Allan Takes Aim Blog

Archive for July 2009

Published The Chronicle Tuesday July 14, 2009  

Some men and women in the West with knickers in a knot about Islam are advocating the banning of the Arabic burqa, a woman’s garment and integral to the belief of some Muslims that all of a woman’s body except the eyes, must be protected from male attention. The burqa achieves this but also covers the eyes with a fine mesh veil. Among the arguments used to justify banning is that the burqa is anti democratic, demeans women and also deprives them of their human rights.

And yet another Arabic woman’s garment is also in the firing line: the hajib. The hajib, similar to the burqa, does not cover the face although on certain occasions Muslim women wear it with a niqab (veil).

The argument that the burqa deprives women of their human rights sounds like censoriousness and more of an excuse to disguise dislike of Islam than it does a proposal to benefit Muslim women. If it isn’t then clearly the proposers of banning do not understand democracy, which grants people the fundamental human right to practice their religion without interference. That said, it seems to me, that when Muslim women wear burqa or hijab and veil, they are exercising that human right.

 Such censoriousness seems only to apply to Muslim women, as I remember being taught by an order of Catholic nuns whose habit, to all intents and purposes, was a hijab, while Nuns in other Catholic orders also wore a veil with their habit. I understand some still do.

 And if only to demonstrate the silliness of the proposed banning argument, look at any picture of the Virgin Mary – a Jewess – but revered by Catholics, and you see a lady dressed in a hajib, which for centuries has been a traditional garment for many Middle Eastern women, Arab – Muslim or not – Jewish and Persian (now Iranian). And it was worn then for the same reasons as Nuns and Muslim women wear it today: it is integral to their modesty and their religion.

Islamic terrorism is also another reason why some people in Western Democracies want burqas, hijabs and niqads banned, conveniently forgetting that for centuries Western women have been dressing in similar style.

One can see this by looking at the dress of women in paintings through the ages. As age after age passes, you will see that female dress – prostitute’s excepted – remains hijab in style. That it remained so was because women of modesty were highly valued in society.

 When western women discarded the formal hijab they replaced it with a headscarf and/or hat and veil and dresses that covered women from neck to toe, a dress style that remained in vogue until early in the twentieth century. Even then it was brave woman who went out without a hat – with or without a veil – or headscarf wearing a dress that didn’t cover them from neck to toe.

 By the late thirties however, head scarves and hats were disappearing (veils were still worn at weddings and funerals), skirts were shorter and modesty had all but vanished, as Cole Porter wrote in his song from the thirties musical “Anything Goes.”  “In olden days a glimpse of stocking was looked on a something shocking, now God knows, anything goes.” While the song shocked many it delighted many more. However it must be said that the demand for modesty remained. It still does

Equally nonsensical are arguments that burqas and hajibs be banned because Arab terrorists use them as disguises and Muslim women fear the reaction of husbands/fathers and brothers if they don’t. Both are flimsy arguments. First: because men have been disguising themselves as women – and women as men – for centuries. Second: because as an argument it does not fit well in a democratic and allegedly multicultural country because religion being an essential part of a culture, it is nonsensical to call for the banning of something integral to that culture.

Let me say that if Australia bans the burqa, hajib and niqab then, on principle, it should also ban the Nun’s habit, all religious dress and anything else that people of particular persuasions find dangerous and/or offensive who believe “anything goes” only when it suits them.


Many times over the years I’ve expressed to Australian monarchist friends that a Republic is inevitable.

When? I don’t know. I’ve never put a time on it, but if pressed to guess, I’d say around thirty years from now. I say around thirty years because at that time I think most of Australia’s population will have been born here and think of themselves only as Australians. I also think it will take that time for Australian born monarchists and monarchists born in countries who still believe in a monarchical system, to no longer be significant.

But now I see another possibility that perhaps could change my views about the inevitability of a Republic. The possibility? That if political trends continue as they are, no sooner will Australia become a Republic than it will have to change to something else so why bother changing? Looking around the world today (doesn’t technology make it easy?), one becomes aware the Global Village is no longer an intellectual fantasy of Marshall McLuhan but is slowly but surely becoming a reality.

That it is happening can best be seen as nations band together in economic, social and cultural units, to become precincts in the Global Village. Let me give some examples of these precincts: first, the European Union. Second: APEC. This also raises the question that just as the Monarchy is becoming irrelevant due to the European Union and the drive to develop a European Parliament which will control the political processes of member countries, with a President elected by plebiscite in all countries of the Union, will the 21 countries in APEC copy the European Union and make an Australian Republic irrelevant?

If this uniting in common interest progresses, almost certainly the 35 Countries of the Americas also would look at creating the EUA – the Economic Union of the Americas, so as to ensure protection of their economic interests.

That being the case, why bother becoming a Republic? Why not start preparing now for a President of the Earth? I say Earth advisedly, because when the Global Village becomes reality (is 100 years too short a period?) perhaps there’ll be satellite worlds orbiting the earth whose people will have no wish for earthly connection.

Another reason I might change my mind is that I’m not all that keen on supporting people who propose change ostensibly on behalf of the people when, in reality, all they seek are monuments to their egos and the hope of creating the kind of epitaph (some people think epithet would be a better word) they think should be engraved on their tombstone.

 And as future generations in the Global Village look back at the time spent on the Republic versus Monarchy debate, not only do I think they will see it as having done nothing to assist upgrading quality of life but also that it was an outrageous waste of public time and money.

I believe also that they will look upon the main protagonists in the debate as spoiled, self-centred egotists whose reason for wanting a republic is based on an inherited and unwarranted animosity to the monarchy.

That apart as the Republic is for the future, let future generations decide when (and if) they want it. Let not the decision be made just so that someone can get an epitaph they think will look good on a tombstone.

For Canberra’s local news get The Chronicle – Published every Tuesday

Is ACT Labor simply suffering from the political flu, been attacked by the menacing political dysfunction virus, attacked by something that some Labor people think even more vicious – the Capitalist bug, or is it a combination of all three?

I ask, because no one in the Labor Part seems to know what is going on Although there’s lot of flu about at the moment what is happening strongly suggests the political dysfunctional virus that once made its home with the ACT Liberals now seems to find ACT Labor a more attractive home. At the same time the Party is showing signs of having been attacked by the Capitalist Bug.

As a result Consultant Political Virologist and Entomologist Ted Quinlan, former ACT Deputy Chief Minister – the man many people thought would have made a better Chief Minister than the incumbent – has been called in to find out if the attack is serious or just a passing condition and how much has it been affected by the Capitalist Bug. 

If the viral attack is serious Ted will need to vaccinate quickly to prevent the virus spreading and make every attempt to prevent it happening again. However, to neutralise the Capitalist Bug might not be so easy.  

Unfortunately, no matter what Ted does, his vaccination programme has come too late to save Bill Redpath, the last secretary who, earlier and despite valiant efforts by others, was rendered impotent by virus and bug.

In initial media interviews Ted has made encouraging noises that the problems are curable. However, he had better be careful, because dysfunctional viruses are known to retreat from the first onslaught of vaccines to lie in wait restoring their virility and making ready to strike again while over the centuries the Capitalist Bug has never been beaten. 


Published Chronicle Tuesday July 14, 2009

Recently 220 Sydney CEOs did a “sleep out” for one night in Luna Park to help the St Vincent De Paul Society (Vinnies) raise money for the homeless. Media reports say they raised $500,000 and spent an uncomfortable night although how uncomfortable it was can only be guessed at, considering they had sleeping bags and a large piece of cardboard with which to cover themselves, plus tea, coffee and soup to help keep discomfort at bay.

It was reported also that some could check SMS messages and use Twitter to provide updates about their experience. Probably most had an iPod, mobile phone and transistor radio and fortunately for them winter’s chill had not arrived.

One of the one night homeless was Dick Smith who, when speaking to the media, said that although the sleep out wasn’t hard, the executives learned a tough lesson about life on the streets. A question: if the sleep out wasn’t hard how could it be tough? Mr Smith also said: “Bring us all down to one level and let us realise that if times aren’t good and that there are many people who do have to live out in the streets and I think it’s very important that we understand that.”

 Without wishing to diminish the value of Dick Smith’s generosity or that of the companies and executives involved in the sleep out, his words were right: it is necessary that Executives understand. However, I wonder if a one night sleep out in Luna Park as if on a one night scout camp, will create that understanding?

It must also be said that their one night of homelessness was compensated for, more than adequately, by favourable media publicity. (It would be interesting to know how many, if any, or any of the real homeless people in Luna Park benefited from the publicity?) One hopes also, that the participating CEOs fraternised closely with the homeless with whom they came into contact during the sleep out. And while it’s only a suggestion, perhaps they might now consider giving one of those homeless a home for a month and perhaps even give them a job that might help prevent their continuing homelessness.

 Another participant, Bruce McKenzie CEO of the Intercontinental Hotels Group, recently back in Australia after five years in China, said that he understood the homeless problem but “you always wonder how in this country people don’t have a roof over their head.” Now that he knows perhaps he can help. But Phillip Grueff, from ARCS Building Group, a fourth year participant in the Sleep Out hit the nail on the head when said we take our privileged life for granted. And when he heard why people were homeless – mental problems etc – he wondered why we didn’t look after them. Why indeed!

Well intentioned as the CEOs were I think a sleep out would have been more effective had it lasted for a week during which the executives been denied personal hygiene facilities – a piece of soap and toothbrush excepted – for a week, after being left in different suburbs without sleeping bag, money, food, mobile, or any means of contacting family or friends? Had that been the case they would have acquired real understanding of what tough means and how tough it is to be homeless.

 Canberra having fewer homeless than Sydney is not something to be proud about. The Heart of the Nation should have fewer homeless; indeed it should have none. But the Capital is also an affluent city and generous when required to people in need. But homelessness and its causes are special needs and need special treatment.

That said, I’d like to suggest that through Vinnies, Canberra CEOs and some MLAs, help finance and train a corps of homeless people, male and female, to become Ambassadors of Human Dignity. These Ambassadors, who have walked the walk and can talk the talk can then be used to tell people what homelessness really means in regular free short radio and TV programmes, and in the press.

Too often, unfortunately, programmes such as PM Rudd’s $800 million programme to help the homeless, seem more like programmes designed to help a politician’s image. 

For Canberra Community News get The Chronicle, published every Tuesday

As a diet of politics would be just as monotonous as a diet of baked beans or bananas or any other food you might like to choose, I’m going to forget them and write about women, who, it must be said are even more devious and scheming than any politician. Let me correct that last statement: I’m going to write about one woman: Boadicea, using her more common name rather than her proper name, Boudicca.

Not that writing about women was a choice. It came about when Boadicea XXIV, wife, light of my life and direct descendant of the warrior queen bore down on me and said you’d better write a blog on women.  I replied immediately yes, sweetness. By the way this is not because I’m henpecked it’s simply because I’d like to live longer.

As I write I can hear the bar room gladiators muttering into their beer ‘there’s no way I’d put up with that; I’d soon tell her where to go.’ Well I’ve got news for them: the place they had in mind won’t take her. In fact once, when I pleaded with its twin horned manager to take her (I even tried to bribe him with my soul) he shivered, went pale and said: ‘ thanks but no thanks, this place is hot enough.’

Now I suspect that more than a few men suffer the same problem and so this blog is written to publicise it in the hope that a fellow sufferer, short of suggesting I should act in a way that would get me a ten years job counting tiles in a monk like cell in one of those home away from home palaces her majesty has dotted around the countryside, could tell me how to overcome it.

But let me not delay. If I don’t get a move on and write something to satisfy the light of my life, even a cell might be beyond my grasp. Added to that, as she stands behind me, she has made it abundantly clear she’s going to make sure that what I write is what she wants.

‘Don’t men realise’ she said, ‘that for thousands of years women’s generosity has allowed men to think they were the leaders of society and that Cleopatra, My ancestor Boadicea I, Joan of Arc, Catherine the Great, Golda Meir, Indira Ghandi, and even Maggie Thatcher, only donned the leadership mantle to serve as a gentle reminder to men that it’s women who actually wear the trousers. 

‘Let me tell you that this didn’t happen by accident. This was a deliberate and calculated strategy by the Sisterhood aimed at putting men back in their place before they got carried away with the delusion that they were the world’s power brokers. And the fact that more and more women are entering politics, business, the military and taking up cricket, football, rugby, basketball, boxing et al. traditionally thought of as male sports, is a continuation of that strategy.

‘The fact is that women are so fed up with the mess that men have made that they’ve taken the decision to do something about it before it gets worse, and when more women presidents and prime ministers are in power the grand plan will go into action. Though this might be a few years away, it’s closer than men think.

‘l know men won’t like what were going to do but they’ll just have to get used to it. We’re going to stop all this nonsense that men and women are equal. It isn’t true. Men are inferior, and you’re a good example.

‘In your case I’m sick to death of trying to train you to wash and dry the dishes without breaking them and of having to clean up after you’ve cleaned up. And I’m sick too, of you spilling the tea over me and letting my breakfast slide off the tray when you serve me in bed and sick of your complaining at night- time that you’re tired, have a headache or are suffering from a bad back. ‘Women are going to reverse this state of affairs and restore harmony and order so that men will again know their place in the world.’

TV has a plethora of programmes mostly devoted to politics. To name a few: Insiders: a mix of press discussion and interviews, Q&A, The 7.30 Report, Lateline, Foreign Correspondent, Insight, Dateline, Meet the Press, A Current Affair, Today and Today Tonight.

Both Q&A and Insight have studio audiences that supposedly represent the community. Q&A also has a panel of current and former politicians plus people who play significant roles in politics and a chairperson, Tony Jones, who asks the panel questions.

Insight differs slightly to Q&A in that the politicians and people of influence form part of the audience while Chairperson Jenny Brockie introduces the subject and asks all the questions. Jones and Brockie also share an annoying quality: a tendency to force their ideas on the panel and audiences.

What both programmes also have in common is that their guests are usually the same politicians and people of influence. Naturally, the participants like the publicity but whether or not the programmes make a significant contribution to informing the community is open to question.

And while for some people Q&A and Insight might create the impression of democracy in action, I have a different impression. It seems to me that if the panellists are either current or former parliamentarians and the others people whose decisions affect the community, the community should have a chance to question them, tell them what they think and also make suggestions.

Unfortunately neither programme’s format allows this. Often indeed, an interviewee’s answer raises more questions than it answers yet the interviewer never seems to ask them, something that many people often think deliberate.

As for Insiders and Meet the Press what one gets is the same group of journalists meeting each other and expressing their personal opinion about policies and politicians they have already written and argued about in their branch of the media. That apart, their opinions are usually politically biased.

This leads me to ask that instead of programmes being broadcast from Sydney that constantly use the same people, why not broadcast them from inland towns. Technology now makes that easy.

If such programmes were to be produced journalists from local newspapers could give their comments or is that channel executives are of a mindset that only journalists from major news papers who, every day read each other’s articles and argue with each other on subjects they think important, are the only people capable of good political analysis? At the same time why not have people who write letters to editors of local newspapers take part in these programmes?

If this happened not only would we see a refreshing change of ideas but viewers would also get political analysis more representative of communities and the nation than the analysis of pally political journalists.

For Canberra Community News, get The Chronicle: Published every Tuesday.

Published Chronicle, Tuesday 7 July, 2009

Canberra’s two adult political kindergartens, known as Federal Parliament and the ACT Legislative Assembly, have closed down for their annual winter break. Their closure has also closed down sources of comment for some political journalists.

Some people also think six weeks not long enough because the behaviour of some of the kindie kids prior to closing down (particularly in the federal kindie) when it seemed their principal occupation was to serve themselves and their “mates,” has given cause for some voters to think of permanently cancelling their registration.

For myself, I concluded that many of them, along with former politicians (is there such an animal?) bureaucrats, ex bureaucrats, business people, consultants and, sadly, journalists are members of the exclusive “Backscratchers Club, a club founded by con men and charlatans, motto: only do favours for people who can do favours for you in return.

However, it should not be forgotten that the people behind the scenes do not get the same break as their bosses. Indeed, on behalf of their “bosses” (isn’t “bosses” a strange word to describe politicians who allegedly serve the people?) many have to keep their nose to the grindstone.

And if only to show how some ACT citizens see politicians I heard one say, cynically, that if politicians needed six weeks to recuperate from their labours then voters needed twice as long to recuperate from those labours.

 While their cynicism might be well founded I won’t complain about the break as it gives readers time to send me ideas I wish I had thought of first but, unlike politicians, want to remain anonymous. Many of the ideas are funny or serious and sometimes at the same time. However, I treat all ideas seriously and so am pleased to put forward an idea I received only a few weeks ago, that The Chronicle publish a Hobbies feature every week. 

Now if you’re a couch potato or only read the front pages and sports pages of newspapers, you might think a hobbies feature a waste of time – so might Chronicle management. But say that to a lepidopterist (butterfly collector). I hasten to add that I don’t collect, nor have I ever collected butterflies but, with more than 200,000 species, apart from helping collectors keep fit catching them, butterfly collecting could become the hobby of a lifetime for someone with an interest in the environment.

On the other hand perhaps you might like to say it to people whose hobby is trapping rats, mynah birds or bent pollies (the latter could also be a lifetime hobby). By the way, if you think the latter hobby exclusive to journalists, it appears that some bureaucrats have the same hobby.

And what would you say to people with more mundane hobbies such as collecting antiques, stamps, stickers beer mats, autographs, matchboxes, cars, toys and model airplanes. Indeed I confess that as a boy, with many of my contemporaries, I had a mundane hobby: collecting picture cards of sports stars, some of which sell to today for thousands of dollars. (I wish I still had mine). My hobby today: collecting books and newspapers.

Experts also say having a hobby is beneficial as morale boosters, not to mention encouragers of creativity, something badly needed in these times of a failing economy, recession, long term debt, home repossessions, homelessness, the use of amphetamines, public corruption, sudden and inexplicable violence and Swine Flu. It has also been suggested that, apart from encouraging people to become interested in what was of interest to others, hobbies also help prevent boredom, depression and suicide.

My ideas correspondent suggested also, that a hobbies feature could increase The Chronicle’s readership and encourage writing letters to the editor, a hobby I agree with. I’d also like to extend that idea through to the formation of a Letter Writers’ Club.

 Let me add that for those who think hobbies a waste of time, some of the world’s greatest thinkers use hobbies to relax and refresh their mind so that they can tackle and solve major problems. Indeed I wonder if Archimedes’ hobby was collecting toy boats and that playing with them in the bath led to him discovering the buoyancy principle?         

For Canberra Community News get The Chronicle: published every Tuesday


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