CACH, AVAAZ, Tony the Tiger, Action for Angel, Alice Walker, World, Climate Change, Environment, Aboriginal Culture, Animals, Jeffrey Masson, Australia, Edward Snowden, Obama, Institute of Public Affairs, Christian the Lion, Gordon Bennett, Michael Riley etc
June 28, 2014
CAMPAIGN AGAINST CANNED HUNTING: The CACH campaign seems to be growing – and not surprisingly, as so few reasonable people would support the farming of lions to be hunted. I now ring travel agents when I see advertisements for tours to Africa and check they are sending their clients to reputable wildlife sanctuaries. Canned Hunting was also mentioned in a recent 60 Minutes story on Kevin Richardson and his lovely shampooed looking lions in South Africa. Richardson is on the “reputable” list – but I do think he takes risks with the lions, even though they adore him. I did finally watch the story that was on Dateline SBS in January How Much Would You Pay to Kill a Lion? I could hardly watch as lions were shot and the hunters gloated over their successful kills.
In Australia, a Liberal Party MP Jason Wood gave a speech in the House of Representatives about canned hunting and against importing lion and animal parts into Australia. I very much appreciate his efforts. You can sign his petition here. This is what needs to happen in the USA and Europe. I received a formal (unsigned) response from The White House and Barack Obama to my email about the importation of lion and animals parts into the USA. He “shared my concern for animal welfare”. At least someone received it!
AVAAZ: They are running a campaign in South Africa against the trade in lion parts. They intend for this campaign to hurt South Africa as a tourist destination so sign their petition here. There is also a petition about the illegal sale of exotic animal parts – and ivory – on eBay – sign the petition here. Whenever I say “sign here” rather bossily, I know you all make up your own minds, but I know most of you care deeply about many of these issues.
TONY THE TIGER: Shamefully, the Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has “quietly” signed a bill allowing the owner of Tony the Tiger to keep him as a roadside attraction. The ALDF are filing a lawsuit for violating the State Constitution. This is SO depressing – I do urge any Americans to ring the Governor and express your displeasure. This is completely unacceptable. Read more on the update here.
ACTION FOR ANGEL: Yet another story of an imprisoned animal for our “entertainment”. Angel, the albino dolphin calf is in a tiny indoor tank at the Taiji Whale Museum. Sign the petition here organised by Australia for Dolphins – and they ask for us to circulate it. The Japanese seem determined to continue hunting whales…and their annual slaughter of dolphins at Taiji. This Sunday 29th June there is a Whale of a Debate at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney (at 2.30pm) discussing historical and contemporary anti-whaling. Speakers will include members of the Sea Shepherd and conservationist and photographer Jonny Lewis.
ALICE WALKER: The Sydney Writers Festival was on recently and while I did not attend, I heard and saw various interviews on radio and television. It did make me think – we have so many intelligent, perceptive, compassionate and ingenious people in the world – why is our country (and the world) run by so many moronic people that just don’t get it? I know I can be slow onto some things, but I am now mad on Alice Walker – she get’s it! I hung on her every word and will now start reading her intensively. I feel as if I know The Color Purple although I’m not sure if I read the book in the 1980s or saw the movie.
When asked for her advice for Obama Alice said “RUN”! She hates the use of drones and that he is part of the “war machine”. “Aren’t we smarter than buying weapons?” “We have to change the system” – all presidents are hostage to it. The capitalist system is now part of the problem. She supports the Occupy Wall Street Movement, and thinks women would make more empathetic leaders.
While nature is for her a “balm” that we “abuse”, writing is a “medicine”. She listens to, and “only”works for her ancestors. Fiction has a “freedom”, while poetry is autonomous. It “descends”, you “can’t chase after it”, and the “muse comes at will”. She named Tolstoy and Dostoevsky first when asked which writers she admires. She saw her mother and grandmother enslaved by their many children so didn’t particularly want to be a mother. I thought she was amusing about her daughter who has been quite critical of her in the past, although I’m sure this was hurtful. She wants us to” turn to each other” and “talk things through”. Life’s purpose and why she isn’t sitting on her cushion meditating “or scuba diving” is “we exist to help each other”. “The deep joy is to show up for others”. For her, this included being part of the flotilla that sailed to Gaza in 2010.
USA: Last month saw yet another senseless mass shooting in the USA. One of the victim’s father Richard Martinez was so articulate asking: “Why did Chris die? Chris died because of craven, irresponsible politicians, and the NRA…. What has changed? Have we learned nothing? Where the hell is the leadership?… Life doesn’t have to be like this”. When members of the US Congress rang him offering him condolences he said “I don’t care about your sympathy. I don’t give a shit that you feel sorry for me. Get to work and DO something”.
In Glenn Greenwald’s recent book No Place to Hide he describes his encounter with Edward Snowden. He had to put his mobile phone in the hotel mini bar – as now anything can be transformed into a listening device! He says the Snowden cache reveals a regime seeking “the complete elimination of electronic privacy worldwide”!
Hillary Clinton was very articulate in an interview on our ABC promoting her book Hard Choices. Phillip Adams and his guests were not flattering about her on his radio program. They found the book mostly tedious and boring. Adams choked over the $14 million advance! They acknowledged that she is very hard working and clever, but thought she was a better administrator than a politician. It appears as if she is already campaigning for the Presidency and certainly has a chance, especially as she has such good “name recognition”. Adams prefers Elizabeth Warren. Hillary and I are about the same age (and both Scorpios) and I have fantasised, as you do, wondering if I could physically and mentally do a big job like that now. I don’t think I ever could have! Americans are less ageist than we are in Australia, and I do think Hillary appeared quite good as Secretary of State, especially compared to John Kerry.
CLIMATE CHANGE: Well done Obama for acting on climate change with the US cutting carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 30% below 2005 levels by 2020. Our PM Abbott was recently in Canada and wanted to form a conservative climate change deniers club with PM Harper, but the UK and NZ did not want to join. Next day (after dinner with Rupert Murdoch) Abbott was star struck meeting Obama and said he and Obama’s climate change policies were very close, which is just a complete lie. Next day he was praising King Coal in Houston and saying the world would be dependent on coal “for decades”. What does this man actually believe?
Abbott has succeeded – so far – in ensuring climate change is not on the agenda at the November G20 meeting of world leaders in Australia!
GOOD ARTICLES: Paul Krugman has written an excellent article on climate change in the New York Times. Krugman argues that the economic impact of carbon reductions is actually quite modest – despite the scare mongering, and the debate is a “toxic mix of ideology and anti-intellectualism” which is very true of our conservative politicians and businessmen in Australia.
Bill McKibben, co-founder of the climate change movement 350.org writes in an article that Abbott and Harper have put nations “on the road to disaster”. He points out how Harper was a former oil executive and how he has been described as a bully, “intolerant of criticism and dissent”. The development of the Canadian tar sands and Australia’s coal in the Galilee basin alone could ensure it would be impossible to ever bring the world’s temperatures under control. He notes, however, that their extremism is spawning “widespread resistance”.
There was an excellent summary about action on climate change in the editorial in the SMH June 24th see here.
Ian Dunlop, a former oil, gas and coal industry executive, recently wrote in the SMH that our federal government “is taking anti-science to new heights. Its scorched earth approach discards virtually everything not in line with narrow, free market ideology centred on sustaining Australia’s 20th century dig-it-up-and-ship-it-out economic growth model”. Dunlop goes on to say that the government’s Direct Action white paper has no scientific and economic grounding…and is “the climate policy you have when you don’t want a policy”.
Uncertainty is affecting – as was intended – investment and confidence in the renewable energy sector.
Encouragingly, the tide may be turning, and just when this government is about to remove our effective carbon tax, 63% of Australians are now increasingly concerned about climate change (again) and now believe we should be taking a “a leadership role in reducing emissions”.
In the most surprising move, our billionaire mining maverick politician Clive Palmer, who through several senators holds the balance of power in the Senate, turned up at a press conference with Al Gore by his side! No-one is sure yet what this means for action on climate change, and if this was just a stunt and Gore has been played as a sucker. Palmer mines coal and nickel so will love not having to pay a hefty carbon tax. We could be left without an emissions trading scheme and a plan to do nothing, but Palmer, apparently at Gore’s urging, seems to now want to retain the Renewable Energy Target and oppose the abolition of the Clean Energy Finance Corp and the Climate Change Authority.
CELEBRITIES FOR THE ENVIRONMENT: About to air in the USA is a television series, Years of Living Dangerously which urges action on climate change and has the involvement of industry heavyweights and celebrities like James Cameron, Matt Damon and Harrison Ford.
Leonardo DiCaprio recently spoke out about the damage to the Great Barrier Reef, which is at risk of being listed as “in danger”. Leonardo has witnessed the changes for the worse since he first swam there 20 years ago. This year he has donated $US10 million to ocean conservation, and $4 million to tiger and elephant projects.
Geoffrey Rush spoke up about our government’s attempt to delist 74,000 hectares of Tasmania’s forests which has just been rejected by the World Heritage Committee. Our government’s arguments for delisting were described as a “feeble justification”, while many people were shocked that the delisting had been attempted in the first place.
IPA: I am only just beginning to comprehend the undue and insidious influence of the conservative “think tank” the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) in Australia. This ideologically conservative group is our Tea Party, but smarter and therefore more dangerous. Abbott addressed them in April last year and the audience included the unholy alliance of Rupert Murdoch, Gina Rinehart and Cardinal Pell!!!
Until I read this article I had no idea of the influence of the IPA on the country, and on Abbott who is implementing many of their policies. I have already discussed the appointment of several of these climate change denying, older businessmen to key positions and reviews: Tony Shepherd conducting the heartless Commission of Audit; Dick Warburton reviewing the Renewable Energy Target; and Maurice Newman, Chairman of the PM’s Business Advisory Council.
The IPA are skilled propagandists and work through fronts such as the Australian Conservation Foundation which is actually anti-conservation! They “muddied the waters” recently over the attempt to delist part of the Tasmanian forest. In what has been described as a “global conspiracy” the IPA have led an active campaign (courtesy Murdoch press) against the plain packaging of cigarettes, trying to make a case it has led to more smoking – which apparently it has not. The IPA are funded by companies such as Philip Morris, British American Tobacco, Esso and Caltex.
Our PM was recently abroad – his school boy French in France was excruciating – worse than mine, and he has a certain gaucheness which could be endearing if he was not our PM. I liked the letter to The Australian newspaper which stated “I am confused – there appears to be two Tony Abbotts travelling around North America, one as described by the Fairfax and ABC media outlets and another Tony Abbott as reported by The Australian”. (from Michael Burd, Toorak, Victoria).
Australia does seem to be currently divided along these lines. Murdoch controls over 70% of the print media and unashamedly and uncritically supports the government, backed up by a few popular and shrill radio shock jocks. Their targets consistently include the Fairfax media and especially the ABC.
Rosalie Kunoth-Monks starred in the film Jedda which was a very dramatic and tragic Australian film made by Charles Chauvel in 1955. Jedda was about race and forbidden love, and was way ahead of its time. After retreating to a convent, Rosalie emerged to become a respected Aboriginal elder and leader.
Recently on a television program (Q & A on the ABC) a fellow guest who I think was Peter Coleman, suggested that the “Aboriginal problem” could be “fixed” by assimilation into white society. Rosalie responded with the most brilliant and emphatic declaration of her Aboriginality and who she was. She was reported (inaccurately) in the press as saying:
“My language is (Arrernte) in spite of the whiteness trying to penetrate into my brain by assimilationists – I am alive, I am here and now – and I speak my language. I practise my cultural essence of me. Don’t try and suppress me and don’t call me a problem. I am not the problem”. See the footage of her full response here.
UTOPIA: John Pilger’s documentary Utopia examines the present situation for Aboriginal people. Rosalie actually comes from Utopia. The documentary is too long but devastating nevertheless. Pilger has filed several stories over the decades on this subject, and very little seems to have changed. One wonders if things have actuallyeven got worse in many respects for Aboriginal people: their housing; health; employment opportunities; incarceration rates; suicide epidemics etc. These days the Labor Government and the “left” are criticised with some justification for failing Aboriginal people. Many people like myself have supported Aboriginal “self-determination” and we have also been criticised for caring about digging up and trashing the environment. Apparently we have held Aboriginal people back from economic development. I would caution Aborigines from expecting too much from conservative governments and the mining industry…
Alice Walker: “The coloniser does not have the capacity to feel remorse – I don’t see it – even today”.
MICHAEL RILEY: Michael Riley was a leading Aboriginal photographer who died in 2004. The National Portrait Gallery recently purchased a selection of his portraits taken between 1984 and 1989 and these photographs are currently on exhibition. Michael’s subjects at this time were his extraordinary generation of attractive and talented Aboriginals that had emerged and broken the stereotypes in many ways – not least how they were represented. They included artist Tracey Moffatt, politician Linda Burney and curators Djon Mundine, Brenda Croft and Hetti Perkins. I was asked to speak at the NPG as I was a friend and had exhibited Michael Riley. I am also on the Michael Riley Foundation. More of Michael’s work can be seen at www.thecommercialgallery.com or www.michaelriley.com.au.
Animals Category winner in the iPhone Awards, Michael O’Neal of San Francisco said that he came across this friendly fox in the Wyoming wilds. “I sat in the road for 10 minutes with him…no cars, not a soul around, just me and this red fox” he said. Foxes and cats are primarily blamed and demonised for Australia’s extinction rate of native animals which is “the worst in the world”. We are losing one mammal every decade and have lost 28 or 29 since colonisation in 1788, with 60 presently endangered.
AG-GAG LAWS: It is going to become an offence to film inhumane conditions for animals in Australia. In the USA it is already an offence for any “audio or video recording” at a farm facility. Why is it not an offence to have animals cruelly confined in appalling conditions?
ISRAEL: The Australian government created yet another unnecessary problem for themselves by arguing that East Jerusalem was “disputed” and not “occupied”. Israel is the only country in the world to articulate similar views. Our government argued that this was not a change of policy, but they have been changing their position over Israel by stealth, illustrated by several votes, or abstentions, at the UN. Trade sanctions over our cattle, sheep and wheat exports were subsequently threatened against Australia by Arab and Islamic countries, and 22 international diplomatic representatives demanded to meet our Foreign Minister in Canberra.
Israel is building 3000 more settlement homes in the Occupied Territories as a punishment for the reconciliation between the PLO in the West Bank and Hamas, who control Gaza. Many Palestinians are also being punished at the moment because of 3 missing Israeli teenagers. While their disappearance is extremely concerning – what about the 7 Palestinians that have been killed in the search for them? Israeli forces seem to have rampaged through many Palestinian houses, and harassed and detained hundreds of people.
Alice Walker on Israel: “The land they are taking is not theirs and they have to give it back”. She actually made her remark that “the coloniser does not have the capacity to feel remorse” about Israel, but said it applied everywhere – Australia, USA etc. She also said that with $3 billion a year coming from the US to Israel, “we can’t afford you”. Her participation in the flotilla to Gaza in 2010 demonstrated her courage and commitment.
MIDDLE EAST: Iraq is disintegrating and in the absence of any solutions it is tempting to just think Iraq and Syria should be left to unravel. Their borders are an unnatural colonial construct and they should regroup along more natural tribal and sectarian lines. It is the humanitarian catastrophe for so many innocent civilians that is most concerning. Tony Blair is still in denial, blaming the Iraqi PM and inaction over Syria. I loved Boris Johnston saying “Tony Blair has gone mad”. George Bush Jr and our John Howard have been VERY quiet. Cheney is as cocky and without remorse as ever, and seems to blame Obama.
Many millions of us marched around the world against the invasion of Iraq, and we were right! I did mention the threat and ambitions of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) several blogs back – how has everyone been taken by surprise? It is a complete intelligence failure. The thug in the suit, Nouri al-Maliki was an appalling choice as PM by the West and he has made no attempt to include the Sunnis or Kurds. Even now he is refusing to consider a unity government. One of many disastrous decisions by the USA was to de Baathify Iraq as it left no-one with any experience for administration or the army, and just created many disaffected and resentful enemies. The Sunni-Shiite split goes back to the succession to the prophet Muhammad after his death in 632! Shiities say Ali, the prophet’s cousin was the rightful successor and was cheated by the Sunnis “Rightfully Guided Caliphs” Abu Bakr, Omar, Othman and Ali!!!!!
READING, LISTENING & WATCHING: Wimbledon is on and I was thrilled of course that Rafa won recently in Paris. This was his 9th French Open. It was a great victory and he is now equal second with Pete Sampras on 14 Majors. Elizabeth Wilson has recently written a book LOVE GAME A History of Tennis. Her book sounds very informative historically and unlike most sports, women participated from the start. Like many people today, she prefers Federer’s graceful style to Rafa grinding his opponents down in a “python strangle”.
NSW has finally won the State of Origin rugby league after Queensland won for 8 years straight. I am sort of watching the World Cup but prefer the news reports of the few spectacular goals. This sport is building in Australia, especially as there are serious injuries – especially concussion, in the rugby union and league codes. Soccer officials will have to do something about the blatant corruption, like awarding the World Cup to Qatar.
OK, I confess I have been watching The Voice. I don’t care too much about the contestants but I love the judges: Ricky Martin is, well, Ricky, Kylie Minogue has been surprisingly engaging, Joel Madden goes down very well in Australia and will.i.am is brilliant!
I haven’t read anything by the serial novelist (4 books a year) Alexander McCall Smith. I heard a repeat of his interview at the Sydney Writers Festival in 2013 and he was hilarious and laughed along with the audience at his own jokes and the madness of life. I’ve just bought his book on his favourite poet What W.H. Auden Can Do For You.
JEFFREY MASSON: I’ve just read Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson’s latest book BEASTS – What Animals Can Teach Us About the Origins of Good and Evil. I think Jeffrey combines all of his experience, knowledge and intelligence in this book, examining the huge question of violence in humans and animals and the “search for the origins of human violence”. It is a complex debate, and I found the book very thought provoking as he argues, for example, how agriculture, property ownership and the domestication of animals changed human behaviour. The book contains fascinating information about many different animals and species, and the effects of human intervention in the natural life of animals.
Christian the lion is mentioned as an illustration of a wild animal expressing friendship and love for another species – especially a predator, and how Christian’s wild lioness friends “indulged” us which we also found astounding. This made me think about Christian and the other lions in George Adamson’s man-made pride, as they were an “intervention” into the territory of wild lions already established at Kora. These lions mostly tried to kill most of George’s introduced males and cubs, but mated with the lionesses. Christian, however, seemed to come to what has been described as an unusual “truce” with them, but he ultimately had to look for his own territory elsewhere. BEASTS also made me think very deeply about the behaviour of cats!
WORLD: China is being quite confrontational/active/defensive in the South and East China Sea offending Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam and the USA. Russia is getting more actively involved in Asia and cooperating much more with China (suppyling natural gas etc). 6 months after Super Typhoon Haiyan, thousands of survivors are still without homes in the Philippines. Military leaders seem to be on the move and are usually bad for the economy – and for press freedoms and democracy. In Egypt an Australian journalist Peter Greste working for al-Jazeera has just received a 7 year jail sentence. He and two other journalists have been caught in the machinations of the Saudi Arabia vs Qatar enmity. al-Jazeera is based in Qatar and is regarded as the “mouthpiece” of the “terrorist” Muslim Brotherhood. Many of the Brotherhood are still facing imprisonment and even the death penalty in Egypt. Saudi Arabia is now giving Egypt $12 billion, compared to $650 million in aid from the USA. The military are installed in Thailand and Frank Bainimarama is bound to win in Fiji. Ex general Pabowa Subianto, who has a terrible human rights record is gaining momentum for the next presidency in Indonesia, while the running mate of his opponent Joko Widodo also sounds pretty frightening. Papua New Guinea’s PM Peter O’Neill is fighting corruption charges, and while we are not entirely innocent in Australia, corruption does seem endemic in our nearest neighbours PNG and Indonesia.
MAIL: Thanks to Scott, MoonieBlues, Bob, Tim, Aidan, Jeffrey, Sylvia and others for sending me interesting articles and images. My thoughts are with William who lost his beloved cat O’Malley, and Ines who takes in cats from shelters and recently lost another one called Bonnie.
To keep up to date with interesting articles and animal related activities all over the world see the latest Minding Animal Bulletin No22 here, especially about a Documentary Festival in New Delhi 13 -20 January 2015, and interesting articles and reviews in Vol 3 Number 1 of the Animal Studies Journal here.
VALE: One of Australia’s leading artists Gordon Bennett has died unexpectedly. Many of his works concerned his identity as an Aboriginal person, but his subject matter and styles were wide ranging. He could out post-modernist the post-modernists! I was lucky to have known him and curated his work into several of my exhibitions. He summed up what I wanted said so eloquently about colonisation – the way Daniel Boyd has more recently. He was highly intelligent, attractive and quite shy and private. His work is currently in the Berlin Biennale. See Richard Bell’s article on Gordon Bennett in The Guardian here. My condolences to his mother, his wife Leanne and daughter Caitlin.