Friday, 30 May 2008

Fuel leak burns Rudd

There are two types of control freak: in-control and under-control.

An in-control freak has to be involved in every decision being made. An under-control freak has to be sure that his management team is on top of things and executing policy effectively.

Australia's prime minister, Kevin Rudd, is an in-control freak and the latest example is the mess that he has created with the government's FuelWatch policy.

FuelWatch is meant to reduce petrol prices by keeping an eye on petrol outlets. It has come to light via a leak from a government source that cabinet rejected advice from four departments that FuelWatch would probably lead to increased pricing, as has been the case in Western Australia where the scheme was first implemented a few years ago.

FuelWatch is yet another example of this government's penchant for style over substance, of symbolism over outcomes.

Andrew Bolt has been providing the best coverage of the issue and The Australian's Dennis Shanahan has written the best article on the matter:
KEVIN Rudd has been sent a strong message this week with the emergence of leaked departmental briefings to cabinet: change your style and political approach or face more debilitating crises such as this week’s petrol price disaster.

...The issues now go far beyond the potent issue of petrol prices to the conduct, direction, style and substance of the Rudd Government.

The damaging leaks revealing deep rifts within the cabinet over the FuelWatch price monitoring scheme have come at a crucial time for the Government. It is six months since the federal election and, although still popular, Rudd and the ALP are showing signs of losing their first blush. In addition to frustration within the bureaucracy over delays caused by funnelling too many decisions through the PM’s office, there is concern that good policy is being sacrificed to solve publicity problems.
That last sentence highlights what an in-control freak Kevin Rudd really is.

Shanahan finishes:
The leaks - wherever they came from - underline the fact that without a coherent, definitive articulation of what the Government stands for, it can’t hope to hide behind stunts that don’t deliver.

With all the weight and responsibility of managing an economy and the knowledge that this isn’t going to finish the Government, somebody’s bound to blow the whistle.
Wise words. Will Rudd listen? Don't bet on it. Rudd is a micro-manager in a macro job.

Which leads me to articulate for the first time my view of the man. As I've posted previously, leadership changes people. Sometimes they surprise people, step up to the mark and become real leaders in the way that Howard did. Sometimes they crash and burn, as Mark Latham did, though that was much more predictable. Therefore, it's always wise to let some time pass before making a judgement.

Six months into his term I think I've seen enough to have a clear view of Kevin Rudd.

Leadership: As a leader, Rudd is more Custer than Patton; more Whitlam than Hawke or Keating. He is a manager, not a leader. Australia is in a terrific position economically, small inflation worries notwithstanding, and so it's possible that a competent manager can be successful. The job of prime minister at the moment and for the next few years can be done effectively in management mode so Rudd's lack of leadership ability may not work against him - as long as things don't go pear-shaped in the world economy and we don't otherwise face a major crisis.

Competence: Here's a big statement that I think people will come to reflect on the wisdom of in years to come - Kevin Rudd is profoundly incompetent to be prime minister. Profoundly. In fact, I'd go so far to say that when his time has come and gone Rudd will be seen as one of our worst ever PMs. He has Gough Whitlam's understanding of economics and Paul Keating's understanding of the ordinary bloke. I think he will be seen to have squandered a huge opportunity to move Australia forward at a time when international competitiveness is growing ever tougher.

Vision: It is now clear that Rudd has no vision for Australia. His policy of symbolism and populism over outcomes and substance is proof. From the economic disaster of ratifying Kyoto to the Stolen Generations' Apology to a plethora of inquiries into all sorts of issues and to FuelWatch itself Rudd has been focused more on his personal popularity than achieving positive outcomes for Australians. Can you imagine this man taking the tough, unpopular decisions on illegal immigration, workplace relations and even the Iraq war as Howard? Even his most ardent supporters must wonder what he stands for.

Personality: Rudd has no charm and no charisma, traits that are important to hold a leadership team together, especially when times get tough. It can be quite justifiably said that Howard lacked charm and charisma. He turned out to be one of this country's best ever leaders so why can't Rudd follow suit? The fact is that Howard slept the sleep of a leader. Rudd sleeps the sleep of a manager.

My hope is that the government will continue to run large surpluses and not interfere too much with the business community's ability to be successful. The former should be guaranteed. The latter looks unlikely given the union movement's current strategy of testing their strength.

If Rudd can at least achieve these two outcomes then he will still be PM at the next election. If not then I think we'll be seeing a different person leading the Labor Party, and probably a female at that.

(Nothing Follows)

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Ninemsn continues to allow manipulation of its online polls

As reported yesterday, Camden Council did not give approval to a Muslim group for an Islamic school to be built in the area.

The decision was reported as being entirely due to racism with the official reason, based on planning grounds, was dismissed. TV reports showed the same woman wearing an Akubra hat with Australian flag telling reporters that "we don't want them here" or words to that effect.

Ninemsn carried a poll on its website asking the question "Is the Islamic school ban a victory for racism?"

Through to mid-afternoon yesterday the results were as follow:

Yes: 3338 No: 5820 Ratio: 0.574

Yes: 9955 No: 16833 Ratio: 0.591

Yes: 13467 No: 22495 Ratio: 0.598

When I had a look last night the ratio was about the same with Nos in the 40,000s.

I've pointed out a number of times that these polls tend to get stacked by those mostly pushing the left wing line, generally overnight, as follows:

Do you find Santa's Ho Ho Ho offensive?
Should Australian police use Taser guns?

Should gay couples get equal rights under the law?

Would you vote for the Coalition under Peter Costello?
Should the government give Dr Haneef his visa back?
Should school corporal punishment be reintroduced?
Do you believe Australia is one of the worst countries for workers?

The corporal punishment in schools and Peter Costello polls were the only ones that are not definitively leftist though Labor was pretty keen at the time for Costello to take over from Howard for the upcoming election.

I did send an email to Ninemsn some time back and they responded that they would look into it but clearly they're still happy to have any credibility their online polls do have to be trashed because this is what we woke up to this morning:

Yes: 125959 No: 48357 Ratio: 2.605

I can understand why the left needs to manipulate public polls. Redefining history is a necessary requirement for them to escape the negative effects that their policies have had on society but I don't understand why Ninemsn continues to allow these people to hurt their brand.

(Nothing Follows)

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Camden Council 'racist' against 65 different ethnic groups

Camden Council last night voted unanimously to not allow an Islamic school to be built. The reasons they gave were all based on planning and development issues, thus avoiding the issue of religion after a ferocious campaign from locals who don't want to see what is effectively a Madrassa in their area.

The following article contains one of the greatest examples of muddled logic in recent history.
A Sydney council's rejection of a proposed Islamic school is a victory for racism, a Muslim community organisation says.
No surprises there. Muslims don't get their way so they seethe and call everyone racists.
Camden Council has voted unanimously to reject a proposal for a 1,200-student Islamic school, a decision that followed months of heated community meetings and the release of an adverse report by the council's planners last week.

Mayor Chris Patterson said the council's decision was based on concerns surrounding the impact on traffic flows, loss of agricultural land, highlighted in the planners report and not on religious grounds.
One does wonder whether things would have been different if it was a government school that was being proposed.
But the independent think tank FAIR (Forum on Australia's Islamic Relations) said the decision came as no surprise and was "a reflection of unwarranted fear and ignorance about Islam".
FAIR sounds like CAIR. I wonder whether they get their money from the same sources.
"The decision based on planning grounds is only a smokescreen for the real issues which were related to community tensions and potential social upheavals if the school was approved," FAIR executive director Kuranda Seyit said in a statement.

"I see this as a victory for racism.
He sees this as a victory for racism. But what does racism actually mean?
According to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the term "racial discrimination" shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.'
Here comes the logical inconsistency...
"The fact is that Muslims are diverse and come from more than 65 different ethnic groups and everybody is suffering because of the negative perceptions about Muslims.
Soooo...the decision is racist against Muslims...who come from more than 65 different ethnic the decision is racist against 65 groups?


These people are lunatics. Mind you, the non-thinking so-called elites in the media will play this for all it's worth as an issue of racism. It's clearly not. It's an issue of values and integrating with Australian society - something that Muslims do not have a spectacular track record on.
"I am not sure where people get their information from and how they form their ideas but I can bet you a dollar per resident that they have never actually met a Muslim before."
I reckon they'd lose a fair amount of money with that bet.
The development has been the subject of heated town meetings and a protest rally involving up to 1,000 people.

Tensions reached a climax in November when two pigs' heads were rammed on metal stakes with an Australian flag draped between them at the school's proposed site.
A completely stupid and counter productive incident, it must be said.
"People of Australia should speak out against this decision and try to build more understanding and mutual respect for each other," Mr Seyit said.
What he really means is - people should understand what we want and accede to our demands to live in a parallel society with our own rules.
The council's decision was likely to be contested in the Land and Environment Court, he said.

Mr Patterson said that proponents of the school were welcome to look at an alternate site for the development.
In other words, "Bugger off."

(Nothing Follows)

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Where is the justice in Australian courts?

What is going on in the courtrooms of Australia? A number of commentators including Andrew Bolt and Tim Blair have started to notice a disturbing trend.
A RESPECTED Aboriginal elder who bashed his wife before smashing a glass door over her head, killing her, has been sentenced to...
Before we get to the sentence the following should be noted:
Camfoo had been convicted for two previous assaults on his wife and was under a restraining order at the time of her death.
He had a history of violence and should not have been anywhere near his wife. So what was the sentence? least four years and six months in jail.
That is outrageous.

How is what Camfoo did any different to Robert Farmer's horrific attack on Lauren Huxley? Farmer has been found guilty and the prosecutor has asked for the maximum 25 year custodial sentence to apply.

there's more:
Nine males who pleaded guilty last month to gang-raping a 10-year-old girl at the Aurukun Aboriginal community on Cape York...
Can you think of an appropriate sentence for gang rape?
...have escaped a prison term...
Can you think of a reason the judge would have to come up with such a travesty of justice?
...with the sentencing judge saying the child victim "probably agreed" to have sex with them.
The mind boggles. If the girl was white then what would the outcome have been? If the attackers were Middle Eastern and had organised it by SMS then what would it have been?

Because she agreed then she's not a victim, apparently. She consented. Sounds like the same defence being given of Bill Henson who displays photos of naked 13 year old girls.

Unsurprisingly in Victoria, given the Labor government's history of appointing activist judges:
A TEENAGER who bashed a 75-year-old great-grandmother in her bed has avoided jail because a judge thought he was too skinny and "worth a chance".

Judge David Parsons described Ashley Wayne Brooks' attack on Barbara Durea as sickening. But he said Brooks, 19, was a disadvantaged young Aborigine whose chances of rehabilitation were reasonably good.

Judge Parsons said because of his youth and slight build, Brooks would not fare well in an adult prison.
Excuse me? So if you're well built then you're more likely to be sent to prison in Jude David Parsons' court? Again, if Brooks was white then would the same leniency apply?

Meanwhile, an elderly lady will live in fear for the rest of her days, unable to sleep at night, starting at every little noise while the person who bashed her unconscious gets away with a two year term in a 'youth justice centre'.

These cases highlight a disturbing distortion of morality by judges. Activism has no place in our courts.

I don't care what side of politics people come from. If they are prepared to promote partisan activism over correct application of the law then they have no place in our court system.

(Nothing Follows)

Monday, 26 May 2008

62% of US voters prefer smaller government, lower taxes

The divide between how to solve society's issues is on clear display in the latest Rasmussen poll.
The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 62% of voters would prefer fewer government services with lower taxes. Nearly a third (29%) disagrees and would rather have a bigger government with higher taxes. Ten percent (10%) are not sure.
Those numbers have changed little over the past month.
Would you like to hazard a guess at which party's voters want small government?
Republican voters overwhelmingly prefer fewer government services — 83% of the GOP faithful hold that view while just 13% prefer more government involvement. Democratic voters are evenly divided on this question: 46% prefer more government services, while 43% prefer less government services.
No shocks in those results. Conservatives want smaller government. The fact that liberals are evenly divided comes as somewhat of a surprise given that the Democratic Party playbook is all about bigger government to solve the big issues of health, education and jobs.
Not surprisingly, conservative voters like less government while liberal voters favor a bigger government. Fifty-seven percent (57%) of politically moderate voters prefer smaller government. A separate survey found that most adults (56%) are worried that the next president will raise taxes too much.
That's pretty interesting: 57% of moderates prefer smaller government. That must be to McCain's advantage?
Sixty-two percent (62%) of voters think American society is generally fair and decent. Twenty-seven percent (27%) think it is unfair and discriminatory. Those numbers have become slightly more positive over the past month.
I reckon the 27% should go and live in a truly unfair and discriminatory nation. All of the women can go and live in Saudi Arabia for a while, for example. That should cure their nonsense.
Three quarters of voters (75%) think people who move to America from other countries should adopt the nation’s culture. Just 13% think they should maintain their home country’s culture.
It's pretty interesting, really, that multiculturalists have the political and media high ground in the immigration debate. I'm sure that the 75% figure would be replicated in Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand etc. In the circumstance where the economy goes pear-shaped and jobs are being lost it's the immigrants that will come under closest scrutiny, as regularly happens. If 75% of the population believes immigrants should adopt the nation's culture then that's a large pool that nationalist parties can draw support from, as is being increasingly demonstrated in Britain and Belgium.
Forty-three percent (43%) of voters think the nation’s allies should do what the United States wants more often. Last month, 47% held that view. Twenty-eight percent (28%) think the U.S. should do what the allies want more often. A related survey found that most voters say bringing the troops home from Iraq should be a higher priority than winning the war.

Finally, nearly half of voters (47%) say American’s best days have come and gone. That number has not changed since last month. Thirty-nine percent (39%) of voters think the nation’s best days are still to come.
If America's best days have come and gone then, by definition, America's best day has come and gone.

What was that date?

What defined it as being the 'best'?

(Nothing Follows)

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Sunday night rock 'n' roll

Charles Edward Anderson "Chuck" Berry (born October 18, 1926 in St. Louis, Missouri) is an American guitarist, singer and songwriter.

Chuck Berry is an influential figure and one of the pioneers of rock and roll music. According to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's website, "While no individual can be said to have invented rock and roll, Chuck Berry comes the closest of any single figure to being the one who put all the essential pieces together." Cub Koda wrote, "Of all the early breakthrough rock & roll artists, none is more important to the development of the music than Chuck Berry. He is its greatest songwriter, the main shaper of its instrumental voice, one of its greatest guitarists, and one of its greatest performers." John Lennon was more succinct: "If you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it 'Chuck Berry'."

Berry was among the first musicians to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on its opening in 1986. He received Kennedy Center Honors in 2000 in a "class" with Mikhail Baryshnikov, Plácido Domingo, Angela Lansbury, and Clint Eastwood. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked Chuck Berry #5[4] on their list of The Immortals: The First Fifty. He was also ranked 6th on Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame included three of Chuck Berry's songs (Johnny B. Goode, Maybellene, Rock & Roll Music), of the 500 songs that shaped Rock and Roll.

What a legend. 81 years old and he still makes many of today's young rockers look ordinary.

Johnny B. Goode

Roll Over Beethoven


(Nothing Follows)

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Iran opposes peace talks in Middle East

Here's something that has been widely unreported by the mainstream media - Israel and Syria are in peace talks.

Whether anything comes from the talks, which are being held in Turkey, is the big question. Syria wants the Golan Heights back, which it lost in the 1967 war, and Israel doesn't want to give the territory away, as it provides Syria and its proxies, Hamas and Hezbollah, greater ability to attack Israel.

Iran is not pleased with the talks.

Think about that for a bit.

Why would any nation oppose peace talks between two nations?

Does Code Pink support the talks I wonder rhetorically?
Iran has promised Hamas new rockets and more funds, an expression of the Islamic Republic's displeasure with recent news of renewed Israeli-Syrian peace talks, the London-based newspaper, Asharq Alawsat reported on Sunday.

According to the report, Syria-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, who held a press conference in Teheran with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki Saturday, expressed his concern over statements issued simultaneously by Jerusalem, Damascus and Ankara last Wednesday in which a renewal of talks between Syria and Israel under Turkish mediation was declared.

Mashaal reportedly told his Iranian hosts that despite commitments he was given by Damascus that peace with Israel would not come at the expense of Syria's ties with Iran, Hizbullah and Hamas, he was still aware of the fact that Syria would have to make some concessions.

He emphasized that he understood that Syria could not sign a peace agreement with Israel, exchange ambassadors, end the state of war and make the Golan Heights demilitarized and at the same time continue to allow Iran to use its territory to transfer weapons to Hizbullah, train Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists and help in the financing of those groups.

An Iranian source told the paper that in light of Mashaal's fears, Iranian regime officials promised the head of Hamas's political bureau that Iran would continue supporting Hamas financially, materially and morally, even if Syria would turn its back on the organization for the sake of an agreement with Israel.

According to the source, the Iranians had even elaborated what that support would be: Newer, upgraded rockets and an increase in the budget allotted to Hamas to $150 million in the second half of 2008.

A source in the office of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Mashaal was promised that Iran would supply every support his organization might need, be it weapons, finance, or military training.

Iran's defense minister also expressed confidence on Sunday that negotiations would not hamper the strong alliance between Teheran and Damascus, the Iranian FARS news agency reported.

Labeling Syria a strategic ally of Iran, Defense Minister Mustafa Mohammed Nejad called on "Islamic states to strengthen their relations in order to defend themselves against the dangers which threaten the region."
I wonder whether Syria is looking to regain some semblance of respectability after being kicked out of Lebanon (though Hezbollah is gaining in strength there now) and suffering the embarrassment of Israel knocking out its North Korean built nuclear plant.

Certainly, Israel would not be negotiating with Syria "without preconditions", as those on the left seem so willing to do in the West.

I also wonder what Lee Bollinger and his crew of appeasers at Columbia University think of their Persian Poster Child opposing peace.

(Nothing Follows)

Friday, 23 May 2008

10 signs that you're a Moral Idiot

Reposting an old favourite...this was written over a year ago and given some of the lunacy that that has passed as intellectually outstanding subsequently I should probably do an update...

We live in an age of cognitive dissonance, of inverted values and of true Orwellian doublethink. The Left believes in, amongst other things, gay rights, women's rights and rehabilitation for thieves while also offering moral support to radical Islam, which hangs gays, stones errant women to death and chops the hands off thieves. On the Right, we stand in bewilderment wondering why nobody has learned the lessons of the evil of socialism throughout the last century or understands the threat of totalitarianism in this one.

Given all of this topsy turvey-ness it seems to me that we need some sort of test, a guide, in order to establish whether your moral compass is tuned correctly. Therefore, I have prepared the following 10 signs that you're a Moral Idiot and hope that it helps guide you towards good, solid values in life.

1. You can't tell the difference between Israel and her enemies*. This really is the ultimate test. If you are so dozy, so hopelessly indoctrinated with University-educated ignorance that you equate a democratic (and extremely left wing!) Israel, a country that has had to defend itself from attack for all of its existence, in which a million Arabs live peacefully alongside Jews, in which Arabs have the highest standard of living (by miles) of any country in the Middle East, in which Arabs serve on the judiciary, in which Arabs stand for, and are voted into, the Knesset (their parliament) with the suicide bombing, fanatical, genocidal, death cults known as Hamas, Hezbollah or Fatah then you are definitely a Moral Idiot and there's no hope for you. Click here to go to a website of like minded and racist moral idiots.

2. You believe that the United States is the greatest threat to world peace. This sign is similar to the first sign about Israel. In order to hold this view you must forget that America fought a civil war to eradicate slavery, costing a huge number of lives, proving the moral strength that underpins its values even to this day. You must forget about America's role in saving the Allies in WWII, rebuilding the Japanese and European economies afterwards and defeating socialism during the Cold War (probably something you're still not too thrilled about anyway) and then going home afterwards when it could have annexed half of Europe. You must forget about the fact that the US is the largest provider of humanitarian aid on the planet, exceeding all other nations combined and is the first and only non-Imperial superpower in history (even France still has greater imperial influence than America). You must forget that its free market approach and entrepreneurship have driven the economies of the world forward in a way unlike the collective efforts of all nations through history. China is on the rise because of it, as is India and many others. The result? Vastly increased living standards and hugely longer life expectancy. How appalling! You must forget about the positive outcome of the civil rights movement that, while divisive and momentarily destructive, has led to equality of opportunity for all citizens of the United States. You must forget about the threat of the deranged regime of North Korea or the completely round the bend Islamic Revolution in Iran building nuclear weapons and you must laugh off their threats to annihilate their neighbours and Israel because 'they're not really serious'. You must forget about Al Qaeda's declaration of war in 1996 on the US (before 9/11, imagine that!), as well as the Lebanon peacekeepers bombing, the attack on the USS Cole, the attacks on the embassies in Africa that left hundreds dead and the first World Trade Centre attack - and you must recast all of those events into a "it's all due to US policies in the Middle East" and "we've brought it all onto ourselves" framework. You must magnify the smallest US mistake into the greatest sin, believe that Vietnam was the worst war ever, that Iraq is just a repeat of it and that we were all better off with the world's worst living mass murderer, Saddam Hussein, who had killed hundreds of thousands of his own citizens and was an existential threat to the world, still in power. In short you must believe that there is nothing exceptional about the United States at all and that its only intention is to rule the planet in spite of the fact that there is nothing in the evidence cupboard to support the argument. If you believe that the United States is the greatest threat to world peace then you're a Moral Idiot.

3. You believe that all cultures are equally valid. This particular piece of hare-brained logic has its roots in secular multiculturalism. The loss of belief in God, particularly in oh so enlightened Western Europe, has resulted in a loss of societal values and along with that has gone the ability to differentiate good from evil and right from wrong. Cultural relativism dictates that equality is the order of the day and that all cultures are equally good. What a complete load of bollocks. If I go to Saudi Arabia I will behave exactly in accordance with their culture and customs, understanding all the while that they have certain harsh punishments for crimes that if they were committed here would result in a slap on the wrist compared to a complete loss of the wrist over there. If a Saudi comes here and enslaves his house keeper, beating her along the way such as is reported from time to time then he should expect to be given time in jail for something that isn't even considered a crime over there. But, oh no, cry the cultural relativists. We can't offend people with cartoons! We must respect their culture and bend over backwards to accommodate their disgusting values even if it means allowing Muslim women to wear the profoundly demeaning mask of oppression, the burqa, when in public here, giving moral support to the obnoxious and evil Sheik 'cat meat' Al Hilaly or agreeing to replace our own symbols for fear of offending a violent and backward religion. It demeans us and cheapens our culture. Congratulations, if you believe that all cultures are equally valid then you're a Moral Idiot.

4. You believe that Iraq 2.0 is all about oil. "No blood for oil!" wailed the crowds of bra-less grandmothers and grey haired, pony tailed protesters as the US prepared itself to invade Iraq in 2003. The only reason that the US could have to go into Iraq was oil. Nothing else. It's all about the oil. That it was the home to a terrorist supporting, brutal dictator with masses of the blood of his citizens on his hands after the repeated use of WMD against the Kurds, who was defying UN resolutions and whose daily activity included shooting at US aircraft patrolling the no fly zone protecting the Kurds is completely lost on people (by the way - if you believe the war was illegal then go and read the text of UN resolution 1441, which clearly states the consequences of non-compliance). Here's a fact that people don't know - 80% of the United States oil supply comes from itself, Canada and Mexico. Hmmmm. Bet you didn't know that, did you? Now, here's a really big question. I want you to concentrate really hard. Put on your tin foil hat if you think it'll help. If the United States wanted Iraq's oil then...why didn't it just buy it? Would have been much cheaper. Because they're warmongers and wanted it for free, you cry, thus demonstrating the terrific double standard you have that also supports socialist confiscation of western companies' assets such as happened in Chile and Cuba, and is going on in Venezuela today particularly with foreign owned oil companies. If the US wanted the oil then they would have simply taken over the refineries and pipelines, rolled up the oil tankers and pumped away. Would have been much easier. Did that happen? No. If you believe that Iraq 2.0 is all about oil then you're a Moral Idiot.

5. You believe that war is not the answer. The irony is that war was the answer when it was needed to protect your ongoing right to say that war is not the answer. It was the answer to defend Europe from Germany in both WWI and WWII. It was the answer when socialism threatened South Vietnam (and would have been the ongoing answer if Congress hadn't cut off funds to the South Vietnamese Government). It was the answer in Korea. It was the answer in the First Gulf War. It was the answer in Kosovo. It was the answer in Panama. It was the answer in Grenada. It seemed to be a pretty good answer to the question of freeing the slaves in the South even if there were more Americans killed than in WWII. And I think you'll find that Israel thinks it's been a pretty good answer to 60 years of Arab aggression. Oooooooh, sorry. I completely missed your point. It's only not the answer when the major nations like the United States, Australia or the UK go to war. Of course, how silly of me. When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan you didn't protest against that because it was obviously OK for them to cause the death of 1.5 million people. Not a peep when the Rwandans started a war that exterminated a million or more Hutus. Must have been the answer to something, surely? Perhaps their library books were overdue. Let me see here. Uh huh, no protests against the Iran-Iraq War with another million dead. No protests about Ethiopia or Mozambique or the 1.5 million killed in the Congolese conflict. Checks the history...nope, no protests against Cambodia and the 1.6 million dead there or the 2 million dead in the Second Sudanese Civil War. If you stay silent on totalitarian and socialist atrocities while advocating that for the good guys 'War is not the answer' then you're a Moral Idiot (and a bloody dangerous one at that).

6. You believe that Fidel Castro has been a positive influence for Cuba and a role model for the world. This really is one of my favourites.
Cuba used to have a vibrant, competitive economy and now has a stagnant, pitiful self-enriching dictatorship. But they have free health care for all, you cry, and free education too! Well guess what? So did the Soviet Union and look what a bastion of enlightenment and progress that turned out to be in its hideously murderous and repressive seventy-something year history. And guess what else? Cuba has been just as repressive and backward as it. Read Against All Hope and check out The Real Cuba and if you can look at the reality of the health care, education and living standard and still believe that Fidel Castro has been a positive influence for Cuba and role model for the world then you're a Moral Idiot.

7. You believe that 9/11 was an inside job. Another particular favourite of mine. In order to believe this one you must first believe that America is rotten to its core and that it will do anything in order to promote its interests, including killing 3000 of its own citizens. Popular Mechanics profoundly debunks all of the hilarious and bogus claims about rate of building collapse, use of explosives, explosive pods on the 767s and the collapse of Tower 7. Even more hilarious than the 9/11 conspiracy sites are the ones that debunk the Popular Mechanics debunking. Here's a question. If the administration's goal (which had only been in office for eight months so obviously they were speedy workers) was to give it a cause to invade Afghanistan, and then Iraq, then why did it need four aircraft? Assuming that the conspiracy is true then one plane into the WTC might frighten people but not anger them into action so I can see that a second would be necessary. But a third? And a fourth? And why 'bring down' Tower 7 at all? It's completely unnecessary to the overall plot. The key, for me, was the reaction of George W Bush when told of the attacks. He sits there looking like a stunned mullet without a clue what to do for nearly ten minutes. If it was a set up then he would have been immediately up on his feet, in front of a camera, marshalling the country and showing himself to be a man of action in time of crisis. Conspiracy theories always rely on thousands of people keeping quiet and the hyper-competence of government. In spite of proving itself to be less than competent on a near daily basis on a wide range of issues it's still possible to believe that on this one issue it's hyper-competent. Want more proof? If there was something in it then the traitors at the New York Times would have gone looking, found one of those thousands of people keeping quiet and exposed it to the world like they have with so many other national security secrets. So, despite a plethora of incontrovertible evidence you continue to be driven by ideological hatred and maintain your lunatic position. If you believe that 9/11 was an inside job then you're a Moral Idiot.

8. You believe we should sign the Kyoto Protocol. Hmmm, you say, why is there a moral aspect to this? If you disagree with me then aren't I just an idiot and not a moral idiot? Good question, I'm glad you asked. A fully implemented Kyoto Protocol (the US and Australia sign, China and India etc are exempt) would cost the world $20 trillion and save 0.1C by 2050 and, if you're wondering, there's not much argument on those figures from either side of the political spectrum. The moral aspect comes into play in that it is completely immoral to spend such a massive sum of money on a completely symbolic project when millions of people in the world currently don't have access to clean drinking water, don't get enough to eat, suffer from diseases that were eradicated in the West decades ago (malaria, polio, cholera etc), live in totalitarian African regimes and have an average life expectancy of about 35. When the environmentalist Bjorn Lomberg gathered representatives from countries affected by these issues and created the Copenhagen Consensus Centre they came out with a report ranking the priority that aid money should be spent (in their case they assigned a hypothetical $50 billion). The first of the climate change issues, the Kyoto Protocol, ranked 27th on their list of 40. If you want to hamstring the US economy (the greatest provider of humanitarian aid on the planet) and transfer money to China and Russia through carbon trading schemes (which is their net effect) while we have a here and now crisis in Africa then your values are inverted and you're a Moral Idiot.

9. You believe that socialism is still the answer. The fact is that socialism is still surprisingly popular, especially among the world's academics and others that suck at the public teat.
And just as a point of clarification - Marx made no distinction between communism and socialism - which is why I always use the latter, more accurate term (after all, it was the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics). The theory is that 'we just haven't got it right yet' and we still need to do some fine tuning. Well, Stalin fine tuned 20 million of his compatriots into early graves, but even he was left for metaphorical dead by Chairman Mao whose Great Leap Forward, Cultural Revolution and other assorted attempts at fine tuning socialism into something workable required the digging of 40 million graves in order to bury the evidence of failure. Those are extreme cases, you say, clutching feebly to the last straws of logic still left in your argument. Really? How many million did the Vietnamese knock off with their fine tuning? The Cambodians? And what about our current favourite socialists, those crazy North Koreans? The evidence against socialism is overwhelmingly stronger than the evidence in support of Global Warming but our pinko friends still reject the socialist reality while embracing wholeheartedly the results of computer climate models that have never shown to be remotely accurate even once. The European Union is the latest organisation to impose its socialist ideology. Do you know that the EU costs 60 billion Euros a year to operate? All it has done is add in a layer of unelected, totalitarian ideologues and detract spectacularly from economic development. Thus, the socialist EU is being completely outperformed by free market economies such as the US and Australia. But that's OK because they'll just keep fine tuning until they get it just right. How many millions of lives that costs is yet to be tallied. If you believe that socialism is still the answer then you're a Moral Idiot.

10. You support the troops but don't support the war. The people that are most vocal in their opposition to the war point to the goings on at Abu Ghraib, the killing of civilians by the US military and claim that it is all about funding Halliburton and Big Oil not to mention that it's an 'illegal' war. Saying that they support the troops but not the war is a way of protecting themselves from claims of being anti-military. If you believe in the troops then how can you support them if they tortured and killed at Abu Ghraib?
If you believe in the troops then how can you support them if they wantonly kill Iraqi civilians? If you believe in the troops then how can you support them if they're really working for Halliburton and Big Oil? If you believe in the troops then how can you support them if the war is illegal in the first place? How can you support those troops that volunteered for service after the war started, after Abu Ghraib and in the 'knowledge' that it is a blood war fought for the profit of a few companies? If you claim to support the troops but don't support the war then you're a Moral Idiot.
* Thanks to Dennis Prager for the idea.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

What happened to a balanced media?

The New York Post's Ralph Peters calls his media colleagues on their blatant political bias using Iraq as an example.

It's interesting that the only real balance comes from conservative media outlets be it the Wall Street Journal, US talk radio and even Fox News. These organisations invite guests from all sides of the political spectrum and treat them with a level of respect rarely found in the leftist mainstream media.
DO we still have troops in Iraq? Is there still a conflict over there?

If you rely on the so-called mainstream media, you may have difficulty answering those questions these days. As Iraqi and Coalition forces pile up one success after another, Iraq has magically vanished from the headlines.

Want a real "inconvenient truth?" Progress in Iraq is powerful and accelerating.

But that fact isn't helpful to elite media commissars and cadres determined to decide the presidential race over our heads. How dare our troops win? Even worse, Iraqi troops are winning. Daily.

You won't see that above the fold in The New York Times. And forget the Obama-intoxicated news networks - they've adopted his story line that the clock stopped back in 2003.

To be fair to the quit-Iraq-and-save-the-terrorists media, they have covered a few recent stories from Iraq:

* When a rogue US soldier used a Koran for target practice, journalists pulled out all the stops to turn it into "Abu Ghraib, The Sequel."

Unforgivably, the Army handled the situation well. The "atrocity" didn't get the traction the whorespondents hoped for.

* When a battered, bleeding al Qaeda managed to set off a few bombs targeting Sunni Arabs who'd turned against terror, that, too, received delighted media play.

* As long as Baghdad-based journalists could hope that the joint US-Iraqi move into Sadr City would end disastrously, we were treated to a brief flurry of headlines.

* A few weeks back, we heard about another Iraqi company - 100 or so men - who declined to fight. The story was just delicious, as far as the media were concerned.

Then tragedy struck: As in Basra the month before, absent-without-leave (and hiding in Iran) Muqtada al Sadr quit under pressure from Iraqi and US troops. The missile and mortar attacks on the Green Zone stopped. There's peace in the streets.

Today, Iraqi soldiers, not militia thugs, patrol the lanes of Sadr City, where waste has replaced roadside bombs as the greatest danger to careless footsteps. US advisers and troops support the effort, but Iraq's government has taken another giant step forward in establishing law and order.

My fellow Americans, have you read or seen a single interview with any of the millions of Iraqis in Sadr City or Basra who are thrilled that the gangster militias are gone from their neighborhoods?
(Nothing Follows)

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

German special forces not allowed to shoot the Taliban

Der Spiegel has a shocking article about German special forces soldiers not being authorised to use lethal force to take out one of the most brutal of Taliban commanders in Afghanistan.

Why is it that it's only the English speaking world that does the heavy lifting in Afghanistan?

For all its economic might, what use are European Union nations not only in dealing with scum like this one that got away but also providing relief to regions of the world that are affected by natural disasters. Compare the EU's response to the Indonesian tsunami with what the US did. If you have a natural disaster and need help then who do you call? The UN? Germany? France? Italy? Give me a break...

German society has become very pacifistic since WW2, which is at odds with the country's military tradition and general militaristic attitude to the way they go about things. At some point the place will rebound and the consequences will be dire. It only needs a trigger, which as I've predicted before will be the consequences of the collapse of the nanny state economy coupled with out of control immigration.
German special forces had an important Taliban commander in their sights in Afghanistan. But he escaped -- because the Germans were not authorized to use lethal force. The German government's hands-tied approach to the war is causing friction with its NATO allies.

The wheat is lush and green in the fields of northern Afghanistan this spring. A river winding its way through the broad valley dotted with walled houses completes the picturesque scene. Behind one of these walls, not far from the town of Pol-e-Khomri, sits a man whose enemies, having named him a "target," would like to see dead. He is the Baghlan bomber.

The Taliban commander is regarded as a brutal extremist with excellent connections to terror cells across the border in Pakistan. Security officials consider him to be one of the most dangerous players in the region, which is under German command as part of NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan. The military accuses him of laying roadside bombs and of sheltering suicide attackers prior to their bloody missions.

He is also thought to be behind one of the deadliest attacks in Afghanistan's history, the Nov. 6, 2007 attack on a sugar factory in the northwest province of Baghlan. The attack killed 79 people, including dozens of children and many parliamentarians and other politicians, as they celebrated the factory's reopening.

How can the German special forces not kill such a person? They're obviously acting on orders from higher up but if I was one of the Germans there then I might well have shot the guy and lived with the consequences.
Germany's KSK special forces have been charged with capturing the terrorist, in cooperation with the Afghan secret service organization NDS and the Afghan army. The German elite soldiers were able to uncover the Taliban commander's location. They spent weeks studying his behavior and habits: when he left his house and with whom, how many men he had around him and what weapons they carried, the color of his turban and what vehicles he drove.

At the end of March, they decided to act to seize the commander. Under the protection of darkness, the KSK, together with Afghan forces, advanced toward their target. Wearing black and equipped with night-vision goggles, the team came within just a few hundred meters of their target before they were discovered by Taliban forces.
See what the problem is? They wanted to 'seize' the commander. They weren't allowed to shoot him so they spent weeks and weeks working out how to capture him, which must have exposed the special forces to a much higher level of danger.
The dangerous terrorist escaped. It would, however, have been possible for the Germans to kill him -- but the KSK were not authorized to do so.

The threat to the international relief workers and the ISAF soldiers stationed in the north may now be even greater than it was before. Warned of ISAF's activities and intent on taking revenge, the man and his network are active once again. Over 2,500 Germans are stationed between Faryab and Badakhshan, along with Hungarian, Norwegian and Swedish troops.
Bravo, Germany, Bravo! Now he's going to target relief workers again. This story gets worse as it goes along.
The case has caused disquiet at the headquarters of the ISAF peacekeeping force in Kabul. The current strategy for fighting the enemy is to buy as many Taliban sympathizers as possible, to at least win them over for a while -- and to "eliminate" the hardliners through targeted assassinations.

From a military point of view, the so-called targeting has been a success. Close to one-third of the Taliban leaders, about 150 commanders, have since been "neutralized," meaning they are either dead or captured. Most of the capture-or-kill missions, as the operations are called in military jargon, are undertaken by British or American special forces.
It's good to speak English. We lead the world.
But so far the Germans haven't wanted to take part. And that causes problems, because the insurgents are increasingly gaining influence (more...) in the nine provinces under German command.
What a surprise...
And the extremists appear to be confident of victory. Maulawi Bashir Haqqani, 40, the Taliban's military commander in Kunduz, told SPIEGEL: "The Germans are the most important enemy in the north. If they leave their base, they will find booby traps and bombs waiting for them on every road. They will have to carry many more bodies in coffins on their shoulders if they don't come to the realistic conclusion that their forces must withdraw from our country."
Why is Der Spiegel printing enemy propaganda???
Nonetheless, even in a time of growing threats in Afghanistan, Berlin is sticking to its "principle of proportionality," stressed one high-ranking official in the Defense Ministry. A fugitive like the Baghlan bomber is not an aggressor and should not be shot unless necessary, the official explains.
What the hell does "principle of proportionality" mean? If the Taliban shoots a German soldier then does that mean the Germans can only shoot one back? Do they have to use an AK-47, as well? These people have lost it.
Soldiers from Britain's British Special Air Service or the US's Delta Force are less bothered about such hair-splitting. For them, this is a war in which it comes down to "kill or be killed," say sources in military circles in Kabul. The "targets" are identified, tracked down and -- often with the help of laser-guided weapons systems -- "eliminated."
The Germans have considerable misgivings about such an approach. They have secretly given "clarification notes" to NATO with far-ranging instructions for their soldiers which expressly contradict the usual procedures: "The use of lethal force is prohibited unless an attack is taking place or is imminent." Sources in NATO circles regard the confidential document as a "national exception," a caveat which places restrictions on operational capability. The Germans, for their part, always avoid using the word caveat, out of diplomatic considerations vis-à-vis their allies.

The most remarkable thing about the secret document is its stated justification. The German government considers its allies' approach as "not being in conformity with international law." Little wonder that NATO's mission in Afghanistan is marked by tension and friction.
How do you fight an enemy that does not follow the 'rules' of international law?
Critics accuse the Germans of achieving precisely the opposite effect of what they claim to be aiming for. "The Krauts are allowing the most dangerous people to get away and are in the process increasing the danger for the Afghans and for all foreign forces here," says an incredulous British officer at ISAF headquarters on Great Massoud Road in Kabul.
Ha! "Krauts"...good on him...!
The case of the Baghlan bomber is not the end of the story. More trouble has been brewing for the Germans in Afghanistan. They are actually supposed to be currently participating in Operation Karez in northern Afghanistan in conjunction with the Afghan army and the Norwegian Quick Reaction Force. The operation, like a mission in autumn 2007, is aimed at fighting Taliban who have a stronghold in the northwestern province of Badghis. The Taliban forces there currently include about 150 hardliners and some 500 irregular fighters.

But because the area of operation, which is in Ghormach district, lies exactly on the border with the area under Italian command, the German government hesitated to deploy the reconnaissance, logistics and KSK forces which were originally promised by the German regional commander. It was only at the end of last week that German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung decided to approve the mission after all. At that point, Germany's allies had already been taking part in bloody fighting for a week.
But the Germans' finger nails will be nicely groomed and their hair will be in just the right place. What an embarrassment; the Italians are involved and the Germans quake like children at the thought of having a fight. How things have changed in 50 years.
Last Friday, an armored infantry battalion from Augustdorf in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia put on an impressive military display on a training ground for the benefit of the German Chief of Army Staff Hans-Otto Budde -- demonstrating, ironically, an operation to seize enemy combatants.

The battalion will be relieving the Norwegian Quick Reaction Force in northern Afghanistan as of July 1. Then, at the latest, the Germans will be on the frontline.
No doubt the Taliban is looking forward to that...

(Nothing Follows)

Monday, 19 May 2008

Four Corners demonstrates ABC's double standard

While watching ABC's Four Corners last night I was struck by the obvious double standard that was on clear display.

Voices of Dissent, presented by Liz Jackson, took a look at the issue of dissent in China in light of its human rights record and the upcoming Olympic Games.

The program focused on the stories of a small number of people, and their apparently quite brave lawyers, who have spoken out against the Chinese regime and now languish in prison serving 3-5 year sentences.

One particularly confronting aspect of how the Chinese treat these people was shown when one hooded dissident was led from the courtroom to the paddy wagon to be taken off to prison and wasn't allowed to see or talk to his family and say goodbye. China allows few, if any, visitors for them while in prison so they won't see their families for the length of their term.

In summary, the ABC was showing that China's government stifled dissent and 'takes care' of those who speak out against it.

So where's the double standard?

The ABC is an organisation that sits firmly on the left to far left of the political spectrum. Very few of its journalists could be described as being centre-left, though they might see themselves that was but that's because they don't know where the political middle is in Australia, as I've pointed out previously.

Cuba has a far worse human rights record than China. Why does the ABC not only not expose this fact but supports the place by not shining a light on it and printing such puff pieces as this and this and this.

Where are the programs exposing the overwhelming leftist bias in our universities, particularly in the liberal arts and so-called 'studies' faculties, and their unwillingness to allow other views to be heard?

Where are the programs exposing Kevin Rudd's stifling of the media? The left has always thrown this one at the right when it's been in power and, while governments will always attempt to manipulate the media, this new government has taken things to a whole new level.

Where's the program on the 2020 Summit and the remarkably one-sided stacking of political thought?

Recall the ABC's showing of The Great Global Warming Swindle and the hysterical response of its senior journalists. The show was followed by a panel discussion in which anyone who did not support the 'consensus' position were ridiculed and dismissed as being in the pocket of some lobby group or other. Mr '100m sea level rise' Robin Williams even went so far as to point out that when he met up with Professor Tim Ball (I think it was him) he was smoking, which is an attempt to liken dissenters with the pro-smoking lobby. I wondered at the time whether Williams didn't smoke some other, less legal substance to come up with that one. Host Tony Jones interviewed TGGWS's Martin Durkin and was extremely aggressive in one of the most one-sided, unbalanced interviews I've ever seen.

Dissent. Not at the ABC, please.

It's a shame for Australia that its major publicly funded television station displays such a political bias though we're not alone, as both the BBC and PBS suffer the same issue. One-sided thought may be OK in a think tank or lobby group but it's not OK at the ABC, our universities or other media - regardless of which side of politics it represents.

(Nothing Follows)

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Sunday night rock 'n' roll

Mountain is an American rock band. The band broke up in 1972, reformed two years later, broke up soon after that, and have since reconvened and resumed performing and recording. Mountain remains popular in some circles despite having fallen out of the mainstream during the seventies. They were influential during the development of hard rock and are considered a forerunner to heavy metal music. Their hit song "Mississippi Queen" became a radio hit and is something of a rock standard.

I reckon that most of you have never heard of this band and might be surprised to find that VH1 ranked Mountain number 98 on its 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock.

Featuring the world's largest guitar hero, Leslie West, along with Felix Pappalardi, Corky Lang and Steve Knight, Mountain produced a string of decent songs in the early 70s. Pappalardi was killed by his wife in 1983, which brought to an end an illustrious career including 3 gold albums with Mountain, as well as being the producer for Cream's classic Disraeli Gears.

Mississippi Queen

Don't Look Around

Southbound Train (recorded live at Woodstock 1970 - this is fantastic IMHO)

(Nothing Follows)

Saturday, 17 May 2008

9/11 Nutjobs infest ABC site

Why Australia's ABC would feature a 9/11 Nutjob on the front page of its website is beyond me. I would have thought that it hurts their brand.

There are two things that all good conspiracies have in common:
  • They require government hyper-competence. In this case, the same government whose intelligence agencies got suckered by a tin pot Middle Eastern dictator into believing he had WMD. The same government whose post-Iraq War actions were the very antithesis of competence until someone got smart and appointed General David Petraeus; and
  • They are generally held against people with whom the conspiracists have a philosophical difference.
Thus, unwittingly, the ABC shows its anti-Bush, anti-conservative colours. Not that it's any big secret, of course. If there was a Democratic Party president then you can be sure that the ABC wouldn't have featured such a topic so prominently.

Hereward Fenton's post is titled Unanswered 9/11 Questions. The fact is that the questions have been answered. Comprehensively. But these Nutjobs refuse to believe what is clear for all to see.

His bio reads:
Hereward Fenton is a researcher in the 9/11 truth movement in Australia. He is a senior computer programmer and holds a BA in anthropology and religious studies. His passion for truth has led him down some deep rabbit holes, 9/11 being the deepest. He is editor and webmaster of – an Australian website dedicated to the cause of truth and justice for the crimes of 9/11.
Notice how easily the term 'truth movement' has entered the vernacular? That it's got nothing to do with truth is clear. It's like using the term 'democratic' in a nation's name: the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, for example.

From his article:
The collapse of New York's World Trade Centre on September 11, 2001 is arguably one of the most well documented events in human history. Less well documented is the controversy over why the buildings fell as they did.
I'll bet there are more than one thousand topics that are better documented than the collapse of the WTC. Nearly all of those documents that do relate to it relate to the controversy about why they fell and have been put forward by Nutjobs like him.
At the time of writing, 357 architectural and engineering professionals have signed a petition which directly challenges the National Institute of Standards & Training's official finding that the destruction of these massive buildings was caused solely by structural damage from the impact of jet airliners and the resulting fires.
I'll bet that at least 90% of those 357 people are Democratic Party supporters - if they're real at all. I googled some names, looked in telephone directories for the areas they're supposed to be in and there were more than a few that can't be proven as real using that method.
The petition, demanding of Congress a truly independent investigation, states, in part:

"...the 9/11 investigation must include a full inquiry into the possible use of explosives that may have been the actual cause behind the destruction of the World Trade Center Towers and WTC Building 7."
At first glance you might be agreeing with the proposition that the collapse of Building 7 is worth further investigation and that the 9/11 Nutjobs have a point.

What they're actually doing is using the most difficult point to prove, as it requires the reader to have a strong understanding of architecture, explosives and demolitions, to validate the other areas of their arguments that have also been profoundly debunked. By getting people to question the Building 7 collapse Nutjobs get the audience to open up their minds to the possibility, even if it's ever so slight, that it was an inside job.

Consider this. For the Building 7 collapse to have been caused by explosive planted by a government demolition team then ALL of the following must be true:
  • The government flew American Airlines Flight 11 into the WTC North Tower;
  • The government flew United Airlines Flight 175 into the WTC South Tower;
  • The government flew American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon, or a missile if that's what you think it was;
  • The government intended to fly United Airlines Flight 93 into the White House but were thwarted by passengers, or it was shot down by the Air Force, or it landed and its passengers were then taken away and 'disappeared' before crashing in Pennsylvania; and
  • The government planted demolition charges in not only both of the WTC Towers but also Tower 7, which was never a target and whose demolition could only arouse suspicion.
Not only does it have to do all of that obvious stuff that we all saw but also:
  • The government had to warn all of the Jews working in the WTC not to go to work that day and then make sure none of them talked;
  • The government had to ensure that American Airlines and United Airline played along;
  • The government had to ensure that security at the airports let the hijackers through; and
  • The government has to 'stand down' the air force so that the planes couldn't be intercepted.
What level is there above hyper-competence? Because that's what it would take for a government to achieve all that in complete secrecy.

It goes without saying that the vast majority of the few hundred comments on the article agree with the author's thesis though there are some sensible ones in there.

As I said, why the heck that the ABC wants to hurt its brand by featuring such drivel is a mystery to me.

Perhaps there are a few more lunatics in the place than we previously understood.

(Nothing Follows)

Friday, 16 May 2008

White teacher sacked for grading black students correctly

In Australia we do not have the same issue that the US faces in terms of artificially raising one group's (be it race, sex, religion etc) education scores in order to achieve politically correct outcomes.

We're much cleverer.

What we do is pass everyone regardless of whether they can read or write or do basic arithmetic.

The education system then trumpets its success. Teachers' unions give themselves a pat on the back. The self esteem movement basks in the knowledge that no child's feelings were hurt by having it pointed out that they're as dumb as a stick.

It's all wonderful. Until these kids get into the real world. And then Charlie Sykes' 50 Rules Kids Won't Learn in School kick in.

A white teacher who graded black students on their real ability has been sacked from his school in the US. Does anyone think that his departure, and presumed replacement with someone with lower marking standards, will help students?
Who is to blame when students fail? If many students fail — a majority even — does that demonstrate faculty incompetence, or could it point to a problem with standards?

These are the questions at the center of a dispute that cost Steven D. Aird his job teaching biology at Norfolk State University. Today is his last day of work, but on his way out, he has started to tell his story — one that he suggests points to large educational problems at the university and in society. The university isn’t talking publicly about his case, but because Aird has released numerous documents prepared by the university about his performance — including the key negative tenure decisions by administrators — it is clear that he was denied tenure for one reason: failing too many students. The university documents portray Aird as unwilling to compromise to pass more students.

A subtext of the discussion is that Norfolk State is a historically black university with a mission that includes educating many students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The university suggests that Aird — who is white — has failed to embrace the mission of educating those who aren’t well prepared. But Aird — who had backing from his department and has some very loyal students as well — maintains that the university is hurting the very students it says it wants to help. Aird believes most of his students could succeed, but have no incentive to work as hard as they need to when the administration makes clear they can pass regardless.

“Show me how lowering the bar has ever helped anyone,” Aird said in an interview. Continuing the metaphor, he said that officials at Norfolk State have the attitude of “a track coach who tells the team ‘I really want to win this season but I really like you guys, so you can decide whether to come to practice and when.’ ” Such a team wouldn’t win, Aird said, and a university based on such a principle would not be helping its students.

Sharon R. Hoggard, a spokeswoman for Norfolk State, said that she could not comment at all on Aird’s case. But she did say this, generally, on the issues raised by Aird: “Something is wrong when you cannot impart your knowledge onto students. We are a university of opportunity, so we take students who are underprepared, but we have a history of whipping them into shape. That’s our niche.”

The question raised by Aird and his defenders is whether Norfolk State is succeeding and whether policies about who passes and who fails have an impact. According to U.S. Education Department data, only 12 percent of Norfolk State students graduate in four years, and only 30 percent graduate in six years.

Aird points to a Catch-22 that he said hinders professors’ ability to help students. Because so many students come from disadvantaged backgrounds and never received a good high school education, they are already behind, he said, and attendance is essential. Norfolk State would appear to endorse this point of view, and official university policy states that a student who doesn’t attend at least 80 percent of class sessions may be failed.

The problem, Aird said, is that very few Norfolk State students meet even that standard. In the classes for which he was criticized by the dean for his grading — classes in which he awarded D’s or F’s to about 90 percent of students — Aird has attendance records indicating that the average student attended class only 66 percent of the time. Based on such a figure, he said, “the expected mean grade would have been an F,” and yet he was denied tenure for giving such grades.

Other professors at Norfolk State, generally requesting anonymity, confirmed that following the 80 percent attendance rule would result frequently in failing a substantial share — in many cases a majority — of their students. Professors said attendance rates are considerably lower than at many institutions — although most institutions serve students with better preparation.

One reason that this does not happen (outside Aird’s classes) is that many professors at Norfolk State say that there is a clear expectation from administrators — in particular from Dean Sandra J. DeLoatch, the dean whose recommendation turned the tide against Aird’s tenure bid — that 70 percent of students should pass.

Aird said that figure was repeatedly made clear to him and he resisted it. Others back his claim privately. For the record, Joseph C. Hall, a chemistry professor at president of the Faculty Senate, said that DeLoatch “encouraged” professors to pass at least 70 percent of students in each course, regardless of performance. Hall said that there is never a direct order given, but that one isn’t really needed.

“When you are in a meeting and an administrator says our goal is to try to get above 70 percent, then that indirectly says that’s what you are going to try to do,” he said. (Hoggard, the university spokeswoman, said that it was untrue that there was any quota for passing students.)

Hall agreed that both attendance and preparation are problems for many students at Norfolk State. He said that he generally fails between 20 and 35 percent of students, and has not been criticized by his dean. But Hall has tenure and the highest failure rate he can remember in one of his classes was 45 percent.

Dean DeLoatch’s report on Aird’s tenure bid may be the best source of information on how the administration views the pass rate issue. The report from the dean said that Aird met the standards for tenure in service and research, and noted that he took teaching seriously, using his own student evaluations on top of the university’s. The detailed evaluations Aird does for his courses, turned over in summary form for this article, suggest a professor who is seen as a tough grader (too tough by some), but who wins fairly universal praise for his excitement about science, for being willing to meet students after class to help them, and providing extra help.

DeLoatch’s review finds similarly. Of Aird, she wrote, based on student reviews: “He is respectful and fair to students, adhered to the syllabus, demonstrated that he found the material interesting, was available to students outside of class, etc.”

What she faulted him for, entirely, was failing students. The review listed various courses, with remarks such as: “At the end of Spring 2004, 22 students remained in Dr. Aird’s CHM 100 class. One student earned a grade of ‘B’ and all others, approximately 95 percent, earned grades between ‘D’ and ‘F.’” Or: “At the end of Fall 2005, 38 students remained in Dr. Aird’s BIO 100 class. Four students earned a grade of ‘C-’ or better and 34, approximately 89 percent, received D’s and F’s.”

These class records resulted in the reason cited for tenure denial: “the core problem of the overwhelming failure of the vast majority of the students he teaches, especially since the students who enroll in the classes of Dr. Aird’s supporters achieve a greater level of success than Dr. Aird’s students.”

DeLoatch also rejected the relevance of 16 letters in Aird’s portfolio from students who praised him as a teacher. The students, some of whom are now in medical or graduate school or who have gone on to win research awards, talked about his extra efforts on their behalf, how he had been a mentor, and so forth. DeLoatch named each student in the review, and noted their high grade point averages and various successes. Some of the students writing on his behalf received grades as low as C, although others received higher grades.

But although DeLoatch held Aird responsible for his failures, she wrote that he did not deserve any credit for his success stories and these students, by virtue of their strong academic performance, shouldn’t influence the tenure decision. “With the exception of one of these students, it appears that all have either excelled or are presently performing well at NSU. Given their records, it is likely that that would be the case no matter who their advisors or teachers were.”

Aird stressed that he does not believe Norfolk State should try to become an elite college. He said he believes that only about 20 percent of the students who enroll truly can’t do the work. He believes another 20 percent are ready from the start. Of the middle 60 percent, he said that when the university tells them that substandard work and frequent class skipping are OK, these students are doomed to fail his courses (and not to learn what they need from other professors).

“I think most of the students have the intellectual capacity to succeed, but they have been so poorly trained, and given all the wrong messages by the university,” he said.

The problem at Norfolk State, he said, isn’t his low grades, but the way the university lowers expectations. He noted that in the dean’s negative review of his tenure bid, nowhere did she cite specific students who should have received higher grades, or subject matter that shouldn’t have been in his courses or on his tests. The emphasis is simply on passing students, he said.

“If everyone here would tell students that ‘you are either going to work or get out,’ they would work, and they would blossom,” he said. “We’ve got to present a united front — high academic standards in all classes across the institution. Some students will bail, and we can’t help those, but the ones who stay will realize that they aren’t going to be given a diploma for nothing, and that their diploma means something.”

Reaction in Norfolk has been mixed. After The Virginian-Pilot wrote about the case last week, it received numerous online comments — some calling Aird a hero, others saying he was denigrating the university.

Faculty leaders have a range of views about Aird’s case. Cassandra L. Newby-Alexander, an associate professor of history and secretary of the Faculty Senate, led a grievance committee that found Aird’s first tenure review was flawed and that ordered a second review. Newby-Alexander said that the problems Aird has raised about preparedness are real. She said that she fails about 20 percent of her students on average, some for just not showing up and others for not doing the work at appropriate levels.

“He’s not the first to raise the issue of preparedness. This is a national problem that a lot of faculty have been raising throughout the country,” she said.

In addition, while she has not experienced being told that she must pass a greater percentage of students, she said she was troubled by the implication that someone could be denied tenure for making sincere analyses of the grades he thought students deserved. Even if presidents or vice presidents would prefer different grades, she said that it “smacks of an issue of academic freedom” to punish a professor for giving low grades.

Hall, the head of the Faculty Senate, asked if Aird has been treated fairly or unfairly, said: “My father used to say that no matter how long you cook a pancake it still has two sides.”

Along those lines, he said that it was important to see the responsibility for getting students to acceptable levels of knowledge as a team process, not something that falls only on students or only on professors. “Every faculty member has to decide how they are going to take a group of students and bring them up to a particular standard. Some faculty members feel that ultimately the responsibility of having students come up to that standard is the university’s, and the university should bring students up. It’s a very complicated issue.”

For his part, Hall said that “one of the things I have been objecting to is administrators trying to constantly tell you the responsibility for student success is only the faculty member’s responsibility. It really isn’t. Success is four-pronged — the student, the university administration, parents, and the faculty.”

Added Hall: “A faculty member can’t make a student come to class. A faculty member can’t spend all of his or her time teaching students how to study. A faculty member teaching chemistry can’t deal with some of the social problems these students have, and that the students are working 30-40 hours a week. There are a lot of things that are not in the control of the faculty member.”

But at the same time, he added that “whenever you have 80-90 percent of your students failing, politically that’s going to cause some administrators to begin to question what’s going on.”

Jonathan Knight, who handles academic freedom issues for the American Association of University Professors, said that he has no problem per se with administrators asking questions about such a high failure rate. “It is not improper for an administration to be concerned about it,” he said.

But he cautioned against automatic assumptions. He said the questions to be asked are why so many students are failing, what is being done to help students succeed, what is taking place in the classroom, and so forth.

While Knight did not see academic freedom issues related to asking such questions, he said he would be concerned about orders to pass certain percentages of students. “Professors obviously should have the right to determine what grades the students should have,” he said.

Aird — who is applying for teaching jobs — acted on such a belief and stuck to it. While administrators have noted that they urged him to change his ways, his defenders note that he was always clear with his students about his belief in high standards. In a letter he sent to students at the beginning of last January’s semester, he wrote: “You can only develop skills and self-confidence when your professors maintain appropriately rigorous standards in the classroom and insist that you attain appropriate competencies. You cannot genuinely succeed if your professors pander to you. You will simply fail at the next stage in life, where the cost of failure is much greater.”

Today, Steve Aird is packing up his office.