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#nocleanfeed: Rally against Internet Censorship in Australia, Saturday December 13th 2008

On December 13th 2008, there will be rallies in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart, Adelaide and Perth to protest against the Government's plans to censor the Internet in Australia. This video has all the details and also some advice about what to say when you're talking to people who are worried about what kids might see online. Please spread this video and news about the rally far and wide.

Rally details:

Saturday 13th of December 2008
Brisbane Square (between the casino and city library, Victoria bridge end of Queen St Mall)


11:00 AM 13th of December, 2008
Where: Town Hall Square, George Street, Sydney (beside Town Hall)


Date: Saturday 13th of December 2008
Time: 12:00pm - 4:00pm
Location: Outside the State Library, corner of Swanston St and La Trobe St.



Saturday, December 13, 2008
11:00am - 1:30pm
Parliament Lawns
Hobart, Australia


Saturday, December 13, 2008
12:00pm - 4:00pm
Parliament House Stairs
North Terrace


13th of December 2008
Stirling Gardens, City




If anyone is interested in planning the Brisbane rally against the Government's plan to censor the Internet, there is a meeting on Sunday November 30 at 3.30pm at Post Office Square in town.

The rally itself is on Saturday December 13 at Brisbane Square, George St, at 11am. Brisbane Square is right opposite the end of the Queen Street Mall, just across George St.

For more info on rally planning go to the forums at http://www.nocensorship.info/

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#nocleanfeed T-Shirts for sale

It's the merchandise that Senator Stephen Conroy can't censor, even if he wants to! Click here for #nocleanfeed T-Shirts you can buy. Or make them yourself.


Against Australian Internet Censorship? We Must Change Our Arrogant, Flawed Strategy. #nocleanfeed

Mark Newton, a network engineer with Australian ISP Internode, is becoming very well-known as a result of his opposition to the Australian Government's plans to censor the Internet. He's published an article called "Filter Advocates Need To Check Their Facts" today at the ABCs website. I am sure that Newton knows far more than I ever will about computer networks, but if he knew much about politics, he would know that the facts are neither here nor there. His article has a superior, sneering tone all the way through it, and anyone who opposes Internet censorship in Australia needs to drop that attitude and work out how to actually win this argument.

Newton begins:

One of the minor irritants associated with the recent internet censorship debate has been the continual need to correct basic factual errors promulgated by the Government's supporters.

In my observation, it's obvious that the debate has polarised into two camps. One of them is largely populated by people who know what they're talking about and who mostly oppose the ALP's censorship plan; and the other is dominated by woolly-headed adherents to the principle that it'll all be alright if you just close your eyes and wish hard enough.

Oh, poor you! Winning a political debate isn't about getting irritated by "factual errors", it's about assuming your opponents will be dishonest, figuring out exactly who they are trying to win over with their dishonesty, and working out counter-arguments that will actually appeal to those people.

Now, if you were someone who was worried about the Internet, who thought that the Government's plan might be a good idea, but were prepared to listen to arguments on the other side, how would that second paragraph strike you? Everyone who sympathises with you has been written off as "woolly-headed". Could you get any more arrogant? These first two paragraphs of the article reveal how much of political "debate" in Australia is just people telling each other how smart they are and how stupid anyone is who doesn't agree.

One of the most common basic factual errors was repeated on these pages [on the ABC - ed] on November 4, when former Victorian Family First candidate and Australian Family Association researcher Anh Nguyen magically transmuted into a network security expert by suggesting that "ISP level filters are being trialled due to the difficulty of securing PC-based filtering solutions."

While I'm sure the writer has a deep understanding of the needs of his cause, he clearly doesn't have a grasp of the technology he's talking about.

Mr Nguyen, our opponent, is very smart to be aware of the needs of his cause. If we allow the enemy to be aware of the needs of their cause, and refuse to acknowledge that this argument is about politics, not technical solutions, then we remain blind to the needs of our own cause. We need to make sure that people who might support the filtering are not strong enough to persuade the Liberal Party to change its position. If they get strong enough to do that, the Liberal Party will vote for the filter and we will fail.

To put it simply: There is no security difference inherent in taking filtering from the PC and moving it to the ISP. In either case the systems work in the same manner and the same bypass methods are available. And yet, as the recent ACMA-commissioned report showed conclusively, the ISP version will slow subscribers down and reduce the ability of parents to adjust their filtering preferences to suit their own parental judgement about what is best for their children.

No doubt Newton is correct on this. But unless we reach the people the Government is trying to appeal to with the filter, and convince some of them that we have a better solution that will suit their needs, then being correct is meaningless.

How is that better than PC-level filtering? And can we agree, for the
purpose of future discussion, that everyone will be able to bypass it
at will no matter what proponents come up with, and that anyone who suggests otherwise must immediately stop being taken seriously?

No, we can't. I don't judge my opponents in a political fight by whether they are right or wrong. I judge them by how many supporters their arguments are likely to win. That is what is missing from the arguments of people who oppose the filter - a clear understanding of why the Government is attracted to Internet censorship.

It's perhaps not surprising that a family expert who misunderstands technology could get something this basic wrong, because the Minister in charge has blazed a trail of such colossal blinding wrongness that it's probably difficult for listeners to distinguish truth from fiction.

I'm not talking about normal, everyday wrongness. I'm talking about the kind of wrongness that comes with its own theme music and marching band.

Congratulations. We're righter and smarter than the Government. Does that convince one single person to change sides and oppose censorship instead of supporting it? Or does it just let those of us who oppose censorship feel superior?

For example, on page ECA 76 of Senate Hansard on October 20, 2008, the Minister, a man who is paid a lot of money to know what he's talking about, emitted this stand-up howler in reference to other countries that have already implemented his proposed Australian system:

Senator Conroy-- Just to indicate the countries that have implemented along the lines that Abul [Rivni, deputy secretary, Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy] is talking about include Sweden, the UK, Canada and New Zealand. This is not some one-off excursion.

In actual fact, none of the countries Senator Conroy cited have anything like what he's proposing for Australia. With the exception of New Zealand, which doesn't filter and has no plans to introduce it, all of the other nations he's ever cited as examples to emulate offer voluntary, non-government, industry-sponsored, opt-in schemes very much like the one which the Internet Industry Association has already created in Australia. Indeed, the only countries which feature government-imposed internet censorship are nations which place more emphasis on opinion suppression than internet access, such as China, Saudi Arabia and Iran.

I know the Minister doesn't like those comparisons, but if the shoe fits...

Once again, true, but so what? The Minister is lying or misinformed. SO WHAT? He's a politician. If he were a duck he'd quack, if he were a pig he'd taste great roasted with apple sauce, but he's a politician, so he lies. Everyone already knows this! It's nothing new or surprising for Government Ministers to twist the truth to suit themselves. It's unlikely to surprise anyone. [Edited after comment by tomvoirol - click here to see the comment]

If I was afraid of the Internet and was prepared to censor it, my response would be "Well, if those countries don't censor the Internet, then they should!". Winning cheap debating points doesn't change a single mind.

As the Minister's marching band plays, the chorus repeats, and he inserts his factually challenged international comparisons into virtually every press statement on the subject, so much so that it's clear that he lacks even the most basic grasp of his own policy.

This isn't a unique event for the Minister either. On the same page of Hansard he also misleadingly implied that the ACMA blacklist, intended by the previous government to reference material unsuitable for children, is actually a list of illegal material. Senator Conroy, haven't you read your department's own legislation? Don't you have a duty to know what you're talking about?

The people who support his plans to censor the Internet don't give a damn if he's wrong on the facts and the technology. What they care about is that someone is doing something they think will make them safer. If we don't start dealing with this issue on that level, we will lose.

To supporters of the Government's proposals, I have to ask: Do you honestly believe that Australian parents are so uniquely incompetent that we, unlike literally every other Western democracy on the planet, need to go down the ALP's proposed path to protect our own children? After spending 30 years proving that our nation can successfully raise children in an environment of ubiquitous access to uncensored online services, are you able to explain how profoundly Australian parents must have failed to justify this radical proposal?

What if they do believe that? How will you deal with someone who is not intimidated by your superior tone? What if they just say "Yes. I think we need to censor the Internet."? Where to from there? Do you have a single argument that might appeal to someone like that, any argument at all that might convince them to think again? Or will you just write them off as a stupid, ignorant moron?

And, while I'm asking questions, let me conclude with one more: When we're talking about this, can we acknowledge that although opinions can vary, the facts are inviolate. Is it too much to ask for you to get them right?

Is it too much to ask people who oppose Internet censorship to try and put themselves in the shoes of people who are worried about the Internet? To actually try and consider what it might be like to be someone else? To get out of the headspace of people who agree with you?

I think that we need to reach people with two main arguments:

1) We need to encourage people to use and understand home-based filtering technology. We need to make it easy for them to use it, and to check up on what their young children are doing online. It's fairly simple to make instruction pages or YouTube videos that would teach people just how easy it is to get more control over the Internet. We need to actively promote these resources to people who are worried about the Internet. That means that when someone says they are worried about the Internet, we say:

"Have a look at these tools we've put together. They explain exactly how you can protect your children from the bad side of the Internet."

Instead of:

"You must be a fundy Christian moron! Why cant you get your facts right?"

2) We should focus on how the Government's filter will slow down the sites that EVERYONE uses on the Internet: EBay, Amazon, sites where you can book cheap airline flights, the mainstream media's websites, etc.

At the moment, the Liberal Party and the Green Party are against the Government's censorship plan. The Liberal Party is divided into different groups: some of them will oppose the plan because it is bad for big business (the Internet Service Providers) and some will support censorship because they get votes from reactionary, right-wing Christians. We must make sure we win every single person we can away from supporting censorship. If the forces in the Liberal Party who support censorship get stronger than the forces who are against it, then the Liberal Party will change sides and we will lose.

Click here to see my previous article on Australian Internet Censorship.


Potty mouthery = deletion at Flickr

Responding to a Flickr automated warning with obscenities gets user deleted.

read more | digg story


The Brisbane GoMA (Gallery of Modern Art) has a new show starting mid-November. It's called Optimism and it's about contemporary Australian artists. I really like the poster, and we should be quite impressed with GoMA's record this year.

First, Andy Warhol, then Picasso's Collection. Both very popular (Warhol got over 120 000 individual visits) and this shows that GoMA management are thinking hard about what sort of ambitious major exhibitions will bring in a lot of interest from the public. I think this is a very positive way for a big cultural institution to act, and it's one of the reasons I feel optimistic.

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Public criticism of academics is not an attack on academic freedom, nor is it McCarthyism

There is an online argument brewing about an attack on Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) Associate Professor Dr Anthony Burke, among others. The attack on Dr Burke was published in a Quadrant Magazine article, written by Mervyn F. Bendle. Bendle argues that Burke represents the "political Left" who have taken over academic terrorism studies, "with all the anti-democratic, anti-liberal, anti-Western, anti-American, anti-Israel, pro-terrorist, and postmodernist ideological gobbledygook that entails", and appears to suggest that Dr Burke should not be employed by ADFA.

Bendle does appear to froth at the mouth a bit, and makes the serious mistake of conflating Marxism and post-modernism:

...the study of terrorism had either been ignored in Australia or had been colonised by the radical, postmodern Left, which was assimilating the study of terrorism to its prevailing ideological paradigm based on class, race, gender, anti-Americanism and cultural relativism, often under the guise of the neo-Marxist “critical terror studies” approach.

This foolish frothing gives Bendle's opponents a free kick, which they gleefully take. However, political debate is a game of four quarters, not just a single free kick, and Bendle's online opponents fail to address what he is actually saying about Burke. (I'll discuss that later in this piece).

Instead of addressing what Bendle has to say about Burke, and working out whether it has merit or not, academics Terry Flew and Mark Bahnisch have two main complaints:

1) That it may be a form of McCarthyism

2) That it is in some way inappropriate, and bad for academic freedom, for this sort of public debate to happen.

Firstly I'll get my free kicks out of the way. Although he has now withdrawn it, it was Burke - NOT the "McCarthyist" Bendle - who called for an investigation into the person who criticised him publically, the same Bendle:

Dr Burke, 42, fumed that Dr Bendle had improperly suggested he was pro-terrorist and called for JCU to investigate whether this amounted to "serious academic misconduct". However, he last Friday withdrew his demand to vice-chancellor Sandra Harding for an investigation, conceding "it may be that administrative action is not the best way to address the problem".


Dr Burke, who describes his political orientation as "liberal-left", rejected Dr Bendle's claim that he had overreacted by seeking a university investigation.

"It's a funny situation when you have people utilising academic freedom in a sense to attack it," Dr Burke said.

"But you have got to stand up for your own position ... I just don't like people saying that I support terrorism, when I don't."

In his online article, Bahnisch quotes the second of the two quotes I have included here: but omits the first line, thus hiding the fact that Burke, the poor academic attacked by "McCarthyists", called for an official investigation.

There's also an amusing comment on Bahnisch's article:

"If Bendle really described Burke as “pro terrorist” then Burke should sue him and Quadrant for defamation."

Bahnisch agrees.

Criticism of someone's views and questioning if they are fit to teach military cadets is McCarthyism, but trying to start official enquiries against someone who does that, or suing someone who does that, is cool. Apparently.

The second point is related to the first: the idea that it is in some way inappropriate to carry out this sort of debate in a public forum:

I think that’s right, but there’s the added dimension here of links between the security state and academia, and also of the willingness of academics to prosecute basically private (and often employment related) disputes through the pages of the public press. The latter was a significant component of the attacks former QUT academics John Hookham and Gary Maclennan launched on Michael Noonan’s PhD project on disability and humour. It doesn’t appear to have occurred to Bendle, with all his complaints about so-called breaches of “scholarly etiquette”, that he might have committed one himself by attacking Burke publicly in such risibly inquisitorial terms.

I'm really not sure how a debate on whether an academic is fit to teach military cadets is a private, employment-related dispute. Surely matters such as this are utterly fit and proper topics for public discussion. Universities are funded partly by taxpayers, after all. I don't agree with the idea that an academic should be protected by a cone of silence, so that only other academics can discuss, privately, the political effects and implications of their work.

Now, turning to Bendle's article: well, it doesn't start well. The first page has a paragraph of guilt by association, and the foolish conflation of "neo-Marxism" and post-modernism.

When Bendle turns to Burke, he starts off by claiming that Burke equates:

the Israeli government’s policies on the Palestinian question and international sanctions against Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq with terrorism “in that they targeted civilians and sought to inflict suffering and fear for a political purpose”.

Bendle claims that Burke's worldview is "radical pacifism", and says that

Burke denies any ultimate legitimacy to sovereign nation-states, and denies that they have any right to preserve their security, defend themselves from attack, police their borders, or pursue their national interests, when these might impinge upon “the Other”.

and quotes Burke saying:

“dreams of security, prosperity and freedom hinge, from their earliest conceptualizations to the contemporary politics of the national security state, on the insecurity and dying of others”.


On the question of terrorism, Burke declares that “our critical task is not to help power [that is, the USA] seek out and destroy the ‘enemies of freedom’ [that is, terrorists] but to question how they were constructed as enemies of ‘freedom’ [and how] we … might already be enemies of freedom in the very process of imagining and defending it”. As Burke’s use of scare-quotes indicates, he doubts that terrorists are enemies of freedom or that freedom has any particular value, while claiming that it is “we” who are its real enemies anyway.

I would ask a few questions here:

1) When using the world "critical", did Burke mean "most important" or mean "analytical"? If he meant the second, then the whole quote is being misrepresented.

2) How can Bendle be sure that the quotes are scare quotes? Burke might merely be being careful to point out that his terms have not yet been defined in his work.

3) How can Bendle be so sure that Western civilisation is not, and can never be, an "enemy of freedom"? He appears to reject the idea as impossible.

Later in the article, Bendle says:

according to Burke’s extremely abstract and tendentious postmodernist perspective, the security of the Australian community is “imagined on the basis of a bounded and vulnerable identity in perpetual opposition to an outside—an Other—whose character and claims threaten its integrity and safety”, and as a result, our community “is always an exclusive one, bounded by a power that seeks to enforce sameness, repress diversity, and diminish the rights (and claims to being) of those who are thrust outside its protective embrace”.
If that is indeed what Burke says, then it seems fairly unexceptional to me.

Finally, Bendle sums up Burke, saying:

Moreover, in reading Burke’s polemics, one gets an impression not only of the “radical pacifism” deplored by Ungerer, but of a deeper, almost pathological tendency revealed in Burke’s antipathy for liberal democracies and mainstream Australians, and his relentless sympathy for terrorists, illegal immigrants, communists, and “the Other” in its multitudinous forms. Burke’s vision of international relations involves a desire to be absorbed into a transnational, ethically pure collectivity, combined with a desire to be passive, supine and receptive, to be penetrated and even violated if need be by the looming, ever-present “Other”, whose active and invasive power apparently expresses, in Burke’s mind, assertiveness, initiative, potency, and all that is good and humane in the world. Clearly, students at the ADFA will be given lots to think about by their new associate professor.

In a letter to The Australian published on Monday, Burke says that students of the ADFA educational unit "Terrorism and the International Order":

were told that terrorism is a serious threat that states have a right to secure themselves from. They discussed the unique strategic challenge posed by terrorism—that force
has an important but limited utility in countering it, and the real
front is less in Iraq or Afghanistan than in the minds of those who
become radicalised into believing that civilians are legitimate targets
of violence. This has been recognised by the RAND Corporation and MI5,
which recently conducted a study of radicalisation in the UK.

And an article in last Saturday's Weekend Australian says:

Dr Burke told The Weekend Australian that while Dr Bendle had quoted
him accurately, he had misrepresented his broader view that terrorism
was immoral and politically counter-productive.

"The quotes are accurate, but the characterisation is not," he
insisted. The inference that he was pro-terrorist was an outrageous
slur, Dr Burke said.

Burke is apparently to rely to Bendle in a future issue of Quadrant, so it will be interesting to see exactly what he says about Bendle's accusations.

Bendle and his howling colleagues in the reactionary right tribe have not convinced me of anything about Burke. Tim Blair has, of course, joined in, with all the ignorant commenters who appear to have read nothing of what Burke says apart from what is quoted by his enemies But tribalism is not just a problem of the Right. Both Flew and Bahnisch, who appear to be coming at this issue from a liberal/social democratic Left position, decide not to get into the merits of the argument, but complain that it should not even be happening. I suppose as academics they are merely protecting their own turf by demanding "what happens in the faculty stays in the faculty", but their ridiculous claims that Bendle's attack is in some way "McCarthyist" - and their ignoring of the fact that Burke's initial reaction was to call for an official academic enquiry - help to close off debate, not encourage it.

This is the sign of an intellectually timid, fearful culture that demands that no-one outside it should dare be exposed to its internal arguments. It leads to the tribalism I've just described, where Left and Right shout at each other, tell their supporters that the other is teh EVUL, without bothering to engage with an unpleasant idea ever. This is not the way to conduct a search for truth.


Sidney Nolan and Australia's Cult of Failure

I went to visit the Sidney Nolan: A New Retrospective exhibition at the Queensland Art Gallery yesterday. I didn't know much about Nolan except for his famous Ned Kelly paintings.

(For non-Australians, Ned Kelly was a famous bushranger who was hanged in the late nineteenth century, and is still an iconic Australian figure today - Nolan's paintings of him were used as the basis for costumes of some of the dancers in the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games opening ceremony).

Of course, seeing the images on screen is unsatisfactory compared to seeing the real thing, but if you'd like to browse some of Nolan's work you can start here at a Google image search.

While I admire Nolan's technical skill, I kept feeling that much of Nolan's work - especially after his early period - both represents and re-inforces an Australian cult of failure that is one of the most damaging forces standing against a progressive culture in Australia today.

One example of this is the Riverbend polyptych (a work of art containing "many panels"). One of the panels from Riverbend II, a similar work, can be seen here, and a crack team of revolutionary art critics armed with shoe cameras and dodging security guards took this clip of the whole 9-panel-work, over 9 metres wide:

Riverbend Polyptych from http://djackmanson.vox.com/

You can't see the detail very well in the video, but you can get some idea of the sheer overwhelming size of the work. In most of the panels, redgums push close to the edge of the river, while tiny (in comparison) figures of Ned Kelly shoot at tiny figures of policemen. In the far-right panel, the trees recede and you can see open river - I felt a physical sense of relief while I looked at this panel, after the oppressive closeness of the rest. The message I got from this work is that there is no room for people in this landscape.

According to an art book I flicked through at the exhibition, three of Nolan's major themes were Kelly, the failed Gallipoli invasion of 1915 (which bent the spine of Australia's optimism for decades to come) and the failed Burke and Wills expedition to the Australian desert in the middle of the nineteenth century - an attempt to cross the continent from north to south and back again.

Nolan didn't make any of these things famous - he merely picked up on what was around him (and in fact I remember learning about all of these things at school, as would many other Australians). But he did decide (or, because of who he was, was inspired) to use them as recurring themes in his work. But surely he was re-inforcing the pessimism and cynicism of a country that was far better at making icons and heroes out of people who failed, rather than those who succeeded (how many legends are told of the successful Australian actions on the Western Front in WWI, compared to the bloody failure at Gallipoli?)

This got me thinking about the relationship between culture and individual decisions. Nolan wasn't acting in a cultural vacuum. Was/Is it possible for an artist or a movement of artists to have any effect at all on cultural norms? What if a master artist in Australia's history had chosen to consistently paint and represent success? Would this have even been possible? Would she have been ignored? How does culture change, and what role do individual decisions have in that?

All this, has implications for the creation of a pre-revolutionary culture in a bourgeois society. Is it possible to create inspiring and successful works that actually convince people to change their attitudes a bit, or at least to emphasise some attitudes that were previously buried?



Utterz can make moblogging much easier if you post to more than one of your blogs from a mobile. Utterz lets you send video, photos, text and even voice to a single email address and, with a few very simple email commands, you can choose which of your blogs gets updated with that new post.

If you only have one blog but you want to post video from the road and have it automatically get posted to the blog, Utterz can do that too. It's especially useful if you only have mobile email, not full web access from your mobile.

I have Utterz set up so I can post to 3 blogs, my livejournal, my twitter account, plus youtube and blip.tv. If I wanted to, I could tell any or all of those to post automatically with anything I send to Utterz. That doesn't suit me, so instead I use simple commands at the end of my posts to tell Utterz which service to send the update to. These services are pretty good to be getting on with, but support for posting to Brightkite, Zooomr (especially) and Vox would be very useful too.

The funny thing is, Utterz aren't selling themselves as a moblogging manager. The main feature they promote is that you can make a voice call to an Utterz phone number (and there must be plenty of them, because they have one here in Brisbane, Australia) and record a voice message which can get sent to your blog. This is an interesting idea as it brings live mobile voice blogging within reach of anyone with a mobile phone, even if it has no data access at all.

Utterz also has the usual social functions built in: people can comment on your posts (unless you choose to make them private), friend you and so on. But it's real strength is as a way to easily manage your mobile blogging. All your mobile posts are stored at Utterz as well as on your blog, and you can easily decide to send your posts to one, some or all of your blogs.

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9/11 Paranoia? JUST SAY NO

You can buy this T-Shirt if you click here and visit my shop at Spreadshirt.com (I made it after ripping off an idea from the 9/11 Truthers).

Or you could look on Google Image Search, download one of the "inside job" images and make up a T-Shirt yourself. I'd hate to profiteer without giving you the chance to do it yourself. But if you can't be bothered, I'll willingly take your money.


Government-enforced religion at the half-way house

Last October, I went into rehab to give up a very bad marijuana habit. I managed to kick the habit, and I graduated in early February and moved into a half-way house called Crana House in the inner-northern suburbs of Brisbane.

I was assessed by public servants working for the Queensland Government's Alcohol and Drug Information Service. I learnt while being assessed that one of the conditions of living at Crana House is to attend 12-step meetings (Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous). There is a six-week trial period at Crana House during which you have to attend three 12-step meetings per week, and after the trial period is up you have to attend at least one 12-step meeting per week, and at least two other recovery-related activities.

I'd never been to a 12-step meeting before I became a resident in Crana House, and so I started going along to NA meetings. I was aware that they were based on a belief in God, and since I am an atheist I was a bit concerned about that, but I decided to give it a go and see what they were like. Once, before going into rehab, I had suggested that a religious group may not be for me because I didn't believe in God or a "Higher Power". The psychiatrist I was talking to said that a Higher Power didn't have to be God - one person apparently called the bus his Higher Power as it took him past the pub to AA meetings.

When I started going to meetings, I found that this philosophical fudge was not used by most of the people there. People at meetings generally talk about "God", in the sense of a supernatural being with a distinct personality. This was the first major problem that I found I had with the 12-step program. I don't find the idea of believing in physics or gravity or the group a satisfactory substitute for a belief in God. I don't need to replace God with anything. As far as I am concerned, there are just people - nothing else. If I am going to find the strength to overcome addiction and other toxic habits, it's going to have to come from within me.

Now, if it were just the God stuff, I probably wouldn't have big problems with the 12-step stuff. But as I went to more meetings, I found deeper problems, far more important than religious belief. The third step of NA says:

We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
One of the deep strains of thought that I kept hearing at meetings is that people with addiction must not obey their own will. The only way to remain free from drugs, according to this type of thought, is to let a Higher Power take over your life. You have to find out God's will, and obey it instead of yours.

Well, even if I did believe in God, I would consider that as a way to give up my responsibility to make my own decisions. I am not about to hand over my will to anyone or anything. I believe that my will in the past has led me to make rotten decisions, including the decision to depend on marijuana for a decade and a half. And I believe that I now must change my will and use it to make better decisions - or I will have very unpleasant consequences. But all those decisions are mine, and mine alone. Even if I believed in God, I wouldn't be able to blame him for my own decision to use marijuana, and I would deserve whatever credit there is for giving up.

There are other things I have heard at NA meetings that keep reinforcing the idea that our lives are not our responsibility. One big one is the idea that addiction is a "disease". It is very common to hear people talk about "my disease" at meetings. Well, I reject that. Addiction is a choice. I chose to use marijuana, and now I choose not to. I haven't been "cured", I have changed the decisions that I have made. Talking about addiction as though it is a disease lets you avoid the moral responsibility for the things you have done.

If you've found 12-step programs successful, then you will probably find a lot to object to in what I've said. If 12-step works for you, good on you. It's not my job to judge you and decide how you should live your life. But hear me now: These are my deepest beliefs that I feel at my core. Going to 12-step meetings violates who I am. So please don't bother telling me that I am wrong, or that I don't understand the steps, because I DON"T CARE. What I care about is the fact that I am forced, by public servants, as a condition of my accommodation, to attend meetings that violate me at my core. My other alternative is to live on the streets.

We had a house meeting tonight at Crana House. There was a discussion about recovery-related activities, and I explained how much I hate going to 12-step meetings. The public servant who attends the weekly house meetings said that EVEN IF the committee (all the residents of the house) were to vote to allow me to replace 12-step meetings with something else, she would veto it.

Who has authority over Crana House? Legally, it's very unclear. There appear to be no written rules saying exactly who has the authority to decide what is acceptable and what isn't. This legal murkiness is being exploited by the public servant so that she can claim whatever decision-making power she chooses.

The house is leased from a private landlord. I do not know if the lease is in the name of the Committee, the Alcohol and Drug Information Service, or some other person or organisation. Therefore I don't know who has the legal power to decide who shall live here and under what terms. The rent, food and utility bills for the house are paid by the residents out of their weekly rent. Council rates and such things are paid for by the Department of Health (which "owns" the Alcohol and Drug Information Service). I don't know if there is even a written lease.

So it's entirely possible that the public servant is pretending to have power she doesn't have. But even if she does have that power, I am being forced, as a condition of residence in a Government facility, to attend religious meetings - religious meetings that violate everything I believe in, at that.

I think it's entirely fair that people living in a half-way house like this should have to prove that they are doing the things they need to do to stay clean. People living here should have to go to activities that promote their recovery, and they should have to account for their activities, and if they don't go, they should be evicted.

But the Government has absolutely no place forcing people to attend religious meetings - for that is what the 12-step movement is - as a condition of residence in any facility whatsoever.


A Brief History of Creation Science

Just found this rather good video by YouTube user sapperbloggs.

In his commentary on the video, he says:

A brief history of Creation Science, and why the USSR is to blame for starting it all. [NB this is not as crazy as it sounds - watch the video - DJ]

If you wish to refute a point made in this video, please do so.
If you wish to use bible verses to refute a point made in this video, I will direct you to a video I made called... 'Why I think you're a twat'

The bulk of the information here is from a lecture given by Dr Martin Bridgstock, a senior lecturer at Griffith Uni in Brisbane. That said, my opinions are MY opinions, not his.


Brisbane Politics: Anonymous Anti-Scientology Rally May 10 2008 Brisbane, Australia

On Saturday May 10, Anonymous groups around the world protested aganst the "Church" of Scientology's "Fair Game Stop" policy. This report has photos and video from the protest in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Attendees included Yoshi and a redshirt, and there was rickrolling.

read more | digg story


Brisbane Politics - Cyclist Protest Ride by CBDBUG

Via Public Polity:

Call TONIGHT if you want to go on this ride - the phone number is below.

Calling all cyclists who are fed up with Local and State Government failures to provide safe and direct routes for Brisbane cyclists.

Detours of bikeways due to major infrastructure projects like the North South Bypass Tunnel, AirportLink and Northern Busway are severely impacting upon the ability of cyclists to ride in safety, particularly on Brisbane’s north side - which is already poorly served for cycling access.

A protest ride is being organised by the Central Business District Bicycle User Group (CBDBUG) to highlight the frustrations of cyclists and the dangers we face.

Time: Friday 9 May 2008. 4:15pm for a 4:30pm start.

Meeting Point: Corner Gregory Tce and Bowen Bridge Rd Herston

Route: Bowen Bridge Rd Herston to Federation St Lutwyche and back to Gregory Tce (Total Distance: 3km)

(Click here for a Google Map of the starting point and the route)

The ride is pro-cycling, not anti-infrastructure development (although we would like a more balanced development)

A media release will be organised as part of the protest, highlighting these issues - we need a decent turnout by cyclists riding on the day to really make our point.

The ride will not go ahead unless we have at least 20 confirmed starters, so please RSVP to John Lister on john@whcp.com.au or 0428 667 827 by Wednesday 7 May 2008.

All riders must adhere to Qld Road Rules and ensure that you:

* Wear an approved and fastened bike helmet at all times
* Have a bell or horn in working order
* Do not ride more than two abreast

For more information on the CBD BUG visit us at http://www.cbdbug.org.au or the CBDBUG blog at http://cbdbug.blogspot.com, or email convenors@cbdbug.org.au


Brisbane Politics: May 1968 Seminar, Friday 16th May, Ahimsa House, West End

Via Public Polity:

Paris 68-08. Was 1968 the most revolutionary year of the 20th Century?

When: 16th May, Friday 6:30pm

Where: Emma Goldman Room, Ahimsa House, 26 Horan St, West End (Click here for a Google Map)

A forum on the world-wide struggles and themes which were raised in that year and have continued through to the present.

Speakers from these sponsoring groups:

Brisbane Labour History Association, Institute for Social Ecology, Rank
and File Group, 17 Group, The Greens, Indigenous Activists.

Speakers will include:

There will be ample opportunity for participation from the body of
the meeting. All are welcome to speak in this two hour seminar on 1968
and the late 60s generally. Live music and records from the time. BYO
and food available.


Brisbane Politics - Anonymous' AntiScientology March, Saturday May 10th.

Via the Brisbane Anonymous website (but I put the links in):

In Anonymous’ continuing efforts against the Cult of Scientology, Anonymous is holding its fourth global protest. Taking place on May 10th, it will be aimed at exposing the tactics used by the Cult of Scientology to silence its critics and media investigating the cult.

The Brisbane chapter of Anonymous will be marching through the streets of Brisbane in support of this message, and members of the media and the public are welcomed to join in with us.

Fair Game Stop will be a parody on the name ‘Fair Game’ and thus a ‘Game’ and ‘Computer Game’ styling will be prevalent.

When: 10:30am to 3pm May 10

Assembly Point: Post Office Square - Assembling at 10:30, speeches at 10:45 and marching at 11. (Click here for a Google Map)

Marching to: Brisbane Square, along Elizabeth Street.

Marching back: 2:30pm to Post Office Square again, along Adelaide Street, with speeches etc.

  • Masks
  • Flyers
  • Signs (No wooden sticks please)
  • Something game related (Games will be played on the day)
  • Food/water
  • A fun attitude


Brisbane Transport - Made Of Fail

Yes it is. The buses here are getting beyond a joke.

For more info click here to read my post in the 'brisneyland' LiveJournal community.

If you'd like to try a simple way to get all new stories from Let's Take Over (and many other sites) sent to one place, click here for info on the Let's Take Over 'news feed' (sometimes called an 'RSS feed' or 'XML')

If you have a fast connection, use this feed instead - it takes longer, but you can read the full stories in your newsreader

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Australia License.

This means that you may use any work by me, David Jackmanson, that you find on this site for any purpose at all, as long as you give credit to Let's Take Over and include the site's web address.

It's your responsibility to check that the work is created by me and not somebody else. Accounts on sites like flickr or Odeo that are listed as belonging to 'Let's Take Over' or 'djackmanson' will probably be mine.


Review of "God's Crucible - Islam and the Making of Europe" in the New Yorker - Muslim revisionism?

Via Opinion Dominion comes news of a review in the New Yorker, by Joan Acocella, of David Levering Lewis' book "God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570 to 1215".

Aocella sums up the book:

The Muslims came to Europe, he writes, as “the forward wave of
civilization that was, by comparison with that of its enemies, an
organic marvel of coordinated kingdoms, cultures, and technologies in
service of a politico-cultural agenda incomparably superior” to that of
the primitive people they encountered there. They did Europe a favor by
invading. This is not a new idea, but Lewis takes it further: he
clearly regrets that the Arabs did not go on to conquer the rest of
Europe. The halting of their advance was instrumental, he writes, in
creating “an economically retarded, balkanized, and fratricidal Europe
that . . . made virtues out of hereditary aristocracy, persecutory
religious intolerance, cultural particularism, and perpetual war.” It
was “one of the most significant losses in world history and certainly
the most consequential since the fall of the Roman Empire.”

This is a bold hypothesis.
While some of the criticism of the book appears to be sound, I think that Aocella, and Steve at Opinion Dominion, have failed to see that Lewis has at least clearly implied that there is some way that civilisations can be judged as backward or progressive.

At Opinion Dominion, I said:

Having just read the review, I'm not sure the book is as pernicious as
you and the reviewer appear to think, despite the examples of special
pleading for the Muslim regime in al-Andalus.

I think it is positive to be specific about why one thinks one civilisation is
superior to another - as long as this does not devolve into self-hatred.

Without making such distinctions, it would be impossible to say that today's
liberal bourgeios democracies are better places to live than the
stagnant fascist dictatorships that blight much of the Arab world today.

I certainly don't see that criticising the civilisation of mediaeval
Europe necessarily leads to the mistake of refusing to defend today's
civilisation against Islamo-fascist terrorists today - I imagine that
is one of the broad lines which causes you to have doubts about this

I also can't help wondering why a civilisation that was once so much more advanced that Frankland fell so far behind it.

I'd suggest you drop into Opinion Dominion to continue the debate over the book, the issue of judging civilisations, and the most important question - what was Islamic underarm deodorant made out of in Al-Adalus?

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