The CapCom returns!! This competition ends on the forum on December 25th (see links to the right).

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Downs Under #9

October 18, 2006

Leaving school? Join the army!
That’s the latest bizarre attempt by the Australian Government to boost flagging military numbers. Instead of taking a gap year and travelling the world, going to uni, or entering the workforce as school leavers currently do, Defence Minister Brendan Nelson this week urged students to don a uniform and serve in the Army, Air Force or Navy.

Billed as a ‘try-before-you-buy’ scheme, recruits would only be obliged to serve for one year, rather than the usual four or more. Colour me cynical, but I predict the government will be lobbying students pretty damn hard to stay beyond the initial period. Especially consider that they “could not rule out” sending the new recruits overseas to fight. What happens if the year expires with the new soldiers being stationed overseas in a never-ending conflict? Like, ooh, say, Iraq? “Right, mate, you’ve done your year, here’s a plane ticket. If you can make it to Baghdad airport in one piece, yer home free.”

I am quite disgusted by this move. It mirrors the current US Military’s recruitment program, where they send officers down to the poorest schools and try to entice young people with claims of travelling the world and being ‘paid to get an education’. Conveniently leaving out the whole getting-shot-at bit.

But don’t worry, it’s not conscription. In the Sunday Age, Brendan Nelson said that although he “believed conscription was popular in the community,” this program is not “a move towards it”. I daren’t ask where he pulled that opinion from, but I think I can safely say that your average Aussie doesn’t think that mandatory military service is a good idea.

It’s a shame, because many school leavers will be taking up the opportunity, subject to eighty days basic training and then dropped off in Basra or Kabul with a backpack and a gun. If they come back at all, more than likely it’ll be after a few years of being separated from their friends and family, and exposed to death on a daily basis for rotten pay.

There are already mechanisms in place for people who want to join the military, let’s not target the most vulnerable and easily-swayed in order to expand the numbers, at the expense of the economy.

Liberal leaver lambasts leadership
MP Steven Pringle, deafeated Hawkesbury candidate for the governing Liberal party stood up in Parliament earlier this week and alleged that the party was “controlled by an exclusive sect, an extremist right-wing group”. I might just be hopelessly cynical, but I thought that was common knowledge.

I jest… somewhat.

Pringle’s claims centre around the actions of upper house MP David Clarke, whom he dubbed the “Godfather”, for manipulating preselection campaigns. More specifically, the ousted candidate is referring to an investigation by The Australian newspaper, which revealed five hundred new party members being shunted into a Hawksebury ALP branch in order to skew the voting.

Membership skulduggery has long been practiced, and reforms are being considered by the party’s state council in order to prevent such things. I’ll keep an eye on this in future weeks.

Bracks emulates the Governator
Victorian Premier Steve Bracks yesterday promised to invest in stem cell research, even if the Federal Government votes to ban therapeutic cloning. This could be a considerable boost for the Victorian biotechnology industry, as the state holds some of the country’s eminent researchers in this area.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recently invested $3billion into the area, and is reported to have created over two hundred thousand jobs in the sector. The mind boggles. Obviously, we’re not talking about the same scale here, but not only will there be economic benefits, but Victoria will be able to keep some of its top scientists here, and carry on doing sterling work in an amazing field. There will always be naysayers, and we need to await the vote on a private member’s bill later in the year, but I for one applaud Bracks for this decision. Don’t get me wrong, I still think the guy’s a slimy lunatic, but at least there will be winners all round if this latest policy comes to fruition.

Downs Under #8

October 8, 2006

Hi all! After a brief hiatus, Downs Under has returned, and will continue to be a regular feature.

AWB linked to terrorism.
The Australian Wheat Board funnelled $300m of kick-backs to Saddam Hussein’s regime a few years ago. This has been the subject of the Cole inquiry of late, and recent revelations have linked the AWB to terrorist plotting in Iraq. This could lead to executives of the AWB facing criminal charges.

Manager Darryl Borlase discussed an Iraqi proposal to build concrete gas chambers throughout a series of emails from around 2001. The following quotes are pretty damning:

“The bunkers will have cement walls and floors so they are actually designed for burying the Kurds — under the cement?”

“They intend to build them with fumigation capability so the mind boggles as to whether they are fumigating insects or any other pest that pisses them off.”

Attorney-General Philip Ruddock has been called on by opposition spokesmen to look into criminally charging those at the AWB responsible, for breaching anti-terror laws relating to the funding of terrorist organisations. We could quibble over whether a country’s regime constitutes a terrorist organisation, but I think we’d all agree that however one defines it, the acts described here are horrific enough to merit prosecution.

It will be most interesting to see how aggressively Ruddock pursues this, given that there have been allegations in this inquiry about complicity from senior members of the Australian government in the scandal.

Anti-Terror laws to be challenged

Jack Thomas, the first Australian to be tried under anti-terror laws in this country has this week launched a new challenge to the control orders he was placed under.

Given that his conviction was quashed, the federal court-imposed control order under which Mr Thomas was placed seem barbaric, and inherently unfair – something I have written about in previous columns.

Director of the Terrorism and Law Project at the University of NSW Andrew Lynch contends that Thomas has a strong case, especially given that he was not represented in court at the time the control order was doled out.

The test case is scheduled to proceed this December. I hope the decision goes in Mr Thomas’ favour. Otherwise, a dangerous precedent will have been set – that people can be subject to harsh punishment despite being convicted of no crime.

University Bans Books
Australia continues its march towards Orwellian dystopia. Following the refusal of classification from the Office of Film and Literature Classification, Melbourne University has removed Defence of the Muslim Lands and Join the Caravan from its shelves, lest it face prosecution for making the banned books available for staff or students.

Ironically, both of those books are available on amazon.co.uk, and you get a discount buying both together. Shipping to Australia should take about five days.

Everyone’s favourite illiberal Liberal tyrant Philip Ruddock submitted eight books for review/reclassification. His reason – they promoted terrorist acts. Not only is this move monumentally stupid, but it will have exactly the opposite effect from that intended. I may even buy the books myself now, where I didn’t even know of them previously.

We’re going down a dangerous road when an institute of higher education is forced to remove controversial books from its shelves. I hear they’re preparing the bonfires already.

Thanks for reading. If you would like to take part in TheCritique, either as a contributor or forum member, please head over to TheCritique Forums and sign up.

Downs Under #8

October 8, 2006

Hi all!  After a brief hiatus, Downs Under has returned, and will continue to be a regular feature.

AWB linked to terrorism.
The Australian Wheat Board funnelled $300m of kick-backs to Saddam Hussein’s regime a few years ago.  This has been the subject of the Cole inquiry of late, and recent revelations have linked the AWB to terrorist plotting in Iraq.  This could lead to executives of the AWB facing criminal charges.

Manager Darryl Borlase discussed an Iraqi proposal to build concrete gas chambers throughout a series of emails from around 2001. The following quotes are pretty damning:

“The bunkers will have cement walls and floors so they are actually designed for burying the Kurds — under the cement?”

“They intend to build them with fumigation capability so the mind boggles as to whether they are fumigating insects or any other pest that pisses them off.”

Attorney-General Philip Ruddock has been called on by opposition spokesmen to look into criminally charging those at the AWB responsible, for breaching anti-terror laws relating to the funding of terrorist organisations.  We could quibble over whether a country’s regime constitutes a terrorist organisation, but I think we’d all agree that however one defines it, the acts described here are horrific enough to merit prosecution.

It will be most interesting to see how aggressively Ruddock pursues this, given that there have been allegations in this inquiry about complicity from senior members of the Australian government in the scandal.

Anti-Terror laws to be challenged

Jack Thomas, the first Australian to be tried under anti-terror laws in this country has this week launched a new challenge to the control orders he was placed under.

Given that his conviction was quashed, the federal court-imposed control order under which Mr Thomas was placed seem barbaric, and inherently unfair – something I have written about in previous columns.

Director of the Terrorism and Law Project at the University of NSW Andrew Lynch contends that Thomas has a strong case, especially given that he was not represented in court at the time the control order was doled out.

The test case is scheduled to proceed this December. I hope the decision goes in Mr Thomas’ favour. Otherwise, a dangerous precedent will have been set – that people can be subject to harsh punishment despite being convicted of no crime.

University Bans Books
Australia continues its march towards Orwellian dystopia.  Following the refusal of classification from the Office of Film and Literature Classification, Melbourne University has removed Defence of the Muslim Lands and Join the Caravan from its shelves, lest it face prosecution for making the banned books available for staff or students.

Ironically, both of those books are available on amazon.co.uk, and you get a discount buying both together. Shipping to Australia should take about five days.

Everyone’s favourite illiberal Liberal tyrant Philip Ruddock submitted eight books for review/reclassification.  His reason – they promoted terrorist acts. Not only is this move monumentally stupid, but it will have exactly the opposite effect from that intended.  I may even buy the books myself now, where I didn’t even know of them previously.

We’re going down a dangerous road when an institute of higher education is forced to remove controversial books from its shelves.  I hear they’re preparing the bonfires already.

Thanks for reading. If you would like to take part in TheCritique, either as a contributor or forum member, please head over to TheCritique Forums and sign up.

The Divine Right-Of-Wings

October 7, 2006

by Martin ‘HStorm’ Odoni

Sometimes I find the delusions of extremists amusing. Sometimes I find them amazing. Sometimes I find them disturbing and dangerous. With the ineffable Peter Hitchens, the loudest and most loathsome of the Daily Mail’s ranting right-wingers, I can never be too sure.

Well I can be sure that I find him and his views loathsome, I’m just never sure how dangerous he actually is. He is pompous, overbearing, withering, patronising, self-righteous, intolerant, narrow-minded, homophobic, xenophobic and nationalistic. (He insists that this doesn’t make him a racist. He isn’t anti-black – apparently – therefore he isn’t a racist.) I honestly think he pictures the gates of heaven marked with a sign of the Swastika.

What appears to make him a danger is that his perspective is not all that remote from many others, and that means that, even though they don’t agree with him on the whole, they could well be prone to drifting toward him.

I can take some reassurance from how clear it is that it’s not just his politics that are deluded; his entire view of modern Britain is hopelessly skewed. He truly believes that he and people like him are in the majority, ‘The Conservative Moral Majority’, he calls it.

It seems he wants the Tories to abandon the new, moderate platform of David Cameron and embark on a sweeping program of the hard-right. He wants a right-wing Tory Government that will clamp down hard on immigration, ‘re-establish’ British independence by withdrawal from the European Union, introduce large-scale tax cuts for their own sake, and abolish the minimum wage. Hitchens sees a wide desperation around the country for a change of direction in British politics, and he believes that Cameron’s decision to move the Tories to the left to battle on the same sort of ground that New Labour and the Lib-Dems occupy is a mistake.

What Hitchens completely refuses to recognise is that what he’s suggesting isn’t new, nor is it clever. The Tories went into the last three elections on such a xenophobic, we-hate-poor-people-single-mothers-and-foreigners program, and look what happened. Two thrashings, and one other decisive defeat by a tiring Government mired in corruption and in-fighting. People don’t want a return to Thatcherism, they’d rather have ten more years of New Labour than that (although many of us find it hard to spot the differences between Thatcherism and New Labour anyway), and whilst it’s true that people are disillusioned with and tired of the present Government, it’s not because they want a radical lurch to the right. Most people’s disappointment with New Labour is that it hasn’t been far enough to the left, that it hasn’t been ambitious enough in improving conditions for the British underclasses, given what it could have achieved with the enormous majorities it had from its first two election victories.

Now I’m not saying for a moment that I’m convinced by Cameron’s new ‘Liberalist’ approach. It’s a lot of everyman rhetoric – literally establishing an Old Etonians’ reunion club dressed up as confused Socialists – and precious little substance; painfully reminiscent of Tony Blair’s posturing when he became Labour leader in fact. But there’s no doubt that at least Cameron’s making the right noises; in that sense the Tories are now some way to the left of Labour. The overwhelming majority in this country are not particularly conservative, at least not in the sense that Hitchens means. They are liberals, and want a middling, careful, steady approach to Government. They are distrustful of extremism, and only tolerate an extreme as a lesser-of-two-evils when extremist parties are all that is on offer.

Hitchens doesn’t want to believe this. He feels sure that the Tories would succeed by returning to all that xenophobic ‘Save-The-Pound’ codswallop from the Hague years. He argues that the real reason it failed before was a ‘lack of conviction’ in the way that the Conservatives pursued the program, and that if the party were to be wholehearted and unanimous in supporting it, they would succeed. He even feels that the Tories have a duty to become a hard-right party, as the jockeying for the middle ground has effectively turned the country into a one-party state; with such similar policies across the board, it makes no real difference who wins elections anymore. The Tories, says Hitchens, have a duty to give people an option for a far-right party to support.

He misses a number of key points in this though. For a start, those far-right parties he cites already exist. They’re called UKIP and the BNP (among others), and they would serve his desires all-too-well. He sneers in response to that that he means a big party with a serious chance of winning. The arrogance of this remark is beyond belief though, for he is saying that the far-right have a divine right to drag the rest of British Conservatism with it.

Also, he is getting things dangerously back-to-front, by assuming that the electorate is there to serve the party, and by taking for granted things that are glaringly absent these days. His view is that the Conservatives are a large party, therefore everyone who votes for it will always vote for it, so a hard-right program would get in by default. This not only flies in the face of recent history – middle England has been voting fairly solidly for Labour over the last ten years instead – it is pretty unlikely to work in practise anyway. The reason why the parties who are to the right of Thatcherism are small is because very few people in this country agree with their policies or what they stand for. While the Tories remained out on that wing, they were getting thrashed as well. Had they stayed there much longer, the Lib-Dems’ belief that they could take over the position of second party in the House of Commons might well have come true, leaving the Tories as a small, insubstantial minority party. In other words, the moment this ‘big party with a serious chance of winning’ adopted Hitchens’ program, it would cease to be a big party and would cease to have a serious chance of winning.

But beyond that, we must look at and address his point about the Conservatives over the last ten years ‘lacking conviction’ in pursuing the policies of the radical right. He says that they need just show more belief and determination in such a program and it will work. What he doesn’t explain is how this is to be achieved. Surely, if the program didn’t inspire the Tories very much in the last couple of elections, something pretty big has got to be done to force them into line and get them on board a hundred per cent. They didn’t want that platform in noticeably great numbers before, any more so than the wider electorate did, so why should we assume that they’ll suddenly just change their minds and back it to the hilt now? Hitchens offers no explanation for why he thinks that will happen, nor ideas on how it can be made to happen. He’s just certain it will.

Like all neo-Tories (because that’s effectively what he is), Peter Hitchens lives in a world of his own. It’s a world where the British Empire still dominates a quarter of the planet, at least spiritually and intellectually, where the powers of Europe are a papist menace to the shores of ye sceptred olde isle, only held off by our indomitable bulldog spirit, and where all talk of a fair society is the conchy-talk of anti-establishment wreckers. His ideas should not be taken seriously, even for a moment.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean the man himself shouldn’t be. This is because, whether we like it or not, he does have a wide audience who read the Daily Mail, and many of them can be swayed toward his point of view, sometimes simply if they’re having a bad day. And that is why, with Hitchens, I am never sure whether to be amused, amazed, or genuinely disturbed.

Alcohol is evil

October 2, 2006

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I enjoy a drink. Several drinks, in fact. And I’d even conceed that alcohol itself is not to blame for my own stupid, idiotic actions under it’s influence. But this time I feel I’ve really excelled myself.

This is worse than the time I woke up in Sheffield with only one shoe. This beats the time I woke up in a field in Stockport with a cow licking my face. Oh yes, this was just dumb.

I’ve purchased 1200 Marlboro Lights while in a drunken haze. I don’t smoke lights, and I hate marlboro. I’ve also paid £3.50 for each pack of twenty, giving a grand outlay of £210.

The worst part of all this is that I had no idea I’d done it. I discovered my errant purchase earlier today, though it seems the transaction occurred some time on Saturday night. No-one seems to have any record of where I was between the hours of 11pm and 12:30am on that night, though I believe a kebab may have been involved, along with whichever canny bastard managed to offload his entire collection of smuggled fags on me.

I am a total, utter fool.