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Archive for the ‘Current Affairs’ Category

After two weeks of protests over the possibly rigged re-election of Iranian President Imanutjob in which twenty people were killed and hundreds arrested, things are back to normal in Iran.

Irans’ supreme executive body, Guardian Council, has refused to annul the elections. A spokesman for the council said they were “among the healthiest elections ever held in the country”.

Given Iran’s history, that may well be true.

G8 foreign ministers have issued a statement saying they intend to write a letter saying how angry they are.

Oh, sorry. I was almost right. The statement says they deplore the post-election violence, and urge Iran to resolve the crisis through democratic dialogue.

Seinfield should find out who their writer is and give him a job.

Meanwhile President Obama has issued a stern warning that if the violence keeps up, he may be forced to consider using adverbs.

But there are some possible positives:

Regardless of any change in Iranian domestic politics, the crackdown could influence the Middle East by undercutting public support for Islamist groups and perhaps by pushing others to reevaluate their ties with the country.

The scenes of Muslims being killed by other Muslims for voicing their beliefs will “weaken the argument of Islamists in the region who have been holding Iran up as a model,” Palestinian analyst and pollster Ghassan Khatib wrote in the online publication Bitterlemons.org. “The damage is irreversible regardless of the outcome” and could affect debate within Palestinian society divided between Hamas and the more moderate (read, slightly less nasty) Fatah movement.

And then, like Neville Chamberlain, Barack Obama may begin to realise that being nice to dictators does not mean that they will be nice to you.

Michael Jackson has died of a heart attack. he was fifty. The same age as me.

He was a bit of a Peter Pan, always seeming young, despite the ghastly plastic surgery.

The last several years have been difficult for him, with accusations of child abuse followed by declining income.

People with high public visibility are easy targets. An accusation of child abuse is enough to destroy a career.

This gives money seeking predators enormous power. All that is needed is to arrange for a child to be alone with the star for a few minutes, and that is enough to have a basis for blackmail.

‘Give me $2 million or I’ll go to the police.’

Because there is no way to prove something did not happen, and people are so willing to believe the worst, it may seem easier for a high profile personality to pay the money. Then if that gets out, the celebrity magazines take it as proof of guilt.

Of course some celebrities really are drug abusing, child molesting monsters. I don’t think it is fair to Michael to assume he was – there is not enough evidence to make that judgment.

But there is enough evidence to be thankful for his contribution to music and dance.

It became fashionable to dislike his music after ‘Bad’ (which really wasn’t). But you only have to watch the videos of ‘Beat It’  (from ‘Thriller, the biggest selling album of all time) or ‘Black or White’ (the biggest selling single of the nineties), to realise that he was an entertainer who was genuinely creative, and genuinely entertaining.

Requiscat in Pace.

I am not sure that some of the criticism directed at President Barack Obama over his reticence to comment on the Iran election is entirely fair.

He can reasonably comment on the brutal suppression of dissent, and he has recently done so.

But given the lack of clarity about the election result, and the West’s history of poor understanding of popular feeling in Iran, it seems wisest to restrain (as Obama has done) from making any public statements questioning the way the election was run, or its result.

Some organisations have claimed there is evidence the election was fixed. They might be right. But without clear evidence, claims that this is so by governments are likely to do more harm than good.

Whether we like it or not, Imanutjob is a popular figure in Iran, not least because he is percieved to have stood up to the US. For the US to interfere, even to make public comment, is as likely to strengthen conservative elements in Iran as to give comfort to the protestors and others who want a more liberal regime.

Meanwhile, violence continues, and Iran makes progress towards the development of nuclear weapons.

On the other hand, Obama deserves far more criticism than he has so far received for the sacking of Inspector General Gerald Walpin.

Inspectors General have wide powers to investigate corruption, and are supposed to be free from the threat of politcally based dismissal. The president is obliged to give an IG 30 days notice, and to advise Congress of specific reasons for a dismissal. Obama did neither of those things.

Gerald Walpin was investigating possible misue of charity funds by a major Obama campaign donor. He was doing his job. He was fired. As far as I can tell, this story, which broke  a week ago, has only appeared on Fox News and on right-wing blogs. Why?

Kathy and I cared for foster children over a number of years, including babies and toddlers.

I well understand the diffculties of blending work and the responsibilities of caring for children. There are a number of worksplaces and public facilties which are not supportive of people with children. Whether it is appropriate to expect that they should be or need to be is another question.

The Australian Federal Parliament is not a child-unfriendly place.

The work that senators do is serious. They review legislation which potentially affects the lives and well-being of every Australian. They are paid well to do so. Parliament is set up so they can do their work in an atmosphere free from distactions and unnecessary annoyances.

Senators come from all walks of life. I am glad that amongst the business men and women, unionists and career politicians, there are some people with young children.

As well as personal staff, members of parliament have access to tax-payer funded child care services, and quiet rooms where they be with their children without disrupting discussion in the house, where they can hear any debate, and from where their vote can be recorded.

So with all this support, and other options available, why did Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young insist on taking her two year old daughter Kora into the Senate chamber?

As Wendy Hargreaves pointed out in yesterday’s Herald Sun:

Infantile screaming is nothing new to our Federal Parliament. Political bawlers come in all ages and political colours.

But this week’s wah-wah effort by Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young takes political mewling to an all-time low …

It’s not enough that they make us feel guilty for turning on a heater. Now they’re sending the Senate into a guilt trip for refusing infants.

This isn’t a play centre. This is the Upper House of Australia’s Federal Parliament.

Australian parents know the difficulty and the cost of arranging child care, and the pain of leaving a child to be looked after by someone else. They do it day after day without complaining.

By all means let Senator Hanson-Young take her daughter to Canberra. And to parliament if she cannot organise anything else.

But please Senator, don’t tell us you are hard done by if you don’t follow the rules, and won’t use the resources we pay for to help you do your job.

Senator Steve Fielding says he believes it would be irresponsible for any member of parliament to vote for the Australian Federal Government’s carbon emission trading scheme, given that it will cause substantial damage to the economy, and that the environment minister and her chief scientific advisor are unable to answer simple questions about the causes and extent of climate change, and the effect on climate of the proposed legislation.

In related news, local councils are saying that a carbon tax of $20 per ton will add $344 million per year to their operating costs. If that money cannot be raised from rate-payers or additional government grants, there will be drastic reductions in council services.

That will bite hard. Local government is the level of government in which most people are least interested, but which arguably has the greatest impact on day to day life – provision of local roads, community facilities, parks, street lighting, libraries, etc.

This Cap and Tax Maze from the Carbon Sense Coalition illustrates the questions that would need to be answered before the legislation could responsibly be enacted:

Cap and Tax Maze

Cap and Tax Maze

Added to all this is the fact the proposed legislation won’t even come into effect until 2011. There is plenty of time to do more research, to ask more questions, to consider the costs of the scheme and other options more carefully.

So why is the government in such a rush to ram it through before the end of this week?

I seriously doubt it.

This article in today’s Australian points to a 159% increase in the number of women facing dometic violence charges over the last eight years as an indicator that women are becoming more violent.

It is more likely simply that police and care groups are beginning to take complaints made by men about domestic violence more seriously.

For a long time I have been concerned about campaigns which say something like ‘To violence against women, Australia says no.’  Why single out women in particular? Is violence against everyone else OK?

Such campaigns are based on the assumption that violence aginst women needs to be targeted because women are more frequently the victims of violence. But this is simply untrue. Outside the home, men are far more likely to be victims of violence than women.

But what about inside the home?

There is a vast body of research to show that women are just as likely as men to be perpetrators of domestic violence as men. There is a substantial online bibliography collected by Martin Fiebert of the Department of Psychology at California State University. Some research suggests that women are more likely to be the initiators of violence, and are more likely than men to use a weapon against their partner or children.

Erin Pizzey, the pioneer of shelters for victims of domestic abuse, points out that research suggests violence is a learned behaviour. When children see adults using violence as a means to resolve disagreements they learn those behaviours, whether the violence is used by male or female or both.

Women’s violence against men has frequently been treated as joke, both in entertainment (see the film ‘Stakeout’ for example, in which the character played by Richard Dreyfuss is viciously assaulted by his partner in what is meant to be, and to female members of the audience clearly was, a vastly amusing scene) and in real life, where male victims of domestic violence who report such violence to police are belittled or told to be a man and stop complaining.

If feminists and policy-makers are serious about ending domestic violence, they must take violence against men and children as seriously as they do violence against women.

In domestic violence, just as in economic and foreign policy, effective action must be based on facts, not on ideology.

The ABC (pleasant surprise!) has just posted a remarkably fair article on this story, with some interesting comment by Sue Price, co-director of the Men’s Right’s Agency.

But Carrie Prejean is still a lady:

I worked in good faith to meet my responsibilities as Miss California USA. I have met every scheduled appearance, and responsibility, as recently as May 31st. I have followed the proper protocol requested of me and haven’t made any appearances or speaking engagements without the consent or approval from the Miss California USA or Miss Universe Organizations. I have not signed with any book publisher or taken on any business proposals. As of today, June 11, 2009, I have done everything possible to honor my contract.

I hope Americans watching this story unfold, take away the most important lesson I have learned through all of this: nothing is more important than standing up for what you believe in, no matter what the cost may be. I’ve done my best under the difficult circumstances to handle the vicious attacks with integrity and show respect to others, even those who don’t agree with me.

A pity that some of those around her did not share her beliefs. No not that one (though I agree with her and so does the new Miss California), the one about acting with integrity and showing respect even to people who disagree with you.

In another article from Townhall, Chuck Norris draws on an open letter from Lou Pritchett, a former vice president of Procter & Gamble, to list a few scary things about Obama and his administration.

He starts with the obvious, something I have mentioned a number of times, that the man who is now running the largest economy and the most powerful nation in the world, has never run or managed anything before in his life. Quite frankly, on his record, I wouldn’t give him a job running my little shop on Kangaroo Island.

Here’s more, some from Pritchett, some from Chuck:

You scare me because you have never run a company or met a payroll. …

You scare me because for over half your life you have aligned yourself with radical extremists who hate America and you refuse to publicly denounce these radicals who wish to see America fail.

You scare me because you are a cheerleader for the ‘blame America’ crowd and deliver this message abroad.

You scare me because you really do believe that going into massive amounts of debt can remedy our economy in the long run.

You scare me because you repeatedly still play the blame game with the Bush administration but never blame the Clinton administration, even though it was responsible for the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac subprime fiasco via the proliferation of loans to unqualified borrowers.

You scare me because you claim to be a fighter for minorities and the promises of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness yet do not defend the unborn. What greater minority is there than those in the womb, against whom you already have enacted more pro-abortion laws than anyone since the Roe v. Wade decision?

Or maybe not.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad certainly got the most votes. But a couple of things point to the possibility the result may have been, let’s say, adjusted. For the people’s benefit, of course. Because they don’t really know what is best for them.

First, the voter turnout was massively higher than ever before. That in itself doesn’t prove anything. But that almost every one of those additional votes was a vote for Imanutjob does make one wonder. Worthwhile news and debate on this from this New York Times blog.

It is certainly clear that some Iranians feel cheated. Again, there are always some people who feel cheated after any election. But the strength of feeling, and the willingness to protest openly despite the risks, suggests that this is not just a whining minority.

And then, Mousavi’s opposition party claims to have evidence that 10 million votes were counted without the required national identification numers being recorded.

The numbers Imanutjob is claiming show massive support for his repressive and aggressive regime. But if those numbers have been faked, it is possible the tide of popular feeling in Iran is turning against the anti-west, great Satan sentiments of the past.

But with protests being banned, and protestors being beaten and worse, there is still a long a painful road ahead.

The West must not abandon those working for change in Iran.

Update:

In a startling turn of events, Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has ordered a formal investigation into allegations of electoral fraud:

The decision has offered hope to opposition forces who have waged street clashes to protest the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

State television quoted him directing a high-level clerical panel, the Guardian Council, to look into charges by pro-reform candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, who has said he is the rightful winner of Friday’s presidential election.

Such an election probe by the 12-member council is uncharted territory and it not immediately clear how it would proceed or how long it would take.

Election results must be authorized by the council, composed of clerics closely allied with the unelected supreme leader. All three of Mr Ahmadinejad’s challengers in the election – Mr Mousavi and two others – have made public allegations of fraud after results showed the president winning by a 2-to-1 margin.

‘Issues must be pursued through a legal channel,’ state TV quoted Khamenei as saying. The supreme leader said he has ‘insisted that the Guardian Council carefully probe this letter.’

The day after the election, Khamenei urged the nation to unite behind Mr Ahmadinejad and called the result a ‘divine assessment.’

The results touched off three days of clashes – the worst unrest in Tehran in a decade. Protesters set fires and battled anti-riot police, including a clash overnight at Tehran University after 3,000 students gathered to oppose the election results.

Find common ground in their concerns about Obama’s speech to the Islamic world in Cairo.

I wrote  a few days ago that the big omission from that speech was any reference to the real reasons for the foundation of the state of Israel, and any truthful relating of the history of Israel.

There were some good and brave things in Obama’s speech, and they should be recognised and honoured. But that does not mean that the speech should be immune from criticism, and in some respects it was a  major opportunity lost.

Ann Coulter responded with her typically ascerbic insight:

Obama bravely told the Cairo audience that 9/11 was a very nasty thing for Muslims to do to us, but on the other hand, they are victims of colonization.

Except we didn’t colonize them. The French and the British did. So why are Arabs flying planes into our buildings and not the Arc de Triomphe? (And gosh, haven’t the Arabs done a lot with the Middle East since the French and the British left!)

In another sharks-to-kittens comparison, Obama said, “Now let me be clear, issues of women’s equality are by no means simply an issue for Islam.” No, he said, “the struggle for women’s equality continues in many aspects of American life.”

So on one hand, 12-year-old girls are stoned to death for the crime of being raped in Muslim countries. But on the other hand, we still don’t have enough female firefighters here in America.

Delusionally, Obama bragged about his multiculti worldview, saying, “I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal.” In Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan and other Muslim countries, women “choose” to cover their heads on pain of losing them.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali also points out that it is not simply being polite, but a massive untruth, to claim a moral equivalence between the treatment of women in Islamic societies and the roles and choices available to women in the West.

Obama, she says, should speak the truth to Islam:

That poor girl in Qatif, Saudi Arabia, who, after seven men raped her, was sentenced to flogging, had succumbed to the novel idea of flirting by mobile phone. In Saudi Arabia, every Friday, cruel and unusual punishment is perpetrated, far worse than anything John Adams saw in his time. The hands of those suspected of stealing — mostly poor, immigrant workers — are amputated.

The more one is dark-skinned in Saudi Arabia, the bleaker his circumstances, not to mention hers. For in Saudi Arabia, black is still considered to be inferior. Men and women convicted of adultery, apostasy, treason and other “offences” are beheaded. Thousands of women are rotting in Saudi jails, waiting to be flogged, or are flogged daily for acts such as mingling with men, improper attire, fornication and virtual relationships on the internet and mobile phones.

Promotion of literacy for girls, which the President wants to help pursue, is a noble cause. But, unless sharia laws are repealed, more girls will find themselves in flogging pens rather than rising up the career ladder.

Probably nothing. That is, nothing except a high altitude weather balloon made of a then classified material crashing, later to be recovered by members of the 509th.

But then, it seems to be true that the first press releases from local authorities including the military, reported the finding of a flying saucer.

And there are reports (although now mostly second hand) of men who were there reporting seeing oddly shaped bodies and strange materials.

The base intelligence officer who was tasked with taking the wreckage to another base reports leaving it in an office there and returning a few minutes later to find that the space debris he had brought had been replaced with parts of a weather balloon.

One account of those days comes from Julie Shuster, whose father was the press officer at the Roswell base.

“My daddy didn’t lie. My father saw the bodies, my father saw the craft,” she says. “He saw bodies – large heads, almond shaped eyes… and material that couldn’t be burnt, ripped, cut – anything.”

Well, maybe. But then ..

Is it just a coincidence that aliens have never managed to find an earth-dweller who knows how to operate his own camera properly?

And why, if you have journeyed light years across the unknowable vastness of the heavens, would you confine yourself to a fleeting and ambiguous appearance before a handful of New Mexican ranchers?

So police taser him to death.

Tasers are a useful addition to the range of options available to police in subduing violent or resistant suspects.

The man in question had allegedly assaulted his his girlfirend, and had smashed some property. He was also known to be at risk of suicide, and at the time of his arrest was threatening no one but himself.

When capsicum spray proved ineffective, he was tasered at least three times. Tasering someone to death because he is threatening to hurt himself does not seem even a remotely intelligent or appropriate response.

If no one else was in danger, why not just back off until he calmed down?

Someone who is winning an argument with a liberal.

That one has been around for a while. But that doesn’t stop it being true.

Michael Coren at the National Post points out that if mainstream parties continue to ignore the often reasonable conerns of ordinary people, and continue to demonise those who express such concerns, they ought not to be surprised when parties like the BNP begin to make inroads into mainstream politics.

The British National Party does not goose-step. It has worked diligently to expunge the Nazi image of previous rightist parties, claiming to be nationalist rather than Fascist. It’s both true and false. Almost every believing right-wing extremist supports the BNP, but most BNP supporters are not right-wing extremists. Indeed, while the party is not trusted by the vast majority of minority groups, it does has a Jewish municipal councillor and some support in elements of the black, Hindu and Sikh communities.

Most of all, it has support within a white working-class that has been taken for granted by the Labour Party for half a century. These are the unheard, the anonymous, the ordinary. The sort of people who fight the wars, build the cities and hold the country together. When, however, they complain of the disappearance of their culture and values and speak of inner-city crime and decay, their collective cry is dismissed as racism by a political and social elite that can afford not to understand.

The new number in the equation is Islam, and the number is growing. While there is an expanding and quintessentially English Muslim middle class and a strong resistance to fundamentalism, Islamic isolationism is a major factor now in dozens of British cities. Entire self-imposed ghettoes resembling Mecca Road rather than Coronation Street make routinely tolerant, moderate British people feel excluded, afraid and irrelevant.

This is not mere fantasy. There are honour killings, Muslim gang crime aimed at the white community, young Muslim men dealing drugs and prostitution. There is also a political fanaticism that culminated in the 2005 terror attacks which killed 52 people and injured 700.

The response of the traditional parties, the churches and the BBC is to try to silence the already largely powerless with lectures about Islamophobia. It’s disingenuous, patronizing and counter-productive. A new conversation has to be formed, and sensitive yet difficult questions have to be asked of everybody concerned, including British Muslims and their new left-wing comrades. Otherwise the laughter might stop and the marching begin. Even in good old England.

And in good old Australia.

And drilling for oil in Alaska.

Sounds sensible. Nuclear reactors are a cheap, clean way to produce vast amounts of power, and they produce no greenhouse gas emissions.

Taking oil from the massive reserves in Alaska will reduce dependence on foreign energy, a significant vulnerability not just for the US, but the whole of the West.

I’m just waiting for the squeals of horror.

When it is the entirely righteous anger of ordinary people at pointless violence, and the distortion and corruption of their faith.

Pakistani villagers enraged with the Taliban after the bombing of a mosque battled the militants on Monday, underscoring a shift in public opinion away from the hardline Islamists.

The Taliban have stepped up bomb attacks and are suspected of being behind a suicide blast at a mosque in the Upper Dir region, near Swat, that killed about 40 people on Friday.

Outraged by the attack, villagers formed a militia, known as a lashkar, of about 500 men and began fighting the militants on Saturday in an bid to force them out of their area.

A February pact aimed at placating the Taliban in Swat by introducing Islamic sharia law sailed through parliament with only one or two voices of dissent.

But much has changed since then…

A Taliban push into a district 100 km (60 miles) from Islamabad, a widely circulated video of Taliban flogging a teenaged girl and the Islamists’ denunciation of the constitution as “unIslamic” have sharply shifted public opinion.

All that is good. But many in Pakistan still see the Taliban as their Islamic brothers, and a less important enemy than India, the US or Jews.

Pakistan must, and the rest of world must help, reassure, resettle and rebuild, where the battle with the Taliban has caused death and loss of homes and livelihoods. If we do not, the tide of feeling will turn against Pakistan’s government and the West, as quickly as it now seems to have turned in favour.

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