Archive for February, 2012

No Arab spring here

February 29, 2012

More detail please on the Syrian rebels

Prompted by an editorial in The Australian — Syrian referendum a sham —I am increasingly confused and concerned about the utter silence and lack of information about just who the Syrian rebels are valiantly fighting against the tyrant Bashar al-Assad.

Whereas I can readily agree that Assad is indeed what people claim he is, I cannot get out of mind the ill-ease I have of what appears to be one sided propaganda being conveniently broadcast on our television screens of the hapless slaughter of innocents in Syria. The urge for the West to “do something”, “anything”, makes me think , as with climate change, that the radical ida of doing nothing is perhaps better than doing something.

To its credit, The Australian has published some excellent commentary about the complexity of the situation in Syria and there have been some almost nnoticed responses on SBS and the ABC’s Drum. I have linked and discussed these in some blogs below.  Yet another was published yesterday by the English journalist Matthew Parris, where he raises what appear to me to be reasonable questions. 

Out come all the old arguments, time-honoured cues for the easy applause that has cheered on blunder after blunder down the ages and cheered on the Crusaders in the same place in another age. “Something must be done.” “We cannot stand idly by.” “Just because we cannot do everything doesn’t mean we can’t do anything.” “Never mind the logic, cut through the legalism: this is quite simply the right thing to do.”

There never was an Arab Spring. There isn’t going to be an Arab Spring. There’s a region of the world whose peoples, since the fall of Byzantium, have twisted and tangled themselves into the most appalling, grisly and intractable mess, periodically and hugely exacerbated by intervention from the outside. The very best that can be hoped is that in time they may, slowly, patchily and by degrees, start to get themselves out of the mess.

Why are we not getting earnest and informed discussions and debates about the issues raised here on our electronic media?

Decline of social democracy

February 29, 2012

Gillard marching into battle backwards

Henry Ergas has given us a beautiful “meditation”  on the decline of social democracy and why Julia Gillard is pursuing a failed policy line that has slowly been abandoned elsewhere in the world.

As Ergas reminds us, those who repeat history, tend to repeat it as farce. 

Little wonder Gillard’s crowning achievement is the Fair Work Act, internationally unparalleled in the range of powers it grants unions. Little wonder too that under Labor’s watch, Australia is the only advanced economy that has renationalised its telecommunications network. And little wonder the three policies Gillard boasts of — the carbon tax, the mining tax and the clawing back of the health insurance rebate — are tax slugs, used to fund spending cloaked in the politics of envy.

This was the point I was making below about left media commentators not being able to understand that Gillard’s weakness is one of policy. The blindness and witlessness of these people is largely to blame for the current political impasse as it refuses to reflect the sentiments of the Australian people. It thus sustains and encourages the blockheadedness of the Independents, the Greens and the ALP in their pursuit of destructive policies.

ABC doesn’t understand polling?

February 19, 2012

Is it spin, or just wilful misleading?

Did I imagine Jon Faine this morning on ABC 774 Melbourne, explaining the electorate’s preferences in Canberra? I thought I heard him claiming that Labor was polling roughly had a committed third, the Coalition roughly a committed third, and the rest undecided uncommitted or swinging voters.

If I heard correctly— and I am now doubting my ears because it is just so plain silly and misleading — the latest Essential Report had Labor effectively on a miserable third but had the Coalition at nearly 50 percent! with the other parties at roughly an irrelevant fifth of the preferences. Some difference, and some wishful thinking if that is what he said.

With this interpretation of statisitics, it is no wonder the left has no idea about the realities of the present political situation. Perhaps they think it is about leadership. This avoids them having to understand the problems the electorate has with their awful policies.

I’ll say that again. Policies …

UPDATE

If anything can be deduced from the consistent polls over several months, and the results of the recent NSW election and the predictions for the Queensland election coming soon, it is that there are very few swinging voters out there that haven’t made up their mind.

As for confusion about leadership alluded to above, that has become a wonderful distraction for the left so they don’t have to analyse the anger in the electorate about the carbon tax, the roof insulation, the BER, and the open door refugee policy. Add to that the recent “go soft” on the Aboriginal embassy stunt, the scrapping of the ABCC, and all the added costs of the inefficient Fair Work Australia.

So blinded by ideology and approval for this mishmash of progressive and green agendas, the ABC and those in it have difficulty understanding exactly to what most Australian’s have now become committed.

Madness and naivety

February 19, 2012

What do environmentalists not understand?

Which part of this detailed explanation of the outrageously costly and ineffective use of solar electricity does the Green movement, the Gillard government and soppy environmentalists not understand.

Why are these facts not brought up in Parliament? Why is Bob Brown not challenged on this? When will the Age start to question its green wisdom, like John Spooner bravely did about the Flannery madness on water?

Using solar, Germany is paying about $US1000 per tonne of CO2 reduced. The current CO2 price in Europe is $US8. Germany could have cut 131 times as much CO2 for the same price. Instead, the Germans are wasting more than 99c of every euro that they plough into solar panels.

It gets worse: because Germany is part of the EU emissions trading system, the actual effect of extra solar panels in Germany leads to no CO2 reductions, because total emissions are already capped.

More on Syria

February 15, 2012

It seems our media have not read it either, even though it was publicly released in English over two weeks ago

Further to the Syrian stories below, an on the ground account appeared on The Drum today written by Fiona Hill, someone who has just returned from there.

Slowly, the full and more balanced story is leaking out. The article contains links to the Arab League (AL) Observer Mission’s report that Hill feels has no even been read by the Australian press.

How can such a different picture emerge so slowly, and only now, in an age of the internet and telephone, with our so called “informed and fearless” free press.

I spoke to Sunnis, Shias, and Christians, to Kurds, Arabs, Circassians, Assyrians and Armenians. While many pointedly complimented the apparent good character of the president (referred to at such times as ‘Dr Bashar Al Assad’) all readily expressed in detail their disgust at poor governance for too long. In the street, in shared taxi vans, in cafes, markets, and private homes the Syrians are not afraid to talk politics any more. Indeed they seemed particularly anxious to do so. But their mood is pessimistic. “Whatever revolution there was is now destroyed by armed criminals and their masters,” sighed a Sunni man wearily.

“What are your so-called Christian leaders in Australia thinking?” shrieked a Christian woman in a candlelit Aleppo home. “Don’t they realise our freedoms in Syria are the envy of other Arab countries – and impossible in Qatar?! If Bashar (Al Assad) goes, we will be lambs to the slaughter.”

The Islamic blind spot

February 13, 2012

‘Islam Is Islam, And That’s It’

Thanks to the excellent posts on the general topic of Islam by Australian Conservative, after having written my post below on the failure in Western media to provide information and adequate explanations concerning the violence coming out of Syria, my attention was drawn to a brilliantly argued piece on why the “Arab Spring’ has been such a disappointment.

Written by Andrew C McCarthy for National Review Online, it explains just how hard line and determined Islamists are, and just how soft headed we in the West have become. Some may still deny it, but McCarthy gives some overwhelming empirical evidence to support his position.

He outlines two controversal but sustainable propositions.

First, the most important fact in the Arab world — as well as in Iran, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other neighboring non-Arab territories — is Islam. It is not poverty, illiteracy, or the lack of modern democratic institutions. These, like anti-Semitism, anti-Americanism, and an insular propensity to buy into conspiracy theories featuring infidel villains, are effects of Islam’s regional hegemony and supremacist tendency, not causes of it. One need not be led to that which pervades the air one breathes.

The second fact is that Islam constitutes a distinct civilization. It is not merely an exotic splash on the gorgeous global mosaic with a few embarrassing cultural eccentricities; it is an entirely different way of looking at the world. We struggle with this truth, which defies our end-of-history smugness. Enthralled by diversity for its own sake, we have lost the capacity to comprehend a civilization whose idea of diversity is coercing diverse peoples into obedience to its evolution-resistant norms.

The problem our apologist Western ‘liberal’ media has with Islam reminded me of a book review I wrote three years ago, What’s Left? How liberals lost their way by Nick Cohen. There is a familiar cognative dissonance going on with the Left as it is with events in Syria. simply put, Cohen asks why the left supports fascists ‘who believe in the subjugation of women, the killing of Jews, homosexuals, freemasons, socialists and trade unionists’. Yes indeed.

Syrian imbroglio badly reported by the West

February 12, 2012

The Scorpion and the Frog

I have been having increasing misgivings over the present one sided reporting of events in Syria and the apparent unquestioning support for the “rebels”. Who are these rebels? Do we know? Does our press take any interest in who they might be?

Suspicion of the this one sidedness — or rather, partial and selected information — came to a head with a brief interview on the ABC, at last, with one Australian pro Asad supporter, who suggested a certain complexity to the problem there.

After listening to this interview, I spoke to a person who has spent time in Syria, for he had often told me that the country under Asad was one of the most open, tolerant and relaxed in the Middle East, with at least 55 percent of the population on the side of the government. This included, importantly, the Christian community there.

We have had, in short order, the West touting for the Arab spring in Egypt and Lybia only to find fundamentalists running the show, and there we are, soft touch as usual, shovelling in money and weapons to the Brotherhood or whichever radical group. I was already wary of this enthusiasm for a “Spring” that should perhaps best be described as an “Autumn”.

Now comes confirmation that at least the situation is more complex than anything that the Western press has been able to convey. For the first time I find an explanation and analysis of the motives of both the West and Russia and China, and just what might be going on by John R. Bradley, author of After the Arab Spring: How Islamists Hijacked the Middle East Revolts, and published in the Spectator.

The West seems keen to portray the uprising as a simple story of freedom fighters opposing tyranny, when the situation is much more complex. An awful repeat of the Libyan debacle is beginning to unfold: Western reporters embed themselves with self-declared former al-Qa’ida fighters and bands of tribal fanatics, but fail to report this so as not to undermine the “Arab Spring”.

I urge you to have a look. However, it all reminds me depressingly of the story of the scorpion and the frog.

Unintended consequences … of playgrounds !

February 2, 2012

New Playgrounds Are Safe—and That’s Why Nobody Uses Them

In a not surprising article from, of all places, a medical website, comes new research on the consequences of safety guidelines for children’s playgrounds. Apparently they have become so safe, so uninteresting that children no longer want to play on them. This contributes to a reduction in the physical activity they were of course designed to encourage.

According to the study, the new, safer equipment often became boring because children mastered it so quickly. To make it more challenging, kids tended to improvise, walking up the slide the wrong way, or using supports as a climbing apparatus. Sometimes younger children were drawn to the older kids’ equipment, presumably because it presented a more interesting set of challenges.

Lead author Kristen Copeland, a researcher at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, commented that some participants said that overly strict safety standards made much of the climbing equipment uninteresting, thus reducing children’s physical activity.

“An important message from this study is that well-intentioned policies may have unintended consequences for preschool-aged children’s physical development,” Copeland said. “Daily physical activity is essential for preschool-aged children’s development and for preventing obesity…. In essence, in ensuring that young children are smart and safe, we may also be keeping them sedentary.”


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