Archive for the ‘International Politics’ Category

How UK voters are moving

April 18th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

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An interesting graphic from the UK.

You can see how Conservatives are losing most of their support to UKIP. A wee bit to Labour.

Labour has lost support to UKIP, Conservatives and Greens.

Lib Dems are bleeding everywhere.

All the polls are still predicting a hung Parliament, with the SNP, Lib Dems and Irish possibly being needed to govern.

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Iran elected to executive board of the UN’s Entity for Empowerment of Women.

April 17th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Tim Blair reports:

The UN recently decided that Israel was the number one violator of women’s rights in the world today. And then the UN appointed the Islamic Republic of Iran to the executive board of the UN’s Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.

The US pointed out:

“In Iran, women are legally barred from holding some government positions, there are no laws against domestic violence, and adultery is punishable by stoning, making it wholly inappropriate that Iran assume a leadership role on women’s rights and welfare at the U.N,” said U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, in criticizing the decision to make Iran a member of the women’s rights body.

This is why I take very few pronouncements from the UN seriously.

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The Greens’ vision for the UK

April 17th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

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This is from Tim Blair.  I love how they talk about nursery now being “free”, along with social care and school dinners.

Also of interest is that they regard it as a good thing that 90% of kids will now turn up to school without a packed lunch, because the taxpayer is providing free dinners.

Guido Fawkes has also highlighted some of their policies:

  • “a complete ban on cages for hens and rabbits”
  • “end the use of the whip in horse racing and conduct a full review of the sport”
  • “end the practice of grouse shooting”
  • “ensure UK taxpayers’ money is not used for bullfighting”
  • “ban the import of fur products”
  • “ensure that all schools, hospitals and other public buildings have solar panels by 2020″
  • “closure of all coal-fired power stations”
  • “make equality and diversity lessons mandatory in all schools”
  • “progressively introduce anonymised CVs
  • “strengthen Travellers’ rights”
  • “cancelling student debt”
  • “revive the role of trade unions”
  • “phase in a 35 hours week”
  • “work for the abolition of the City of London Corporation”
  • “introduce a wealth tax of 2% on the top 1%”
  • “raise the additional top rate of income tax to 60%”
  • “increase corporation tax from 20% to 30%”
  • “introduce new taxes on the use of water”
  • “ensure that no company owns more than 20% of a media market”
  • “state funding of political parties”
  • “pursue a policy of defensive defence, which threatens no one”
  • “a ban on the production and sale of fois gras”

Why stop at anonymised CVs? How about anonymised job interviews where you sit behind a screen so they can’t work out your age or race, and they use a Darth Vader type voice synthesizer so they can’t work out your gender also?

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Why serious environmentalists should favour fracking

April 16th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Centre for Policy Studies a 15 page report on why every serious environmentalist should favour fracking. Some extracts:

  • Shale gas can not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also reduce a deadly pollution known as PM2.5 that is currently killing over three million people each year, primarily in the developing world.
  • As both global warming and air pollution can be mitigated by the development and utilisation of shale gas, developed economies should help emerging economies switch from coal to natural gas
  • Shale gas technology should be advanced as rapidly as possible and shared freely.
  • PM2.5 is a horrific environmental problem. The Health Effects Institute estimated that air pollution in 2010 led to 3.2 million deaths that year and the pollution is getting worse as global use of coal continues to grow.
  • China will be producing more CO2 per person than the US by 2023. If the US were to disappear tomorrow, Chinese growth alone would bring worldwide emissions back to the same level in four years.
  • To mitigate global warming, it is essential to slow worldwide emissions, not just those in the developed countries. And we feel this must be done without slowing the economic growth of the emerging world.
  • PM2.5 kills more people per year than AIDS, malaria, diabetes or tuberculosis.
  • Compared to coal, shale gas results in a 400- fold reduction of PM2.5, a 4,000-fold reduction in sulphur dioxide, a 70-fold reduction in nitrous oxides (NOx), and more than a 30-fold reduction in mercury
  • The net result is that CO2 produced per kilowatt-hour of electricity from gas is only one third to one half that of coal

A very compelling case – using fracking to get shale gas, instead of coal, will save hundreds of thousands of lives, and reduce greenhouse gas emission by a half to two thirds.

Yet the Greens are trying to get fracking banned!

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A good quirky ad from the UK Greens

April 16th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

A very good ad by the UK Greens, portraying all the other parties as a boy band. Really well done,

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UK Greens may ban the Grand National!

April 14th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Guardian reports:

The Green party would consider banning the Grand National and other horse and greyhound races as part of an animal protection drive should it form the next government, its leader Natalie Bennett has said.

A promise to review such events will appear in the party’s manifesto, which is due to be released on Tuesday, she said.

I think the UK Greens make the NZ Greens seem sane by comparison.

She said her party would put up the top rate of tax to 60p in the pound for people earning more than £150,000

Why stop at 60% (plus VAT at 10% 20%). Why not 100%?

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First poll in Cuba in 50 years

April 14th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Miami Herald has details of how a poll was done in Cuba recently, despite it being illegal to do so. The methodology sounds very impressive- great effort was made for it to be accurate. The 18 surveyors were at considerable risk in conducting the poll.

The results of the poll were fascinating, as the first publication of actual opinion in Cuba. Key findings include:

  • Only 19% satisfied with the joys of a socialist economic system, and 79% dissatisfied
  • 44% have a positive opinion of Fidel Castro and 50% a negative opinion
  • 47% have a positive opinion of Raul Castro and 48% a negative opinion
  • 80% have a positive opinion of Barack Obama and 17% a negative opinion
  • 32% have a positive opinion of the Cuban Communist Party and 58% a negative opinion
  • 64% want to travel abroad and 37% want to open their own business
  • 55% would like to live in another country
  • 53% say the US is a friend of Cuba and 10% say not a friend

Shows why we should distinguish between the Cuban people, and their Government.

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Ayaan Hirsi Ali on “Islamophobia”

April 9th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Daily Beast interviews Ayaan Hirsi Ali:

Do you think there is such a thing as Islamophobia? The term is often used to mean not just criticism of Islam, but bigotry toward Muslims as a group and as individuals. Do you think this is a problem?

You know what? Bigotry exists. People are racist. I grew up in a racist household. My mom used to look down on Kenyan people and call them slaves. It’s almost human nature to be racist. When it comes to “Islamophobia,” I think the individual who has given the most comprehensive answer and analysis is Asra Nomani in a January 16 article for The Washington Post. She [talks about the] “honor brigade” [a loosely knit network of bloggers and activists who criticize slights against Islam]. She tells you the genesis of how this “Islamophobia” term was invented, how it was kept afloat, but most disastrously, how it’s used to keep people silent. Right now, the country of Sweden has stood up for human rights, and Saudi Arabia is accusing Sweden of Islamophobia. Saudi Arabia is actually beheading people for sorcery, flogging women. And they dare call Sweden Islamophobic. It’s a country that has no churches, no synagogues, that persecutes fellow Muslims on grounds of being Shiites. It’s just amazing. That’s how “Islamophobia” is used.

Good point.

Are there people in the Muslim community who have been willing to engage with you, more than before?

Yes, it’s very interesting. Ten years ago, I was a pariah. And now, I have Muslims who are saying, “I don’t necessarily agree with every word you say”—which they don’t have to—“but you’re one of us, you’re brave, a reformation is needed.” I’m giving you an example: Maajid Nawaz, because he’s very prominent. The last time I debated him three years ago, here in New York, we were debating on Intelligence Squared, “Islam is a religion of peace” and he was saying, Islam is a religion of peace, and I was saying, No, Islam unreformed is not a religion of peace. Today he is saying, like me, Islam needs a reformation; but unlike me, he is still a Muslim. And along with him is a cleric, Usama Hassan, who has endorsed this book. He doesn’t agree with me, but he says, “This discussion is absolutely necessary. It’s important, it’s urgent, let’s have it.” So there is a shift, and beyond individuals who are just talking. Look at the president of Egypt [Abdel Fattah el-Sisi]. I think ISIS is forcing a lot of people who are Muslims into opposition. [El-Sisi] says we need a revolution in religion. That goes much farther than I’m going. I’m saying reform; he’s saying revolution. But it’s ultimately going to be a revolution in religion, he’s right.

A reformation of Islam, as happened to Christianity some centuries ago, would be a very good thing. But also very difficult.

So you’re very hopeful about what’s happening right now.

I just want to remind the free world that there was a time when they were not free—Europeans and Americans were not free. There was a time when Christian theology and Jewish theology was used to commit atrocious acts. Remember the witch hunts, remember the Protestants. I think Americans associate religion with something positive. In Europe, Protestants were killing other Protestants, Catholics were killing Protestants, Protestants were killing Catholics, just as the Sunni and the Shia are doing now. That is now in the history books. I look forward to a time when atrocities committed in the name of Islam will be in history books and museums and movies, but not happening to real people in real time.

The key is changing the focus of a religion from justified death, to honouring life.

You’ve had some reactions from Western feminists to your statements about Islam that you’ve found a bit disconcerting.

We are seeing that Western feminists are shy about pointing out the misogyny that’s committed in the name of the religion of Islam, because they feel we can’t impose our ethnocentric or Eurocentric or American-centric ways. If you read the [faculty] letter at Brandeis, that’s the core of it. Which is—don’t be ridiculous. It doesn’t matter where you are as an individual human being; freedom is freedom. Nobody likes to be oppressed. Human rights are universal. Individual rights are universal. This is the message to American feminists and other Western feminists: the best thing to share is the outcome of the emancipation.

There’s an argument, which I’m sure you’ve heard, that Western women face their own forms of oppression, which are different but may be just as bad, or almost as bad—

Like what? Who does the dishes at home? That’s what it boils down to: How can we balance work-life. Of course that’s challenging. But can you imagine how far we’ve come from the points when women weren’t allowed to get out of the house, couldn’t be in public, couldn’t take public office, weren’t allowed to vote, couldn’t own their own bank accounts. Even the money they inherited wasn’t theirs, it was for the male guardians to look after. And now, [it’s], “Who loads the dishes in the dishwasher, who does the unloading?” And I think it’s still very important; I have massive fights with my husband about who does what at home. But that is more on the micro level, and it’s a luxury. And I don’t think that the government can do anything about that. What kind of law are you going to pass that says who does the dishes, who does the diapers, who looks after the children, who’s going to work and whose career is going to go up or down?

I always find it amusing when NZ’s progress of women’s rights is judged by a UN committee that includes countries that don’t even given women the vote.

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Aust Unionists bully small businesses for not losing money

April 8th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Daily Telegraph reports:

UNIONISTS have orchestrated a bullying campaign against small business owners who are shutting up shop over the Easter long weekend ­because they cannot afford to pay their staff exorbitant public holiday penalty rates.

A Facebook page created to “name and shame” businesses that decided it was cheaper to close than pay teenage staff $350 a day just to clear away plates is posting photographs of operators who have publicly called for a change to the penalty rates regime.

If the cost of paying staff to work is greater than the income a business will make that day, then of course they will close. Why wouldn’t they?

Union supporters are urging people to swamp the social media sites of businesses that spoke about the impact of penalty rates to The Saturday Telegraph and other media this week and condemn them.

How dare they point out that paying $350 a day to waiting staff impacts business profitability.

Ms Carnell said all operators were open to paying the penalty rates, but believed the double-time-and-a-half rate was no longer in line with community expectations. Many staff were comfortable to work for a lower rate rather than have the day off, but could not as it was illegal to do so.

Double time and a half!

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Fight extremism with humour

April 6th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Washington Post reports:

The police officer had just finished an earnest presentation on counter-extremism before an audience of 200 restless teenagers at an East London high school when a young man of Pakistani origin in a black hoodie took the stage.

“How many of you people are Muslim?” the man barked.

He grinned as nearly every hand went up.

“Guys, we can take over! Sharia law coming soon!” the man cried gleefully. “Allahu Akbar!”

The teens erupted in laughter even before the man had a chance to clarify: “I’m kidding. I’m kidding. I think I scared the white people.”

It’s the kind of knowing humor that has made 29-year-old Humza Arshad an Internet sensation, a hero to Muslim teenagers and perhaps the most potent new weapon in Britain’s arsenal as it wages an increasingly desperate campaign to counter violent Islamist extremism.

At a time when the flow of British Muslims to the war in Syria shows no sign of ebbing, Arshad has positioned himself as the anti-Jihadi John. Like Mohammed Emwazi, the scowling Islamic State executioner, Arshad is a London-raised Muslim from an immigrant family whose face has become instantly recognizable to millions of young Brits through videos uploaded online.

We need more people like this.

But where Emwazi seeks to terrify the world and seduce fresh recruits to join his bloodthirsty crusade, Arshad’s message is precisely the opposite: Laugh at extremism; don’t fall prey to it.

Great message.

In his “Diary of a Bad Man” series, Arshad plays a wannabe gangster who gets beaten up by girls, peed on by a fox and endlessly ridiculed by his mother. But he also manages to save his cousin from a descent into radicalism, and uses lessons from the Koran to urge others to steer away from violence.

This spring, Arshad has taken his message directly to students through an unusual partnership with Scotland Yard in which the police sponsor him to tell jokes at London-area high schools. The program has been a hit, with schools across the city vying for his time and officials planning to take the program nationwide.

Probably more effective than several dozen community engagement panels.

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Another amazing Snowden revelation

April 5th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The BBC reports:

Documents released by the American whistle-blower Edward Snowden claim that Britain spied for several years on the Argentine government.

Oh my God. Who would have thought it. The UK Government spies on a country that launched an invasion of one of its territories, and regularly threatens to do the same again.

Mr Snowden says British agents were actively spying on Argentina between 2006 and 2011.

I would hope they have been spying on Argentina continuously since 1982.

The former CIA worker, who now lives in Russia, has previously leaked sensitive information about US surveillance programmes.

I’m waiting for his expose of Russia’s spying.

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Terrible slaughter in Kenya

April 4th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

At least 147 people have been killed and 79 wounded after al-Shabaab gunmen stormed a university in Kenya this morning, opened fire on dormitories, released Muslim students, and took Christians hostage. …

As the siege neared its end earlier, Nkaisser said around 300 students remain unaccounted for, and told reporters that officials knew the whereabouts of approximately 500 out of 815 students. The disaster centre said plans are underway to evacuate those still in the building.

That’s around one in six dead and one in four dead or wounded. A terrible massacre.

I was in Kenya in January. Of all the countries I have been to (including Egypt,Iran, Vietnam) it is the one I felt least safe in.

One student who witnessed the attack said he could hear militants opening doors and asking those hiding inside if they were Muslim or Christian. “If you were a Christian you were shot on the spot,” he said.

You know if anyone with a gun ever asked me that question, my response would be Allahu Akbar.

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The deal with Iran

April 3rd, 2015 at 2:21 pm by David Farrar

The Washington Post reports:

Iran agreed in principle to accept significant restrictions on its nuclear facilities for at least a decade and submit to international inspections under a framework deal announced Thursday after months of contentious negotiations with the United States and other world powers.

In return, international sanctions that have battered Iran’s economy would be lifted in phases if it meets its commitments, meaning it could take a year or less for relief from the penalties to kick in.

The framework agreement, a milestone in negotiations that began 12 years ago, is not a final deal. But it creates parameters for three more months of negotiations over technical details and some matters that remain unresolved. Any one of those issues could doom a comprehensive agreement. Among them is the pace at which sanctions will be suspended.

 

While it is not without risks, I think this a good thing.

Most people accept it is highly undesirable for the Government of Iran to have nuclear weapons. It would set off a regional arms race, and considering how often the Iranian Government has said it wants to wipe out Israel, why give them the means to do so (even if unlikely they would).

So how to stop them developing nuclear weapons? Basically through negotiations or through warfare. My preference is negotiations. Having the US (or Israel) bomb Iranian facilities would radicalise the Iranian population (which is very different to their theocratic overlords) and probably just encourage them more to develop such weapons (as no one bombs you once you have some).

So negotiations are the better alternative. The current President of Iran is more moderate than his predecessor, and there is a strange “enemy of my enemy is my ally” thing happening in Iraq and Syria with the Islamic State.  If Iran can transition from a rogue state, to a slightly more mainstream state, that is a good thing – and a risk worth taking.

The devil will be in the details, and they have shunted those off for three more months.

The agreement includes almost all the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear facilities, laboratories, mines and mills that the United States had sought in recent months, although it initially aimed for even tougher restrictions.

But Iran would get several benefits that may make the deal more palatable to politicians and the public in Tehran. It would not have to close any of its three nuclear facilities, though it would be left with only one that would enrich uranium — at levels low enough to create fuel for power plants but not high enough to create weapons-grade uranium.

The limitations would produce a one-year “breakout” period, meaning it would take Iran a full year to build up enough material to build one nuclear warhead, compared with current estimates of two to three months, officials said.

Many sanctions initially would be suspended, rather than lifted permanently as Iran sought, so they could be “snapped back” into place if Iran was discovered to be cheating, the officials said.

Iran’s apparent acceptance of so many conditions sought by the United States could give the Obama administration a tool to fend off critics in Congress who want to impose new sanctions to wring more concessions from the Iranians. The White House fears such steps could scuttle the talks and prompt Tehran to resume its nuclear program at full tilt.

It does look like Iran have made significant concessions. Again, this is a deal worth pursuing. The alternative of military action against Iran is a very unpleasant and unpredictable option.

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Will Australia vote on marriage equality?

April 1st, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Age reports:

A major shift towards same-sex marriage is under way within the Liberal Party, with marriage equality advocates saying 11 Liberal MPs have privately switched to supporting a change since January.

Liberal MPs could discuss whether they should be granted a free vote on the issue as early as Tuesday, with Liberal Democrat senator David Leyonhjelm due to begin the parliamentary debate on his “freedom to marry” bill on Thursday.

The Liberal Democrats are a classical liberal party, with one Senator.

So far, only a small group of Liberal MPs, including frontbenchers Malcolm Turnbull, Simon Birmingham and Kelly O’Dwyer, have come out publicly in favour of same-sex marriage. 

But marriage equality advocates, who have been meeting with MPs over recent weeks, said there is now a significant change under way inside the party. 

“Since the beginning of the year, 11 Coalition MPs and senators have privately indicated to us they have switched to supporting marriage equality from being opposed or undecided,” Australian Marriage Equality national director Rodney Croome told Fairfax Media. 

It’s pretty inevitable. In the US, it is now legal in 36 states, representing 70% of the population.  In the last few years, it consistently wins at the ballot. Almost everyone under 40 is supportive of allowing same sex marriages.

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Amos Hausner

March 31st, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Had a very interesting meeting with Amos Hausner (and his wife) on Friday.  He is in New Zealand to give a series of public lectures.

His father, Gideon Hausner, was Attorney-General of Israel from 1960 to 1963, and was the chief prosecutor in the trial of Adolf Eichmann for crimes against humanity.

The trial received televised global coverage – and this was in the early 1960s.

Eichmann had said in 1945 “I will leap into my grave laughing because the feeling that I have five million human beings on my conscience is for me a source of extraordinary satisfaction” which gives you some sense of the character of the man.

The judges concluded that Eichmann was not just following orders, but was a key perpetrator of the genocide who believed in the Nazi cause. He was sentenced to death on the 15th of December 1961. After his appeal to the Supreme Court was dismissed on 29 May 1961, and a plea to the President of Israel for clemency was rejected, he was executed just after midnight 31 May 1962.

Amos told me that his father was in fact an opponent of the death penalty. He was one of the more liberal members of the Knesset, and there was a degree of irony that a death penalty opponent would prosecute the only case in Israel’s history which saw the death penalty sought and sentenced.

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van Beynen on Islamic extremism

March 30th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

A very good column by Martin van Beynen:

While there can be no disputing that only a minority of Muslims believe in taking their beliefs to extremes, an intrinsic part of Islamic teaching justifies the death of opponents, non-believers or believers in other religions.

And a large minority of Muslims support the death penalty for apostates. I estimate around 32%.

An ancient text can be used to justify a variety of lethal behaviour as the history of Christianity has shown but, as some commentators have pointed out, you don’t get the feeling the Islamic world is moving away from fundamentalist interpretations of the Koran.

There are almost no people in Christianity demanding that there be an empire run on old testament law.

There are a fair amount in Islam wanting an empire run on a fundamentalist 7th century version of Islamic law.

As British columnist Rod Liddle pointed out recently in the Sunday Times, it is only in Islamic countries that people risk being put to death for blasphemy or apostasy (renouncing Islam).

“It is not just Muslim extremists who want to punish people for apostasy and blasphemy; it is the view of the mainstream Islamic world,” he writes.

And this is the challenge – not just the jihadists, but the laws in many Islamic countries.

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Coalition re-elected in NSW

March 29th, 2015 at 4:16 pm by David Farrar

As expected, an easy win for the Coalition in NSW. Labor picked up some seats after their defeat last time, but didn’t really come close. The Greens are starting to gain traction, winning several seats.

It looks like Coalition 53, Labor 32, Greens 4 and two Independents So they can pass things 53-38 which is comfortable.

 

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Prince Charles’ letters to be released

March 27th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Guardian reports:

David Cameron has admitted defeat after the government lost a 10-year battle with the Guardian to keep secret a “particularly frank” cache of lobbying letters written by Prince Charles.

Following a supreme court ruling on Thursday that 27 letters between the heir to the throne and ministers must finally be published under the Freedom of Information Act, the “deeply disappointed” prime minister has told aides to prepare their release.

The judges decided by five to two that the government had acted illegally when it vetoed the publication of Charles’s ministerial correspondence, the release of which had previously been approved by a lower court.

It will be the first time that any of Charles’s “black spider memos” have been made public through official channels, and their release is expected to reveal how the heir to the throne attempted to influence government policies in private correspondence.

The advantage of a monarchy is that it is meant to be a politically neutral institution. These letters will show beyond doubt that Prince Charles is not in any way politically neutral. I don’t want him to be New Zealand’s next Head of State.

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The 10 best UK attack ads

March 26th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Sun has the 10 best UK attack ads in their political history.

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This is from the current campaign and is very good.

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Why are so many Australian muslims radicalised?

March 26th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A nightclub bouncer who reportedly became a terror group leader. A man who tweeted a photo of his young son clutching a severed head. A teenager who is believed to have turned suicide bomber, and others suspected of attempting to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State movement. All of them, Australian.

The London-based International Center for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence reports that between 100 and 250 Australians have joined Sunni militants in Iraq and Syria. Given Australia’s vast distance from the region and its population of just 24 million, it is a remarkable number. The center estimates that about 100 fighters came from the United States, which has more than 13 times as many people as Australia.

That’s a huge number.

Experts disagree about why the Islamic State group has been so effective recruiting in Australia, which is widely regarded as a multicultural success story, with an economy in an enviable 24th year of continuous growth.

Possible explanations include that some Australian Muslims are poorly integrated with the rest of the country, and that Islamic State recruiters have given Australia particular attention. In addition, the Australian government failed to keep tabs on some citizens who had been radicalized, and moderate Muslims have been put off by some of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s comments about their community.

It’s pathetic to even suggest that Tony Abbott is the reason. I’m not Abbott’s biggest fan, but the hatred and bias from many sections of the Australian media towards him is appalling.

I think the first explanation is the strongest. For well over a decade there has been a significant radical element who have not integrated. Many senior Muslim clerics in Australia have said appalling things, and use incendiary speech. We’re very fortunate that in NZ we’ve never had this problem. That doesn’t mean that there are not some extreme radicals – just that the senior leadership in NZ is not radical, and in fact very well focused on integration.

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Why Labour is in crisis throughout the Anglosphere

March 26th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The New Statesman reports:

It is easy to blame Ed Miliband for Labour’s problems; too easy. Labour parties are in crisis all throughout the Anglosphere: they are in opposition in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK. Their problems go far deeper than the identities of their party leaders.

Labour’s fate seems especially bleak in New Zealand. Here the centre-right National Party reign: Labour won just 32 out of 121 seats in the general election last year, and only 25 per cent of the vote. Nowhere is Labour’s battle for relevance more urgent.

25% is a low in any of these countries.  In the UK they are at 33% (same as Conservatives), in Australia 38% (2% behind Coalition but 4% ahead on TPP), in Canada the Liberals are at 34% (1% ahead). In NZ they got 22% less than National.

Little is determined to learn from these mistakes. It might be that as a former trade union official, he will find it easier to reorientate Labour to a position from which it can again win elections. “The language the commentators keep using is ‘moving to the centre, moving to the centre’. And I think it is about getting down to a small number of priority issues,” he says. Last year, one of Labour’s problems was drowning the electorate in policy detail. “What I’m determined is that for the 2017 election, we won’t do what we did last time, which was have 120-odd policies,” Little says. Instead the party will offer a pledge card highlighting five or six main policies, much like Tony Blair’s Labour Party in 1997.

He sees rehabilitation for Labour lying in “finding a language and ideas that resonate with people that say, actually, there is a different way of doing this.” Labour parties must be seen as modern and forward thinking, and not merely lamenting the changing nature of the international economy that has eradicated the notion of a job for life. “That is where the future lies – being able to talk about the future of work.”

The rhetoric is good and pleasing to see Little saying this. But can he deliver a policy prescription that recognises it? To the contrary their labour policies seem to all be about reducing flexibility, not increasing it.

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Clarkson to be sacked

March 25th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Telegraph reports:

Jeremy Clarkson is to be sacked as Top Gear presenter after a BBC investigation concluded he did attack a producer on the programme.

Lord Hall, the Director General of the BBC, is expected to announce his decision on Wednesday after considering the findings of an internal investigation.

Clarkson, 54, will be thanked for his work on the hugely popular motoring show, but will be told such behaviour cannot be tolerated at the Corporation.

That’s $150 million they are waving good bye to.

I suspect there will be huge bidding from other TV channels to hire Clarkson (and May and Hammond) for a new motoring show.

An idea of how popular Clarkson is, is reflected in this story:

But, unlike the great Indian leader or votes of women campaigners, her protest isn’t to do with the British occupation or gender injustice, but to get Jeremy Clarkson back on Top Gear.

Presumably missing sections of the show such as ‘Star In A Reasonably Priced Car’, Cameron is promising she won’t eat until the suspended host is brought back.

“Nancy has threatened to go on hunger strike unless Jeremy Clarkson is restored,” David Cameron told the BBC.

Nancy is 11 years old and obviously a devoted fan.

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US politics cartoon of the week – 23.3.15

March 23rd, 2015 at 3:29 pm by Lindsay Addie

Middle eastern politics and terrorism was the prevalent theme with the cartoonists this week.

This cartoon is by Gary Varvel (whose cartoons are consistently funny and thought provoking).

gary_varvel_gary_varvel_for_03192015_5_

© Gary Varvel – found at Real Clear Politics. Lots more of Varvel’s work can be found here.

The obvious dislike between Obama and Netanyahu must be music to the ears of Israel’s enemies in the Middle East. This is something I find very troubling as Israel and USA need to stand together now more than ever. In my opinion ISIS and friends are winning the war on terror. It pains me to admit it, but ISIS and friends are more organised than America and its allies. It is certainly reminiscent of the 1930’s when fascism was growing.

Also why is Obama so bent on agreeing to a deal with Iran? It seems like a very risky strategy to me.

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RIP Lee Kuan Yew

March 23rd, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Lee Kuan Yew has died aged 91. If there is such a thing as a benign dictator, he might have been it.

He formed the People’s Action Party in 1954 as a 31 year old. He became PM in 1959 when they won 43 out of 51 seats. Singapore then merged with Malaysia, but Malaysia severed ties in 1965 when led to Singapore becoming an independent state – a state with almost no natural resources.

He won seven elections in a row, with basically no effective opposition parties.  In 1990 he officially retired as Prime Minister but remained a de facto head of state as senior minister.

I doubt any one individual has ever been so influential in a country’s development, and overwhelmingly for the better.

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Is It Time for the Jews to Leave Europe?

March 22nd, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Jeffrey Goldberg writes in The Atlantic:

For half a century, memories of the Holocaust limited anti-Semitism on the Continent. That period has ended—the recent fatal attacks in Paris and Copenhagen are merely the latest examples of rising violence against Jews. Renewed vitriol among right-wing fascists and new threats from radicalized Islamists have created a crisis, confronting Jews with an agonizing choice.

People go on about the Palestinian refugees forced from their homes. Well there’s a generation of Jews being effectively forced out of their countries and homes, as European countries become more risky for them.

Finkielkraut sees himself as an alienated man of the left. He says he loathes both radical Islamism and its most ferocious French critic, Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s extreme right-wing—and once openly anti-Semitic—National Front party. But he has lately come to find radical Islamism to be a more immediate, even existential, threat to France than the National Front. “I don’t trust Le Pen. I think there is real violence in her,” he told me. “But she is so successful because there actually is a problem of Islam in France, and until now she has been the only one to dare say it.”

Indeed, and due to that she may become President of France.

France’s 475,000 Jews represent less than 1 percent of the country’s population. Yet last year, according to the French Interior Ministry, 51 percent of all racist attacks targeted Jews.

If any other minority faced such racism, there would be a national outcry.

In Greece, a recent survey found that 69 percent of adults hold anti-Semitic views, and the fascists of the country’s Golden Dawn party are open in their Jew-hatred.

Golden Dawn are closer to actual Nazis than just neo-nazis.

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