On last week’s Saturday Night Live, Miley Cyrus did an impression of Michele Bachmann twerking with House Speaker John Boehner. Afterwards, Congresswoman Bachmann said that her office received calls from people who thought it was actually her in the parody. 


On last week’s Saturday Night Live, Miley Cyrus did an impression of Michele Bachmann twerking with House Speaker John Boehner. Afterwards, Congresswoman Bachmann said that her office received calls from people who thought it was actually her in the parody


Samantha Bee talks to Andranik Migranyan, Director of the Institute for Democracy and Cooperation.

What a Single Vote Can Do

This article was first published in the New Matilda.

Julia Gillard and the Labor party lost the 2010 election. That is, they failed to win the majority vote. Tony Abbott and the Liberal party lost too – only gaining 72 seats for the Labor Party’s sixty nine, four short of the requirement for majority government.

Four non-majority party members were elected into the parliament: one member of the Greens, one member of the National Party of Western Australia and four independent members held the balance of power. Andrew Wilkie, a former Greens candidate and now Independent Member, was elected as the Member for Denison. On 2 September 2010 he declared his support for Labor on confidence and supply.

Bob Katter, Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott, all independents, were re-elected. Both Katter and Windsor were successful at previous elections, while Oakeshott was elected at the 2008 Lyne by-election. All are former members of the National Party but were open to negotiating with either side to form government. They said they would engage in discussion as a bloc but vote individually.

On 7 September, Katter declared his support for the Coalition and Windsor and Oakeshott for Labor. The Labor party formed government with a margin of just one independent. Voters in Windsor and Oakeshott’s electorates had a shedload of power in 2010. It just goes to show that single votes matter at all levels of government.

Take, for example, the 2011 local government election for Roebourne Shire, in Western Australia. Only 30 per cent of eligible voters voted during the council elections, and the position of President was decided by a name pulled out of a box. As Tom Stephen MLA observed, “A single vote can make a difference, and in this case will change the administration of the Roebourne Shire”.

Mandatory voting tends to produce “donkey votes”, where voters who don’t know (or don’t care) just number the boxes in order from the top. The donkey vote is so common that candidates try to have their name at the top of ballots to catch it. Others deliberately spoil their ballots or leave them blank; some who are enrolled to vote no longer want their vote to go towards any candidate.

There was an informal vote of 5.55 per cent in the 2010 election, a rise from past years. Hundreds of thousands of votes were not counted because tthey weren’t filled out properly.

The gap between political rivals for nine closely fought federal electorates in 2010 was smaller than the number of invalid ballot papers - if just some of those invalid ballot papers were filled in properly, they could have made the difference those voters wanted to see.

So don’t walk around thinking that just because you don’t agree with the current available parties doesn’t mean that your vote – or lack of it – won’t affect anything.

In the US, where voting is voluntary, and only a small percentile of the population votes. Historically, small proportions of the African American population cast votes. In 2004, just 60 per cent of eligible African Americans voted. In that race, George Bush won by about three million votes. In 2000, when all-over voter turnout was a record low 55 per cent, George W. Bush won Florida by just 527 votes. Commentators like Gerry Hudson argue that a surge in voting among African Americans and other core Democrat constituencies could have tipped both presidential races.

For a significant change in leadership, these numbers only have to change slightly. When Barack Obama first ran for presidency in 2008, 65 per cent of African Americans voted, an increase of just 5 per cent, but this increase was essential for Obama’s victory. In 2012, African Americans represented 13 per cent of the overall voter turnout – which delivered key states like Virginia, Ohio, and Florida and gave Obama another four years in the Oval Office.

Australia uses a preferential voting system. Under this system, voters can either “vote above the line” simply by listing the candidates on the ballot paper in the order of their preference, number one being their first preference, number two being their second preference, and so on. Or, you can “vote below the line” by numbering a large number of individual candidate’s boxes in the order of your own preference.

Let’s go back to the 2010 election: After gaining the support of four crossbenchers, Labor was able to form a minority government. A vote for these independents brought their agendas to the forefront – the NBN, poker machine reform, and same-sex marriage to name a few. An government with independents can break up the large party majority, and compel them to listen and attend to issues that they might not have done so otherwise.

It’s not a perfect system by any stretch of the imagination. And helping vote an independent member into parliament doesn’t guarantee that key members of the major parties will follow through with agreements made with independents in exchange for their support.

But the key point here is that your vote is in no way a drop in a very inconsequential ocean. It can have a direct effect on state and federal elections, and the only way you can make your vote completely useless is to not use it.


Is this the first time John Oliver’s ever been on Youtube? You can find a comment like that under literally every video ever. 


 How Climate Change Is Fueling A Rise In Deadly Diseases

This article was first published in Uppercase Magazine

In the 19th century, a sealing boat was caught off the east coast of Tasmania, and took shelter in a bay near the Bass Islands. One of the men on board, John Boultbee, wrote an account of what they found there.

They were approached by a group of three men, covered in animal skins with long, grizzled beards, who came aboard asking for nothing more than liquor.

Despite their clothing, their pale skin could be seen through their fur coverings, and when they spoke, it was with the use of rhyming cockney slang.

They were the Eastern Straitsmen: British sealers who had come to Tasmania to work along the Tamar River, and had eventually moved into the straits to catch seals independently. Life there was almost impossibly hard: Tasmania was a hard and sometimes uninhabitable place for European settlers, and the Straitsmen adapted an almost indigenous lifestyle to survive.

It was this encounter with the cockneys dress in indigenous furs that Australian designer Trent Jansen says unlocked the story of George Briggs for him, one of the Eastern Straitsmen who married Woretemoeteyenner, the daughter of a tribal leader, Mannalargenna.

Trent’s work has often been influenced by the desire to tell a story. He originally gained attention with his award-winning ‘sign stool’. Recycled from roadside signs, they can be used as stand-alone seats, loop together as a bench, or can be stacked to create shelves. They also carry the individual history of that sign, along with imperfections like paint marks and grooves from its former life. 

Briggs was from Dunstable, Britain, and at the age of 15 he came to Tasmania as a free settler, learning how to be a sealer and whaler as he worked in the Tamar Valley. Joining the Eastern Straitsmen in their quest to live and work independently, he learned the local indigenous language and struck up a friendship with Woretemoeteyenner’s father, and under an agreement sanctioned by him, she went to live with George.

Their children were some of the first to be born to a mixed Aboriginal and British couple, and their family history inspired Trent’s first design for Broached Commissions: The Briggs Family Tea Service.

The first commission focuses on the Colonial Period in Australia, investigating the moment that the industrial revolution was brought to Australia by successive waves of convict transportations and free settler arrivals to Australia.

The frenetic dissymmetry of the tea set design is a warning of what is to come for George and Woretemoeteyenner. They were hurled into a world that had no intention of adapting or understanding them. Trent explains how he created the designs:

“Woretemoeteyenner was the first one I designed, and she’s essentially a fusion of a British sugar bowl, and a Tasmanian Aboriginal water carrying vessel, they were of a similar scale and a similar form, and those two objects fused together for me.”


"She was forced to go through massive changes: she would have been forced to learn to speak English to communicate with these men, she would have been taken away from her family,

She would have lived in these communities, cooked for them – she hunted for them as well, the difference between her mother and her was so great, and a lot of it was because of this British-European influence, that’s how her form came to be.

“George is the Tea Pot, and the core form is my reinterpretation of a ceramic or porcelain British tea pot, the kind of generation that George would have seen in England, and the pot is a pared- back version that’s being engulfed by the fabrics of those islands, kind of wrapping around him.”

Their four children, Dolly, Eliza, Mary and John would endure the brutal brunt of colonisation, and Trent explores this through the pieces.

“Dolly grew up in a white foster family, and she clashed with Aboriginal people because she had merged into European society a far bit. In the tea set, she’s also a reinterpretation of a water carrying vessel, but using wallaby skin instead of kelp, and again it’s the fusion of a very simple British milk jug with a water carrying vessel.

“Mary and Eliza suffered similar fates: they ended up on the street, both died when they were 21. You can only imagine the kind of stuff they would have seen and been subject to, so I felt that there needed to be some gnarled aspect to their form, considering the lives that they lived, and that was my way of exploring their lives.

“John met a Victorian Aboriginal woman, and there are still Briggs in Victoria now, I’ve been told that Briggs is a really common indigenous name in Victoria and from what I’ve been told, they’re all from John.  So to me, John represents survival, and in the tea set, I designed him as a simple cup with a groove around the side, with a kelp sleeve to insulate the heat.

“At the core of this is the metaphor that these forms represent British characteristics, and yet they contain indigenous forms – it’s as though this very British tradition of taking tea is being taken over by another world.  So it’s the fusion of these archetypes that I’m exploring.”







I believe that you’ve been on several programs and have never disclosed that you were a Muslim.
says Fox News person to Muslim scholar who constantly *discloses* that he’s a Muslim… (via motherjones)

Standing at the Precipice: The final Northern White Rhino breeding program

Right now, 25% of mammals are at risk of extinction, and the United Nations designated 2011-2020 as the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity.

And this fact became ever more apparent when, on the 7th of May, the Western Black Rhino was declared officially extinct by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, after decades of poaching depleted its numbers and little to no effort was given to trying protect the animal. 

In Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya,where scientists are fighting to save the Northern White Rhino against almost impossible obstacles. There are just 7 Northern White Rhino alive, and the four living at Ol Pejeta are the only ones capable of breeding the next generation. 

The Northern White Rhino formerly ranged over parts of Northwestern Uganda, Southern Chad, Southern South Sudan, the eastern part of the Central African Republic, and Northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, but political instability through the 20th and 21st century in these regions is the key factor that has it enabled the poaching of wild animals to go unchecked, and this affects hundreds of species of rare and endangered animals.

With the four rhinos at Ol Pejeta recovering from years of life at a European Zoo, the conditions of which commonly inhibit breeding and the general health of Rhinos, the teams of vets and conservationist are fighting against time to keep the Northern White Rhinos alive, safe from poachers, and able to reproduce. 

This show features an interview with Richard Vigne, CEO of Ol Pejeta Conservancy.