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Archive for the ‘Current Affairs’ Category

The Prime Minister of England. But he seems a decent enough bloke. I find it difficult to believe he would ever have countenanced the kind of deliberate and malicious smearing of poltical opponents that one of his advisors seems to have suggested to another Labour figure.

Damian McBride, who has now resigned as one of Brown’s senior advisors, sent emails containing gossip and fabricated stories to Derek Draper. Draper is a Labour party publicist and blogger, who had proposed setting up a website called ‘Red Rag’ dedicated to gossip about Conservative MPs. Draper originally described McBride’s ideas as ‘brilliant.’

But the idea came to nothing. It was, as Draper points out, a few juvenile ideas tossed about by a couple of mates. They decided, after a few laughs, that it would be wrong to proceed in that way, and they didn’t.

The harm seems to have been done by British blogger Guido Fawkes, who somehow got hold of those emails and made them public, causing embarrassment not only to McBride, Draper, and now to Gordon Brown, but to the people mentioned in the stories. Without Guido, those bits of gossip and baseless stories would never have become public knowledge.

Guido’s allegations about Brown’s likely knowledge and approval of the plan seem to me to be just as baseless and malicious as any of the ideas McBride and Draper emailed to each other.

The difference is that McBride and Draper told no one else about their silly stories. Guido did. And now he’s making up some of his own, with the intention of doing exactly what McBride and Draper talked about doing. But didn’t.

Guido’s a right-winger and so am I. And as I said, I am no supporter of Brown or Labour. But fair is fair.

After gains in US markets yesterday, and the Wells, Fargo and Co bank announcing a higher than expected profit.

But Comsec chief economist Craig James says there is still a bumpy road ahead. “Investors shouldn’t be surprised if companies report declines of up to 50 per cent in earnings per share compared with a year earlier,” he said.

Between counter-productive government stimulus plans, high unemployment and reduced profits, I don’t think we can expect any gains for a while yet. Anyone needing to get their superannuation out now is not going to be happy.

But if you have spare cash and a long term plan, it is a better time to be buying shares than selling them. And the same goes for real estate.

One of Sydney’s parking meters earns $47,000 per year.

Sydney’s 1304 parking meters earn the Sydney Council more than $30 million per year.

If they didn’t have that income they would need to increase rates to fund the services they provide, so I don’t begrudge them the money.

It’s just, well, it’s quite a lot, isn’t it?

Says US advisor Juan Carlos Zarate: “The U.S. has a very clear sense that, if you start to pay ransoms, you in essence create an industry for kidnapping,” he said. “And, frankly, it’s why you see an uptick in the piracy problem in East Africa. It’s a for-profit venture. It’s very lucrative at low cost for the pirates and it’s, in part, fueled by the fact that shipping companies in other countries have been paying ransoms for the release of ships, cargo and personnel.”

That just seems obvious to me. Paying millions in ransoms to pirates and terrorists enables them to purchase sophisticated equipment, buy friendships and favour, and encourages them to keep attacking civilian targets. It is short-sighted and stupid.

The French took an important intiative on this when they rescued Florent Lemacon’s family from the yacht Tanit. Lemacon himself was shot dead. French authorities will conduct an enquiry into whether he was murdered by the pirates or accidentally killed in cross-fire.

I found three things of particular interest about the hijacking and rescue of the Tanit.

First, the family had specifically and repeatedly warned about the dangers of Somali piracy, and that they should not go near the Gulf of Aden. I’m glad the French took the action they did. But Lemacon’s irresponsibility put not only himself and his family in danger, but also French personnel who rescued them.

Second, the French rescue was prompted by the fear that the pirates were considering either murdering the family, or taking them to shore, perhaps with a view to selling them to an islamist terrorist organisation. This would have made any rescue attempt much more dangerous and difficult.

And third, Lemacon’s father’s description of his son as a dreamer who had rejected western materialism. Defending the couple’s decision to take their son on a risky voyage, he said: “They chose a lifestyle. In their own way they were fighting with deeply held convictions for the right to live differently.”

Choosing a lifestyle is one thing. But since when did the ‘right’ to live differently include the right to put others in danger? We hear far too much about ‘rights’ and far too little about responsibility. And if you can afford a luxury yacht, with all the electronics and conveniences that Western technology can offer, and to sail your family around the world, in what possible sense have you rejected Western materialism?

But the big news of the day is the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips. Phillips had given himself up to the pirates in return for the rest of his crew being allowed to go free, after the crew had fought to regain control of their ship. US Naval forces killed three of the four pirates who were holding him. Another is being held for trial. Phillips is unharmed.

Thank goodness some decisive action has been taken at last. 

But the pirates will be angry. Some have already threatened to take revenge on any Americans they capture. And more than 250 hostages are still being held, including 92 Philippinos, and 16 Italians from a tugboat captured last Sunday.

Is this guy out of his mind?

Unemployment is at its highest levels for twenty years. People are being forced out their homes, soup kitchens are struggling to meet the demand.

And President Barack Obama, community organiser, wealth redistributor, has a pizza chef flown 860 miles to make 20 pizzas for he and his family and mates.

I guess it was someone else’s pizza Michelle Obama had in mind when she said that in order to get universal health care and a better education system, some people were going to have give up a piece of their pie.

He didn’t have much choice, because Saudi law is based on Sharia, which in turn is based on the Quran, and on the words and example of Mohammed.

For Muslims, Mohammed is the model of a perfect man. Mohammed’s words and actions are, after the Quran, Islam’s primary guide to the will and mind of God.

Mohammed married a six year old girl, Aisha. So for any judge working under Sharia law, there can be no question – such marriages are legal, and acceptable in the eyes of God.

Mohammed refrained from having sex with Aisha until she was nine. The 47 year old in the CNN story linked above has also said he will wait until the girl reaches puberty before consummating the marriage.

So that’s all right then.  Not.

It was the bear’s dinner time, for heaven’s sake.

Some people who have never lived outside a city seem to have no idea that wild animals are, you know, wild. They look so cuddly and everything.

But kiddies, they eat things and stuff. Like other animals. Including people, if people are stupid enough to get near them.

Nearly 300 killed in the Abruzzo earthquake including children, others still missing, and this is a cause for rejoicing?

“At last they have had their dark days too. O Allah, kill them and leave them destitute vagabonds,” said one of a series of comments that have appeared on various jihadist websites this week. “O Allah, keep the earthquakes and tragedies coming – cursed be Europe, Israel and the United States,” wrote ‘Ashiq al-Irhab’, which in Arabic means ‘desirous of terrorism.’

Charming.

Islamic leaders are not to blame for the rantings of a few. But if they want to be taken seriously, and if they want the West to believe Islam is a religion of peace, Islamic leaders must condemn these outbursts.

Anyone want to put money on it?

Opposition Finance spokesperson Helen Coonan says the government ought to be harder on the banks, taking steps to make them pass on the full amount of Reserve Bank cuts in official rates.

A perennially popular move.

But is this really the best the opposition can up with? This is not offering new options. It is simply repeating what the government has said, just a bit louder. A few days ago Wayne Swan said the banks deserved a kick up the bum for not passing on the rate cuts.

There are two things wrong with the apparently united view of Wayne and Helen on this.

Firstly, official rates are not the only factor in the cost of money to banks. Expecting them instantly to be able to pass on the full amount of any Reserve Bank rate reduction is naive. Such a suggestion does not inspire confidence in the knowledge and competence of either government or opposition.

Secondly, the banks are not charities. Nor are they in business to please their chums in government. They are in business to make a return on investment for their shareholders. That is their primary responsibility. That does not mean that can or do charge what they like.

The home and business loan markets in Australia in are highly competitive. It is easy for consumers to check rates. Market competition is the most effective way of ensuring the best possible terms to bank customers. Pouting and posturing by members of parliament may make good headlines. It may even win a few votes, or it might if government and opposition were saying anything different. But it won’t make any difference to the banks.

This report from a minor Australian paper is headlined ‘Home Births Still Safe, Says Expert.’ It quotes Professor Michael Chapman, who is director of women’s and babies’ health at the St George and Sutherland hospitals. But that is not exactly what he said.

What he said was that St George Hospital had run a successful home birth service for the last two years. He also said that home births made up about only 1.5% of the total births associated with the hospital, and that the home birth option was only available where the birth was assessed by medical staff as low risk. Home births always took place with qualified personnel present, and with the hospital as a backup in case of any problems.

This kind of moderate approach is the exact opposite of the mindless rejection of Western medicine promoted by organisations like Joyous Birth.

Birth is a natural process. It is also a dangerous process. As many as one in ten women died in childbirth prior to the development of modern obstetric care, and infant mortality rates were some twenty times higher. See this Los Angeles record for just one example of the dramatic change in infant mortality rates in the mid 20th Century.

It may be in part the coldness and technicality of hospital maternity care that makes some women feel so alienated and confused about hospital births. Hospitals need to ensure warm human care and continuity of care during the birthing process, active involvement of women and their partners in choices about care and birthing options, clear communication about the risks of each of those options, and about what is happening at each stage of pregnancy and birth, so that the mother does not feel like an object or an optional extra.

However, with the facts on the massively better outcomes for mothers and babies with proper medical care so clear, it is almost criminally negligent to have a child without any medical advice, or to encourage others to do the same.

I feel deeply sorry for Janet Fraser. The loss of a child at any time is a deeply, horrifyingly painful thing. Her experience ought not to be an opportunity for gloating by her opponents.

But as Andrew Bolt points out, it may be an opportunity for learning, and for better outcomes for others.

While Queen Elizabeth gets a nod. This is all over the internet, I know. Perhaps because it seems to say something important.

I wasn’t going to comment, but this YouTube video makes it clear just how different Barack Obama’s behaviour to each of the two monarchs was.

Behaviour sends a message. You can’t act with such obsequiousness to someone like Abdullah and with so little apparent respect for Queen Elizabeth, and not expect people to notice and to comment and ask questions about the difference.

Maybe Obama in all honesty thought that a nod was what was expected in England, while a deep bow was expected in Saudi Arabia. But in that case, why not just say so? Instead the White House is denying Obama bowed at all, saying it was just that he is taller than King Abdullah, and bent down to be at his level. There are only two problems with this. First, it isn’t true – Obama did bow to Abdullah. And second, Queen Elizabeth is shorter than Abdullah, so if difference in height was the issue, she should have got an even deeper bow.

If you think you’ve done the right thing, you don’t need to lie about it.

Kevin Rudd admitted today that the Federal Government had no business plan to confirm the new broadband plan’s viability or cost effectiveness compared with other options.

Malcolm Turnbull said: “This is the most reckless statement about a financial matter I’ve seen from an Australian government. This makes the Whitlam era look modest and unassuming.”

What the heck does Rudd’s government they think they are doing? I don’t spend $50 in business unless I think spending $50 will earn me more back. That’s just common sense. The more I plan to spend the more care I take in thinking about options and the cost effectiveness and efficiency of each.

Malcolm Turnbull is right to complain about this – it’s a turkey with a captital T. And apart from that it is the job of the opposition to probe, question, and oppose. He’s doing his job. Why aren’t the state libs? Why would they agree with Labor on such a pointless and expensive proposal?

Because they are spineless nitwits. I don’t know why, but the state Libs either have no idea at all of Liberal values, or no idea how to explain and sell them. And because they have lost their moorings, they’ve got nothing to offer except picking up popular causes. So they seem not to stand for anything, and no one votes for them.

A bit like the Anglican Church really.

Having made millions from ransoms in recent years, Somali pirate gangs are using increasingly sophisticated boats and radar equipments to spot, chase and capture other vessels. On average a ship is attacked every day. About one attack in seven in successful. That’s a ship seized every week. Payment of ransoms has changed a few ratbags in fishing boats to highly trained and well equipped mega-ratbags.

Good luck to this US crew who recaptured their vessel. Their captain is still being held, and US and other warships are on their way to try make sure he is returned safely.

Money paid in ransoms to Abu Sayyaf in the Southern Phillipines has helped them build up arms. Even more importantly it has helped them build support. They are able to give food, medicines, etc to villagers and make themselves look like the good guys. They are not the good guys.

The two remaining Red Cross hostages are still being held. The Red Cross has refused to consider a $5 million ransom demand – a terribly hard choice, but the right choice – and the military is refusing to pull back further, saying to do so will enable the kidnappers to escape or to obtain reinforcements or supplies.

It’s a dangerous time for the hostages, and a sad and worrying time for their friends and families. If no ransoms had ever been paid to Abu Sayyaf, it might also never have happened.

That’s about $45 million in cash and $700 million in real estate. She didn’t notice the money was going until there wasn’t any left.

This is the estate left by Curt Cobain to Courtney Love and their daughter Frances Bean Cobain.

I am baffled for two reasons. First, how do you just ‘lose’ $700 million without even noticing? Didn’t she have accountants? What were they doing? What was she doing?

And secondly, Curt Cobain and Nirvana were only around for about five years. They produced some great songs, and Curt Cobain was a capable and intelligent singer and songwriter. But an estate worth $700 million? That is just mind boggling. I think I want to be a pop star.

And yet, the things the Europeans said ‘no’ to were things I would have said ‘yes’ to.

Namely, a stronger response to North Korea’s missile launch (which was meant to be threatening, demonstrated an ability to strike as far Alaska and Australia, and has been backed up by more threats), and more troops (in fact a surge) in Afghanistan, with the hope that that will lead to a stronger and more stable government.

This comment comes from the Telegraph article linked to above: Fortunately for the President, the Republican opposition is more loyal than was the Democratic opposition to Bush. John McCain has backed Obama’s Afghanistan policy, and conservative commentators, although more than a little annoyed by the President’s rubbishing of his own country in order to pander to European and Muslim audiences, are supporting him.  Democrats in Congress are sullen but not (yet) mutinous.

I think the anonymous ‘conservative colleague’ is probably right about increasing problems for EU economies, and decreasing EU influence on global matters, over the next few years.

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