the fact is they are getting far more reliable and breaking down a lot less than before. Compare how many cars you would see on the side of the road with the bonnet up in 1985 to today?
I used a typewriter to write my reports and stories in those days. Putting a newsletter together was a case of actually cutting and pasting, then photocopying and I can remember back to the days of the hand cranked Gestetner machine and the smelly purple ink they used. I left the Army in 1985 at the time the new ‘Gucci-flage’ uniforms were being trialled and the lightweight, bullpup Steyr F88 was being evaluated. Today our troops have helmet cams, body armour, night vision and even ballistic sunglasses. We had jungle greens and floppy hats and an L1A1 SLR that weighed twice as much but we knew little better.
Perhaps that’s the key. We don’t know how ‘bad off’ we are now until years later by which time today becomes one of the ‘good old days’. While technology and attitudes change, people stay very much as they were in some ways. They still seem to be able to hurt each other and to hate. I survived the last quarter of a century and I am confident I’ll swing the next 25 years. After that, who knows?

Work Place Hazards Now Include Abortion

© Lars Christensen |

A Filipina in Western Australia is sueing her former employer for forcing her to have an abortion to keep her job. She was working for the McDonald’s franchisee under a 457 Visa, which is dependent on her employer’s sponsorship for her to enter, work and remain in Australia. In other words her employer has a lot of power over her. I wonder why he needed to have two 457 Visa holders working for him, perhaps they come cheap and do as they are told more than the average citizen?

In a nutshell she alleges her employer told her to abort a pregnancy or lose her job. One presumes the costs of maternity leave were prohibitive to him. She acquiesced and claims she had the abortion to hold her job. A few months later she became pregnant again only this time she refused to abort the pregnancy. She also claims she recorded the meeting where she was told to lose the baby or lose her job.

For some archaic reason the recording may be inadmissible as the employer was unaware he was being recorded. Well, gee, don’t the cops do that all the time? Oh yeah, they get a Warrant and that makes it all ok. Yet the truth is the truth. What was said doesn’t change just because the employer was unaware of the wire, but it would have if he had been aware of it. So what, you want to  argue the recording made him do it? Huh? The fact is he allegedly said what he said and regardless of his knowledge of any recording, he said what he said.

If he did say such a thing and if he did threaten the employee with the sack and loss of visa unless she aborted her pregnancy, then he is the scum of the earth. Think of the imbalance of power in place. He holds the power of residence and employment or deportation over her. Sent back to the Philippines with no job, no fiancee and soon a baby to care for. She has no say except to accept or suffer. You hear of OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers) being abused and mistreated in Middle Eastern countries but you don’t expect such exploitation in Australia.

Let us pause and look at this from the other side for a moment. One might argue the 457 Visa holder is there to work for the employer that went to the trouble and expense to sponsor them, not to get pregnant or start a new life on the employer’s dime. Basically the visa conditions must be met or else the sponsor/employer gets in trouble as well as the employee getting possibly deported. Taking more than 30 days off is, I have been advised, against the conditions of the visa. That might be over the year or the life of the visa or in one hit but it would be easy to lost 30 days due to pregnancy. Time will tell so I hope we can keep tabs on this story and report the ending.

The Filipina had her baby last year and is hoping for her day in court this September. If her story is true then I hope they throw the book at her employer. I would like to see him charged criminally for inciting to commit manslaughter or at least some version of wrongful death. While I am not a ‘Pro-Life terrorist’, shooting abortion doctors down in the street while claiming to be against killing human life, I am a realist and I do believe that women should have a choice. Not be given an ultimatum, but that they have the right to make their own choices about these things, hopefully supported unreservedly by the other 50% of the equation, the father of the child. (Keep in mind I have five daughters) An employer and their preferences simply never enter into this. If you are legally obliged to provide maternity benefits then either fulfill your obligation or select post menopausal women when recruiting.

Which is another thing. Only the most naive among us would think that there is no discrimination in job recruitment today. Just because the job ads no longer state sex, age or whatever, rest assured the HR decision maker has to base their decision on something. That means they discriminate between one candidate over another. If one is really against paying maternity benefits then hire accordingly, just don’t tell anyone how you choose who you choose. It happens all the time, everyday and everywhere and, like young women becoming pregnant, it is a fact of life.

We all have a duty of care to those in our employment. We also have a duty of care to our fellow citizens, I believe. While that doesn’t mean living their lives for them, it definitely does not include forcing them to make such monumental decisions, literally life or death choices, just to keep a job and a visa.

UPDATE: 8 July 2008. McDonalds have settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.

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