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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

I am not sure ‘earns’ is the right word, but it is, as Governor General Quentin Bryce noted in her congratulations to John Howard, ‘a rare and singular honour for his service to Australia.’

It is rare in that only 24 persons can be members at any one time (other members include Baroness Thatcher, Prince Charles, and Tom Stoppard), and singular in that he is the only Australian politician to whom this honour has ever been granted. Other Australians admitted to the Order of Merit include Howard Florey, Sidney Nolan and Joan Sutherland.

If you are not sure why he deserved to be honoured in this way, why not buy his autobiography?

The Kindle edition is only $15.25. It is a great read. Not only is Howard a good writer, but he is consistently fair to both colleagues and political opponents.

I wholeheartedly wish and pray for my readers and all people of goodwill, a happy, purposeful, peaceful and prosperous New Year.

But I don’t think it is going to happen.

Over the last six years the UN Security Council has passed four resolutions calling for economic sanctions against Iran, primarily relating to trade in nuclear technology. Various individual countries including the US and Australia have imposed wider sanctions. The US sanctions amount to an almost complete ban on any financial interaction with Iran.

These sanctions are motivated by disgust with a violent and oppressive regime, by growing concern over Iran’s refusal to wind back its nuclear programme, by Iran’s support for terrorist groups, and its threats against other nations.

Iran’s economy depends almost entirely on oil. EU foreign ministers, along with the US, Canada, Japan and Australia and other nations, have begun to wonder whether the only way to to encourage regime change without military intervention, or at least, to force Iran to shut down its nuclear programme, is to impose even tighter sanctions on Iran’s oil exports.

This would bring Iran’s economy to a grinding halt. Iran has said it will regard such sanctions as an act of war. It has promised that if oil sanctions are tightened, it will close the Straits of Hormuz. It could easily do so. The Straits are only about thirty miles wide.

Closing the Straits of Hormuz will not only stop the movement of Iran’s oil, but also most of Saudi Arabia and Iraq’s oil, and that of some smaller states like the UAE and Kuwait. About 35% of the world’s oil travels through the Straits of Hormuz on its way to Europe, Asia and the Americas.

If tighter oil sanctions are imposed and remain in place for any length of time, Ahmadinejad and the ayatollahs will believe they have nothing to lose. Even allowing for Russia’s likely refusal to co-operate, Iran will become unstable, and regime change will be inevitable. Iran is unlikely to back down from its threat.

Industrial nations will not be able to accept a 35% reduction in world oil supplies. The Saudis will not tolerate a complete stop to their oil exports.

Military intervention will become inevitable. Barack Obama has seen Wag the Dog. He will be desperate to look strong and decisive.

Iran will resist any foreign forces on its territory, and they will not hesitate to use chemical or any other weapons at their disposal. They will also attack Israel, in an attempt to draw other islamic nations into the conflict. This did not work when Saddam Hussein tried it. Given Iran’s influence in Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, and now Egypt, it may well work when they try it.

There is a strong possibility of a major war in the Middle East in 2012.

It certainly isn’t getting any warmer here, with the coolest start to Summer in Australia for the last fifty years. But according to the alarmists, that’s just weather.

Ed Caryl suggests that most of the land based warming recorded in the USA over the last 60 years can be traced to the influence of nearby heated buildings, with measuring stations more than 100 metres away from a heated building showing cooling rather than warming over the same period.

As can be seen on the plot, town population made almost no difference to the trend. The dots are nearly completely random with respect to population. On the other hand, the distance from a heated dwelling made a much larger difference. The two coolest sites were more than 100 meters from the nearest building. Within the population limits of this study, the Urban Warming Influence is simply the distance to the nearest heated building, not the size of the city.

This phenomenon is the reason for much of the Arctic warming. Urban Warming in the Arctic, and indeed in the Antarctic, is an occupied-building-to-temperature-sensor distance problem. In the polar regions, the temperature differential between occupied buildings and the outdoor temperature sensors is much greater than in the temperate mid-west U. S., so the distance must be greater to avoid the UWI problem. But man doesn’t like digging long cable trenches in ice or permafrost (it’s like concrete!), or walking long distances in –40° weather, so the measurements are not done properly.

It is clear to this author that measured “Global Warming” is simply due to increasing nearby energy use and the temperature sensor proximity to the resulting heat.

In other words, as Ed himself points out, if you heat up your thermometers, you will find warming.

It is a tad disappointing that church leaders trot out the same bland comments about illegal immigrants year after year. You might hope that if all they can up with is platitudes, they could at least try to find some new ones.

But no. This year, yet again, we heard that Jesus was a refugee, and that this means we have an obligation to be warm and welcoming to anyone who arrives here, no matter where they come from. We are asked to imagine the fear felt by Jesus’ family as they fled the violence of Herod’s persecution, and to understand that refugee families feel the same fear and desperation.

These are worthwhile thoughts. Or they would be if church leaders had not battered us with them every Christmas for the last twenty years.

Just as cliches in writing are to be avoided like the pox, cliches in preaching are to be avoided like polio, and for the same reason. Cliches become cliches because they express a thought strikingly. They make you think. As soon as they become cliches they cease to express anything very much. They are just boring and predictable and don’t encourage thought at all. It is the same with lazy, cliched preaching.

Church leaders who talk year after year about the need to be compassionate to refugees are not going to convince anyone, because everyone is already convinced. We all know we need to find a compassionate way to deal with refugees, including those who make their way to Australia illegally.

What most Australians understand, but which seems to have escaped the bishops and moderators, is the complexity of going from good feelings and wanting to do the right thing, to formulating and enacting policy which really does do some good.

Under the Howard government, people smuggling and illegal immigration had slowed to a trickle. That left more resources for the Department of Immigration to allocate to refugees who were in greatest need, and to supporting those refugees in their transition to life in Australia. When Labor was elected there were fewer than 400 people in immigration detention. Now there are over 4,000. That number is growing rapidly as new boats arrive every week.

At least 400 people have died in transit since Labor came to office. Yet there has been no acceptance of responsibility, no acknowledgement that the kinder policies demanded by churches and refugee advocate groups have been responsibile for the current cruel and expensive mess. Instead, the same people are serving up the same tripe about the ‘need for compassion.’

A lack of compassion is not the problem. A lack of willingness to think is. If church leaders really want to help, they need to stop the reflexive bagging of conservative politicians and recognise that it is possible for politicians on both sides of parliament, and for ordinary people, to feel the same depth of concern, but to have completely different ideas about the best way forward.

The best way forward, of course, is the one that works. What works is stopping illegal immigration, and concentrating resources on bringing to Australia people who are most in need, and who are most likely to share, or to come to share, Australia’s key values of rule of law, equality for men and women, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, fair work for fair pay, generosity and ‘having a go.’

And by way of contrast, thank God for Queen Elizabeth.

I would have thought the primary motivation for becoming a journalist was to make the world a better place by helping people to know the truth.

So it is a constant source of dismay that so many journalists and media outlets decline to be truthful, either by not covering stories which don’t match their own viewpoint, or by leaving out crucial facts, or by outright distortion of reality. The refusal to cover or even mention the constant attacks against Israel by state supported terrorists from Gaza and the West Bank is an example of the first. Calling the massive and ongoing violence by muslims against Christians ‘sectarian violence’ is an example of the later.

Raymond Ibrahim at the Middle East Forum writes:

The so-called “Arab Spring” continues to transition into a “Christian Winter,” including in those nations undergoing democratic change, such as Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis dominated the elections—unsurprisingly so, considering the Obama administration has actually been training Islamists for elections.

Arab regimes not overthrown by the “Arab Spring” are under mounting international pressure; these include the secular Assad regime of Syria, where Christians, who comprise some 10% of the population, are fearful of the future, having seen the effects of democracy in neighboring nations such as Iraq, where, since the fall of the Saddam regime, Christians have been all but decimated.

Meanwhile, it was revealed that “Christians are being refused refugee status [in the U.S.] and face persecution and many times certain death for their religious beliefs under Sharia, while whole Muslim communities are entering the U.S. by the tens of thousands per month despite the fact that they face no religious persecution.”

Categorized by theme, November’s batch of Muslim persecution of Christians around the world includes (but is not limited to) the following accounts, listed according to theme and in alphabetical order by country, not necessarily severity.

Churches

Ethiopia: More than 500 Muslim students assisted by Muslim police burned down a church, while screaming “Allahu Akbar” (and thus clearly positing their attack in an Islamic framework); the church was built on land used by Christians for more than 60 years, but now a court has ruled that it was built “without a permit.”

Indonesia: Hundreds of “hard-line” Muslims rallied to decry the “arrogance” of a beleaguered church that, though kept shuttered by authorities, has been ordered open by the Supreme Court. Church members have been forced to hold services on the sidewalk, even as Indonesia’s leading Muslim clerics warned Christians that it would be “wise and sensible” for the church to yield to “the feelings of the local believers, specifically Muslims.”

Iran: The nation’s minister of intelligence said that house churches in his country are a threat to Iranian youth, and acknowledged a new series of efforts to fight the growth of the house church movement in Iran.

Nigeria: Islamic militants shouting “Allahu Akbar” carried out coordinated attacks on churches and police stations, including opening fire on a congregation of “mostly women and children,” killing dozens. The attacks occurred in a region where hundreds of people were earlier killed during violence that erupted after President Jonathan, a Christian, beat his closet Muslim rival in April elections.

Turkey: The ancient Aghia Sophia church has been turned into a mosque. Playing an important role in ecumenical history, the church was first transformed into a mosque in 1331 by the jihadist Ottoman state. As a sign of secularization, however, in 1920 it was turned into a museum. Its transformation again into a mosque is a reflection of Turkey’s re-Islamization.

Apostasy and Proselytism

Afghanis around the world are being threatened for leaving Islam and converting to Christianity. One exile, who changed his name after fleeing Afghanistan in 2007 when an Islamic court issued an arrest warrant for his conversion, is still receiving threats: “They [Afghan officials] were very angry and saying that they will hit me by knife and kill me.” Even in distant Norway last September, an Afghan convert to Christianity was scalded with boiling water and acid at a refugee processing center: “If you do not return to Islam, we will kill you,” his attackers told him.

Algeria: Five Christians were jailed for “worshiping in an unregistered location.” International Christian Concern (ICC), an advocacy group investigating the case, states that the five Christians are charged with “proselytizing,” “unauthorized worship,” and “insulting Islam.”

Iran: Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, who caught the attention of the world after being imprisoned and awaiting execution for leaving Islam, remains behind bars as officials continue to come up with excuses to force him to renounce Christianity, the latest being that “everyone is [born] a Muslim.” A Christian couple “who had been snatched and illegally-detained” by authorities for eight months without any formal charges, were finally released, beaten again, and have since fled the country. While imprisoned, they were “ridiculed and debased” for their Christian faith.

Kashmir: Muslim police arrested and beat seven converts from Islam in an attempt to obtain a confession against the priest who baptized them. After the grand mufti alleged that Muslim youths were alternatively being “lured” and “forced” to convert by an Anglican priest “in exchange for money,” the priest was arrested in a “humiliating” manner. Recently released, his life is now “in serious danger.”

Kenya: A gang of Muslims stabbed and beat with iron rods a 25-year-old Somali refugee, breaking his teeth; he was then stripped naked, covered with dirt, and left unconscious near a church. Although he was raised Christian since age 7, he was attacked on the “assumption that as a Somali he was born into Islam and was therefore an apostate deserving of death.”

Nigeria: The Muslim militant group, Boko Haram, executed two children of an ex-terrorist and “murderer” because he converted to Christianity. When still a terrorist, he “was poised to slit the throat of a Christian victim” when “he was suddenly struck with the weight of the evil he was about to commit.” After finding he converted to Christianity, “Boko Haram members invaded his home, kidnapped his two children and informed him that they were going to execute them in retribution for his disloyalty to Islam. Clutching his phone, the man heard the sound of the guns that murdered his children.”

General Killings

Egypt: After a Christian inadvertently killed a Muslim in a quarrel begun by the latter, thousands of Muslims rose in violence, “collectively punishing” the Copts of the village. Two Christians “not party to the altercation” were killed; others were stabbed and critically wounded. As usual, “after killing the Copts, Muslims went on a rampage, looting and burning Christian-owned homes and businesses.” Even so, “Muslims insist they have not yet avenged” the death of their co-religionist, and there are fears of “a wholesale massacre of Copts.” Many Christians have fled their homes or are in hiding.

Kenya: Suspected Islamic extremists, apparently angered at the use of wine during communion—Islam forbids alcohol—threw a grenade near a church compound killing two, including an 8-year-old girl, and critically wounding three others. The pastor of another congregation received a message threatening him either to flee the region “within 48 hours or you see bomb blast taking your life and we know your house, Christians will see war. Don’t take it so lightly. We are for your neck.”

Nigeria: In the latest round of violence, soon after mosque prayers were heard, hundreds of armed Muslims invaded Christian villages, “like a swarm of bees,” killing, looting, and destroying virtually everything in sight; at the end of their four-hour rampage, some 150 people had been killed—at least 130 of them Christians. Another 45 Christians were also killed by another set of “Allahu Akbar!” shouting Muslims who burned, looted, and killed. Hundreds of people are still missing; the attacks have included the bombing of at least ten church buildings. Nearly all the Christians in the area have fled the region.

Pakistan: A 25 year-old Christian was shot dead by “an unidentified gunman in what his family believes was a radical Muslim group’s targeting of a Christian.” According to the son, “We firmly believe that my father was killed because of his preaching of the Bible, because there is no other reason.” He began to receive threats “after voicing his desire to start a welfare organization for the poor Christians” of the region.

“Dhimmitude”

(General Abuse, Debasement, and Suppression of non-Muslim “Second-Class Citizens”)

November’s major instances of dhimmitude come from two Muslim nations notorious for violating Christian rights—Egypt and Pakistan—neither of which is even cited in the U.S. State Department’s recent International Religious Freedom report:

Egypt: Following October’s Maspero massacre, when the military killed dozens of Christians, some run over intentionally by armored vehicles, Egypt’s military prosecutor detained 34 Christians, including teens under 16, on charges of “inciting violence, carrying arms and insulting the armed forces”; many of the detainees were not even at the scene and were just collected from the streets for “being a Christian.” Three are under 16 years of age, including one who, after having an operation to extract a bullet from his jaw, was chained to his hospital bed. Hundreds of Christians also came under attack from Muslims throwing stones and bottles, after the Christians protested against the violence at Maspero: “Supporters of an Islamist candidate for upcoming parliamentary election joined in the attack on the Copts.” Meanwhile, a senior leader of the Salafi party, which came in second after the Muslim Brotherhood in recent elections, blamed Christians for their own massacre, calling “Allah’s curse on them.” Muslim Brotherhood leaders asserted that only “drunks, druggies, and adulterers” are against the implementation of Sharia—a clear reference to Egypt’s Christians.

Pakistan: A new U.S. government commission report indicates that Pakistani school textbooks foster intolerance of Christians, Hindus, and all non-Muslims, while most teachers view religious minorities as “enemies of Islam.” “Religious minorities are often portrayed as inferior or second-class citizens who have been granted limited rights and privileges by generous Pakistani Muslims, for which they should be grateful,” notes the report. Accordingly, in an attempted land-grab, Muslim police and cohorts of a retired military official, beat two Christian women with “batons and punches,” inflicting a serious wound to one of the women’s eyes after the women spoke up in defense of their land, and shot at Christians who came to help the women. “In the last few years Muslims have made several attempts to seize the land from the Christians, usually succeeding because Christians are a marginalized minority.” Likewise, under a “false charge of theft,” a Christian couple was arrested and severely beaten by police; the pregnant wife was “kicked and punched” even as her interrogators threatened “to kill her unborn fetus.” A policeman offered to remove the theft charges if the husband would only “renounce Christianity and convert to Islam.”

Via Wizbang.

What strikes me about this is not so much the courage, but the kindness of the store clerk.

Mustafa comes at him with a gun, threatening his life for money. Derek knocks the robber out with a single punch and calls the police. But there is no more shouting or violence. Derek sits with him, almost in a comforting way, and gives him paper towels to help with the bleeding.

He has good advice to offer too: If you want money, get a job. Work, like everyone else.

Jimmy Carter is a kind-hearted and sincere man who, partly because of his own honesty and gentleness, cannot seem to believe in the dishonesty and brutality of others. He is a Christian who does not believe people can be evil. This naivety made him a bad president, and makes him a poor judge of foreign policy and a dangerously incompetent commentator on social issues.

Michael Wiess in the UK Telegraph is right to point out just how destructive some of Carter’s comments and actions have been. But I cannot get distressed at Carter’s reported sending of condolences to Kim Jong Il’s son Kim Jong Un. Jong Il was a vile dictator. We may be glad his reign is over. But his family still suffers grief at his death, and it is right that we condole with them.

Nor can I share in the sentiments expressed by John McCain, for whom I have considerable respect:

“The world is a better place now that Kim Jong Il is no longer in it,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said in a statement after the North Korean leader died, reportedly of a heart attack. “For more than six decades, people in North Korea have been consigned to lives of dire poverty and cruel oppression under one of the most totalitarian regimes the world has ever known. I can only express satisfaction that the Dear Leader is joining the likes of Qaddafi, Bin Laden, Hitler, and Stalin in a warm corner of hell.”

I hope not. None of us is worthy of salvation. If Qaddafi and Kim Jong Il don’t deserve to be in heaven, well, no more do I. Jesus came to save them as much as to save me, and if he loved them enough to go to the cross for them, then I cannot rejoice at their deaths, nor hope for damnation for them.

That is not to deny the harm they have done, and the immense suffering they have caused. My prayer for the family of Kim Jong Il is that they will be comforted in their time of sorrow, and that both the sorrow and the comfort will lead to a change of heart, then to changes in policy and eventually to freedom for North Korea.

The best tribute to the despicable and admirable Christopher Hitchens is to read, hear and inwardly digest his words.

This interview taped in 2002 for Uncommon Knowledge is brilliant. Two highly intelligent, eloquent men, with deep knowledge of history, talk about something that is still critically important.

In the war on terror, who are our enemies?

Why is the world silent on the constant terrorist attacks on Israel?

From the Chicago Tribune, by Ron Prosor, Israel’s Permanent Envoy to the UN:

Silence. Just silence from the U.N. Silence from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. And silence from major media outlets throughout the world.

Imagine for just a moment if this were happening to cities in, say, Texas. Imagine that the citizens of El Paso, Laredo and San Antonio have to stay inside their homes. Schools are closed, businesses are shut and people have to suspend their lives. Not because of some natural disaster or a nuclear or chemical accident, because groups in Mexico have purchased and are firing thousands of deadly missiles at Texans across the border. Sometimes a school is hit, sometimes a grocery store, and every so often someone is killed.

Imagine a similar occurrence in Seattle, Detroit or Cleveland — with rockets raining in from Canada.

Your reaction to this imagined scenario is, no doubt, incredulity. The very thought of terrorists in another country attacking Americans at random is ludicrous. You know the president would immediately order the U.S. military to respond, root out the terrorists and make sure that the Canadian or Mexican governments clearly understood that this behavior would not be tolerated. The United Nations Security Council would immediately condemn this infringement on a country’s sovereignty and the safety of its citizens. The U.N. charter makes a country’s self-defense as legal as it is logical. This is universally understood.

So if it is natural to be outraged and support the defense against terrorists who attack Texas, or England or Russia or China, why is it not natural to support the same for Israel? Since the beginning of October, more than 70 rockets and missiles have rained down on southern Israel from the Gaza Strip, which remains under the control of the Hamas terrorist organization. Last week, Israel’s densely populated northern towns were hit by rockets fired from Lebanon.

Hamas deliberately fires rockets into the heart of Israel’s major cities, which have exploded on playgrounds, near kindergarten classrooms and homes. Last month, a man was killed when a rocket struck his car on his evening commute home. Many more people have been injured. In the last month alone, more than a million Israelis had to stay home from work and more than 200,000 students were unable to attend school. You don’t read about this because if it’s covered at all, it’s buried in the back pages of newspapers.

Although these horrific attacks should appall good people everywhere, not one word of condemnation has come from the Security Council in the United Nations. Peace activists that regularly criticize my country are silent on this one as well.

Underlying the violence that continues to emanate from Gaza is a deeply rooted culture of incitement. Last month, would-be Palestinian suicide bomber Wafa al-Biss was released from prison as part of an exchange for kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit. Al-Biss offered a breathtaking challenge to cheering schoolchildren at her Hamas welcome-home rally. She said, “I hope you will walk the same path that we took and God willing, we will see some of you as martyrs.” Her crime? She tried to kill doctors, nurses and patients by blowing herself up in an Israeli hospital. Luckily, she failed to detonate.

These are the poisonous values that are being fed to the next generation of children in Gaza. When Israel looks at children, it sees the future. When Hamas looks at children, it sees suicide bombers and human shields. If only incitement were confined to Gaza. It also pervades the official institutions of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank — and many other corners of our region. In schools, mosques and media, generation after generation of children across the Middle East have been taught to hate, vilify and dehumanize Israelis and Jews.

The intolerance all too common in the Middle East finds its way around the world, even entering the halls of the U.N. Today the U.N. is home to a triple standard: one standard for democracies, a different standard for dictatorships and a special, unobtainable standard for Israel. So I pose this ethical question, not from a philosophy course at a great university but based very much in the real world: If it is not OK to fire deadly rockets at the citizens of any of the other 193 member states that make up the United Nations, why is the world silent when the victims are Israelis?

If there was ever any way the outrageously expensive National Broadband Network could have paid for itself, that prospect ended on Friday:

NBN Co has been forced to back down on its plans to restrain Telstra from promoting its wireless internet services as a substitute for the $36 billion fibre network for two decades after pressure from the competition watchdog.

The Weekend Australian can reveal that the $11bn deal between Telstra, the government and NBN Co for Telstra to decommission its copper network and shift its customers to the new service will be revised following concerns by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission that the curbs on Telstra’s marketing of its wireless services could hinder competition for wireless voice and broadband services.

Instead of Telstra agreeing not to promote wireless as a direct substitute for fibre, it is understood Telstra will effectively pledge that it would not engage in misleading and deceptive conduct about the NBN in its marketing — which is prohibited anyway under Australia’s consumer law.

The only way the NBN could have been competitive was to shut down competing technologies.

The ACCC’s decision is a good one for Australian consumers. The NBN will no longer be allowed to stop other companies implementing superior internet delivery systems.

But Australian tax payers will still be stuck with a bill of $6,000 for every household to pay the cost of what should have been clear from the beginning was a bloated, inefficient and already outdated system.

Unlike the occupy mobsters, these ladies have a point, it is a point worth making, they don’t leave a mess for anyone else to clean up, and no one got raped or murdered.

Femen 5, Occupiers 0.

FEMEN, a Ukrainian feminist group, is up in arms about the win of Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party in the Dec. 4 elections.

To show their disapproval, FEMEN protesters stripped down in front of The Cathedral Of Christ The Savior in Moscow on Friday, holding signs that said, “God Get Rid Of The Czar.’

The women were detained by security guards and taken into police custody, Reuters reports. The women were released shortly after being detained.

Quicker and tidier than the occupy mob, and they have a point!

It seem unlikely Australian political leaders (those allied with the Greens, anyway) will take any notice of this story, which is yet another reason to dump them at the next Federal election.

From Canada’s National Post:

We have long argued that the Ontario government’s headlong rush to convert Canada’s industrial heartland to “green” energy would turn out to be nothing but a colossal waste of money. Since most alternative energies remain commercially impractical (that’s why they’re still alternative and not mainstream), the blind rush by Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal government to substitute wind, solar and bio energy for coal and oil was never likely to produce much new energy, just higher power rates for residential and industrial consumers. But even we underestimated the extent to which the Ontario Liberals’ 2009 Green Energy Act had failed in just over two-year’s time.

In one of the most scathing indictments of government mismanagement we have ever witnessed, Ontario Auditor-General Jim McCarter reported Monday that Mr. McGuinty’s green dream has rapidly become an $8-billion nightmare for Ontario taxpayers and electricity users. Almost no new net power will be generated by all the green-energy projects hastily funded since the bill was passed, but the average residential consumer will see more than $400 a year added to his power bill for a decade to pay for all the bad contracts with and subsidies to eco-friendly power suppliers.

Update:

I was amused to see in this weekend’s Adelaide papers (which I never buy – the supermarket was giving them away), advertisements for rooftop solar panels, telling readers that with recent dramatic increases in domestic electricity costs, there had never been a better time to buy solar. Not a hint, not a sausage nor a whisper to indicate that the primary cause of the last two years of huge price rises has been government subsidies for the capital cost of rooftop solar installations, and the government’s forcing power companies to pay owners of rooftop installations a feed in tariff as much three times the retail price of electricity.

These schemes have been so ridiculously generous that I was briefly tempted to have solar panels installed. But I don’t approve of ripping off ordinary taxpayers despite the possibility of a temporary benefit. Welfare agencies (generally in favour of meaningless green schemes) have pointed out that the tax breaks and feed in tariffs are actually subsidising richer households who can afford solar panels, at the expense of poorer families who cannot.

Let’s see. Ugly, expensive, disadvantage the poor. Sounds like a perfect Labor Party programme.

Kathy and I used to belong to Amnesty International. About 100 years ago when AI really was about helping oppressed people, especially political prisoners. We wrote letters and everything. Not any more.

Over the last several year AI seems to have lost the plot completely. Instead of being about seeking justice for political prisoners, it gloms onto every passing leftist cause, and condemns anyone who won’t. A bit like the Anglican church.

Their latest headline grab takes the cake.

When he was US president, George W Bush sent hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Africa, especially to fight AIDS and other diseases. He is highly regarded in most African countries.

At the moment he is touring Zambia, Tanzania and Ethiopia to promote efforts to fight TB, Malaria, Polio, etc.

Amnesty has demanded Zambia (or one of the other countries) arrest Mr Bush on charges of breaking international law on torture.

Fortunately, the leaders of those nations are equipped with common sense and a spine. This was the response of Zambian foreign minister Chishimba Kambwili:

On what basis does Amnesty International want us to arrest Mr Bush? Tell them to hang, and also please ask them to create their own country and wait for Mr Bush to visit their country so that they can arrest him to suit their wish and not here in Zambia.

The ALP national conference in Sydney, that is.

Julia Gillard’s speech, which one guesses was intended to inspire the meagre troops, was instead a perfect melange of excuses, distortions, and promises that will not be kept, delivered in a nasal drone that would drive you batty if you hadn’t fallen alseep after the first paragraph.

More from Piers Ackerman:

If anyone ever admits to having a hand in producing her speech, their names should be taken and kept in a safe place to ensure they never again produce words for others to utter in public.

The theme – Labor says yes – was so asinine that it could have come from a kindergarten focus group. It began with a statement of absolute nonsense: “In the 16 months since we stood together in that toughest of federal election campaigns, our party has governed and governed well.”

The laughter could be heard echoing around the harbour, even quieting for a brief moment the shrill homosexual protesters busily stripping away Gillard’s last shreds of authority.

From there it was a brief mention of the National Disability Insurance Scheme – but no mention that there had been no funding set aside in Wayne Swan’s mid-year economic and fiscal outlook statement delivered earlier in the week.

Instead of delivery, Gillard said the decision had been taken to “lay the foundations” for what she termed a “defining Labor reform”. The cop-out clause. The fix is in.

She tried to justify the wasteful NBN cable rollout with an anecdote about a woman in Darwin whose leg was examined by a specialist in Adelaide, but didn’t have the wit to think that her listeners would wonder why Darwin, a city of 200,000 couldn’t support a full-time dermatologist, or why her government was spending exorbitant sums building super-clinics where they are not needed when there was a need for a clinic in the Northern Territory where skin problems are commonplace?

Her reference to the NBN reminded listeners that the Not Bloody Necessary fiasco is going to cost upwards of $50 billion, with its foreseeable cost blow-outs, and that take-up is meagre at best.

Her biggest howler was the claim on the clean energy economy (shorthand for carbon dioxide tax).

“After a debate lasting the best part of two, even three decades together, this year, we turned words into deeds and next year Australia will have a price on carbon,” she said.

Hello? Her words were: “There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead.” Who does she think she’s kidding?

Every Gillard speech should come with a caveat: Errors and omissions and anything we need to trade off to minor parties excepted. All facts subject to revision. Promises may be adapted, deleted, or swapped for alternative promises depending on future circumstances.

US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta’s brain cell has gone missing.

US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has urged Israel to “mend fences” with Turkey, Egypt and others in the Middle East to reduce its growing isolation…

“Unfortunately, over the past year, we’ve seen Israel’s isolation from its traditional security partners in the region grow, and the pursuit of a comprehensive Middle East peace plan has effectively been put on hold,” he said.

Israel’s concern over the Arab Spring revolts that have toppled several long-term authoritarian leaders in the region, including in peace partner Egypt, was understandable, he added.

But the changes in leadership offered an opportunity for Israel to improve regional security.

“For example, Israel can reach out and mend fences with those who share an interest in regional security, countries like Turkey and Egypt, as well as Jordan,” he said.

“And if the gestures are rebuked, the world will see those rebukes for what they are.”

Mr Panetta apparently lives in some sort of parallel universe where Recep Erdogan has not attempted to curry favour with Iran by undermining formal relations with Israel and repeatedly denouncing it in Turkey and in international forums, and where the ‘Arab Spring’ has lead to the establishment of open and reasonable governments.

In the real world, Jordan continues to distance itself from Israel, the parties which called for death to all Jews are the ones who have won government in Egypt, Turkey is turning into another Iran, and revolutions in other islamic nations like Libya are leading their countries deeper into rabid islamism and anti-semitism.

For their leaders, the imagined perfidy of Israel and all Jews is a convenient excuse for their own failings. For their people, islamic hatred for Jews has its origin in the life and teachings of Muhammed.

The UN will not see further concessions by Israel as positive. It has never done so in the past, despite the fact that those concessions have been made at massive cost, both financial and to Israel’s national security.

Just as there are no limits to hypocrisy, there are no limits to a bully’s demands. The UN and the Arab nations will never be satisfied until Israel is gone. They keep saying so.

Contrary to Mr Panetta’s inane and anodyne advice, Israel must continue to do what it has done under Netanyahu. It must be ready to engage in genuine diplomacy, and willing to offer friendship.

But bullies will not stop until they are made to stop, and those who stop them, often at great risk to themselves, do the rest of us a great favour. Israel must not allow itself to be bullied, whether by the US, or by Egypt, Jordan or Turkey.

If Mr Panetta wants to have anything useful to offer, he needs to find his brain cell.

Update: Barry Rubin at PJ Media agrees:

There are three other major questions raised in Panetta’s statement.

First, does the current “Arab Awakening” imperil Israel? Yes, of course it does. By changing a reasonably friendly Egyptian government into a totally hostile Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi dominated political system closely allied with Hamas, the Gaza Strip’s ruler, and by helping establish Islamist regimes in Tunisia and Libya allied with this Muslim Brotherhood International; the changes create a four-member alliance intent on wiping Israel off the map.

Add to that Islamist domination of Lebanon by Hizballah, an Islamist regime in Turkey, and the continuing threat from Iran and you’ve got quite a regional situation.

Second, and more interestingly, why is the above true?

The answer is as follows:
 •Democracy in theory is admirable but when you have masses imbued with very radical views, strong Islamist movements, and weak moderate ones, the election winners will be extremely radical Islamists. By winning massive victories, facing a weak (even sympathetic) United States, and seeing even mor extreme forces becoming so popular (the Salafists in Egypt) the Islamists are emboldened to be even more radical in their behavior. Who’s going to stop them?
 •We are thus not facing a springtime of democracy but a springtime of extremism.
 •The Islamists don’t want peace with Israel on any terms. They want its destruction. They will not be dissuaded by a peace agreement. They will do anything possible–starting with demagoguery and ending with terrorism or even war–to block such a diplomatic solution.  How can Israeli action reconcile those who don’t want peace?

As of now, the following are governed or will soon be governed by Islamists who want Israel’s destruction and genocide against the Jews there: Egypt, the Gaza Strip, Iran, Lebanon, Libya, Syria, Tunisia, and Turkey.

The following are governed by those who want peace with Israel: Jordan.
 •Not only is the United States not opposing this development it is supporting it. In other words, U.S. policy is intensifying the threat to Israel, not helping Israel.

Third, why are there no negotiations? As the history of the issue since January 2009 shows, it is the refusal of the Palestinian Authority to negotiate with Israel. If Panetta and the Obama Administration were either wise or honest they would acknowledge this fact. Instead, they blame Israel. Once again, U.S. policy is intensifying the threat to Israel, not helping Israel.

From Pat Condell:

And finally:

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