Archive for the ‘International Politics’ Category

The Australian Citizenship Test

August 29th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Australia has a 20 question citizenship test, which you have to pass (at least 75% needed) to gain citizenship. I think NZ should do the same. It is a good way of ensuring new citizens understand the country they are joining.

News.com.au has published a practice test, which is copied below:

SECTION ONE: AUSTRALIA AND ITS PEOPLE

1. What do we remember on Anzac Day?

a. The landing of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps at Gallipoli, Turkey

b. The arrival of the first free settlers from Great Britain

c. The landing of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove

2. What are the colours of the Australian Aboriginal flag?

a. Black, red and yellow

b. Green, white and black

c. Blue, white and green

3. Which official symbol of Australia identifies Commonwealth property?

a. The national anthem

b. Australia’s national flower

c. Commonwealth Coat of Arms

SECTION TWO: AUSTRALIA’S DEMOCRATIC BELIEFS, RIGHTS AND LIBERTIES

4. Which of these statements about Australia’s system of government is correct?

a. The Queen of Australia chooses people to form the Australian Parliament

b. The government is elected by the people

c. The Prime Minister chooses our Members of Parliament

5. Which of these is an example of freedom of speech?

a. People can peacefully protest against government decisions

b. Men and women are treated equally in a court of law

c. Australians are free to not follow a religion

6. Which of these statements about government in Australia is correct?

a. The government does not allow some religions

b. Government in Australia is secular

c. Religious laws are passed by parliament

7. Which of these is an example of equality in Australia?

a. Everyone follows the same religion

b. Men and women have the same rights

c. Everyone belongs to the same political party

8. Which of these is a responsibility of Australian citizens aged 18 years or over?

a. To attend local council meetings

b. To vote in elections

c. To have a current Australian passport

9. Which of these is a responsibility of Australian citizens aged 18 years or over?

a. To do local community service

b. To carry a passport at all times

c. To serve on a jury if called to do so

10. Which of these statements about passports is correct?

a. Australian citizens can apply for an Australian passport

b. Permanent residents can hold an Australian passport

c. Australian citizens need a passport and visa to return to Australia

SECTION THREE: GOVERNMENT AND THE LAW IN AUSTRALIA 

11. Which of these statements about voting in Australian elections is correct?

a. People are free and safe to vote for any candidate

b. Voting is by a show of hands

c. People must write their name on their vote

12. What happened in Australia on 1 January 1901?

a. The Australian Constitution was changed by a referendum

b. The Australian Constitution came into effect

c. The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps was formed

13. What is the name of the legal document that sets out the rules for the government of Australia?

a. The Australian Federation

b. The Australian Commonwealth

c. The Australian Constitution

14. What is a referendum?

a. A vote to change the government

b. A vote to change the Australian Constitution

c. A vote to change the Prime Minister

15. Which arm of government has the power to interpret and apply laws?

a. Legislative

b. Executive

c. Judicial

16. Which of these is a role of the Governor-General?

a. The appointment of state premiers

b. The signing of Bills passed by the Australian Parliament

c. The appointment of the Head of State

17. Which of these statements about state governments is correct?

a. All states have the same constitution

b. Each state has its own constitution

c. The states have no constitution

18. What is the name given to the party or coalition of parties with the second largest number of members in the House of Representatives?

a. The Government

b. The Opposition

c. The Senate

19. What is the name of a proposal to make a law in parliament?

a. Royal Assent

b. Bill

c. Debate

20. Who maintains peace and order in Australia?

a. Public servants

b. Police

c. Lawyers

I got 19 out of 20 correct. Did not know the colours of the Aboriginal flag.

Many of the questions could be used in NZ also.

The answers are over the break.

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Huhne says growth is not the planet’s enemy

August 29th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Former UK Energy Secretary and ardent environmentalist Chris Huhne writes at The Guardian:

Until now the story of human prosperity has been all about cheap, abundant energy. However, something big has been happening. For the first time in history, we are growing richer while using less energy. That is unalloyed good news for budgets, incomes and the planet. We have reached a technological tipping point.

Technology is a solution to many environmental issues. Fibre for example will allow more people to work from home.

From the middle ages, living standards just edged up at a snail’s pace, and we did little damage to the planet, because growing forests absorbed carbon from wood burning. The population was small. We led lives that were, in Hobbes’ phrase, “nasty, brutish and short”. Then we started burning coal on a large scale in the 18th century, and the industrial revolution made the graph look like a hockey stick: suddenly incomes were doubling in decades, following centuries of stability. After allowing for inflation, real GDP in England and Wales doubled from 1830 to 1864, again by 1898, and again by 1951, despite two world wars.

Gross domestic product is a measure of activity, not welfare. But there is plenty of evidence of real progress. If life is better than death, this surge of growth was more good news. Male life expectancy at birth in England and Wales in 1841 was just 40 years. By 1950, it was 66. On the latest figures for 2012, it is now 79 for men and 83 for women.

This unprecedented prosperity and welfare was inextricably linked to the burning of fossil fuels, and therefore to the beginning of carbon emissions and global warming. And we are paying with the steady rise in carbon and temperatures compared with pre-industrial levels.

This is why so many green thinkers have rightly been suspicious of economic growth: the curve of rising living standards has been tracked by the curve of rising energy use from coal, oil and gas. The simple answer was green puritanism: change our lifestyle. Don the hair-shirt. Stop consuming more. Stop growth – and therefore stop pollution.

Precisely, what many have argued.

The good news is that we can increasingly see a future where technology does most of the change for us. Readers of the Digest of United Kingdom energy statistics will find an extraordinary table in the new edition: the two-century link between growth and energy has broken. The UK economy has doubled in real terms since 1985, but total energy consumption is exactly the same as it was in that year. Indeed, energy consumption has fallen since 1970 while the economy has nearly trebled in size.

I wonder what the figures for NZ are?

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A former Saudi Commodore on Israel

August 27th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Abdulateef Al-Mulhim is a retired Royal Saudi Navy Commodore. He wrote a couple of years ago in Arab News:

 From the period of 1948 and to this day many confrontations have taken place. Some of them were small clashes and many of them were full-scale battles, but there were no major wars apart from the ones mentioned above. The Arab-Israeli conflict is the most complicated conflict the world ever experienced. On the anniversary of the 1973 War between the Arab and the Israelis, many people in the Arab world are beginning to ask many questions about the past, present and the future with regard to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The questions now are: What was the real cost of these wars to the Arab world and its people. And the harder question that no Arab national wants to ask is: What was the real cost for not recognizing Israel in 1948 and why didn’t the Arab states spend their assets on education, health care and the infrastructures instead of wars?

The total cost of the conflict is massive.

The Arab world wasted hundreds of billions of dollars and lost tens of thousands of innocent lives fighting Israel, which they considered is their sworn enemy, an enemy whose existence they never recognized. The Arab world has many enemies and Israel should have been at the bottom of the list. The real enemies of the Arab world are corruption, lack of good education, lack of good health care, lack of freedom, lack of respect for the human lives and finally, the Arab world had many dictators who used the Arab-Israeli conflict to suppress their own people. 

These dictators’ atrocities against their own people are far worse than all the full-scale Arab-Israeli wars. 

Israel is a convenient diversion for many rulers in the region.

Many Arabs don’t know that the life expectancy of the Palestinians living in Israel is far longer than many Arab states and they enjoy far better political and social freedom than many of their Arab brothers. Even the Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip enjoy more political and social rights than some places in the Arab World. Wasn’t one of the judges who sent a former Israeli president to jail is an Israeli-Palestinian? 

The region would do much better if there was peace with Israel.

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French Minister says women have a duty to wear bikinis at the beach!

August 24th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

It is a French woman’s duty to wear a bikini on a beach, says the former minister for families, Nadine Morano.

Ms Morano, 51, provoked a political row yesterday by complaining that she had seen a Muslim woman sitting on a French beach in headscarf, long-sleeved tunic and trousers while her husband stripped off and bathed in the sea.

“When you choose to come to a country of secular laws like France, you have an obligation to respect our culture and the liberty of women. Or you go somewhere else,” Ms Morano wrote on her Facebook page.

I never realised bikinis were compulsory in France!

I am pro-bikini but as a classical liberal I do not support it being mandatory :-)

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Guest Post: Losing Our Heads Over ISIS

August 22nd, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

A guest post by John Stringer. Note that the remainder of the article over the break has a photo that could be disturbing for some:

The beheading of US photo-journalist James Foley of GlobalPost by a British heavily London-accented jihadist – now identified as a member of “the Beatles” ISIS troop – who had travelled to the Middle East to ‘fight’ for ISIS, changes everything. 

 A radicalized Briton has beheaded an innocent US journalist.

Think about that.

The jihadists are using innocent Europeans and Muslims who do not subscribe to their narrow religious cult with heinous brutality (80 Yazidi men ‘executed,’ their women and children sold into white slavery) as tools to conduct a psychological campaign of fear.  We call this “terrorism.”

It is designed to strike terror and is used as a weapon.

US journalist Stephen Sotloff is next.  The second in a sickening queue we will be forced to endure at the hand of these iSIS butchers.

Can journalists and Europeans function or even visit Muslim nations after this?

The Hamas tunnels in Israel (the latter so vehemently criticised and protested against by Internet/Mana rent-a-mobs in New Zealand last week) were designed as snatch holes. They want Israeli citizens, so they can be held, money extorted, or executed for propaganda purposes.

Now all and any Europeans are vulnerable to kidnapping, torture and beheading on camera for the purposes of propaganda. It does not matter who they are (they might be Olympic athletes in a Canadian Olympic village; perhaps a touring All Blacks team): simply non-jihadists and it’s better if they are Western and Christian.

What happens when this is done to a Western woman?  Or a celebrity?  The fuse of an international powder keg is burning.

This is like something out of the biblical Assyrian campaigns of Sennacherib’s terror across the ancient Middle

East: impalings, mass beheadings, mass slaughters, executions, torture, rape. etc. designed to create psychological awe.

Beheadings have a certain cultural oeuvre in the history and mentality of the extremist jihadi.  But they are not alone.

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Hockey on NZ

August 21st, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Australian reports:

JOE Hockey frequently admits he’s a little bit jealous of our cousins across the ditch, in an economic sense at least.

THE treasurer’s green eye probably went an even deeper shade of emerald after New Zealand’s latest employment figures showed their jobless rate tumbled to a five-year low of 5.6 per cent in the June quarter from a revised 5.9 per cent previously.

The best we can hope for is Australia’s jobless rate not reaching 6.25 per cent this financial year, as predicted in Mr Hockey’s May budget.

And what does Hockey say:

He said New Zealand has stolen the advantage from Australia during the past few years by combining domestic structural reforms with newly negotiated trade opportunities in Asia.

“As a result, they have falling unemployment, rising living standards and a budget that is coming into surplus,” Mr Hockey said.

Faced with a hostile Senate over his first budget, Mr Hockey also said he was “quite jealous” that NZ Prime Minister John Key has to deal with only one parliamentary chamber.

Even so, Mr Key and Finance Minister Bill English are showing the world how economic reform should be done.

And it has not been achieved through “luck or complacency”.

“There is no she’ll-be-right attitude,” Mr Hockey said.

Except those parties who want to spend the surpus before we even achieve it, and send us back into deficit.

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Clive Palmer does it again

August 20th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Outspoken Australian tycoon Clive Palmer has labelled the Chinese Government “mongrels” who “shoot their own people” in a televised tirade that was criticised by Canberra yesterday as “hugely damaging”.

The billionaire politician, who was elected to Parliament last year as leader of the Palmer United Party also called the Chinese “bastards” who “want to take over this country”.

The mining baron is locked in a long-running dispute over royalties and port operations with Hong Kong company Citic Pacific over its Sino Iron magnetite project, a partnership with China’s state-owned Metallurgical Group.

Politicians are best not to use their positions to favour their personal business interests.

Treasurer Joe Hockey said Palmer’s comments were hugely damaging and urged him to tone down his rhetoric against Australia’s largest trading partner. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she would tell the Chinese Embassy that “these views are not representative of the Australian Parliament and I don’t believe representative of the Australian people.” A spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy called Palmer’s comments “absurd” and “irresponsible”, the ABC reported.

And one of his MPs:

Palmer yesterday tried to play down his comments, tweeting that they were “not intended to refer to Chinese people” but to Citic. But he wasn’t helped by one of his senators, Jacqui Lambie, who said she strongly supported her leader’s comments about “China’s military capacity and threat to Australia”.

“If anybody thinks we should have a national security and defence policy that ignores the threat of a Chinese communist invasion, you’re delusional and got rocks in your head,” she said

The Tasmanian is a ex-Australian Defence Force non-commissioned officer. She said China is controlled by “an aggressive, anti-democratic, totalitarian government. We need to double the size and capacity of our military right now.”

I look forward to Australia declaring war on China :-)

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More bombing in Iraq

August 18th, 2014 at 4:34 pm by David Farrar

The Guardian reports:

The US on Sunday launched two waves of air strikes against Islamic State (Isis) militants in northern Iraq, in the most extensive American military operations in the country since the withdrawal of ground troops in 2011.

The strikes helped Kurdish peshmerga fighters to regain control of the strategically important Mosul dam captured by militants two weeks ago.

“Mosul Dam was liberated completely,” Ali Awni, an official from Iraq’s main Kurdish party, told AFP, a statement confirmed by two other Kurdish sources.

Well intentioned and probably helping, but what happens when the bombing stops? Will ISIS be weak enough to be take out?

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Prizes for voting?

August 16th, 2014 at 4:51 pm by David Farrar

The LA Times reports:

Alarmed that fewer than one-fourth of voters are showing up for municipal elections, the Los Angeles Ethics Commission voted Thursday to recommend that the City Council look at using cash prizes to lure a greater number of people to the polls.

On a 3-0 vote, the panel said it wanted City Council President Herb Wesson’s Rules, Elections and Intergovernmental Relations Committee to seriously consider the use of financial incentives and a random drawing during its elections, possibly as soon as next year.

I think this is a bad thing, to start paying people to vote. If they will only vote because some pays them to, then they obviously do not care very much.

A survey of young people in NZ found that allowing voting over the Internet would motivate more young people to vote, than paying them $50.

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British MPs want tobacco style warnings on wine!

August 14th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Cigarette-style warnings should be placed on wine showing its health risks and the number of calories it contains, a group of British MPs has said.

Next will be plain packaging for wine!

The recommendations come after Public Health England said no one should drink alcohol two days running in order to minimise the risks to their health.

Sigh.

Professor Mark Bellis, an alcohol spokesman for the Faculty of Public Health, suggested labels could say that alcohol increases the risk of cancer and causes at least 15,000 deaths a year in the UK.

We should have the same warnings on pasta, lamb chops etc.

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July public polls

August 12th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

julpolls

Have published the monthly newsletter summarising the public polls. Labour’s trend continues. The executive summary is:

There were six political polls in July – two Roy Morgans, a One News Colmar Brunton, a 3 News Reid Research, a Herald DigiPoll and a Fairfax Ipsos.

The average of the public polls has National 25% ahead of Labour in July, up 2% from June and up 11% from April. The current seat projection is centre-right 68 seats, centre-left 52 which would see a centre-right Government.

In Australia Tony Abbott’s net approval rating has risen 14% in the wake of the shooting down of MH370.

In the United States the country direction falls to a massive net -40%. 

In the UK David Cameron’s ratings are improving, as is the contry direction. Scottish independence polls show the no vote ahead by 5% to 14% with an average 9% gap.

In Canada the Liberals have opened up a large lead over the Conservatives, and would be able to form a minority government on current polls.

The normal two tables are provided comparing the country direction sentiment, head of government and opposition leader approval sentiment for the five countries. 

We also carry details of polls in New Zealand on fat tax, health food ratings, school policies, the man apology, the Mana/Internet party plus the normal business and consumer confidence polls.

 This newsletter is normally only available by e-mail.  If you would like to receive future issues, please go to http://listserver.actrix.co.nz/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/polling-newsletter to subscribe yourself.

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Scotland unlikely to leave the UK

August 10th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Support for Scottish independence has fallen following a TV debate this week and the campaign to split the United Kingdom will need a dramatic turnaround if it is to win a forthcoming referendum, the latest poll shows. 

The Survation poll for the Scottish Daily Mail newspaper said 50 per cent of respondents planned to vote against independence in a ballot due on September 18 that will decide whether Scotland breaks its 307-year union with England.

It was the highest level of support for remaining part of the United Kingdom in all Survation polls since February.

By contrast, just 37 percent said they planned to vote for a split while 13 per cent said they were undecided. Excluding undecided voters, support for independence stood at 43 per cent against 57 per cent in favour of the union.

It’s a pity in a way. I think England might do better without Scotland dragging it down. Don’t get me wrong – Scotland is a great country, but they chew up more than their share of UK expenditure.

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US back fighting in Iraq

August 9th, 2014 at 10:05 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

US warplanes have bombed Islamist fighters marching on Iraq’s Kurdish capital after President Barack Obama said Washington must act to prevent ”genocide”.

Islamic State fighters, who have beheaded and crucified captives in their drive to eradicate unbelievers, have advanced to within a half hour’s drive of Arbil, capital of Iraq’s Kurdish region and a hub for US oil companies.

They have also seized control of Iraq’s biggest dam, Kurdish authorities confirmed on Friday, which could allow them to flood cities and cut off vital water and electricity supplies.

A Pentagon spokesman said two F/A-18 aircraft from an aircraft carrier in the Gulf had dropped laser-guided 500-pound bombs on a mobile artillery piece used by the fighters to shell Kurdish forces defending Arbil.

Obama authorised the first US air strikes on Iraq since he pulled all troops out in 2011, arguing action was needed to halt the Islamist advance, protect Americans and safeguard hundreds of thousands of Christians and members of other religious minorities who have fled for their lives.

The lesson here is that it is easier to invade a country, than leave it. The US action in this regard is necessary to stop the slaughter.

In Baghdad, where politicians have been paralysed by infighting while the state falls apart, the top Shi’ite cleric all but demanded Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki quit, a bold intervention that could bring the veteran ruler down.

Which is necessary. Maliki is primary responsible for the rise of ISIS.

 

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Putin’s problems

August 8th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

A good piece from the Herald on Putin’s problems:

The world faces a moment of maximum danger in Ukraine. Vladimir Putin has perhaps just a few days to decide whether to launch a full invasion of the Donbass, or accept defeat and let the Ukrainian military crush his proxy forces.

Nato officials say Russia has massed 20,000 troops in battle-readiness near the border, backed by Spetsnaz commandos, tanks and aircraft. Vehicles have been marked with peace-keeper labels already. Nato sees every sign that the Kremlin intends to disguise an attack as a “humanitarian mission”.

So it will be an overt invasion.

He has been clear from the outset that he will deploy any means necessary to bring Ukraine back into Russia’s orbit. Only war can now achieve this, since all else has failed, and since he has turned a friendly Ukraine into an enemy by his actions. The awful implications of this are at last starting to hit the markets.

“People thought that Russia was just playing a game of brinkmanship, and that pragmatism would prevail in the end. There is real fear now that this will spin out of control,” said Chris Weafer, from Macro Advisory in Moscow.

Yields on 10-year rouble bonds have jumped to 9.7 per cent, up 130 basis points since June. A liquidity crunch is rapidly taking hold across the financial system.

“The market is shut. Not a single Russian entity has been able to borrow anything in dollars, euro or yen since early July,” Weafer said.

The invasion will make this worse. Putin’s popularity will drop at home, as the economy slumps. He will face possible defeat in elections, which may force him to reveal whether he will allow this to happen, or will he remove the democratic facade.

Putin now faces draconian sanctions from the US, EU, Japan, Canada and Australia together. He can strike back by asymmetric means – perhaps a cyberattack – but tit-for-tat retaliation can achieve nothing. There is no equivalence. Russia’s economy is no bigger than California’s. This is an economic showdown between a US$40 trillion power structure, and a US$2 trillion producer of raw materials that has hollowed out its industrial core. The new arsenal of sanctions refined by a cell at the US Treasury – already used with crisp effect against nine countries – is nothing like the blunt toolkit of the 1980s or 1990s. Nor can Russia retreat into Soviet self-sufficiency. It is locked into global finance. The International Energy Agency says Russia needs to invest US$100 billion ($118 billion) a year for two decades just to stop its oil and gas output declining.

This is one of the benefits of having countries in the global economy – it means that when they do bad things, the economic pressure can be the best elver against them.

European officials calculate that Putin will not dare to cut off energy supplies, since to do so would bring the Russian state to its knees within months. But even if he tried – as a shock tactic – it would not achieve much. Oil can be obtained anywhere.

Cutting off the gas would hurt Europe, but hurt Russia more.

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World War I

July 28th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

World War 1 started 100 years ago on 28 July 1914. Some stats from that terrible conflict:

  • 70 million soldiers mobilised
  • 9 million combatants killed and 7 million civilians
  • 20 million wounded
  • Four empires destroyed – Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, German and Russian
  • NZ occupied German Samoa
  • Germany tried to get Mexico to attack the US and reclaim Texas, New Mexico and Arizona from them – this led to the US entering WWI
  • Germany initiated the use of poison gas in the war, and eventually all sides used it resulting in 1.3 million causalities
  • 8 million men held in POW camps
  • 11,000 soldiers were killed or wounded between the signing of the Armistice and it coming into force six hours later.
  • NZ lost 1.5% of its population, Australia 1.3%, UK 2.0% France 4.3%, Ottoman Empire 15%
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Australian Senator wants a rich well-hung Senator

July 23rd, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Any complaints about our MPs look trivial in comparison to some of the loons in Australia.

TVNZ reports:

An Australian politician has raised eyebrows after revealing her two requirements in a partner.

Palmer United Senator Jacqui Lambie told Tasmania’s Heart 107.3′s radio station she has only two requirements in a man, they must be wealthy and well-endowed.

“They must have heaps of cash and they’ve got to have a package between their legs, let’s be honest,” Ms Lambie said.

“I don’t need them to speak, they don’t even need to speak.”

Ms Lambie, a 43-year-old mother of two, was then introduced to a 22-year-old listener named Jamie, who called into the radio show to express his interest in dating her.

“Do you have plenty of cash?” asked Ms Lambie.

“I’m just a bit concerned that at 22 years of age and living in Tasmania you might not be quite there yet?”

Jamie then assured her he does have plenty of cash.

Ms Lambie then asked: “Are you well-hung?”

Jamie assured her he is & “like a donkey”.

The pair have agreed to go on a date.

Funnily enough Senator Lambie opposes gay marriage on the grounds it compromises Australiam morals.

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du Fresne on Hamas

July 21st, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Karl du Fresne writes:

There is a ruthless, cynical logic in what Hamas is doing in the Gaza Strip.

The constant rocket attacks on Israel are largely futile in the sense that they do minimal damage. But Hamas knows that as long as the attacks continue, Israel is bound to retaliate. It can hardly allow its territory and people to remain under constant threat.

Hamas’s trump card here is the Western news media. The terrorists know that the casualties of Israeli retaliation – children especially – attract international media sympathy. They make sure TV crews get footage of the funerals and have access to the hospital wards where maimed children are being treated.

They know that their most potent weapon against Israel is not rockets but international opinion. And they know that as long as the media present the conflict as one that is massively one-sided – one that is reported every day in terms of the gross imbalance in the casualty figures, almost as if it were some grotesque sporting encounter – then international opinion will regard Hamas as the wronged party.

There is a degree of truth to this. Israel has more military might so when it responds, more people get killed. Hence for those who treat it as a numbers game, Israel are wrong. They should just let 200 rockets be fired at them, and never retaliate.

I recall a good comment by someone on how the intentions are crucial, and that Israel regards every civilian killed as a mark of failure, while Hamas regards every civilian killed as a mark of success.

There have been the recent tit for tat killings. Three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and killed in June. Several militant groups (not Hamas) claimed responsibility for the killings. Hamas denied responsibility but there is some evidence that two Hamas members were involved. Hamas has actually published a kidnapping guide.  Sadly many Palestinians openly celebrated the kidnapping and killing.

Horrifically a few weeks later there was a revenge attack where a Palestinian teenager was kidnapped, beaten, and burnt alive. I’m not sure one can or should compare which murders are more horrific, but burning alive is as bad as it gets. The Israeli Police have arrested three men, one of whom has confessed.

What is interesting, and sad, is the reactions to the two despicable murders. Almost without exception the murder of the Palestinian teenager was reviled and condemned by every politician, media outlet and the public. And the perpetrators were arrested and will, if found guilty, go to prison for a long time.

This contrasts with the reaction of many Palestinians to the murder of the Israeli teenagers, where no assistance was given in solving the crime, and there was widespread support for the kidnapping and murder.

Now I understand the grievances of the Palestinians, but when you celebrate the kidnapping and murder of three teenagers, it is hard to persuade Israel that any land for peace settlement would ever be honoured or make them safer.

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Hamas encouraging its own citizens to get killed

July 20th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

William Saletan at Slate writes:

Hamas seized control of Gaza seven years ago. Its reign has been disastrous. Unemployment and poverty are around 40 percent. The government is bankrupt. Israel’s control of Gaza’s borders has played a huge role in that. But Hamas has done everything possible to tighten Israel’s grip and delegitimize Palestinian resistance.

And the latest:

The vast majority of the damage in Gaza has been inflicted by Israel. Yet Hamas has contrived to make the carnage worse. It has encouraged Gazans to stand in the way of Israeli missiles. When Israel advised 100,000 Gazans to evacuate an area targeted for invasion, Hamas instructed them to ignorethe warnings. It added: “To all of our people who have evacuated their homes—return to them immediately and do not leave the house.”

Unbelievable. They actually are encouraging their own citizens to try and get killed, so they get propaganda from it.

That’s what Hamas is doing. It’s trading Palestinian blood for political ambitions it foolishly expects to achieve through war. No amount of suffering in Gaza has persuaded it to stop. During the war’s first week, there was vague talk of a cease-fire, with each side reportedly holding out for further demands. Netanyahu declared that “no international pressure will prevent us from operating with full force.” Israel looked like a belligerent bully. On Monday, when Egypt announced acease-fire proposal based on ideas sketched by Abbas, all Hamas had to do was say yes. The proposal entailed no concessions. It was just a break in the bloodshed, followed by talks.

The gist was simple. As of 9 a.m. Tuesday, both sides would stop shooting. Then they’d start talking, through Egypt, about a truce. The discussions would include Hamas’ demands for easing Israeli control of Gaza’s borders. Egypt’s foreign ministry emphasized that the proposal was “aimed at stopping the killing of the Palestinians.”

The Arab League embraced the plan. Abbas issued a statement that “urged all parties to comply with this truce in order to stop the shedding of Palestinian blood.” Israel accepted it and announced that, as of 9 a.m., it had stopped shooting. For six hours, Israel held its fire.

But Hamas kept shooting. Rockets continued to fly from Gaza into Israel—nearly 50 in the next six hours—and Hamas took credit for them.

People need to understand how this makes the chance of there ever being peace minimal. When Israel agrees to a cease-fire, and Hamas fires 50 more rockets off, you’d have to be bonkers to think Israel will then do another ceasefire.

Hamas didn’t just reject the cease-fire. Its spokesmen mocked Israel for agreeing to the plan, calling this acquiescence “indicative of Israel’s weakness.” They “condemned international and regional support for the ceasefire initiative.” They derided Egypt, scoffing that “the Egyptian initiative is an attempt to defeat us” and that “those who ignore the Palestinian resistance should not be dealt with.”

Anyone who equates Hamas and Israel is basically an Israel hater.

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The purge of the middle aged men

July 16th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Guardian reports:

David Cameron has completed his biggest reshuffle in office, demoting the trouble-making Michael Gove to chief whip, installing the Eurosceptic Philip Hammond as foreign secretary and promoting two more women to the cabinet.

The prime minister has cleared out a dozen middle-aged and older men from his ministerial ranks in order to create a more female and less privileged top team. The strategy behind the shake-up is being attributed to Lynton Crosby, Cameron’s election adviser, as the party seeks to make itself look more representative of society before the election.

The size of the reshuffle is huge. Almost every major portfolio affected.

However, there are already signs of a backlash within the party about the scale of the sackings. Among the centrists, there is unhappiness about the departure of Dominic Grieve as attorney general, who has stood up for the European court of human rights

No wonder he went. The ECHR is massively unpopular in the UK.

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Australian house prices

July 12th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

An Australian report that lays the blame for rising house prices on a lack of land for development, rather than a “price bubble”, could have reached the same conclusions here, a free-market think tank says.

The report, by the Sydney-based Centre for Independent Studies, said Australian house prices had risen at an annual rate 3 per cent higher than inflation since the 1970s.

Author Stephen Kirchner said foreign and domestic property investors had been made a scapegoat when the real problem was zoning and planning rules. They restricted the availability of building land and prevented the more intensive development of existing residential areas.

The supply squeeze in Australia was compounded by taxes such as stamp duty and capital gains tax, he said.

Australian house prices have risen at much the same level as New Zealand. What is useful to note is Australia has had a Capital Gains Tax since the 1980s.

So when Labour goes on about how a CGT will magically mean house prices decrease, ask them why has that not worked in Australia?

The solution in both countries is the same. Make more land available. It is about as basic economics as you can get. Artificially restrict the supply of land, and of course the price of land increase.

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Germany says nein to US

July 12th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Germany has told the CIA station chief in Berlin to leave the country in a dramatic display of anger from Chancellor Angela Merkel at the behaviour of a close ally after officials unearthed two suspected US spies.

The scandal has chilled relations with Washington to levels not seen since Merkel’s predecessor opposed the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. It follows allegations that Merkel herself, who grew up in Stasi-ridden East Germany, was among thousands of Germans whose mobile phones have been bugged by American agents.

“Spying on allies … is a waste of energy,” the chancellor said in her most pointed public remarks yet on the issue. “We have so many problems, we should focus on the important things.” …

US government sources said the official – whom neither side named – was Berlin station chief for the CIA, the Central Intelligence Agency. A German source said the man would face possible forcible expulsion if he did not leave voluntarily.

This is an unprecedented fall out between allies. I can’t say I blame the Germans. Spying on your opponents and enemies, but not your allies.

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Why US policy failed in Iraq

July 11th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

A fascinating post at the Washington Post by Ali Khedery:

To understand why Iraq is imploding, you must understand Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki — and why the United States has supported him since 2006.

I have known Maliki, or Abu Isra, as he is known to people close to him, for more than a decade. I have traveled across three continents with him. I know his family and his inner circle. When Maliki was an obscure member of parliament, I was among the very few Americans in Baghdad who took his phone calls. In 2006, I helped introduce him to the U.S. ambassador, recommending him as a promising option for prime minister. In 2008, I organized his medevac when he fell ill, and I accompanied him for treatment in London, spending 18 hours a day with him at Wellington Hospital. In 2009, I lobbied skeptical regional royals to support Maliki’s government.

By 2010, however, I was urging the vice president of the United States and the White House senior staff to withdraw their support for Maliki. I had come to realize that if he remained in office, he would create a divisive, despotic and sectarian government that would rip the country apart and devastate American interests.

America stuck by Maliki. As a result, we now face strategic defeat in Iraq and perhaps in the broader Middle East.

Khedery argues that if the US has stopped supporting Maliki in 2010, then what has happened in the last few weeks may not have occured.

After the December 2005 parliamentary elections, U.S. Embassy officials combed the Iraqi elite for a leader who could crush the Iranian-backed Shiite militias, battle al-Qaeda, and unite Iraqis under the banner of nationalism and inclusive government. My colleague Jeffrey Beals and I were among the few Arabic-speaking Americans on good terms with the country’s leading figures. The only man we knew with any chance to win support from all Iraqi factions — and who seemed likely to be an effective leader — was Maliki. We argued that he would be acceptable to Iraq’s Shiite Islamists, around 50 percent of the population; that he was hard-working, decisive and largely free of corruption; and that he was politically weak and thus dependent on cooperating with other Iraqi leaders to hold together a coalition. 

Khedery says Maliki was the right pick in 2005, but then things went wrong:

With the Obama administration vowing to end Bush’s “dumb war,” and the continued distraction of the global economic crisis, Maliki seized an opportunity. He began a systematic campaign to destroy the Iraqi state and replace it with his private office and his political party. He sacked professional generals and replaced them with those personally loyal to him. He coerced Iraq’s chief justice to bar some of his rivals from participating in the elections in March 2010. After the results were announced and Maliki lost to a moderate, pro-Western coalition encompassing all of Iraq’s major ethno-sectarian groups, the judge issued a ruling that awarded Maliki the first chance to form a government, ushering in more tensions and violence.

So he started to go rogue around 2009.

After helping to bring him to power in 2006, I argued in 2010 that Maliki had to go. I felt guilty lobbying against my friend Abu Isra, but this was not personal. Vital U.S. interests were on the line. Thousands of American and Iraqi lives had been lost and trillions of dollars had been spent to help advance our national security, not the ambitions of one man or one party. The constitutional process had to be safeguarded, and we needed a sophisticated, unifying, economics-minded leader to rebuild Iraq after the security-focused Maliki crushed the militias and al-Qaeda.

In conversations with visiting White House senior staff members, the ambassador, the generals and other colleagues, I suggested Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi as a successor. A former Baathist, moderate Shiite Islamist and French-educated economist who had served as finance minister, Abdul Mahdi maintained excellent relations with Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds as well as with Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

And how high up did the lobbying go?

On Sept. 1, 2010, Vice President Biden was in Baghdad for the change-of-command ceremony that would see the departure of Gen. Ray Odierno and the arrival of Gen. Lloyd Austin as commander of U.S. forces. That night, at a dinner at the ambassador’s residence that included Biden, his staff, the generals and senior embassy officials, I made a brief but impassioned argument against Maliki and for the need to respect the constitutional process. But the vice president said Maliki was the only option. Indeed, the following month he would tell top U.S. officials, “I’ll bet you my vice presidency Maliki will extend the SOFA,” referring to the status-of-forces agreement that would allow U.S. troops to remain in Iraq past 2011.

Biden was wrong, as he so often is.

But all the lobbying was for naught. By November, the White House had settled on its disastrous Iraq strategy. The Iraqi constitutional process and election results would be ignored, and America would throw its full support behind Maliki.

So they can’t say they were not warned. What happened next:

Within a short span, Maliki’s police state effectively purged most of them from politics, parking American-supplied M1A1 tanks outside the Sunni leaders’ homes before arresting them. Within hours of the withdrawal of U.S. forces in December 2011, Maliki sought the arrest of his longtime rival Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, eventually sentencing him to death in absentia. The purge of Finance Minister Rafea al-Essawi followed a year later.

So what are we left with:

In short, Maliki’s one-man, one-Dawa-party Iraq looks a lot like Hussein’s one-man, one-Baath Party Iraq. But at least Hussein helped contain a strategic American enemy: Iran. And Washington didn’t spend $1 trillion propping him up. There is not much “democracy” left if one man and one party with close links to Iran control the judiciary, police, army, intelligence services, oil revenue, treasury and the central bank. Under these circumstances, renewed ethno-sectarian civil war in Iraq was not a possibility. It was a certainty.

I resigned in protest on Dec. 31, 2010. 

If only they had listened to him. What happened was not inevitable after the fall of Saddam. It came about through bad decisions.

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Mad new airline safety procedures

July 10th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Passengers flying to and from British airports, and not just those on United States-bound flights, must ensure their electronic devices are charged.

Although New Zealand authorities have not been asked to implement the tough new safety measures, the Aviation Security Service said it was prepared to step up checks.

The ASS should say that they will not succumb to the paranoia from overseas. To ban you travelling with a cellphone if it has run out of power (which is very common) is madness. Think of the huge delays as every person has to power their phone on, and then has to either give up their cellphone or change flights if it has run out of power.

A spokesman for the department said: “In line with the US advice, passengers on some routes into and out of the UK may now also be required to show that electronic devices in their hand luggage are powered up or face not being allowed to bring the device on to the aircraft.

“Passengers … are therefore advised to make sure electronic devices being carried in their hand luggage are charged before they travel.”

Has anyone done a cost benefit analysis of the huge cost this imposes, against the very marginal benefit?

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Another blow to the anti-vaccination nutters

July 7th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Daily Beast reports:

Yet another group of studies shows vaccines have very low risk of side effects—and no link to autism. When will anti-vaxxers finally wake up?

Probably never. They’re like the anti-fluoride brigade. A local example is former Green MP Sue Kedgley:

Health officials and the medical establishment have decided that vaccination is such an essential public health tool that New Zealanders should simply accept its benefits without question, and have even implied that the unvaccinated are a risk to the health of society. At the same time they have dismissed those who question or oppose it, as dangerous, extreme and irresponsible.

Only because they are.

My own interest in vaccination began when I gave birth to my son 14 years ago. Whether or not to vaccinate our children was a hot topic at our regular mother’s group meetings, but eventually I had my son vaccinated.

Shortly after receiving his triple MMR vaccine at 15 months, he developed a horrendous incident of croup — to the point where he was taken to the emergency department. He subsequently developed a weakness in the chest which led to childhood asthma, which fortunately, through my various remedies, he has managed to shake off.

At the time I said to my doctor, I am certain the croup was triggered by the vaccination, but the doctor dismissed my suggestion as ludicrous, and certainly never forwarded it as an adverse reaction to the Centre for Adverse Reactions, which records significant adverse reactions to vaccination. I was convinced it was, however, and my son has never received another vaccination since.

It’s like the father who is convinced his child’s cancer was caused by the wifi network at their school.

I discovered, to my horror, that 23 vaccines, including vaccines that were given to babies, used thiomersal — a substance that is 50% mercury, one of the most toxic substances.

Kedgley does what most anti science nutters do. She refers to the presence of toxins, without mentioning their level. They may be at less than one thousandeth the safe level, but hey who cares about science.

Given these adverse reactions, and the acknowledged risks of vaccinations, it is alarming that the government has been quietly increasing the number of vaccinations our children receive before they are five, without any public debate or inquiry.

So this Green MP was against kids having more vaccinations.

Green Party policy today is very nuanced on vaccinations it seems because:

Our official position is influenced by the fact that we do not have a firm policy on it as we don’t have consensus from our members.

Anyway back to the main article:

The AHRQ study played out like this: 20,478 articles or meeting abstracts were identified by an electronic dragnet, of which 3,208 had enough about vaccine safety to warrant a closer look. These were really clawed through and mostly discarded for faulty (or absent) study design, missing information, or else use of non-US approved vaccines. Once whittled down, they were left with 67 studies—typical fallout in the world of the systematic review, though one that sometimes raises questions from those first hearing of the approach.

They then worked through a rating system that quantified just how good the evidence, pro or con, was for each vaccine of interest: measles-mumps-rubella (often called MMR) which uses weakened though still-live viruses; the chicken pox vaccine (ditto); and killed or genetically engineered vaccines against influenza, hepatitis, meningitis, and several other conditions.

After all the rigmarole, they found what any pediatrician already knew: the MMR causes fever. Fever, in a child, can provoke seizures. They found zero evidence to support a connection between MMR and autism or other neurologic problems.

Zero evidence. Zip.

Indeed, there is nothing surprising about the AHRQ article or the IOM’s review. Rather, the surprise is that groups as important and as busy continue to re-re-re-review the same data to reach the same conclusions, all because of the relentless countervailing force of the anti-vaccine crowd.

Because they never give up. They have a world view that Gaia made us all perfect and we should never let science interfere with Gaia’s grand plan – even if that means kids dying of preventable illnesses.

But nothing the scientific, evidenced-based, reality-based, rational world can do will change the minds of those who are not working from the same basic premise where science trumps belief. For them and millions of others, belief trumps science. To try to win them over on the merits of the argument is doomed to failure and even derision: the accusations that the latest study is rigged, that the scientists involved actually are only “scientists,” that the real evidence, long suppressed by the orthodox view, shows clear and incontrovertible evidence that vaccines are killing and maiming people left and right.

Very familiar.

I suggest people attend their local Meet The Candidate meetings and ask them for their views on vaccinations. If they start spouting nonsense about how they cause autism, and there is a conspiracy – then that makes it easy – don;t vote for them or their party.

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Good job Google

July 6th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Google has been accused of misinterpreting a European court’s “right to be forgotten” ruling by deleting links to apparently harmless news articles in a bid to whip up anger against “censorship”.

Articles about a former Merrill Lynch banker, the singer Kelly Osbourne, a football referee involved in a controversial penalty decision, and a “foul-mouthed” former president of the Law Society were among the first tranche of web stories to be removed from search results, it emerged yesterday.

The move by Google comes weeks after a landmark ruling by the European Court of Justice which upheld the “right to be forgotten” and sparked a debate over how to balance freedom of expression and public interest with the right to privacy.

Details of the first article to be “hidden” by the search engine created a backlash against the court ruling yesterday, but by last night there were growing questions about how Google was handling the take-down requests.

Ryan Heath, spokesman for the European Commission’s vice-president Neelie Kroes, said that Google’s decision to remove a BBC article by the economics editor Robert Peston about the ex-Merrill Lynch boss Stan O’Neal – one of those blamed for helping cause the global financial crisis – was “not a good judgement”.

He said he could not see a “reasonable public interest” for the action, adding that the court ruling should not allow people to “Photoshop their lives”.

That’s exactly what the court ruling allowed. Good on Google for making people aware the impact of the ruling.

Describing Google’s actions as “tactical”, he added: “It may be that they’ve decided that it’s simply cheaper to just say yes to all of these requests.”

Of course it is cheaper. do they really think Google is going to hire 200 lawyers to spend hours or days on each request considering the merits extensively. Of course not. They will take the option with least legal risk, and act on almost all requests – because that is the position the stupid European Court has put them in.

Privacy campaigners accused the internet giant of playing “silly political games” in an attempt to undermine the ruling. Jim Killock, executive director, Open Rights Group, said: “The ruling was clear that results that relate to articles that are in the public interest shouldn’t be removed.”

Who decides the public interest? Google? I don’t want Google deciding the public interest. The decision should be made by individual publishers whether to keep content on the Internet, and not by search engines on whether to index it.

Google is struggling to deal with the volume of demands. Around 70,000 requests for links to be removed have been made in the past month – more than 8,000 [8,497] of which were from Britain – it emerged yesterday. If all demands were met, more than a quarter of a million [267,550] web pages would be deleted – around 34,000 [34,597] as a result of complaints made by people in Britain.

This is why Jimmy Wales called the ruling the biggest threat to free speech on the Internet.

70,000 requests being made per month. If each request takes an hour to consider, then that is 70,000 hours of staff (probably lawyers) time needed per month. So around 450 lawyers needed just to deal with the requests. Sheer madness.

Emma Carr, acting director, Big Brother Watch, cited Google’s decision to remove a link to the blog, which featured “wholly accurate and legal content”, as highlighting “exactly why the ECJ ruling was ridiculous and detrimental to freedom of the press in Europe.”

And Wikipedia’s co-founder Jimmy Wales, a member of an expert panel set up by Google to help it deal with the controversy, condemned the European ruling as “an utter and complete disaster” and branded it “a major human rights violation”. The judgment is “clear and direct censorship of the worst kind,” he said.

It is. But here is the sad thing. If this was a court ruling in almost any other place, the law could just be changed to over-rule the court. But pretty much the only way to get rid of this, is by leaving the EU and the jurisdiction of the European Court.

It is not just Google which is being swamped with demands for links to be removed. The rate at which the BBC is receiving requests for stories to be deleted from its website has prompted the broadcaster to issue new guidance on “unpublishing” content.

David Jordan, BBC director of editorial policy and standards, said: “Sometimes the people we feature in our news reports want the news about themselves to be erased so they can obscure the events they were involved in, or the comments they made to us and stop others finding them.”

The new guidance states that material on the BBC website is part of a “permanently accessible archive” and will not be removed or changed unless there are “exceptional circumstances”. It adds: “Removing online content, particularly news items, risks the accusation that we are erasing the past or altering history.”

On this I agree with the BBC.

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