City Beach, Wollongong–and another letter from QuitNet.

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And QuitNet sent yesterday:

Hello Neil Whitfield!
Your Quit Date is: Monday, February 28, 2011 at 12:00:00 AM
Time Smoke-Free: 669 days, 20 hours, 3 minutes and 27 seconds
Cigarettes NOT smoked: 33492
Money Saved: $21,408.00
WHO’S BETTER THAN YOU TODAY?
You’ve made it! A whole 22 months without a cigarette! In that time, you’ve successfully navigated the physical chaos of withdrawal, the emotional highs and lows of early quit, and the pitfalls of relapse!
WHO’S BETTER THAN YOU TODAY?
Countless times you’ve refused the offered cigs. More times than that you’ve craved nicotine, but opted for health, instead. You’ve endured teasing, lack of support, and feeling uncomfortable and out of place among smokers. You may have had issues with weight, anger, tension or sadness, but still you stayed SMOKE-FREE!

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Quitnet email

I hadn’t actually noticed this time…

Hello Neil Whitfield!

Your Quit Date is: Monday, February 28, 2011 at 12:00:00 AM
Time Smoke-Free: 611 days, 20 hours, 6 minutes and 27 seconds
Cigarettes NOT smoked: 30592
Money Saved: $19,552.00

WHO’S BETTER THAN YOU TODAY?
You’ve made it! A whole 20 months without a cigarette! In that time, you’ve successfully navigated the physical chaos of withdrawal, the emotional highs and lows of early quit, and the pitfalls of relapse!

WHO’S BETTER THAN YOU TODAY?
Countless times you’ve refused the offered cigs. More times than that you’ve craved nicotine, but opted for health, instead. You’ve endured teasing, lack of support, and feeling uncomfortable and out of place among smokers. You may have had issues with weight, anger, tension or sadness, but still you stayed SMOKE-FREE!

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Mount Kembla from The Bates Motel yesterday afternoon.

Was Tony Abbott really nasty in the 1970s? And more muddle about gay people not being immortal…

I worked at The University of Sydney in 1977-1978 and my duties as a seconded lecturer in Dip Ed actually put me in contact with the SRC and Honi Soit. I really can’t remember whether or not Tony Abbott monstered anyone but as he was a crazy DLP person then – itself quite worrying – I probably ignored everything about him. I do recall the smell of marijuana hung about the SRC office, but I am sure Tony wasn’t breathing in at the time. In case overseas readers wonder what the hell this is about, go to Punch witness comes forward with tales of anarchy in the SRC.

Follow-up on Archbishop Jensen’s turn on QandA continues in today’s Letters in The Sydney Morning Herald.

Jensen spoke words of love not homophobia

I am a pastoral worker for Liberty Christian Ministries. I once identified as a gay man and lived actively as one for about five years. In that time I went to Anglican churches where Dr Peter Jensen was the archbishop, and I was frequently warned against living in sin. Though I resisted hearing that at times it never once made me feel suicidal or depressed: rather, I felt loved and safe (Letters, September 12).

I knew living as a homosexual was wrong even independently of what the Bible said because I had to have regular health checks to ensure I hadn’t picked up hepatitis, AIDS, or blood toxicity from the things I was doing. That is what the gay life involves – risky sex that puts life on the line. It diminishes life quality and life expectancy.

Health research bears out the reality of the risks of gay sexual practice. The 2010 national STD conference run by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in the US produced evidence that the rate of new HIV diagnoses among men who have sex with men is more than 44 times that of other men and that the rate of syphilis among this population is more than 46 times that of other men.

Peter Jensen’s words on Q&A were reasoned, reasonable and said in love because he wants, as I do, people to have freedom in Christ and live life to the full now. That’s not homophobic, that’s love.

 Haydn Sennitt  East Balmain

My brother died of AIDS in 1990 at the age of 46. It really gets to me that his early death is used as part of the evidence to suggest gay men and women have reduced life spans.

He was gay and he was one of earliest to be diagnosed as HIV positive, well before anything was known of this nasty virus, or any treatment program had been put in place. Do Jim Wallace, Peter Jensen et al record him as dying from a disease or as dying of a "gay lifestyle"?

Most HIV, like some cancers and some forms of brain and heart disease, is linked to human activity. We’ve learnt about the dangers of exposure to the sun and, today, most people wear sunscreen to prevent skin cancer. We’ve learnt about the dangers of HIV and today most people, both gay and straight, wear condoms to prevent the spread of the disease when having casual sex.

Sex and sun are two of the great Aussie pastimes but I don’t see either Jensen or Wallace providing figures from the ’60s and ’70s, stating that the "surfing lifestyle" was a cause of reduced lifespan.

They are, though, more than happy to use figures from the early ’90s to demonstrate the "gay lifestyle" causes a reduction in lifespan. Let us start treating disease as disease; not attributing blame because of lifestyle. And, in case you are not aware; being homosexual chooses you. It is not a lifestyle choice.

 Bruce Ingrey  Redfern

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With Malcolm, a friend, St Vincents Hospice, 1 May 2007

One up for Haydn Sennitt: “ I do think that Jim Wallace’s tenure at ACL head ought to be reconsidered and someone with a more tender, sensitive approach to the GBLT community should be appointed.” See also What to make of Wallace.

But the whole "ex-gay” phenomenon needs to be handled carefully. Here are some leads.

1. Ministries preying on gay shame by Michael Lallo in The Age, 8 April 2012.

DRIVING home from a date with another man, David Lograsso was tormented by a recurring thought: ”I’ll be going to hell for this.”

As a born-again Christian, he ”knew” that being gay was wicked, sinful and wrong. Desperate to change, the 27-year-old vowed to exert more self-control. To pray even harder. To do whatever it took to become straight…

Lograsso found his three programs on the internet. Two were support groups – Living Waters and Roundabout Ministries – and the third, Mosaic Ministries, involved prayer sessions and counselling. He also attended a weekend retreat in Sydney run by Liberty Christian Ministries.

The Sunday Age understands that none of these programs are run by accredited psychologists or psychiatrists. Critics, including medical professionals, say they can and do cause severe psychological harm….

Lograsso was in crisis. Anxious and depressed, he’d spend entire weekends in his bedroom. His self-esteem was in pieces and his faith was crumbling. ”I kept thinking, ‘God must not love me because he’s not answering my prayers’,” he says.

At his worst, he considered suicide.

Helen Kelly, producer of a new documentary about ”ex-gay” therapy called The Cure, says her research uncovered many participants of ”reparative” programs struggling with depression and self-harm. ”These groups never take responsibility for the fact that some people who’ve been through them commit suicide,” she says. ”They’re not registered and they have no duty of care.”

While some group leaders describe themselves as ”counsellors” or ”therapists”, such titles require no training and critics say many do not have the expertise to counsel emotionally vulnerable people…

2. Ex-gay’ Australia – New Zealand – Asia – Pacific . See 20 Questions for “Ex-gay” Ministry Leaders and those ‘helping’ people with unwanted same sex attraction.

3. Two Thirds of Ex-gay Ministries Disappear – 20 July 2012.

4.  Only the gay die young? Examining claims of shorter life expectancy for homosexuals by Warren Throckmorton, Associate Professor of Psychology at Grove City College and Fellow for Psychology and Public Policy at the Center for Vision and Values which is a part of Grove City College, April 2007.

The email from Quitnet and further framing thoughts on GBTWYCF2 on SBS

First the email from Quitnet:

Hello Neil Whitfield!

Your Quit Date is: Monday, February 28, 2011 at 12:00:00 AM
Time Smoke-Free: 548 days, 20 hours, 1 minute and 20 seconds
Cigarettes NOT smoked: 27442
Lifetime Saved: 6 months, 29 days, 15 hours
Money Saved: $17,536.00

I did celebrate at the appropriate time on Facebook and Quitnet.

Meanwhile Go Back To Where You Came From hasn’t just been playing to the choir after all.

The second series of SBS TV’s ground-breaking refugee documentary/reality series Go Back To Where You Came From drew a solid 752,000 viewers nationally last night.

The result slotted Go Back To Where You Came From into 10th place on the overnight [Tuesday] rankings…

To command such a large slice of the audience is a major win for SBS. Previously only shows such as the hit British motoring show Top Gear delivered similar audiences to SBS.

The first series, which was screened last year, was watched by 524,000 viewers on its first night and ranked 23rd for the night. It then built to 569,000 and 600,000 for its second and third nights…

The second series features six celebrities: former government minister Peter Reith, comedian Catherine Deveney, singer Angry Anderson, former ombudsman Allan Asher, model Imogen Bailey and former "shock jock" broadcaster Michael Smith.

In last night’s first episode the group was split and sent to Kabul in Afghanistan and Mogadishu in Somalia.

The big result for SBS did particular damage to Ten, at least in perception terms. Go Back To Where You Came From out-rated every show on Ten last night.

In pure ratings terms such comparisons are not always sound – they’re a little like comparing apples and oranges – but it does serve to illustrate the particular ratings pressures on Ten at the moment.

Because of Go Back’s strong performance, SBS’s share was only a few percentage points behind Ten’s last night. That will no doubt set tongues wagging…

See also The danger is palpable in an inspired Go Back.

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Peter Reith in Kabul: not a monster

Peter Reith appeared also in Leaky Boat last year. There he stayed in his sheltered workshop of memory and self-justification, but even then…

The information in this documentary is substantial and coherent. It is also very persuasive.

Fascinating to me – because it conformed with the serving sailors I spoke to around that time – was the honesty and clear sight of the military.

What the documentary added to the picture for the first time, as far as I know, were voices from the boat people themselves.

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Made a nonsense of Reith and his scrap-book – though it was interesting to notice that the iron man does have twinges of conscience. Watch it again if you don’t believe me!

Full marks to Reith for participating in GBTWYCF, and he does have a point when he asks:  if the number of asylum seekers taken into Australia were raised to 40,000 or 50,000 what would his critics do about the 50,000-and-first arrival?  It isn’t a silly question. This and other questions also concern me. However:

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We can do better than that – hardly a controversial statement in my opinion.

I would like to repeat a remark I made last night on Facebook though – a note to self as much as anything.

Go Back to Where You Came From part 2. Very thought-provoking and best given some hard thought not knee-jerk reactions of whatever kind. Glib self-righteousness is just too easy and I admit I have been known to indulge myself.

I think we rather miss the point if we just dwell on anything crass someone like Mike Smith may say. The personal dynamics of the participants have become extremely interesting and if GBTWYCF makes us all a bit more willing to listen and a bit more circumspect and a bit more aware of the complexity and sheer scale of the issue – and, as much on the left as on the right, a bit less parochial and myopic – it will have done everyone a favour. Friday’s debriefing and discussion will be well worth seeing.

You are well advised the boycott anything from this mob though: _SqAPPLogo_normal. Now there is something the country really does not need – ever! We have been down this road under other names before.

Relevant in its way is Anonymity powers the cudgels in hatesphere by Elizabeth Farrelly in today’s Herald.

Anyway, all hell broke loose. By breakfast, my humdrum little blog had 50 comments and a thousand hits. By day’s end, almost 4000.

I was called a pompous prat, a rude and viscious (sic) idiot, an incredibly stupid woman, a small sad person, a pompous git, an old commie bat, an absolute wanker, a poor little suffering Doctor princess pet, a moron, an imbecile, a pestiferous little idiot, a selfish fool, an arrogant conceited woman, an old tart, an old fart, a dolt, lord of the bicycle paths, a wowser, pathetic, despicable, weak, dishonest and a complete f—wit.

"That people can anonymously abuse someone in public is not freedom of expression," said author and essayist John Ralston Saul during a conversation last week with members of Sydney PEN. "It’s slander. It’s not taking responsibility for your views. It’s not citizenship."

His critique of cyberspace’s role in "the rise of secrecy as an acceptable way of grabbing power" resonated strongly with me, especially considering my experiences in the digital hatesphere.

There’s a bus you see round town that bears, in similar vein, a quote from Peter Cundall: "The greatest power that ordinary people have … is to tell the truth."

Both presume that "ordinary people" are oppressed by the secrecy of governments and corporations, which is no doubt true. But in the blogosphere the boot is on the other foot. There, it’s so-called "ordinary people" for whom secrecy becomes both mask and cudgel.

Which is not about immigration issues but about the way we conduct discussion.

See also How do we escape the hysteria that threatens to erode public debate? by Peter Beaumont.

…The internet, it was once claimed by theorists such as Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody, was supposed to be democratising and empowering, giving a voice to those marginalised by the elite of opinion formers dominating the media and politics.

These days, even Shirky has moved to distance himself from that earlier utopian idealism, telling Journalism.co.uk three years ago he feared that he, like others, had got it wrong and that public pressure via the internet, far from leading to "democratic legitimation", could be seen as "just another implementation layer for special interest groups".

All of which leads to an inevitable question – whether our new developing public discourse, largely mediated online, has made our conversation more open, democratic and accountable? Or, instead, more fragmented and poisonous?

Among the pessimists has been the US academic Cass Sunstein, who was early in proposing a more dystopian picture of how debate was being shaped online, noting a fundamental contradiction. "New technologies," Sunstein has suggested, "including the internet, make it easier for people to hear the opinions of like-minded but otherwise isolated others."

He noted that while the internet was efficient in bringing together virtual communities of interest, it also encouraged participants "to isolate themselves from competing views… [creating a] breeding ground for polarisation, potentially dangerous for both democracy and social peace"…

In that spirit I again commend Peter Reith:

So, would I do it again? No, but the real success of the series is the extent to which the audience is encouraged to better understand the issues and promote informed debate. I know that sounds pretty mundane, but it’s the stuff of a functional democratic society.

Back to The Prof…

Got the results yesterday.

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So I have to go and see Professor McKenzie again… So far as I understand the above report it is a good news/bad news story, but could be a lot worse and is mostly good.

Read this the other day:

Neurotic subjects are perhaps less addicted than any, despite the time-honoured phrase, to ‘listening to their insides’: they can hear so many things going on inside themselves, by which they realise later that they did wrong to let themselves be alarmed, that they end by paying no attention to any of them.

Marcel Proust

So this is how I passed my time from 10 am to 2 pm yesterday

Some of it was in a machine just like this – I know, I read the brand name.

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Hawkeye, eh! Just like in the Cricket telecasts?

And you can read all about what is involved here. I don’t have the results yet, but the doctor did say if they found anything very serious they would send me straight to hospital – and they didn’t.

Three years ago a Bloomberg item reported that such tests average $2,000 each. Thanks to our still comparatively enlightened approach to health care in Australia yesterday cost me ZERO, NADA, ZILCH! Count your blessings, Aussies, and be careful who you vote for – even if so far health policy has been rather bipartisan.

The facility where I was done was just down this street.

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Pretty place, Wollongong.

Happy birthday to all my equine readers…

Tomorrow will be eventful. And very likely boring.

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Because I am spending five hours from 10 am tomorrow here:

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Now as for blog stats…

Sitemeter had the collywobbles in July:

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Those gaps aren’t lack of visitors; they are data lost while Sitemeter was off the planet.

However, according to WordPress stats this blog averaged 105 visits a day in July, way down from the admittedly freaky 305 in June but the same as February. The photo blog ticked along on 34, down on June’s 40 but it is averaging 41 this week!

Top posts here for July:

  1. Home page / Archives 997 views in July 2012
  2. Defending The Shire: the place, not the trash TV… 105
  3. A very personal Australia Day 26 January – my family 78
  4. Nostalgia and the globalising world — from Thomas Hardy to 2010 75
  5. The Shire, The Shire! Again… And there’s more! 73
  6. Being Australian 16: inclusive multiculturalism Aussie style 9 – my tribes 53
  7. Aboriginal History and some recent art 50
  8. E-books and editing–opportunity and hazard 48
  9. Being Australian 11: inclusive multiculturalism Aussie style 4 47
  10. Second Final – Australia’s Got Talent 2012 46
  11. Jack Vidgen–Australia’s Got Talent last night 41
  12. Last night I watched AGT and bits of the State of Origin… 41
  13. Niggling example of political short-sightedness: Maldon-Dombarton rail link 40
  14. This may well be the best Australian history book I have EVER read! 38
  15. The Rainbow Warrior 32
  16. About 32
  17. Did you watch The Swimmer last night? 28
  18. Best documentary on climate change so far… 24
  19. Family history and mystery–the Indigenous connection 22
  20. Wollongong local history 22