29 November 2016

EQUALITY DENIED - HOMOPHOBIA RULES THE ROOST IN AUSTRALIA'S PARLIAMENT

Dear family and friends

    We were asked to speak at a marriage equality rally yesterday (Saturday 26 November 2016) organised by Community Action Against Homophobia – what a great opportunity!

    The rally was held at Town Hall Square (which for us, and our community, is a significant location) situated between St Andrew’s, the Sydney Anglican Cathedral, and Sydney Town Hall. Both structures represent a certain era in architectural terms.

    However, the moral compass emanating from both these structures, for us, and our community, is vastly different. The former being extremely fundamentalist, male dominated, socially backwards, exclusive, and misogynist. The town hall, on the other hand, is mainly run by women, socially progressive, inclusive, and embracing diversity.

    Bon and Peter at Chequerboard




Peter and Bon at Marriage Equality Rally



25 November 2016

MARK GEVISSER, ROGER COHEN AND OTHER SOUTH AFRICAN WRITERS

Mark Gevisser's recent book "Lost and Found in Johannesburg" was published by Granta Books in 2015.

Roger Cohen's recent book "The Girl From Human Street" also relates to Johannesburg and was published by Bloomsbury in 2015.

Both these books are by South African writers and the publishers are international publishers.

Mark Gevisser has been involved with gay and lesbian issues for many years and his writing  reflects these.

Roger Cohen, also of Jewish origins has been, and is currently, a journalist with the New York Times.

Should one wish to contact the writers of books, and in the absence of the ability to obtain addresses, email or residential, the easiest way, one assumes, would be to write to the publishers and request that they pass on your message to the authors. If the publishers accede to your request, one trusts that the author will show you the courtesy of answering you or acknowledging receipt of your email.

This has happened to me in the past with other writers who have been South Africans or written on South African themes or issues, both fiction and non-fiction. In general authors respond because we are their audience and they write - and publish - because they want to be read.

I have recently finished reading the above books and have written to each of the authors about each of them.

There has been no response, no feedback, and no suggestion that they have even bothered to acknowledge receipt of the emails.

I find this offensive in the extreme, because it seems to suggest that it would be a waste of time to respond to comments which are meant to be constructive, appreciative, or critical of some aspects of what they have written.

ASYLUM SEEKERS, RACISM AND AUSTRALIAN POLITICIANS

This is the sort of discussion in which one doesn't know where to start because it is all so disgusting!

The latest horrors emanating from the current Australian government is an edict stating that those asylum seekers currently locked in the concentration camps on Nauru and Manus will NEVER, repeat NEVER EVER will be given any sort of visas or permits allowing them to land on Australian soil.

Where is the fury from the people living in Australia? Why is there not a mass revolt in the community demanding that this edict is withdrawn immediately?

Where do the Australian people come from other than the indigenous population who come from - well here, Australia, of course?

They come from every country in the world and hundreds, and thousands came here as refugees and asylum seekers, many of whom have fled persecution and oppression of one sort or another.

Then we come to racism and religion and persecution of minorities, and in Australia successive governments have been refining their cruelty over the years, forgetting their own origins or that of their families and that many of their ancestors came here in chains and as slaves and criminals.

We then have the most offensive, racist comments by one of the government ministers that many of the criminal acts in Australia have been committed by one select group of people singled out for mention, never mind the hundreds and thousands of acts of criminality carried out by groups from  whom this same minister has himself originated, as have many of his colleagues.

How selective can one get when one wants to brand a "select" group of people in the community as the major criminals in the country??

22 November 2016

THIS NEW UNION TO CHALLENGE "SHOPPIES" AFTER MASSIVE WAGES SCANDAL MUST SUCCEED



 This proposed new union has got to succeed. The leadership of so many Australian unions has let the union movement down to the extent that in the early 1980s union membership was at about 50% of the work force. Now in 2016 it is down to somewhere in the region of 18% and diminishing rapidly.

The Australian Labor Party is in large part responsible for this terrible demise and the hope must be that a new union such as this one will be a game-changer on the industrial scene.

The union in question has been one of the most despicable unions in Australia and its leadership lamentable. 

If this new union succeeds it will definitely breathe new life into the Australian work force.

We wish the organisers every success.


Article in The Age 21 November  2016
  •  

New union to challenge 'shoppies' after massive wages scandal

By Ben Schneiders and Royce Millar


The cosy, decades-long relationship between Australia's largest employers and the Labor party's biggest industrial backer, faces an audacious challenge from a  new retail union committed to boosting penalty rates for hundreds of thousands of workers.

The formation of the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union's (RAFFWU) is a response to a nation-wide wages scandal centred on workplace agreements by the conservative Shop, Distributive & Allied Employees Association with major employers including Coles, Woolworths and McDonald's.

The man who exposed Coles in his spare time

Meet Josh Cullinan, who, on nights and weekends, uncovered the widespread underpayment of Coles employees.

A 15-month Fairfax Media investigation revealed how the deals left more than 250,000 workers paid less than the award - the basic wages safety net - and saved big business more than an estimated $300 million a year. 

The industrial researcher who helped unearth the wages scandal, Josh Cullinan, will unveil the new national union on Monday with the help of volunteers and supporters, including disenchanted SDA members.

"There's hundreds of millions of dollars being fleeced from these workers and we are sick of it," Mr Cullinan said. "The plan is for us to launch a strong successful union led by retail and fast food workers; they haven't had that for decades."

A serious challenge to the SDA would likely cause major ructions in the labour movement, with 'the shoppies' a major financial backer of the ACTU and Labor, and a powerful factional force which sponsors dozens of politicians across Australia.

Founded 108 years ago, the paternalistic SDA has been dominated since the early 1950s by a small Catholic cabal inspired by National Civic Council founder, Bob Santamaria​.

From 1976 to 2014 it was run with an iron fist by national secretary Joe de Bruyn​, the man Gough Whitlam famously dubbed "a Dutchman who hates dykes". He is now national president.



Michael Johnstone has stacked shelves and helped customers at Woolworths in Brunswick, has sounded out colleagues about joining the new union.  Photo: Jason South
 
The SDA has played an important role in social and moral debates, slowing the progress towards same sex marriage and opposing abortion and euthanasia.

But the recent wages scandal has badly damaged its reputation in the labour movement and among its members.

For five years Michael Johnstone has stacked shelves and helped customers at Woolworths in Brunswick where he is also an SDA delegate.

He says he was disappointed to discover his union was actively opposed to same sex marriage. That disappointment deepened when he read that SDA-negotiated agreements had left his colleagues underpaid.

Mr Johnstone said he had already sounded out many workmates about joining a new union that stood up for members. "There's been a lot of positive response. They understand that no worker should be worse off under new union agreements."

Mr Johnstone said the SDA leadership had for decades resisted demands for change. "It's now in the hands of the workers. They now have a choice."

The building of a new national union from scratch is unheard of in the decades since the 1980s when mergers created mega unions and in an era where membership is near historic low levels.

An attempt by socialist activists to set up a rival to the SDA in the 2000s failed to gain traction.

Australia's unions are largely shielded from competition from that restricts them from encroaching on each other's areas of industry coverage.The SDA's response to the new union is  likely to be fierce.
"We understand the task of organising these workers is immense," said Mr Cullinan. "The reality is, penalty rates are under attack, half a million retail and fast food workers (on SDA deals) have already had them taken off them."

The initial focus of the new union will be Coles, McDonald's and Woolworths, Australia's three largest employers. Under SDA agreements the companies pay either reduced penalty rates or, in the case of McDonald's, no weekend penalties.

In a landmark decision in May, that followed Fairfax revelations, the the full bench of the Fair Work commission found a Coles agreement with the SDA failed the crucial test that workers under enterprise agreements must be "better off overall" compared to the award.




Photo: Penny Stephens

Mr Cullinan (above) said that in workplaces where employees were paid less than the award the new union would demand employers immediately lift pay rates.

If they refuse to do so he said he expected members to demand the agreements be terminated.

The founders of the new union include Labor, Greens and socialist party members, and unaligned activists. Mr Johnstone said he did not support the new union having an affiliation to any political party. "I think that would distract us from looking after workers."

Union president will be Siobhan Kelly, a barrister who led the historic case against Coles, along with Mr Cullinan and Coles trolley operator Duncan Hart.

In its formative stage the union would be run by volunteers who would seek to sign thousands of financial members and use Pozible​ crowd-funding to raise funds for part-time organisers and offices in major cities.

"We know that's a big task and it will take time to build our union," said Mr Cullinan. "But we have a sector of a million workers; half a million of them are subject to exploitative enterprise agreements."
The new union won't at be first registered as a traditional union. Instead, it would register as a national organisation under the Corporations Act and as an incorporated association.

Mr Cullinan said this would allow it to act as a "robust and strong" union on behalf of members including through industrial action.

21 November 2016

THE PRESS AND PALESTINE


The Press and Palestine


That most illustrious of all publications, the New York Post, sounded a dire warning this week, announcing that Israel can no longer count on the unqualified support of the Democratic Party. In true, Zionist fashion, the rag said that the recent election “… could be the last US presidential election that Israelis don’t have to watch with existential dread”.

Well, we all know that just about everything is an existential threat to apartheid Israel, from the Iran nuclear deal, that regulates that nation’s nuclear advancement, to criticism by the world soccer organization.  And that is just one of the gems available in the article. As this writer is wont to do, he will look at a few more, in some detail.

Minnesota Representative Keith Ellison, potentially the next chairman of the Democratic National Committee, is, apparently, not admired by The Post. The article says this: “Ellison ‘has organized letters urging pressure on Israel, and was an advocate of drawing lessons from the UN Goldstone Report following the 2009 Gaza War’.”

Does this seem bizarre? Should not lessons be learned from a report issued by the United Nations? The Post mentions, of course, that Richard Goldstone eventually backtracked on some aspects of the report, but didn’t mention the political pressure he was under to do so.

“On a trip to Israel last summer, Ellison posted a photo of a sign in Hebron declaring Israel to be an apartheid state and land thief.” Well, let’s see: ‘Israeli only’ roads, many of them that non-Israelis can’t even cross, let alone drive on; separate laws for Israelis and non-Israelis, with punishment for similar crimes being lenient for Israelis, and extremely harsh for everyone else; military protection of Israelis while in the act of committing crimes against non-Israelis; fostering of hatred, from elementary school on up, of anyone not Israeli. Sounds like apartheid to this writer.

And what about land theft? Well, forcing people to vacate houses they own, with no recompense or possible redress, taking the land and building new residences there that only Israelis can occupy, sounds like both land theft and apartheid. So what point, one asks, was The Post trying to make?

Mr. Ellison apparently adds insult to injury. The article states:  “He has also called for Israel to end the blockade on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip — despite the fact that Gaza-based terrorists have launched over 11,000 rocket attacks on Israeli civilians since Israel withdrew from the strip in 2005”.

But the article doesn’t mention the fact that during 52 days in the summer of 2014, Israel fired more rockets into the Gaza Strip than had been fired into Israel in the previous 14 years. Nor does it comment on the strength of the Palestinian ‘rockets’. Dr. Norman Finkelstein, son of Holocaust survivors and an ardent supporter of Palestinian rights, calls those ‘rockets’, “enhanced fireworks”. Israel, on the other hand, has the most powerful, deadly weaponry on the planet today, provided by the United States.

“Israel discovered that Hamas had built a vast system of underground tunnels from Gaza to Israel in preparation for mass terror attacks.” With the brutal blockade of the Gaza Strip by Israel, such dangerous items as crayons and pasta have been prevented from entering Gaza. The tunnels have been a means of bringing supplies into the area.

It must also be remembered that an oppressed people, according to the United Nations, has both the right and the responsibility to resist the oppressor. Palestine has no army, no navy and no air force. Israel has the fourth most powerful military machine in the world, back by the most powerful. If one wants to discuss ‘mass terror attacks’, one might consider the 2014 Israeli bombing of schools, hospitals, UN refugee centers, houses of worship and press vehicles and buildings, that killed over 2,000 Palestinians, including over 500 children, as young as infancy.

The article also states the following, which seems to cause great dismay to The Post’s editors: “According to the Pew Research Center, Democrats sympathize more with Israel than the Palestinians by a 43-29 margin — but that’s far closer than just a few years ago. And among liberal Democrats, it flips: Liberals prefer the Palestinians by a 40-33 margin’. And further: Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders “…had massive support among young liberals, who are increasingly hostile to Israel”.

The fish wrapper bemoans this trend, but somehow neglects to explore why it might be. Could some of those issues mentioned above – harsh discrimination in Israel against all non-Israelis, apartheid laws, violence against defenseless people, etc.  – perhaps have something to do with this growing hostility to Israel?

The new Republican administration is almost gleeful in its disdain for the human rights struggles of the Palestinian people, and the anticipated political appointees are all Israeli cheerleaders. Hopefully, Mr. Ellison and other progressives will be able to at least prevent the complete annexation of the West Bank by Israel, and stall another aerial bombardment. In two years, it is likely that the Democrats will regain control of Congress, and while one can hardly expect them to be champions of human rights (they are only champions of their own bottom lines), at least things may revert to the conditions currently existing under President Barack Obama. And, as more progressives gain office, which will hopefully occur now that the Clinton dynasty has finally been aborted, there may be a glimmer of hope for Palestine once more. That is, of course, assuming that the damage to that country can be minimized for the next two years. That, sadly, is not a sure thing by any means.
Robert Fantina’s latest book is Empire, Racism and Genocide: a History of US Foreign Policy (Red Pill Press).

08 November 2016

ASYLUM SEEKERS - WHAT IS MORE DISGRACEFUL THAN AUSTRALIAN POLITICIANS' DISGUSTING POLICIES?'

Is there anything more disgraceful than what is going on in Australia at the moment - 8 November 2016 - than the responses of the federal politicians to some of the most unfortunate human beings on the planet?

Locked away in the concentration camps established by Australia in Nauru and Manus (Papua New Guinea), the asylum seekers have just been dealt another death blow by the Australian government which is in the process of passing a bill to deny entry to Australia - EVER - of these unfortunate people.

Those of us who live in Australia and are mortified by the shenanigans of our politicians are in a situation where all the protests we have been able to be part of for the last several years have found it all to be of no avail, and the situation deteriorates daily.

Why is there not an outcry by the people who live in this country - ALL - except the indigenous population - of whom are migrants and asylum seekers? Why are they not screaming at their politicians and demanding humanitarian treatment of human beings who are desperate for some safety and security in their lives for themselves and their children?

To continue Alan Paton's refrain - "Cry the Beloved Country" - but this is no longer a beloved country - its human rights abuses are horrific and relate to regimes we have known over the past 100 years and more.

23 October 2016

ISRAEL'S BOYCOTT HYPOCRISY








Israel’s Boycott Hypocrisy

On October 9th, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that he plans to support his coalition’s initiative to boycott the Joint List, the third largest party in the Knesset. The move, initiated by Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, is aimed at punishing the party’s decision not to go to former President Shimon Peres’s funeral, which was attended by dignitaries from no less than 70 countries, including US President Barack Obama and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. “Members of the Joint List have proven that there’s no point anymore in discussing anything or even arguing with them,” Lieberman averred, while adding “that we must decide to boycott all their appearances and addresses in the Knesset.”

Speaking on Israeli Channel 2, the head of the Joint Arab List, Ayman Odeh, explained that Peres’s funeral was part of a “national day of mourning in which I have no place; not in the narrative, not in the symbols that exclude me, not in the stories of Peres as a man who built up Israel’s defenses.” He went on to recall scenes in Peres’ long public career: from his role in the military government imposed on Israel’s Palestinian citizens in 1948-1966, through his pivotal role in obtaining Israel’s nuclear arsenal, to the IDF’s 1996 attack on a UN compound in the Lebanese village Qana, where 106 civilians were killed. He even cited Peres’s failure to attend Arafat’s funeral (with whom he had won the Nobel Peace Prize), or, indeed, of any other Israeli-Arab leader.

Perhaps because he did not think the Israeli public could stomach it, Odeh did not mention that Peres was a colonist through and through. In documents recently revealed, Peres is quoted as saying that he does not believe in an “Arafat state” and that Jordan is the only Palestinian state, while bemoaning the existence of Palestinian citizens in the Galilei. “I see how they eat up the Galilei and my heart bleeds,” he told former Prime Minister Menachem Begin in a 1978 meeting between the two. Much more recently, Peres went so far as to maintain that “Israel Defense Force operations enabled economic prosperity in the West Bank, relieved southern Lebanese citizens from the terror of Hezbollah, and have enabled Gazans to have normal lives again.” Indeed, until his death he was the paradigmatic voice of the colonial civilizing mission.

During the same Channel 2 interview, however, Odeh did point out to his Israeli Jewish audience that the following Saturday the Arab-Israeli community would be marking the 16th anniversary of the October 2000 riots in which 13 citizens of the community were killed by police during a series of demonstrations protesting Israel actions against Palestinians at the outset of the Second Intifada. “Will anyone from the government attend?” Odeh pondered; “Can someone understand our pain or does our pain not interest anybody?”

Notwithstanding Odeh’s candid effort to expose Israel’s racist approach toward its Palestinian citizens, Netanyahu’s coalition is determined to boycott the Joint Arab List.

Ironically, this is the same coalition that has been outspoken against the adoption of the boycott strategy as a legitimate non-violent political tool to struggle against Israel’s subjugation of the Palestinian people. Indeed, Netanyahu’s government is currently spending millions and millions of dollars to combat the Palestinian boycott movement, while criminalizing anyone who dare to support it publically. Interior Minister Aryeh Deri and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan announced the formation of a committee to prevent BDS activists from entering the country, and to deport those already in Israel/Palestine.

Boycotting Israel’s colonial project is anti-Semitic, Netanyahu and his cronies assert, as they boycott the Palestinian leaders who dared not pay final respect to Peres.  They are so captivated by their twisted logic, that the irony is lost on them.

This article first appeared in Al Jazeera
Neve Gordon is the co-author (with Nicola Perugini) of the newly released The Human Right to Dominate.

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90 years old, political gay activist, hosting two web sites, one personal: http://www.red-jos.net one shared with my partner, 94-year-old Ken Lovett: http://www.josken.net and also this blog. The blog now has an alphabetical index: http://www.red-jos.net/alpha3.htm

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