There are occasions when the death penalty may be the only way to protect the community from a particularly vicious criminal. There is also some evidence that states with the death penalty have lower rates of murder. So it is possible to make a pro-life argument in favour of the death penalty.
The death penalty should be on the table as an option of last resort, used very rarely.
But where a death sentence is imposed, very strong penalties need to apply when prosecutors deliberately withhold evidence that might help the defence. In fact, there should be severe consequences for prosecutors and others who abuse due process even when the death penalty is not an option.
The New York Times has John Thompson’s frightening story:
I spent 18 years in prison for robbery and murder, 14 of them on death row. I’ve been free since 2003, exonerated after evidence covered up by prosecutors surfaced just weeks before my execution date. Those prosecutors were never punished. Last month, the Supreme Court decided 5-4 to overturn a case I’d won against them and the district attorney who oversaw my case, ruling that they were not liable for the failure to turn over that evidence — which included proof that blood at the robbery scene wasn’t mine.
Because of that, prosecutors are free to do the same thing to someone else today. …
The prosecutors involved in my two cases, from the office of the Orleans Parish district attorney, Harry Connick Sr., helped to cover up 10 separate pieces of evidence. And most of them are still able to practice law today.
Why weren’t they punished for what they did? When the hidden evidence first surfaced, Mr. Connick announced that his office would hold a grand jury investigation. But once it became clear how many people had been involved, he called it off.
In 2005, I sued the prosecutors and the district attorney’s office for what they did to me. The jurors heard testimony from the special prosecutor who had been assigned by Mr. Connick’s office to the canceled investigation, who told them, “We should have indicted these guys, but they didn’t and it was wrong.” The jury awarded me $14 million in damages — $1 million for every year on death row — which would have been paid by the district attorney’s office. That jury verdict is what the Supreme Court has just overturned. …
Worst of all, I wasn’t the only person they played dirty with. Of the six men one of my prosecutors got sentenced to death, five eventually had their convictions reversed because of prosecutorial misconduct. Because we were sentenced to death, the courts had to appoint us lawyers to fight our appeals. I was lucky, and got lawyers who went to extraordinary lengths. But there are more than 4,000 people serving life without parole in Louisiana, almost none of whom have lawyers after their convictions are final. Someone needs to look at those cases to see how many others might be innocent.
Minion: Sire, the people have no fuel!
Obama: Then let them drive hybrids.
I am surprised (OK, I’m not) that this has not had wider coverage in the press.
Fuel prices in the US have risen 67% during the Obama maladministration.
Instapundit reported yesterday that Obama had responded to a complaint by a working man that he could not afford to buy the fuel he needed to get to work, with the suggestion he should buy a new car. The Associated Press subsequently removed this comment from their reporting of the event, but Glenn had saved a screen shot of the original report, complete with Marie Antionette/Obama quote.
America, 2011: A man gets driven in a motorcade to sneer at a man who has to drive himself to work. A guy who has never generated a dime of wealth, never had to make payroll, never worked at any job other than his own tireless self-promotion literally cannot comprehend that out there, beyond the far fringes of the motorcade outriders, are people who drive a long distance to jobs whose economic viability is greatly diminished when getting there costs twice as much as the buck-eighty-per-gallon it cost back at the dawn of the Hopeychangey Era.
So what? Your fault. Should have gone to Columbia and Harvard and become a community organizer.
A letter from me to our local paper following a rash of rattled residents handing over credit card details to mellifluous malfeasants:
Residents report rorting by rascals ringing randomly.
Rancid rogues wrongly represent themselves as reps of reliable retailers.
These reprehensible rapscallions rip off retirees with relish.
Refuse rotten requests to ransack your RAM.
Ring off rapidly!
Kosher companies do not cold call clients for computer consultations.
Compliance with callous con-men may lead to credit card cancellation.
Help from hackers may lead to hijacked hardware.
Cut off cold calling quacks quickly!
In other words:
Neither Microsoft nor any other reputable computer security company cold calls users about virus infections on their computers, problems with their operating system, or anything else.
If someone calls you claiming to be from Microsoft Security, Global Internet Security, or any other tech supplier or tech support company, the caller is trying to scam you.
He may get you bring up the event log as proof of problems which urgently need to be fixed. The computer I am typing on lists 208 ‘problems’ for the last week. It is working perfectly. Problems listed in the event log are not a problem unless your computer is not doing what it should, when the event log may be a useful diagnostic tool for a technician.
Getting people to look at the event log is a good way of scaring old ladies, however.
Once you have checked the event log and are sufficiently alarmed, the scammer will either try to get you give him your credit card details to pay a fee for fixing these imaginary problems, or will give ask you to follow instructions which will give him control over your computer. This will allow him to plant malicious software which may track your key entries, giving him your ID and any passwords you use, or may pop up fake virus or system warnings later in order to get you to pay more money to deal with these further fake problems.
If you get a scam computer tech support call like this, just hang up.
Well, I guess that’s what she was trying to do; offer advice to the Australian cricket team as they prepare to face Bangladesh in Dhaka.
That’s the trouble with Julia – you have to guess what she is trying to do. Partly because the outcomes she achieves never seem to match her stated intentions.
We’ll reduce the number of asylum seekers held in detention (by implementing policies which invite huge numbers to come).
We’ll increase employment (by punishing businesses and imposing heavy new taxes on our most productive industries).
You get the idea.
So I’m only guessing when I say that Julia must have been trying to offer our new test captain some helpful advice.
Her suggestion was something she calls the ‘hyperbowl.’
Based on her implementation of this technique, the hyperbowl can be summarised as follows:
A long run up, slow at first, then at a frantic pace towards the end. A flamboyant display is made of bowling with the right arm, but the actual delivery is made under-arm with the left.
That could work.
I wrote a couple of weeks ago that I had finally finished my teen fantasy novel Jennifer Jones and the Corridors of Time. You can download the first five chapters free at that link.
I have also written a few horror stories based in an imaginary town called Rendlesham. Horror stories I write under the name Alastair Kayle.
There will eventually be ten of these short stories. They are can be read and enjoyed independently, but together they form a definite larger story. The ultimate theme is the triumph of courage and perseverance even in the face of fear, confusion and apparent failure. Essentially the same theme as the Jennifer Jones series – but Rendlesham is definitely not for children!
As an experiment I have self published one of these – Terminus – as a Kindle book on Amazon.
Here’s the product link:
You’ll need a Kindle, or the free Kindle for PC viewer, to read it.
It costs 99c. If you buy it and like it, please write a nice review!
The next story in the series – Evidence of an Unspeakable Act – should be available on Amazon this time next week.
Quite frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn if someone wants to burn a book, any book. If a person’s paid for a book, he can do what he likes with it.
I am not going to join the chorus proclaiming Pastor Terry Jones a try-hard loser. I don’t know anything about the man. I suspect he is more sought by the media than seeking the media.
What I do think is that his burning of the Koran was a reasonable act of protest.
This is a book which inspires murder, torture, the mistreatment of women and minorities.
It is a book which, read through the lens of the example of Muhammed, a serial rapist, torturer, murderer and child molester, means misery for hundreds of millions of human beings.
It is the book of a religious group whose default emotional setting is inflamed.
It is the book of a group of people who thinking burning a book (their book – burning other books is OK) justifies burning and beheading people who look like, or may have once have been in the same country as, the people who burnt the book.
So go ahead and burn it. The trouble is not with the burning, but with the cringing.
General Petreaus described the Koran burning as ”hateful, extremely disrespectful and enormously intolerant”.
No it wasn’t.
He then went on to say that the fury this had aroused was an understandable passion.
No it isn’t.
Burning a nasty, racist, violent book is a legitimate act of protest. Burning and beheading people who had nothing to do with it is murderous brutality.
Jones was right. The reaction to his little protest proves there is something to protest about.
Kow-towing to bullies does not work. They need to be told stop it and grow up.
Forgiving bullies does not work, unless they have first shown that they have changed and will bully no longer.
Otherwise making excuses for inexcusable behaviour merits the warning JP Donleavy gave about forgiveness in general (no link, but from the Unexpurgated Code):
“Forgiveness. Be careful, those getting this then do the unforgivable. Which is frequently a lot worse than the first lousy thing they did to you.”
Now a couple of quotes from a woman who runs a small business in the rural US:
Ann – I am not a political activist. I am the owner of three small businesses who looked around two and a half years ago and said, “Oh, HELL no.” Politicians make me ill. I can never and will never be a politician. For the last two to three years I have been focusing heavily on explaining and exposing Marxism, Islam and the fraud that is Obama. But that is triple-redundant, isn’t it?
iOTW – What is your take on what is known as the Ground Zero Mosque?
Ann – They can build a mosque at Ground Zero when we can build a Catholic Cathedral Basilica over the top of the Kaaba in Mecca. You know what? Check that. They still couldn’t build a mosque at Ground Zero, because Ground Zero is the sacred burial space of 3000 people that THEY MURDERED. No mosque at Ground Zero E.V.E.R.
iOTW – Islam uses the constitution to their advantage. How do we do battle with Islam without trampling the constitution?
Ann – Declare war against the Caliphate, just like we did against the Third Reich. Same bloody thing. And I’m not kidding.
iOTW- What do you think of General Petraeus and his assertion that inciting Islam puts our soldiers in harm’s way?
Ann – I have an offer for General Petraeus. I’ll GIVE him one of my balls. Then I’d still have two, and he would have one. He is a politicking coward who cares only about his pension and cashing in on his rank after he retires. The suicidal, defeatist Rules of Engagement he oversees are the unequivocal proof of that. He should resign in disgrace – yesterday, and then present himself to each and every family of our war dead and BEG their forgiveness for failing in his duty as their son or daughter’s commanding officer.
Here’s a bit more, complete with Koran with bacon bookmarks:
You may disagree with some of what she says, or the way she says it.
Freedom of speech, and safety to speak what we believe, is a great privilege. To lose it is to lose civilisation.
Given odd exceptions (I wouldn’t want to live in Venezuela at the moment, for example) where would you choose to live?
Where are women treated as equals, and gays and lesbians accepted and safe? Where would you feel safer? Where would your children be safer? Where can people of any race and religion participate in business and politics? In which countries are there schools, universities, hospitals, stable government, a free press?
And which countries are people trying to leave?
Just a few brief thoughts.
It seems to me quite clear, at the risk of incurring judicial wrath, that Justice Bromberg would very much like to find against Andrew Bolt and the Herald and Weekly Times.
There have been a few comments and questions from the bench which indicate this. For example, his remark that “It (freedom of speech) is not an unqualified right. Never has been.”
No one had said it was. Certainly Andrew’s team had made no such claim. So why make this comment?
I could be quite wrong. Justice Bromberg may genuinely intend to put aside any feelings or political values he may have or espouse, and make his judgement solely on the basis of relevant legislation and precedent.
But at very least, it is unwise for a justice, during the course of a trial, to make gratuitous remarks which could beconstrued as indicating a bias.
It is simply nonsense to suggest that public discussion of another person’s ethnicity is out of bounds because it is necessarily racial vilification.
Say I was to discover that my maternal grandmother had been a member of the Ngapuhi tribe. One of my adopted sisters is a Ngapuhi woman, and my family had lived in Northland for a long time before coming to Australia, so this is not beyond the realms of possibility.
Say I then decided on this basis that I was a Maori. I would expect some pretty merciless mocking from my mates.
If I decided to return to NZ and to claim benefits or awards on the basis of being a Ngapuhi man, I would expect that this claim would be scrutinised.
I would also expect to be able to show the basis on which my claim was made. I would not feel insulted by requests to do this.
Even I did feel insulted, that would say more about my own conceit than anything else.
There is no right under law not to be offended.
Underlying the complaint in the Bolt case, and, it seems to me in some of Justice Bromberg’s remarks, is the assumption that race is less about race than it is about identity, community and culture. Some of the comments from the complainants go as far as suggesting that anyone who does not hold this new view of race is ipso facto a racist or eugenicist.
There may be instances where it is helpful to take culture and identity into account when race is being determined.
But that is different from saying that culture, identity, community are what matter, and that actual racial background and inheritance do not. A person who is ethnically Han Chinese is still ethnically Chinese even if she was born in Australia and knows nothing of Chinese culture or language.
I would be happy to see some public discussion of this. But it would be extraordinary if people who still thought that race was primarily about race found themselves in trouble with the law because they held and expressed that opinion.
My mother’s grandfather was Norwegian. He was a very old man when I was young. He was born in the late 1800s, and was one of the last generation of merchant seaman to sail in commerical wind-powered ships.
I liked him – he let me have sugar in my tea. But even more I liked the idea that some of my ancestors might have been vikings. I remember seeing The Vikings and The Long Ships at the Kings theatre in Kawakawa. They seem remarkably violent now for a five or six year old boy to have been allowed go and see alone. But times have changed. One shilling and sixpence isn’t going to buy you a movie ticket and an icecream anymore.
So of course I had to be a viking. I had a horned hat, and conducted carefully planned raids on neighbouring fruit trees. I leapt out from behind bushes to terrify local maidens, and threatened passing dragons (cars) from my lair halfway up the bank beside the road.
If I was minded to, I could just as easily have been Welsh, or German. Germans were still a bit unpopular in the early sixties, and the Welsh, well who the heck were they? So I had to be a viking.
Now I’m just me.
My wife had just as interesting a range of choices. Both her parents have scottish ancestry. But she is also part Cherokee. About as much as I am Norwegian.
She is interested in her Cherokee heritage. but she would never claim to be Cherokee, any more than I would claim to be Norwegian. Why would we choose to ‘be’ something that is only a tiny part of our total heritage?
But some people do just that.
Let’s imagine two young people. We’ll call them the Malfoys. They are white in appearance and were raised by a European family in a comfortable home in a modern city. In early adulthood they discovered one of their relatives was aboriginal.
This makes them aboriginal, they claim. A lasting sorrow is that as they were growing up they were deprived of learning their aboriginal culture.
Later the Malfoys become so expert in aboriginal history and culture that they become teachers of it.
They do not appear to notice that growing up as aboriginal in an aboriginal community would have deprived them of learning about the European and perhaps other cultures, which are also part of their heritage. And of the educational opportunities and income which allowed them later to pursue their aboriginality.
The Malfoys might say they did not decide what to be. But in deciding to favour one tiny part of the totality of their heritage over all others, they have chosen to be aboriginal.
And fair enough. Why would I care, any more than they should care if I claimed to be Norwegian?
But if they claim special privilege at public cost because they are aboriginal, then it becomes my concern, and I and other tax payers are entitled to ask why they are favouring this tiny part of their heritage over all else.
Any claim on taxpayer money is a matter of public interest.
Some of those who have accepted prizes, awards and assistance designed to benefit aboriginal people who have suffered prejudice or disadvantage, have an appearance and family background which means they cannot possibly have suffered any such prejudice or disadvantage while growing up.
It is disingenuous to pretend to be insulted by questions about whether awards and assistance given to them is an appropriate use of funds allocated for that purpose.
Bill O’Reilly says that despite lack of clarity about process (eg, no congressional approval, no clear and present danger to the US), America’s involvement in Libya is a good thing:
On the left … Ralph Nader is calling for impeachment. Michael Moore has suggested that Obama give back the Nobel Peace Prize. Congressman Dennis Kucinich wants to cut off funding for any military action against Libya.
On the right, Pat Buchanan banged the isolationist drum: “Why is the United States, all the way across the ocean, got to go in and stop Arabs from killing Arabs? … Why are we in there?”
To prevent a massacre? I believe that’s the reason, Mr. Buchanan.
Congressman Ron Paul was equally blunt: “What are we doing? We are in this crisis, and they decide to spend all this money. It makes no sense at all.”
Here’s my question for Paul: Would you be comfortable, congressman, watching thousands of human beings being slaughtered by a terrorist dictator when you know that your country had the power to prevent it?
In fact, the no-fly zone was up and running in hours, and Gadhafi’s forces have been seriously damaged. Now the rebels have a chance to eventually overthrow the dictator, and mass murder has been avoided at least for the time being.
This is not a complicated issue. If America is indeed a noble country, it should act to save lives when it can. That doesn’t mean getting bogged down in quagmires like Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam. But when quick, decisive action can defeat evil, it should be taken.
I believe in the basic nobility of America. I also believe few other nations have the motivation and power to confront evil that this country does. If it’s all about us, if all we think about is our own sacrifice, then American exceptionalism disappears.
All of that is true. The strong have a responsibility to protect the weak. No one would ever want another Rwanda.
But once you begin to take on the job of the world’s policeman, where do you stop?
If we should intervene in Libya, why not Syria, where the situation seems to be just as bad. And if Syria, why not Burma? And if Burma, why not Zimbabwe?
If we have a responsibility to protect those who cannot defend themselves, why has there been no intervention in Sudan, where there has been much greater loss of life, along with uncounted rapes and mutilations, over a much longer period of time? Why no intervention to protect Christians in Iraq, or Nigeria, or Egypt?
I am not sure O’Reilly is right about Libya. A no fly zone, so rebels are protected against air attack while they fight their own battles might be justifiable.
Fighting those battles for them, so that one brutal government can be replaced by another, is not.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do anything. It does mean we need to think very seriously about what we want to achieve, the cost of achieving it in human life and in relationships with other nations, and the likelihood that our goals can be reached, before we act.
It is not just intentions that count, but outcomes.
After the name calling, the next step of desperate malingerers is to take people who disagree with them to court.
So it should come as no surprise that having been caught fiddling with the facts yet again, Michael Mann is taking legal action against those who have pointed out that his deliberate manipulation of data to gain scentific notice and financial reward amounts to fraud:
Dr. Tim Ball received the second of two libel lawsuits from North Vancouver law firm of Roger D. McConchie on Friday (March 25, 2011). Global warming doomsaying professor Michael Mann files the latest writ.
Mann, the infamous creator of the now discredited ‘hockey stick’ graph was once the darling of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a tax hungry government funded organization that blames mankind for raising global temperatures by 0.7 degrees during the 20th Century. Now he is desperate to hit back at his critics with the help of Big Green’s immense financial resources. Below we examine the shady background of Professor Mann and explain what Ball must do to defeat this latest legal challenge.
The IPCC plucked Mann from total obscurity after his problematic and “rushed” Ph.D was granted. His viva voce examination was in 1996 and he was required to make corrections. Such a two year delay suggests substantial errors and which would normally require a second viva, but this was strangely not recorded. Then, despite having no reputation as a researcher Mann was bizarrely appointed not only as an expert by the IPCC but as Lead Author for the 2001 Third Report.
Several fellow academics, including Dr. Judith Curry smelt something rotten among mendacious Mikey’s tree rings and their fears were confirmed when Canadian statistical experts, Steve McIntyre and Professor Ross McKitrick found a string of ‘errors’ in Mann’s work. All the errors warped the wooden data in favor of the man-made global warming hype.
It transpired Mann and his secretive clique of climatologists who ‘pal reviewed’ his junk science benefited to the tune of millions of dollars in government research grants.
Dr Tim Ball is a retired scientist, well respected, but with little in the way of financial resources. He is an easy target.
If you are not sure what was done in the ‘Hockey Stick’ data that was so wrong, watch this short video from Berkeley Professor Richard A Muller:
An unborn baby died yesterday after the car the mother was driving struck a guard rail and went into the Barwon River near Geelong:
The woman, who was about 30 weeks’ pregnant, managed to free herself from the car as it sank into the river on Friday evening …
Police are adding the unborn baby’s death to the road toll which now stands at 67, one fewer than for the same time last year.
I am glad that in this instance the child is being recognised as a person.
Similarly in this accident a few days ago in Texas:
A 17-year-old woman and her unborn baby were killed in a pedestrian crash Wednesday night in Horizon City.
Emergency crews took Nelly Pizarro, who was five months pregnant at the time of the crash, to Del Sol Medical Center. The baby died shortly after arriving at the hospital. Nelly Pizarro died Thursday morning.
What I don’t understand is what makes those babies ‘babies,’ and thousands who are aborted ‘foetal tissue.’
There is no difference in the babies. Surely we are not judging whether people are people on the basis of whether they are wanted or not?
And if that is what we are doing, how are we different from the Hutus when they decided the Tutsis were not human? Or Saddam Hussein and the Kurds? Or Hitler and the Jews, Gypsies and homosexuals?
A person’s a person, no matter how small.
Earth Hour is a waning fad. A couple of years ago, when I left security lights on in my shop, people wanted to know why I was not interested in saving the planet.
This year, when I put a note in the window explaining why we would not be keeping Earth Hour, people said they had no idea it was happening.
Some more thoughts on this from Ira Levant:
What’s remarkable about this month’s Japanese calamities is how few people were actually killed. Ten thousand are dead and 17,000 are missing — a tragic loss. But compare that to another earthquake in Japan in 1923 that killed more than 100,000 people.
This month’s quake was more than 10 times as powerful, but a combination of better construction methods and better emergency response saved lives.
Japan’s earthquake was the fifth largest ever recorded, a startling 9.0 on the Richter scale — where each number is 10 times more powerful than the previous number. A 10.0 earthquake has never been recorded.
This is very encouraging — and it’s a testament to human achievement.
Saturday was so-called Earth Hour, a publicity stunt created by the World Wildlife Fund where enthusiasts were supposed to stop using electricity for an hour. Only a rich, luxuriant society would fetishize poverty and want. Japan is still rebuilding; there are still parts of that country where electricity is not back on. They are in a permanent state of Earth Hour deprivation — not as some fashion statement but because of a tragedy. How is that state of despair a morally commendable situation?
It was human development, industry, capitalism, electricity — and in Japan’s case, safe nuclear power — that has made the difference between their more modest death toll and the 230,000 who died in Indonesia’s earthquake and tsunami in 2004, or the 220,000 who died last year in Haiti. Haiti’s earthquake was less than 1% as powerful; it was their lack of industrial development that made it so deadly.
Is that really the state of affairs we want to be worshipped on Earth Day? For centuries, guilty, rich, white liberals have professed their admiration for the “noble savage” — an unspoiled man, typically in a pre-industrial civilization, not yet spoiled by our modern ways or troubles.
It’s a fantasy, it’s condescending, it’s political psychotherapy for the idle rich who feel guilty about how easy their own lives are, and who are clearly looking for some spiritual meaning they themselves lack. But in a world where there are enough natural threats to man’s happiness and longevity, fetishizing primitive economies is a suicidal fetish.
Japan will rise again — over the objections of those who would sentence it to a nuclear-free, industry-free, permanent Earth Day.
Andrew Bolt will appear in the Australian Federal Court this week to face complaints made against him and the Herald and Weekly Times under Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act 1975.
In 1995 provisions were introduced into that act which dealt with expressions of racial hatred. Specifically, those provisions made it illegal for a person (corporate or natural) to:
do an act, otherwise than in private, if:
(a) the act is reasonably likely in all the circumstances to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or group of people, and
(b) the act is done because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of the other person or some or all of the people in the group.
There are some exemptions. The racial vilification page on the website of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission explains these exemptions as follows:
To protect freedom of expression, the legislation sets out certain circumstances in which the prohibition will not apply, providing the person has acted reasonably and in good faith. First, if the communication is part of an artistic work it is not unlawful. Also excepted are academic and scientific works and debates or comments on matters of public interest. This permits a range of public policy issues to be debated such as multiculturalism, native title and so on. The media are given considerable scope in a third exception which permits fair and accurate reporting on any matter of public interest. This last exception enables the media to report on public issues, such as racial incitement or racially offensive conduct. It also allows editorial opinions and the like, providing they are published without malice.
As in much legislation, this is an attempt to balance different rights which may be in conflict. In this case, the right of citizens to engage in robust discussion without fear, against the right of persons to be protected against statements likely to provoke hatred against them on the basis of their race.
Now to the specifics.
In two columns published on his blog and in the Herald Sun on April 15th 2009, and August 21st 2009, Andrew Bolt drew the public’s attention to a number of persons who had claimed benefits intended to assist indigenous Australians, but whose basis for claiming to be aboriginal was not clear. Most of those identified looked as white any full-blooded dutchman, and some had little or no identifiable aboriginal descent or heritage.
Andrew made it clear in his columns that part of his concern was that if awards intended to assist underprivileged aboriginal persons were being given to educated middle-class white people, then the persons who should have been helped by those awards were not being helped at all:
… when a privileged white Aborigine then snaffles that extra, odds are that an underprivileged black Aborigine misses out on the very things we hoped would help them most.
Take Mellor’s art prize. This white university lecturer, with his nice Canberra studio, has by winning pushed aside real draw-in-the-dirt Aboriginal artists such as Dorothy Napangardi, Mitjili Napanangka Gibson and Walangkura Napanangka, who’d also entered and could really have used that cash and recognition.
DOES this make sense? What’s an Aboriginal art prize for, if a man as white and cosseted as Mellor can win it, and with a work that shows no real Aboriginal techniques or traditions?
What’s a black Aboriginal artist from the bush to think, seeing yet another white man lope back to the city with the goodies?
That hardly seems calculated to to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or group of people … because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of the other person.
Those claiming to have been offended, insulted, humiliated and intimidated are represented by Joel Zyngier from the legal firm Holding Redlich. Zyngier told The Age on Sptemeber 18 2010 that:
‘‘We see it as clarifying the issue of identity — who gets to say who is and who is not Aboriginal. Essentially, the articles by Bolt have challenged people’s identity. He’s basically arguing that the people he identified are white people pretending they’re black so they can access public benefits.’’
The argument, then, is that any discussion of who is aboriginal and who is not, except by aboriginals themselves, amounts to racial vilification. In other words, that the only persons who have the right to determine who is aboriginal and who is not, are aboriginal people and aboriginal communities. Any discussion of this by other persons is foreseeably likely to cause offence, insult or humilation, etc.
Others have pointed out that questions of aboriginal identity and entitlement have been raised before, frequently by aboriginal people.
For example, in Quadrant September 2010, Keith Windschuttle noted that:
In 2001, after the Commonwealth government announced it would tighten eligibility for the right to vote in elections for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, the head of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, Michael Mansell, declared there were “more phoney than real Aborigines in Tasmania, and more than half the voters in the 1996 ATSIC election were not Aboriginal”. According to the Canberra Times, Mansell added:
“With the coming of ATSIC, we got stuck with people trying to rort the system. Saying you’re Aboriginal is the password into ATSIC and its money. It’s happening all over Australia, though Tasmania has had one of the sharpest increases.”
This is discussion of aboriginal identity by aboriginal people, or at least, by people claiming to be aboriginal, so no one should feel offended, humiliated, or intimidated.
But let’s say that those excluded by Mr Mansell’s criteria do feel offended and humiliated. Let’s further say that they produce evidence of their aboriginality, and ask the court to overturn the decision made by Mr Mansell and his group.
This will necessarily involve the court, a whitefella organisation, in consideration of who is aboriginal and who is not.
This is a circumstance in which it would be both appropriate and necessary for non-aboriginal people to consider what constitutes aboriginality.
Are there other circmstances in which such discussion might be reasonable?
To avoid any appearance of focussing on aboriginals, imagine that the Federal government has determined that red-headed dwarves are under-represented in Australia’s sports teams, political parties, art galleries and boardrooms. It is clear that they are frequently subject to humiliating insults – rusty, ginger, shorty, runt, etc – and that they face considerable obstacles in gaining employment and recognition.
A number of measures are introduced to remedy this situation. Special benefits are offered including access to education, prizes and scholarships.
After a while, members of the public notice that some of those claiming benefits seem to be of average, even more than average height. Some even have brown hair. It is hard to imagine that these broad-shouldered six footers with chestnut curls have suffered a great deal because of their red headed dwarfiness.
But when questions are asked about this, the questioners are met with outrage, and even threats of lawsuits. It is, they are told, the exclusive province of the red headed dwarf community to determine who are its members, and who are not. Any such questions raised by others are offensive and humiliating, and dwarfist.
That might be true if the question of who was in and who was out related to events and benefits solely provided and organised by the red headed dwarf community. But it does not.
It becomes a question of public interest because public money is involved. The public has set aside money to assist members of a group which appears to be under-privileged.
Money has been taken from tax-payers and allocated for that purpose. This money could have been used elsewhere, for roads, water supply, medical equipment, etc.
The public is entitled to be reasonably confident that the persons to whom their money is given are genuinely members of the group intended to be assisted.
This is not dwarfist. Nor is it racist. Persons claiming public money on the basis of membership of a particular group should expect the public to take an interest in whether they really do belong to that group.
Andrew Bolt is entitled to ask such questions. It is in the public interest that they be asked, whether by him or others.
This does not mean he is right in every instance.
I have an aquaintance, a friend of a friend, who was the daughter of a white man and an aboriginal woman. She grew up in a remote camp, speaking only pidgin, and subject to years of sexual and physical abuse.
She escaped when she was fifteen and went to work in a pub. She learned to speak standard english. She taught herself to read and write, and eventually went to university. She is a strong, couargeous, intelligent woman. She has red hair and light coloured skin. She lives in the city.
But she identifies, because of her mother and her childhood, as aboriginal.
If anyone deserves recognition and acknowledgement it is she. But she has never accepted any special benefits, prizes or scholarships.
I suspect she would regard reliance on those things, and the sense of entitlement that they encourage, as being as much a poison, a cause of paralysis and lack of progess for indigenous people, as Jarndyce and Jarndyce was for Richard Carstone in Dicken’s Bleak House.
I also suspect (and will ask her one day) that if she had accepted some special award for aboriginals, and been among those listed in Mr Bolt’s columns, she would have rung him and talked to him, rather than ringing her lawyer.