Link

History is made every day

Roll on up folks and grab your daily dosage of history!
That’s right, if you’ve got a day of the year, we’ve got a little piece of history that happened on it. 

In the slightly malformed words of Spiderman, “If somebody told you this was just your average, ordinary day, nothing important… Then somebody lied.”

It’s just getting started, but head on over and see what happened on this day – whether it’s a famous birth or death, a revolution, or a miracle – because, history is made every day.

Advertisements

Give Properly Employed Democracy A Go

Image

 

I was recently shown this image and told of comments made by Australian comedian Josh Thomas, about the Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s stance against marriage equality.

In light of the Private Member’s Bill for marriage equality from Green’s MP Adam Bandt, currently before Parliament and due to be voted on on June 6th, I’d like to point out a couple of things.

 

If you live in a democratic nation, of the free first world, then every single person in your country has the same rights to their own beliefs. If these beliefs become a matter of politics, in the case of same sex marriage, then the politicians voting on these issues are also allowed to have their own personal beliefs, just as their constituents do. They are also allowed to have whatever basis for their beliefs that they like.

While Julia Gillard is the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Labor Party, and therefore her views do carry some kind of weight in the minds of other politicians, she is also entitled to her own opinion.

 

What is my point you may ask? Julia Gillard is not solely, or personally responsible for Australia not having granted marriage equality yet. Her views are not what is stopping this nation from passing that law.

The Labor Party have had a conscience vote on the matter of marriage equality for quite some time now, which allows all MP’s of the party to vote on the issue in alignment with their own conscience and they do not have to follow party lines. The Coalition on the other hand, do not have a conscience vote. Not only this, but Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, has publically announced that his party will not consider a conscience vote, nor a shift in party policy, until after the September elections – despite evidence that there are a number of Shadow Cabinet Ministers on his front bench, that would support a law for marriage equality were they allowed to vote for it.

 

This issue has been back in the news of late, due to the impending vote on Bandt’s Bill, and the recent announcement from Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd that he has ‘had a change of heart’, and will be voting to support marriage equality in June. He also stated that if the politicians of Australia could not sort this out, and that if the Coalition were not allowed a conscience vote, then the matter should be taken to the people to decide, via referendum – an idea which has been introduced recently by Independent MP Tony Windsor.

 

In all honesty, this was just a bit of a rant on my behalf. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, it is however the role of politicians to listen to their constituents and to take those views to Parliament.

A politician’s job is to serve the people that elect them.

On the issue of marriage equality, it is obvious that this is a personal issue addressing, for a lot of people, some very core beliefs. However, it is also obvious, with polls to illustrate it, that over 60% of the Australian population does support marriage equality.

So my message is not to crucify Julia Gillard for her personal beliefs, unless you are also going to crucify every other Labor politician that voted no.

Labor politicians need to get out there and talk to the people of their constituency, and understand what it is that they want. Coalition politicians need to be able to vote with their conscience as Labor politicians are, and should then also go out and talk to their constituents.

 

If this really is something that the Australian population wants, then there should be increased pressure on our politicians, whoever they are, to act out their voter’s wishes. 

Suits

Them people say it’s peacetime

Say we ain’t got no fear

So why build up the military?

The wife, she says, “My dear…”

 

“If this ain’t wartime

I don’t know what is –

Wars on religion

Wars on ethnicity

Wars on sexuality

Wars on gender

Wars on thinking

Wars on guns

Wars on WMD’s

Wars on prejudice

Wars on freedom

Wars on tyranny

Wars on corporation

Wars on democracy

Wars on war

Wars on peace

Wars on me and

Wars on you.”

 

Flicking on the news tonight

Man dressed in his suit

Telling me it’s peacetime –

Well, I think his point is mute. 

Let’s Give More Meaning To The Words “Lest We Forget”

For hundreds of thousands of Australian men and women that have come back from war, it is something that they cannot forget. Something that they have to carry with them and struggle with everyday. Whether they served in WWI, WWII, Vietnam, Korea, East Timor, Iraq, Afghanistan – the horrors of war injure these people not just physically, but psychologically as well.

Mental health specialists have recently said that 30% of Australian soldiers return home with a mental illness – post traumatic stress disorder, heightened anxiety, social isolation, depression, sucidial and self harming tendancies – and these numbers increase with the length of the person’s tour, as well as the length of time that they are at home without receiving help.

 

The ‘Hack’ program on Triple J today discussed the issue of people coming home from war and the mental health help that they receive after they return home. Podcast is here:

http://mpegmedia.abc.net.au/triplej/hack/daily/hack_wed_2013_4_24.mp3

 

In the program a spokesperson from the Department of Veteran Affairs said that they spend only $160 million per year on mental health services for veterans.

It is also brought up that it is a part of training for the armed forces that one does not become emotional about the things that they might see, or have to do, and that the job must be carried out. Which is a mantra that is regularly played out, and becomes a problem for these men and women after they return home, as it manifests as an inability to talk to others about your experiences either as an inability to express yourself, or not wanting to burden your loved ones with those things.

 

There are many veterans that do struggle a lot settling back into life at home, and the idea of not being in a war zone, being able to walk down the street and not have people trying to kill you.

The sounds of door slamming and cars starting, begin to sound to like bomb blasts and gun shots. The simplest of every day tasks begin to make you aggressive and overwhelmingly stressed. You take it out on the people that love you and you begin to feel like you are constantly angry. The faces of people you killed in war and the scenes of horror and destruction, come back to you in dreams and during the day – in the worst case scenarios, the soldier ends up killing themselves, or a member of their family.

These are not uncommon for soldiers returned from war, and many Australian veterans feel that the appropriate amount of care is not available for those who do need it.

 

Soldier On is a new charity started by two veterans in April 2012, to provide help for soldiers wounded both physically and psychologically and they do a lot of good work – http://soldieron.org.au

 

It’s the eve of ANZAC Day in Australia, and while it is not my opinion that there is anything bad about ANZAC Day, I do believe that some extra thought and money, should be put towards assuring that the men and women who serve our country should be provided with the best psychological help possible.

When you go to a service tomorrow, or you here the words on the evening news, think a little more deeply about those three words – “Lest We Forget”.

Let’s give them more meaning in terms of mental health. 

Come Over To The Dark Side, We Have Loyalty Cards.

How many loyalty cards, club cards, or rewards cards, do you have in your wallet? There are 4 in mine, and on average Australians carry 2 in theirs. But do theses cards sit idly by in your wallet when you’re not using them? Does scanning them at the register, simply add more points to your account? Or is there something deeper going on here?

 

Last week, TV show, ‘The Checkout’ on ABC did a segment in their episode, about loyalty cards and how they are used by huge corporations to create shopper profiles of us, tell things about our personal life depending on what we buy and through this, target us with specified advertising through mobile apps, emails, google advertisements and much more. They can also sell the deidentified version of this information, to third party companies (one’s you don’t have a loyalty card with, and may not even shop at), so that they can bombard you with specific advertising as well.

 

 The episode is here: http://www.abc.net.au/iview/#/view/32372  and the specific segment on this runs from about minute 18 onwards for about 5 minutes.

I strongly urge everyone to watch it.

 

But after seeing this, I got to thinking about it all, and did some extra research. Monash University published a paper 4 years ago, in 2009, about all of this and the information that companies are receiving and compiling against us, and whether or not people care more about their rewards than their privacy.

 

http://www.buseco.monash.edu.au/centres/acrs/research/whitepapers/hidden-side-of-loyalty.pdf

That’s the link to the paper. Give it a read, or a skim is equally as good, but there is some scary information there.

 

Last year, a man in the US came very close to filing a law suit against the company Target, for sending his daughter customer specific advertising for baby products. In an outrage, the man contacted the company and complained about how inappropriate it was etc etc. He then returned home, to discover that his 16 year old daughter was in fact, actually pregnant.

What the company had done, was conducted a series of studies into what pregnant women buy more of or are more likely to buy than other women, and at what point in the pregnancy they are buying which products. With the information that came from those studies, the company can incredibly accurately tell if a customer is pregnant, how far along she is, and when the baby is due. And all of this is done, simply so that they can target said women with pregnancy and baby related products in their advertisements.

 

So if Coles or Woolworths can tell if you’re pregnant, then what else do they know about you?

Already, Australia has seen a flybuys rewards system initated by Coles in recent years, that allows you to receive discounts on the things you buy regularly – and you don’t get to pick what they are, they tell you. Yes, they have records of every single grocery shop you’ve done using your rewards card, and they can tell you at what time of the year you’re more likely to buy certain products, what products you buy most frequently, how often you shop – they could probably tell you when there’s a birthday in the family based on when you buy cream to have with cakes.

 

“Jane is 53 years old and lives with her cat in a northern suburb of Melbourne. She works full time on the other side of town, so she prefers to drive rather than catch public transport.

On the weekend Jane likes to do some gardening, and she is also fond of red wine. In fact, she drinks so much that it makes financial sense for her to buy her wine by the carton.

Jane’s daughter lives a few kilometers away and has an 18-month-old girl. Jane likes to buy clothes and toys for her granddaughter, even though she has more than enough already.

How do we know all these things? Because some time ago Jane applied for a loyalty card at her local supermarket so that she could earn frequent flyer points every time she goes shopping. She now hands over her card whenever she is at the checkout.

Although her identity is kept confidential by the supermarket chain, Jane would probably recognise herself from the ‘profile’ that it has built from its database. The supermarket knows that she is a pet owner, because she buys cat food. It knows that she drives to work, because she buys fuel at a petrol station owned by the same corporation. From her regular purchases it also knows that she is a gardener and a wine drinker. From her occasional purchases of baby products, it has even deduced that there is a baby in the family, but that it isn’t hers. Given her age, it has assumed that Jane is a new grandmother.” – Monash University, ‘The Hidden Side of Loyalty Card Programs’.

 

Now let’s consider living in 2013. It is estimated that in 2 years time there will be 1 trillion personal hand held electronic devices in the world. Imagine the amount of information that companies, in fact anyone, is able to compile about you when you take into account laptop and internet usage tracking and history, and the location services on mobile phones, as well as apps like ‘Find My iPhone’, and ‘checking in’ to places on Facebook.

I can type a person’s name into Facebook right now, and provided their security is not top-notch, can find out a lot of information about them which I can then use to my advantage: I can see pages they’ve ‘liked’ telling me their interests and potentially products that they may be interested in buying; I can scroll through their friends and create a social profile through their online interactions with these people; I can see when they were born, where they live, where they work, where they went to school, who they’re in a relationship with, what languages they speak, what their political and religious views are and any other information that they chose to put in the general about section.

 

General Motors have recently released a proposal for electronic billboards that will connect to the wifi on the GPS in your car, and send you personalized advertising on this billboard, depending on the destination you have put into your GPS, and the history of destinations stored on there. There is also talk of using the voice activation software in GPS devices to predict the approximate age and gender of the person driving the car.

Google and other internet services, use information about things that you have recently searched the internet for, or things you have looked at on Youtube, to advertise specifically to you. If you search Google for plane flights to Europe, every day for a week, then the automatic advertising on Google when it registers that it is your computer in use, will be specified around that, even if that’s not actually what you’re searching for a week later.

 

Right now, looking at the advertising on the side of my Facebook news feed, I can see advertising specified at me because I am a girl – shoes and dresses – and advertising specified at me because of pages that my friends have ‘liked’ – Coles and Vodafone – but also advertising specified at me because of status posts that I have made using song lyrics – hip hop music tickets.

The information that these companies have on us, and can gather in not much more than 10 minutes of searching the internet, is incredibly scary. They target you with the advertising when they can tell that you are at your most vulnerable, and they are getting better and better at it as time goes on. That’s not even to mention the fact that as long as it is unidentifiable by a company (but you could probably pick your own profile looking at it out of a bunch), then they can sell the information they have on you to 3rd party companies. Which may be ones that you don’t have a loyalty card with, or may be ones that you don’t even shop at but want to advertise to you anyway.

It’s only going to get worse – they’re going to know more about you, more easily, and be more and more willing to exploit that.

Read the paper and watch the episode. The facts are frightening. And they are real.

How do we fight it? Don’t get loyalty cards, don’t sign up for customer feedback, don’t fill out surveys. Pay with cash, not by card. Don’t ‘check in’ to places on Facebook, keep your social media security settings as tight as possible, don’t put personal information on the internet. Install anti-tracking software on your laptop, get a map instead of a GPS and turn off the Bluetooth and location services on your mobile phones.

 

It’s hard to be invisible from all this advertising and data collection, but there are things we can do to prevent major national companies knowing so much about us, that they know we’re pregnant before we do. 

The War in Iraq – 10 years, and not getting any younger.

Tuesday 9th April marked the 10 year anniversary of the day that U.S troops stormed into Baghdad and took control of the city, toppling Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship. However for the majority of Iraqi’s, this is just another ordinary day in a country in which nothing much has changed. In the decade that has passed, citizens have gained a freedom of speech, however the country is still incredibly unstable – politically, economically and socially.

 

To mark the anniversary, former Australian Prime Minister John Howard made a speech to the Lowy Institute for National Policy, on Tuesday night, defending Australia’s involvement in the war in Iraq, his reasons for sending Australian troops, and the ‘evidence’ he received that Hussein possessed an arsenal of ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’.

 

The transcript is here: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/we-were-right-to-invade-iraq–john-howard-20130409-2hjst.html (watch the video as well).

 

This speech has effectively re-invigorated the debate about whether or not Australia should have been part of the coalition that went to war in Iraq. As Howard outlines it, this decision was not based on the 9/11 bombings, nor was it based on whether Hussein was involved in these attacks, it was simply because there was a universally held belief that Saddam Huessin had links to Al-Qaeda and that the government possessed ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’.

 

In the greatest case of irony that the world has ever seen, it was in fact the American government that helped to fund the coup that gave Saddam Hussein power in the first place, in an effort to fuck over the USSR during the Cold War.

 

http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/political-news/howard-defends-australias-role-in-allied-invasion-of-iraq-20130409-2hjis.html

 

With Australia primed to have all their troops out of Iraq by 2015, the 10year anniversary of the beginning of the conflict, has raised the issue that in fact, there were no ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ and that the continued presence of outside forces in Iraq in the subsequent 10 years, has in reality not actually changed all that much about the social situation of the country, one which still finds itself in a lot of economic and political turmoil and instability.

 

In an article in the Sydney Morning Herald today, Margaret Swieringa tells how she was the secretary to the Federal Parliamentary Committee from 2002-07, which drafted the report ‘Intelligence on Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction’. Her article is about the real life facts, the situations that she lived through in that role, and her point is that earlier this week, John Howard quoted the findings of this report in his speech, but did so in a manner that was so selective that it could be seen as misleading.

 

Give the article a read, it is a page turner: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/howard-ignored-official-advice-on-iraqs-weapons-and-chose-war-20130411-2hogn.html

 

The Chief Editor of The New York Times, recently apologized for the use of their headline “Weapons of Mass Destruction”, back in 2003, for the fear that this caused amongst readers, and for the fact, that at the time, the newspaper had no evidence to support this.

 

I strongly recommend that everyone give Howard’s speech a read, as well as the article written today, and compare them. But do some research into what was actually going on at the time, and make up your own mind about the ever illusive WMD’s.

Should Australian troops still be in Iraq a decade later, or was it all for show? 

Fifty Shades of Gay

Video

Everyone in the English speaking language by now, has to have heard of the book ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’. But not many people, have heard of the collection of photographs and one woman’s mission, called ‘Fifty Shades of Gay’.
iO Tillet Wright was a child actor, now artist, who grew up in New York. As a child, she spent 8 years of her life pretending to be a boy, and did so so successfully that only her close immediate family, knew the truth. Even her roles as a child actor were all those of boys, and she tells people now of how she used to turn her shoes around in the toilet so it looked like she was standing up to pee.

But after discovering that she doesn’t like boys or girls, but rather individual people regardless of their genitalia, and really discovered the gay struggle for equal rights to marry in America, iO has become a major contributor.
Her collection of photographs, or portraits if you like, called ‘Fifty Shades of Gay’ began when she put out a call to anyone that rates themselves to be on the LGBTQ spectrum, to have their photograph taken.

Find out more about it at: http://blog.ted.com/2013/01/30/gallery-io-tillett-wright-examines-the-50-shades-of-gay/

With the overwhelming number of people from all over the country, in all 50 states, that have asked iO to take their photo, she is beginning to realize, and to show America and the world at the same time, that there isn’t just gay and straight and somewhere in the middle, but in fact, there’s a little gay in all of us.