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Archive for the ‘Current Affairs’ Category

But of course. I wondered how long this would take. Federal Climate Change Minister Penny Wong says the current heatwave is a sign of global warming.

It doesn’t matter that we have had a cooler than usual Summer, that world temperatures have been trending down for the last ten years, that much of the Northern hemisphere is covered with unseasonal snow and ice.

There have been three hot days where Penny lives, so the argument’s over, baby!

In the lead up to the release of Windows Vista in January 2007, some 19 million computers were sold in the US with labels saying they were ‘Vista Capable.’ A distinction was made between ‘Vista Capable’ and ‘Vista Premium Ready.’ Computers which were ‘Vista Premium Ready’ were required to have more memory and better graphics peformance to enable them to run the aero interface. ‘Vista Capable’ meant the computer would run Vista Home Basic.

But now a class-action lawsuit has been filed demanding Microsoft pay the cost of upgrading plaintiffs’ PCs, on the basis that consumers were duped into paying higher prices for ‘Vista Capable’ PCs, when many of those computers are only powerful enough to run Windows Vista Home Basic.

But, duh, that’s what the label meant. That’s why there was another label for computers that were ‘Vista Premium Ready.’ If you wanted a computer that would run Home Premium, why didn’t you cough up for one in the first place?

‘Vista Home Basic is key to the lawsuit, which alleges that Microsoft’s Vista Capable program inflated the prices of PCs that could run only that edition and enticed users into buying machines that could not be later upgraded to any other version of Vista. Home Basic, the plaintiffs have contended, is not the “real” Vista, in large part because it lacks the Aero user interface.’

This is outright harassment. Even if Microsoft wins, it will still cost them millions to defend this action, not only in direct costs, but in diverting resources to providing documents, etc required by the court. And if the plaintiffs win, you have to wonder why any large business would continue to operate in the US, when this kind of vexatious and opportunistic litigation is a constant threat.

Federal Government handouts designed to stimulate the economy by taking money from people who earn it, and giving it to people who don’t (OK, I know that’s a generalisation) seem to be working well. If you make underpants, or run poker machines.

Otherwise forget it.

This is good news. But…

Russia says its change of mind is based on a change of attitude in the US administration over plans to install a missile defence system in Eastern Europe.

‘Russia had said the US missile shield plan in Europe was a direct threat. In November last year, Mr Medvedev announced that short-range Iskander missiles would be deployed in Kaliningrad, bordering Poland, to neutralise the perceived US threat.’

Hmm.  Eastern European nations like Poland and the Czech Republic have much sounder historical reasons to be concerned about a Russian threat than Russia has to be concerned about any threat from America.

The missile defence plan has the full support of NATO, and of countries where it is (was?) to be placed. The US and NATO have said consistently the shield was intended to protect the US and its European allies from rogue states with developing nuclear potential – like Iran. But obviously the shield would also provide additional protection against any threat from Russia.

Any easing of tensions in relations between the US and Russia would be good. But not at the cost of the US deserting its NATO allies. Poland has already expressed concern at this possibility.

OK, I can see why they might be offensive. On the other hand the first described is moderately amusing, precisely because it isn’t true except as a stereotype of white Australians. The second is perhaps a natural over-reaction to unpleasant complaining about Australia, its customs and people, from some recent immigrants.

But even they if are offensive, why is necessary to describe everything as ‘racist?’ Which race is being belittled?

A patronising headline, but I agree. Victoria is possibly the worst run state in Australia, with chronic underfunding of essential infrastructure such as roads and water storage, a police force (sorry, service) which has been progressivley ninnified over the past several years, and ongoing financial difficulties. So in the midst of all this, to what what does the Victorian Attorney-General turn his mightly attentions? Why, a well run gentlemen’s club. Of course.

I have been fortunate to be a guest at gentlemen’s clubs in Adelaide and Melbourne, and found them to be nothing like Chris Berg’s description. They were relaxing and enjoyable places to be, with quiet if you wanted it, civilised conversation if you wanted that, good food, reasonable wine, and a decent cigar after lunch.

The fact is men are men and women are women, praise God. And just as sometimes women enjoy being in the company of other women, and have spaces, clubs and societies which enable them to do so, men sometimes enjoy being with other men. Why on earth should this be a problem?

You’re called to save the life of a teenage boy suffering a seizure. You can’t, or in any case, you don’t. Then when you find out who his family is, you try to blackmail them. Allegedly.

In an article on Real Clear Politics, Thomas Sowell wrote: ‘No one in his right mind would say that the Bush administration was flawless. But many of their worst political mistakes were the kinds of mistakes that decent people often make when dealing with indecent people, both domestically and internationally.’

The same could be said of Keith Windschuttle and the recent hoax of Quadrant magazine. Quadrant is an Australian magazine of politics, literature, history, art, etc – virtually anything that might be of interest to people who think. It has minimal staff resources. It is not a specialist journal.

The Jan/Feb edition of Quadrant contains an article by one ‘Sharon Gould’ entitled Scare Campaigns and Science Reporting. It is well written. It contains some rather odd views about the potential use of human DNA in genetically engineered crops, but one of the things that makes Quadrant a great magazine is that it has never been run as the editor’s personal newsletter. Views that diverge from the mainstream can get a hearing if they are well written, and carefully, interestingly and logically argued.

So when someone writes such an article, and then jumps up triumphantly and says ‘ Ha ha, I didn’t really mean it. And Sharon Gould is not my real name. And what’s more, I faked some of the footnotes,’  it is hard to respond in any other way than to say ‘So?’ or perhaps, ‘OK, you are a liar who writes well. How disappointing for your friends.’

As Keith Windschuttle has pointed out, in the case of a non-specialist, non peer reviewed magazine, there is a point beyond which editors have to trust their writers. Accepting the article was a mistake. It was the kind of mistake easily made by a decent person used to dealing with decent people.

Despite Peter Garrett’s angst, I think this is possibly a reasonable option, if only because it will stop some of the whining from local anti-whaling activists.

However, stopping any taking of Minke Whales in Antarctic waters may not be a good thing for endangered whale species.

Minke Whales are widely distributed and abunbdant. On the IUCN red list of possibly endangered species, Minke Whales are in the bottom category – Least Concern.

Because they are abundant and range so widely, they compete for krill with endangered whale species such as the Blue Whale, which not do not have the same flexibility in choosing their habitat.

An argument could be made for culling of Minke populations in some places, for example in Antarctic waters, on the grounds of protecting those more endangered species.

There is no environmental reason for refusing to allow whaling nations to take a limited number of Minke Whales.

There is no other reason either. Modern explosive harpoons are accurate and quick, and as humane as factory methods of killing meat animals such as sheep or cattle. Minke Whales, like cattle, are essentially grazing animals, and have about the same level of intelligence – certainly much less than pigs.

As far as I can see, no one who eats bacon has any logically valid or ethically consistent reason to oppose a carefully managed quota based system of hunting Minke Whales.

I am happy to be convinced otherwise, by salient facts marshalled in a carefully crafted argument. Ranting and calling me a bastard won’t do it.

Good Lord Deliver Us.

There should be a rule that anyone wishing to enter public life should have worked with his or her hands, and should have owned, or at least managed, some sort of business. This would help to get rid of the idea that there is such a thing as free money, which the government can use for projects, such as saving the economy or creating jobs. I shudder whenever I hear politicians talk about job creation schemes.

In the latest plan from the Australian Federal Government, some $2 billion of tax payer funds is going to be used to provide loans to commercial property developers. The four largest banks in Australia are also being asked to put in $500 million each.

Why would this be necessary? The answer is that in the present circumstances developers may not be able to access funds to finance or refinance their projects.

But hang on a minute. Wasn’t the root cause of the present recession US government interference in the banking sector, and in particular, pressuring banks to give loans to people and organisations which would not have qualified under normal lending criteria, and in many cases were not able to repay the loans they were given?

So how is doing the same thing with taxpayer funds going to solve problems in Australia? Of course it won’t. It’s plain silly. If bankers operating under normal commercial guidelines don’t consider a particular project or property developer to be an acceptable risk, then the government giving them a loan is not a reasonable or responsible use of tax payer money.

Part of the problem is that many politicians do not seem to understand that there is no free money. Money they give to their pet projects, including unprofitable businesses, has to be taken from businesses which are actually producing something and making a profit in doing so, or from people employed by those businesses.

Taking money from people and organisations which are producing wealth, employment, and taxation income, and giving it to people and organisations which are not, will not save us from recession. Ultimately such policies undermine the economy, including the social welfare structure and safety net.

Outstanding. He can cut off anything he likes as far as I’m concerned.

And if that sounds harsh, well tough. The movie Wolf Creek, which was based in part on Milat’s murder of seven backpackers (it’s a vile film, I don’t recommend it), did not exaggerate the horror of Milat’s treatment of his victims. What he has done to himself doesn’t amount to the tiniest, miniscule part of what he did to young men and women visiting our country.

Sadly, if he hopes it is going to win him some sympathy and attention, he may be right. But not from me.

Darn. Having said that, I also have to say that I hope and pray for his ultimate redemption. It will not come easy, because forgiveness requires repentance, which means understanding and taking responsibility for the harm you have caused.

Also, we do not know what made him the way he is, or how he came to make the choices he did. But at some point he gave himself permission to do things which were unspeakably evil, and it it is right that he should be punished for them, and society protected from him.

Australia Day honours and all that. A chance for recognition for people who have made a substantial contribution to their local communities or to state or nation.

In addition to many other awards, numbering in the hundreds, each year one person is selected by a committee to be ‘Australian of the Year’. My understanding is that the Prime Minister makes the final decision, but I cannot imagine the PM not accepting the committee’s recommendation.

This year’s choice is Mick Dodson. Pardon?

It is hard to think of anything positive Mr Dodson (or his brother Pat, for that matter) has done for Australia. In fact Mick Dodson is likely to be most closely associated in the minds of ordinary Australians with two mischievous and dishonest reports: that of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, and the notorious ‘Bringing them Home’ report about the Stolen Generations.

Dishonest because the Royal Commission (Dodson was counsel assisting) knew very well that the research showed clearly that the proportion of aboriginal deaths in custody was no higher than that of other ethnic groups, and in some cases lower, yet perpetuated the lie of higher aboriginal death rates. The report recommended special treatment and conditions for indigenous people based on the alleged additional difficulties faced by aboriginal people in coping with imprisonment, even though the research showed that some of the proposed special options, for example home or community detention, actually resulted in higher suicide rates than imprisonment.

Dishonest because despite page after page of tragic tales of separation from family (and some of them truly are tragic) the authors of the Bringing them Home report (Dodson was one of them) have not at any time been able to name even ten aboriginal persons who were removed from home or family because of government policy to ‘steal’ aboriginal children. No such policy ever existed anywhere in Australia.

There has been one case where a court has given compensation to an aboriginal person for being improperly removed from his home – that of Bruce Trevorrow. But Mr Trevorrow was able to claim compensation precisely because he was able to show that his removal was contrary to goverenment policy, and that the social worker who removed him (though it was clear she thought she was acting in his best interests, and rescuing him from a violent and abusive environment from which parental care was frequently absent) had acted beyond the powers granted to her.

These reports were mischievous because they falsely exposed Australia to international ridicule, harmed rather than improved actual outcomes for aboriginal people, and encouraged an ongoing refusal by some indigenous groups to acknowledge any responsibilty for their own life, work and well being.

Much more could be said, about, for example, Mr Dodson’s vocal and vindictive opposition to the Federal Government’s attempts to reduce the appalling rates of child sexual abuse in remote indigenous communities.

On what possible basis is Mr Dodson an appropriate or reasonable choice for Australian of the year?

No that is not an overstatement. Members of the European Parliament have called for the suspension of all aid to Nigeria following the Nigerian Parliament’s unanimous support for legislation prohibiting marriage between persons of the same gender.

Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country. Despite recent reforms, it still needs help to overcome violence, poverty, lack of educational, transport and medical infrastructure, etc. A reduction in aid will mean less support for local agriculture, fewer medical resources, reductions in vaccination programmes. People will die.

I have encountered the same kind of liberal love and inclusiveness in some church and environmental groups. All the talk is of tolerance and valuing diversity. Until someone actually expresses a divergent opinion.

And by the way, I have a gay brother, and brother in law, whom I love dearly.

Or even a single seat in a by-election? How many elections now is it since the Liberals had a victory? (Not counting the minority government of Colin Barnett in WA).

For non-Australian readers, the Liberals are the conservative party in Australia – we’re on the opposite side of the world, so this is perfectly logical, really.

But some things to note about the Frome by-election (South Australia’s first since 1994).

First, it may still be too close to call, with only thirty votes between the leading candidates, and the certainty of a recount.

Second, there were three conservative candidates: the Liberal Party’s Terry Boylan, the National’s Neville Wilson, and popular Mayor of Port Pirie, the independent Geoff Brock. The conservative vote was thus split three ways. The National Party candidate directed preferences to Geoff Brock, who appears to have won the seat. If those preferences had been given to Terry Boylan, he would have won comfortably.

Third, despite Premier Mike Rann’s claim that the result (the first ever loss of a by-election in SA by the opposition) is devastating for the Liberals, there was a net loss of 16% in the Labor Party vote.

While losing the seat is disappointing for the Liberal party, the result, with its massive loss in the primary Labor vote, is surely much more concerning for the Labor Party.  A swing of even half this amount across the state would see the return of the Liberals to power.

That said, this does confirm there are some real issues for the Liberals. The Liberal Party, both state and federal, has continuing difficulties finding credible leadership, and maintaining clear policies which are distinguishable from those of the Labor Party.

To regain their position as the pre-eminent political force in Australia, the Liberals need: strong leadership; clear and consistent conservative policies; to reinvigorate their partnership with the Nationals; to take more note of local issues; and to be more open to fielding popular local candidates.

Simple really.

Hamas says it will be the only body to oversee relief efforts in Gaza.

Given Hamas’ record in the prompt and careful delivery of aid, giving this job to some other organisation might produce a better outcome for the people of Gaza.

Mahmoud Abbas says (of course) that the Palestinian Authority should be in charge of relief efforts. The PA has a history of indolence and corruption, but at least they are not formally committed to the destruction of all Jews, everywhere. So there is some realistic prospect for peace between Israel and a Palestinian State lead by the PA.

But there has been a serious decline in the already poor relationship between Hamas and the PA, with reports over a hundred Fatah members in Gaza have been murdered by Hamas in the last few weeks, many of them tortured to death, and at least three having had their eyes gouged out. This makes it seem likely that giving the PA responsibility for aid distribution in Gaza would lead to renewed fighting, with the potential for much greater loss of life than in Hamas’ conflict with Israel.

Egypt or Jordan are not likely to want to take responsibility for aid distribution, when this would expose them to violent retribution from Hamas, and by proxy Iran. Much as I hate to say it, this may be a time when direct UN responsibility for the distribution of aid is the only option likely to produce positive outcomes for the people of Gaza.

More on aid from Israel to Gaza: “More than 37,000 tons of staple foodstuff and emergency medical supplies entered the Gaza Strip through one Israeli crossing from the time Israel began its military offensive until it declared a unilateral cease-fire on January 17.”