Saturday, 25 June 2022

The Shotgun Amendment


Image courtesy tvtropes.

Maybe, in light of the recent SCOTUS decision, it's time for the US to consider a 28th amendment to their constitution.

After all, they regard their constitution as sacred, and those celebrating the recent decision claim the preservation of human life as their major rationale. 

They use the same logic to justify access to firearms through the second amendment. The most common justification is that possession of a firearm guarantees the individual protection against attack from somebody or something evil. That evil could be construed as a lifetime of poverty and suffering for mother and child as the consequence of this Roe v. Wade reversal.

The SCOTUS decision, as well as protecting the rights of the unborn child, also impinges on the rights of the mother. Unless immaculate conception is possible in the US, that unborn child will always have a father.

That father, in a moral world, has the same responsibility for the life of his child as does the mother who will, under this decision, be forced to bear that child. One very simple question should be asked. Why should the total responsibility for the well being of that child be vested only in the mother? 

Currently in the US, maternity leave, public support for single mothers, and services such as child care, kindergarten and preschool are patchy at best, and in some neighbourhoods, almost non-existent. These are the neighbourhoods where access to contraception for the disadvantaged segments of the population is also difficult. It's a self-perpetuating problem and this decision will ensure it continues.

The upshot of this situation is that the mother's life is fundamentally changed, her access to an income jeopardised, and when the child is born, she assumes total responsibility. 

By any measure, this is simply unfair, and now that the state has decided that abortion is no longer an option, the situation has changed utterly.

If the state can decide what happens to a woman's body, it would seem only reasonable and just that some kind of caveat be placed over the conduct of the other partner in the creation of that baby, its father.

The amendment (hereafter called the Shotgun Amendment) would go something like this -

Once paternity is established (and that is not difficult) the father would be compelled to contribute to the support of the child. This could be organised at a local level through paternity courts which would be established for the purpose. There would be debate about how the nature and duration of the support would be established, but working that out would not be rocket science. A contribution code could be established.

And of course, it would be called The Shotgun Amendment.

With the introduction of a firearm metaphor into the title, the NRA would love it....


Thursday, 23 June 2022

A Picture Tells a Thousand Words

This is a very informative image, and it does indeed say a thousand words.

It shows the rapidly widening gap between profits and wages in Australia.

It also reflects the structural changes that have occured in the nation's economy during the last ten years. There changes are the culmination of a comprehensive and enduring power shift between organised labour and the corporate sector.

There are many reasons for this. Domestically, they include government policy across the last ten years directed towards weakening the power of trade unions and their capacity to use bargaining power.

Globalisation, with its investment in technology, its capacity to export jobs to low paying nations and its facility to exploit a pool of low-paid, often imported labour all contribute.

The conventional wisdom that worker's pay will increase in line with productivity has also begun to fail, as can be seen on the graph below.

This is US data, but the Australian trend is similar.

These are very dangerous trends which if history is any guide, will lead to unrest, and quite likely violence. Or, to be hopeful, the correction may occur as the result of government led reform. 
In the meantime, all any of us can do is to encourage our millennial offspring to join a union. At least that evens up the power balance a little, and ensures that wage theft (which for some industries now constitutes a business model) is unlikely.

When I've done this, I've also advised my children not to tell their employer that they've joined a union. In some sectors this will be a bad career move. 

That's pretty sad.

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Wednesday, 15 June 2022

A Back Story

What we carried all those years ago.

I've been living with lumbar spondylosis for fifty-two years now, and have become accustomed to the adjustments necessary. 

The most recent being having to sell my pride and joy because getting in and out of it was becoming (literally) a pain. 

The damage was done in the first half of 1970, when we were patrolling in the far north of Phuoc Tuy province searching for the elusive Viet Cong, whom by this time, had been cleaned out of most areas in the south and east of the province.

To do this, we had to move through the scrub with about a third of our body weight on our backs, and a heavy weapon in our hands. Back then, it was acknowledged that soldiers were for hanging things on. In the dry, we had to carry a comprehensive supply of water, sufficient to last the three to five days between resupplies, unless we happened upon a flowing stream.  

Flowing streams weren't around between March and July in that part of the world.

The other back damage was done when we jumped out of choppers upon insertion into a new AO*, as the machine didn't always actually land to let us out. Sometimes they hovered about a metre from the ground, and we had to do the magic leap, hopefully landing on our feet before fanning out from the LZ#.

I've been lucky, not needing back surgery, as a couple of ex section mates have. One is into a routine of admissions to hospital many times annually, when the degenerating spine plays up. Age is exacerbating the problem for all of us.

The reason I didn't get to this stage was an early diagnosis, and a regime of back care, regular strengthening exercises, and the discipline of avoiding injury. It is indeed a discipline, as you have to maintain your mindfulness, and not get carried away when lifting is necessary. This is why it took two months to move from one home to another when we downsized earlier this year.

The downside to this was ownership of two homes at once (one more than we needed) and a delay in the sale of the older larger one. Fingers crossed... we have a contract of sale signed.

Historically, a complicating factor in my case was my chosen occupation. I went immediately into special education after discharge in 1971, which meant I was working with kids with physical disabilities. This was OK when I was in a big school with plenty of ancillary staff, but when, in 1980, I was posted to my first principalship of a small school with two female teacher aides, it meant that much of the manual handling of the larger boys fell to me. Two of them were actually heavier than I was, and after a year of the daily routine of lifting and transferring them, back pain sent me to my GP.

He referred me to an orthopaedic specialist who breezilly told me that if I continued to do what I had been doing, I'd be in a wheelchair within five years. Fortunately, an appointment to a non-teaching principalship in a larger school happened at exactly the right time, and I soldiered on. I had, as they say in the classics, been given a "heads up", so was very careful after that.

After retirement, I submitted a claim to DVA, but was initially told that my back injury was a result of my teaching career and the claim rejected. A persistent advocate (who went to the lengths of accessing military records to prove what my unit was doing at the time) eventually got the claim recognised, and I received a small pension. Gold card arrived at seventy, and now my treatment is free, and DVA gym sessions are helpful.

The lesson in this is that pretty much anyone who has spent time on operational service in infantry has a damaged spine (and probably knees and ankles as well). We weren't built to lug all our worldly possessions on our backs for weeks at a time.

I'm not sure whether the situation has improved for modern infantry. Somehow I doubt it, as these days they wear body armour. The closest we got to that was an occasional issue of flak jackets, if mines were considered a possibility, and we were aboard APCs. These jackets were heavy and uncomfortable in the Vietnamese humidity.

*Area of operations.

#Landing zone. 

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Wednesday, 8 June 2022

Matthew McConaughey's Speech

This should be required viewing for all NRA members, and in this country for the people who advocate slackening our National Firearms Agreement.

It's powerful stuff....

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Friday, 3 June 2022

Censorship - US Style

Image courtesy CNN

For a bit of a giggle, I occasionally post on one or more of the gun fetishist websites that abound across the Pacific. There's not really anything faintly amusing about the situation in that country, given that there have been twenty-seven school shootings so far this year, but there is some bizarre comedy in the weird rationalisations the gun lobby uses to cover their backsides. 

You may remember this exchange a few years ago.

I do this in the (very) faint hope that some appeal to reason may be possible. It's indeed a very faint hope. Appealing to the Taliban would probably be equally productive.

Come to think of it, the NRA and the Taliban have a great deal in common.

Anyway, I posted this on the above website a few days ago. It was censored of course, but I took the precaution of taking a screenshot.

This will, in the fullness of time, be posted on that same website - 

As they say in the classics, hope springs eternal.

Speaking of hope, parents of children attending elementary school across the Pacific must be hopeful on a daily basis. They having nothing else to cling to. 

Their legislators seem paralyzed, and their law enforcement agencies hamstrung.

The noisy (and very small) minority that push for a relaxation of our gun regulatory laws in this country need only to glance eastwards to get a glimpse of what they re advocating....

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Thursday, 26 May 2022

Home of the Craven, Land of the Shooting Spree


One representation of the problem. (Image courtesy

Again, or still, kids are being slaughtered across the Pacific in their classrooms.

This, in what the conventional wisdom regards as a civilised country. If this is "civilisation", I shudder to think what an uncivilised community would look like.

These events are now routine, and I find it incomprehensible that US lawmakers allow it to happen. 

The lawmakers who continue to allow this to happen are craven cowards. Their constituents want tighter regulation, but they are terrified of the NRA.

We are reminded, gentle reader, of the cliches wheeled out after these events. It happens so often that I know them by heart -

Violence is as American as apple pie.


A good guy with a gun will always stop a bad guy with a gun.


Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.

And on it goes....

Meanwhile, the governor of the state where since 1966, twenty-two of these massacres (two of them in schools) have taken place, will address the NRA convention on Friday. Ironically perhaps, this convention will be a gun free zone.

He will speak on the same platform as the last President of the US, who on seven occasions during his administration intoned the "thoughts and prayers" cliche after similar massacres. That was all he did...

Image courtesy The Guardian

On a personal note, I find these events completely horrifying. As a lifetime teacher (and school principal) and a short time soldier, I probably have a unique perspective.

In Vietnam many years ago, I saw what rounds from a high powered long barrelled rifle do to the human body. That's what automatic rifles are designed to do, of course. They are, after all, killing machines. I carried one from February to December 1970.

I carried a rifle, because I was trained to kill enemy guerillas. I fervently hope the few shots I fired in the only major contact I was involved in didn't kill anyone. I'll never know. 

A soldier a few metres from me was wounded in a friendly fire incident on 13th March 1970. I know what it feels like to have 7.62mm rounds whistling around your ears. I shudder to think what small children would make of this. Those who survived will be changed for the rest of their lives.

Years later, as principal of a special school in North Queensland I was threatened with shooting by a grieving parent. He owned a rifle which was confiscated by the police when I reported the incident. At the time, I was grappling with the confronting possibility that myself and my staff would find ourselves in a situation where we were trying to protect a school full of children, most of whom were in wheelchairs.

In this country we confronted the problem in 1996, and semi-autos were removed from circulation. The sky didn't fall, and we continue to live in a free country. If I wanted to own a firearm (and God knows I don't - I was very happy to hand my SLR back to the armory in Nui Dat on 10th December 1970) I could, but I couldn't go down to my local gun shop and buy an AR-15 off the shelf.

In many states in the USA, once you are 18, you can.

I've spent time in the USA, and learned from that experience that in most respects, their culture is not dissimilar to ours. The one exception is their gun culture, which viewed dispassionately,  is a complete anachronism. The result in 2022 is that there are more guns than people in the USA.

That is the essence of the problem. It can be solved. Short-term, by a tightening of regulations so that all weapons must be licensed and all purchases are screened. Long-term, an amnesty (perhaps lasting at least years) should be implemented, with consequential amounts paid to gun owners. The USA also needs legislation resembling our National Firearm Agreement. Without it, the states whose culture remains bogged in the 1700s will always be feral. 

Perhaps, the best path to a solution lies in the highly developed plaintiff law structures in the USA. That has, in a small way, already commenced.

In the meantime, all we can do in Australia is watch what is happening across the Pacific, understanding that it represents a kind of cautionary tale. 

God help them...

Update - This is from Commonweal Magazine. It provides a balanced and Catholic perspective, and was written by someone whose life was changed through gun violence.

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Thursday, 19 May 2022

The Outrage Factory


Pic courtesy

I've been around long enough to recognise a political stunt operating as a classic dog-whistle.

(A dog-whistle, gentle reader, is a political message, predicated on fear and/or ignorance, that appeals to a very easily outraged segment of the population).

These dog-whistles are routinely trotted out around election time. Examples are the "reds under the bed" meme (which got us into the tragic mess that was Vietnam) and the "boat people are Islamic terrorists" meme which got a real go on after the Tampa incident. Both had the desired political outcomes, and 500 Australian diggers, and who knows how many genuine refugees have paid the ultimate price. But that's OK - it worked...

The Coalition (first under Menzies, and since, Howard and Morrison) have turned the strategy into an art form. They're used by both sides of politics - remember Mediscare? Labor, however, seems to have some qualms about the morality of their use. Perhaps ignorance is the factor. Many Coalition voters are hopelessly thick when it comes to their knowledge and understanding of history.

The latest dog-whistle is focussed on gender and sport. A Liberal candidate has made some pretty disgusting statements about kids with gender dysphoria. She apologised (sort of), but the front page news her words created have opened the issue up to the usual suspects.

The funny thing is, whilst most Australians aren't OK with young men playing women's sport, it's not actually happening. I have not heard of one situation in kids' sport in this country where it is an issue. It is in elite sport, but even then, is largely symbolic.

The point is, for children, the only real harm that can derive from a gender mix (and then only in contact sport) is the risk of injury when stronger and heavier kids are mismatched with small undeveloped children whatever their gender. This mismatching is a very old issue.

When I played schoolboy rugby league in North Queensland over sixty years ago, the code got around it by setting up weight divisions. Hence I played in the pre-metric 7 stone 7 team.

That way, injuries were kept to a minimum. It was managed with the minimum of fuss.

The same issue popped up in GPS rugby union about ten years ago with the influx of big strong (and agile) Pacific Islander kids who were a real risk to the smaller non-Islander players predominantly because of the physical difference. The GPS competition did nothing about it, because the Islander kids often made the difference between winning and losing in the competition.

The bottom line is, that confected outrage generated in the parents of aspiring athletes has been well and truly exploited by the Coalition just prior to the upcoming election.

There is really nothing new in this. And what also is not new is the harm they cause. Have you looked at the suicide rates of kids with gender dysphoria recently?

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The Shotgun Amendment

  Image courtesy tvtropes. Maybe, in light of the recent SCOTUS decision , it's time for the US to consider a 28th amendment to their co...