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Archive for the ‘Current Affairs’ Category

I am not worried by Supreme Court nominee Sotomayor’s apparent belief that being a latino woman makes her wiser than a white male. That is just par for the course.

Newt Gingrich is right to point out that a white male who said his experiences made him wiser than a latino woman would be decried as both racist and sexist, and forced to withdraw from the nomination.

We all know that’s not going to happen with Sotomayor. Despite the hypocrisy of her remarks, conservatives cannot win that argument.

But I am quite sure that Robert Gibb’s assertion (in response to a question about abortion) that Obama is satisfied that Sotomayor’s view of the consititution is ‘similar to his’ is a coded way of saying she is supportive of his view of abortion rights.

That is the most radical view ever held by an American President. Obama does not even believe that care should be offered to children born alive after a failed abortion attempt.

Sotomayor’s views on abortion are a concern for liberals because she is a catholic by birth. Fortunately for them, and unfortunately for justice and for the children of America, that means absolutely nothing.

Two headlines over the last week accusing Australia of being racist. Or at least, lots of Australians.

The first accusation came from Sol Trujillo. Sol  was employed to run Australia’s largest telco. He liked to think of himself as a rebel, encountering resistance at every turn from shareholders, employees and government. Telstra’s share price dived during his incumbency, but he left with a pay packet of $31 million for four years of work. That includes $3 million paid to encourage him to leave early.

Here’s a bit more from the Daily Telegraph:

Trujillo was always at war with the regulators and the Government. He cut more than 8000 jobs in three years and complaints surged almost 250 per cent. And he earned huge sums of cash from shareholders but purchased almost no shares.

When Telstra announced in February this year that Mr Trujillo intended to leave, the company said he would work until June 30. But by terminating his employment during the notice period, not only does Mr Trujillo bring to an early end what presently appears to be the biggest failure of his career, he also increases the size of his payout.

That’s because Telstra is obliged to pay him an additional $3 million severance if he leaves before he completed his notice period.

The fact is, Sol Turjillo was a dud, who could not adapt to life in Australia and did not have the personal or business skills to lead a major corporation. He wanted to be seen as a creative leader, but could not accept advice or creative ideas from others.

Blaming his massive failure at Telstra on a racist culture is nonsense, a pathetic excuse which is unfair to workers and to Telstra shareholders, who employed him and gave him a huge paycheck for stuffing up one of Australia’s biggest companies.

The second accusation came from India’s High Commissioner to Australia. A number of Indian students have been attacked in Australia over the last few weeks.

It is entirely reasonable and appropriate for India to be concerned about the safety of Indian students living in Australia.

But why leap to the conclusion that such attacks are racially motivated?

A senior Victoria police officer said last night that Indian students tended to travel alone, and to carry expensive items like laptop computers and ipods, making attractive and vulnerable targets. That sounds like nonsense to me.

But at least two questions need to be answered before racism is even considered as a possible factor.

First, are Indian students victims of robbery or violence more often than anyone else as a proportion of the population?  Sadly, there are criminals in Australia, just as there are in every country. Any violent crime should be taken seriously. But if Indian students are no more likely to be attacked or robbed than anyone else, the problem is not racism, but law enforcement in general.

Secondly, if Indian students are victims of crime more frequently than other groups as a proportion of population, who is doing the attacking, and why?

I do not doubt that there are racists in Australia. I have seen aboriginal students throwing stones at Sudanese refugees, for example, and ‘youths of middle eastern’ appearance taunting chinese students. I have even heard white people make critical remarks about the fecklessness of some aboriginals, or the number of unassimilated immigrants.

But to claim first up, and without any evidence, that racism by whites is the reason for crime, or for people disagreeing with you, seems to me to be racist in itself. The underlying assumptions are that whitey can’t be trusted, or whitey is stupid, or whitey hates eveyone else.

Those assumptions are racist.

One of the promises made by the Labor party during the last election was that there would be more transparency in government. I guess that means being honest about information sources, advice received, funding, and who will benefit from what.

That was obviously a non-core promise.

Senator Nick Minchin discusses this in relation to the government’s vastly overpriced and already outdated fibre optic broadband plan.

Mr Rudd and Senator Conroy have repeatedly said they are simply following the advice of an expert panel and also the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. Yet they have produced no solid evidence to confirm that to be the case. ..

Its refusal to release key advice in relation to this proposal makes a mockery of its pledge to deliver a new age of transparency. And despite the scale of this project and the billions of taxpayer dollars that will be risked on it, the Government arrogantly dismisses the need for a cost benefit analysis.  It claims this network will be commercially viable, yet has also failed to produce a scrap of credible evidence to support these evangelical assertions.

And the key problem with the whole dumb idea:

The Government has no idea how many customers may choose to use this network and how much they will have to pay to do so in order for it to be viable.

It is not as if we have a spare $43 billion floating around that we couldn’t use for hospitals, roads, schools, or research.

Former Minister for Foreign Affairs Alexander Downer has told Australians planning to travel overseas to grow up and take some responsibility.

After about 10 minutes as foreign minister I was a little surprised to learn I was “responsible” for miscreant Australians who got into trouble in foreign countries.  No, no, no, don’t get it wrong – drug traffickers, drunks, kleptomaniacs and fraudsters weren’t responsible for their own stupidity – I was.

It’s about time that great nanny in Canberra, the Federal Government, turned around and told people they are responsible for their own decisions.

Mr Downer goes on to say that of course Australia will always be there to help Australians in real trouble, especially in circumstances over which they have no control, and could not reasonably have predicted.

But even then, he notes, the response of many is not an expression of thanks, but more complaining:

I couldn’t help remembering the awful events in those same places three years ago when Israel went to war with Hezbollah.

There were said to be 20,000 Australians in Lebanon at that time and a hefty percentage of them were demanding the Australian Government save them and fast.

Lebanese support groups hit the airwaves screaming that the Government was too slow getting those Australians who wanted to be evacuated to safety. But hang on, Australia’s about 15,000km from Lebanon and we don’t dock ships in the eastern Mediterranean ready to ferry Australians to safety.

And there was something else. We’d issued a travel advisory months earlier warning Australians of the dangers of southern Lebanon and the risks of going there.

It didn’t matter – apparently we had to get them out.

We were lucky. The Australian ambassador, a petite, charming professional called Lyndall Sachs, worked day and night chartering ferries and providing comfort to the evacuees, who hadn’t cared about the travel advisories, and whisked them to safety.

It was one of the great achievements of an Australian diplomat. Almost single handedly, she managed to get around 5000 Australians to Cyprus and Turkey.

We then chartered planes to take them back to Australia. I hope they built shrines to her. Some did, at least metaphorically.

But some just whinged. They felt seasick on the ferry and that was our fault. Could they get frequent flyer points for the free flight back to Australia? And all this cost around $30 million dollars – your dollars.

I’ll tell you this – I didn’t get 5000 emails of thanks but I got plenty of abuse because we weren’t fast enough, the ferries didn’t go from their port of choice and we were slow because we were racist, and so on. I mean, we’d warned them and told them not to go to the south of Lebanon. They went all the same. And when the proverbial hit the fan it was, you guessed it, “our fault”.

It is a well thought out, well written and amusing article. Read the whole thing.

Swaziland has one of the highest rates of HIV infection in the world.

Swaziland politican Timothy Myeni has suggested that HIV testing should be compulsory, and that citizens testing positive for HIV should be branded on their buttocks.

“I have a solution to this virus. The solution will come from a law that will make it compulsory to test for HIV. Once you test positive, you should be branded on the buttocks. Before having sex with anyone, people will check the buttocks of their partners before proceeding.”

Most HIV sufferers catch the disease because of choices they make about their sexual behaviour. They have HIV because they would not be responsible, would not keep their pants on.

I feel deeply sorry for HIV sufferers. AIDS is a terrible disease, and a terrible price to pay for a few stupid decisions.

But it is still true that the disease is most often a consequence of irresponsibility, irresponsibility that generally does not stop even after a person knows he or she is infected.

Whatever Swaziland has been doing so far has not been working. Myeni’s plan could work. It could even save some lives.

Naturally there is massive outrage.

Another one to add to the bleeding obvious list.

Government grants (ie, giving other people’s money) to new home owners, amount to $21,000.

Because they have a larger deposit, (sometimes the grant is their only deposit) first home buyers are able to arrange larger loans. Which they are often unable to afford.

The average loan size for first-home buyers has risen by $52,000 – or 23 per cent – in the past two years, raising fears that the much-publicised government incentives for young buyers are artificially inflating the market.

Imagine governments encouraging people to take out home loans they can’t afford. Why, if they’re not careful that could cause some problems, maybe.

In addition, throwing tax payer funds at the housing market causes inflation, so that in many cases the total cost of a new home is more than it would have been if the government had minded its own business, not handed out unecessary grants, and saved my tax dollars for something useful.

Who was it who said the only thing we learn from history is that no one learns anything from history?

Dutch chemist Dr Hans Schreuder drew on the work of a number of climate and other scientists in his address to the Northern Ireland Climate Change Committee, which is considering legislative controls of ‘greenhouse gas’ emissions.

The UN’s IPCC bases its dire forecasts on nothing more than computer models that regard the earth as a flat disk bathed in a constant 24 hour haze of sunlight, without north and south poles, without clouds and without any relationship to the real planet we live on.

Despite much rhetoric and research over the past two decades, there is still not a single piece of actual evidence that the now-maligned carbon dioxide molecule causes global warming (or “climate change”).

Any and all schemes to reduce carbon dioxide emissions are futile in terms of having an effect on reducing global temperatures or affecting the climate and any and all carbon trading exchanges are a fraudulent exercise amounting to no more than hidden taxation.

If this Committee does come to the conclusion that emission controls need to be imposed upon the people of Northern Ireland in order to make a difference to global temperatures, then it will have failed to a substantial degree in understanding the issues in hand.

I have said repeatedly over the last several years that the key question is whether there is any evidence of a correlation between human output of CO2 and changes in global climate. The answer is that there is not and never has been any such evidence.

via Ice Age Now, which also notes hundreds of low temperature records around the world over the last few months, reports of which have been strangely missing from the mainstream media.

You can imagine the headlines and warming hysteria if it were hundreds of high temperature records!

Ice Age Ending - Our Fault

Ice Age Ending - Our Fault

North Korea conducted a powerful underground nuclear weapons test today.

The UN security council will meet. No doubt Kim Jong-il is quaking in his tiny boots as he contemplates the arrival of another letter telling him how angry they are.

President Obama and other world leaders have said they are gravely concerned. All to be expected. Not so expected is that China has also condemned the test.

Share markets have fallen slightly in response to the news of the test. Asian oil prices have also fallen.

On the other hand, shares in defense related companies jumped.

I think Kim Jong-il is on a mission to change his theme song. I’m So Ronery just isn’t doing it for him any more.

But if he wants to start singing ‘So What,’ I think I like Pink’s version better.

This column by a physicist and climatologist is a week old. But it is worth reading because of its clear comparison of the predictions of global warming theory with real word observations.

The conclusion: global warming theory is: a political movement with nearly all the recognised climatologists throughout the world dissenting from the man made global warming theory. This can be seen on the US Senate Environment committee web site with over 700 leading climatologists from 24 different countries including Nobel Prize laureates all dissenting from the man made global warming theory.

The magnificent Cardinal Pell, a champion of compassion and common sense, also notes that global warming just doesn’t seem to be happening:

… history shows the planet is dynamic and the climate is always changing, sometimes drastically.

Contrary evidence is already changing the debate.  Australia, with its tiny economy, is no longer aiming to lead the world.  The threat of massive job losses and increasing awareness of new evidence will provoke even greater caution in the future…

Evidence shows the wheels are falling from the climate catastrophe bandwagon.

The end to the global warming nonsense cannot come soon enough. Eventually governments will stop wasting vast amounts of time and money, and sabotaging key industries, to prevent something that isn’t happening.

Perhaps then, at least until the next mindless scare, we will have the will to deal with some of the world’s real problems.

Kleenmaid is (was) an Australian whitegoods manufacturer. I have owned a few of their products over the years, and found them to be well-designed and well-made.

Creditors including the Westpac bank (the same bank that mistakenly deposited $10 million in a NZ customer’s account), voted this morning to wind up the company, which has nearly $100 million in debts.

Directors Brad and Andrew Young said they were really upset, you know,and the financial situation and everything, and they were like, sorry and everything.

But liquidator John Greig, a partner of Deloitte, warned it was unlikely that creditors would ever see their money. He said the brothers appeared to have put all their property in their wives’ names.

Mr Greig said he had alerted the Australian Securities and Investments Commission over the removal of 30 boxes of documents from Kleenmaid’s Sunshine Coast headquarters on Friday by two of the company’s three directors, Andrew Young and his brother Brad.

Deloitte reported to creditors that it was likely that Kleenmaid had traded while insolvent for at least two years.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, franchisees are claiming the mess could have been prevented five years ago if the ACCC had taken their claims of malpractice seriously.

Trading in shares in another major whitegoods manufacturer, Fisher and Paykel, was halted on the ASX today pending a statement on the company’s financial position.

And it was given by Dick Cheney.

Regardless of your opinions about ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ you should read this. For good or ill (and I think good) Cheney’s speech gives clear understanding of the concerns and reasoning behind the Bush administration’s decisions about how to deal with the threat of terrorism.

It is well-argued, passionate and convincing. Go read the whole thing. Here are a couple of excerpts:

To make certain our nation country never again faced such a day of horror, we developed a comprehensive strategy, beginning with far greater homeland security to make the United States a harder target. But since wars cannot be won on the defensive, we moved decisively against the terrorists in their hideouts and sanctuaries, and committed to using every asset to take down their networks. We decided, as well, to confront the regimes that sponsored terrorists, and to go after those who provide sanctuary, funding, and weapons to enemies of the United States. We turned special attention to regimes that had the capacity to build weapons of mass destruction, and might transfer such weapons to terrorists.

We did all of these things, and with bipartisan support put all these policies in place. It has resulted in serious blows against enemy operations … the take-down of the A.Q. Khan network … and the dismantling of Libya’s nuclear program. It’s required the commitment of many thousands of troops in two theaters of war, with high points and some low points in both Iraq and Afghanistan – and at every turn, the people of our military carried the heaviest burden. Well over seven years into the effort, one thing we know is that the enemy has spent most of this time on the defensive – and every attempt to strike inside the United States has failed…

… somehow, when the soul-searching was done and the veil was lifted on the policies of the Bush administration, the public was given less than half the truth. The released memos were carefully redacted to leave out references to what our government learned through the methods in question. Other memos, laying out specific terrorist plots that were averted, apparently were not even considered for release. For reasons the administration has yet to explain, they believe the public has a right to know the method of the questions, but not the content of the answers.

Over on the left wing of the president’s party, there appears to be little curiosity in finding out what was learned from the terrorists. The kind of answers they’re after would be heard before a so-called “Truth Commission.” Some are even demanding that those who recommended and approved the interrogations be prosecuted, in effect treating political disagreements as a punishable offense, and political opponents as criminals. It’s hard to imagine a worse precedent, filled with more possibilities for trouble and abuse, than to have an incoming administration criminalize the policy decisions of its predecessors…

It is a fact that only detainees of the highest intelligence value were ever subjected to enhanced interrogation. You’ve heard endlessly about waterboarding. It happened to three terrorists. One of them was Khalid Sheikh Muhammed – the mastermind of 9/11, who has also boasted about beheading Daniel Pearl.

We had a lot of blind spots after the attacks on our country. We didn’t know about al-Qaeda’s plans, but Khalid Sheikh Muhammed and a few others did know. And with many thousands of innocent lives potentially in the balance, we didn’t think it made sense to let the terrorists answer questions in their own good time, if they answered them at all.

Some of the decisions made may have been mistaken. Some of the methods may have been questionable. But after reading Cheney’s speech I am even more convinced that those who made those very difficult decisions were men and women who were not just concerned about protecting America’s interests, but were also passionately concerned about doing what was right.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has declared his intention to follow Barack Obama’s plan to impose strict limits on CO2 emissions from motor vehicles. This will increase costs, and cost jobs.

CO2 is not a pollutant. It is a vital part of the cycle of life. Plants need it. There is no evidence that human produced CO2 has ever had any affect on climate.

In other words, imposing limits on vehicle CO2 emissions is pointless, popularist posturing. Damaging, pointless posturing.

And incidentally, remember all those claims that US cars couldn’t be sold in China because their emissions were too high?

China Daily reports: “Obama’s automobile emission deal enhances the difficulty for Chinese auto manufacturers to export their vehicles to the US market, a highly-matured market Chinese players are dreaming of, as it’s even harder for Chinese vehicles to meet the new and stricter emission requirements,” said Zhong Shi, an independent auto analyst.

The Telegraph reports this morning that the UK government will allow all Gurkhas with a record of honourable service  to settle in the UK.

All Gurkha veterans were finally granted the right to live in Britain yesterday as the Government was forced into a humiliating climbdown. Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, confirmed the policy reversal for those with four years’service in a Commons statement following an intense three year campaign, led by Joanna Lumley, the actress.

The victory brings to an end more than 20 years of demands to give Gurkha veterans equal rights and has left Gordon Brown and his ministers embarrassed after misjudging the public mood.

Joanna Lumley was generous in her response to Gordon Brown, and expressed her thanks that his government had finally done the right thing.

But others were openly frustrated about the gap between Labour’s claims to the be party which cares about ordinary people, and its policies and practices.

Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat Leader whose Commons motion led directly to the Government’s volte-face, labelled it a “great victory” but added: “Gordon Brown has finally woken up to the principle that people across Britain understand instinctively: if someone is prepared to die for this country, they must be allowed to live in it.

“Tragically this decision will come too late for many of those brave Gurkhas who have been waiting so long to see justice done.

“Gordon Brown’s claim of a ‘moral compass’ rings hollow when, on every issue from Gurkhas to expenses, he has to be dragged every inch of the way towards doing the right thing.”

Chris Grayling, the shadow home secretary, said: “It is just a shame that the Government had to be dragged kicking and screaming through the courts and then through the crowds of Gurkhas outside parliament before it finally did the right thing.”

I meant to say something about this a week ago, then forgot about it, and found it again today while looking at something else. It still seems worth commenting on.

Britain seems to be willing to let just about anyone in. The pollies don’t want to appear harsh, after all.

But that free for all welcome does not apply to the Gurkhas.

Joanna Lumley has pointed out more than once that the Gurkhas fought for Britain in several nasty places and have a genuine claim on the loyalty and goodwill of the British people.

Immigration Minister Phil Woolas looked like a ninny in comparison with the delicious and brainy Joanna.

Woolas said “They (the Gurkhas) may be a special case morally, but legally you cannot legislate on the basis. I can’t say ‘let the nice people in and the nasty people not’. We have to have a law,” he said.

While accepting the principle that “if you are prepared to die for this country you should be allowed to live here”, Mr Woolas warned it could open up retrospective cases for other Second World war veterans.

Joanna pointed out, with scathingly raised eyebrows, that there is hardly a overwhelming horde of  World War Two veterans waiting to take over Britain. And surely it is a simple matter to change whatever laws are needed to grant residency rights to anyone who has served honourably in combat in the British armed forces.

The expressions on her face in some of the photos are just delightful.

A coupe who own a small business in Rotorua in New Zealand applied to the Westpac bank for a $10,000 overdraft.

The bank deposited $7.8 million into their account.

Not surprisingly, the couple took as much of the money as they could and cleared off.

Detective Senior Sergeant David Harvey has called on Interpol to help track the couple down. “The individuals associated with this account are believed to have left New Zealand and police are working through Interpol to locate those individuals,” he said.

Stealing other people’s money is a bad thing.

Nonetheless I wish them well. And I hope Westpac shareholders ask some difficult questions.