Monday, May 31, 2010

Israel attacks Gaza aid fleet

Or so screams the al Jazeera headline. By all accounts Israeli naval personnel boarded the "aid" flotilla rather than attacking it. Exactly what happened next is far from certain, with those sympathetic to the Palestinians claiming unprovoked fire erupted from the boarders whereas Israeli military sources claim to have opened fire only after being attacked. Either way these events further complicate an already diabolical situation.

Blogging from the opposite side of the planet Antony Loewenstein is certain he knows what happened, terming the events:

Murder on the high seas

Maybe; maybe not.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Syrian President supports Islamism but doesn't like it

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad:

Asked by [PBS] interviewer Charlie Rose why his secular regime was supporting the Islamist movements [Hamas and Hezbollah] he said, “This is one of the things that they don’t understand in the West. If I support you, that doesn’t mean I’m like you or I agree with you. That means I believe in your cause. There’s a difference.

“We support the Palestinian cause, and Hamas is working for that cause. Hezbollah is working for the Lebanese cause, so we support that cause, not Hezbollah."

The irony here is that Middle East "expert" and staunch Israel foe Antony Loewenstein describes Assad's remarks as reflecting "reality" but roundly condemns all who support Israel's continued existence, failing to acknowledge it is possible to support the existence of the Jewish state without approving of, or admiring, all its actions.

Islamist supporter Loewenstein ignores probable Assad untruths, however:

Assad went on to dismiss accusations by the Israeli government that Damascus has transferred sophisticated Scud missiles to Hezbollah, the militant Lebanese Shiite political movement.

"This is a very good story by the Israelis," Assad said, adding that the Israelis have no proof of their accusations.

Assad's claims contradict a report published in the Times of London on Friday based on satellite pictures that supposedly show a Hezbollah-controlled weapons cache outside Damascus. A spokesman for the Syrian Embassy in London rejected the report, saying that if such a depot existed, it would be for the sole use of the Syrian army.

Note that Assad does not deny that Scuds have been transferred to Hezbollah. Perhaps Middle East expert Loewenstein could clear this up by investigating, which could be rather difficult considering that he's spent about as much time in the Middle East as I have flossing my teeth. Perhaps I should claim to be an oral hygiene expert.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Pension age rise meets resistance

Pension ages in the developed world are on the rise: Germany recently raised the retirement age to 67; Australia is following suit, with the entitlement age rising gradually from 65 to 67. Not everyone must wait so long:

While many member states are facing pressure funding pensions as the EU's population ages and lives longer, France faces the most difficulties.

According to FT Deutschland, men in France retire on average at 58.7 years, the lowest age in both the EU and the OECD.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who was elected on a reform ticket in 2009, has been hesitant to tackle pensions, an issue that has long brought French people to the streets and even contributed to the fall of a government in the 1990s.

Hundreds of thousands took to France's streets last week protesting the mere suggestion that the official pension aged be raised to 62. The whole of Europe is in for an interesting next few years.


Friday, May 28, 2010

Ass pollution

Egyptian authorities allege that four men, including an Uzbekistan embassy official, have been feeding the most meaty bits of donkeys to illegally owned pet lions and "polluting the environment with donkey heads and remnants." There must be a global warming angle in there somewhere.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Japan's germ warfare atrocities

During World War II Japan executed "the only documented mass use of germ weapons in modern times." The death toll can only be guessed at.

Really stupid questions

The best, or worst, depending on your point of view, questions asked at Yahoo Answers.

My favourite:

No problem, placenta-eating is no worse than biting your nails.

Cat cleaning trial successful

Credit an inventive Australian with coming up with a new way to clean a cat:

A Persian kitten has given her owners the shock of their lives by emerging from a washing machine, dizzy and soaking wet after surviving a full washing cycle.

Pop the little critter into the dryer and, hey presto, you're done.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

North Korean submarines vanish

South Korean military trackers have lost contact with four North Korean submarines just prior to joint U.S.-South Korean anti-submarine exercises in the same area where a South Korean corvette was allegedly sunk by a torpedo fired from a North Korean sub. Needless to say, the situation has immense potential to turn very nasty indeed.

Australia's most liveable cities

The rankings of Australia's cities on an international livability survey:

10  Sydney

18  Melbourne

21  Perth

26  Canberra

32  Adelaide

36  Brisbane

Vienna came in at number one.

Australian government accused of pressuring refugee status reviewers

With detention facilities overflowing the government denies claims of pressuring refugee status reviewers:

A former member of the Refugee Review Tribunal, Peter Katsambanis, claims members of the panel were told to go easy on asylum seekers appealing against [Department of Immigration and Citizenship] decisions to send them home.

Mr Katsambanis is a former Victorian Liberal upper house MP.

There are also claims members of the tribunal fear they will lose their jobs in the next round of appointments for rejecting too many appeals.

Immigration Minister Chris Evans said the process of appointing tribunal members had never been more transparent.

He also rejected any suggestion of government interference.

The claims of pressure brought to bear are, of course, ignored by refugee advocate Jeremy Sear in favour of an attack on Mr Katsambanis and columnist Andrew Bolt. Really, Sear should seek professional help for his Bolt obsession.

Red Cross assists Taliban

An unnamed Afghan government official objects to the Red Cross providing the Taliban with first-aid training and medical supplies:

They are like animals, and they treat the people they capture worse than animals. They kidnapped and killed an American lady and then wouldn't even return her body. These people don't deserve this help.

A good point, no doubt, but even those tasked with killing off the Taliban provide help when needed:

Isaf [Nato] forces also provide treatment to any case caught up in this conflict, including our opponents, in line with our own obligation to respect the rules of armed conflict.

Local medical staff have perhaps made some errors in judgment, however:

In general the government has been happy to allow fighters to come to the hospital, receive treatment and leave again.

But in Helmand in April, the tacit approval for such humanitarian medical support appeared to break down when Afghan security services raided a hospital in Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital, run by an Italian NGO called Emergency, which also has a strict policy of providing surgical help to anyone who needs it. Nine staff were arrested and accused of plotting to murder the provincial governor after
weapons and suicide bomb vests were found in the compound.

Hospital staff may in future want to insist that all weapons be left outside.



Germany and France reject greenhouse gas emissions cut

France and Germany have rejected an expected European Commission recommendation that greenhouse gas emissions be cut by up to 30 percent by 2020:

We believe that after the failure of the Copenhagen summit, we must give ourselves a bit more time.

France and Germany aren't stupid enough to lead the way with unilateral cuts. Rudd was prescient in shelving Australia's planned Emissions Trading Scheme and should be praised for his non-action.


Circus acrobat knowingly infects lover(s) with HIV

Queensland Health has received 18 calls from persons fearing that they either had sex with HIV positive circus performer Godfrey Zaburoni or to have had sex with one of Zaburoni's lovers. Zamburoni is charged with "grievous bodily harm and intending to cause grievous bodily harm or transmit serious disease." He provided authorities a list of 12 women with whom he had unprotected sex.

One can only imagine the pick-up lines used by this hunky typhoid-Mary, err, HIV-Godfrey:

Like to live dangerously?

Wanna have your fancy tickled by an acrobat?

Hey babe, what say we go back to my place for some tumbling.

Regardless, anyone engaging in fleeting unprotected sex is gambling with his or her life.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Extreme porn a prohibited import

New rules require everyone entering Australia to declare pornographic imports:

Customs says the aim is to prevent the importation of pornography that includes children, extreme violence or other material that violates Australian law.

Under the rules, if travellers declare pornography and it is not illegal they will keep it. Illegal pornography will be confiscated and fines or charges may be laid

The main objector to this new policy? Who else but the Australian Sex Party. Sort of makes a Tupperware Party seem old fashioned, now don't it?

Kiddie criminals stage arson attack

Three youngsters aged eight and nine have torched a car using turpentine stolen from a backyard shed as an accelerant. They also trashed two other vehicles and a children's play house. The pertinent question asked by police:

Where were their parents while all this was going on?

Oh come on, expecting parents to be responsible for their children is a bit much. Anyway, the tykes weren't meant to be torching a car, they were sent to the bottle shop on a booze-stealing mission. Kids today just aren't reliable.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Anti-science name-calling

New Scientist contributor Michael Fitzpatrick on the smearing of climate change "deniers":

The epithet "denier" is increasingly used to bash anyone who dares to question orthodoxy. Among other things, deniers are accused of subordinating science to ideology. In his book Denialism: How irrational thinking hinders scientific progress, harms the planet, and threatens our lives, for example, Michael Specter argues that denialists "replace the rigorous and open-minded scepticism of science with the inflexible certainty of ideological commitment".

How ironic. The concept of denialism is itself inflexible, ideological and intrinsically anti-scientific. It is used to close down legitimate debate by insinuating moral deficiency in those expressing dissident views, or by drawing a parallel between popular pseudoscience movements and the racist extremists who dispute the Nazi genocide of Jews.

As philosopher Edward Skidelsky of the University of Exeter, UK, has argued, crying denialism is a form of ad hominem argument: "the aim is not so much to refute your opponent as to discredit his motives". The expanding deployment of the concept, he argues, threatens to reverse one of the great achievements of the Enlightenment - "the liberation of historical and scientific inquiry from dogma".

Thus it is no surprise that the terms "denier" and "deniers" are so frequently used by Tim Lambert and his commenters in their anti-scientific war on climate change dissidents. Perversely, anti-science name-caller Lambert accuses those who disagree with him of waging a "war on science".

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Crikey's Guy Rundle shouldn't blog when 'tired'

Presumably still partying in Cannes, Crikey's Guy Rundle must have had a big day because by the look of his latest post he's, erm, ... very tired.

Immersed in the glitz, glamour, hype and booze of Cannes, Rundle ignores the distractions, concentrating instead on matters of real importance: Andrew Bolt's take on the ABC's hiring policies – Bolt sees a contradiction in the ABC claiming to be an equal opportunity employer while at the same time placing restrictions on job applicants:

This vacancy is open to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people only, which reflects the objectives of the ABC’s Equity and Diversity Management Plan and the Equal Employment Opportunity (Commonwealth Authorities) Act 1987.

Typically confronting, Bolt writes:

How can the ABC ban whites, Irish and Jews from applying for this nice job...

And how can it at the bottom of this very same blacks-only ad make this boast:

The ABC is an equal opportunity employer.

Clearly it’s not. Something must go: either the racist restriction or the boast of being non-racist. Or are these people liars as well as racists?

No wonder so many ABC staff now insist on an Aboriginality that’s hard to detect with the naked eye.

Rundle dismisses Bolts reference to non-Aboriginal looking Aborigines as "the usual, apartheid Bolt swatch" then veers off on a tangent:

But of course the interesting thing is the insertion of ‘Jews’, which Bolt appears to be a racial, rather than religious category. He’s wring [sic] of course. By both conversion and family heritage, there are a number of aboriginal Jews, one or two of them prominent figures I won’t embarrass by naming.

Bolt’s so eager to have a crack at the left/ABC?Ruddite/freemasons, that he revives the notion of Judaism as an exclusive, and racial, category, as last favoured by, erm, ….the Nazis.

Well played Bolter!

In keeping with the Nazi theme Rundle attaches – via a bandwidth-sucking hotlink to – a poster meant to entice Dutch recruits to the Waffen SS. And just to round out Rundle's post titled Gauleiter Bolter, lays down the law on Jew-aboriginal race mixing, confirming the quality of product for which Crikey is rightly famous, Rundle's link to Bolt's post doesn't work.



Saturday, May 22, 2010

Alleged carbon fraudsters nabbed

Dodgy multi-billion dollar money-making schemes aren't confined to America's free market Wall Street types:

In the early hours of Friday morning, UK tax authorities raided a series of homes and businesses nabbing four men that are believed to be part of an organised criminal gang suspected of ETS carbon trade fraud worth £38 million (€44m).

Large piles of cash and a stash of weapons were uncovered when investigators entered seven properties in the London and Leicester areas.

The arrests, of individuals between the ages of 29 and 53, are linked to raids that took place in August last year where nine people were arrested. The operation was part of "a complex, 15-month investigation," according to Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs.

However, the development is unrelated to the 25 arrests made earlier this month in the UK and Germany when authorities engaged in a blitz of raids on hundreds of sites in the two countries, including on Deutsche Bank and energy firm RWE, in a case involving the theft of an estimated €180 miillion from state revenues.

Europe's criminal intelligence agency, Europol, estimates the carbon trading fraud to amount to €5 billion.


Friday, May 21, 2010

13 year-old girl viciously attacks teacher

A West Australian male teacher has been viciously attacked (click link for video) in a classroom by an untypically physically well-developed 13 year-old girl, the assault videoed and distributed by a classmate. Even if the unfortunate teacher was not seriously injured, which it appears he wasn't, he will probably be very reluctant to return to the classroom and could well develop significant psychological problems that could see him on worker's compensation for an extended period. This will add to the millions already being spent on injured public education workers:

Taxpayers shelled out almost $25 million last year to teachers and other Education Department staff for work-related injuries, illnesses and stress.

And in the first two months of this year, workers' compensation payments to department staff had already topped $5.2 million.

A big chunk of cash going to the psychologically injured:

Mental stress, including bullying by other staff or conflict with disobedient students, was a close second, costing more than $7.3 million.

The Education Department's web-page meant to entice new teachers to the job describes teaching as "rewarding and dynamic". Yeah well, as the video shows, working with kiddies can be very dynamic with many teachers no doubt feeling rewarded having survived another day on the job.



Swine flu: The pandemic that wasn't

Just weeks before declaring the 2009 swine flu pandemic the World Health Organization (WHO) changed its pandemic criteria omitting the requirement for a significant death toll for an outbreak, the new definition making no mention whatsoever of mortality. Had the WHO not removed its long-standing death toll criteria it could not have declared the near panic-inducing swine flu "pandemic".

Some experts were perplexed by the WHO's overreaction to the initial flu outbreak:

Dr Wolfgang Wodarg, a German doctor and former member of parliament, had been watching the spread of swine flu in Mexico City, and was puzzled at the reaction of the WHO.

"What we experienced in Mexico City was a very mild flu," he explained, "which did not kill more than usual - which killed even less people than usual.

"This was suddenly, a fast-spreading mild flu, a pandemic. But this is not the definition of a pandemic I learned, which has to be severe, with a much higher than usual death rate."

The costs resulting from the swine flu scare are staggering:

France, for example, spent over 600m euros ($739m, £515m) on 94 million doses of vaccine, most of which have not been used.

Most of these doses will likely be dumped. Countries would therefore do well to think very carefully before committing to spend millions or even billions based on the United Nations' predictions of climate change doom.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Australian lawyer wrong about the high cost of 'treating asylum seekers badly'

An Australian legal eagle – you know, rigorously trained to assiduously check facts before making an argument – confidently asserts that Australia in 2009 spent AU$12.5 million (US$10.5 million) deporting "asylum seekers". Had our highly trained university graduate read to the end of the article he links to he would have discovered that in 2009 only 13 of 2,433 deportees were failed asylum seekers, the estimated cost of these 13 deportations amounting to AU$67,015 (less than US$56,750 at the current exchange rate).

The conclusion to the lawyer's post somewhat ironically referring to Tony Abbott's "lies". Oops!

This follows on from an earlier bogus claim that asylum seekers were being detained in in the Australia's desert. Oops, again!

Update: Our Australian lawyer friend updates his post blaming crafty News Ltd journalists for deceiving him:

Ah, you’ve got to be careful when believing anything News Ltd tells you. The story was clearly portrayed as being about asylum seekers costing more than $12.5 million in the last year...

This from a lawyer and Crikey "journalist" who simply didn't read to the end of the story, instead relying on a photo caption stating:

Australian taxpayers have been hit with a $12.5 million bill to deport asylum seekers.

Not everyone is intellectually equipped for a career before the bar.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Murder contract rewards throat-slitting

Had arsonists who fire-bombed his home succeeded in killing Mohammed cartoonist Lars Vilks they would have missed out on the bonus payment:

Lars Vilks courted global attention in 2007 when the Swedish regional daily Nerikes Allehanda published his satirical cartoon depicting Muhammad as a dog to illustrate an editorial on the importance of freedom of expression.

The cartoon prompted protests by Muslims in the town of Örebro in central Sweden, where the newspaper is based, while Egypt, Iran and Pakistan made formal complaints.

An Al-Qaeda front organisation then offered $100,000 to anyone who murdered Vilks - with an extra $50,000 if his throat was slit - and $50,000 for the death of Nerikes Allehanda editor-in-chief Ulf Johansson.

Oh well, $100,000 is better than nothing.

No rough treatment for British terrorism suspect

A Pakistani accused of plotting terror mayhem in Britain cannot be sent home:

The alleged leader of an al-Qaeda plot to bomb targets in north west England has won his appeal against deportation.

A special immigration court said Abid Naseer was an al-Qaeda operative - but could not be deported because he faced torture or death back home in Pakistan.

It's ironic that a terrorist plotter cannot be sent home because he might be "mistreated".

Communism: An interlude on the journey from capitalism to capitalism

Michael Kimmage recounts an old Russian joke:

“What is communism?” To which the joke gives a simple answer: “Communism is the longest path from capitalism to capitalism.”

A review of three books on the tragi-comedic rise and fall of communism then follows.


Via: Arts & Letters Daily


Islamic Respect Party bullies British voters

Alleged voting shenanigans in Britain:

There have been extensive reports over the possible misuse of the postal-voting system in Britain’s general election of 2010, perhaps amounting to systematic fraud by groups intent on manipulating the choices of voters in particular areas. The issue raises great concern over the integrity of a democracy long regarded (particularly by itself) as one of the world’s cleanest; and it is even more embarrassing when Britain is so prominent in earnestly lecturing other countries (not least two it has invaded, Afghanistan and Iraq) on the need for democratic probity.

Not a good look for the home of democracy:

A young woman in Tower Hamlets told me that she and her elderly mother were “bullied” into handing their postal-ballots to a representative of the Respect Party after he knocked on their door seeking support. It was implied that they had to give him their ballots if they wanted to vote at all, as if this was normal procedure.

The canvasser initially asked the mother and daughter - who, like him, were of Bengali Muslim background - about which party they were thinking of voting for. The young woman, a first-year university student, said she was going to vote Green or Liberal Democrat. The man replied that the women, as Bengal Muslims, had to vote Respect because the party truly represented the people of the borough.   

The pressure didn't stop there:

The young woman was concerned that the eventual effect of such pressure would be to make her feel she had to wear a hijab when outside her home. She challenged the campaigner and said that she would stick to her original decision, ticking her chosen boxes. “No, you cannot vote for them, that is pointless. You may as well vote for the [extreme-right] BNP", the Respect man replied. He then accused her of being "brainwashed", continued to berate her about why it was her duty to vote for Respect, and moved on to questioning her devotion to Islam and their shared faith. She reports feeling very intimidated.

A confident enemy within need not be subtle.

Western Australia gov't still badgering motorists despite fall in road deaths

Good news for WA drivers:

 We have reduced death, and maintained serious injury numbers on our roads (despite substantial population increases). ...  Broadly, [over the last three decades] we have halved the number of deaths while our population has nearly doubled.

Perth, where WA's population is concentrated, is actually a very safe place to drive.

Country roads, especially in remote areas, are rather more dangerous, however: police statistics show 119 road deaths in regional WA in 2009 whereas only 74 died in metropolitan crashes.

Rather than attempt to reduce the country road toll the government is spending $900,000 on a road safety campaign aimed at metropolitan drivers featuring ultralame down-loadable ring tones advising drivers not to pick up their phone when behind the wheel. Hit the link immediately above and click through to the Channel 9 report showing viewer reactions.

Police Minister Rob Johnson isn't worried about the cost, or the campaign's lameness:

It's a lot of money but the beauty is it's the people who are speeding who are paying for it.

If the money could be better spent somewhere else, it doesn't make any difference where it comes from.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

British MP stabbed by veiled woman (Updated)

Impromptu "surgery" on Labour MP Stephen Timms at a surgery – a meeting with constituents – when an obviously disgruntled woman stabbed him in the abdomen twice. AP reports that "neither Timms nor his staff recognized" the woman.

Bystander Sagal Ahmed describes the scene:

I heard a big commotion, everyone was screaming. There was a women wearing Muslim clothing, an orange headscarf and a black veil. A security guard grabbed her from behind.

There was a mother with her baby screaming, everyone was in shock. I think it was a vendetta, who would go into a library with a knife?

Gee, I certainly hope it was a female security guard that grabbed the unrecognizable woman hiding behind a black veil: if she has been touched by a strange male her family's going to have to kill her.

Update: The British mainstream media is acknowledging that Timm's attacker wore "Muslim dress" but does not yet identify her as Muslim, at the same time noting condolences from a Muslim group:

Shahid Mursaleen, spokesman for the Newham-based moderate Muslim organisation Minhaj-ul-Quran UK, said: "We are shocked and saddened to hear that Stephen Timms MP has been stabbed.

"Mr Timms has always been close to his constituency and a friend of Muslims living in east London. He has been a good friend of Minhaj-ul-Quran.

"We wish him well and his recovery to be soon and hope that he can resume his position as MP of East Ham soon."

India's NDTV has no qualms about specifying the attacker's relgious affiliation:

Former British minister and senior Labour MP Stephen Timms escaped death narrowly after being attacked by a knife-wielding Muslim woman, a resident of his constituency.

The BBC notes neither the attacker's dress nor her possible religious affiliation, however.


You can't always believe your eyes

Communism's evils ignored

A modern paradox:

In the world’s collective consciousness, the word “Nazi” is synonymous with evil. It is widely understood that the Nazis’ ideology—nationalism, anti-Semitism, the autarkic ethnic state, the Führer principle—led directly to the furnaces of Auschwitz. It is not nearly as well understood that Communism led just as inexorably, everywhere on the globe where it was applied, to starvation, torture, and slave-labor camps. Nor is it widely acknowledged that Communism was responsible for the deaths of some 150 million human beings during the twentieth century. The world remains inexplicably indifferent and uncurious about the deadliest ideology in history.

The writer, City Journal contributor Claire Berlinski, is perhaps naive in not recognising that Nazism is overtly evil, with no redeeming qualities. Communism on the other hand proposes to pursue equity through violence – it's impossible to make an omelet... Thus communism is seen by many as a good idea gone wrong.

But it hard to ignore the callousness of true believers revealed in largely unknown but readily available Soviet archives:

For instance, the documents cast Gorbachev in a far darker light than the one in which he is generally regarded. In one document, he laughs with the Politburo about the USSR’s downing of Korean Airlines flight 007 in 1983—a crime that was not only monstrous but brought the world very near to nuclear Armageddon. These minutes from a Politburo meeting on October 4, 1989, are similarly disturbing:

Lukyanov reports that the real number of casualties on Tiananmen Square was 3,000.

Gorbachev: We must be realists. They, like us, have to defend themselves. Three thousands . . . So what?

Then there is communism's seductive allure for the ever so bright:

[The archival documents] suggest, for example, that the architects of the European integration project, as well as many of today’s senior leaders in the European Union, were far too close to the USSR for comfort. This raises important questions about the nature of contemporary Europe—questions that might be asked when Americans consider Europe as a model for social policy, or when they seek European diplomatic cooperation on key issues of national security.

According to Zagladin’s reports, for example, Kenneth Coates, who from 1989 to 1998 was a British member of the European Parliament, approached Zagladin on January 9, 1990, to discuss what amounted to a gradual merger of the European Parliament and the Supreme Soviet. Coates, says Zagladin, explained that “creating an infrastructure of cooperation between the two parliament[s] would help . . . to isolate the rightists in the European Parliament (and in Europe), those who are interested in the USSR’s collapse.” Coates served as chair of the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights from 1992 to 1994. How did it come to pass that Europe was taking advice about human rights from a man who had apparently wished to “isolate” those interested in the USSR’s collapse and sought to extend Soviet influence in Europe?

Or consider a report on Francisco Fernández Ordóñez, who led Spain’s integration into the European Community as its foreign minister. On March 3, 1989, according to these documents, he explained to Gorbachev that “the success of perestroika means only one thing—the success of the socialist revolution in contemporary conditions. And that is exactly what the reactionaries don’t accept.” Eighteen months later, Ordóñez told Gorbachev: “I feel intellectual disgust when I have to read, for example, passages in the documents of ‘G7’ where the problems of democracy, freedom of human personality and ideology of market economy are set on the same level. As a socialist, I cannot accept such an equation.” Perhaps most shockingly, the Eastern European press has reported that Stroilov’s documents suggest that François Mitterrand was maneuvering with Gorbachev to ensure that Germany would unite as a neutral, socialist entity under a Franco-Soviet condominium.

Zagladin’s records also note that the former leader of the British Labour Party, Neil Kinnock, approached Gorbachev—unauthorized, while Kinnock was leader of the opposition—through a secret envoy to discuss the possibility of halting the United Kingdom’s Trident nuclear-missile program. The minutes of the meeting between Gorbachev and the envoy, MP Stuart Holland, read as follows:

In [Holland’s] opinion, Soviet Union should be very interested in liquidation of “Tridents” because, apart from other things, the West—meaning the US, Britain and France—would have a serious advantage over the Soviet Union after the completion of START treaty. That advantage will need to be eliminated. . . . At the same time Holland noted that, of course, we can seriously think about realisation of that idea only if the Labour comes to power. He said Thatcher . . . would never agree to any reduction of nuclear armaments.

Kinnock was vice president of the European Commission from 1999 to 2004, and his wife, Glenys, is now Britain’s minister for Europe. Gerard Batten, a member of the UK Independence Party, has noted the significance of the episode. “If the report given to Mr. Gorbachev is true, it means that Lord Kinnock approached one of Britain’s enemies in order to seek approval regarding his party’s defense policy and, had he been elected, Britain’s defense policy,” Batten said to the European Parliament in 2009. “If this report is true, then Lord Kinnock would be guilty of treason.”

It is therefore appopriate, and long overdue, for the European Union, the top-down run successor to the Soviet Union, to collapse, as it now appears it will soon do.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Reasoned debate from Australian computer guy

University of New South Wales computer programmer Tim Lambert engages climate change dissident Camille Paglia in spirited debate:

Camille Paglia is an idiot

Daily viewing an idiot in the mirror when shaving, Lambert presumes to be an authority on the subject of idiots.


Vegetable Viagra

Men in search of women should eat their veggies:

CELERY has been labelled "vegetable Viagra" - with research showing it increases the pheromone levels in men's sweat, making them more attractive to women.

Judy Gaman, Dr Walter Gaman and Dr Mark Anderson, authors of the new book Stay Young: Ten Proven Steps to Ultimate Health, say celery contains androstenone - a naturally occurring steroid - and upping your concentration of it should increase pheromone secretion.

Celery's benefits do not end there, however:

Another reason men should be keen to eat their vegetables was that celery also increased sex drive and upped the amount of ejaculatory fluids, making climax stronger.

On the downside, celery contains significant amounts of caffeic acid and psoralens, both known carcinogens.



Europeans set to give Internet control to foreign extremists

Are European countries about to grant foreign extremists control over Internet content?

Already in Europe there are debates about banning websites that allegedly endorse terrorism. But who decides? Resistance movements that oppose American and Australian actions in Iraq and Afghanistan? Elected Palestinian parties such as Hamas backed by millions of Arabs? The powerful Lebanese group Hezbollah, regarded as a terrorist organisation in many Western capitals, but lionised across the Muslim world?

Nope, that's best-selling author Antony Loewenstein trying to say that the exact opposite of what he actually writes.

Loewenstein is currently spreading his message, whatever it might be, in New Zealand.

Pure Poison's Jeremy Sear gets it right, almost

Not one to admit an error, Jeremy Sear, the only remaining original Pure Poisoner, issues an almost correction:

Originally the first line of this post said “in the desert”, but this isn’t quite right. The former government’s desert-based centres at Woomera and Baxter have been closed, and according to the Department, the remaining ones are in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Darwin and on Christmas Island (which is remote and sandy, but not a desert).

However, the Government is reopening the Curtin Detention Centre, 28 hours from Perth, known as one of the very worst of the Howard-era facilities.

Nope, he wasn't "quite right", he was wrong. Typically, Sear does not mention the post's also deleted second mention of inhumane "desert" detention. And whereas the Curtin facility is remote, it is not in the desert, in fact receiving greater annual rainfall than does Sear's home base, Melbourne.

Located in the remote north of Western Australia, Curtin is indeed hot year round but Sear laments only for asylum seekers who might be sent there and not for those Australians who somehow manage to live there. For Sear it is inappropriate that asylum seekers are expected to temporarily reside in a location inhabited by Australians. Perhaps he has an extra room or two at his place.

Update/correction: As pointed out in comments Tobias Ziegler has been posting at Pure Poison from its inception; I am therefore wrong about Jeremy Sear being "the only remaining original Pure Poisoner." My sincere apologies to Ziegler for the oversight.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Lots of crazies in the Middle East

A rare moment of lucidity from a pro-Palestinian activist:

There are a lot of crazy people in the Middle East...

And there are lots of crazies commenting on the Middle East who know nothing about what's really going on.

Somewhere between treated like kings and locked up in the desert

Andrew Bolt reckons the treatment of illegal immigrants isn't all that bad, writing 14 words linking to a piece in The Age that attaches dollar figures to the government's largess. This riles Crikey's resident Bolt obsessive, and erstwhile Asian Correspondent contributor Jeremy Sear, who writes a lengthy emotion laden post lamenting the treatment accorded the uninvited:

Picture the life of an asylum seeker presently locked up in the desert by the Government indefinitely, without charge.

Sear later demands to know why asylum seekers are being locked up "in the desert".

Maybe i missed something somewhere but I can't recall the current government locking up any asylum seekers in the desert. According to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship the currently operating detention centres are located at:

  • Villawood (established in Sydney in 1976)

  • Maribyrnong (established in Melbourne in 1966)

  • Perth (established in 1981)

  • Christmas Island (established in 2001)

  • Northern (established in Darwin in 2001).

None of these facilities are in the desert so it looks like Sear is wrong. No-one familiar with Sear, Pure Poison and Crikey will be at all surprised.

Suspected Somali pirates released, feed fish

Rather than transport them back to Moscow for an expensive trial the Russian navy instead cast 10 suspected Somali pirates adrift in an inflatable boat without any navigation aids. Their likely fate?

"It seems that they all died," the unnamed source was quoted as saying by Russia's Interfax news agency.

The inflatable boat, while not exactly spacious, was apparently perfectly sea-worthy.


Editing note: That would be "pirates", not "pairates". Corrected.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Indian police searching for Swedish Bollywood extra

The Local reports from Sweden:

Police in India are continuing their hunt for Swedish photo model Lucky Mångårda after the 34-year-old whistleblower claimed to have further video evidence of links between Goa police and the region's drug mafia, New Delhi TeleVision (NDTV) reports.

Mångårda first came to the attention of the authorities when she posted spycam footage to YouTube of her drug dealer Israeli ex-boyfriend Yaniv 'Atala' Banaim. The video resulted in the arrests in March of Atala and half a dozen Goa police officers, the Times of India reports.

The Swedish model revealed last month she was in possession of further incriminating video material tying police in Goa, as well as the son of a local politician, to the region's drug trade.

According to Lucky she isn't in hiding and has yet to be contacted by authorities. By the way, Lucky's :D :D :D is more than a display of emotion; it's also her bra size.

Iran in love with the devil

Iranian "news" site Hamsayeh.Net – the Islamic equivalent of Antony Loewenstein: just as painful to read but with a bigger budget – gives South America's number one commie fruitcake a great big plug:

Venezuelan progressive President Hugo Chavez has set up a twitter account that is now one of the most popular accounts with over quarter of a million followers across the world.

The President’s account address is @chavezcandanga, with candanga being a local word meaning relentless. The Venezuelan President enjoys grassroots support from people around the world dwarfing the well-funded opposition that aims to create rift between various factions in the oil rich Latin American nation.

With the opposition receiving assistance from the US and other Zionist related lobbies, it hopes to bring a halt Venezuela’s new path towards independence.

Ignoring the Zionist under every bed nonsense, Chavez's Twitter account is popular but certainly isn't one of the most popular:

It is indeed appropriate that Chavez ranks 666;  candanga translates as "devil".

Monday, May 10, 2010

Indian holy man neither eats nor drinks. Really.

During two weeks in hospital under continuous observation Prahlad Jani "neither ate nor drank and did not go to the toilet." One of the observing medical team speculates that Jani is perhaps somehow drawing sustenance from solar energy. Jani offers an alternative explanation:

He says that at a young age he was blessed by a goddess who gave him special powers.

It's hard to believe that a team of highly educated medical practitioners believes that, unlike everyone else of the planet, Jani requires neither food nor water.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Lodgers evicted for refusing to get naked

John Harrison and his wife were asked to leave a clothes-optional Queensland resort after Harrison refused to disrobe in the presence of other, nude, guests. This was deemed "disrespectful" by the resort's manager.

Now I don't know about you, but I don't think I'd like to see Mr and Mrs Harrison (on the right in this photo) without their clothes. If I want to look at a mature-age, overweight white bloke, all I need do is look in the mirror.

Banks gouging Australians on fees

Gee, this is hard to believe:

Big banks have used the global financial crisis as an excuse to gouge customers an extra $733 a year while boosting staff pay packets and posting record profits for shareholders.

A University of Canberra study has found banks are overcharging customers through bigger profits on mortgages, higher fees and lower savings rates compared to before the global financial crisis.

Colour me disappointed.

Another Fairfax journalist gets rude on Twitter

Goaded by a fellow Twitterer:

had enough of attacking the gays for now i see.

Fairfax columnist Miranda Devine goes all snarky:

you've had enough of rogering gerbils I see.

This probably seemed clever and witty at the time but Devine, having thought about it, and only just written a column about Catethine Deveny's Twitter indiscretions, deleted the entry. A concerned Lefty worries that, unlike Deveny, who was told her services are no longer required, Devine will suffer no real consequences.

The unspoken concern here is that Deveny's editor made a decision to terminate her based on what he thought were the best interests of The Age. Lots of people have suffered job related consequences following online indiscretions. Which explains why primary school teacher and Crikey contributor Scott Bridges deleted his leisure-time, hey-look-at-me, I'm-really-funny blog post "Just plain wrong" concerning the contents of an old (1994) educational brochure:

Online comments and postings can have repercussions, of course, so the Left should simply acknowledge that The Age's decision to distance itself from Deveny was a long time coming and was perhaps overdue. Devine on the other hand produces insightful and well-argued columns and is unlikely to receive so much as a "please explain" email as a result of an uncharacteristic lapse of judgment. The bottom line: it's a matter of value to the commercial welfare of Fairfax.

Update: Different rules apply to conservatives:

Devine won’t get any real trouble for it because hate speech coming from conservative writers is popularly regarded as taking a stand against political correctness, while uncomfortable comments from a Deveny are an unacceptable moral danger.

Hate speech? Not even.

Lebanon trounces Israel

The Lebanese have the upper hand in a war where "chickpeas, olive oil, sesame paste, lemon juice and garlic" are the ammo.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Criminals target $20 a pack cigarettes

There's no point in hassling with stealing highly secure ATMs when far less secure vending machines are full of money and easily sold cigarettes.

President's Cancer Panel channels Rachel Carson

In Silent Spring marine biologist Rachel Carson grossly overstates the cancer risk posed by man-made chemicals by, for example, claiming that DDT can induce human cancers within mere months of incidental exposure. In fact, DDT, one of the most closely scrutinised of synthetic chemicals, is not proven to cause human cancers.

Now the President's Cancer Panel, echoing Carson, announces that "that the true burden of environmentally induced cancer has been grossly underestimated" and suggests that the food supply is unsafe:

Exposure to pesticides can be decreased by choosing, to the extent possible, food grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers and washing conventionally grown produce to remove residues.

A review of the report, commissioned by the American Cancer Society, is less than favourable:

Unfortunately, the perspective of the report is unbalanced by its implication that pollution is the major cause of cancer, and by its dismissal of cancer prevention efforts aimed at the major known causes of cancer (tobacco, obesity, alcohol, infections, hormones, sunlight) as “focussed narrowly.”

The report is most provocative when it restates hypotheses as if they were established facts.  For example, its conclusion that “the true burden of environmentally (i.e. pollution) induced cancer has been grossly underestimated” does not represent scientific consensus.

Just as with the climate change doom-mongers the objective here is convincing the public of dangers by scaring the crap out of them through exaggeration.

Update: Looking for reliable information on chemicals and cancer? Go here.

$20 billion in gold waiting to be found, maybe

Based on Victoria's geology, experts are almost certain AU$20 billion (US$17.7 billion) is down there waiting to be mined. Unfortunately, the exact location of the gold is uncertain.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Around the world sailor has no claim to fame

Jessica Watson's around the world solo sail will fall short of the distance required for entry into the record books but really, who cares? Watson, from a privileged background that provided her with sail training and a yacht, is nothing more than an extreme attention seeker with no real claim to fame. She will be famous, however, and will be inundated with lucrative sponsorship deals. Like many of today's celebrities she will be famous for being famous.

Islam: Fascist, not totalitarian

Dwight Garner reviews Paul Berman’s new book, “The Flight of the Intellectuals”, a critique of Islamic philosopher Tariq Ramadan:

[Berman's] litany of charges against the elusive Mr. Ramadan is largely circumstantial, although it must be said that the pile he amasses is plenty damning. Finally, Mr. Berman believes in straight talk and insists that we use words like “fascist” to describe some Islamist ideas rather than “totalitarian.” Why? “It is because totalitarian, being abstract, is odorless. Fascist is pungent. To hear that emphatic f-sound and those double different s’s is to flare your nostrils.”

The smell of death sticks in nostrils like no other.

Burqa ban brouhaha

Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi throws caution to the wind in expressing his personal opinion:

In my mind, the burka has no place in Australian society. I would go as far as to say it is un-Australian. To me, the burka represents the repressive domination of men over women which has no place in our society and compromises some of the most important aspects of human communication.

It also establishes a different set of rules and societal expectations in our hitherto homogenous society.

The Muslim community is aghast even though the burqa is not an item of religious apparel:

But Muhammad Dahir from the Islamic Association of Australia says the burka is not a compulsory part of Islamic culture and most women have no problem showing their face to identify themselves.

"If people want to see your face, then there's nothing wrong with that, they have to accept these things. The majority of the Muslim community have no problem with that," he said.

Mr Dahir admits there are some areas of society where men will force their wives to wear a burka, but he maintains for the rest, it is a woman's choice to cover herself completely.

"We do accept there are some cases where the man forces the woman [to wear a burka] but it's due to ignorance. Islam and the husband cannot force the woman to wear a burka," he said.

"We condemn if there's a compulsion from the man to force a women [to do that] .. but it has nothing to do with the majority of Muslims and the whole community."

Then there's this from a pro-polygyny (multiple wives, also not religiously ordained) campaigner:

Islamic Friendship Association's Keysar Trad rejected the call as ignorant and said it was a political stunt.

Wearing the burqa actually encouraged women to integrate into Australian society, whereas a ban would only force them indoors where they'd "miss out on the vitamin D".

"It's tantamount to denying them the right to drive, the right to enjoy all the services of society as well as equal opportunity," Mr Trad said.

Wrong, Keysar, wearing a burqa actually encourages women, and their husbands, to remain outside the mainstream of Australian society.

Also, if the burqa must be tolerated on cultural grounds, African women should be allowed to go topless and men to wear penis gourds. That'll give the give the kiddies something to look at on shopping forays.


Thursday, May 06, 2010

Switzerland: The root of world evil

Moammar Gadhafi corrects the commonly accepted wisdom that the Swiss owe their success to industrious pragmatism:

Switzerland is a state that stands outside the international community. It is not bound by any EU regulations. It is good that it joined the United Nations in 2002, but the whole time before that it was not a member. Why? It wanted to stand above international law. And that has made Switzerland into a mafia.

Hard to picture the Swiss as mafiosi, ain't it?

Australia in top 10 environment destroyers

A study by the University of Adelaide's Professor Corey Bradshaw places Australia in the top ten:

The 10 countries with the worst global footprint were Brazil, the US, China, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, India, Russia, Australia and Peru.

According to Professor Bradshaw environmental impact is a result of wealth:

The wealthier you are, the more damage you do, on average.

Odd then that Brazil, China, Indonesia, Mexico, India, Russia and Peru have such large footprints.

At the other end of the scale are the environmentally friendly:

Professor Bradshaw said the better-ranked countries were small places such as Cape Verde, Swaziland, Niger and Grenada.

''They haven't wiped out all their forests but they live well below what we'd consider poverty,'' he said. ''We have things to learn from these countries in terms of consumption and in reducing our consumption.''

Cape Verde, Swaziland, Niger and Grenada do have much to teach us: people living in poorly performing or failing economies can't afford to buy many of the goodies we take for granted and also tend to die young – Niger's life expectancy is 52.6. They would like to consume as much as we do but simply don't have the money.


Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Billions dubiously spent on school building program

The Australian government has funnelled billions into the school building program but there are serious doubts that the money was well spent:

Almost 30 per cent of principals surveyed by the auditor-general believe they are not getting value for money from the controversial $16.2 billion school building program.

And a third of schools have complained about the scheme, contradicting claims by the Federal Government that less than 1 per cent of schools are dissatisfied

As with the botched home insulation scheme, the school building program was hastily conceived and loosely managed:

Federal Education Minister Julia Gillard used one quote from the survey to back up her claims that the BER scheme was a success, saying that "more than 95 per cent of school principals saw the program as providing ongoing value to their school and their school community".

But the same survey indicated a high level of dissatisfaction with the process.

Forty-five per cent of principals said there was not sufficient time to consult with the school community about the building projects and 43 per cent said the time frame for submitting the BER application for funding was insufficient (

There's no getting around it, the Rudd government is financially incompetent.

'Fried enema': Endearing or embarrassing?

Termination knots lefty knickers

Following her Logie night Twitter indiscretions Catherine Deveny was dumped as a contributor for The Age. The Left is outraged that a corporate media enterprise – Fairfax – has acted in what it deems its best interest in terminating its relationship with the would be comedienne:

The backstory for any of you who just walked in, is that non-contracted weekly The Age columnist Deveny was dumped yesterday by The Age's editor in chief Paul Ramadge, not because of anything she wrote for the paper, but because of some off-colour gags she sent out on Twitter during Sunday night's Logie broadcast.

The Age, Ramadge revealed on radio this morning, has no formal policy covering the conduct of its staff (never mind contributors) when they use social media. It seems now to have set a benchmark: make any sort or reference to the potential sexual proclivities of Bindi Irwin and you are out. I guess they had to start somewhere.

Ramadge was of course a bit slow out of the blocks on this one, giving Deveny the flick only yesterday, not in a heated phone call on Sunday night just before the silver Logie for best supporting presenter in a rural light entertainment docudrama. He thus gives the appearance of acting not as an immediate response to the Sunday night tweets (would Bindi get "laid" would Rove's new partner "die" etc) but rather in response to the heated kerfuffle drummed up by the usual stern guardians of media probity: Andrew Bolt, Neil Mitchell, A Current Affair and Today Tonight. All of whom have been in a lather for the past 48 hours.

That's the ABC's Jonathan Green, whose knickers are all a-bunch because The Age terminated its relationship with someone who wasn't even an employee. Green attempts to milk the faux outrage for all it's worth, even linking to the debacle-prone Pure Poison's Jeremy Sear he hired when an editor at Crikey.

The powers that be at Fairfax decided that Deveny was no longer an asset and told her her services were no longer required. She'd probably still have the gig if she occasionally managed to be funny. End of story.

Supreme leader, supremely lame

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei uses 21st century techniques – Twitter – to communicate from his 8th century world:

Its 30 years that our enemies try to use labour as a leverage against us but our labours always punched them in their mouth.

Iran has enemies? The guy's paranoid.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Edgy twitter comments cost columnist her newspaper gig

The Age contributor Catherine Deveny has "talked" herself out of a job:

Acid-tongued comedian Catherine Deveny has been sacked by The Age following a fierce public backlash greeted her vicious attacks on stars on Logies night.

The Age's editor-In-chief, Paul Ramadge, said tonight that Deveny would no longer write for the Melbourne broadsheet.

"We are appreciative of the columns Catherine has written for The Age over several years but the views she has expressed recently on Twitter are not in keeping with the standards we set at The Age," Ramadge said.

Desperate to be funny Deveny pushed the edginess thing just a bit too far:

Deveny drew the most criticism for writing that she hoped 11-year-old TV star Bindi Irwin "gets laid'' and that former TV host Rove McManus' wife Tasma "didn't die too'' - referring to the loss of his first wife, Belinda Emmett, to cancer in 2006.

The public may not know what's funny but knows what it dislikes.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Government ignores alcohol's costs instead going for a soft target

Writing in The Age, Jeremy Bass points out the obvious:

Our relationship with alcohol is far more complex than it is with tobacco. It goes back a few thousand more years, for a start. And unlike tobacco, alcohol sits wide astride the terrain from virtue to villainy. It tastes great (in some forms at least) and feels great going down. It salves the bad and makes the good better. It makes corporate Christmas parties almost bearable, and it has helped turn countless awkward first dates into long, stable marriages. And has anyone ever come up with a better cold-and-flu killer than two Panadols and three double scotches?

It can also turn otherwise normal people into reprobates of all kinds: crazymakers, liars, thieves, street and domestic thugs, culpable drivers and murderers. Others it dooms to mere under-achievement, dereliction of domestic and workplace duty, wet brains and dereliction, period. It fouls up footpaths, soils trousers and ruins train rides.

When did tobacco ever take that kind of toll? Jails are no doubt jam packed with smokers - the habit is finding increasing concentration among lower socio-economic groups and the under-educated, from which prisons draw a high proportion of their populations. But tobacco consumption played very little if any direct part in populating prisons and courts.

The same can't be said for alcohol. There is no shortage of people inside for alcohol related crimes, anything from repeat drunk-driving offences to murder, of which many have no memory. And that's just up the serious end of the scale, before we start factoring in the thousands of glassings, minor skirmishes and misdemeanours with which police and ambulance people have to deal every year. And ask those cleaning up in its wake and you'll find it doesn't do anything for witness reliability either.

Click that link and read the whole thing. And there's also this from the The Economist way back in 1997 (no link):

 Several economic analyses have been done, says Kip Viscusi, a Harvard University economist, “and they all show that smokers save society money.” Smokers die before they can collect their expensive public pensions and nursing-home benefits. Moreover, cigarettes are the world’s most heavily taxed consumer good. In America, which is on the low side by industrial-country standards, the tax has averaged $0.57 a pack (varying by state, and set to rise 10 cents on January 1st). This is more than is needed to pay what anybody thinks smokers cost society, even when you include a generous estimate for the social costs of second-hand smoke.

Let there be no uncertainty about what is going on here: smokers are paying the rest of us for the privilege of puffing. The rest of us may justify this on grounds that smoking less would be better for smokers. But why not, then, a fatty-foods tax? A motorcycle tax? A failure-to-floss tax? If anyone is being treated unfairly in the current scheme, it is the smokers. In any event, once smokers pay their own way, which they more than do already, monetary cost provides no excuse to treat smoking as the public’s business.

Bereft of better grounds to assert that smoking is a social problem, anti-smoking activists then become creative. Some of them assert, for instance, that parents’ smoking hurts asthmatic children. This may be true, but it is an argument for better parents, not fewer cigarettes. More commonly, some crusaders argue that smokers are pawns of tobacco companies, which ought to be punished.

On this line, one American anti-smoking activist says that cigarette makers are “responsible for the premature deaths of more Americans than any other group of individuals who have ever lived”; a British headline declares “Cigarette makers ready to buy off their victims”; a prominent anti-tobacco lawyer likens tobacco companies to “the bully who physically assaults a victim unable to defend himself”. It is impressive how common this sort of sentiment has become, given that, on its face, the portrayal of smokers as bullied or deceived victims is preposterous.

Smokers, many of them disadvantaged or mentally ill, or both, and the recipients of government benefits, will now have now have to pay even more for a habit that relaxes them and gives them pleasure. So the government gives with one hand and takes back with the other.

It's time to leave smokers alone, instead targeting the huge economic and social costs associated with alcohol.


Pretty women are man-killers

Trying to score with a pretty woman is so stressful it can kill. Actually scoring with a pretty woman is even more stressful, possibly causing a droopy donger, a fate worse than death. So follow your mother's advice and go for a woman who can cook.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Like pastrami? Yep, you're a Jew

As befits a journalist, author and blogger of international renown, Radio New Zealand provides almost 45 minutes for Antony Loewenstein to spout his anti-Israel views to the huge early Saturday morning audience. As always when speaking in public he comes across as all moderate and sensible, with nary a pro-Taliban or Iraqi insurgent sentiment to be heard, instead jabbering near-gibberish at length, indeed, indeed.

But Loewenstein is keen to change the subject when interviewer Kim Hill questions – 13 minutes in – how it is that an atheist who finds Judaism repugnant is a Jew. Loewenstein unconvincingly claims to be Jewish because he admires aspects of Jewish culture, citing "some" Jewish foods as an example. Cool, my fondness for bagels makes me a Jew; now I can expect to be contacted by Melbourne University Publishing's Louise Adler asking me to write a book or two on subjects I know nothing about.

By the way, my apologies for the gap between Loewenstein posts – for some readers there is no such thing as too much Loewenstein.

Update: Click the link for an example of Loewenstein showing how a professional journalist and author blogs: copy and paste a 1,376 word speech to which he adds a 45 word introduction.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Australians warned to avoid New Delhi markets

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has issued a warning to Australians to avoid markets in New Delhi, India as there is credible evidence a terrorist attack is imminent. All tourists in India are advised to remain vigilant.

Race car takes the action into the crowd

Click the link for an amazing photo gallery of a race car cartwheeling into a crowd of spectators. The Mini went airborne over the fence so quickly some spectators had no time to react. Miraculously no one was seriously injured.

Death in absentia

A Melbourne man is surprised to learn that he died while in hospital:

Peter Thornton was admitted to the Alfred Hospital in early March for a severe bout of gastro.

He checked himself out after he says he was left lying on a trolley for 12 hours.

On visiting his GP yesterday, he was shown a letter from the Alfred stating he died on March 9.

Good luck convincing the government he's still alive.

Please ignore that big pile of unguarded money

Mike Carlton lays blame for the government funded home insulation debacle:

Any mug lair who owned a ute with a bullbar and a dog on the back could become a qualified [insulation] installer virtually overnight, raking in the loot.

It was open slather for incompetent workmanship, the use of inferior or even dangerous materials, criminal disregard of an employer's legal duty to ensure a safe workplace, and a blizzard of fake invoicing.

Allan Hawke, the bureaucrat called in to investigate, pinned it in one scathing sentence. ''Despite some safeguards against fraud, no one foresaw the possible extent of potential malfeasance which was simply alarming - a classic example of why governments need to regulate markets to ensure their proper functioning, '' he wrote.

Tony Abbott and his media cheerleaders would have you believe it was the government that botched the scheme.

Yes indeed, easy money proved impossible to resist for the unscrupulous but investigator Allan Hawke also noted bureaucratic incompetence occuring even after the scheme's problems became obvious:

The [Hawke] report notes that following the first of the four deaths the program developed “incrementally” and “reactively” but concluded that “the opportunity to step back from the day to day management of the program, ask hard questions and test assumptions was not taken until late in proceedings”.


Despite early efforts and later enhancements at DEWHA program management infrastructure and expertise at DEWHA were not sufficient to support the (at times unanticipated) demands placed on them.

A higher level of full time senior management oversight, including a dedicated Deputy Secretary should have been assigned full time to the energy efficiency programs for the duration of their roll out.

Money there for the taking was taken. Amazing.

Islamic terrorists: Typical or atypical?

Certified Public Accountant Sabirhan Hasanoff, a citizen of both Australia and the United States, is facing terrorism related charges in New York. Hasanoff is obviously not your stereotypical geeky and boring accountant – he allegedly helped al Qaeda by doing more than their book-keeping.

Writing prior to Hasanoff's arrest, Irfan Yusuf applies his gigantic lawyer intellect to analysing the terrorism threat, which he concludes is so ludicrously over-hyped it's beyond a joke. As an example he cites the recent hoopla over veiled threats against South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone from the nut-jobs at Revolution Muslim:

"We have to warn Matt [Stone] and Trey [Parker, the co-creators of South Park] that what they are doing is stupid and they will probably wind up like Theo van Gogh for airing this show. This is not a threat, but a warning of the reality of what will likely happen to them."

The executives at Comedy Central, which broadcasts South Park, may have wondered whether to take such blogospheric fantasies seriously. Normally, a warning coming from 12 bloggers claiming to represent 1.3 billion people worldwide would be treated as ridiculous. Unless, of course, we're talking about Muslims.

My guess is that most Americans, Muslim or otherwise, have never heard of Theo van Gogh, a Dutch filmmaker murdered by a lone psychotic Dutch-Moroccan man. And even fewer will have heard of Revolution Muslim. But that didn't stop Comedy Central taking precautions and censoring the depiction of Muhammad in the broadcast episode.

Well, we can all breathe easier Yusuf having reassured us that van Gogh's killer, Mohammed Bouyeri, is an atypical Muslim and was deranged and acted alone when he shot, stabbed and attempted to behead his victim. The thing is, Bouyeri isn't psychotic, he's a simply a very committed Muslim who killed van Gogh because he deserved to die for offending Muslims. And whereas he was the only person who shot and stabbed van Gogh, Bouyeri had close ties to the Hofstad Network, a number of whose members have been tried and jailed for conspiratorial activities.

Regardless, Yusuf ignores that the whole point of terrorism is to frighten opponents into submission. Right or wrong, lots of people are very frightened of what fate might befall them should they offend Muslims in some way. Thus a fanatical few have won a major victory in restricting not our ability, but rather our willingness, to speak freely.