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If you haven’t visited it lately, Dr John Brignell’s numberwatch site has a great list of everything so far blamed on global warming. Over six hundred links listing everything from AIDS to haggis to lampreys to feminised turtles to women cheating on vacation.

Of course, global warming hasn’t caused any of these things, because the world hasn’t warmed at all for the last fourteen years, and the total global increase in temperature over the last one hundred and fifty years (including ‘adjustments’) has been 0.8 degrees; nothing at all out of the ordinary, and a difference a normal person cannot even feel.

For more see Daren Jonescu in the American Thinker.

From the frequently amusing People’s Cube:

Man-Made Warming Blamed for Disappearing Bird Populations

A research team working on a two-million-dollar government grant just made a shocking discovery: intense man-made heat waves are decimating bird populations throughout the globe, including birds that were recently thriving in local neighborhoods.

According to the researchers, anthropogenic warming-related activities are directly responsible. Steady temperature increases, especially when confined to small areas, target inactive birds that can no longer fly away to avoid the consequences. As technologically induced heat waves are being absorbed across the skin, the affected birds begin to turn brown.

“These incidents illustrate a need for an increase in government spending on further research in order to predict with accuracy the impact of more government spending on raising public awareness about an increase in government spending to study the effect of man-made warming events and activities on biodiversity and lifestyle,” stated the report released last Tuesday by Moon Batts, a professor of biology and Paul Choom, a professor of natural studies.

The scientists indicated that the next step would be to calculate the exact avian mortality rates caused by man-made warming events and the role played in it by the condiment industrial complex as enablers and facilitators of such activities.

Photographic Evidence of the Impact of Human Induced Warming on Bird Populations

Great.

Egypt’s Constitution should be based on the Koran and Sharia law, presidential candidate from the Muslim Brotherhood Islamist movement Mohamed Morsi said.

“The Koran is our constitution, the Prophet is our leader, jihad is our path and death in the name of Allah is our goal,” Morsi said in his election speech before Cairo University students on Saturday night.

Today Egypt is close as never before to the triumph of Islam at all the state levels, he said.

Of course, now he has been elected, he will have to mellow out, right?

What, you didn’t know?

Hardly surprising, since attacks on Israeli civilians get short shrift in the Australian media.

From Times of Israel:

Gaza-based terrorists fired 25 rockets into southern Israel on Saturday, causing damage to a school and factory. The latest attacks bring the total number of rockets and other projectiles fired from the Strip to approximately 150 over the past six days …

Sderot mayor David Buskila convened a special meeting Saturday morning with police and Home Front Command officials. He demanded that the government restore calm to his city.   “We have known this reality for 11 years already.” 

During a visit to Sderot and neighboring towns surrounding the Gaza Strip on Saturday, Home Front Defense Minister Matan Vilnai said “Israel cannot remain silent following the events in the South in recent days.”   He said Israel holds Hamas fully responsible for everything happening around the Gaza Strip, and that Israel will continue to use a heavy hand against anyone who tries to escalate the situation.

Interesting that when Syria shoots down one Turkish fighter jet, no one suggests that Turkey would not be within its rights to respond with force.

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said Syria’s actions were “outrageous” and underlined “how far beyond accepted behaviour the Syrian regime has put itself”.

“It will be held to account for its behaviour. The UK stands ready to pursue robust action at the United Nations Security Council.”

But when Israel responds to relentless attacks on its people within its own borders… well, that’s different.

Over the last week I have been doing some research on Highland single malt whiskies. Well, why not?

I came across this delightful video featuring Iain McArthur. Iain has worked at the Lagavulin distillery for forty years.

One of things I like about this is his humility. We can’t change tradition, he says.

Lots of young people come into my shop, and most of them I like. But almost all seem to believe that they are smarter than their parents and grandparents, that everyone who has gone before was an idiot, and that previous generations have left them a mess to clean up.

Iain clearly does not believe that. He has a deep respect for the work of those who have gone before, and is proud to be part of something bigger than himself.

Umar Patek, the last of the Bali bombers to be caught, was, according to the evidence, the chief planner of the attack and the bomb maker. He has been sentenced to twenty years in gaol.

As well as the two hundred and two people killed in Bali in 2002 (and the subsequent enormous harm to Bali’s economy and people), Patek also murdered nineteen people in bomb attacks on churches in Jakarta in 2000.

And he is given the same sentence as a ditsy Australian broad who tried to smuggle some marijuana in a pillow case?

Indonesia, what the heck?

Anna Funder has won the Miles Franklin award for her first novel All That I Am.

I haven’t read the book, so I can’t comment on its literary merits. Winning a Miles Franklin is not necessarily a recommendation, since they seem frequently to have been awarded based on the level of agreement between the author’s political opinions and those of the judges. The general opinion in the Amazon reviews is that it is heavy going, but worthwhile.

The theme of the book seems to be the importance of standing up to totalitarianism, even in the face of personal failures, rejection and betrayal. It is a good theme, though well worn.

The problem is that it is easy for an author to look back at a troubled period in history and claim it was obvious what needed to be done, and by proxy, that she would have had the courage to do it.

I have known clergy to preach bravely about the need to learn from the martyrs about standing up for the faith, for justice and mercy, but who would not lift a finger to support lay people being bullied by members of the hierarchy, simply because they were scared some of the other clergy might not talk to them, or that, at worst, they would lose their jobs.

It is much harder to recognise and confront real threats to freedom now, than it is to recognise them fifty years later, and in imagination confront them. We always like to think ourselves wise and courageous.

I have heard nothing from Ms Funder about the two greatest totalitarian threats of our own time; radical environmentalism and radical Islam.

Instead, like Lady Gaga, she chooses safe targets. Most recently Queensland Premier Campbell Newman. Consider some of the comments she made while accepting the Miles Franklin:

She has taken aim at Campbell Newman who, in one of his first acts as Queensland Premier, axed the Premier’s Literary Awards to save taxpayers $245,000.   “I don’t really think they are the Premier’s to scrap. It’s the people’s money and the people want to have this recognition of the writers who reflect their world back to them,” she said on ABC Radio.   “And the first thing that someone with dictatorial inclinations does is to silence the writers and the journalists…

“Abolishing writers awards is a cost cutting measure but also a step towards the unscrutinised exercise of power.”

Firstly, let’s note the utter absurdity of talking about being silenced while giving a speech accepting a major national writers award, to hall full of people, being broadcast on the ABC, reported widely, while criticising the premier of the state in which the award ceremony was being held.

Second, to compare the removal of funding for a book award with the actions of the Nazis is devoid of any sense of moral proportion. Diminishing the evil of Nazism to make a point is either deeply immoral or so ignorant that it makes one wonder whether Funder has any understanding of the period and the people about whom she has chosen to write.

Third, it is not true that dictators go after writers and journalists first, for the simple reason that they can rely on ninety per cent of writers and journalists not to cause them any problems. Totalitarian regimes go after their scapegoat minorities first. Again, to put oneself in the same category as the Jews in Nazi Germany or the Copts in Egypt demonstrates an alarming lack of moral sense.

Fourth, a politician’s declining to take people’s money and force them to pay for books they don’t want to read is not a “step towards the unscrutinised excercise of power.”

For the government to take people’s money and give it writers who write the kind of books the government wants people to read, whether directly or through grants and awards, is far closer to being an illegitimate use of power and antithetic to democracy. For one thing, it means people have less money to buy the books they do want to read.

Finally, it is not Campbell Newman or Tony Abbott who are trying to restrict the free speech of journalists or anyone else, but Labor with its media enquiries, commissions, councils and tribunals. No word from Funder on those.

Based on her Miles Franklin acceptance speech, I very much doubt Anna Funder has anything to teach most Australians about reason, moral sense or courage.

Just for a laugh:

From statistics guru Ross McKitrick:

A few years ago a biologist I know looked at how climate change might affect the spread of a particular invasive insect species. He obtained climate-model projections for North America under standard greenhouse-gas scenarios from two modelling labs, and then tried to characterize how the insect habitat might change. To his surprise, he found very different results depending on which model was used. Even though both models were using the same input data, they made opposite predictions about regional climate patterns in North America.

 This reminded me of a presentation I’d seen years earlier about predicted changes in U.S. rainfall patterns under global warming. The two models being used for a government report again made diametrically opposite predictions. In region after region, if one model predicted a tendency toward more flooding, the other tended to predict drying.

 Just how good are climate models at predicting regional patterns of climate change? I had occasion to survey this literature as part of a recently completed research project on the subject. The simple summary is that, with few exceptions, climate models not only fail to do better than random numbers, in some cases they are actually worse.

That is just the summary. Read the whole thing.

The point is that the models simply do not work when it comes to predicting changes in global (or even regional) climate. But it is predictions based on these same models which have been used to justify crippling legislation like the carbon dioxide tax, and spending billions of dollars to solve a problem which doesn’t exist.

The end result of quantitative easing (governments printing money to pay their bills):

Lots of money. Nothing to buy.

 

100 Billion dollars. Three eggs. Go Keynes!

In 1980, the Zimbabwe dollar was worth more than the US dollar. In 2009 Mugabe’s government printed notes with a face value of 100 trillion dollars. At that time they were worth about $300 US. Shortly after that, Zimbabwe abandoned its own currency. Zim dollars were worth less than toilet paper, so that is what people used them for.

That is the end point of excessive government spending; an economy down the toilet.

Ha, ha, ha, ROFL.

Wayne Swan says Gina Rinehart’s interest in Fairfax is a threat to democracy. No Wayne, that would be a minority government that introduces destructive legislation it promised it would not introduce, then spends millions on bribes to retain power.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy (who?) says Gina Rinehart is not entitled to trash the Fairfax brand for other shareholders. No Stephen, she doesn’t need to. The crony crowd of Karl worshiping clod-hoppers who call themselves Fairfax journalists have been doing that for years.

Meanwhile, back at boring central, David Marr, who seems to find it difficult to think rationally at any time, offers the following brilliantly irrational analysis:

The charter which gives journalists complete control over the Fairfax product “Has protected the assets of Fairfax. It has protected the readers, it’s protected the community and it’s also protected the journalists and that is now what is under direct challenge by Mrs Rinehart.”

He may have a point about the readers, if he means they have been protected from ever having to read an opinion that might cause them to rethink their own.

But “has protected the assets of Fairfax”? Only if protecting means acting in such a way that the share price has fallen to about ten per cent of what it was five years ago, and two state of the art print plants must be sold off to keep the company going.

“Protected the journalists”? Really? Almost all daily papers have seen declining circulations over the last ten years. But Fairfax papers are right at the bottom of the pile. They offer a product few people want. That does not lead to a secure work environment for journalists.

If you grow pink mushrooms, and they sold well for while but now they don’t, you can’t just sit around whining about it and demanding the government support your right to keep growing pink mushrooms. Grow something else, something people want. It’s the same with newspapers. You do not have the right to keep producing a product nobody wants. Well, you do, you just don’t have the right to demand people pay for it.

Journalists, readers and public will all be better served (and protected, whatever that means) by a Fairfax press with a sound business model, and a board that encourages, no, demands, the production of news and information services that offer Australian consumers worthwhile products at a reasonable price.

But hey, let the Fairfax journos go on strike with the printers. No papers is a great way to undermine the share price even further, and maybe some Age readers will pick up another paper by mistake and discover what they have been missing.

In 2007 Kathy and I needed to buy a new home. We had banked with the National Australia Bank for over fifteen years, so it never occurred to us to go anywhere else. This would be our fourth home loan with the NAB. All of our previous loans had been at the variable rate, or with very short fixed terms. This time we had no idea how long it would be before we needed to move again, so the flexibility of a variable rate loan was even more important.

We met with bank staff twice, and explained our needs. We were especially careful to make it clear that we did not know how long it would be before we needed to sell, and that we needed as much flexibility as possible. We finally agreed to a fixed term of one year, then moving to the standard variable rate.

Documents were given to us to sign with representations that they expressed the agreement we had made. Because we had banked with the NAB for so long we had no reason to doubt what we were told. But six weeks ago, we found that the documents we had been given did not express the agreement we had made. Instead of a loan with maximum flexibility, we had been signed up for the exact opposite; a loan with a higher interest rate, for a fixed term of ten years.

When we discovered this, we assumed it had been an honest mistake, and that the bank would be anxious to fix it. We could not have been more wrong. The reaction to our concerns was hostility, delays, and finally an outright refusal to consider anything we said. We even told them we did not want back the extra interest they had charged us, we just wanted the mistake, their mistake, to be fixed, now that it had been discovered.

We have been defrauded of between $3000 and $4000 over the last four years. The National Bank also tells us that instead of being able to pay out the loan or refinance with minimal costs, they will charge us nearly $8000 to make any changes, on a loan of just over $100,000.

We should have done more homework before going to the National Bank. In 2003 popular independent consumer website notgoodenough.org noted that the NAB was the most complained about of any Australian company. Not just the banks. The National Bank was the most complained about of any Australian company.

Ten years later, nothing much has changed. There have been media reports of NAB staff making statutory declarations they knew to be false, of falsifying loan documents, and of a pattern of complete disregard for the rights of their clients. See, for example, the website ihatethenab.com, or Bruce Ford’s bankdispute.com.au

This is not just one or two disgruntled customers. As this graph from businessday.com.au shows, the National Bank continues to lead the industry in the number of complaints. The majority of those complaints relate to housing finance.

National Australia Bank Tops List Of Customer Complaints

The National Bank can get away with treating its customers poorly, even dishonestly,  because it knows that small customers like us do not have the funds to pursue justice through the courts.

What we can do, though, is to warn our family and friends. And that includes you.

If you bank with the NAB, for your own sake, change now.

Not because it is new and different, although that will be a problem. There was nothing wrong with Windows Vista, but people hated it, mostly because it was different from XP. The jump from Windows 7 to Windows 8 is even bigger. People will not be able to find their way around it. They will get confused and annoyed.

Not because it is ugly, though that will be a problem. If you really want big clunky icons on a boring background, Windows 7 will let you do it. So giving us big clunky icons splattered all over a boring background and telling us this is the exciting new Metro interface is not going to convince anyone.

Not because the controls are confusing, although that will be a problem. How do you close a programme? How do you turn the computer off? How do you check for updates? All these things can be done, but not in any obvious or intuitive way.

Not because the Metro apps are slow to load and hard to configure, although that will be a problem.

No, the real reason Windows 8 will fail is because it hinders productivity at every turn.

As I type this, I have three Internet Explorer tabs open, plus Outlook, Notepad and Word. I can see every open programme on the taskbar, I can change between them with a single click, I can copy and paste between them with a few keyboard shortcuts. The ability to do this is essential to my workflow, as it is for everyone who works in business. There is no easy or obvious way to do this in Windows 8. You cannot easily see what programmes are running, you cannot easily move from one to another, you cannot easily transfer data between them.

I am not saying there is no way to do these things, just that there is no easy or obvious way to do them. This is a major drawback compared with every version of Windows since XP.

After using the Windows 8 preview and beta for the last several months on my home computer, I could not wait to get back to Windows 7. Windows 8 was a slog from start to finish.

Windows 8 might be suitable for tablet PCs, although the metro interface offers little reason to choose it over Android or Apple OS. But tablet PCs are a fad. They are no more than pretty toys. Even if you want a highly portable computer for simple tasks like email and internet, in almost every circumstance you will be better off with a netbook with a proper built-in keyboard.

A tablet PC is the only place Windows 8 might work. But it is incredibly stupid to design a whole new version of Windows for a type of computer that will never be more than a tiny proportion of all PCs.

For normal home or business use Windows 8 is frustrating, verging on hopeless.

Businesses will only invest in a Windows upgrade if it will improve workflow and productivity. Windows 8 does the opposite. No one will want it, and I will be embarrassed to sell it.

Every age has its own besetting heresy. Looking back – at Arianism or Montanism, for example – it is clear that these sprang out of the way society was structured at the time, and the way people understood themselves and their purpose in that society.

Heretics occasionally realise they have departed in some way from the historic teaching and practice of the Church. When they do, they usually justify their departure from the faith by claiming they have some insight not available to Jesus or the Apostles, or by referring to the ‘trajectory of scripture,’ or claiming that this is what Jesus and the Apostles would have said/done if their culture had allowed them to.

I am increasingly convinced that the underlying heresy of our time is blindness to the reality of the Fall, and/or a refusal to take its consequences seriously.

This was brought home to me on Sunday morning, as we sang Trust and Obey. The second verse was this:

Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,
but our toil he doth richly repay;
not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross,
but is blest if we trust and obey.

Quite different from the usual:

Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies,
But His smile quickly drives it away;
Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear,
Can abide while we trust and obey.

The difference is significant.

The former understands that life is toil. There will be grief and loss and disapproval, but all these can be blessed to God’s purposes if we trust and obey.

The second acknowledges that these things may come along, but expects that they will be wiped away by God’s smile. Everything will be fine, the sun will shine, if we trust and obey. In other words, happiness, self-fulfilment, plans coming to fruition, is what we should expect as Christians. I doubt very much that is what John Sammis had in mind.

Similarly with Jesus Loves Me. We used to sing:

Little ones to Him belong, they are weak but He is strong.

Now we sing:

Little ones to Him belong, in His love they shall be strong.

Well, maybe. But again, I doubt this is what Ann Warner had in mind. The whole poem is about our utter dependence on God and His grace. Our weakness, His strength.

This is clear in the following verse, which is not sung at all anymore:

Jesus loves me! Loves me still
Tho’ I’m very weak and ill;
That I might from sin be free
Bled and died upon the tree.

Warner is not talking about physical illness or weakness, but sickness and weakness of the soul, weakness that is part of our fallen nature.

Somehow recognition and discussion of this has become unacceptable, not only in our preaching, but in our singing as well.

One more example. Joy to the World is one of the best loved of Christmas hymns. But how many of us have ever sung Watt’s third verse?

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

Even the few modern hymnbooks that include this verse mark it as optional.

No Fall, no curse, no original sin to mar and muddy and mislead and confuse. A new day of self-respect, tolerance, self-esteem and hope dawns.

But equally, and fatally to our proclamation of the Gospel, no Fall means no need for redemption. We all just need to do our best, not discriminate, care for the environment, and everything will be lovely. Jesus is nice for those who want that sort of thing, but not really necessary.

But the Fall is real. The curse is real. Our reason, our emotions, our wills, are all warped by sin, as is the whole of creation. We are weak. We are ill. We are lost.

104 years ago, in the second chapter of Orthodoxy (appropriately titled The Maniac) GK Chesterton wrote “Certain new theologians dispute original sin, which is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved.”

Reinhold Niebuhr quoted this as “Original sin is the only empirically verifiable doctrine of the Christian faith.”

We want things we should not want. Just as each society has its besetting heresy, each of us has our besetting sin – some desire or temptation that plagues us, that will not go away, that seems to be part of our nature. What often follows is an effort to convince ourselves and others that the acts to which we are tempted are not really sinful. Or not in our case, anyway. Or even that this is the way God made us, and something to be celebrated.

But Isaiah warns us: Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! (5:20).

Going from the sublime heights of Isaac Watts to the depths of empty-headed triviality, Lady Gaga’s ‘Born This Way’ is a perfect example of this kind of thinking:

No matter gay, straight, or bi,  Lesbian, transgendered life,
I’m on the right track baby,  I was born to survive.
No matter black, white or beige, Chola or orient made,
I’m on the right track baby,  I was born to be brave.
I’m beautiful in my way ‘Cause God makes no mistakes
I’m on the right track, baby  I was born this way
Don’t hide yourself in regret just love yourself and you’re set
I’m on the right track, baby  I was born this way.

Reassuring, but wrong. Comforting, but deadly. The Fall is real. God does not make mistakes. Nonetheless, the world, including us, is not the way God intended.

All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We all need a redeemer.

Yesterday a young woman told me she had recently lost a baby. I was immediately sympathetic. She told me it had been 21 weeks, and that she and her partner had a little memorial service for her (the baby was a girl). They had some music, released some doves and balloons, and sent her off with love and prayers.

All very nice, except that she went on to say that she had no choice but to terminate the pregnancy because the baby had Down’s Syndrome.

This is the second time in six months I have heard a similar story. “I lost a baby.” “I had to terminate it because… ”

If you decide a particular baby is going to be too inconvenient for you, the law gives you the right to kill it. You don’t “have to.”

If you do decide to kill your baby, please don’t tell me you “lost a baby” and expect me to feel sorry for you.

That is the moral equivalent of a man murdering his wife and expecting sympathy because he has no one to cook his dinner.