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A More Assertive China

I for one was grateful for China’s new assertiveness at Copenhagen.

I am less impressed by the combination of insecurity about its internal politics and disregard of world opinion that is increasingly evident in China’s represssion of dissent, and limiting of its citizens’ access to news sources.

The eleven year sentence imposed on 53 year old professor of literature, Liu Xiaobo, for ‘subversion’ has drawn widespread condemnation from world leaders.

This has been ignored. Chinese leaders clearly believe (and rightly) that they have more to be worried about from their own citizens than from the current rash of limp wristed leftist Western leaders.

Yemen Attacks Al Qaeda

Yemen has conflicts with Al Qaeda in the South, and Al Houthis (a Shiite separatist group) in the North.

Neither group has widespread support in Yemen. Al Qaeda is seen as a threat by the West, because it has links to terror organisations around the world. But Al Qaeda has little popular support in Yemen, and appears to have no political ambitions other than destruction of anything and any regime associated with the West, and with the US in particular.

Al Houthis has political ambitions in both Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

Jumana Al Tamimi of Gulf News writes:

“Al Qaida has no popular base, no political horizon and no alternative to the existing regime. They consider the state an enemy because of its alliance with the US,” Yemeni political expert Fares Saqqaf said.

At the same time, “Al Houthis are newly formed, as their first confrontation with the state was in 2004. They are close to people, and are followers of a certain Shiite sect (Yemen is prediminantly Sunni).

Yemen is the poorest of the gulf states, with limited oil supplies, and chronic water shortages.

Without US support against Al Qaeda, and Saudi support against Al Houthis, Yemen may well be in serious trouble.

The catch is that dependence on US aid may reduce Yemen’s credibility amongst other Arab states, and may increase the likelihood of attacks in the US.

WSJ reports about the attempted bombing on a Northwest Airlines plane yesterday:

The suspect, Nigerian-national Abdul Mudallad, said he received instructions and training from al Qaeda operatives based in Yemen ahead of boarding the Detroit-bound flight Friday, according to U.S. law-enforcement officials.

These officials said they couldn’t confirm Mr. Mudallad’s claims. But the purported bombing attempt came as Yemen’s security forces intensified military operations against al Qaeda forces, with significant U.S. intelligence support.

The US has provided nearly $70 million in counter-terrorism aid to Yemen this year, compared with nothing in the previous year.

Nearly half the terror suspects currently held by the US are Yemeni nationals.

Taxpayer Funded Stupidity

1. I had occasion to visit the regional hospital in Geraldton a couple of days ago. Staff seemed competent and concerned for their patients. So far, so good.

Ouside the main entrance was a vendng machine for syringes and needles. This is a photo of the machine, and of my $3.00 worth of needles and syringes:

Needle Vending Machine Outside Geraldton Hospital
Needle Vending Machine Outside Geraldton Hospital
Needles From Hospital Vending Machine
Needles From Hospital Vending Machine

I know there is a view that the best way to help intra-venous drug abusers is to make their drug use as easy as possible.

That is a view not well-founded in research, but it is at least motivated by good-will. Well, I assume it is. It is not clear how implementing or continuing policies which have been shown to do more harm than good can really be motivated by a desire to help, but let’s give the hospital administrators and drug policy people the benefit of the doubt.

Maybe they are so busy they don’t have time to read.

What I don’t understand is how putting a vending machine in a public place so any five year old with $3.00 can get a supply of syringes and needles is helping anyone.

2. I bought some very good fish and chips yesterday evening. On the shop notice board was an advertisement for the ‘Murdoch University Chiropractic Clinic.’

Murdoch University teaches chiropractic. It runs chiropractic clinics.

How is it possible to have any confidence in the academic integrity of a university which offers PhDs in quackery?

It is a bit like Oxford offering a degree in tea-leaf reading, and running a tea leaf reading booth at the local shopping mall.

The university website tells potential students:

We are excited that we are now entering a time where more emphasis can be placed upon generating research relating to chiropractic.

They could just take note of the century of existing research, which shows that the only thing chiropractic can do is provide temporary relief of some kinds of minor back pain – about the equivalent of taking two aspirin, and that other chiropractic techniques are not only useless but harmful.

The website goes on:

In September, 2006 Murdoch University School of Chiropractic was informed by the Council on Chiropractic Education Australasia Inc. that its program had become fully accredited.

So if you decide to do a course in chiropractic at Murdoch, you can be assured that the piece of paper they give you will be accepted by quacks and charlatans around the world.

Congratulations!

The End Of The Anglican Communion

The election of Mary Glasspool as assistant Bishop of Los Angeles will be the end of the Anglican Communion.

Ms Glasspool is a practising lesbian who has lived for twenty years with her partner.

This election comes six years after the election of active homosexual Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire.

The unequivocal witness of the Judeo-Christian tradition over nearly four thousand years is that homosexual acts are wrong. This was the unchallenged view in the Christian church until about fifty years ago.

Conservatives say the sudden, culturally driven rejection of long-held beliefs about leadership and sexuality is not only intrinsically wrong, but makes it impossible to comunicate the faith with anny confidence. If the church now says it has been wrong about these key things for the last 2,000 years, why should anyone believe anything it says now?

Muriel Porter claims that we conservatives have talked about damage to the Anglican Communion before, and threatened to leave before before, and so can be safely ignored in any current debates.

It is true that there have been no major public splits in the Anglican Church of Australia.

It is also true that there have been dramatic declines in church attendance over the lasty thirty years.

If life expectancies had not increased by twenty years or so over the last century, Anglican churches around the country would be empty.

There are some exceptions – Sydney and its satellites. But Sydney stands outside the mainstream of the Anglican Church of Australia. That is not a criticism!

Many thousands of men and women who have been Anglicans all their lives have left in despair rather than form new semi-Anglican denominations.

If Muriel Porter means this process is likely to continue no matter how far the church strays from its moorings, then she is probably right.

The Privileged Religion Of Atheism

Why do atheists insist on imposing their religious views on the rest of us?

Atheists are a tiny proportion of the population in Australia.

Seventy percent of Australians are Christians, or have some affiliation with a Christian church. Many of the rest are Sikhs, Muslims, Jews, or members of a myriad of smaller groups.

By all means let’s hear what the atheists have to say. But why should there be outrage from them when anyone else has a point of view on a matter of public policy?

On the flight from Adelaide I read bits of the Adelaide Advertiser over the shoulder of the man in the seat next to me.

There was an article by a woman I had never heard of and whose name I cannot remember, bemoaning the influence of Christianity in public life.

As examples of this nefarious influence, she pointed to the defeat of the voluntary euthanasia bill, and exemptions for religious groups from aspects of anti-discrimination legislation.

These exemptions provide, for example, that a muslim social welfare group does not have to employ a man who lives in a sexual relationship with another man, that a Jewish school does not have to employ someone who believes Jews are descended from pigs and monkeys, or that a catholic parish does not have to employ someone who thinks the pope is the anti-christ.

In other words, these exemptions are about protecting the feelings and beliefs of others, even when when we disagree with them. Even atheists. And I agree with the writer to the extent of acknowledging that this is indeed Chrstian influence at work.

Take two minutes to do a simple thought experiment.

Consider countries where there has been a long history of Christian influence in public life.

Now think of countries under Islamic or atheist regimes.

Where are you more likely to find justice and democracy? Where are you going to be safer if you are lesbian or homosexual? Where are women’s voices more likely to be heard? Where is there a higher level of wealth, of quality education and health services?

In which direction do refugees and immigration flow? Where would you rather live?

The writer of the Adelaide Advertiser article decries the fact the Tony Abbott has called for compulsory Bible classes. She says she is happy for the Bible to be taught in schools, with other fiction.

I am not sure Tony Abbott has called for compulsory Bible classes.

What he said was that it was impossible to understand Western culture; law, music art and literature, without a knowledge of the Bible. He is right.

One of the consequences of the influence of the Bible, and of Christianity in general, is that people like the woman who wrote the Advertiser article can parrot their ill-informed and poorly thought-out opinions and expect them to be taken seriously.

And thank God for that.

Return of the Hawk-Faced Harridans

It was like being back on Ansett.

On Tuesday Kathy and I travelled from American River to Geraldton.

it was a long day. Drive from American River to Penneshaw. Ferry to Cape Jervis. Drive to Adelaide. Fly to Perth. That was with Qantas, and it was OK. One of the lunch choices was chicken korma. That might have been a mistake. It was a bit smelly, in a stinky sort of way. And the elderly lady behind me kept swearing at her husband. But otherwise the flight was fine. Check-in staff were helpful, cabin staff were polite.

The flight from Perth to Geraldton was a different matter.

The young woman at the check-in counter looked and sounded as if she had several better things to do than check in passengers.

She barely spoke, other than to ask for ID, which we already had open for her.

She did manage ‘There you go’ as she dropped the boarding passes on the counter.

I asked which gate we were boarding from. ‘Just look at the screen’ she advised.

‘OK. Thanks. And where do we go from here?’ I said, not being familiar with the airport.

‘Just go through security.’

‘And which way is that?’

This was met with a deep sigh, as if passengers who did not know the airport were an appalling trial which no staff member should be expected to tolerate.

‘To your left. Look. Just go through security.’

Going through the gate, the staff who boarded guests were more interested in talking to one another than assisting passengers. You could have strolled onto the plane with a dozen sticks of dynamite wrapped around your head and the conversation would still have been about what Gerald and Tiffany did on their date last night.

We found our way across the tarmac to the plane, through a labyrinth of barricades and an occasional staff member staring into space.

The first thing that struck me when I got on the plane was the smell of urine. The toilet was near the door and smelled as if it had not been emptied any time in 2009.

I showed the stewardess my boarding pass. She looked at it as if it was a used tampon. ‘H8’ she said. Was this the standard greeting on Sky West? Or had she mistaken me for a member of some secret society like the Seven Dials?

Actually, I didn’t wonder either of those things. I had looked at my boarding pass when I was trying to work out which gate I needed to go to.

I knew H8 was my seat number. I didn’t need anyone to glare disdainfully and growl it back to me. Perhaps a ‘Good afternoon, welcome to Sky West’ or even ‘Hi, two thirds of the way down on the left’ would have been appropriate.

Then dinner arrived. There was no choice, but hey, it was food. Well, sort of.

It looked like Chicken Caesar salad. ‘Looked like’ was as close it got.

The chicken was a gluey concoction, apparently made of gristle mixed with chicken flavouring, and a streak of brown paint to make it looked as if the glue and gristle had been grilled.

There were soggy croutons, and wilted lettuce, and ‘Caesar Dressing’ in a little plastic pouch. And a stale bread roll.

I rarely drink on flights, but consoled myself with a mid strength beer.

There was a 1 inch by a half inch bar of Cadbury chocolate in the dinner box.

That was nice.

And our bags arrived in Geraldton at the same time we did. So I guess it wasn’t all bad.

Actions Have Consequences

The Christmas Island detention centre is so full that 30 illegal immigrants have transported to Melbourne. Another 35 have been taken from Christmas Island to Darwin.

When I was about 12, I asked my Mum what it meant to be grown-up. She thought for a minute as said ‘Taking responsibility for your actions.’

The importance of taking responsibility for one’s actions is probably the single principle that did most to move me away from the leftism of my university days.

It is a principle that seems completely to escape leftist politicians and activists.

For example, if you (this list from John Stone’s article ‘The Origins of the Crisis in Immigration Policy’ Quadrant December 2009):

  • Announce that illegal immigrants will not be subject to lengthy stays in detention, but will be allowed to live in the community.
  • Introduce a system of ‘Temporary Bridging Visas’ for people who have illegally overstayed the terms of their original visas.
  • Abolish Temporary Protection Visas and announce that anyone who is given refugee or Special Humanitarian Program status will be granted permannent residence, full access to welfare benefits, and the right to invite family members to live in Australia.
  • Weaken citizenship tests.
  • Announce a 24.5% increase in immigration.

Then it should come as no surprise that you have made Australia a much more attractive target for illegal immigrants and people smugglers.

There have been 54 boats this year, compared with a total of 18 in the previous six years.

The present Federal government told the world that people who arrived in Australia illegally would be treated more compassionately.

Some of those who have come to this country illegally this year have specifically said that they did so because they believed they would be more likely to succeed in obtaining permamnent residence than under the Howard government.

Yet Mr Rudd refuses to acknowledge that the massive increase in the number of illegal immigrants to Australia in the last twelve months has anything to do with the policies and announcements listed above.

This an outright refusal to accept responsibility for the consequences his actions.

Compassionate policies are those which result in a reduction of suffering. These ‘compassionate’ policies have resulted in a huge increase in suffering. And some deaths.

Genuine compassion, or even any concern whatever for the safety and well-being of others, would lead to acknowledgement that the policy changes have not worked, and the immediate implementation of plans to reduce the number of illegal immigrants.

But that would mean taking responsibility.

I guess we we can always hope.

Stories In Common

Reader James T suggests I should have given Andrew Bolt credit for my comments on James Cameron’s film Avatar.

Proper referencing is important for one’s intellectual integrity. It is also polite.

When I write about a newspaper article or other primary source, I always reference the source, with a link if possible.

If I have already begun to think about a story, to make a notes on a news item, for example, and then come across some commentary on the same story, I will not reference that commentary unless it changes the way I think, or leads me to other information on the same subject.

But where I have been alerted to a story by another commentator, I reference the original story, and the place I first read about it.

For example, in my comments about the Daily Mail’s fact avoiding article on the relationship between fundamentalism and violence, I referenced the Daily Mail, and Robert Spencer’s Jihad Watch.

In my story about the large group of scientists who wrote to Ban Ki Moon questioning the global warming orthodoxy as a basis for for economic or environmental policy, I referenced the scientists’ website and letter, and Australian Conservative, where I had first read the story.

In the case of Avatar, my story (which was basically just an approving note about Jim Schembri’s disapproving review) appeared a couple of hours before Andrew’s similar story.

There is nothing unexpected or untoward about this.

Avatar was in the news – it was due for release in Australia the following day. It is not surprising that two conservative bloggers should comment on the politics of a highly political film the day before its release.

On Journalism

From Jeff Lindsay’s Darkly Dreaming Dexter:

You don’t have to take an IQ test to become a reporter. Even so, I always hope for just the smallest glimmer. And I’m always disappointed. Perhaps I saw too many blacka nd white movies as a child. I still thought the cynical world-weary drunk from the large metropolitan daily was supposed to ask an awkward question and force the investigators to re-examine the evidence.

Sadly, as Dexter notes, the the awkward questions seem only to extend to ‘How did that make you feel?’ or ‘What was she wearing at the time?’ or ‘How high, Mr Gore?’

Now There’s An Idea That Could Work …

This is both funny and tragic because the words put into Obama’s mouth are true, and the plan would work. But it will just never happen.

Imagine the posibilities, the hopenchangen. But, instead, real hope, and real change.

Darn. The more I think about it, the sadder I feel.

From Scott Ott’s Scrappleface:

Delegates to the global climate conference in Copenhagen sat in stunned silence today as President Obama solved the global warming crisis with a single 25-minute speech.

“While the challenges we face may seem insoluble,” the Nobel laureate said, “the solution is actually quite simple. It’s historically reliable. It works every time it’s sincerely tried.”

“Basically, the problem is that poor nations are broke,” Obama explained, “and rich nations don’t want to throw their money down a totalitarian rathole, into the hands of tyrants who see this treaty as a gold mine and who have no intention of reducing carbon emissions. Since we need trillions of dollars to fund development of speculative green technologies, the only answer is for the poor nations to get rich fast.”

Obama said the broad outlines of his plan included having poor nations “adopt the time-tested Protestant work ethic, free-market capitalism and equal justice under law.”

“Once you see your vocation as a calling from God,” he said, “you work diligently toward excellence, to bring glory to your creator. If your property rights are guaranteed under law, you work to improve yours, and to acquire more, by serving others. Under my plan, within half a century, the less-developed nations will go from being pathetic dependents to equal trading partners.”

While skeptics said the president’s plan would put off a solution until the world’s coastlands were under water, Obama said, “Free men and women solve problems for profit, for accolades and for inscrutable personal purposes … but they do solve problems. If, in five decades, there’s still a climate crisis, we can all get together, kick in an equal share per capita, and hire someone to fix it.”

Quadrant Grant Slash A Disgrace

via Australian Conservative.

During the years of the Howard government, the funding of left-wing magazines like Meanjin and Overland was never reduced.

The Literature Board of the Australia Council has just reduced Quadrant’s grant (which is used entirely to fund literary content) from $50,000 to $35,000 per annum.

Quadrant publishes ten times per year. Meanjin and Overland, which publish quarterly, receive annual grants of $50,000 and $60,000.

Have a look at the list of journals supported by the Literature Board, and judge for yourself whether literature expressive of the whole spectrum of Australian political thought is funded on an equal basis.

The Board’s view seems to be that whatever its literary merit, a magazine which publishes short stories, reviews and poetry which are not consistent with the Board’s opinions is not deserving of the same level of funding.

Why not email the Board, and let them know you think justice and transperency in grant administration are important for their credibility, and for the future of Australian literature?

If We Are Not There To Win …

Why are we in Afghanistan at all?

I noted a few weeks ago:

Afghanistan was always going to be a harder fight than Iraq.

It is also a fight that must be won – not just for the people of Afghanistan, but for the people of Pakistan. If Afghanistan falls, Pakistan will be in danger.

If Pakistan falls, the world will be in danger.

In theory, the allies are not there to defeat the Taliban themselves. They are there to assist Hamid Karzai’s government defeat the Taliban.

President Obama’s recent announcement of a ‘surge’ of 30,000 troops should help.

Except that:

  1. Obama has told the Taliban when he expects US and allied troops to be gone – in eighteen months’ time.
  2. Karzai has said that he expects it will take 15 years to diminish the military abilities and policitcal influence of the Taliban to the point they are no longer a threat.
  3. The Obama administration has made it clear they have no confidence in Hamid’s competence or honesty.

A confrontation with Iran is now almost inevitable. The US and its Western allies must take action to prevent an Iranian nuclear attack on Israel, and to stop any nuclear threat to Europe.

If they wait till Iran makes Israel a wasteland, as Iranian President Imanutjob has repeatedly said he intends to do, it will be, well, too late.

If they act before it is too late, even if their actions are limited to removing Iran’s capacity to make nuclear weapons, they will be accused of a crusade against Islam, of being imperialist aggressors, etc.

This means that even though Hamid was re-elected only with the help of massive electoral fraud, it is currently politically unthinkable for the US to attenpt to bring about a regime change in Afghanistan.

It is not unthinkable that the UN could refuse to recognise the result of the election, and push for new, properly supervised elctions which include all members of Afghan society including the Pashtoon.

But as we have seen over the last couple of weeks in Copenhagen, the UN couldn’t organise a cock-up in a brothel. So it’s probably a good thing that the head of the UN mission in Afghanistan, Kai Eide, and the UN Security Council, are keeping their eyes and mouths firmly shut.

But where does that leave the allies?

Australia’s contribution is weak, to say the least.

Prime Minster Rudd’s offer to balance the US commitment of 30,000 new troops by sending a few police officers and some aid advisors has confirmed the unofficial code-name ‘Operation Token Presence’ for Australia’s contribution.

Having said that, it is important to note that the contribution made, and the cost borne, by Australian service men and women in Afghanistan is out of all proportion to their numbers and to the commitment of their political masters.

Despite Prime Minister Rudd’s earnest hopes, a pre-Copenhagen commitment to an emissions trading scheme was never going to make him a statesman on the world stage, or be an example other nations would find anything other than laughable.

But a renewed commitment by Australia to the effort in Afghanistan really could make a difference, and be an example which other allies might follow.

If we are serious about the need to defeat the Taliban, Australia must make a genuine commitment of fighting forces to Afghanistan.

if we are not serious, we should just get out, stop playing games, and stop risking the lives of young Australians in a conflict we have no intention of winning.

That would be embarrassing. But it would not be as embarrassing as our current limp wristed and pointless ‘Operation Token Presence.’

Shroud of Turin Debunked (Again) (Not)

The Times reports that experts claim a first century shroud discovered in a tomb near Jerusalem proves the Turin Shroud could not have been used to cover Jesus’ body.

The Hebew University in Jerusalem said “Based on the assumption that this is representative of a typical burial shroud widely used at the time of Jesus, the researchers conclude that the Turin Shroud did not originate from Jesus-era Jerusalem … this discovery has laid to rest the myth of the Shroud.”

The ‘shroud’ the investigators investigated was a winding wrapped a round the body of a man who suffered from leprosy.

The leper’s shroud was a simple two way weave, the Turin Shroud is a three over one herringbone weave.

There is a very big assumption in the experts’ opinion, which they are kind enough to point out: “Based on the assumption that this is a representative of a typical burial shroud widely used at the time of Jesus …”

This is a bit like someone in the year 4,000 digging up a 20th century pauper’s grave, noting the plainess of the coffin, and claiming this proves other claimed coffins and caskets from the same period could not be genuine because they were made of metal or better quality wood, or had nicer trim.

Jesus, though himself poor, had wealthy friends. This is John 19: 38-40:

After these things Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate granted permission. So he came and took away His body. Nicodemus, who had first come to Him by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen wrappings with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.

100 pounds of spices – this is a huge amount of myrrh and aloes, and extraordinarily expensive.

It is hardly beyond imagining that Jesus’ body might have been wrapped in a better quality cloth than the single poor quality cloth wrapped around a leper that for no apparent reason is assumed by these experts to be the standard burial cloth used at the time.

I am agnostic about the Shroud, as I am about many relics.

But in this case, the experts are letting their agendas show a little too clearly.

Copenhagen – Agreement Reached

At an historic photo session in Copenhagen this morning, world leaders announced they had reached an agreement on climate change.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy says all countries have agreed to the deal. “We have an agreement,” Mr Sarkozy told a news conference in Copenhagen after the meeting of 120 world leaders.

Leaders announced they had agreed they were completely unable to agree.

President Farack Banana said this agreement represented the beginning of a new era in international understanding.

Describing the agreement as ‘unprecedentedly meaningful,’ Mr Banana said that more work was needed to grasp the consequences of the agreement.

‘I call on all the nations of the world to build on the progress we have made in reaching this agreement here in Cornhuggen,’ he said. ‘We need to stop sitting on the sidelines, and start sitting somewhere else.’

World leaders have also agreed to have another holiday in about six months time, preferably somewhere a bit warmer. Acapulco would be nice.