Wednesday, 28 February 2007

Shift Happens

When non-serious people bicker over the crumbs of life they miss the fact that someone else is soon going to be baking the loaf.

10 Institutions That Ruin The World - #1

And the winner of the institution that does the most to ruin the world is:

#1 - The United Nations

...And to the surprise of absolutely nobody, the United Nations in my number one institution that ruins the world. It's not even close, either, the UN wins by further than Secretariat in the 1973 Belmont Stakes.

The Preamble to the UN Charter states:

  • to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and
  • to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and
  • to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and
  • to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
  • to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and
  • to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and
  • to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and
  • to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples,


Now, if good people, earnest and strong in their belief to make a difference to the world, were to get together today to create a new organisation that actually does some good then you'd have to think that it wouldn't have a much different set of goals than does the UN.

How has it come about that the UN is now such a hopelessly corrupt, racist and destructive institution? The short answer is that these traits are the end result of socialist ideology practised to their full extent. In that regard it is similar to the EU or USSR; power without accountability leads to totalitarian institutions.

In October 2006 the Heritage Foundation hosted a speech by Dr Nile Gardiner, Director of the Margaret Thatcher Centre For Freedom, which provides some very succinct analysis of the decline of the UN.

Human Rights Failures

The United Nations has let down millions of the world's weakest and most vulnerable people in Africa and the Balkans. The U.N.'s failure to prevent the slaughter of thousands of Muslims at Srebrenica in 1995 and the mass kill­ing of hundreds of thousands of Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994 are shameful episodes that will haunt the United Nations for generations.

There are echoes today of Bosnia and Rwanda in the killing fields of Darfur in the Sudan, a trag­edy that the U.N. initially refused to categorize as genocide. Over 200,000 people have lost their lives, many of them at the hands of the Janjaweed militias, backed by the Sudanese government. Sudan, a country with an appalling human rights track record, was an active member of the now-defunct U.N. Commission on Human Rights from 2002 to 2005. It used its membership to help block censure from the United Nations. Zimba­bwe, another African country with a horrific record of abusing the rights of its citizens, sat on the council from 2003 to 2005.

The commission reached its low point in 2003 when Libya was elected chairman with the backing of 33 members, with just three countries voting against. It was eventually replaced amidst much fanfare in 2006 by the new United Nations Human Rights Council. Unfortunately, the 47-seat body is not a significant improvement over its hugely dis­credited predecessor. The council's lack of member­ship criteria renders it open to participation and manipulation by the world's worst human rights abusers. Tyrannical regimes such as Burma, Syria, Libya, Sudan, and Zimbabwe all voted in favor of establishing the council in the face of strong U.S. opposition. The brutal North Korean dictatorship also gave the council its ringing endorsement. When council elections were held in May, leading human rights abusers Algeria, China, Cuba, Paki­stan, Russia, and Saudi Arabia were all elected.

The United States was right in its decision not to seek a seat on a council tainted by the odor of despo­tism and tyranny. While making every effort to push for reform within the U.N., the United States must seek the creation of a complementary human rights body outside of the U.N. system that would be com­posed solely of democratic states that adhere to the basic principles of individual liberty and freedom.

Who among you in the general population was aware that the UN Human Rights Council, and formerly the Commission, was run by the actual despots whose activities that it was meant to oversee? Makes it pretty easy to understand why nothing gets done in Africa, doesn't it?

UNESCO and Hugo Chávez

The Human Rights Council is far from being the only U.N. body to serve as a platform for despots and dictators. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) awarded its 2005 José Martí International Prize to Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez. Cuban president Fidel Castro per­sonally handed the award to his leading imitator as an estimated 200,000 people in Revolution Plaza watched. The Martí prize is intended to recognize those who have contributed to the "struggle for lib­erty" in Latin America. Chávez is clearly not among this group, and the award was a major embarrass­ment to the United Nations, illustrating a long­standing lack of moral clarity within the world body on issues of individual freedom and liberty.

Founded after the Second World War, UNESCO was established "to contribute to peace and security by promoting collaboration among nations through education, science and culture in order to further universal respect for justice, for the rule of law and for the human rights and fundamental freedoms which are affirmed for the peoples of the world."

What sort of organisation is it that recognises people like Chavez who drive their own people even further into poverty while strutting the world stage like a preening chicken? What sort of organisation is it that Chavez can turn up to a General Assembly and refer to the President of the United States as 'the Devil'? Regardless what you think of people the UN is either a place of respect or it isn't.

Peacekeeping Failures: The Congo Peacekeep­ing Scandal

The U.N.'s human rights failure has been compounded by a series of peacekeeping scan­dals, from Bosnia to Burundi to Sierra Leone. By far the worst instances of abuse have taken place in the Congo, the U.N.'s second largest peacekeeping mis­sion, with 16,000 peacekeepers.

In the Congo, acts of barbarism have been perpe­trated by United Nations peacekeepers and civilian personnel entrusted with protecting some of the weakest and most vulnerable women and children in the world. Personnel from the U.N. Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) stand accused of at least 150 major human rights violations. This is almost certainly just the tip of the iceberg: The scale of the problem is likely to be far greater.

The crimes involve rape and forced prostitution of women and young girls across the country, including inside a refugee camp in the town of Bunia in north­eastern Congo. The alleged perpetrators include U.N. military and civilian personnel from Nepal, Morocco, Tunisia, Uruguay, South Africa, Pakistan, and France. The victims are defenseless refugees— many of them children—who have already been brutalized and terrorized by years of war and who looked to the U.N. for safety and protection.

The sexual abuse scandal in the Congo makes a mockery of the U.N.'s professed commitment to upholding basic human rights. U.N. peacekeepers and the civilian personnel who work with them should be symbols of the international community's commitment to protecting the weak and innocent in times of war. The exploitation of some of the most vulnerable people in the world—refugees in a war-ravaged country—is a shameful episode and a massive betrayal of trust.

"...acts of barbarism have been perpe­trated by United Nations peacekeepers and civilian personnel entrusted with protecting some of the weakest and most vulnerable women and children in the world." Kofi Annan's reponse? "Deep concern." What is it with this guy and his varying levels of concern? No action but lots of concern, that's for sure.

Corruption: The-Oil-for-Food Scandal

The scandal surrounding the U.N.-administered Oil-for-Food Program has also done immense damage to the world organization's already shaky credibility. The Oil-for-Food scandal is undoubtedly the biggest scan­dal in the history of the United Nations and probably the largest financial fraud in modern times. It has shattered the illusion that the U.N. is the arbiter of moral authority in the international sphere.

Oil for Food became the hottest investigative issue on Capitol Hill in a generation. Investigators exam­ined huge amounts of evidence relating to corrup­tion, fraud, and bribery on an epic scale; French and Russian treachery; and the attempts of a brutal total­itarian regime to manipulate members of the U.N. Security Council.

Set up in the mid-1990s as a means of providing humanitarian aid to the Iraqi people, the U.N.-run Oil-for-Food Program was subverted and manipu­lated by Saddam Hussein's regime, allegedly with the complicity of U.N. officials, to help prop up the Iraqi dictator. Saddam's dictatorship was able to siphon off billions of dollars from the program through oil smuggling and systematic thievery, by demanding illegal payments from companies buying Iraqi oil, and through kickbacks from those selling goods to Iraq—all under the noses of U.N. bureaucrats.

The 18-month, $34 million U.N.-appointed Independent Inquiry Committee (IIC) documented a huge amount of evidence regarding manipulation of the $60 billion program by the Saddam Hussein regime with the complicity of more than 2,200 companies in 66 countries as well as a number of prominent international politicians. The three-member committee was chaired by former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker. The other two committee members were South African Justice Richard Goldstone and Swiss profes­sor of criminal law Mark Pieth.

According to the IIC's report, "Oil surcharges were paid in connection with the contracts of 139 compa­nies and humanitarian kickbacks were paid in con­nection with the contracts of 2,253 companies." Companies accused of paying kickbacks to the Iraqi regime include major global corporations such as DaimlerChrysler, Siemens, and Volvo. The Saddam Hussein regime received illicit income of $1.8 billion under the Oil-for-Food Program. $228.8 million was derived from the payment of surcharges in connec­tion with oil contracts. $1.55 billion came through kickbacks on humanitarian goods.

The 500-page report painted an ugly tableau of bribery, kickbacks, corruption, and fraud on a glo­bal scale. It amply demonstrates how the Iraqi dic­tator generously rewarded those who supported the lifting of U.N. sanctions on Iraq and who paid lip-service to his barbaric regime. Oil-for-Food became a shameless political charade through which Sadd­am Hussein attempted to manipulate decision-mak­ing at the U.N. Security Council by buying the support of influential figures in countries such as Russia and France.

The evidence presented was comprehensive, damning, and a wake-up call to those who naively believed that the Saddam Hussein regime could be trusted to comply with U.N. sanctions. Saddam's multibillion-dollar fraud, carried out with the com­plicity of prominent political figures across Europe as well as thousands of international companies, was halted only by the liberation of Iraq by the Unit­ed States and Great Britain, in the face of deter­mined opposition by France and Russia. It is not difficult to see why powerful political interests in Paris and Moscow were so fundamentally opposed to a war that would open the archives of Baghdad to close scrutiny and subsequently cause huge politi­cal embarrassment.

The report should prompt widespread soul-searching within the United Nations, whose admin­istrators turned a blind eye to massive wrongdoing in a humanitarian program designed to help the weakest and most vulnerable in Iraq. The fact that the Baathist regime was able to get away with such a vast scandal under the noses of U.N. bureaucrats, and in some cases with their complicity, represents both spectacular incompetence and extremely poor leadership at the top of the world body.

The overall IIC investigation should not, though, be viewed as the final say on the Oil-for-Food scan­dal. It should be seen as an important but at times flawed and incomplete inquiry that left many ques­tions unanswered in relation to the role of senior U.N. officials, including Kofi Annan and his chief aide, Iqbal Riza.

According to the second interim report released by the Volcker Committee, Iqbal Riza, Kofi Annan's chief of staff, authorized the shredding of thousands of U.N. documents between April and December 2004. Among these documents were the entire U.N. Chef de Cabinet chronological files for 1997, 1998, and 1999—many of which related to the Oil-for-Food Program. Riza approved this destruction just 10 days after he had personally written to the heads of nine U.N.-related agencies that administered the Oil-for-Food Program in Northern Iraq, requesting that they "take all necessary steps to collect, preserve and secure all files, records and documents…relating to the Oil-for-Food Programme." The destruction con­tinued for more than seven months after the Secre­tary-General's June 1, 2004, order to U.N. staff members "not to destroy or remove any documents related to the Oil-for-Food programme that are in their possession or under their control, and to not instruct or allow anyone else to destroy or remove such documents."

Significantly, Kofi Annan announced the retire­ment of Mr. Riza on January 15, 2005—the same day that Riza notified the Volcker Committee that he had destroyed the documents. Riza was immedi­ately replaced by Mark Malloch Brown, Administra­tor of the U.N. Development Programme. Riza was chief of staff from 1997 to 2004, almost the entire period of the Oil-for-Food Program's operation, and undoubtedly possessed intricate knowledge of the U.N.'s management of it. He was a long-time col­league of Kofi Annan and served as Annan's deputy in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations from 1993 to 1996.

The destruction of highly sensitive documents by Iqbal Riza was an obstruction of justice that demands congressional investigation. It gave the impression of a major cover-up at the very heart of the United Nations and cast a dark cloud over the Secretary-General's credibility. It projected an image of impunity, arrogance, and unaccountability on the part of the leadership of the United Nations.

The Volcker investigation may have ended, but several other major inquiries will continue to gain momentum and reveal new findings relating to the Oil-for-Food scandal. These include the leading investigations on Capitol Hill, led by the House International Relations Committee and the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, in addition to the Department of Justice inquiry. It will be many months, even years, before the full extent of the corruption and mismanagement within the United Nations is completely exposed.

An unelected, undemocratic organisation with a questionable history of openness and integrity (do some research on former Secretary Boutros Boutros Ghali; you'll be shocked at what he got up to) is managing a multi-billion dollar program and people are surprised that it's completely corrupt? The French and Russians were the most vocal opponents of taking real action against Iraq and it transpires that they were the countries with their snouts most firmly in the trough? The French really are the pits; they have long been the worst country in the world in terms of inflicting damage through unprincipled self interest.

Questions About the U.N. Tsunami Relief Effort

The Oil-for-Food Program is one of several U.N. operations to raise major concerns over trans­parency and accountability. The U.N.'s much-vaunted tsunami relief operation has also sparked doubts regarding the U.N.'s ability to manage a huge humanitarian project.

The tsunami disaster which struck large sec­tions of Southeast Asia, South Asia, and East Afri­ca on December 26, 2004, claimed some 231,000 lives and displaced 2 million people. It prompted an outpouring of humanitarian help from around the world, with an estimated total of $13.6 billion in aid pledged, including $6.16 billion in govern­ment assistance, $2.3 billion from international financial institutions, and $5.1 billion from indi­viduals and companies.

The huge international relief effort was co-coor­dinated by the United Nations and involved an astonishing 39 U.N. agencies, from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labor Organization (ILO).

When the U.N. took over the tsunami relief oper­ation in early 2005, the world body pledged full transparency, in light of its disastrous handling of the Iraq Oil-for-Food Program. The U.N.'s Under-Secre­tary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Jan Egeland, boasted in an opinion editorial that "only the UN has the universal legitimacy, capacity, and credibility to lead in a truly global humanitarian emergency."Egeland had earlier criticized the U.S. contribution to the tsunami relief effort as "stingy."

An investigation by the Financial Times, however, raised serious questions regarding the U.N.'s han­dling of the tsunami relief effort, in particular the way in which it spent the first $590 million of its $1.1 billion disaster "flash appeal." The appeal included nearly $50 million from the United States. The two-month FT inquiry revealed that "as much as a third of the money raised by the UN for its tsu­nami response was being swallowed up by salaries and administrative overheads." In contrast, Oxfam, a British-based private charity, spent just 10 percent of the tsunami aid money it raised on administrative costs.

Unable to obtain figures from the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the FT approached several U.N. agencies directly to establish exact numbers for tsunami relief expendi­ture. Many "declined or ignored" requests for infor­mation, while others offered incomplete data. The newspaper found that of the $49 million spent by the World Health Organization as part of the tsuna­mi appeal, 32 percent had been spent on "personnel costs, administrative overheads, or associated ‘mis­cellaneous' costs." At the World Food Program, 18 percent of the $215 million spent by the agency went toward "staff salaries, administrative over­heads and vehicles and equipment. The Financial Times concluded that:

A year after the tsunami, pledges of trans­parency and accountability for the UN's ap­peal appear a long way from being realized. This is primarily blamed on dueling UN bu­reaucracies and accounting methods plus what in many cases appears to be institu­tional paranoia about disclosure.

Australia was second only to the United States in terms of its relief effort and had the highest per-capita contribution of all countries. People would be thrilled to bits to find that this bureaucratically bloated catastrophe of an organisation was spending one-third of all donations on itself.


The United States should call for a Security Coun­cil–backed, fully independent investigation into the MONUC abuse scandal, to cover all areas of the MONUC operation. In addition, there should be independent investigations launched into allegations of abuse by U.N. personnel in other U.N. peacekeep­ing operations, including Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Burundi. Fully independent commis­sions of inquiry should handle all future investiga­tions into human rights abuses by U.N. personnel.

The United States government should pressure U.N. member states to prosecute their nationals accused of human rights violations while serving as U.N. peacekeepers. The U.N. should lift diplomatic immunity for its own staff accused of criminal acts in the Congo, opening the way for prosecution. The Security Council should exclude countries whose peacekeepers have a history of human rights viola­tions from future operations. The U.N. should pub­licly name and shame those countries whose peacekeepers have carried out abuses in the Congo.

The U.N. should make publicly available all internal reports relating to the Congo scandal and outline the exact steps it plans to take to prevent the sexual exploitation of refugees in both existing and future U.N. peacekeeping operations. Serious con­sideration should be given to the establishment of an elite training academy for U.N. peacekeeping commanders. This effort should be backed by the U.N. Security Council.

Hold on. Isn't living in a more peaceful world one of the UN's Charter statements? It would be nice to see them actually DO something that ensure peace.

Human Rights

In an ideal world, membership in the United Nations should be restricted to free democracies. According to Freedom House, just 89 of the U.N.'s 192 member states are "fully free" (i.e., 46 percent). There can be little doubt, though, that any attempt to limit membership in the U.N. would be strongly opposed by the G-77 countries. U.S. interests are best served at present by building an alliance of democracies within the U.N. as well as developing human rights structures outside of the United Nations.

As human rights scholar Joseph Loconte has argued, Congress should appoint an independent Human Rights Ambassador to head a new U.S. Commission on Human Rights. It could be mod­eled on the U.S. Commission on International Reli­gious Freedom, a quasi-governmental group that monitors religious liberty abroad and makes policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress.

The United States should mobilize a "Democracy Caucus" to protect human rights and expand dem­ocratic freedoms. The new U.S. Human Rights Ambassador would lobby other governments in the fledgling Community of Democracies, founded in 2000 in Warsaw, to establish their own human rights commissioners and advisory bodies. They must be a morally serious coalition of the willing— operating both within and outside the official U.N. system—that offers a bright alternative to the exist­ing Human Rights Council.

Given the undeniable fact that democratic countries with free markets, free speech, freedom of the press enjoy better health, have longer life expectancies, a high standard of living and lower environmental impact than dictatorships and other totalitarian regimes, it makes complete sense that in order to achieve the goals of the UN's own Charter its members should pursue a democratic path. How is it that representatives from undemocratic countries have an equal voting weight to democracies? How does that advance the world?

For being the most corrupt and ineffective international organisation, one that goes nowhere near to living up to its ideals, whose only priorities seem to be destroying Israel and damaging the United States, whose approach to African genocides is to be 'deeply concerned' and that gives an international stage to lunatics like Ahmadinejad, Chavez, Mugabe and Castro, the United Nations takes the #1 position on my list of 10 Institutions That Ruin The World.

#2 - The European Union
#3 - Expansionist Islam
#4 - The Environmental Movement
#5 - The Mainstream Media
#6 - Education Institutions and Education Unions
#7 - Government
#8 - The Social Justice Movement
#9 - The Peace Movement
#10 - The Intelligent Design Movement, Discovery Institute

9/11 Truth Nutjobs: "BBC video proves conspiracy"

A new video clip from 9/11 has been found and it purports to show that the BBC 'knew' Tower 7 was going to be brought down because they reported it 20 minutes before it actually happened. The fact that the video feed 'conveniently' breaks up just a few minutes before the tower fell is further sinister proof of the dastardly plot. The implication is that they couldn't have known unless it was a conspiracy.

Leaving aside the BBC's pathological leftist anti-Americanism, which should be enough to debunk the story altogether and just looking at the facts, I conclude the following:
  • The reporter, Jane Standley, is a couple of miles from the WTC so must have received news from a third party;
  • That news was probably that Tower 7 was 'going to' collapse not that it 'had' collapsed and in the confused reporting of the day that got mixed up;
  • Not being a local, she didn’t know which one Tower 7 was. Only a foreign news service could have made that error;
  • The fact it's standing in full view behind her actually debunks the conspiracy because if it was a conspiracy then they would have picked a location that wasn't so obviously going to give it away; and
  • Since when is it abnormal for a satellite signal to break up? I started recording events when the news came on the TV that a plane had hit the first tower and have over 12 hours of news coverage. I can't count the number of times that the signal broke up during that time because it was so high.

Loss of an Aussie rock'n'roll legend

Sad news overnight that the great Billy Thorpe has passed away of a massive heart attack at the age of only 60. He really was a fantastic performer. I saw him a few years ago and commented to one of my mates that the up and coming young bands should learn from the way he goes about his business.

Thorpe was born in England and emigrated to Brisbane with his family in the 1950s, later moving to Sydney in 1963. Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs became a major rock outfit, selling out concert venues and producing chart-topping songs in the 60s and 70s.

According to rock historian Glenn A Baker, "Thorpe came up in that crop of 60s teen idols but there was a greater dimension to him. After he was a teen idol he went to Melbourne for a few years ... he completely re-orientated himself and then turned Australian rock on its ear with a thunderous, pulverising music. The Aztecs just become a byword for really the origins of Australian pub rock. It's the one form of music we've done better and more convincingly than any other. This sort of loud, roaring, howling, ferocious, sort of pub-based bluesy rock and roll and Thorpe was that incredibly powerful voice. There was something that was just primal about Thorpe's blood-curdling roar. There was nobody like him on the stage."

Condolences to his family and friends. He really will be missed.

Here's a wander down memory lane. First up is Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs on GTK (Get The Knack) with the thumping Mama followed up by his classic Most People I Know (Think That I'm Crazy) live from Sunbury '72:

Tuesday, 27 February 2007

10 Institutions That Ruin The World - #2

Coming in at a distant second spot on the list... Today we have:

#2 - The European Union

The 27 member EU is the successor to the EEC, which was founded in 1957. Its modern day goal is to operate as a single market that can compete more effectively with the United States. It aims to become a force for peace and democracy in the world.

From those lofty goals has emerged a hugely expensive, largely ineffective bureaucracy staffed by undemocratically elected, self-interested 'Eurocrats'. Corruption is rife and the European Court of Auditors has refused to sign off on the accounts for the last twelve years. Besides costing 1% of GDP, EU inefficiency has knocked at least another 1% off member nations' growth rates, which are only being propped up by a strong global economy led by the US, China and India. If the US slows down and the China and/or India industrial locomotives hit difficulties due to inflation, for example, and have to apply the economic brakes then the impact on the EU will be serious enough to cause it to face severe difficulties. These could well lead to significant regional instability and, potentially, conflict.

Let's focus on the UK and have a look at a few of the facts since this European powerhouse joined the EU.
  • EU membership costs every Briton 873 Pounds (US$1714) per year; that's over 50 billion pounds (US$100 billion) in total;
  • The EU has issued 23,000 directives and regulations into UK law - a figure greater than the total number of Acts passed by the UK Parliament in the whole of its history. There are around 650 new EU laws each year using Statutory Instruments to bypass the UK Parliament;
  • 85% of British law now is as a result of EU law. EU Directives and Regulations from unelected Commissioners are interpreted into British law by unelected Civil Servants. Parliament is bypassed by Ministerial Order or Statutory Instrument without MPs' awareness. Article K7, Amsterdam Treaty, gives the European Court of Justice power to over-rule national Courts (incidentally proving the Queen is no longer sovereign). Some EU judges are not even legally qualified. The EU Court is a political court devoted to (in its own words) "....overcoming the resistance of National Governments to European integration";
  • The annual cost of EU regulation on the UK's airline industry alone is over 6 billion Pounds.
This unelected Euro gravy train has one function - to pass laws. As I point out in my essay on why Government is an institution that ruins the world, allowing government to pass laws regarding day to day activities results in a loss of individual freedom. Europe is lurching towards becoming a fully socialist state and nobody seems to mind. The structure of the EU even looks like the Soviet Union, with a central Politburo (the European Commission) and individual soviets (member countries). How does all that help to promote democracy, one of its main aims?

How has the EU scored on one of its other aims - to promote peace? Where was it during the Bosnian conflict? Nowhere. The United States had to engage NATO to sort things out. How has it used its power to deal with Islamist terror? It hasn't. In fact, the home of the EU, Brussels, now has the highest murder rate in Europe, an increase that has paralleled Muslim immigration. What about Sudan or Somalia? Again, the mighty peacemaking EU is nowhere to be seen.

Let's make a list of good things the European Union has achieved...
...Right, now that we've got that out of the way...

Europe already has enough crises to navigate through in the next generation and a half without having this corrupt and undemocratic handbrake holding them back. Unfunded pension liabilities average more than 100% of GDP across Europe and, with declining birth rates, servicing those pensions will place more and more strain on national budgets. These problems are going to spill over onto the rest of the world and affect us all; and it won't be pretty.

For representing the worst of Europe, inflicting unpopular laws on unwilling populations and not living up to any of the standards it sets for others the European Union makes it into the #2 spot on the list of 10 Institutions That Ruin The World.

#3 - Expansionist Islam
#4 - The Environmental Movement
#5 - The Mainstream Media
#6 - Education Institutions and Education Unions
#7 - Government
#8 - The Social Justice Movement
#9 - The Peace Movement
#10 - The Intelligent Design Movement, Discovery Institute

Monday, 26 February 2007

10 Institutions That Ruin The World - #3

Into the final stretch in my series. Today we have:

#3 - Expansionist Islam

It is a sign of the times that a large proportion of the population in the West fails to appreciate the extent of violence being undertaken by Islamic 'radicals' around the world. If I told you that, leaving aside Iraq and Afghanistan, there'd been over 4,000 attacks by Islamists since September 11, killing 20,000 and injuring more than 40,000 you might be somewhat surprised.

In Africa, there's been over 200 attacks in Algeria killing 1100, 50 in Nigeria killing 600, 60 in Somalia killing 600 and 60 in Sudan killing 2000 not to mention incidents in Chad, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Morocco and Tunisia. Well, Africa's always had problems, you might respond. OK. 50 in Bangladesh killing 200, 1300 in India killing 3500, 500 in Pakistan killing 1700 and, what might really surprise you, 800 in Thailand killing 1100. Compare those numbers to Israel, apparently the cause of all Islamic tension in the world and focus of radicals everywhere, 280 attacks killing 1000 with a drop off over the last couple of years after they increased their security by building the controversial fence. In Russia there's been 300 attacks killing 2000 with Chechyna making up about half those numbers. Indonesia has seen 80 attacks killing 500 and the Philippines 140 killing over 700.

Makes the moral equivalency argument between Christian radicals and Islamist radicals look a bit weak, doesn't it? There is no other movement that has used violence to anywhere near the extent that Islam has all around the world in the last five years. What is their goal? It's quite simple, really. Expansion. Why are they doing it now? Also simply answered. Opportunity.

Most empires throughout history have expanded with a combination of will and opportunity. Islam, far from being another Abrahamic religion in the manner of Christianity or Judaism, is primarily a political doctrine wrapped up in a religious message. This is another area where the moral equivalency argument falls down; Islamist extremists are driven by primarily political motives rather than religious. Islam's history is one of opportunistic expansion from the moment of its birth right through to the present.

Today, Islamist rebels are waging serious wars in Algeria, Somalia, Sudan, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Chechnya. Islam is preying upon weakness in the West (particularly in Western Europe), using its own institutions against it and financing those prepared to take the fight to the enemy whether that be in the form of insurgents in Iraq, suicide bombers in Israel or lobby groups such as CAIR and on-campus Muslim associations. Multiculturalism, cultural equality and social justice have all created a values vacuum that an energised Islam has enthusiastically entered.

You can't fight bad values with no values and if those with bad values are given equal standing through the instrument of cultural equivalence then it's even harder to protect yourself. It should take about a nanosecond to answer the following. Who has greater belief in their values? Islamists or secular Europeans? Who is prepared to fight to defend their values? Islamists or secular Europeans? Who is prepared to fight in order to promote their values? Islamists or secular Europeans?

At least in Australia we apply common sense to the issue, as demonstrated by Treasurer Costello from a speech given in 2005.

CANBERRA: Muslims who want to live under Islamic Sharia law were told on Wednesday to get out of Australia, as the government targeted radicals in a bid to head off potential terror attacks.

A day after a group of mainstream Muslim leaders pledged loyalty to Australia at a special meeting with Prime Minister John Howard, he and his ministers made it clear that extremists would face a crackdown. Treasurer Peter Costello, seen as heir apparent to Howard, hinted that some radical clerics could be asked to leave the country if they did not accept that Australia was a secular state and its laws were made by parliament.

“If those are not your values, if you want a country which has Sharia law or a theocratic state, then Australia is not for you,” he said on national television. “I’d be saying to clerics who are teaching that there are two laws governing people in Australia, one the Australian law and another the Islamic law, that that is false. If you can’t agree with parliamentary law, independent courts, democracy, and would prefer Sharia law and have the opportunity to go to another country which practises it, perhaps, then, that’s a better option,” Costello said.

We really Aussies really do get this stuff right. People should give us the task of leading the charge against expansionist Islam. Mainstream values first. Religion second. Welcome to Australia. Enjoy your life.

We are told that radical Islamists are not representative of the majority of Muslims, who are described as 'moderate'. Where are these moderates? Name even one that has any moderating influence in a Muslim population in the West. That supposed moderate Muslim majority obviously disagrees with the radicals so much that the UK is now facing its worst terror threat since 9/11 with potentially more than 2000 individuals plotting attacks. Where are these so-called moderates speaking out against terror conducted in their name? When have any of them condemned specific attacks rather than make vague statements about peace and respect et blah?

The unspoken truth is that moderate Muslims believe in the expansion of their religion and are not only prepared to turn a blind eye to those that are helping bring it about but also act as a host for radical elements. They understand that if society is frightened then they simply need to claim that the threat has been brought about due to Muslims being discriminated against, push for concessions and bully society into conceding more ground to them. It's a bargaining chip that they use very effectively against weak people that have no values they're prepared to defend.

Islam is an ideology that is completely incompatible with traditional Western values. The disaster that is beginning to take shape in France speaks truth to this. The current expansionary phase can only cause a rupture in which conflict is the only solution. Muslims do not understand that those who promote political correctness have a totalitarian mindset that, when pushed past its limit of tolerance, is capable of extreme violence. This was a large element of what happened in Kosovo.

Recent surveys show that people don't believe that Islam and the West are headed for a showdown. People don't want to look at the reality of thousands of attacks in dozens of countries, preferring instead to worry about global warming.
Cognitive dissonance reigns supreme.

For using violence and terror in the name of expanding its influence, Expansionist Islam is the #3 institution on my list of 10 Institutions That Ruin The World.

UPDATE: Imposing Sharia Law - The tactic seems to be to make a huge list of demands in the expectation of getting a few concessions. (HT: LGF)

#4 - The Environmental Movement
#5 - The Mainstream Media
#6 - Education Institutions and Education Unions
#7 - Government
#8 - The Social Justice Movement
#9 - The Peace Movement
#10 - The Intelligent Design Movement, Discovery Institute

Sunday, 25 February 2007

Sunday night foot tapper

Sunday evenings seem an ideal time to post an old classic from the Australian music archives. Back in 1981 the most popular song of the year was from a Kiwi band, The Swingers, fronted by ex-Split Enz member, Phil Judd. Given the small size of the New Zealand market it was normal for their bands to try their hand in Australia. Split Enz became successful in Australia and after splitting up Neil Finn formed Crowded House, a huge success overseas.

Tonight we have The Swingers' Counting The Beat. Try not tapping you feet to the LaDaDiDa bit.

10 Institutions That Ruin The World - #4

My series of the 10 institutions that are ruining the world continues. Today we have:

#4 - The Environmental Movement

There are few movements that have done so much harm over the last four or five decades in the name of doing good than the Environmental Movement. Exacerbating the damage in recent years is the fact that there are now so many green-wrapped socialists promoting their extremist propaganda under the guise of environmentalism.

For this piece I am going to lift a complete essay from Dr Patrick Moore, a co-founder of Greenpeace who became disillusioned with it in the mid-80s after Greenpeace 'made a sharp turn to the political left' and started his own organisation Greenspirit. What he says is about as authentic as one can get.

As he wrote in his article for the Miami Herald, "How Sick Is That? Environmental Movement Has Lost Its Way":

I am often asked why I broke ranks with Greenpeace after fifteen years as a founder and full-time environmental activist. While I had my personal reasons—spending more time with a growing family rather than living out of a suitcase most of the year—it was on issues of policy that I found it necessary to move on.

Beginning in the mid-1980s, Greenpeace, and much of the environmental movement, made a sharp turn to the political left and began adopting extreme agendas that abandoned science and logic in favor of emotion and sensationalism. I became aware of the emerging concept of sustainable development—the idea that environmental, social, and economic priorities could be balanced. I became a convert to the idea that win-win solutions could be found by bringing all interests together around the same table. I made the move from confrontation to consensus.

Since then, I have worked under the banner of Greenspirit to develop an environmental policy platform based on science, logic, and the recognition that more than six billion people need to survive and prosper, every day of the year. The environmental movement has lost its way, favoring political correctness over factual accuracy, stooping to scare tactics to garner support. Many campaigns now waged in the name of the environment would result in increased harm to both the environment and human welfare if they were to succeed.

So we’re faced with environmental policies that ignore science and result in increased risk to human health and ecology. To borrow from the vernacular, how sick is that?

Genetic Enhancement:
Activists persist in their zero-tolerance campaign against genetically enhanced varieties of food crops when there is zero evidence of harm to human health or the environment, and the benefits are measurable and significant. Genetically enhanced (GE) food crops result in reduced chemical pesticides, higher yield, and reduced soil erosion. Golden Rice, for example, could prevent blindness in 500,000 children per year in Asia and Africa if activists would stop blocking its introduction. Other varieties of food crops will contain iron, Vitamin E, enhanced protein and better oils. No other technology can match the potential of GE to address the nutritional deficiencies of billions of people. The anti-GE campaign seeks to deny these environmental and nutritional advances by using “Frankenfood” scare tactics and misinformation campaigns.

Salmon Farming:
The campaign against salmon farming, based on erroneous and exaggerated claims of environmental damage and chemical contamination, is scaring us into avoiding one of the most nutritious, heart-friendly foods available today. Activists persist in this campaign, yet the World Health Organization, the American Heart Association and the US Food and Drug Administration say eating salmon reduces the risk of heart disease and fatal heart attack. Salmon farming has the added benefit of taking pressure off wild salmon stocks. Activists respond by telling us to eat only wild fish. Is this how we save them, by eating more?

Greenpeace wants to ban the use of chlorine in all industrial processes, yet the addition of chlorine to drinking water has been the single greatest public health advance in history, and 75% of our medicines are based on chlorine chemistry. My old Greenpeace colleagues also call for a ban on polyvinyl chloride (PVC or vinyl), claiming it is the “poison plastic”. There is not a shred of evidence that vinyl damages human health or the environment. In addition to its cost-effectiveness in construction, and ability to deliver safe drinking water, vinyl’s ease of maintenance and its ability to incorporate anti-microbial properties is critical to fighting germs in hospitals. Banning vinyl would further raise the cost of an already struggling health care system, ultimately denying health care to those who can least afford it.

Hydro Electricity:
International activists boast they have blocked more than 200 hydroelectric dams in the developing world and are campaigning to tear down existing dams. Hydro is the largest source of renewable electricity, providing about 12% of global supply. Do activists prefer coal plants? Would they rather ignore the needs of billions of people?

Wind Power:
Wind power is commercially feasible, yet activists argue the turbines kill birds and ruin landscapes. A million times more birds are killed by cats, windows and cars than by all the windmills in the world. As for aesthetics, wind turbines are works of art compared to some of our urban environments.

Nuclear Power:
A significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions seems unlikely given our continued heavy reliance on fossil fuel consumption. Even UK environmentalist James Lovelock, who posited the Gaia theory that the Earth operates as a giant, self-regulating super-organism, now sees nuclear energy as key to our planet’s future health. Lovelock says the first world behaves like an addicted smoker, distracted by short-term benefits and ignorant of long-term risk. “Civilization is in imminent danger,” he warns, “and has to use nuclear—the one safe, available energy source—or suffer the pain soon to be inflicted by our outraged planet.”

Yet environmental activists, notably Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, continue to lobby against clean nuclear energy, and in favour of the band-aid Kyoto Treaty. We can agree renewable energies, such as wind, geothermal and hydro are part of the solution. But nuclear energy is the only non-greenhouse gas-emitting power source that can effectively replace fossil fuels and satisfy global demand.

Anti-forestry activists are telling us to stop cutting trees and to reduce our use of wood. Forest loss, or deforestation, is nearly all caused by clearing forests for farms and cities. Forestry operations, on the other hand, are geared towards reforestation and the maintenance of forest cover. Forests are stable and growing where people use the most wood, and are diminishing where they use less. When we use wood, we send a signal to the marketplace to plant more trees and produce more wood. North Americans use more wood per capita than any other continent, yet there is about the same forest area in North America today as there was 100 years ago.

Trees, and the materials they produce, are by far the most abundant, renewable and biodegradable resource in the world. If we want to retain healthy forests, we should be growing more trees and using more wood, not less. This seems lost on activists who use chilling rhetoric and apocalyptic images to drive us in the wrong direction.

The Prognosis:
Environmentalism has turned into anti-globalization and anti-industry. Activists have abandoned science in favour of sensationalism. Their zero-tolerance, fear-mongering campaigns would ultimately prevent a cure for Vitamin A deficiency blindness, increase pesticide use, increase heart disease, deplete wild salmon stocks, raise the cost and reduce the safety of health care, raise construction costs, deprive developing nations of clean electricity, stop renewable wind energy, block a solution to global warming, and contribute to deforestation. How sick is that?

made a sharp turn to the political left and began adopting extreme agendas that abandoned science and logic in favor of emotion and sensationalism" - that's about as powerful as criticism can get and really resonates with the current climate change scaremongering we have to endure. I disagree with him on the odd point such as the viability of wind farms, as they are being shown time and again to be massive white elephants that are oversold in terms of performance and need to be heavily subsidised by the taxpayer.

People are largely unaware that the reason the US, Australia and Europe do not have a malaria problem is due to massive spraying of DDT after WWII. It is thought of today as a 'Third World Disease', one that kills more than a million people every year. There are few more disgusting chapters in the Environmental Movement's appalling history than its campaign against this cheap and effective substance. You can look up the history of DDT for yourself but to cut a long story short environmentalists campaigned hard for the banning of what were called Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). In spite of there being no credible science showing that DDT was harmful to humans and flaky evidence that it thinned egg shells in some bird populations, DDT was placed on the list of 12 POPs and effectively banned by the United Nations Environmental Program. There are those such as the hilariously intellectually maladroit Australian non-scientist, Tim Lambert, who argue that the banning of DDT is a myth thought up by the vast right wing conspiracy. The fact is that in order to gain access to UNEP funding for any program, Third World countries had to comply with all UNEP positions including those on POPs, which is how DDT was effectively banned. DDT is a cheap and effective way of dealing with malaria in the developing world and while it's true that mosquitoes can develop a resistance to its toxicity DDT still retains repellent and irritant properties that drive mosquitoes away from human populations.
The priority of symbolism over practicality and positive outcomes is a feature of the Left in general and the environmental movement in particular. To the morally malnourished such as Lambert who support far more expensive solutions including pesticide-impregnated bed nets and pyrethroid insecticides for societies that have annual health budgets of less than $10 per head of population this leftist symbolism-sans-results is highlighted for all to see.

For inflicting vast damage on those in society least able to bear the burden, the Environmental Movement comes in at #4 on my list of 10 Institutions That Ruin The World.

#5 - The Mainstream Media
#6 - Education Institutions and Education Unions
#7 - Government
#8 - The Social Justice Movement
#9 - The Peace Movement
#10 - The Intelligent Design Movement, Discovery Institute

Saturday, 24 February 2007

10 Institutions That Ruin The World - #5

My series of the 10 institutions that are ruining the world continues. Today we have:

#5 - The Mainstream Media

"The BBC is not impartial or neutral. It's a publicly funded, urban organisation with an abnormally large number of young people, ethnic minorities and gay people. It has a liberal bias not so much a party-political bias. It is better expressed as a cultural liberal bias" - Andrew Marr, the Daily Mail, Oct 21st, 2006.

"Nothing we recommend should be seen as endorsing a retreat from tough-minded reporting of abuses of power by public or private institutions. In part because the Times' editorial page is clearly liberal, the news pages do need to make more effort not to seem monolithic" - 2004 committee report to New York Times executive editor Bill Keller
In a 2006 interview between talk radio host, Hugh Hewitt, and the liberal political director of ABC News and former Washington Post senior editor, Mark Halperin, the following exchange took place:
HH: But the old media is overwhelmingly liberal, correct, Mark Halperin?
MH: Correct, as we say in the book.
HH: And so everyone that you work with, or 95% of people you work with, are old liberals.
MH: I don’t know if it’s 95%, and unfortunately, they’re not all old. There are a lot of young liberals here, too. But it certainly, there are enough in the old media, not just in ABC, but in old media generally, that it tilts the coverage quite frequently, in many issues, in a liberal direction, which is completely improper. And it goes from the big and major like CBS’ outrageous story about President Bush’s draft record right before the 2004 election, to the insidious and small use of language describing Nancy Pelosi’s liberal policies and ideas different than they would Newt Gingrich’s conservative ones.
HH: And that’s what I’m getting at. Inside of ABC News political division, how many people work with you, Mark Halperin, in that division?
MH: You know, it’s hard to quantify it, because you’ve got people involved in a political year like this one, or during a presidential race, you’ve got hundreds of people who are touching our political coverage. There aren’t very many people, just a handful of us, are full-time political reporters.
HH: But with editorial control, a producer, an editor…
MH: It’s literally hundreds…
HH: Okay.
MH: Because again, you’ve got people on Good Morning America, people on World News Tonight, or World News, we call it now. So literally hundreds.
HH: Of those hundreds, what percentage do you think fairly, honestly, are liberal, and would vote Democratic if they voted?
MH: The same as in almost every old media organization I know, which is well over 70%.
HH: Isn’t it…Thomas Edsall, in an interview that I know you read, because you wrote me about it, he said 95…
MH: I think 95’s well overstated…
HH: He said 15-25:1 in the Washington Post, liberal to conservative. Do you think that’s fair?
MH: Absolutely. And again, I mean, look. John and I work for old media organizations. We write things in the book that most people in old media won’t admit. But we’re proud of our organizations, but I don’t want to say it’s singular to ABC. It’s in all these…it’s an endemic problem. And again, it’s the reason why for forty years, conservatives have rightly felt that we did not give them a fair shake.

One of the most amazing things to me is that in a free society our media can be so monopolised by one side of the political debate to the almost complete exclusion of the other. It is one of the few institutions in which leftist indoctrination at university carries through. For example, the only thing you learn from the mainstream media at the moment is that there are still bombings in Baghdad. Do we hear that, in fact, terrorist attacks are down 80%? No. Do we hear that these attacks are at the fringe of the city because the operations in the centre are proving successful? No. Our forces are at risk and we have good news but you wouldn't know it if you just read the New York Times, watched the BBC, listened to Australia's ABC or got your news from any other mainstream source. And, no, Fox News is not mainstream.

That the media is full of people that have a bias should be of little concern if the reporting is done on an objective 'what, who, where, when and why basis'. However, the modern media has become an institution that injects itself into the debate, making stories where there are none and burying those that don't fit their narrative. The fauxtography scandal, uncovered by Littlegreenfootballs, starkly demonstrates the dark depths that the mainstream media has sunk to in its one-sided reporting whenever Israel is involved.

Here's another example: contrast the scrutiny that the Scooter Libby trial for a non-event that hurt nobody with what Bill Clinton's former Security Advisor, Sandy Berger, did with classified documents while preparing for the 9/11 Commission. Libby, originally accused of revealing to the press that Valerie Plame was a CIA agent, now faces charges of providing misleading testimony after the original charges had to be dropped when it became clear that it was the State Department's Richard Armitage who had provided the original leak. The media hounded Libby out of office, accusing him of being part of a Karl Rovian plot along the way while they destroyed his career. Sandy Berger, on the other hand
, was authorised by the Clinton administration's representative to make sure the 9/11 Commission got the correct classified materials. He removed damaging top secret documents and hid them behind a dumpster. Unfortunately for him he got caught because they'd become suspicious that he was removing documents, pleaded guilty to unlawfully removing and retaining classified documents, was fined $50,000, ordered to perform 100 hours of community service and was barred from access to classified material for three years. Hardly a word in the mainstream media about the Clinton favourite, Berger, but they're all over Libby who had done nothing other than have an outstanding career as a public servant. Here's a thought experiment that shouldn't be too hard to work through. How would the media have handled the Berger situation if he had have worked for a Republican President? What about this? Would Woodward and Bernstein have reported Watergate at all if it had have been a Democrat involved?

In Australia we have The Age, which used to be Melbourne's leading daily newspaper but is rapidly fading into irrelevance as it tries to become a Down Under version of the UK's far-left Guardian. It still retains its good sports section and that's all that keeps it going in what is, officially, the sporting capital of the world. We have the national broadcaster, the ABC, whose staff do not understand why they're always being accused of bias as they believe they're in the centre. If you want to look moderate, hang around with Stalinists, and that's their problem - they don't understand where the middle is. We also have the multicultural broadcaster, the publicly owned SBS, or Special Broadcasting Service, that is now referred to as the Soviet Broadcasting Service. You would be hard pressed to find a more anti-US, anti-Israel station this side of the Middle East. A few days ago SBS showed Insight:Hicks On Trial (a sympathetic view of David Hicks, our own Aussie-grown terrorist who's being held at Gitmo pending trial); The Trial of Saddam Hussein (meant to show that the US was out to get him); took a half hour break for the news; and finished off with Hot Docs: The President vs David Hicks (more what-did-he-do-wrong? nonsense).

Try finding a mainstream media organisation that hasn't bought into the Global Warming debate on the side of 'the science is settled'. Try finding one that shows Israel's defence of herself in anything other than a negative light. Try finding one that praises the US for...anything.
The barrage of agenda-driven propaganda stifles debate at a time when there is so much that needs to be discussed.

For these reasons (and so much more) the Mainstream Media takes the #5 spot on my list of 10 Institutions That Ruin The World.

#6 - Education Institutions and Education Unions
#7 - Government
#8 - The Social Justice Movement
#9 - The Peace Movement
#10 - The Intelligent Design Movement, Discovery Institute

Friday, 23 February 2007

Good old Collingwood forever!

The world's most exciting football code, Australian Rules, kicks off 2007 with the first game of its NAB Cup pre-season competition featuring the mighty Collingwood Magpies vs the Kangaroos.

The Collingwood Army is looking for a better season than we've had recently in which we've shown promise but have not made the grade at the business end of the season. Looking at the talent we've brought in I'd have to say that we look like also-rans again but that won't stop me barracking hard for them to do well!

For those that don't know much about the sport, check out these action shots of players sailing into the sky to mark the ball.

Just another day at the office. Don't believe they're real photos? Check out some live action...

Russia - Nation in Crisis

Russia has a problem. In fact, it has a whole heap of problems that could see it become less than half the nation it is now by 2050.

A recent BBC article, Russia Funds Health Crisis Plan, outlines Russia's falling life expectancy and endemic ill-health. As the BBC reports:

The health ministry says average life expectancy for Russian men is less than 60 years - about 15 years lower than in most other industrialised countries.

Life expectancy for Russian women is about 72.
Average life expectancy for men has been somewhere between 56 and 58 since WWII. The reason? They drink themselves into the grave. Russia's women have always been more sensible.

Many diseases have spread rapidly since the Soviet Union's collapse.

Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov said: "We aim to tackle the problem seriously - and that includes providing adequate funding for the fight against TB, diabetes, cancers, HIV and viral hepatitis."

In returning to its pre-Soviet republican roots, Russia has taken its eye off the ball in some areas with potentially catastrophic consequences. Their nuclear arsenal is becoming increasingly unstable, their armed forces are in serious decline and their navy is a disaster. They have always had a large drug problem so that doesn't post-date the collapse of the Soviet Union but in those days they arrested you and sent you off to the Gulags if you took drugs. These days people are left on the street.

Experts point out that much of Russia's health crisis is the result of unhealthy lifestyles, especially very high rates of smoking and alcohol abuse.

There are also environmental issues - last year, a survey by a US research centre said that half of the world's most polluted places were in the former Soviet Union.
When the Iron Curtain fell Western nations were truly shocked at the environmental damage being done in the Soviet empire. Some pollution was measured at a thousand times Western levels. This is no surprise and is the expected result of socialist rule. Governments are far less effective at looking after the environment than individuals. In the West the greatest boon for environmental health has been the ownership of private property and the proper management of forests and the like.

In an article from last year, Russia Faces Demographic Disaster, also from the BBC:

The country's population is declining by at least 700,000 people each year, leading to slow depopulation of the northern and eastern extremes of Russia, the emergence of hundreds of uninhabited "ghost villages" and an increasingly aged workforce.

Now, one of Russia's leading sociologists has warned that the country's population may halve by the middle of this century.

Official Russian forecasts, along with those from international organisations like the UN, predict a decline from 146 million to between 80 and 100 million by 2050.

This decline will see Russia face an even greater economic crisis than it has now. It also creates a situation where it won't be able to defend itself effectively from an expansionist China, which will be better armed, manned and funded than Russia in years to come.

Mr Perevedentsev explained that people have the majority of children between certain definable ages. In Russia, this is generally earlier than in Western countries. But the percentage of potential parents of child-bearing age within the Russian population is itself so small that state-funded efforts, by definition, can bring only temporary results.

Mr Perevedentsev points to how the Soviet government, at the beginning of the 1980s, undertook similar measures in response to concerns over falling birth-rates. They produced a mini "baby boom", lasting just two or three years, before the long-term decline reasserted itself.
Russia's demographic problems are no different to other European nations. In order to sustain a population at its current level there needs to be 2.1 children per family. Greece has a real problem at just 1.1 and the overall European average is 1.5. Why is this a problem? Isn't a declining population good for the environment? Well, not really. The fact is that the older people in a population are paid for by the taxpayers of the current workforce. As this workforce ages the new generation takes on the duty of paying for those that have retired. To use the example of Greece. The amount of GDP it will take to pay for their aged population will grow from around 5% now to 25% in just a couple of generations. That is entirely unsustainable with the result being that the old will be very poorly cared for if at all. Poor populations have a much greater impact on the environment than rich ones.

Russia's problems are severe and can only be reversed by a concerted effort to ensure truly free markets so that they can have the revenue basis to repair their health care system and a focus on giving sizable benefits to those families having children.

10 Institutions That Ruin The World - #6

I am developing a list of the 10 institutions that are ruining the world and how, in spite of their lofty aspirations, they actually end up doing harm. Today we have:

#6 - Education Institutions and Education Unions

It should come as no surprise to those following the development of this list that education institutions and unions have been included. I have not lumped them together as the 'Education Establishment' because they do damage in two quite distinct ways even if they are philosophically joined at the hip.

In a nice piece of timing, Apple's Steve Jobs has raised the issue of teaching quality while participating in an education reform conference. As reported by AP:
Steve Jobs lambasted teacher unions Friday, claiming no amount of technology in the classroom would improve public schools until principals could fire bad teachers. Jobs compared schools to businesses with principals serving as CEOs. "What kind of person could you get to run a small business if you told them that when they came in they couldn't get rid of people that they thought weren't any good?" he asked to loud applause during an education reform conference. "Not really great ones because if you're really smart you go, 'I can't win'" ... "I believe that what is wrong with our schools in this nation is that they have become unionized in the worst possible way," Jobs said. "This unionization and lifetime employment of K-12 teachers is off-the-charts crazy." At various pauses, the audience applauded enthusiastically.
Enthusiastic applause for someone saying that unionisation and lifetime employment is "off-the-charts crazy"? How remarkable in this day and age. Education unions effectively bring to America, Australia and Canada the French employment system in which a company has to go to court in order to dismiss an employee regardless of competence, effectiveness or honesty. The goal of education unions is to ensure not only lifetime employment for their members but also control of their remuneration and conditions making them the most powerful force in the education system. Does this help teachers? Some might argue that it helps them financially. I would argue that it financially helps the low standard teachers while penalising the high standard ones, and I would add in that it has seriously damaged the prestige of the profession due to the lack of focus on excellence and learning. Worse than the effect on the teachers, though, is that it hurts our kids.

The answer to low standards brought about by education unions is to introduce school vouchers. Each child is assigned a voucher to the value of their year's education, parents choose where their children will go to school and the value of the voucher is then transferred to the school. How will this fix standards? It will result in schools that develop a reputation for academic discipline and excellence receiving more students which, in turn, allows higher wages to be paid to high performing teachers. Why shouldn't a teacher be able to earn $150,000 if they're at the top of their profession? Why should they earn the same as a teacher that doesn't even know where to stick an apostrophe? It is not only a national disgrace but also a national tragedy that this situation is allowed to continue.

Education Institutions have a longer history of doing damage than the unions. Yes, the social sciences and arts faculties are staffed by professors with a solidly left wing political view (surveys put the ratio of left to right in these faculties at greater than 40:1, which is pretty amazing) but why should that impact on the quality of education?

The fact is that our education institutions are being used more and more for indoctrination of left wing propaganda, while at the same time not allowing a right wing view to be expressed let alone taught or debated. Why are eight year old kids being shown Al Gore's apocalyptic documentary, An Inconvenient Truth? Why are young children being given Heather Has Two Mommies or Jenny Lives With Eric And Martin to read? How is it that American professor Ward Churchill could even be appointed to the post let alone retain it after referring to the victims of 9/11 as not innocent because they were 'technocrats' and 'little Eichmanns', and repeated occurrences of 'serious academic misconduct'? If he was a conservative he would have lasted about a nanosecond and not have been defended by the University which said that he was just expressing his Constitutional right to free speech. In Australia we have people like Economics Professor John Quiggin who has been making predictions for years that have been even less reliable than a 1958 Ford Edsel but always finds a way to say that he was right. "Looking at the desperation with which opponents of climate science, and of sensible policy responses such as Kyoto, are holding on to positions that have clearly become untenable..." writes this tenured Keynesian throwback on his blog. $20 trillion dollars for no discernible impact is a "sensible policy response"? A 50% rise in the price of power in Europe since they introduced their emissions trading scheme that has seen companies move overseas is a "sensible policy response"? As our favourite Czech President correctly points out "We know that there exists a huge correlation between the care we give to the environment on one side and the wealth and technological prowess on the other side. It's clear that the poorer the society is, the more brutally it behaves with respect to nature, and vice versa." So economically weakening Europe will help, will it? Unfortunately, the Quiggins and Churchills abound in our academic institutions. Guaranteed tenure and lack of accountability are not a combination that tend to be associated with serious commentary or excellence.

My issue is less that teachers and professors have a particular political view rather than those views are now being projected into their classes in a much more pronounced way than a few decades ago. Students are being taught what to think, not how to think and are leaving school or university never having heard of who Stalin, Mao or Lenin were but completely clued up on slavery, discrimination against women and blacks, supposed destruction of the planet and the evils of capitalism. They spend too much of their time forming opinions rather than forming the tools they'll need to succeed in the workplace. That students leave school having been brainwashed by leftist propaganda is not actually the huge problem it may first seem. The fact is that a few years facing up to the reality of life in the workforce is all it takes for enough people to understand the weakness of the leftist arguments to migrate to the conservative side of politics and maintain the pretty close to 50-50 ratio that has existed for years.

In a world in which China, India and others are rising at a spectacular rate we need to ensure that we maintain our competitive position in the world market, which underpins our standard of living and guarantees the future prosperity of our country. The combination of education institutions pushing a stridently left wing message and education unions ensuring that quality cannot be rewarded means that students now finish their education less equipped with the basic skills required to compete in a global market
than ever before. For those reasons Education Institutions and Education Unions are #6 on my list of 10 Institutions That Ruin The World.

Update: Test scores at odds with rising grades

#7 - Government
#8 - The Social Justice Movement
#9 - The Peace Movement
#10 - The Intelligent Design Movement, Discovery Institute

Thursday, 22 February 2007

If we did it there'd be riots

Littlegreenfootballs has a post on what Egyptians think of the US election race.

If we published something similar about them then there'd be riots in the streets and we'd need 24x7 protection against agents of the so-called Religion of Peace.