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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Also in the Times, Gail Collins weighed in on the already-tired yokelism of the new commander in chief. “What we’re getting is Wasilla chic. That’s what we’re getting. She arrives in the Oval Office, and first thing sends back Blair’s gift of the Churchill bust as if it’s a once-worn Penney’s outfit. Then she gives the Brits some unwatchable DVDs as a booby prize…

“Pretty crude, pretty petty,” Sally Quinn sighed in the Washington Post. “No manners at all. Does our new mom in chief think it’s neat to laugh when her court jester at the correspondents’ dinner calls Michael Moore a traitor and a terrorist — and hopes he dies of kidney failure? Is that funny? Ask those on dialysis.

More harsh words on Palin’s first 100 days as president at National Review.

In this case, marriage.

Inevitable disclaimer: I like some gay people, OK?

I like about the same proportion of  gay people I know as straight people I know. My brother is gay. My brother in law is gay. The best man at my wedding, my best friend at the time, was gay.

I absolutely believe homosexual men and women should be protected by the law from any form of discrimination on the basis of their sexuality. I believe the law has no place in people’s bedrooms, provided what happens there is between consenting adults. I think homosexual domestic partnerships should be recognised and given some protection, for example in matters of life insurance and superannuation.

However, I do not approve of homosexual behaviour. I believe it is harmful for those who indulge in it. Accepting that it happens, loving some people who do it, does not mean I have to believe it is a good thing.

States should not be pressured into calling homosexual domestic partnerships ‘marriages.’ They are not marriages.

Some non-religious reasons for this view are discussed on Secular Right.

That the meaning of words should not be arbitrarily stretched to the point of emptiness for political purposes is just one reason. Here’s an excerpt:

There really is a slippery slope here. Once marriage has been redefined to include homosexual pairings, what grounds will there be to oppose futher redefinition — to encompass people who want to marry their ponies, their sisters, or their soccer team? Are all private contractual relations for cohabitation to be rendered equal, or are some to be privileged over others, as has been customary in all times and places? If the latter, what is wrong with heterosexual pairing as the privileged status, sanctified as it is by custom and popular feeling?

Paul Kelly makes some typically clear and concise remarks about the budget, and the options now open to both Labor and Liberal leaders.

Budget details often obscure the bigger picture, but Australia is heading into a serious downturn followed by a grim recovery. Swan’s budget shows a $77 billion turnaround for next year leading to a $58 billion deficit and projects government debt to peak at $188 billion by 2012-13 compared with the $96 billion debt that John Howard inherited in 1996 and took a decade to eliminate. ..

Malcolm Turnbull sounded effective when he put the brand of “higher debt, higher unemployment and higher deficits” on Labor, and asked: “How many years, how many decades will it take us to pay off hundreds of billions of dollars of Rudd Labor debt?”

But Kelly loses the plot completely when it comes to how he believes the Liberals should respond to Rudd’s beyond crazy Emission Trading Scheme and other climate control measures.

The Liberals need to retreat from their madness in threatening to block the carbon emission scheme bills, a manifest act of political suicide. This will become the decisive test of Turnbull’s leadership; he must carry the party on this path towards responsibility based on a recognition that the true interests of the Liberal Party are a full-term parliament with an election on the economy at the end.

Kelly’s concern is that blocking the ETS scheme could be used to justify a double dissolution. This would mean an early election, one Kelly believes the Liberals could not win, in part because Labor would then paint them as a bunch of ignorant climate change sceptics.

If the Liberals were able to block the ETS, Labor might indeed use this as an excuse for a double dissolution. They would certainly then paint the Liberals as a bunch of ignorant climate sceptics.

But blocking the ETS is the right thing to do. The scheme has no basis in science.

It tries to stop human induced global warming. Global warming stopped ten years ago. There was never any evidence whatever that the modest rise in average temperature of less than one degree over the last 100 years was any other than entirely natural.

The ETS tries to stop this imaginary bogeyman at an appalling cost to industry and energy production, and consequently to the well-being of every Australian.

Kelly is right about this: it is a decisive test of Turnbull’s leadership. Will he do what is right, and do everything he can to stop the most damaging legislation ever introduced into Australian parliament?  Or will he take the easy way, and go with the flow?

I fear it could be the latter. But if Turnbull does take a stand on this, I doubt very much it will be the political suicide Kelly suggests. More and more well known scientists are publicly saying they believe global warming is junk science, and more and more of the public agree with them.

Give voters real information about the fraud of global warming ‘science,’ and the costs of the ETS and other nonsensical schemes, and this could be one time when doing the right thing is rewarded at the ballot box.

Oh sorry. That should read, Pelosi lied, some very nasty people were made a bit uncomfortable, and even scared with caterpillars.

An interesting result in a Washington Post online poll: Do you believe the CIA lied to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi about the use of controversial interrogation techniques?

So far 91% of voters say no, the CIA did not lie to Nancy Pelosi. That is, 91% of people believe Nancy Pelosi is lying to congress and the american people.

Dennis Prager has some questions for the left about their stand on torture /discomfort /caterpillars.

There has been some criticism of his first question – If you are morally committed to stamping out torture everywhere, how much consideration did you give to Saddam Hussein’s extensive use of torture when you objected to the US’s removing him from office? – on the basis that use of torture was not among the reasons given at the time for the war in Iraq.

It is true that the brutal torture and mutilation of large numbers of his own people was not among the reasons originally given for Saddam’ removal from office. But once the horror of Saddam’s torturous regime became known, on what basis could anyone who cares about human rights continue to oppose his removal?

The Foundation For The Defense Of Democracies has four videos of Saddam era torture. They are vile, horrifying. Not to be viewed at work, or anywhere children can see them. They are graphic and distressing. In order, they show:

1. Beatings
2. Limbs being broken or amputated

3. Executions – including young men being blown up, and beheadings
4. The mass murder of the Kurds

The files are quite large, so I suggest you right click and download before viewing. 

One of my concerns about the use of the word ‘torture’ for the interrogation techniques used in the US is that using the word in that way stretches its meaning so much that it almost ceases to have any meaning at all.

About the methods used by Saddam Hussein there is no doubt whatever.

I am not suggesting that because our opponents use methods that are vile and immoral, that justifies our doing so – even if we think our methods are less vile and immoral than theirs.

We must do what is right. And we must insist our governments do what is right.

The question in relation to waterboarding and other methods used by the CIA is not ‘Were they justified?’ but ‘Were they right?’

Well, no.

I don’t think he’s a closet muslim either. Nor is he the messiah, although perhaps he’d like to be:

Obama The Messiah

Obama The Messiah

He is certainly a socialist. He has some very unpleasant friends. He has little understanding of Christian doctrine and morality. He is charismatic and convincing. But he is not the anti-christ.

Of course, some people have a different view.  Warning! Wackiness ahead.

I would really like to believe that Samson and Delilah, a new Australian film produced on a very low budget with inexperienced actors, is the masterpiece some reviewers claim it is.

But I am not hopeful.

A friend who saw it told me that it was dull in the extreme, and that the only reason the critics are enthusiastic is that its central characters are aboriginal, and that the whiteys are pretty much all bad guys.

That Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton both gave it five out of five is another reason to be suspicious.

It gives audiences a ‘no holds barred look at the problems facing remote Indigenous communities – violence, substance abuse and poverty.’  Oh dear.

I wonder if it continues the trendy line of blaming the white establishment for these problems. A line that disempowers aboriginal people by pretending they are so victimised there is nothing they can do to improve their circumstances.

Or if it gives indigenous people hope, empowering hope, by suggesting that they have the answers, that things could change for them if they were willing to change.

If you want things to be different, do something different.

So convinced of its value is first time director Warwick Thornton that he says ‘I want mainstream to see it, I want the whole of Australia to see it. If it doesn’t appeal to them, well I’ll jam it down their throat.’  Oh dear.

Most of the story is told without dialogue; a natural fit for a story of teenage love, says Thornton.  Oh dear.

You can almost guarantee Samson and Delilah will be required viewing at Australian high schools for years to come. And probably an official year twelve ‘text.’ Students will be bored out of their brains, and even more resentful than they are already.

I’ll see it. I make a habit of seeing new Australian films. I’m used to disappointment.

From the Beaufort Observer.

Is he for releasing Guantanamo prisoners, or not?

Is he for higher taxes, or not?

Is he for Israel, or not?

This excerpt is a good summary of why higher taxes and ‘stimulus’ spending just don’t work:

Also, he said that Obama has plans to raise taxes on US companies by $190 billion. And there’s when I quit, just gave up. If Obama raises corporate taxes, who does he think will pay them? Big companies don’t pay taxes. They just add them to the product they manufacture and pass it on down the line, When Wal-Mart receives that product, they add on a bit for profit and an extra bit to cover the higher cost and then stack it on the shelves. Then Susie Shopper comes along and buys it, paying the accumulated taxes along with the store’s profit. Or maybe Susie doesn’t buy it ’cause the extra few cents make it too expensive for her budget.

When gas was so high last year, the price of Georgia peaches went up. The price went up because the price for the gas to run the truck to bring the peaches to the grocery store went up. I knew the reason – all of us shoppers knew it. Raising prices at one end of the process simply raises the cost of the product when it gets to the consumer. It doesn’t take a math genius to realize that raising taxes on companies will raise the price of the end product and consumers will have to pay that price to get the product. Maybe the President just never shopped for groceries. Maybe the President just doesn’t understand how things work after all.

I would add that there are two other things companies can do in response to higher taxes (and therefore less cash available to run their business).

1.  They can reduce the number of employess, which creates more unemployment. Which means a greater burden on the tax payer.

2.  They can reduce profits, which means less income for superannuation funds, which means more need for government support for retired people. Which means a greater burden on the tax payer.

The same observations apply equally in Australia.

My advice to President Obama and Kevin Rudd, and Gordon Brown: If you don’t understand something, leave it alone.

Ill-planned tinkering in the financial system caused this crisis to start with. More ill-informed tinkering is not going to get us out of it.

But of course.

Australian treasurer Wayne Swan says that tough measures to be introduced in tomorrow’s federal budget, are the fault of John Howard’s big spending policies.

When John Howard and Peter Costello’s government left office there was zero public debt, a substantial surplus (about $22 billion) lower taxes, record low unemployment, and higher real wages.

But it’s not our fault, say Rudd and Swan. It’s the wrong trousers. And they’ve gone wrong.

According to Swan ‘The opposition does not understand that the planned deficit is not a consequence of government spending.’  Ah. Right. OK then.

In February Peter Costello predicted the Labor government would never deliver a surplus budget. And of course was told he was a dinosaur, out of touch.

I agree with some of the measures to be introduced in tomorrow’s budget. The government shouldn’t be handing out money to people who don’t need it.

There is no reason why people on substantial incomes of $120,000 or more need me to subsidise their health care, or insurance, or home purchase, or baby clothes. Welfare and government support should be kept for those who really need it.

The Labor government is right to limit that kind of pointless spending – even though doing so is a breach of campaign promises.

But the savings will be minimal in terms of the overall budget. As will the increase in revenue from increasing the tax paid by the small percentage of successful people who already pay most, both in dollar terms and as a proportion of total taxes paid.

The real problem is massive and counter-productive ‘stimulus’ spending which will saddle ordinary Australian families with a debt amounting to between $10 and $15 thousand for every person living in this country.

If figures from the UK apply here, there will be another $10 to $15 thousand per person to meet Kyoto and ETS costs.

Rudd, Swan and their honchos are hopelessly divorced from reality.

One can only hope that some sort of cognitive dissonance will set in, and changes be made, before the Australian economy becomes a mess to rival the Augean Stables.

And more people, possibly millions, will die as a result.

Every 30 seconds someone dies from Malaria. The same number as were killed in the 9/11 attacks every day and a half.

Most of these deaths – millions over the last 30 years – could have been avoided, and Malaria largely eradicated, through consistent and careful spraying with DDT, along with other protective measures.

At the UN’s  Stockholm Convention in 2001, 12 chemicals were banned, including DDT. The convention declaration permitted limited use of DDT for Malaria control.

DDT has actually been banned in a number of countries including the US, since the early seventies. A de facto ban has effectively been enforced in developing countries since then because foreign aid, including food and medical aid has been provisional on the non-use of DDT.

Some environmental activists and others have claimed that no ban, de facto or otherwise, ever existed. JF Beck has answered some of those claims.

There has never been any recorded case of DDT causing harm to any person, and no evidence that it causes any harm to anything other than insects.

Despite efforts to find alternatives, there is nothing as fast and as effective in controling malarial parasite carrying mosquitoes as DDT.

Spokesmen for Greenpeace and the World Wildife Fund have agreed that where there are no alternatives, DDT should be used.

But now another UN conference of over 150 nations has agreed that DDT must be phased out over the next few years, despite the fact that there are no effective alternatives to the use of DDT.

The UN and the World Health Organisation have lost the plot, with one commentator claiming the worst emerging disease threat facing the world is incompetent and obstructive WHO bureaucrats:

UN agencies’ virtual ban on DDT for mosquito control and their stultifying regulation of agricultural biotechnology are lamentable examples. The result is a more precarious, more dangerous and less resilient world. Why is there such relentless incompetence within the sprawling organization?

For more information, I recommend Paul Driessen’s book Eco-Imperialism: Green Power, Black Death which catalogues in detail the hunger, sickness and death which are the frequent result in developing countries of ill-informed western environmental activism.

Or see this earlier post for another book recommendation on a similar subject.

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 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?

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.

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.

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?

Sri Lanka’s now virtually complete victory over the Tamil Tigers has been all but ignored in the western media.

But it may very well have been a motivating factor in the March 3 shooting attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team at Lahore.

Links between islamic extremism and the Tamil Tigers have been ably explored by Melanie Phillips.

While there are victories against terrorism in the Philippines and in Sri Lanka, Pakistan is looking increasingly, and worryingly, insecure.

Pakistan armed forced have been pushing back Taliban fighters in the North-West Frontier Province, which includes Dir and the Swat Valley.

But there is deep distrust of the West amongst ordinary Pakistanis. In his column in yesterday’s UK Times, Anatol Lieven noted that there was such strong support for the Taliban in Northern Pakistan that to remove them entirely would require a level of repression of local people that would be politically impossible.

It is not that the majority of Pakistanis like the Taliban – how could they, given the brutality with which Sharia has been implemented in the North West? Nor is it that they accept the Taliban view of the nature of Islam, although radicalism is far more prevalent than we might like to believe.

It is rather that suspicion if not outright hatred of the West outweighs any fear of the Taliban, who, even if mistaken, are seen as belonging, as part of the Islamic fellowship.

This suspicion of the West manifests in (to us) outrightly irrational views about world events. For example, the following text appeared in Monday’s edition of the Pakistan Daily, in an article titled Israeli Terrorism=US Invasion of Pakistan:

Recent tragedies, both in India and Pakistan (Mumbai carnage, Islamabad Marriot bombing, attack on Sri Lankan Cricket Team and Police training centre in Lahore) – bore all the hallmarks of Mossad ‘false flag’ operations being blamed on Pakistan and Islamist groups.

There is widespread belief that the 9/11 attacks were a joint US/Israeli operation to justify military actions in Muslim lands.

Today’s Pakistan Daily front page story is: Is the United States Preparing For War in Pakistan To Kill More Muslims, Central Asia, OIL?

Regular headlines like this: US Afghan Strikes Kill Dozens, Including Women and Children, add to the anger and suspicion.

In these circumstances, when ordinary Pakistanis believe the US, not the Taliban, is causing chaos in Pakistan, it is unwise in the extreme for the US to be issuing orders to the Pakistan government.

Doing so is harmful to the point of being dangerous, because it reduces the government’s credibility with its own people, and consequently its ability to deal with the Taliban insurgents without further enraging the populace.

The West needs to keep its collective mouth shut and let the largely sensible Pakistan government handle this crisis itself.

Until, and pray this does not happen, the Taliban gain so much ground and power that it is clear they will take control of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.

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