Nerds on George street…

January 30th, 2006

I made it to Sydney Grogblogging III.

No amount of previous meetings makes these events any easier.  What do I say to someone who hasn’t visited my blog and does not know who I am. 

"Hi I’m Suki and I have an opinion."

"Who? What was that? Cindy was it?"

Thankfully there were minimal blind-date type uncomfortable moments.  Some guys I approached near our group were not bloggers and are probably still wondering what a blog is…oops.

Until Naomi arrived I was the only female blogger/commenter.  Whilst this is not problematic it is surprising. 

Perhaps a different type of meet-up without Grog, RSL club and late into a Saturday night in the Sydney CBD would attract more women bloggers and commenters.   

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all those that helped me feel more at home by giving themselves girly nametags.

Thanks guys.


George street, Sydney. 

Gripping the plasma

January 24th, 2006

Tonight SBS is showing a documentary examining both sides of the abortion debate across the southern states of the US.

Mississippi is widely known as the most pro-life state in the union. Anti-choice activists pride themselves in making it harder and harder for women in their state to access an abortion.

ROE v. WADE which was decided 33 years ago, made it legal for American women to have an abortion in the first trimester. Since the 1980’s Mississippi has passed 12 laws restricting abortion in the one clinic left in the state. Women accessing the Jackson Women’s Health Organisation where only two of the five Doctors live in the state for safety reasons, must comply with ever increasing laws.  These include:

  1. If the woman is under 18 both parents must sign for the abortion to be performed
  2. If the woman has travelled from other parts of the state she must wait 24 hours before having the abortion
  3. If a woman does not have health insurance the use of Medicaid is banned for an abortion
  4. Any Doctor in the state can refuse to discuss abortion or contraception with a patient if it is against their religious beliefs 

Pro-life Mississippi who plan on dismantling ROE v. WADE "limb by limb" is hoping to add six new laws to restrict abortion. These include a sonogram requirement giving a woman the opportunity to view her unborn child and hear the foetal heart tones. 


This program looks at how Pro-life advocates are winning the day in Mississippi. In the summer of 2005, more than thirty years after Roe v. Wade established that access to abortion services is a fundamental right, the documentary team behind The Last Abortion Clinic spent two months travelling across North America’s South where states have been particularly active in passing restrictions on abortion. In interviews with abortion providers and their patients, staff at a pro-life pregnancy counselling centre and key legal strategists on both sides of the national debate, the program documents the success of the pro-life movement and the growing number of states with regulations limiting access to abortion. The procedure, while still legal, has become daunting and expensive in Mississippi and elsewhere. Nationwide, there are now fewer abortion providers in the U.S. than at any time since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973. The documentary looks at how the ever-increasing number of state abortion regulations and the steady decline in abortion providers will affect the level of influence the pro-choice movement will have in this enduring debate. 

Australia is not Mississippi and this is clearly evidenced in minimal uptake of aaRU486 by the media.

Thankfully here in Australia the buddhists get as much airtime as the uniting church.

"We have already had the public debate about abortion.  The issue is whether or not this particular drug is safe to be released for use in a country where abortion is legally available." – Uniting church’s Australian president Dr. Dean Drayton.

"Although the Buddhist community is opposed to killing of any kind, it is not Buddhist policy to impose its views on others." – The Chairman of the Buddhist Council of NSW, Graeme Lyall

Protect ROE v. WADE 

Image from here   


Unbuilt houses

January 20th, 2006

Queensland MP Peter Slipper is quoted as saying

"I believe it would be a negation of our responsibility if we were to flick the decision to an unelected body, an unaccountable body, such as the TGA. I believe the minister is the appropriate person to make the decision. Governments and elected representatives are elected to govern – it is important to stand up and take a stand on issues of importance. This is a key issue on whether there ought to be legalised another means of killing unborn children." 

If this is the case then I demand that the government stand up on all issues of importance such as the slump in the building industry.  The rate of building permits for new houses has dropped significantly and if we don’t build our houses now, using strong saplings, then there will be no houses for when our house-building population ages. 

Every sapling needs to be saved from the axe. If the government is serious then it would ban the axe. You could still use a chainsaw (and we won’t acknowledge chainsaws), but the axe would be banned.  Axes can only be used with the express permission of the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.  The minister owns no hand tools, has never built a house and has a distrust of axe wielders, but he is an elected representative.

Non-axe users would be paid $3119 dollars every time a sapling is saved to become a house.  This amount could be increased to $4000 from July 2006 and $5000 from July 2008.

This is a key issue on whether there ought to be legalised another means of killing unbuilt houses.

future house 

Image from here  

Anti RU486 group loses god

January 18th, 2006

A few days ago I heard about an organisation that has been set up to mobilise churches and anti-abortion groups against RU486.

“Australian Against RU486 is a coalition of concerned groups and individuals including pro-choice people campaigning on medical, ethical or moral grounds to keep ban on RU486. The coalition includes eminent doctors, physicians, academics, and community leaders from all over Australia. AA RU486 supports positive outcomes for Australian Women and believes that advocates of RU486 are endangering the lives of Australian women in the name of choice. AA RU486 is a trust established specifically and solely to campaign to keep the ban on RU486.” – Australians Against RU486 (aaRU486)

Simone Holzapfel, a former media adviser to Tony Abbott (before he became the Health Minister) heads the organisation.

Upon reading the group’s website, I see quotes that use guilt and fear to make the assertion that RU486 does not “offer a positive view of women.” Some quotes assume US law will one day become Australian law and whilst current trends would support that claim, it has not happened yet.

“RU486 causes severe malformations to babies that survive including fused limbs, brain malformations, kidney problems and genital malformations.”

“Many states have laws which require that the physician examine the fetal remains whatever is passed. Now the question is how is a young girl of 17 going to go plowing through a toilet bowl full of blood clots and other nasty things to try to find this tiny little fetus and bring it to the doctor?” Dr. Bernhard Nathanson

Curiously, whilst many church groups are involved in, and supportive of, RU486 their web presence places no reference to religious opposition to abortion.

Impressively, RU486 has done it’s research and concluded that Australia is far too secular to be a society for god to hold sway.

empty pews

Image from here

$US2,000,000,000,000 not the only cost

January 12th, 2006

The war in Iraq could cost the United States $US2 trillion

The study takes into account long-term costs such as lifetime health care for thousands of wounded US soldiers.

Columbia University economist Joseph E. Stiglitz, and Harvard lecturer Linda Bilmes included the disability payments for the 16,000 wounded US soldiers, about 20 per cent of whom suffer serious brain or spinal injuries and the health-care bills for treating long-term mental illness suffered by war veterans.

Citing army statistics, the study said about 30 per cent of US troops had developed mental health problems within three to four months of returning from Iraq as of July 2005.

The projection of a total cost of $US2 trillion ($A2.66 trillion) assumes US troops stay in Iraq until 2010, but with steadily declining numbers each year.

They projected the number of troops there in 2006 at about 136,000. Currently, the US has 153,000 troops in Iraq.

One study has examined the mental health impact on soldiers who were part of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (Hoge et al., 2004). This study evaluated soldiers’ reports of their experiences in the war-zones and reports of symptoms of psychological distress. The results of this study indicated that the estimated risk for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from service in Iraq was 18%, and the estimated risk for PTSD from service in Afghanistan was 11%.

Studies indicate that more frequent and more intense involvement in combat operations increases the risk of developing chronic PTSD and associated mental health problems. Evidence indicates that combat operations in Iraq are extremely intense. Soldiers in Iraq are at risk of being killed or wounded themselves, are likely to have witnessed the suffering and/or death of others, and may have participated in killing or wounding others as part of combat operations.

All of these activities have a demonstrated association with the development of PTSD. The study found that:

94% of soldiers in Iraq reported receiving small-arms fire
86% of soldiers in Iraq reported knowing someone who was seriously injured or killed
68% reported seeing dead or seriously injured Americans
51% reported handling or uncovering human remains.
77% of soldiers deployed to Iraq reported shooting or directing fire at the enemy
48% reported being responsible for the death of an enemy combatant
28% reported being responsible for the death of a noncombatant – Hoge et al.

An additional set of unique stressors stems from the fact that much of the conflict in Iraq, particularly since the end of formal combat operations, has involved guerilla warfare and terrorist actions from ambiguous and unknown civilian threats. In this context, there is no safe place and no safe role

Participation in combat activities is not the exclusive source of danger and stress in a war zone. There is some evidence that the stress of war is associated with an increase in the perpetration of sexual assault and sexual harassment, with both male and female soldiers at risk for this type a victimisation.

While Australia has nothing like the 153,000 strong US military in Iraq – 1320 Australian military personnel are in and around Iraq.  

And while our 1320 soldiers, sailors, airmen and airwomen often perform safer duties than the Americans do, and we do not have the high fatality rates, we will have people who will develop a range of mental health problems, including PTSD.

War technology is science in the service of obscene bodily destruction – this includes the mind.

There is a reason we never see images of the wounded or dead US soldiers that are the day-to-day reality of this war.  If we did, public acquiescence to Australia being a part of the illegal war in Iraq would evaporate. 

Let’s bring them home before more damage is done.  

Mike Hoffman  

Image from here