Archive for the ‘International Politics’ Category

Why did they not complain about half mast for Chavez?

January 27th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Government’s decision to lower New Zealand flags to mark the death of the King of Saudi Arabia has drawn criticism because of the kingdom’s poor human rights record.

Prime Minister John Key requested the flag on all Government and public buildings – including the Auckland Harbour Bridge and Parliament – be flown at half mast yesterday.

Writer and commentator Hamish Keith hit out at the decision on Twitter, saying; “We are flying flags at half mast in ‘respect’ for a torturing misogynist human rights flaunting autocrat – Je suis un hypocrite.”

The outrage seems to very selective. It is basically near-automatic that we do half mast flags for the death of any current head of state. In 2013 we did it for the death of Hugo Chavez, whose record on human rights was also pretty appalling. It is done not for the person, but for the country.

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70 years since Auschwitz liberated

January 27th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Chancellor Angela Merkel said it was a “disgrace” that Jews in Germany faced insults, threats or violence, as she marked 70 years since the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp.

Merkel joined survivors of the former camp, created by Nazi Germany in southern Poland, for a somber and moving event in the German capital ahead of Tuesday’s anniversary.

Auschwitz is a “warning” of what people can do to each other, Merkel said, adding that the camp – the site of the largest single number of murders committed during World War II – had been an “atrocious departure” in the course of history.

She said more than 100,000 Jews have today made Germany their home but that it was “unfortunately not without cause” that some feared insult or assault.

“It’s a disgrace that people in Germany are abused, threatened or attacked when they indicate somehow they are Jewish or when they side with the state of Israel,” she said, to applause.

Merkel said the fact that synagogues and Jewish institutions had to be guarded by police was like a “stain on our country”.

Sadly this is not just a problem in Germany.  In Sweden two journalists walked around with a Star of David and a kipah.

This time it was Peter Lindgren’s turn to don a kippah and Star of David chain around his neck and head into town. The result: “He received direct threats as he walked through the city,” according to expressen.se.

Lindgren, walking with a hidden camera and microphone alongside, recorded every step. The report showed the reporter enduring verbal abuse by a man who called him a “Jewish s***” and told him to “leave.” Another person hit him and shouted “Satan Jew,” at him.

As they approached the the city’s neighborhoods with higher Muslim populations, the threats only increased. Some 20 percent of the 300,000 residents of Sweden’s third-largest city are Muslim, according to statistics.

“Then a whole gang came along to threaten the ‘Jewish’ reporter,” while occupants of neighboring homes shouted abuse at him. The broadcast caused a public storm in Sweden, with reactions by public figures, local Jewish organizations and international groups.

The clip, which was broadcast on Sweden’s national television, examined the degree of threats Malmo’s Jews face. The city is infamous for having the largest number of anti-Semitic incidents in the country, many of them perpetrated by members of the Muslim community.

According to the report, “many of [Malmo’s remaining Jews] are afraid to leave their homes; many want to leave the city and do not want their children to grow up there.”

 

Sadly the exodus of Jews from Europe is likely to increase.

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Antisemitism should be repugnant but not illegal

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

The Guardian reports:

European Jewish leaders, backed by a host of former EU heads of state and government, are to call for pan-European legislation outlawing antisemitism amid a sense of siege and emergency feeding talk of a mass exodus of Europe’s oldest ethnic minority.

A panel of four prestigious international experts on constitutional law backed by the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation (ECTR) have spent three years consulting widely and drafting a 12-page document on “tolerance”. They are lobbying to have it converted into law in the 28 countries of the EU.

The proposal would outlaw antisemitism as well as criminalising a host of other activities deemed to be violating fundamental rights on specious religious, cultural, ethnic and gender grounds.

These would include banning the burqa, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, polygamy, denial of the Holocaust and genocide generally, criminalising xenophobia, and creating a new crime of “group libel” – public defamation of ethnic, cultural or religious groups.

I’m against this. Unless speech against a group is of a nature that it is advocating violence or similar, then it should not be illegal.

The answer to bad speech is good speech, not banning bad speech.

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Call for Australia to change flag also

January 26th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Australian broadcaster Ray Martin writes:

I recently snapped a shot of Sydney’s iconic Anzac Bridge, with its supersized Aussie and Kiwi statues posted like armed sentinels at the western end, in the dawn’s ethereal light.

It was part of a photo essay I’m cobbling together for April 25 this special year.

The commemoration of Gallipoli — and those first, wide-eyed Anzacs who jumped ashore — is about to wash over our collective emotions, on both sides of the ditch. In 1915 our brothers died on that godforsaken Turkish peninsula at the appalling rate of 45 Anzacs a day.

But. When I focused on the high Anzac Bridge flagpole all I could see was a fluttering Union Jack. The Southern Cross — with it’s familiar Federation Star — was somehow lost in the flag’s folds.

I smiled to myself, thinking how appropriate it was — given that most of the 10,920 Anzac boys who died at Gallipoli had fought under the Union Jack.

Or, occasionally the red Australian ensign.

The mythology — and rampant misinformation — about Australians “dying under the flag” boggles the mind. It’s just not true.

For neither of the two World Wars.

And it is the silver fern which is on most of the graves at Gallipol – our effective national symbol.

In fact the silver fern was used by our soldiers in the Boer War, and was also on the medals presented to soldiers who served in that campaign.

A commenter, Greenjacket, notes:

Are you aware that the symbol of the famous NZ Division in WW1 and WW2 was a white fern on a black background? The symbol on every NZ army vehicle and on every sign to indicate the location of a NZ unit was black square with a white silver ferm emblem. In at least two operations, NZ troops were ordered to conceal their identities by concealing their white fern on a black background symbol, and NZ troops were loathe to do so as they were so proud of it, so the Germans were able to quickly identify where the crack NZ Division was moving. When NZ soldiers identified themselves, they did so with the silver fern on a black background. The NZ Army of today proudly carries on this tradition.

History Geek also has details about the long use of the Silver Fern by the military.

Meanwhile, New Zealand (whom we condescendingly pat on the head as a bit rustic and slow in all but rugby) has decided to seize ‘the one hundred year anniversary’ of Gallipoli to launch a fair-dinkum flag debate.

Unlike us, our Anzac mates have decided it’s time to grow up and become truly independent.

“We want a new flag design”, conservative Prime Minister John Key declared, “a flag that says ‘New Zealand’, in the same way that the maple leaf says ‘Canada’ or the Union Jack says ‘Britain’. Without a word being spoken.”

(Incidentally, the Canadians ditched the Union Jack in 1965.)

Quite frankly, the Kiwis are tired of being mistaken for Australia in the sporting world, with a flag “dominated by the Union Jack in a way that we ourselves are no longer dominated by the United Kingdom”.

How refreshingly laudable is that?

It would be great indeed to have a flag that is universally recognised as representing NZ.

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Will Greece leave the Euro?

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

Stuff reports:

The anti-bailout Syriza party has won a decisive victory in Greece’s national elections, according to projections by state-run TV’s exit poll, in a historic first for a radical left-wing party in Greece.

But it was unclear whether the communist-rooted party, led by Alexis Tsipras, had won by a big enough margin over Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ incumbent conservatives to govern alone. For that, they need a minimum 151 of parliament’s 300 seats.

“What’s clear is we have a historic victory that sends a message that does not only concern the Greek people, but all European peoples,” Syriza party spokesman Panos Skourletis said on Mega television.

“There is great relief among all Europeans. The only question is how big a victory it is.”

Skourletis said the election results heralded “a return of social dignity and social justice. A return to democracy. Because, beyond the wild austerity, democracy has suffered.”

Tsipras, 40, has promised to renegotiate the country’s 240 billion-euro (NZ$360 billion) international bailout deal. He has pledged to reverse many of the reforms that creditors demanded — including cuts in pensions and the minimum wage, some privatizations and public sector firings — in exchange for keeping Greece financially afloat since 2010.

Greece has every right to elect a Government opposed to living within its means.

And the EU and IMF have every right to stop bailing Greece out, and funding them.

The likely outcome is Greece either goes bankrupt, or it leaves the Euro so that it gains a currency that reflects its actual worth.

The centrist Potami (River) party was battling for third place with the Nazi-inspired, extreme right-wing Golden Dawn, whose leadership is in prison pending trial for running a criminal organisation. Both were projected as being between 6.4 and 8 per cent.

When a country is in trouble, the extremist parties often do well – sadly.

It will be interesting to see if the new Government compromises on its rhetoric, or if it holds fast – in which case the bailouts should cease.

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50th Anniversary of the death of Winston Churchill

January 24th, 2015 at 6:34 pm by kiwi in america

Today is the 50th anniversary of the death of Winston Churchill.

Recently on a trip to the UK, a friend and I visited Blenheim Palace, seat of the Duke of Marlborough and the place where Winston Churchill was actually born (although the then Duke of Marlborough was his uncle). There is a remarkable museum honouring the various military successes of Churchill’s great (five times) grandfather and 1st Duke of Marlborough John Churchill. Indeed John Churchill’s success at defeating the French at the Battle of Walcourt and various successful campaigns in the War of Spanish Succession led to King William persuading Parliament to appropriate funds to build the splendid Blenheim Palace just north of Oxford.

A separate but more modest museum on the site contained a variety of fascinating memorabilia from the life of Winston Churchill – items that are unique to this museum. To me the standout was a rather obscure item and yet one that went to the heart of why Churchill was later to prevail in the Battle of Britain. It was a school exercise book that was confiscated from Churchill by a teacher at Harrow when he was only 13. The reason for the confiscation was because Churchill spent time in the classroom recreating (by way of military style sketch diagrams) many of the famous battles his illustrious ancestor had won. Churchill had memorized the details of all these battles and recreated them for his class mates!

Like many sons of aristocrats, Churchill lived and breathed all aspects of war from celebrating the various famous British military victories to his arduous training at Sandhurst, his participation in the Battle of Omdurman in the Sudan in 1898 (the last horse mounted charge undertaken by a British Calvary regiment in battle), his capture and escape as a war correspondent in the Boer War and of course his ignominious role in the fateful Gallipoli campaign as First Lord of the Admiralty in Lloyd George’s Cabinet. All of these experiences prepared Churchill for his most revered role – that as the victorious wartime Prime Minister of Britain.

There is one remarkable and little know incident in this much studied role that to me illustrates the essence of Churchill. He assumed the Prime Ministership from the hapless Chamberlain at possibly one of the lowest points of the war for Britain. Just days before, almost 400,000 soldiers of the British Army had been hurriedly and desperately evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk by the Royal Navy and a flotilla of almost 800 private vessels which plied the English Channel over 4 days rescuing the core of the army (that had previously failed to prevent the fall of France) from certain capture or annihilation.

As Hitler amassed an invasion force of over 500,000 troops and the necessary invasion barges, a few in the British government thought that a German invasion and victory was imminent and began secret backchannel negotiations with the Germans. This effort was led by high profile Cabinet member Viscount Halifax the then Foreign Secretary. Churchill, upon discovering these efforts, engaged in a war of memos with those favourable to negotiation as well as other members of the inner War Cabinet. After three days of heated debate in the War Cabinet, Churchill vowed to head off and terminate these efforts without delay and decided to confront Halifax at the first meeting of the full Cabinet he held as PM on the evening of the 28th of May 1940.

Churchill’s impassioned plea on this subject was recalled by Hugh Dalton, Minister of Economic Warfare: “I have thought carefully in these last days whether it was part of my duty to consider entering into negotiations with That Man. But it was idle to think that, if we tried to make peace now, we should get better terms than if we fought it out. The Germans would demand our naval bases, and much else. We should become a slave state, though a British Government which would be Hitler’s puppet would be set up…” Churchill apparently paused and looked directly at Halifax and said “If this long island story of ours is to end at last, let it end only when each one of us lies choking in his own blood upon the ground.” 

Churchill’s belligerent and defiant challenge to the waverers in his Cabinet and his fighting words had an immediate and electrifying effect. Not only was any talk of potential surrender stopped dead in its tracks but Churchill recalls in his diary: “Quite a number seemed to jump up from the table and come running to my chair, shouting and patting me on the back…It fell to me in these coming days and months to express their sentiments on suitable occasions. This I was able to do because they were mine also. There was a white glow, overpowering, sublime, which ran through our Island from end to end.”

Churchill went on soon after this fateful meeting to deliver the series of famous speeches in the House of Commons that rallied the nation behind the war effort for the crucial Battle of Britain that lay ahead:

1 – “Blood Toil Tears and Sweat”: 13th May 1940

2 – “We shall Never Surrender”:  4th June 1940

3 – “This was their finest hour”: 18th June 1940

I’ve spoken to my various English relatives (some now deceased) about how they felt about the imminent threat of German invasion at that time. All were unanimous in describing that they felt utterly reassured by the demeanor of Churchill who seemed to never countenance defeat.

Let us honour this great indomitable leader and the pivotal role he played in the defeat of Nazi Germany and may we never forget the various lessons in courage, clarity and devotion to purpose that Churchill taught us.

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Middle Eastern political relationships in one easy lesson

January 24th, 2015 at 2:31 pm by Lindsay Addie

Last year Slate published this diagram using smilies to show the state of relationships in Middle Eastern politics.

Middle East Friends and enemies

Some of these relationships may have changed in light of more recent events but assuming for a moment that they’re reasonably accurate as shown.

  • Everyone but Iraq have more enemies than friends.
  • ISIS and Al-Quida not surprisingly don’t have any friends.
  • The Palestinian Authority seem for whatever ever reason to have a lot of complex relationships.
  • The Israel – USA relationship is probably a friendly relationship that has got a bit complicated bearing in mind the squabble about Netanyahu being invited to address a joint session of the US Congress by Boehner. The White House have accordingly got their knickers in a knot.
  • Saudia Arabia don’t have an oversupply of friends.

I must add that some countries like Yemen and Jordan haven’t been included.

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Doomsday Clock now irrelevant

January 24th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists says Earth is now closer to human-caused doomsday than it has been in more than 30 years because of global warming and nuclear weaponry. But other experts say that’s much too gloomy.

The US advocacy group founded by the creators of the atomic bomb moved their famed “Doomsday Clock” ahead two minutes today. It said the world is now three minutes from a catastrophic midnight, instead of five minutes.

In the 1970s and the 1980s the Doomsday Clock has relevance. At times the world came close to a superpower conflict that could have destroyed the planet. When I was 15 I recall a survey that around half the people my age thought the world could end in our lifetimes. Today I doubt 1% think that.

Claiming we are at the same risk of extinction as during the cold war is nuts.

They justify this by saying they now include climate change. They are the Atomic Scientists!

“The fact that the Doomsday clock-setters changed their definition of ‘doomsday’ shows how profoundly the world has changed – they have to find a new source of doom because global thermonuclear war is now so unlikely,” Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker wrote in an email.

Exactly.

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Are we allowed to sink them?

January 15th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

New Zealand’s navy is in a standoff with two fishing vessels in the Southern Ocean after the ships refused to let defence officials on board.

The HMNZS Wellington was given permission overnight to board the vessels, which were flagged to Equatorial Guinea and were not legally permitted to fish in the region.

But attempts to board two of the ships and inspect their catch have so far failed.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully said: “The HMNZS Wellington attempted to exercise its legitimate right to board the Yongding and the Songhua earlier today, but the vessels refused to cooperate.

“Due to the conditions and the evasive tactics of the masters it was not possible to safely board these vessels.”

Don’t we have guns? Are we allowed to use them?

Equatorial Guinea told New Zealand officials that they believed the vessels were fishing illegally and agreed that the navy should board the ships and verify their flag status.

New Zealand was also working with Interpol to prevent the catch from being offloaded at nearby ports, and was co-operating with Spanish authorities to investigate the links between the ships and a Spanish-based syndicate called Vidal Armadores SA.

Good.

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The problem is not just terrorism

January 14th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Guardian reported:

Saudi Arabia is remaining silent in the face of global outrage at the public flogging of the jailed blogger Raif Badawi, who received the first 50 of 1,000 lashes on Friday, part of his punishment for running a liberal website devoted to freedom of speech in the conservative kingdom. …

Saudi Arabia joined other Arab and Muslim countries in condemning the murder of 12 people at the Paris satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo but angry comments highlighted its double standard in meting out a cruel punishment to a man who was accused of insulting Islam.

The two acts are not the same, but they are part of the same problem. There is almost universal condemation of the Islamist terrorists who killed the cartoonists because they thought the cartoonists had insulated Islam. It was an extra-judicial killing, designed to terrorise.

However when countries like Saudia Arabia have laws which allow judicial torture and even killing of people who offend Islam, then it can hardly be surprising that some Muslims get the idea that offending Islam is something that should be punishable by death – even in non-Muslim countries.

The solution is that there should be no criminal sanction anywhere for offending any religion. The only sanction for offending a religion, should be excommunication from that religion. Any religion that needs to terrorise people into being nice about it, is a pretty lame religion in my view. And that applies just as much to state sanctioned terror, as that done by terrorists.

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David Cameron losing it?

January 14th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Use Snapchat or WhatsApp to keep in touch with British relatives? You might want to enjoy that while it lasts.

As the British general election campaign begins and European tension mounts over the recent Paris attacks, Prime Minister David Cameron has suggested banning encrypted messaging services if British intelligence agencies were not allowed access to the communications. Snapchat, Apple’s iMessage, and WhatsApp all encrypt the messages sent through their applications, along with innumerable other services.

“Are we going to allow a means of communications which it simply isn’t possible to read?” he asked during a campaign speech. “My answer to that is: ‘No, we must not.'”

I like a lot of what David Cameron has done, but he has increasingly authoritarian tendencies when it comes to the Internet. Banning messaging that uses encryption on the Internet is nuts. I doubt it is possible, and it is definitely undesirable.

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Latest Charlie Hebdo Front Cover

January 14th, 2015 at 9:00 am by Kokila Patel

707192-une-charlie-png

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Islamist terror in Nigeria

January 13th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

After days of razing villages and massacres, Boko Haram finished the week with its most chilling atrocity.

As shoppers bustled through the market in the Nigerian city of Maiduguri, a device worn by a 10-year-old girl exploded near the entrance. A witness said the child probably had no idea that a bomb had been strapped to her body.

The explosion just before lunch killed 20 including the girl and injured 18, according to the police.

Boko Haram did not claim responsibility for the attack immediately, but the Islamist insurgents have increasingly used girls as human bombs as they carve an African “Caliphate” from the plains of northern Nigeria.

What happened in France was terrible, but worth remembering that terrible terrible stuff is occuring in Nigeria also. Using a 10 year old as a (innocent) suicide bomber is something no decent human being should be part of.

When I read stories like this, I wish there was a heaven and hell, so that those responsible can spend eternity in the latter.

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The sad and the uplifting

January 12th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The sad is in the NZ Herald:

The least surprising thing about yesterday’s turn of events in Paris is that Jews are the target. Because when it comes to home-grown anti-Semitism, France leads the world.

A survey last year from the European Jewish Congress and Tel Aviv University found that France had more violent anti-Semitic incidents in 2013 than any other country in the world. Jews were the target of 40 per cent of all racist crimes in France in 2013 – even though they comprise less than 1 per cent of the population. Attacks on Jews have risen sevenfold since the Nineties.

No wonder Jewish emigration from France is accelerating. From being the largest Jewish community in the EU at the start of this decade, with a population of around 500,000, it is expected by Jewish community leaders to have fallen to 400,000 within a few years. That figure is thought by some to be too optimistic. Anecdotally, every French Jew I know has either already left or is working out how to leave. …

David Tibi, the then leader of Paris’s main Jewish umbrella group, left last July. As he told The Jewish Chronicle: “There is an atmosphere of anti-Semitism in the streets. My daughter was attacked in the tramway, so was my son. The aggressors made anti-Semitic comments and pushed them around. We no longer have a place in France.”

The Jewish school shooting in Toulouse in 2012, in which four people were murdered at point blank range by a French-born jihadist trained in the Middle East; the growing support for Marine Le Pen’s National Front; and the popularity of anti-Semitic figures such as the comedian Dieudonne, are all part of the undercurrent of anti-Semitism that frames French life. And more recently synagogues have been firebombed and Jewish areas attacked by mobs. Almost of all these attacks have been carried out by Muslims.

Very depressing and sad. As Jews leave France because it is no longer safe, I feel glad there is one country on Earth where they can immigrate as of right, and be safe.

But on the uplifting front:

Lassana, employed by the Hyper Casher where a hostage situation occurred Friday, had had the reflex to hide his customers from the armed terrorist. Hiding them had permitted the escape from Amedy Coulibaly.

He introduces himself as being a “Mali Muslim,” as was Amedy Coulibaly. Confronted by the heavily-armed terrorist in the kosher supermarket where he worked, Lassana acted only on reflex: Helping the hostages to find a safe place. The customers were stuffed down, via a trap door, in the basement. “When they got down on the fly,” explained the employee of Hyper Casher to [a french TV station], “I opened the door to the freezer. There were man people who had come back [into the freezer] with me. I turned out the light, I turned off the freezer.”

Among the frightened customers, a man found himself there with “a two-year old baby,” said Lassana. He was actually a baby of three and a half years, who accompanied his father. “When I had turned off the freezer, I had put them inside, I closed the door, I said: “Remain calm, here, I will get you out.” “When they were out, they congratulated me, they thanked me,” recounted humbly this young man.

That’s a great example of the common humanity that binds together most people, regardless of religion.

At the memorial rally today in France, I think it is powerful symbolism that the President of France will not only be joined the UK PM, German Chancellor and Spanish PM, but also the PM of Turkey, the PM of Israel and the President of the Palestinian Authority.

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Adam Smith institute on standing up to bullies

January 12th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Sam Bowman at the Adam Smith Institute makes the point:

Bullies succeed by making their victims fear them. The bully may be stronger than the victim, but he does not constantly use force against them. It is the fear of violence or humiliation that makes victims act in the way the bully wants them to. …

Terrorism often operates in the same way. Very few terrorists could ever hope to win in a full-scale war against their victims, so instead they do shocking, frightening things. Yesterday’s attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices was a very significant example of this, because the terrorists’ apparent goals (‘avenging the Prophet’ for blasphemous cartoons) seem ridiculously trivial compared to the lengths they were willing to go to to achieve them.

It is now clear that Western journalists who blaspheme against Islam may be murdered where they work. And most Western journalists don’t really want to blaspheme against Islam anyway. It’s rude, and it’s rude against a group that does not have much power in the West. …

But if a bully tells you not to do something, sometimes you should do it even if you didn’t really want to do it anyway. Defiance of the bully is very important to rob him of his power over you, and – just as important – to show to others that bullying is not effective.

And specifically:

Simply talking about how unafraid we are of terrorism is an empty, weak reaction.Cartoons that show the power of pencils are worthless. No Jihadi is disturbed by any of this. What disturbs them is to show in our actions that they do not have the bully’s power over us. 

Media who refuse to publish the cartoons are showing the bullies, that bullying works.

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Philippines embracing vouchers for education

January 11th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Asian Development Bank has announced:

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $300 million loan to the Philippines to support sweeping reforms, spearheaded by the government, to the school system, with a focus on the addition of two years of senior high school.

“These major changes are designed to improve educational outcomes and better prepare students for both work and further education and training, as part of the government’s broader push for more inclusive growth,” said Norman LaRocque, Principal Education Specialist in ADB’s Southeast Asia Department. “ADB’s assistance will target improvements at the senior high school level including curriculum development, new school infrastructure and a voucher program to help students with tuition costs.” …

The ADB loan to the Philippines is the fourth results-based lending program approved by ADB, and the first in Southeast Asia and the Philippines. Results-based lending links disbursements directly to the achievement of program results. The loan complements other ADB support being provided to improve employment outcomes for youth in the Philippines.

ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members – 48 from the region. In 2013, ADB assistance totaled $21.0 billion, including co-financing of $6.6 billion.

The voucher system will allow senior students to decide where to study, and the funding will follow them. A good way to get results. I understand 800,000 students will get vouchers.

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Wife of alleged mentor of Charlie Hebdo terrorists lives in UK on the benefit

January 11th, 2015 at 10:36 am by Lindsay Addie

The UK media including the Daily Mail and The Telegraph are reporting on a convicted terrorist’s wife who is living in the UK on the benefit. Bill Gardner from The Telegraph explains.

The wife of an al-Qaeda lynchpin who mentored the Charlie Hebdo murderers is living on benefits in Britain after deciding France was too strict against Muslims.

Sylvie Beghal, a French citizen, lives rent free in a four bedroomed house in Leicester after she came to the UK with her children in search of a more “Islamic environment”.

She is married to Djamel Beghal, a former London-based lieutenant of Abu Hamza whose teachings are thought to have inspired the Paris attacks. At least two of the suspected gunmen responsible for the killings were Beghal’s disciples, it has emerged.

On Friday Beghal’s wife revealed that prison guards had thrown him into solitary confinement in retaliation for his links to the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

The Telegraph has previously disclosed that one of the Kouachi brothers, 32-year-old Cherid, was recruited by Beghal in prison ten years ago while both were serving sentences for terror offences.

Note that Abu Hamza was given a life sentence in the US courts last  week for terrorism offences. See this article from the BBC for more details.

The Telegraph article goes onto document Beghal’s activities that investigators found related to terrorist activities.

Posing as a businessman importing clothing from Germany, Beghal had been able to travel across the world unchallenged. But the authorities decided his movements had been connected to terrorist activities. Three men mentored by Beghal were later jailed for their part in the plots.

Beghal was discovered to have had links with the GSPC, the hardline Algerian group, and Takfir Wal Hirja, an extremist faction founded in Egypt and led by Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden’s deputy. He was also alleged to have helped recruit Richard Reid, the shoebomber, and possibly Zacarias Moussaoui, the suspected 20th hijacker, to al-Qaeda.

When detained, Beghal was returning to Paris from Afghanistan after meeting Abu Zubaydah, a senior al-Qaeda figure who allocated missions to terrorist cells around the world.

Under interrogation in Dubai, Beghal admitted plotting to destroy the United States embassy in Paris in a suicide attack. He admitted to investigators he had travelled around British mosques in the late 1990s, recruiting young Muslims for jihad.

I would love to know what the ‘official’ reason for putting this wife of a terrorist on the benefit actually was. It defies all common sense.

Note that the Daily Mail article cited has photos of Baghel with one of the Kouachi brothers.

[UPDATE:]

Thanks to Stephieboy for drawing to my attention to Anjelm Choudary.

The UK media has given Choudary a lot of coverage both for his inflammatory comments and his lifestyle of living on the benefit in the UK.

The Daily Mail in February 2013 published a piece on Choudary.

He also maintained that Osama Bin Laden was his ‘hero’.

The father-of-four takes home more than £25,000 a year in benefits and lives in a £320,000 house in Leytonstone, East London.

He told a crowd of around 30 fanatics: ‘People will say, ‘Ah, but you are not working’. But the normal situation is for you to take money from the kuffar (non-Muslim).

‘So we take Jihadseeker’s Allowance. You need to get support.’

In another video a grinning Choudary is recorded telling his disciples that it is justifiable to take money from non-believers.

He said: ‘The normal situation is to take money from the kuffar. You work, give us the money, Allahu Akhbar (God is great).

Is any proof necessary to prove what radicals like this guy are really up to in the UK? There is a video of him spouting off at the end of the Daily Mail article.

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NYT blog on blasphemy

January 11th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

A blog at the NY Times by Ross Douthat:

1) The right to blaspheme (and otherwise give offense) is essential to the liberal order.

2) There is no duty to blaspheme, a society’s liberty is not proportional to the quantity of blasphemy it produces, and under many circumstances the choice to give offense (religious and otherwise) can be reasonably criticized as pointlessly antagonizing, needlessly cruel, or simply stupid.

3) The legitimacy and wisdom of criticism directed at offensive speech is generally inversely proportional to the level of mortal danger that the blasphemer brings upon himself.

He goes through each point:

The first point means that laws against blasphemy (usually described these days as “restrictions on hate speech”) are inherently illiberal.

We actually have such laws in NZ. They have not been used since 1922, but we should still scrap them.

The second point means that a certain cultural restraint about trafficking in blasphemy is perfectly compatible with liberal norms, and that there’s nothing illiberal about questioning the wisdom or propriety or decency of cartoons or articles or anything else that takes a crude or bigoted swing at something that a portion of the population holds sacred. …

But our basic liberties are not necessarily endangered when, say, the Anti-Defamation League criticizes Mel Gibson’s portrayal of the Sanhedrin in “The Passion of the Christ” or the Catholic League denounces art exhibits in the style of “Piss Christ,” any more than they’re endangered by the absence of grotesque caricatures of Moses or the Virgin Mary from the pages of the Washington Post and New York Times. Liberty requires accepting the freedom to offend, yes, but it also allows people, institutions and communities to both call for and exercise restraint.

And most people have no desire to say things which will cause offence to believers of a religion, except …

We are in a situation where my third point applies, because the kind of blasphemy that Charlie Hebdo engaged in had deadly consequences, as everyone knew it could … and that kind of blasphemy is precisely the kind that needs to be defended, because it’s the kind that clearly serves a free society’s greater good. If a large enough group of someones is willing to kill you for saying something, then it’s something that almost certainly needs to be said, because otherwise the violent have veto power over liberal civilization, and when that scenario obtains it isn’t really a liberal civilization any more.

The more a group of people want to kill you for a particular form of speech, is the more reason why one should say it.

Again, liberalism doesn’t depend on everyone offending everyone else all the time, and it’s okay to prefer a society where offense for its own sake is limited rather than pervasive. But when offenses are policed by murder, that’s when we need more of them, not less, because the murderers cannot be allowed for a single moment to think that their strategy can succeed.

Well stated.

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Wealth taxes rarely work

January 10th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

MEP Daniel Hannan writes:

I was living in Brussels when François Hollande, the President of France, introduced his 75 percent top rate tax in 2012. Immediately, my quartier began to fill with French exiles, who could commute to Paris in just over an hour. …

Three years on, President Hollande is shame-facedly scrapping the 75 percent rate, having forcibly re-learned an ancient truth: Wealth taxes don’t redistribute wealth; they redistribute people.

The same goes with corporate taxes. Many companies can now choose which country to be based in for tax purposes. Of course they will avoid the high tax rate countries.

Hollande’s tax, levied on incomes above one million euros, has been a miserable failure. Over its lifespan, it raised around $500 million, a tiny fraction of the original projections. Why? Well, the Paris bureaucrats who made those projections overlooked something rather important. Rich people don’t sit around waiting to be taxed. They have all sorts of ways of beating the system, not necessarily involving accountants. The two most straightforward forms of legal tax avoidance are earlier retirement and emigration, and wealthy Frenchmen have made ample use of both.

The same happened in New Zealand. When Cullen’s envy tax of 39% on incomes over $60,000 came in, it didn’t actually increase the tax take. Research shows, it reduced it, as people made moves to avoid it.

The best way to maximize your tax revenue, though, involves neither harmonization nor secrecy. On the contrary, it involves lower, flatter, simpler taxes.

The complexity of a tax system is every bit as damaging to competitiveness as the overall tax rate, yet we take it almost for granted. If there is an American who understands the tax code in its entirety, I have yet to meet him.

NZ does well with a relatively simple tax system. The rates are still too high though, and should come down further.

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Two cartoons on terrorism

January 10th, 2015 at 9:10 am by Lindsay Addie

With the tragic slaughter at Charlie Hebdo cartoonists worldwide have been very active in supporting their fallen comrades. The are many to choose from but I’ve chosen two that give a different perspective.

The first is somewhat aspirational and is by Kevin Siers which juxtaposes the famous Eugene Delacroix 1830 painting ‘Liberty Leading the People’ with this weeks events. Here is the Delacroix original.

Siers_Liberty leading the People

© Kevin Siers – Found at cagle.com

The second cartoon is about PC attitudes and radical Islam.

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© Michael Ramirez – found at Investors.com

My take on this cartoon is that Ramirez is arguing that PC attitudes in the west are being used by terrorists as tool to serve their own ends. I have no doubt this is the case.

There are a lot more cartoons on this topic, many can be found here at Cagle Post.

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Two hostage sites stormed in France

January 10th, 2015 at 6:54 am by David Farrar

The BBC reports:

French police have stormed two hostage sites in Paris and north of the city, with the hostage takers reported dead.

Explosions were heard at a warehouse in Dammartin-en-Goele, where two suspects in the Charlie Hebdo magazine shootings had been holding one hostage.

Explosions and gunfire could also be heard at a supermarket in eastern Paris, at Porte de Vincennes, where several hostages were held.

Reports suggest a gunman there was linked to the Charlie Hebdo suspects.

After the operation started, several hostages could be seen leaving the supermarket.

Police told French media that four hostages in the supermarket had been killed prior to security forces storming the site.

It’s great that the Charlie Hebdo killers are no longer a threat, and their hostage was unharmed. Sadly it seems there was innocent loss of life in the other hostage situation. Three terrorists are dead, but at this stage Hayat Boumeddiene is at large, and wanted for the killing of a police woman.

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The cartoons that 12 were killed for

January 9th, 2015 at 4:53 am by David Farrar

char2

char1

It is important not to reward the terrorists by self-censorship. Only if their actions lead to the cartoons getting more widely published, might they stop.

Huffington Post has the full set.

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A murderous attack on free speech

January 8th, 2015 at 3:42 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Two masked gunmen wielding assault rifles have stormed a French satirical magazine on Wednesday (Thursday NZT), shot 12 people dead and injured 10 more, five of them critically.

The killers fled the Paris offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, near the Bastille, in a hijacked car.

According to unconfirmed reports on Twitter the gunmen had been shouting “Allahu Akbar” outside the offices, and were later involved in a shootout with police.

At the time of the attack the magazine was said to be holding an editorial meeting on an Islam-themed special edition titled ‘Sharia Hebdo’.

Police said the gunmen shouted “we have avenged the Prophet” after their attack.

This is basically religious fascism – killing people who do not subscribe to their religious tenets. These killings will have a chilling impact on media around the world – who will self-censor in fear of similar executions.

A firebomb attack gutted the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo, a publication that has always courted controversy with satirical attacks on political and religious leaders, in November 2011 after it put an image of the Prophet Mohammad on its cover.

What would be a great response is for every media outlet in the western world to publish images of Mohammad, to send a signal that the more you use terror to try and create censorship, the more it will backfire.

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Bourdain on Iran

January 7th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Alexander Bisley interviews Anthony Bourdain (US chef, and CNN show host) about his trip to Iran and Lebanon. An extract:

“What makes Iran special is the sheer difficulty of experiencing it as an American– and of understanding the complexities, the history, the context, the contradictions–and the ever changing political realities. It is a beautiful country, with an ancient and very rich culture that seems often to be at odds with its religious leadership. The people you meet in the street are overwhelmingly welcoming.

“Nowhere else I’ve been has the disconnect been so extreme between what one sees and feels from the people and what one sees and hears from the government.

This was my experience also. If they could get rid of their theocracy, they’s be one of the best countries on  Earth.

“Iran is deeply conflicted, exhilarating, heartbreaking. One of the exhilarations is Iranians’ eagerness to communicate, to express themselves, to show the world more about themselves than what we see on the news. An eagerness to be proud, to have fun is something you feel palpably in Tehran. The hospitality from strangers is extraordinary.

“I asked one host what he thought Americans would think of the episode. “They will start coming,” he laughed. I think simply seeing a few ordinary Iranians, doing ordinary things, is a departure from the usual footage of angry ayatollahs.  That alone will shock many. Shamefully, many, many people labour under the most simplistic of misimpressions: Iranians are not Arabs. Iran is not a desert. Not everyone is a fundamentalist. Iran even looks much different than how it does in films.

I’ve holidayed in Iran, and can’t wait to go back. It is a fabulous country.

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UK opinion on “sin” taxes

January 6th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

An interesting poll in the UK on lifestyle or sin taxes. They polled over 4,000 adults and found:

  • Only 29% agree the Government should influence behaviour by regulating and taxing high calorie food and drink
  • 28% say the Govt interferes too much in trying to make people adopt healthy lifestyles, 21% say they should regulate more and 27% say the level of intervention is about right
  • 37% support a tax on fizzy drinks and 49% oppose
  • 27% say the Govt should offer financial incentives for those trying to lose weight and 61% oppose
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