Madolla

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It seems that the US’s Director of National Intelligence (ha!), John Negroponte, has come forward to refute claims that the threat from terrorism has grown since the invasion of Iraq. Quite the opposite, he says, the threat is now much lower.

Of course, this probably doesn’t include those servicemen who are currently being blown up in Iraq and would otherwise be at barbeques in Arkansas, but I’ll let him off for that.

What I won’t let slide is that, even though everyone’s in so much less danger, the Terror warning status is still sitting on the yellow ‘elevated’ level. Eh? What? If the danger is so much less, surely a threat level of 3 out of 5 is, perhaps, a tad over the top?

Now, obviously, there are two possible ways to look at this. Either Negroponte is a liar-liar-pants -on-fire, and we are all in imminent danger of a horde of heavily armed FALF suicide opticians descending from the hills and annihilating the West with a tide of soothing salinated solution, or….

Possibly, and I don’t wish to upset those Republicans out there who believe their Governement would never do anything wrong, but just possibly the whole ‘Terror alert’ system is a load of pants. A complete stuttering mess of bullshit designed to confuse and frighten those of the American public who are, shall we say, less aware of the world around them than a stunned watermelon. A – not to put too fine a point on it – pile of tosh.

Of course, the endless self-contradiction that has made the Bush administration so popular in the rest of the world (I for one have the complete first season on DVD) has never dulled the appetite of fifty-stone truckers from Texas to use their vote for petty imperialism. So I say we take that vote away. Anyone found to be over the weight of 18 stone should not be granted a vote and should be legally reclassified as a large mammal, or a bear, and then hunted for eight months of the year by anyone carrying a permit. That’d warrant a 3 out of 5 terror rating.

Pope V Islam

September 18, 2006

Our beloved pope Nazinger last week managed to offend close to one-eighth of the world’s population with an off-hand quote from the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologos, which basically claims that all Islam has ever done is evil.

Now, for a man who used to head the Holy Inquisition, this is a pretty daring statement to quote. I’ve read over a few of the choicest exerpts of the papal speech, and while he does make it quite clear he’s quoting, he’s also only really speaking in terms of Islam anyway. Not mentioning, say, the violent Christian reclaimation of Iberia, or the violent persecution of the Jews (best our ex-Nazi pope keeps quiet about that, mind). No, this is a quotation from a Byzatine Emperor, close to the final days of his Empire, who’s basically blaming Islam for the downfall, when he should really be looking at the hopeless inefficiency of the crumbling nation and the rising star of the Ottoman Turks. The Ottomans, incidently, were among the most secular of all Islamic nations.

Why, exactly, did no-one tell the leader of the Catholic faith that perhaps this might upset a few of our Muslim brothers a bit? Did no one think to mention, “Oh, Benny, perhaps the current political climate doesn’t encourage such a carelessly-chosen quotation?”

Of course, I don’t sympathise particularly much with those Muslims who feel a dodering old Nazi in Rome reading a 600 year-old statement is a good reason to start blowing shit up either, but frankly this is the biggest foot-in-mouth the Vatican’s produced since JP2 said that condoms don’t protect from AIDS. If this is the man that the Catholic world looks to for guidance and protection, is it any wonder I’m an athiest?

A Day in the Life

September 15, 2006

Earlier today, someone on Your Say said they wondered how I spent an average day.  Obviously, since I raised some questions about 9/11, I’m a paranoid moonbat.  I know many of you wonder how I spend my time, so here is a day in the life of Modeski:

6.30am – Wake up, remove tinfoil hat
6.32am – Check bathroom for bugs/cameras
6.35am – Shower
6.40am – Have my weetbix
6.45am – Do a sweep of the entire house and perimeter for government spies and/or bugs
7.30am – Check voicemail left from my “team” who constantly monitor Your Say
8.00am – Check night’s server logs, security camera footage and recorded radio transmissions
9.00am – Blog
11.45am – Don my tinfoil hat and take a stroll around the neighbourhood, looking for suspicious vehicles
12.30pm – Lunch.  Sandwiches  – wrapped in tinfoil, naturally
1.00pm – Spend a good four or five hours constant blogging (If I type below 55wpm the computer will blow up)
6.00pm – Dinner with my good lady wife, who may or may not work for ASIO
7.00pm – Check in with Your Say monitors
7.45pm – Another perimeter sweep
8.15pm – Calibrate motion sensors, security cameras, trip-wires, electric fence and other security measures
9.00pm – Blog
11.45pm – Don my tinfoil hat, go to sleep and dream of black helicopters and UFOs.

Voting in progress on the Critique forum (see links to the right).

Downs Under #7

September 14, 2006

State Government tries to dodge spending inquiries
The Bracks Government recently launched a legal bid to delay the release of information on Victorian projects until after the State election, due to take place on the 25th of November.

The reports in question are assessments of major spending committments like a new freeway (Eastlink) and an enormous redevelopment of one of Melbourne’s main stations. I fail to see how Steve Bracks thinks that this latest legal manouvre can possibly make him look any better. The Freedom of Information Act request from Deputy Liberal Leader Louise Asher was initially turned down.

After a lengthy tribunal process, access was finally granted, which prompted this latest challenge in the Supreme Court to stop the documents geting out.

The official reason Bracks’ Government gave for turning down the initial request was that the records would include discussions that had taken place amongst cabinet members. As the state Ombudsman said in a recent report, there are well-founded concerns that government officials had in the past interfered, obfuscated and otherwise made the FoI process more difficult for people when it came to potentailly embarrassing or difficult issues.

Personally I think this tactic will backfire when it comes to election time. Nobody likes their elected leaders to weasel out of their committments in such a blatant way, and Bracks is already in enough trouble with the electorate over his broken “No Tolls” promise for the new Eastlink freeway. One to watch out for in the next couple of months.

Don’t agree with our values? Stay out.
So comes the latest decree from opposition leader Kim Beazley, who is this week arguing that visitors and migrants should be forced to sign a statement saying they agree to follow Australian values, upon penalty of being denied entry to the country.

This is an apparent attempt to outdo John Howard’s call last week for muslims to integrate more; perhaps Beazley is trying to court some of the PM’s right-wing electorate? Pleasingly, the Labour party leader attempted to quantify “Australian Values” – something that often remains undefined, as I have bemoaned on this site in past columns. All visitors, even tourists, would have to declare their:

Respect for Australia’s institutions, including its democracy, laws, courts, parliaments, armed forces and police, different religions and cultures, for the equal treatment of women, and for hard work.

Hard work particularly tickles me, surely tourists didn’t come on holiday to work! Picture a collective rolling of the eyes, because that’s what many of the people I talked to about this did when discussing this issue. Beazley said the values of “respect for each other, mateship, fairness, freedom and respect for our laws are the front line in the struggle against extremists and terrorists”.

Sadly, he did not elaborate on this. Mind you, in these days of sound-bite politics this is not entirely surprising. I would not be the first person to point out the ridiculousness of the idea that ticking a box on a visa form would somehow prevent terrorism. And what of Australians visiting other countries? Should they be expected to make a similar declaration when on holiday overseas?

This is a patently-absurd proposal. All visitors and immigrants are subject to Australian laws, this should be enough.

Solomons kick out Aussie ambassador, Howard retaliates
Relations between the Solomon Islands and Australia continue to fail this week, following the expulsion of high commissioner Patrick Cole. His crime? Consorting too much with opposition groups. For those not in the know, there were riots in the S.I. earlier in the year, and two allegedly corrupt politicans have been supported by Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare in a commission set up to investigate the riots. The commission is generally regarded to be corrupt.

Sogavare has outright refused to accept Patrick Cole back into the country, and appears unfazed by the threat of harsh visa conditions for Solomon Island diplomats. Foreign Minister Alexander Downer insists that any response from Australia will be commensurate to the actions of the Sogavare government. This will probably mean an end to diplomatic immunity and much tighter visa restrictions.

Given that Australia has spent nearly a billion dollars over three years bringing peace, restoring law and order and otherwise supporting the Solomon Islands, it will be interesting to see how this latest stramash affects humanitarian efforts. At this point in time it seems neither side is willing to alter their position.

And finally…Pregnant Cow Prosthesis
Tasmanian farmer Geoff Heazlewood clearly loves one of his prize heiffers a little too much. No, I’m not implying anything… Theresa, apparently a “top breeder” had her leg amputated earlier this year after fall down an embankment. Her loving farmer is coughing up for a prosthetic limb, in order to realign her spine. When questioned over his extraordinary actions, Heazlewood said,

“I think most farmers, particularly stud breeders, will go to extraordinary lengths for their animals.” Indeed.

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Downs Under #6

September 4, 2006

Peter Costello stirs up anti-Muslim sentiments
Our treasurer this week decided in his wisdom to insult Muslims for not condemning terrorism enough. This has caused quite a stramash, with prominent lawyer and board member of the Islamic Council of Victoria Waleed Aly responding, saying that the Muslim community has been:

“Speaking out unequivocally against terrorism pretty loudly and continuously for five years. If the Treasurer hasn’t heard that yet, I’m not sure what it will take.”

The Your Say thread quickly filled up with responses on the issue. I’ll quote myself here, and say that Peter Costello is completely out of touch. I think that his willful ignorance is designed to pander to far-right voters, who take great pleasure in demonising others in order to feel better about themselves. Muslim organisations have been denouncing terrorism for years. A cursory search reveals the following:

The Age, 2/10/05 – Islamic Council of Victoria Condemning latest Bali bombings or in 2002, the Islamic Council of NSW condemning the first Bali attacks (pdf).

I found a great article this morning on Islamic Sydney’s website by lawyer Irfan Yusuf. He makes some very interesting points, but the overriding message I took away is that the vast majority of Muslims in Australia are already integrated, and that Howard and Costello’s recent exhortations are completely out of proportion – not to mention insulting.

Leaving that aside for the moment, what would happen if spokesmen for the Muslim community were to unleash an advertising barrage of unequivocal condemnation of terrorism? TV commercials, newspaper adverts, billboards etc. What would the net result be? I’m not sure that it would achieve much, if anything. Terrorists are terrorists; they’re not going to be swayed by moderate Muslims being more outspoken than they already are. Condemnation from general society certainly hasn’t done much to dissuade them. The government and other commentators do Islam a disservice by not recognising that it is as divided and diverse as Christianity.
Boo! Aussies are not afraid enough
Our favourite (read: only) Attorney-General Philip Ruddock continued to do his part in promoting terrorism this week, claiming that Australians need to be more afraid of it. Isn’t that great? Apparently we’re far too complacent. Okay, well let’s see what he said to the Ten Network when questioned on just what it is we’ve to be so afraid of.

“We have no specific information, but obviously when you look at the number of people who have already been convicted and others charged yet to be dealt with, we have to be alert.”

“I think what we’re seeing in the United Kingdom is that there are numbers of groups who it is believed are intent on carrying out terrorist attacks,” he said.

“This is of course the situation that we face. I think we become very complacent about these matters because we’ve not had on our own soil terrorist attacks.”

“We have had, tragically, Australians die in Bali, we’ve had the attack on our mission, we’ve had the aborted attack in Singapore. We are clearly a target.”

I’m aghast, this is blatant fearmongering; I mean he’s not even trying to disguise the fact that he’s basing this on no information whatsoever. I know I don’t need to tell our esteemed readers that the raison d’etre of terrorism is to strike fear into people. Why on earth would Ruddock try and do Osama Bin Laden’s work for him?
Obesity developments
Today (Monday, Sep 4th) saw the coming together of 2500 experts for the International Congress on Obesity. It’s no revelation that this is a growing problem in Australia, but it is being reported that some patients are being denied surgery in case they die under anaesthetic.

The Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists has written to the government urging that action be taken to combat obesity. Their recommended changes appear fairly sensible: more activity in school, better food, regulating junk food advertising to children etc. I think it’s sad that the government has to legislate common sense, but then we’ve seen that education has only had so much of an effect.

At the same conference, Monash University professor Paul Zimmet has highlighted suburban planning as being a contributing factor in childhood obesity rates. So-called “McMansion” style estates – UK readers think “Barrat homes”, only bigger, are cropping up at an increasing rate outside Australian suburbs. Zimmet said,

“These ugly dwellings, which are now sprawled across entire residential blocks at the expense of backyards, have also been a key feature of developments without attention to sidewalks, bike paths, public transport corridors, playing fields and friendly exercise areas, attractive and accessible to people who want to maintain their level of fitness and a healthy lifestyle.”

One key point there is the lack of facilities. Newer suburbs simply provide no other way for people to get to work than driving, even driving to a station. If all there is in walking distance is more houses, children are just going to stay at home playing computer games. Now, I know that will have got a grin out of a couple of TC readers (Naselus, HStorm) – because we did a lot of that growing up (still do!). It was always balanced with a lot of walking and larking about town, though. Growing up we had a lot of fields and parks; shops were in walking distance, as was the shore.

As more and more news comes in about the rising obesity epidemic, it seems clear that something has to be done. It also motivates me to keep going to the gym.

And finally…Crikey.
Bit of a sad story to end on this week. Steve Irwin, known to millions as the Crocodile Hunter has died from a Stingray bite. This was really unexpected and pretty saddening, but I think it’s some consolation that the man passed away doing what he loved. Our thoughts and condolences to his family.

CORRECTION: Reader Hueber has called in to clarify an error. Rather than a bite, the barb from a Stingray pierced Steve Irwin’s heart and killed him. More here in The Age.
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