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Archive for the ‘Current Affairs’ Category

Possible good outcomes for everyone except the bad guys, that is.

There is strong local support for the government’s attack on islamic extremists in the North West Frontier province of Pakistan.

Army chief General Ashfaq Kayani said last week the army was aware of the gravity of the threat and would “employ requisite resources to ensure a decisive ascendancy over the militants”.

A quick defeat of the Taliban in Swat would allow the army to move on to tackle militant strongholds on the Afghan border, such as North and South Waziristan, part of a region from where the Taliban orchestrate their Afghan war and where al Qaeda plots violence. Public opinion is generally behind the offensive and quick success would reassure the many who are sceptical about the alliance with the United States. It would also bolster support for unpopular President Asif Ali Zardari.

But all depends on the willingness and ability of the government and military to move with sufficient force and determination to eradicate the Taliban before costs in life and cash, and strains on infrastructure to support refugees, become too great to sustain.

The problem, even now, is that many Pakistanis believe India (or Jews) to be a greater threat than the Taliban.

The Australia Federal Opposition (The Liberals, which means the conservatives, or would do if they had any backbone) is planning to offer an alternative to the government’s proposed emissions trading scheme.

Unless their proposed alternative is to scrap the whole stupid idea, they all deserve a kick in the pants, and we would be better off if the Wiggles were running the country.

We would definitely be better off if Chuck Norris was running the country, but he is probably too busy kicking someone else in the pants.

If you were trying to come up with another scheme as pointless and expensive as the ETS, you would have to imagine something like the government deciding that in order to save a newly discovered worm from extinction, it would completely fill in the Sydney Harbour with large concrete blocks.

The Liberals proposed alternative is like someone saying: ‘Hey no, concrete is the wrong colour, you should be filling up the harbour with shiny plastic blocks instead.’

This wouldn’t be funny if the guy had been hurt. But he wasn’t, so it is:

When a shark began to chew on the boat’s outboard motor, the man tried to fend it off with an oar. The man dropped the oar into the water and then fell in while trying to retrieve it.

“So he’s now in the water, his boat’s in gear and it’s heading off.”

Fortunately the shark, a Great White, merely circled the man a couple of times before heading off itself.

An entirely unrelated and probably photoshopped image of a Great White Shark and some divers somewhere in Australia: 

Great White Shark and Divers

Great White Shark and Divers

She caught it overseas, didn’t know she had it, and was better by the time she got back to Australia.

Of course the headline is ‘Health Chief Warns of More Swine Flu’

A six year old girl was listed as a ‘suspected case,’ the Herald Sun article tells us, to squeeze out the maximum scariness, just before admitting that in fact the girl doesn’t have anything at all.

Sorry guys, we’re not buying it any more. Time to go back to global warming.

Update.

Andrew Bolt points out that three times as many people (183) have died in the last six months in the Australian state of Victoria from medical blunders, than have died from Swine Flu in total, everywhere in the world.

This graphic from GlobeandMail shows the amount of  ‘stimulus’ spending in selected G20 countries in dollars and as a proportion of GDP. I have linked to GlobeandMail, but article content is subscription or pay per view.

Stimulus Spending as a Proportion of GDP

Stimulus Spending as a Proportion of GDP

Australia’s spending is proportionally higher than the US (though not by much), which means the amount of debt incurred for each citizen is higher. Which you would expect to mean a longer recovery.

But in spite of this absurd level of ‘stimulus’ spending, and directionless economic policy by the current Federal government, Australasian Investment Review believes that Australia is better equipped to cope with the global recession than most other advanced nations.

Surely the previous government’s careful economic management and years of surplus budgets wouldn’t have anything to do with that?

And I bet he bites global warming as well. And communism. And terrorists.

Check out these Chuck Norris facts:

There is no ‘ctrl’ button on Chuck Norris’s computer. Chuck Norris is always in control.
Chuck Norris is the reason why Waldo is hiding.
Chuck Norris is so fast, he can run around the world and punch himself in the back of the head.
Chuck Norris can slam a revolving door.

But as well as being the ultra toughest guy in the universe ever, Chuck Norris also has a regular column at Town Hall. And guess what? He can write as well as he can punch stuff.

Know-it-all Sir Bob Geldof is the former front man of the Boomtown Rats, a one hit wonder band from the seventies, and therefore qualifies (in his eyes) as an expert on foreign policy and development. Well, Leonardo De Crapio thinks he’s an expert on the science of global warming, so why not?

Two years ago Sir Bob called Australia ‘one of the meanest countries on the planet’ saying our level of foreign aid was amongst the lowest in the world, as a proportion of GDP.

That would be a moral issue worthy of consideration if there was any evidence that foreign aid, other than emergency aid, did the slightest bit of genuine good. If it could be shown, say, that countries which received development aid actually developed more than those that didn’t.

But as Fredrik Erixon, chief economist with Timbro, a Swedish think tank and book publisher, has shown, development aid to developing nations does not work. The more aid a country receives, the more likely it is to be locked into a cycle of increasing poverty. The graph below (taken from the BBC article linked above) shows that when aid received is high, economic growth is at its lowest. 

Aid to Africa and Growth Inversely Proportional

Aid to Africa and Growth Inversely Proportional

Kenyan economist James Shikawati explains why this is so in an interview with Der Spiegel. In essence, providing free food and clothes undermines any local industry, and encourages corruption and a passive expectation of rescue, which then leads to increasing resentment.

SPEIGEL: The industrialized nations of the West want to eliminate hunger and poverty.

Shikwati: Such intentions have been damaging our continent for the past 40 years. If the industrial nations really want to help the Africans, they should finally terminate this awful aid. The countries that have collected the most development aid are also the ones that are in the worst shape. Despite the billions that have poured in to Africa, the continent remains poor.

SPIEGEL: Do you have an explanation for this paradox?

Shikwati: Huge bureaucracies are financed (with the aid money), corruption and complacency are promoted, Africans are taught to be beggars and not to be independent. In addition, development aid weakens the local markets everywhere and dampens the spirit of entrepreneurship that we so desperately need. As absurd as it may sound: Development aid is one of the reasons for Africa’s problems. If the West were to cancel these payments, normal Africans wouldn’t even notice. Only the functionaries would be hard hit. Which is why they maintain that the world would stop turning without this development aid.

What works to bring nations out of poverty, as South Korea and Taiwan have demonstrated, is open trade, democratic government, and reward for effort and invention.

For related insights see Hal G.P. Colebatch’s article ‘Giving It Away’ in this month’s Quadrant magazine.

And it has never happened before. But hey, you know, anything’s possible. So just be scared, OK?

A ‘top flu expert’ is warning of the dangers of a mutant swine/bird flu – one that is as infectious as swine flu (that is, about as infectious as any other flu) and as deadly as bird flu.

Bird flu is pretty deadly – mortality rates of up to 60% in the elderly or those in poor health. But only those already in poor health or with compromised immune systems seem susceptible. And there has never been a recorded case of human to human transmission of bird flu.

But who knows, swine flu and bird flu could get together and end up being a super flu with the worst characteristics of both. It is possible. Just. Viruses change and develop all the time.

But is it so likely that we should be worried about it and spend lots of money on it?  Definitely not. Especially not when the death toll from TB and Malaria are so high, and we could quite easily do something about those right now.

After all, leprosy and TB could get together, or bubonic plague and tooth decay. But we aren’t panicking about them. Yet.

By Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

My wife was stimulated at the same time.

Then we got a letter from the Tax Office telling us we had been stimulated, just in case we hadn’t noticed.

Most Australians will get a one-off stimulus ‘tax bonus’ of $900 from the Federal government.

I just don’t get it. How is it stimulating the economy to take money away from people who are earning it, working for it, producing something to get it, and handing it out willy-nilly to everyone?

It’s not free money, Mr Rudd.

I have been offering a stimulus special – a decent computer package for $900, with a tie-in to the education tax refund.

It has been going pretty well. But not as well, I suspect, as the ‘Let Us Stimulate You’ deal offered by the After Dark brothel in Sydney.

If experience is anything to go by, it will be liquor stores, brothels and gambling houses that benefit most.

But even if it wasn’t, you cannot spend your way out of debt. You don’t create jobs and increase production by taking extra money from productive people to give to people who are not. And you certainly don’t create any incentive to work, or to be responsible.

Ordered and on the way:

I read Ian Plimer’s Telling Lies for God: Reason vs Creationism some years ago. I found his writing style difficult, but the content was superb – clear and well-organised.

Plimer explained very clearly why creationism is a betrayal of science. In ‘Heaven and Earth’ he does the same thing for global warming alarmism.

‘Heaven and Earth’ has already sold some 25,000 copies, making it (for a book published in Australia) a three times over best-seller.

A longish article with lots of quotes from poeple saying the Swine Flu alarms were a perfect example of authorities crying wolf.

Many blame such alarms and the breathless media coverage for creating an overreaction that disrupted many people’s lives.

Coming from the breathless to the point of asphyxiation MSNBC that’s…   interesting.

The so-far mild swine flu outbreak has many people saying all the talk about a devastating global epidemic was just fearmongering hype. But that’s not how public health officials see it, calling complacency the thing that keeps them up at night.

Yes but when you are constantly screeching about dangers that don’t materialise, why would you expect people to be anything other than complacent?

I don’t know that there has ever been a successful online petition.

But what is at stake is the destruction of major industries, and massive damage to an already struggling economy. So I’ll take any chance I get to say no to an emissions trading scheme which will achieve absolutely nothing.

ETS Petition

ETS Petition

Click to go the petition site.

Some of the stories coming out of the Taliban occupied parts of Nothern Pakistan are shocking:

When Taliban fighters first entered Karim’s village last month, he recounted, they said they had come to bring peace and Islamic law, or sharia, to Swat. But the next day, two of the fighters dragged a policeman out of his truck and tried to slit his throat. Horrified, a crowd rushed over, shouting and trying to shield the officer. The fighters let him go, but the incident confirmed the villagers’ worst suspicions.

“We all said to each other, what sort of people have come here? And what kind of sharia is this? Cutting off people’s heads has nothing to do with Islam,” recounted Karim, 55, a bus driver. “The people were filled with great rage, and great fear.”

As the refugees begin streaming out of Swat and the neighboring Buner district in northwest Pakistan, they carry with them memories of the indignities and horrors inflicted by occupying Taliban forces — locking women inside their homes, setting donkeys on fire — as they tried to force residents to accept a radical version of Islam.

Lectures from the West about the dangers of islamic extremism, and the horrors the Taliban were likely to inflict, had not been believed, and were only causing further resentment of the US and its allies. Orders to the government of Pakistan were even worse.

Tragic as it has been, the people of Pakistan needed to see for themselves just how vile and violent the Taliban are.

Resistance to incursions by islamic extremists will only be successful if it comes from, or is at least supported by, local people. That resistance is off to a powerful start.

If powers outside Pakistan attempt to force the Taliban out, the result will be chaos – and deeper anger and mistrust towards the West.

Up to 221 new species of amphibian have been discovered after a survey of Madagascan forests. Some interesting photos at that link to National Geographic.

The work suggests that tropical amphibian diversity has been underestimated at an “unprecedented level” worldwide, the study authors write in the May 4 online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

It is pretty clear we have no idea how many species there are. Lots more than we thought a few years ago. Somewhere between 2 million and 100 million. Maybe.

But if we have no idea how many species there are, how come scientists are falling over themselves predicting the sixth great extinction event?

They are able to point to very few species they know for certain have become extinct recently. The rates of extinction actually observed seem to be about the same as they have been for the last couple of thousand years.

But the threat of mass extinction ‘is not overestimated,’ says Bob Scholes, an ecologist at South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. ‘There is much uncertainty about how many species will be lost, and where and when, but it is clear that the world is entering a period of species loss that is dramatic and unprecedented in human history.’

OK. So we have no idea how many species there are, we have  no idea how many extinctions have actually occurred, we have no idea how many species are facing extinction or where or when.

But whatever is happening it’s bad and it’s our fault.

Ecologists say the world needs an equivalent of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change so the global scientific community can inform policymakers about the implications on biodiversity loss and actions that can be taken to limit it. They note that biodiversity loss is more complex than issues such as the ozone hole or climate change, and that existing bodies such as the CBD (the UN Convention on Biological Diversity) lack the means to mobilise scientific expertise across a broad range of disciplines.

Oh right. Well that may not save any species, but it will certainly provide some ecologists with ample job security.

Over a month ago I wrote about Defence Minister Fitzgibbons’s relationship with Chinese/Australian business woman Helen Liu:

Fitzgibbon may genuinely have forgotten how well he knows Ms Liu, his visits to China with her, the functions he attended with her, and the gifts he has received from her. In that case he is an idiot and cannot be trusted with the Australia’s defences.

Or he lied about them. In that case, he thought he had something to hide. If he thought he had something to hide, he probably did.

Andrew Bolt referred today to a story in the Sydney Morning Herald about a covert enquiry by Defence Department officials into that relationship.

When Ms Liu re-appeared in Sydney in the early 1990s, she suddenly had access to large sums of money, began amassing a multimillion-dollar property portfolio and started courting Australian political figures.

In 1993 she paid for Mr Fitzgibbon and his father, the federal Labor MP Eric Fitzgibbon, to travel first class to China to attend the opening of a hotel development. Mr Fitzgibbon was not an MP at the time but was expected to succeed his father as the federal member for Hunter in NSW.

Ms Liu has strong ties with senior Chinese Communist Party figures and has enjoyed considerable support from the Chinese Government-controlled Bank of China. Between 1995 and 2007, her companies donated $40,000 to Mr Fitzgibbon’s election campaign funds and another $50,000 to the NSW ALP.

All of that is of interest. Mr Fitzgibbon has either lied about or has genuinely forgotten about the nature of his relationship with Ms Liu. Regardless of the findings of the enquiry, in other words, regardless of whether Ms Liu really is a spy or not, Joel Fitzgibbon is not a  suitable person to be responsible for Australia’s defences.

“There were limits to what we could do and we didn’t get all of the story, but what has come out later about Fitzgibbon’s failure to declare trips to China only strengthened the concerns,” the official said. “There are big questions about just why the minister has been so obligated to Helen Liu and what the full extent of their relationship has been.”

Indeed.

But what is really of interest in the SMH story is that the enquiry, which is obviously necessary, is not in any sense official. Even though concerns were raised about Fitzgibbon’s relationship with Liu, departmental hierachy did nothing. The enquiry is being conducted ‘underneath the radar’ by concerned Defence Department staff.

But now those staff are being ferretted out and subjected to an inquiry:

The Defence Department has confirmed that the inquiry by the Defence Security Authority into the covert probe into Mr Fitzgibbon is “still under way” and that a report will be finalised soon for submission to Mr Fitzgibbon. A month ago, the Defence Secretary, Nick Warner, confirmed that more than 200 defence officials had been interviewed and that 850 had signed statutory declarations denying any involvement in investigations into Mr Fitzgibbon’s personal affairs.

Senior Defence Department staff did nothing when faced with serious allegations about the relationship between the Defence Minister and Ms Liu, and the strong possibility this could be a national security issue of grave concern. And now they are conducting a witch hunt into the people who were responsible enough to take that matter seriously.

The media should be all over this. It’s the kind of story that might make people think about buying a newspaper.

And doesn’t the Government have some sort of policy about protecting whistle-blowers?