Coalition dog-whistles as the election countdown continues

THE Liberal-National coalition which forms the opposition in Australia has just confirmed that it is the party of xenophobes by proposing that whenever asylum-seekers are allowed to move into a neighbourhood on bridging visas, the people staying there and the police should be notified.

This is dog-whistle politics of the lowest kind, but the Coalition will do anything to get votes. A federal election is scheduled for September 14.

Should this extend to the asylum-seekers who are granted permanent residence? Or does the granting of such status suddenly make the asylum-seeker a person of good character?

The irony of this proposal is that Scott Morrison, the immigration spokesman for the Coalition, claims to be a practising Christian! Yeah, sure.

There is a streak of racism which is part of the body politic in Australia and that is very much present within the Coalition.

In the past, John Howard has displayed a kind of closet racism in his bid to stay in power. The 2001 election was shamelessly built on the arrival of asylum-seekers in a ship called the Tampa. Howard and his ministers lied their way to electoral victory on the backs of these poor souls.

And Howard continued in this vein right to the end of his political career. Ironically, he was voted out by immigrants who had grown to a pretty large number is his seat of Bennelong. Sweet revenge, indeed.

But the dog-whistle is still present in Coalition ranks. And it is blown whenever needed. As it has been today.

Xenophobes in Australia about to choke on their cornflakes

THE xenophobes in Australia – and that’s a goodly proportion of the population – will find themselves in a difficult position if Fawad Ahmed is granted citizenship and selected to play for Australia in the Ashes cricket series against England later this year.

You see, Ahmed is an asylum-seeker from Pakistan. Asylum-seekers are a class of human beings whom the average Australian, with his/her devotion to a fair go, deems to be sub-human and only deserving of being sent back to their country of origin. Or drowned at sea.

Ahmed applied for permanent residence last year and while he was awaiting a decision, it emerged that he was a more than capable leg-spinner. Australia was a few weeks from taking on South Africa in a Test series and so he was asked to go over and help the Australians in their net practice. South Africa has a spinner of Pakistani origin, Imran Tahir, in its ranks and the Australians needed to play a good spinner to prepare to face Tahir.

After that the authorities intervened and got him his PR pretty fast. Ahmed did well in the nets, landed a contract with the Melbourne Renegades in the annual Twenty20 tournament, and did a pretty good job there too.

Next, he was selected to play for Victoria against Queensland and promptly returned a match-bag of seven wickets. His captain, Cameron Smith, ranks Ahmed as the best spinner he has seen after Shane Warne and Stuart MacGill. That is high praise indeed.

Smith’s observations come at a time when Australia has just been hammered by India in the first Test of a four-match series on a spinning track in Chennai. Australia’s lone spinner was taken for 215 runs in the first innings and ended with 4 wickets for 244 in the game.

And so the talk has turned to how Australia will combat not only India in the remaining Tests, but England in June. This is an English team that defeated India 2-1 in a Test series in India very recently, with two spinners, Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar, proving to be the trump cards.

Enter Ahmed. There is talk that the immigration minister Brendan O’Connor is now considering his application for citizenship. Australia is a sports-mad country and the Ashes are one of the most popular sporting contests. Australia never forgets that it was initially populated by convicts who were sent from Britain; paying back the mother country is something every Australian loves.

If Ahmed makes it and proves to be some kind of equalising factor in the Ashes, it will be a classic good news story.

But the xenophobes will choke on their cornflakes – after all, how can a brown-skin from a country like Pakistan, ever be considered a good enough person to play cricket for Australia?

Xenophon should come into the 21st century

AN Australian senator goes to Malaysia on an unofficial visit. His intention is to meddle in local politics. And when he gets thrown out of the country, he makes a noise!

What did he expect? That any white man who goes to an Asian country during election time, and is known to be a supporter of the opposition, will be welcomed with open arms? Perhaps Nick Xenophon has forgotten that the colonial era is long over.

Asian countries run their own affairs today. They realy do not need people from so-called Western democracies coming over and trying to lecture them on how to run their own affairs.

Xenophon expected to be treated like any Australian politician who goes there on an official visit. When he was detained at the airport and deported, he made an almighty fuss.

Australia deports people willy-nilly nearly every month. Back in 2005, Scott Parkin, a political activist from the US, was thrown out by the then government – for no reason.

And every now and then asylum-seekers are deported from Australia, people who often go back and are killed in their homw countries. This is in direct violation of Australia’s obligations under the UN Human Rights Convention, but hey, for people like Xenophon charity doesn’t begin at home.

The man is too busy trying to reform the poor, uneducated Asians, he has no time to see the shit in his own backyard.

Xenophon is living in the past. Asian countries passed the stage of taking orders from their former colonial masters in the mid-1990s. Twenty years on, we have a man expecting red-carpet treatment when he tries to meddle in other countries’ affairs.

Have a cold bath, sir.

Christie will be there in 2016

CHRIS Christie’s appearance on the Late Show on Monday night (February 4) is a clear indication that he is going to be among the Republican contenders for the presidential nomination in 2016.

Christie was the butt of numerous jokes on the show during the 2012 campaign, some of them pretty vicious ones, and all directed at his weight.

He showed that he could take it very well and even came armed with two doughnuts in his pockets, which he pulled out and ate at the right moments, putting the laugh back on his host, David Letterman.

US politicians are aware of the power that Letterman has; during the 2008 race, John McCain was mercilessly torn to pieces by Letterman when he suddenly broke an appointment to appear on the Late Show. Despite this, McCain came back on the show when he had the time and took all the ribbing that Letterman dished out. He knew that he was gaining votes by doing so.

As Letterman himself put it, “the road to the White House runs through here,” meaning his show.

That’s why Christie showed up, despite being an object of derision time and time again in 2012. Bridges were mended pretty fast and Letterman more or less endorsed him to recontest the post of governor of New Jersey. And there is no doubt that when Christie runs in 2016, he will have access to the Late Show.

In 2012, Mitt Romney kept away from the show which tends to poke fun at Republican candidates. That was a mistake. Letterman, though now in his 60s and nearing the end of an illustrious career, can still make or break politicians. Barack Obama appeared on the show a few times during the campaign and his wife did likewise. It did him no disfavours.

Christie will need to do something about his weight before he runs for the presidency; it tends to get in the way of conversation. But that can be done easily and given his personality he looks to be a good bet for the Republicans, who at the moment are looking like a party without a base.

Zero Dark Thirty is a work of fiction

FOR Americans, September 11, 2001, is a date that tends to awake their sense of patriotism. There are few in that country who can regard this day with even a shred of objectivity and realise that the attack was the result of the US of A’s actions in the Middle East.

Thus, the reaction to the third-rate Zero Dark Thirty, a film about the killing of Osama bin Laden, is not surprising.

To briefly summarise the plot, it shows the activities of a CIA officer, who is credited with being the one to analyse information and come to the conclusion that Bin Laden was hiding in Abottabad in Pakistan. Seal teams then went in without informing the Pakistan government and killed the man in cold blood.

Most objections to the film have been that it shows torture as being used as a means to obtain information that led to the killing of Bin Laden. In other words, people like Dick Cheney, not the most popular American around, were justified in the approach they took.

And, after all, Americans are good people. They don’t torture or do anything illegal. How could director Kathryn Bigelow portray the people from the land of the brave and free in this manner?

For an individual like me, that matters little. But it is surprising to me that people cannot see the film for what it is: a cheap travesty from Hollywood, one that is just looking to make people feel good and also rake in the moolah.

For starters, the myth that a woman was responsible for analysing the information is just that: a myth. But it plays well to the gallery; after all, a woman operating in a man’s world and showing up the rest will always make for a better story.

This is contradicted by an account of the killing by Peter Bergen, surely the most credible writer on matters concerning Bin Laden. Bergen says the CIA agent who was researching information about Bin Laden for the eight years before his death and was convinced he was hiding in Abottabad was a man.

But Hollywood has had great success in portraying women in such roles; remember the film Saving Jessica Lynch which was totally fiction, yet was passed off as being a true tale of valour that happened after the invasion of Iraq? Zero Dark Thirty has had a good basis on which to cast a woman.

The acting is poor, wooden at times, and over-stated at others. And who would believe that you could converse with militants in Americanese? That’s what happens for most of the film. The militants whom the Americans captured right from late 2001 when they invaded Afghanistan seem well up in American slang. I thought they spoke Pushtu, Farsi or Urdu.

And then the actual raid itself is boring as batshit in the film. It’s meant to convey reality, yet one can’t conceive of such a bunch of bunglers executing a raid of this nature. Why is this part of the film so geared towards reality (or so Bigelow would have us believe) when the director adds on the fiction wherever she wishes in the rest of the film?

Films like this are meant to be part of the historical record. This one is not, it is wildly inaccurate and silly. It caters to jingoism and is meant to make money. That it will.