Monday, July 31, 2006

Middle East Beginning's End?

Outstanding analysis by Charles Moore on situation in the Middle East:

Thus, for example, you would hardly know from watching the television that most Arab nations in the region, with the notable exception of Syria, detest the power of Hizbollah. You would barely have noticed that Hizbollah is a Shia faction, actively supported by Iran, and therefore feared by most Sunnis and by all who resist Iranian hegemony.

Nor would you have seen investigations of how Hizbollah places its missile sites in civilian areas, or coverage of the report in a Kuwaiti newspaper that Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hizbollah, was expected in Damascus on Thursday for a meeting with the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, and the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council. You would also not have gathered that the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon, which the television so recently invited you to admire, cannot possibly be carried through if Syria and Iran and Hizbollah are able to operate in that country.

Behind the dominant narrative of Israeli oppression is a patronising, almost racist assumption about the Arabs, and about Muslims, which is, essentially, that "they're all the same". Public discussion therefore does not stop to consider whether the immediate ceasefire called for by most European countries might hand a victory to Hizbollah, which, in turn, would ultimately lead to a much greater loss of life. It just postures.
Read on.

-- Nora

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Go Ahead And Pull A Pan Of Boiling Water Over Yourself

With children behaving badly, there seem to be more and more calls for parents to be held accountable for the criminal behaviour of their offspring.

But how can you hold someone accountable for letting their kids get out of control when you criminalise the means to control them?:

Parents must be banned from inflicting even the mildest of smacks on their children because it breaches human rights legislation, says a report today.
British author and commentator Lynette Burrows supports smacking children and even Prime Minister Tony Blair admits he's done it.

Burrows posits a disturbing view of some children's rights lobby groups, promoting:

the 'right' of children to behave badly without any chastisement and the 'right' to enter into sexual relationships at any age, without the knowledge and consent of their parents. The agenda thus fits neatly with the stated aims of paedophile organisations which realised long ago that the only way to obtain access to children was to persuade professionals and campaigning organisations to demands freedom for children from any form of restraint - a policy which leaves them exposed to the predatory behaviour of those who would harm them.
-- Nick

The Curse Of 'The Scottish Play'

Journalists, like doctors, used to enjoy the privilege of being able to bury their mistakes.

Not any more.

-- Nick

Enough Rope

The inquest into the Dianne Brimble case - that of a woman who died after being given a date-rape drug aboard a cruise ship - is beginning to resemble an episode of Law And Order as suspects start cracking and turning on each other:

"I told him (Mark Wilhelm) that I heard him talk about Fantasy, he said yes we did take some, I said do you think that had something to do with the death, he said 'no the medics told me she had a heart attack', he repeated it," Ryan Kuchel said. "He was pretty unstable ... he asked me not to say anything to anyone else, so I didn't."
Kuchel's lawyer wants NSW Coroner Jacqueline Milledge to move immediately to charge Wilhelm and possibly accomplice Leo Silvestri with involuntary manslaughter but Milledge:

...said she would not refer the case to the Director of Public Prosecutions for possible charges yet. She said Kuchel's version remained untested and (it) would also ensure procedural fairness by allowing Wilhelm the chance to give his version of events.
And maybe implicate Kuchel and others too.

-- Nick

Crisis Mismanagement

In recent weeks, the absence of further major meltdowns in the Queensland hospital system has driven the state's health care crisis off the front pages.

But the crisis continues at a personal level for those unfortunate enough to need surgery in the 'Smart State'.

Just last night, Nora and I asked after the nephew of a friend who had been ill the previous weekend. Turned out the poor kid had had appendicitis but that was only where his troubles began.

The youngster was taken to a general doctor's surgery on the Gold Coast - Australia's sixth largest city - at 3pm where the GP said it was likely to be appendicitis and the child should be taken to a hospital immediately.

There should have been no problems because the family has insurance but when they fronted at a Gold Coast private hospital and the diagnosis was confirmed, they were told the city only had two pediatric surgeons shared between private and public hospitals alike and they'd already done their alloted 50 hours of ops each for that week.

The hospital sent the kid by ambulance to a major Brisbane children's hospital where they had a surgeon who could operate - but they didn't have any spare beds.

They passed him off to a Brisbane private hospital - but made him go by private car because they couldn't spare an ambulance - and the youngster finally went under the knife at 10pm.

It took seven hours to do something that should have been happening in two.

And to add rip-off to injury, at every step of the way - from doctor to three separate hospitals - each billed to diagnose his appendicitis, undoubtedly passing on various duplicated charges to federally-run Medicare.

Nora and I tut-tutted over the scandalous lack of service and were immediately told that a teacher of our friend's daughter had presented at the Gold Coast's main public hospital, also with appendicitis, a few weeks ago. In fact, the woman's condition was so advanced, her appendix had burst and she was rushed to surgery.

But before she could go under, she was taken back out to a ward and left to wait because another emergency had come in - a cop with severe facial injuries and the two crims he'd shot - and the hospital didn't have the capacity to cope.

Yet State Premier Peter Beattie, who has presided over the collapse of the system, tells us the health crisis is on the mend. It's about as mended as the state's water crisis which suffered a further setback last night when the people of the city of Toowoomba voted no to drinking recycled water.

Beattie is to go ahead with a state referendum on the issue anyway. He - and politicians of all persuasions - are now paying the long term price for short term political expediency in putting off the building of new dams so as not to lose votes.

Premier Pete is one of the country's most successful premiers but he must be having nightmares about how the next election is going to play out.

He could wait until next year but it's more likely he'll go to polls early, perhaps even as early as September.

In fact, September would be good - it gets it over with before summer comes along and high power demands trigger the annual power crisis.

-- Nick

Peace On You

Comedian George Carlin is attributed with the saying 'Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity'.

These guys don't get it:

Mr Howard was leaving the WA Liberal Party state conference when about 200 protesters, many of whom were waving Lebanese flags and shouting "we want peace'', mobbed his vehicle.

Protesters punched, kicked and threw projectiles at Mr Howard's car as police struggled to keep them at bay.
Columnist Mark Steyn gets it:

Until the remarkably kinda-robust statement by the Group of Eight and the unprecedented denunciation of Hezbollah by the Arab League, the rule in any conflict in which Israel is involved - Israel v PLO, Israel v Lebanon, Israel v (Your Team Here) - is that the Jews are to blame. But Saudi-Egyptian-Jordanian opportunism on Palestine has caught up with them: it has finally dawned on them that a strategy of consciously avoiding resolution of the Palestinian question has helped deliver Gaza and Lebanon and Syria into the hands of a regime that's a far bigger threat to the Arab world than the Zionist entity.

Cairo and co grew so accustomed to whining about the Palestinian pseudo-crisis decade in, decade out, that it never occurred to them that they might face a real crisis one day: a Middle East dominated by an apocalyptic Iran and its local enforcers, in which Arab self-rule turns out to have been a mere interlude between the Ottoman sultans and the eternal eclipse of a Persian nuclear umbrella.

The Zionists got out of Gaza and it's now Talibanistan redux. The Zionists got out of Lebanon and the most powerful force in the country (with an ever-growing demographic advantage) are Iran's Shia enforcers. There haven't been any Zionists anywhere near Damascus in 60 years and Syria is in effect Iran's first Sunni Arab prison bitch. For the other regimes in the region, Gaza, Lebanon and Syria are dead states that have risen as vampires.
Read the whole thing.

-- Nick

Ask An Imam

A poll reveals:

Four in 10 Australians believe Islam is a threat to our way of life... And most people say the religion treats women as inferior and encourages violence.

But a Muslim leader yesterday said most Australians were ignorant about Islam.
Melbourne Islamic cleric Sheik Fehmi Naji El-Imam is right - the other six out of 10 need bringing up to speed:

On 15 August, 2004, Atefah Sahaaleh was hanged in a public square in the Iranian city of Neka. Her death sentence was imposed for "crimes against chastity".

The state-run newspaper accused her of adultery and described her as 22 years old. But she was not married - and she was just 16...

Former revolutionary guard, 51-year-old Ali Darabi - a married man with children - raped her several times. She kept the relationship a secret from both her family and the authorities...

Circumstances surrounding Atefah's... arrest were unusual. The moral police said the locals had submitted a petition, describing her as a "source of immorality" and a "terrible influence on local schoolgirls". But there were no signatures on the petition - only those of the arresting guards...

Three days after her arrest, Atefah was in a court and tried under Sharia law... for the first time, Atefah confessed to the secret of her sexual abuse by Ali Darabi...

She was sentenced to execution by hanging.
Melbourne's Sheik Fehmi Naji El-Imam:

expressed anger at the poll results... "It is not fair at all," the sheik, who is general secretary of the Board of Imams of Victoria, said.

"They don't know what they are talking about - they should know Muslims first before they pass opinions."
Seems we agree on something. Who'd of thunk it?

-- Nick

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Photographer Snapped

And indulges in child abuse to vent her toddler-tantrum-like frustration at George W Bush.

Not very pleasant reading, so you'll probably need a stiff drink:

Cry Baby Blues
4 1/2 oz strawberry guava juice
1 oz Blue Curacao liqueur
1 oz vodka
Serve with shaved ice in a hurricane glass.

-- Nora

The M Word

You meet the nicest people in jail:

Also attending court was Zeky Mallah, a friend of the brothers.

"Bilal Skaf and Mohammed Skaf should be more honoured and respected ... at least these two have not killed any of the victims like the American soldiers have (in Iraq)," he told reporters. "It is okay to label this young man and his brother as rapists who deserve 55 years ... But it is not okay to label some American soldiers who rape innocent young Iraqi women as American rapists."

In December 2003, "Zak" Mallah was the first Australian arrested under the new terrorism laws. He served two years' jail -- meeting the Skaf brothers at Goulburn prison -- after pleading guilty to threatening to kill commonwealth officers, but was acquitted of preparing for a terrorist act.
Skaf will be 51 years old or more and his brother and accomplice Mohammed will be at least 36 years old by the time they are released from jail for this:

August 12, 2000, Saturday -

A young woman is lured to Gosling Park, Greenacre by a man known to her who turns out to be an attacker. When she arrives at the park there are fourteen men expecting to take turns raping her. She is brutally gang raped at gunpoint by two of the attackers as the other men stood "around, laughing and talking in their own language". [2] The victim manages to escape the scene.
Since Skaf spent all day arranging for 14 of his Muslim friends to be there. The victim's escape probably saved her life. They also took part in these events recorded in Wikipedia:

August 10, 2000... two women aged 17 and 18... forced to fellate eight males... August 30, 2000... Another woman... viciously gang raped by a total of fourteen men... September 4, 2000... Two women, both 16... three men repeatedly raped them over a period of four hours.
The UK's Guardian newspaper downplayed - surprise, surprise - the connection between culture and these crimes and tried to make it a law and order issue given a racist slant by white Australians:

...rightwing commentators have jumped at the chance to find a racial explanation for the crimes. Under their analysis, the attacks do not simply give us a window onto the minds of 19 teenage boys in south Sydney, but a wake-up call to the wickedness supposedly inherent in Australia's Muslim communities...

Janet Albrechtsen, a columnist for The Australian newspaper, went one step further by twisting the results of two European studies to suggest that there was a proven link between gang-rape and Muslim culture. The authors of the studies subsequently rubbished her imputations.
But when The Guardian pronounced: seems that perceptions and experience of crime among Lebanese-, Vietnamese-, Chinese- and Turkish-Australians are much the same as those in the population as a whole...
it perhaps unintentionally made a point that would be a cluebat moment for anyone with any brains:

...They (Lebanese-, Vietnamese-, Chinese- and Turkish-Australians) are the victims of the same sort of crimes, worry more about crime as they get older, and feel unsafe in the same Sydney suburbs commonly denounced as hotbeds of lawless Muslim youth.
The issue is not race but religion/culture.

When some of the victims were told they were being raped 'Leb-style' because they were Australian, their attackers were confusing the issue. These attacks were not Lebanese raping Australians but Muslims raping non-Muslims.

Meanwhile, another clue that even the BBC can get:

...the age of sexual consent for girls under Sharia law - within the confines of marriage - is nine, and furthermore, rape is very hard to prove in an Iranian court.

"Men's word is accepted much more clearly and much more easily than women," according to Iranian lawyer and exile Mohammad Hoshi. "They can say: 'You know she encouraged me' or 'She didn't wear proper dress'."
-- Nick

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Cradle Snatchers Stranded

In one part of the world it's called paedophilia, or at the very least carnal knowledge, in another it's all part of the local custom:

SOME Australian Lebanese men have stayed behind in war-ravaged Beirut after officials refused to evacuate their teenage "child brides".

A spokesman for the immigration department (DIMA) told AAP some dual passport holders had turned up at evacuation points with wives younger than 18 – the legal age for marriage in Australia.

The men were told by Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) officers that while such marriages were legal in some societies, they were not recognised in Australia and no spouse visa could be issued.
-- Nora

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

News Flash - Pseudo Drug Company Takes Media Mugs

Get sex into a survey and you can take the media like the town bike - as the makers of FemiX suggest around 75% pf Australian women are:

The survey, conducted by the company which makes female libido enhancement Femi-X, found three out of four women would not be offended if they received a booty call from a good-looking friend.
We've been involved in a bit of marketing ourselves and know it's good work to get your name and product in the papers for free.

But it never ceases to amaze us how easy it is for condom makers and 'sex enhancing' druggists to hawk their specious surveys every year and be given juvenilely drooling coverage while attempts to flog actual news to the media falls on deaf ears.

It seems masturbation doesn't just make you go blind.

Anyhow, with regard to the latest 'survey':

...of more than 650 women of all ages, 53 per cent admitted to having a mate for regular but non-committed sex during their lifetime.
Sexologist Stacey Demarco said this type of relationship offered women a safer sexual environment than a classic one night stand.
We contend, however, that a much safer, not to mention infinitely more satisfying sexual environment is marriage.

Without going into details - hi, Nora's mum! - we have a great time.

And all you (a) blinkered lefties who think conservatives only do it in the missionary position with the lights out and (b) sour ex-marrieds and bitter singles who haven't the slightest idea how to forge a good lasting relationship can go get, well, a booty call.

-- Nick and Nora

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Parallel Lines

What is it about the trackability of internet activity that these sickos don't get:

THREE men have been charged with more than 200 child sex offences after police found graphic internet images of sex acts involving young boys on Queensland's Sunshine Coast.

The three men, all of whom are convicted pedophiles serving terms in Brisbane's Wolston Correctional Centre, will face court next month. The Queensland Police Service announced yesterday that its anti-pedophile unit, Taskforce Argos, was advised by US authorities in April that more than 450 images of "young male children engaging in graphic sexual activities" had been found on the internet.
And what it it about his sickness that this sicko doesn't get:

(George Michael is) at it again. The British singer famous for getting caught by police in comprimising positions has excelled himself this time. The News of the World has exclusively sprung the popstar emerging from the bushes (in a London park) after liaising with Norman Kirtland, a "pot-bellied, 58-year-old, jobless van driver".
Michael, busted some years ago for indecent behaviour in a Californian public toilet, doesn't think he's sick:

Upon getting caught, Michael, 43, told the paper: "Are you gay? No? Then f*** off! This is my culture!"
The North American Man Boy Love Association has it's own culture too.

And 35 years ago the 'culture' of homosexuality was a mental disease.

-- Nick

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Winger Flies High

Disgraced rugby player Wendell Sailor opens his heart to The Sunday Mail:

WENDELL Sailor will head overseas to resurrect his rugby career when he finishes a two-year doping ban he described as "grossly unfair".
Why is it grossly unfair?

Well, one really never gets to read the answer to that question as the mutual love-in allows Sailor to skirt around issue of personal responsibility.

I'm no drug cheat - is the headline. Well I suppose cocaine is not the most commonly used performance enhancing drug.

But the real intersting part of Sailor's interview is here where he doesn't deny that he is a drug user but denies that he is a druggie.

"One thing I want to make clear is that I do not have a drug problem. I know I'm not a druggie. It's been hard to explain to my family, but people close to me know I've been plain stupid.

"If I had a problem, I would have done something about it. I would have got some help and got counselling. At no stage have I needed that."
Well denial makes it difficult to get treatment doesn't it?

Elvis never admitted he was a druggie either, because he never injected and the drugs were all prescribed. It doesn't take long for someone with a problem to make justifications for their actions.

Perhaps there is hope for Sailor, but not before he loses his ego and admits he's hit bottom.

-- Nora

Beating His Own Tom Tom

Tom Williams, the topless Dancing With The Stars heartthrob says he is 'so over' the reality TV shows which made him a star.

And this is merely an excuse for posting this week's cocktail of the week:

Tom Collins
2 oz gin
Meaure of Bickford's Lemon juice cordial
3 oz club soda
1 maraschino cherry
1 slice orange
-- Nora

Monkey See...

The BB Effect:

BIG Brother has been linked to a school sex scandal in which two boys "turkey slapped" and exposed themselves to up to 10 girls...

Housemates Michael "Ashley" Cox and Michael "John" Bric were evicted from the show on July 1 for turkey slapping – one rubbed his penis in the face housemate Camilla Halliwell as the other held her.

Two central Queensland schoolboys, 15 and 16, mirrored the actions of the celebrities in an out-of-control prank on July 14.

A father who spoke to The Sunday Mail said his daughter, 12, came home from the school on the day of the incident and told him: "So-and-so was running around turkey slapping all the girls."
But to the outraged dad, anything else is just made up:

The father spoke out after being stunned by an anonymous letter in the town's newspaper that claimed

"10 girls at the school were involved in giving sex to three boys who successfully performed dares".

He said the claim was "absolute rubbish".

"This is where it gets right away from the truth. The girls didn't bring it on themselves," he said.
The way the story was reported earlier in the week, the girls were willing participants in providing sex on a dare.

-- Nick

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Behind The Irony Curtain

QUEENSLAND Premier Peter Beattie would not be deterred from building two dams in the state's southeast, despite being warned that they were not an effective way to create more water by a Kyoto convert - the very man who oversaw one of the world's most devasting environmental disasters.

-- Nora

There's No Fool Like...

I made Nicky a promise that I wouldn't go commenting on other blogs unless I cross-referenced them here.

Being the good wife I am, I am. Cross posting that is.

The blog which has caught my attention is The Courier Mail's potted analysis of the current Middle East Crisis by David Costello whose qualification has been one trip to the region in 2001 amongst 10 years 'writing about the Middle East' - which is actually journalist-speak for he's been reading the wire service copy for a decade.

Mind you I've not been over to the Middle East so I guess that does put him one junket ahead of me however I can read wire copy as well as he can, thanks to the Internet.

Amongst the most prolific posters on this thread is a self-confessed 'old digger' Merv, who is generally genial as the 'grumpy old man' of The Courier Mail's blogs.

You know the type, the guy who would otherwise be writing tetchy letters to the editor on a daily basis but has since discovered that blogging allows him to write letters several times a day and for free.

But his disdain for Israel is hysterical - and I don't mean hysterically funny.

Here is part of his first comment:

The first and most important thing we in the west must do, if there is ever to be some sense made of this disgusting issue, is to face reality - forever implying that the state of Israel is sacrosanct (as so many on my side of the fence regularly and mantra-like do) whilst readily damning those who oppose Israel's hegemony and brutality as nought but "fanatics" and "terrorists" leads nowhere; indeed, it gives credence and unreasoned right-of-way to the Jewish religious people where such approval is not, not in the least, warranted.
Long story short Israel is illegitmate. Like many an aging hippy who profess a much greater wisdom than the masses, he doesn't take well to an opposing point of view.

His response is ponderous and meanders like cow with BSE.

Further in the discussion I link to this evocative political cartoon and associated commentary.

Merv's response was astounding:

All this emotive talk about "terrorists" (Mr and Mrs Charles's attempt to "lighten" the debate by tossing in skewed, myopic, Lord Haw-Haw-type, US-generated cartoons added to the tastefulness, of course) led this old man to suggest that, once in anyone's lifetime, irrespective of their nationality or religious affiliation, the unarmed, entirely innocent individual (forgive me) should be in a situation where a platoon of uniformed, well-trained, hard-eyed men, armed to the teeth and looking for bear, a pounding team of fully kitted-out soldiers, looms suddenly out of the semi-darkness, charging, full pelt, toward he or she (frightfully, it doesn't, in any way, deter the oncoming horde, nor matter, if the innocent, terrified soul should have a baby or a child with him/her) they just keep advancing.......usually firing as they do so.

Idiots with bombs strapped to their bodies who sacrifice themselves by walking among their deadly enemies in desperation don't hold a candle to the cold-blooded uniformed group, in another's land, convinced that human beings they slaughter are worthless and dispensable - to be despatched, permanently, in the name of their government, their monarch, or their current despot......

We, we wondrous examples of life on this planet, having, nowadays, managed to improve the "art" of slaughtering our own kind, go even further - now, having gained the dubious benefit of amazing technology (not surprisingly, always being bettered and improved in wartime) we can arrange to have our paid killers in uniform, commonly called soldiers, stand well back and lob missiles and bombs on people they've never met, mortals they cannot even see, people who, it is believed (as the operator pulls the trigger) are hostiles - whilst, overhead, the pilot of a jet-bomber can, with a flick of the finger, rain death on out-of-sight humanity, far below....

To be honest I don't know someone could get to Merv's advanced old age and still not know 'his ass from his elbow', as Nicky so often says.

I couldn't let this idiocy go uncommented upon. Hopefully it will also be up on the CM's blog once some gets around to uploading the new comments.

My response in full:

Oh please Merv, your last comment @Fri Jul 21, 05:47:06 PM has tipped over into hysteria.

Hezbollah, Hamas et al are not some noble freedom fighters - they are xenophobic murderers whose hatred for Israel the nation and the Jews as a people are 'final solution'-like in their zeal.

The emotive language in which Merv compares the professional defence force of Israel with terrorists would be laughable if it were not so sincerely held.

Imagine sitting in your local Pizza Hut and having someone set off a bomb in it and seeing your granddaughter torn apart before your eyes.

That's the type of thing Israel has been putting up with for years.

These terrorists are not some romantic French or Polish resistence fighters grubbing together bits and pieces to fight the good fight, they are themselves and the Hezbollah in particular, highly organised modern fighting groups with military structures with access to modern such as the missiles they obtain from Syria and Iran with personnel and logistics supplied by these two countries.

Again, unlike the WWII underground they care nothing for their own lives, instead seeing themselves as martyrs for a greater Islamic cause.

More vilely, they hide amongst civilian populations, thereby sacrificing lives other than their own to the cause.

Again Merv needs a lesson in history or perhaps a change to his set of myopic lenses.

No one questions that war is hell but maybe he should look at the casualties and deaths in wars of years gone by.

Ironically modern warfare technology actually limits deaths by allowing their deployment to be relatively precise.

Imagine how many more lives would be lost if we were using WWII technology or indiscriminate 19th century cannons.

Applying Merv's reasoning he would be railing against the Allied bombing runs over Germany in WWII and that makes him more akin to Lord Haw Haw than the political cartoon to which I linked, a cartoon which clearly highlighted the cowardly way in which Hezbollah is hiding behind the civilian population of Lebanon.
-- Nora

UPDATE: Merv responds! Anyone have a bucket of cold water handy?

UPDATE II: And someone who is making sense.


Lots of very predictable whingeing along the lines of 'why isn't the government moving quicker to get Australians out of Lebabnon'.

Ambassador Lyndall Sachs explains in part:

(She) said people had to be realistic about what an embassy could achieve, especially as the Government was being criticised for not entering besieged southern Lebanon to help stranded Australians to safety. "We are not a taxi service, we cannot go and pick people up," Ms Sachs said.

More explanation comes from war profiteers shipping line managers in Cyprus:

(They) say quicker action by Australian officials could easily have secured a 680-berth cruise liner to arrive in Beirut on Wednesday.
It's not the Australian Government the whingers should be whinging to - it's the Canadian Government:

Foreign Affairs officials in Canberra have not explained just how they were "gazumped" by Canada for another ship capable of carrying 300 that failed to arrive on Thursday
And Ms Sachs is able to explain quite simply why we were left in a bidding war with other countries for transport:

France reacted most quickly with passenger vehicles, while Britain and several other countries were able to deploy military vessels, but no Australian ships were near the region.
What do people expect - to be teleported out?

Meanwhile, not everyone can get on British ships either.

Oh, the irony, the delicious irony!

-- Nick

Sunday, July 16, 2006

CAIRing And Sharing

Somalia's Islamic rebels have agreed to:

...respect the legitimacy of the fragile government and continue talks despite a rebuff by the president
The talks aren't actually with the Somali government but with the Arab League:

President Abdullahi Yusuf decided on Friday to boycott talks in Sudan this weekend meant to avert war between his government and the Islamist movement which has seized the capital and part of the south, threatening his administration's limited power.

Despite the rebuff, Islamist delegates flew to Khartoum on Friday and held initial discussions with the Arab League, which brokered a first round of talks on Somalia last month.

"They stressed the importance of saving the legitimacy of the government ... their readiness not to escalate against the government and in particular not to make any attacks against Baidoa," Arab League envoy Zeid al Sabban said.

"They stressed that they want to open a frank discussion with the government ...(and) are in total readiness to pave the way for the government to return to Mogadishu," Mr Sabban said.
That's nice. Give us what we want and we'll let you come back to your capital.

Meanwhile, here's how they do it in the United States.

-- Nick

Wet Between The Ears

The Gold Coast is currently on Level 3 water restrictions that ban, among other things, the use of hoses for anything, except perhaps trying to stop your home from burning down.

The Gold Coast City Council takes it's responsibility to save water very seriously. That's why they've issued a call to residents to dob in wasteful neighbours. How very Australian. And if they catch you in the act of using a hose - or even just having one connected to a tap - they'll write out an on the spot fine for $150 for a first offence.

There's a glorious irony in their instruction:

Always use a bucket... when washing your car.
Even taking the greatest care not to waste too much, it takes nine nine-litre buckets of water or 63 litres to wash a car properly with due regard to avoiding paint damage.

It takes just 27 litres using a hose with a nozzle trigger.

-- Nick

Wars And Rumours Of Wars

A few things about the latest conflagration in the Middle East you won't have seen if the local media is your source of news:

Israeli gunship hit by Iran-supplied missile

The Lebanese want Hezbollah out

Good analysis here and here.

The Lebanese Bloggers is providing live local news in English. Read the comments too.

-- Nora

Saturday, July 15, 2006

It's (Non)Academic

After spending perhaps more time than I should on the Courier Mail's same sex marriage blog, arguing valiantly for the preservation and uniqueness of hetereosexual marriage, I had wondered about the originator of the post, Dr Karen Brooks.

I Googled for her credentials and came back with 201 references with only
two that could be considered approaching anywhere near academic works. The rest were links to book fair speaking engagements and media appearances.

The academic lightweight has created a niche for her hobby by developing a degree in popular culture.

A degree in popular culture. It's like studying a degree in snowflakes.

Both are ephemeral and ignore that popular culture, like snow flakes, doesn't spring fully formed but instead emerges as a result of a process.

It would seem that the extensive referencing to Dr Brooks by the media has little to so with her abilities as a scholar but because she's a relatively good looking blonde in her mid-40s who will talk about sex if you ask her.

Just take a look at the supercilious and slapdash effort she put into her opinion piece which became the subject of the blog. A few minutes and little effort demolishes her assertions.

Like many of those whose opinions don't stand up to effective scrutiny, Dr Brooks resorts to dismissive insults like:

I fear Howard and co have been watching too much Disney.
Also note the way that she uses subtly uses the honorific of occasional Courier-Mail columnist Ruth Limkin (she is a Pastor) to diminish her arguments - she's a religious minister, I'm an academic.

Nick points out that academic study of 'humanities' these days is less the scientific pursuit of the truth and more akin to a pagan religion. Speaking of which, Dr Brooks lists witchcraft as a passion. And fairies.

As a further aside, it has been interesting to note that those groups who call for tolerance, like activist homosexuals, are the ones least likely to demonstrate that attribute when challenged with an opposite opinion.

Introducing comprehensive research in support of my argument only results in spitting insults in return.

Maybe there's something to that, a new research field perhaps - a degree in blogging.

-- Nora

PS - Phew! I need a drink.

Fairy Belle
3/4 oz apricot brandy
1 1/2 oz gin
1 tsp grenadine syrup
1 egg white
Shake all ingredients with ice, strain into a cocktail glass, and serve.

That's Not My Team

As the opening line to Nine's Friday Night Football theme says, 'I'm a footy fan'.

But I'm no fan of the Sydney Bulldogs whose behaviour constantly brings the game into disrepute.

And as a Queenslander, I'm also no fan of Nine's commentary team. Ray Warren is the best caller of the game around but the Sydney-centric and anti-Queenslander bias shown by him and his offsiders is legendary to the point where one gasped in disbelief during the recent State of Origin decider when they protested refereeing calls against the Sunshine State team.

But one was additionally disturbed last night at the relish with which they spoke of Bulldogs aggression in a match against St George-Illawarra that resulted in one St George player being knocked unconscious and stretchered off the field and, in a separate incident, two Bulldogs players on report for a dangerous tackle (lifting a tackled player's legs over his head and driving him down onto the back of his neck).

Commentator Gus Gould, former premiership winning Panthers coach, grizzles and moans constantly - it's his trademark - and one of his favourite whinges is how the game has changed since his day. Last night, he bemoaned the fact that in years gone by, the tackle that could have crippled St George's Colin Best would have earned the Dogs' Sonny Bill Williams and Reni Maitua a pat on the back as a good move.

Earlier in the game, Warren, Gould and Peter Sterling thought it was hilarious when the Bulldogs' Mark O'Meley lowered his shoulder so as to strike St George forward Corey Payne in the head, knocking him out.

Don't get me wrong - I'm as big a fan of the biff as anyone. There are, indeed, aspects of the on-field game that have been oversanitised.

But players such as O'Meley and Willie Mason take their aggression too far and Nine's commentary team would do well not to relish the Dogs' thuggery so much.

The team is already on the nose not only with fans of other teams in the NRL but also with many who don't give a damn about football but are fed up with hearing of bad behaviour by players.

The text messaging indiscretions of cricket's Shane Warne pale in comparison to the trouble league footballers get into on a regular basis and these days you can almost guarantee it's the Bulldogs who will grab most of that spotlight.

Two years running, members of the team were accused of gang rape at the same Coffs Harbour resort. The cases against the accused did not proceed due to lack of evidence in the fraught 'he said, she said' scenario of rape allegations. But the more recent of the two incidents resulted in job losses by club executives and a withdrawal of $1.5 million in sponsorships.

More recently, a Bulldogs player got away with it again after he made a joke about bombs on a plane flight that would have had Joe Public arrested:

Forward Nate Myles was overheard asking (Muslim) teammate Hazem El Masri as crew prepared for take-off: "Have you got the bombs strapped on?" The bomb jibe should have resulted in Myles being charged with a federal offence under new security laws.
The FAA is now asking Qantas why he wasn't.

-- Nick

Sunday, July 09, 2006

(Un)Original Sin

I'm a red-blooded chap but honestly if another bunch of women decide to get their gear off for a calendar I'll just yawn.

Ever since the 2003 movie Calendar Girls, about the exploits of a group of Yorkshire Women's Institute members who doffed their clobber for charity back in 1999, it's become the first thing that pops into the minds of unoriginal types everywhere.

The latest outing is Screen Goddesses Of IT:

FEMALE IT professionals have posed for a provocative calendar to try and shake off their industry's geeky image and encourage young women to consider a computing career.

Gold Coast-based IT expert Sonja Bernhardt said the motivation for the calendar was the rapidly declining number of women taking up computer studies and careers.
Following one tedious idea with another, the calendar features IT gals in cliched re-shoots of famous movie images.

Self-appointed star model Bernhardt sets the mood, posing rather more stiffly than sensually as she scowls grumpily out of the calendar's cover shot, a re-take of the rose petal shot from the excreable American Beauty.

Bernhardt says she wanted to show girls that 'it's not nerds in the IT industry' but the entire calendar is decidedly nerdy.

She bemoans:

"Five years ago, women made up 25 per cent of the IT industry worldwide and now it's down to 16 per cent...

"Statistics show us that one of the biggest barriers to entry is the perception of the industry."
Actually, one of the biggest barriers to entry is that the IT industry is grossly oversupplied with graduates.

If you want girls to get ahead and strike a blow for equity, you might encourage them to become carpenters or brickies, two trades in which there's a huge shortage of labour and pay is through the roof. In more traditional female trades, Australia is so short of hairdressers we're importing them from Europe.

But no, let's keep encouraging youngsters to waste a few years after school getting degrees in glutted industries and fairytale professions.

-- Nick

Pre-Emptive Strike

Child protection groups weigh in on the Big Brother 'turkey slapping' assault:

Campaigners are concerned turkey slapping, males rubbing their crotches in females' faces, could become a playground game when school resumes tomorrow.

"The Big Brother audience is made up of a great number of young children, who are pre-pubescent and impressed by this sort of behaviour," Family Association secretary Angelique Barr said.
Not unless they're watching the program's live video stream on the internet in the early hours of the morning. The incident never screened on TV. That's why Ten got away with it.

Hetty Johnston, founder of child protection group Bravehearts, said: "Children have to be told that this is disgraceful behaviour.
Indeed. If they saw it. If not, raising the subject with them is, well, child abuse.

"Unfortunately, many youngsters will have seen this incident and think it's funny, and believe that if they do it they will look cool.
They'll only see it if adults google it, download it and show it to them. But you can always count on hysterical Hetty:

"I wouldn't be surprised if this was the latest sexual offence to go around the schools." (emphasis added)
In Hetty's especially damaged world, it appears our schools are full of junior rapists looking for the latest thrill.

She needs to take a reality check and tune into Channel V on pay TV sometime - the Monday after the BB incident, it was teen and twenty-somethings texting their opinions on the big story of the day who thought it was cool. In reply to one SMS asking 'what happened?', another reponded:

"I think he slapped her with his d*** or j**ked on her face. Hilarious!"
Only if you get her permission first, moron.


-- Nick

White Lies reports:

PRIVATE Jake Kovco's in-laws are not satisfied with the official report into the bungled return of his body from Iraq.

I'm getting a bit cheesed off with the various family members of Jake Kovko and the way the media is fanning the embers of their constant dissatisfaction. Certainly there are questions to be answered about the odd circumstances of the young soldier's death and the stuff-up in returning his body to Australia.

But nothing about this case is going to please his nearest and dearest and they and the media might do better to back off while they still have some illusions left about their unfortunate boy.

The father of Pte Kovco's wife Shelley, David Small, says the family were given only a cut down version of the report which has left many questions unanswered.

"(We are) not happy with it," Mr Small told the Seven Network last night. "They should have released the whole contents of the report, whatever the contents."
Mr Small misses the point that every gory little detail may further hurt his own daughter. Police, coroners, doctors, nurses, bureaucrats - they all regularly cover things up from the family members of dead people.

I recall an inquest into a man who'd died in a light plane crash. The coroner asked if the bereaved family had any questions of the police who had attended the scene and they asked if their loved one had suffered. "No," replied the cop, "he died instantly." Later, the policeman revealed confidentially to an associate of mine that the man was in fact alive when police reached the scene and lived a further several minutes, fully conscious with the back of his head missing. "The family didn't need to know that," said the cop.

Neither, perhaps, does Shelley Kovko need to know the grotesque details of the botched identification of her husband's body.

Meanwhile, her father doesn't blame the non-coms:

(The) Defence Department inquiry found Pte Kovco's (platoon sergeant) mistook the Australian soldier's body for that of a Bosnian carpenter despite an identity card being on the civilian's corpse...

His failure to notice the cardboard wrist tag, carrying the Bosnian's name and passport number, compounded the mistake of staff at the civilian Kuwait morgue in producing the wrong corpse for identification.

Shelley's family agree the sergeant was the wrong man for the job, and shouldn't be punished.
but would like to see a bureaucrat punished for taking the sergeant's word:

But they believe he wasn't alone and an Australian consular official in Kuwait also confused Jake for a Bosnian contractor.

"I don't want to see anyone lose their job, but there has to be something done ... there has to be some smack on the wrist," Mr Small said.
No doubt family and media are also going to be displeased with the final reports into what exactly led to Pte Kovko's death, especially as it appears he probably shot himself while enthralled by a morbid fantasy. From inquiry transcripts:

Mr President and Members, you will receive evidence that exactly one calendar month before he died, PTE Jacob Kovco had a dream about his own death in almost precisely the same circumstances that I have just described to you.

PTE Kovco maintained a written journal during his deployment in Baghdad in which he recorded his love for his wife, for his children, for his mother and his pride in his job. He also recorded his experiences and his thoughts and, on 21 March 2006, he recorded in some detail the dream concerning his own death by his own hand using his issued 9 mm pistol. You will receive evidence that it was in fact his issued pistol that fired the shot that killed him. The safety mechanism on the weapon has been tested and found to be efficient.
-- Nick

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Red Wine With Fish

Nick and Nora's Cocktail of the Week has been inspired by From Russia With Love on PS2.

Nick has long since finished the game, so I've decided to have a try - it's great fun.

In looking for the right drink I came across Lisa Shea's web site shaking movies, cocktails and video games with a dash of James Bond. It's worth a look.

In the meantime enjoy a:

Black Russian
One measure of Kahlua
One measure of vodka
Top with Coke in a high ball glass
-- Nora

Not So Fine

The organiser of this:

protest slaybutcher

which also included this:

protest massacre

and this:

protest behead

has been brought to justice:

(Anjem) Choudary has been found guilty of ... staging a demonstration without giving the required six days' written notice.
The fine was about Aust$1850.

A whole lot cheaper than the more than $68,000 cost ordered against two Australian pastors by a Victorian court to force them to apologise for reading the Koran.

-- Nick

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Big Spoiler

Network Ten has got away with broadcasting sexual assault live on Big Brother because:

"...the internet footage was screened live as a webcast, and not stored, it isn't technically broadcast (under the existing Broadcasting Services Act)," (Communications Minister Helen Coonan) said in Sydney.
Meanwhile, the moronic parents of the morons who thought 'turkey slapping' a female contestant - one holding her down while the other slapped her across the face with his penis - are considering:

taking legal advice to sue the network for defamation
because of the way their children, Michael "Ashley" Cox, 20, and Michael "John" Bric, 21, have been portrayed in the media as sex offenders.

Newsflash, mums and dads - the two Michaels are sex offenders. One held a woman while the other hit her with his genitals. That sexual and it's assault.

On a blog, one brain-dead BB fan called Vicki protested that she was 50 and a mother and she couldn't see anything wrong with what happened.

Ok, Vicki, lend me your daughter. I'm sure I can find a couple of chaps who'd be willing to turkey slap her in the interests of finding out how she feels about it.

The News blogs have been full of similarly retarded types of all ages who can't see the harm in Ten fomenting and airing such behaviour.

To one and all, I suggest you consider the example set by Messrs Bric and Cox and contemplate what might happen at the next party your daughter or sister attends in the company of some 'monkey-see, monkey-do' male mates.

In the absence of 24 hour surveillance, what starts out as a turkey of a joke has the potential to turn nasty real quick.

Meanwhile, also consider this:

Communications Minister Helen Coonan ... said she had ordered the Australian Communications and Media Authority to undertake a key review of the television code with a view to extending it to the Internet.
Like the worst behaved kid in school whose outrageous behaviour brings a ban that spoils it for everyone, Ten and BB producers Southern Cross Endemol may have just brought an end to live web cams.

The next time you type in the URL for your favourite live perv and it's gone, filtered out, page not found, you can blame BB.

That's irony.

-- Nick

The Birds And The Bees

Nicky and I (okay, mainly I) have been contributing to The Courier Mail blog on same-sex marriages.

If you read through to 200-odd posts you'll notice a trend on the side arguing on the affirmative - the inability to acknowledge that there are two sexes.

As a result Nicky and I have a bet. The first one to spot the phrase or its equivalent: "gender differences are a societal construct" is entitled to Sex.

1 part Kalhua
1 part Grand Marnier
Served in a low ball glass
Well, we had to make the bet interesting...

-- Nora

Sunday, July 02, 2006

House Arrest

TWO male housemates were thrown off Channel Ten's reality program Big Brother late yesterday after the alleged sexual assault of a female contestant.
Congratulations Channel 10, you and Dreamworld must be so proud.

Asked about the incident, an angry Tim Toni, Big Brother's executive producer, replied: "No comment, thanks for your interest."
No, thank you. Really.

You developed a TV show designed to bring out the worst excesses of half-witted twentysomethings and they lived up to expectation.

Even if no charges are filed against contestants or if they are found not guilty, both Channel 10 and Dreamworld have now left themselves open for a civil suit in the same way the P&O has in the Dianne Brimble case.

Perhaps Camilla will get a shot at a $1 million after all.

-- Nora

The New Colonialism

Anti-American Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is stirring up trouble in Africa, amongst like-minded company:

Mr Chavez, whose repeated criticism of America has raised hackles in Washington, called on an African Union summit to cooperate with Latin America in everything from oil production to university education to counter "colonial" meddling in developing nations.

...Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is also attending the summit in the Gambian capital Banjul.
Chavez also:

...hailed Iran's right to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
Everyone knows the peaceful purposes for which Ahmadinejad wants nuclear technology:

Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has called for Israel to be "wiped off the map" and said the country's establishment was a move by what he called "the oppressor" against the Islamic world.

Speaking to students today in Tehran during a conference entitled "The World Without Zionism," Ahmadinejad also denounced any moves to normalize relations with Israel.
Chavez cited:

...the example of Venezuela and Bolivia (and) urged Africa to seize greater control of its energy resources. He described the low royalty payments made by some foreign oil companies as "robbery".

Africa's abundant natural resources – ranging from precious metals to iron ore and oil – should make it a wealthy continent if it were freed from outside exploitation, Mr Chavez said.
Chavez has reacted typically to his own mismanagement of his country - like Germany in the 1930s and Argentina in the 1980s, he blames outsiders and foments conflict with them as a way of deflecting internal criticism.

Wikipedia notes that Venezuela is one of the five founding members of OPEC and:

The petroleum sector dominates the economy, accounting for roughly a third of Venezuela's GDP, around 80% of export earnings, and more than half of government revenues. The oil sector operates through the government-owned Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), which among other things owns the US-based distributor CITGO, with more than 14,000 retail gasoline outlets in the United States under its brand.

(PDSVA purchased) 50% (of CITGO) in 1986, and the remainder in 1990.
It's the kind of foreign ownership that Chavez rails against, except when it's Venezuela owning big companies in other countries. As of 2004, CITGO's revenues were in excess of $32 billion and in 2005 PDVSA opened its first office in China, and announced plans to nearly triple its fleet of oil tankers, to 58. Yet PDVSA (and Venezuela generally) is in disarray because of Chavez's own poor government:

In December 2002 many of PDVSA's managers and employees (including the CTV trade union federation) led a lockout/strike to persuade Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez to call early elections, and virtually stopped oil production for 2 months. The government fired 19,000 employees and reestablished production with employees loyal to the Chavez government. The International Labour Organization called on the Venezuelan government to launch "an independent investigation into allegations of detention and torture," surrounding this strike. The strike caused substantial macroeconomic damage, pushing unemployment up by 5% to a peak of over 20% in March 2003.
Chavez's grandstanding over Africa's natural resources and his comments that Africa would be wealthy but for outside exploitation belie the fact that he would undoubtedly enjoy 'giving' Africans the opportunity to exploit those resources with the 'assistance' of PDSVA.

And it also conveniently ignores the fact that Africa is not poor because its natural resources are exploited by outsiders. It is poor because the people of Africa are exploited and abused by their own governments and are the victims of endless civil unrest. In Congo, they fight amongst themselves for control of the natural resources:

"We live in fear," confesses Bayoba Biguge, a church leader in Bukavu, an eastern border city of 1 million. Rebel groups fight each other and the government over territory and the mining of diamonds, gold, and coltan (vital for manufacturing electronics). Illegal trade makes the conflict highly profitable. Coltan has sold for as much as $400 per kilogram.
and ordinary Africans pay as infrastructure and lives are destroyed:

The trip to Nyabiondo has mournful moments. "About 240 children were killed in that school," says a guide. The pitiful-looking structure is haunting. Everyone stares in silence and anguish.

The Masisi territory is the last major stop before Nyabiondo. First, a courtesy call on the government-appointed chief administrator, Justin Mukanya Kasombo...

"Masisi is one area where the war left serious consequences," says Kasombo. Thousands were killed; factories were destroyed and farms looted. There used to be 1 million cattle in the area. Today, there are 120. "People are living in misery." Malnutrition kills children. Crime is rampant. "Someone was raped last night." Dignity is lost. "You will find people with no clothes."

... Outside, a teenager with a rusty AK-47 on his shoulder roams the streets. We wonder: How many people has he killed? No one knows. No one dares ask.
Elsewhere in Africa:

Several years ago, I was teaching at an African university when a Christian student asked to talk with me. She had heard that I had been a soldier. Over several hours, she struggled to share her story with me. At a young age, her family had emigrated from an East African country to the West where she was raised and educated. At age 16 she requested to return to her homeland to see relatives and discover her roots.

While visiting, a war broke out between her country and its neighbor. Because she was a legal citizen and had just turned 17, she was conscripted into the army. The young woman saw horrific combat, but one event disturbed her most. While on patrol, her squad captured eight young enemy soldiers. Since no prisoner of war facility existed in the country that could pass the Geneva Convention mandates, she and her squad were ordered to execute the prisoners. The squad leader went to each member of the squad and handed them one bullet with the instruction to either execute one of the prisoners or use it on themselves. This student took her prisoner into the desert where the young man pleaded for his life. They were close in age, and he showed her pictures of his family and his grade reports from school. With great difficulty she shot him, but two years later she told me about her daily memories and nightmares of her action and its victim.
How can a continent support itself even with resources that would make it wealthy if it does this to its children, to its people?

Meanwhile, the hateful Hugo Chavez, blowing in from half a world away, would have them believe everything will be ok if they just hate America.

-- Nick