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Catherine Zeta-Jones has asked to play Susan Boyle in a film version of Susan’s life.

I thought this was bizarre at first. But when you see photos of the two women side by side, it might just be possible.

Catherine is an intelligent and competent actor, so she might be a good choice.

Footage of Susan Boyle singing I Dreamed A Dream from Les Miserables has become the most viewed YouTube clip of all time with more than 100 million hits.

Quite co-incidentally (unless Susan Boyle is a secret capitalist weapon), 100 million is approximately the number of mentally ill people in China.

The World Health Organisation has warned that “all of humanity is under threat” from a potential swine flu pandemic and called for “global solidarity” to combat the virus. The plea came as the WHO raised the swine flu threat awareness level to 5 out of 6, indicating that the world is on the brink of a pandemic.

Ten people have died. Only one outside of Mexico – and he or she was a small child just over the Mexican border. That’s sad for them and their families. But ‘All humanity under threat?’ There’s no evidence so far that this strain of Swine Flu is any more infectious or any more deadly than ordinary flu.

I’m more inclined to think it was WHO funding that was under threat.

There are two major problems with these constant dire warnings about minimal or non-existent threats.

Firstly, funds are diverted from real problems that are genuinely causing harm now, into dealing with imaginary problems that just might maybe cause harm at some time in the future.

Secondly, when the WHO and the IPCC cry wolf in an effort to get more funding and more influence, they discredit themselves and the UN. OK, who cares? But they also discredit science, and that does matter.

Sooner or later there will be a real crisis – one which demands real, rapid action. A strain of Ebola which is capable of airborne transmission, for example. The risk is that when the real crisis does arrive, people will be so jaded by the constant shouts of alarm that they will disregard the calls to take action that really will be needed.

The sky is not falling. Let’s just get on with making a difference in ways that matter now.

Clean water for everyone, and stopping TB and Malaria would be a good place to start. These three things could be done now with less money than is being wasting on the fairy tale of ‘combatting climate change.’

PS

Perhaps ‘Swine Flew’ could be the WHO’s new theme song:

Up on my feet and moving
Got a strange new runner´s high
See me sprouting eagle´s wings
This pig is gonna fly…

(Look, up in the sky!!! It´s a bird?! It´s a plane?! It´s Superman!
No man, it´s not Superman. It´s ONE BAD PIG!)

Swine flew

A couple have been arrested for having sex on the lawn at Windsor Castle. They have been cautioned for ‘outraging public decency.’

The pair, in their early thirties, stripped on a private grass bank at the castle, where Her Majesty was in residence.  And went at it as if they were in their own bedroom.

Most of public present at the time seem to have been amused and entertained rather than outraged. Tourists filmed the couple for twenty minutes, and Royal Protection Squad officers also managed to get a reasonable view from the palace windows.

Apparently there was a bit of encouragement from both tourists and guards.

The really outrageous thing, of course, is that the couple ‘even ignored the Please Keep Off The Grass signs.’

“This is a modest number,” said Huang Yueqin, the director of the National Centre for Mental Health.

Mental illness has now overtaken heart disease and cancer as the biggest burden on the Chinese health system, according to the World Health Organisation.

Does this mean that one in every thirty people in the world is a mentally ill Chinese?

And why do socialist dictatorships have such high rates of mental ilness?

I like the Dixie Chicks, even though their politics are entirely unrelated to reality.

This song, though, could be a message from the free world to terrorists everywhere.

Not Ready To Make Nice.

I love this clip.

Just a couple of interesting gadgets.

The Sharkstopper is an accoustic shark repellent. It produces sound at a pitch sharks find uncomfortable, so they just swim away. That’s the idea, anyway.

If testing shows this is effective I can see the Sharkstopper being a big hit in Australia. There are about 12 shark attacks every year in Australia, and one fatal attack every five years, so it’s really not something to panic about. But that never stopped anyone.

Of course, even with one fatality every five  years, Australians are still more likely to die from a shark attack than Swine Flu. But not if you are wearing the Sharkstopper. Presumably.

The Jupiter Jack is a little device you plug into your mobile (cell) phone. It produces a short range FM radio signal which plays your caller’s voice through your car stereo. It is easier and cheaper than a bluetooth connection or traditional hands free kit. Another one of those simple (and cheap) ideas you see and wonder why no one thought of before.

The Jupiter Jack claims to work with any phone in any car. Not yet available in Australia. Bother.

And I love Susan Boyle.

What to do?

Just watch it.

Crowds love ugly people – Britains Got Talent Parody.

It’s a parody of the judges, not Susan Boyle, by the way. ‘There’s something so surprising about someone really ugly being able to do anything..’   Wonderful.

World Wide Words defines a snollygoster as ‘a shrewd, unprincipled person, especially a politician.’ 

Snollygoster has not been heard much for the last sixty years.

President Truman used it in 1952, and defined it, either in ignorance or impishness, as “a man born out of wedlock”.

Many people put him right, some quoting this definition from the Columbus Dispatch of October 1895, with its splendid last phrase in the spirit of the original: “A Georgia editor kindly explains that ‘a snollygoster is a fellow who wants office, regardless of party, platform or principles, and who, whenever he wins, gets there by the sheer force of monumental talknophical assumnacy’.

Remind you of anyone? It’s been used of Arlen Specter (well, by me, anyway), but I was thinking of someone else.

It’s no surprise that snollygoster is making a come-back.

A few people, including Tim Blair and Andrew Bolt, have picked up these comments from Sir Michael Caine, originally published in the  UK Telegraph:

The Government has taken tax up to 50 per cent, and if it goes to 51 I will be back in America,” he said at the weekend. “We’ve got 3.5 million layabouts on benefits, and I’m 76, getting up at 6am to go to work to keep them. Let’s get everybody back to work so we can save a couple of billion and cut tax, not keep sticking it up.”

Sir Michael is a perfect example of someone who came from nowhere and got somewhere, by thinking, planning and working.

Lots of people don’t like to think or work, and would rather imagine that the poverty and dullness of their lives is caused by people with money keeping them down, or by bad luck, or indeed by anything except the likely real causes, stupidity and laziness.

The best hope for people who are in that situation is not to have some bleating social worker pat them on the hand and say ‘There, there, it’s not your fault, the system is keeping you down, you never had a chance.’

Sir Michael and thousands of migrants to Australia prove that no matter what your background, you can succeed if you are willing to think and work hard.

People who are unhappy, poor, lonely, need to hear that in many cases their unpleasant situation is a result of choices they have made. And (and this is something that really is empowering) that they can change their situation by changing those choices. That is, if they want things to be different, they have to act differently.

Gordon Brown’s (UK) and Kevin Rudd’s (Australia) government do not see things in that way. Both seem to be driven by resentment of people who have worked hard and done well.

Both Brown and Rudd are determined to introduce tax regimes which will undermine future economic development. Those regimes will undermine development by taking so much of the income of those who risk money they have saved for years, mortgage their homes, etc, to develop new ideas and new businesses, that no sensible person would bother.

 Or if you were going to bother, you would go to some other country to do it.

Such policies are economic suicide. Taxes come from successful, profitable businesses, and the people they employ. Without profitable businesses, there is no tax income. If there is no tax income there is no legislature,  no infrastructure, no social services.

It takes two to make a loan.

Borrowers are losing beds, TVs and washing machines after taking out short-term, high-interest “payday loans” they cannot afford to repay, say consumer advocates.

So, don’t take out the loan. Stop drinking. Give up smoking. Eat something other than takeaways. Stop buying Lotto tickets. Get a job. Take some responsibility for your life. Everything that happens to you isn’t someone else’s fault. It is not someone else’s job to keep paying for your mistakes, or laziness, or both.

John Brady, national compliance manager of City Finance, which lends money to people who need to fix cars or buy a new fridge… says his typical customer borrows $1500 and pays it off over a year, paying a 43 per cent interest rate and application fee of up to $380.

Yes, they are scoundrels. They take advantage of the poor.

But the answer is pretty simple. If you can’t afford to repay a loan, don’t get it.

Britain’s new ‘Equality Bill’ replaces nine other diversity laws, so that employers will find it easier to put into place a range of inefficient and unneccesary measures thought up by people wo have never run a business in their lives.

Great idea comrade! Let’s make it even harder for small businesses to employ people capable of doing the work they are employed to do. That should help the economy along.

TV shows fall under the bill. Including, gasp of horror, Top Gear.

Dr Louise Livesey, tutor in sociology and women’s studies at Oxford, accused Top Gear of “entrenched, institutional sexism”.  There’s a big surpise.

But Top Gear executive producer Andy Wilman claimed it was “utter drivel” to suggest that the show excluded women, saying: “If the show is allegedly female-unfriendly, why is almost half the audience female?

“Secondly, if we are to have a female presenter just to represent the sexes, then by that logic Loose Women needs a bloke in the line-up pretty sharpish.

“I actually believe these sorts of mandates are patronising to women viewers, because they assume that women can’t enjoy a show’s presenters on merit, but can only appreciate a program if spoken to by one of their own sex.”

Preach it, brother.

Melbourne today recorded its coldest April morning for 60 years.

In Coldstream, in Melbourne’s outer east, the mercury dropped to -2.7C, while Mt Hotham had the morning’s lowest temperature of 4.4C – a day after the mountain recorded the lowest ever April minimum temperature of -8.2C.  Melbourne set another record yesterday when it recorded four days in a row below 15C for the first time since 1949.

Meanwhile, some Australian ski fields will open on the first weekend in May, for the first time ever.

Of course, a couple of cold Winters, or a couple of warm Summers, don’t make a long term change in global climate.

But even for the most determined warming alarmist, it is getting harder not to notice that despite the computer games, sorry, climate models, the world is not actually getting any warmer.

The media will lose interest in global warming over the coming year. No one is scared by global warming any more, so it won’t sell papers, and won’t increase advertising revenues.

When the media loses interest, the politicians will lose interest. They have short little attention spans anyway. When the politicians lose interest, the scientists will lose interest, because there won’t be bucket loads of grant money any more.

Fortunately for the media, another scary potential disaster is looming on the horizon. Swine Flu. Or some other Nasty Scary Disease that is probably just around the corner.

To keep advertising revenues up, the sky must always be falling. The reason may change, but the sky must always be falling.

So we (well, not you, intelligent reader, obviously) are led around by the nose, hypnotised by the latest scare. When the public gets scared, the politicians have to look as if they are doing something. So vast piles of money are wasted on each new potential disaster.

Real, present disasters, large numbers of people dying now, take a back seat to something scary that might happen soon, maybe.

To give just one example, the new strain of Swine Flu was identified on April 17th – about two weeks ago. The first cases may have been as early as a month ago. During this time Swine Flu has killed maybe ten peoplenot 150 – according to the World Health Organisation.

So it might be worrying if you are in poor health already and have been in contact with someone who is already infected.

By contrast, over the same 30 day period, some 180, 000 people, about one every 20 seconds, have died from Malaria, most of them children.

Maybe there are a few members of South Australia’s Labor Government who have a brain, or at least part of one.

But any government which could introduce a measure so utterly pointless and so clearly going to cause major inconvenience to most of its constituents as a ban on plastic shopping bags, is not overly blessed in research skills and independent thinking.

Some months ago I wrote to politicians and to our local paper to say just how silly I thought this was.

Alas, it made no difference, and next Monday is the day. A sword day, a red day. Or at least a very annoying day.

This is the letter. I apologise for the lack of links – it was written for print publication.

Dear Editor,

Plastic shopping bags are cheap and have a variety of uses. I have used them as lunch bags, bin liners, rubbish bags in the car, to carry wet towels back from the beach, or as litter bags when I pick up rubbish on the side of the road. Eighty percent of plastic shopping bags are re-used in some way, and they make up less than one percent of litter.

Why would anyone want to ban such a cost-effective and useful invention?

Both the present state government and Peter Garrett, the Federal Minister for Plastic Bags and Pussy Cats, quote a study which they say shows 100,000 marine animals are killed each year by plastic bags. Shocking!

Or it would be if it were true. The study, published in Canada in 1987, estimated that between 1981 and 1984 as many as 100,000 marine mammals and birds were killed or injured by fishing equipment – mainly ropes and nets. The study did not even mention plastic bags.

How did a study which estimated 100,000 animals killed or injured by fishing equipment over three years morph into 100,000 animals a year killed by shopping bags? One might be kind and suggest this was an honest mistake.

But I suspect it means that the agenda is more important than the facts. Certainly it confirms a view that both State and Federal governments are more concerned about appearing to do the right thing than actually doing it.

Another nonsensical anti-bag claim was made by John Dee, the founder of Planet Ark, who in 2006 said he had been inundated with calls from farmers saying calves and other livestock had been killed by choking on plastic bags. I had never heard of this when I worked for the United Graziers Association – later AgForce –  and calls to the National Farmers Federation and the Cattle Council confirm that they have not had a single report of such an incident.

One of the issues with a ban on plastic bags is that it is not plastic bags or nothing – plastic bags will have to be replaced by something else. What? Those vile looking ‘green’ shopping bags may make people feel better as they stuff them full of plastic milk containers, plastic meat trays, plastic bags of fruit, plastic packets of biscuits, etc.  They are a public demonstration of concern about the environment, much like driving a Toyota Pious, sorry Prius, but they are worse for the environment than ordinary plastic bags.

Each ‘green’ bag contains about fifty times as much plastic as an ordinary shopping bag. They are made of polypropylene. Unlike bio-degradable shopping bags, which break down over about twelve months, polypropylene virtually never breaks down. In addition, ordinary plastic shopping bags are made in Australia with strict environmental and emission controls. Polypropylene nags, sorry bags, are made in China, with no such controls, and then have to be transported to Australia.

Paper bags are another option. Except they’re not.

Paper bags are simply not as useful as plastic bags, and if plastic bags are banned people will have to buy more bin liners, rubbish bags, lunch bags, etc to replace them. In addition, paper bags take three times as much energy to produce as plastic bags. Apart from wasteful use of energy resources, this also means that paper bags are at least three times more expensive.

The environment is too important for us to be distracted by ’feel good’ projects which do more harm than good.

Despite bans or bag ladies, I will continue to offer my customers bio-degradable plastic shopping bags until they are no longer available, or I am off dragged for re-education.

Peter Wales
American River

The ‘Bag Ladies’ were a marauding mob of well-meaning (I assume) ladies who had taken it upon themselves to stop people in the street and harass them about the evils of using plastic shopping bags. We haven’t seen them of late. Thank heaven for small mercies.

I still have a supply of some hundreds of plastic shopping bags, and will take my own to the supermarket for as long as they hold out.

We shall overcome, etc.

But a 23 month old child died of Swine Flu in the US today – the first recorded death outside Mexico.

All deaths from any disease are sad. It is sad that so many have died in Mexico, and confusing that the death rate there is so high.

We need to have answers. But panic, especially by governments keen to be thought to be ‘taking positive action,’ will do more harm than good. As in the 1976 Swine Flu panic.

Good quality medical care for those who are infected, limiting contact with others while they are infectious, and diligent testing of those with whom they have been in contact, should be sufficient to slow and then stop the spread of the disease.

For the rest of us, common sense precautions like protecting youself when people cough or sneeze, regular hand washing, especially after shaking hands and before eating or touching your face, and not travelling to places where there are known to be cases of Swine Flu, should be enough to keep you safe.

Australian authorities intercepted another two “suspected illegal entry vessels” in Australian waters today.

On Tuesday Federal Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull called for an independent enquiry into the reasons for the dramatic increase in illegal arrivals.

It would make sense to have such an enquiry. If we can find out why so many more people are coming – at risk to themselves and their families, with disappointment he result when they are turned away, and at increased cost in resources which have to be drawn from screening and caring for refugess who don’t jump the queue, we might in a better position to stop the flow, or at least to slow it down, and give more attention to people in  greater need.

Nor would it be hard to get the answers. Just ask those who have come, or are planning to come, why they are doing so.

Oh hang on. Someone’s already done that. So we know the answer already. Don’t we?

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