Wednesday, May 31, 2006

In bitter safety....

Memorial Day has just passed by in the US. In Australia, the nearest equivalent is Remembrance Day, although ANZAC Day means as much or more. To me the first remembers 'The Fallen', the second all those who served.

I first heard the following lines at the end of a TV mini series - 'The ANZACs';
"...In bitter safety I awake, unfriended;
And while the dawn begins with slashing rain
I think of the Battalion in the mud.
'When are you going out to them again?
Are they not still your brothers through our blood?'
(From Sick Leave, by Siegfried Sassoon).

Active service is another planet that those who have 'seen the elephant' often cannot explain to anyone who has not shared that horror. (I served during the Cold War, just post Vietnam, so I was spared those experiences).
Those who have served, in war or in peace, may be able to glimpse the shared feelings behind those few, complex sentences above.

In our little country town, we have a Club (The Club), the RSL or Returned Services League club. In common with every similar one throughout Australia, as far as I know, at 6PM the following ritual is performed, and with reverence;
The lights go down, the billiard balls and gaming machines go quiet, people stand, and the following is recited;
"...They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them...".

Lest we Forget.
To which the patrons reply;
Lest we Forget.
Then, slowly, the club returns to life. Perhaps to those from outside Australia, or even our immigrants (new Australians we called them) that custom may seem a little quaint. If your family goes back several generations or more, as mine does, and you have lost soldiers in both world wars, and each generation also has served, it's not so hard to understand why it continues.

Lest we Forget.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Ahmadinejad, Abbassi, Iran, and plans for us all.

Iran's Ahmadinejad spoke at a 'World Without Zionism' conference. Interesting who he lumps together as their enemies. I'd have to say we are in good company. (Read a transcript here).

There is a blog called 'RegimeChangeIran' which specialises in watching Iran and it's chilling reading.

"...We are in the process of an historical war between the World of Arrogance [i.e. the West] and the Islamic world, and this war has been going on for hundreds of years..."

Ahmadinejad's chief strategic guru Hassan Abbassi;

"...We have a strategy drawn up for the destruction of Anglo-Saxon civilization...."

" is not only the US that Abbasi wants to take on and humiliate. He has described Britain as "the mother of all evils". In his lecture he claimed that the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, and the Gulf states were all "children of the same mother: the British Empire." As for France and Germany, they are "countries in terminal decline", according to Abbasi.

"Once we have defeated the Anglo-Saxons the rest will run for cover," he told his audience...".

And meanwhile our chattering classes stick their heads in the sand and hope this all goes away.

Hat tip: pumuckl .

Australia, on the 'Free' list.

If you have a look at a site called 'Freedom House', and then have a look at the country entry for 'Australia', you will see that there are 3 divisions; 'Free', 'Partly Free', 'Not Free'.
Australia is listed as 'Free' (thanks guys). On this I mostly agree. We are freer than our northern neighbours in SE Asia (Why then would we want to consider ourselves 'part of Asia' Mr Keating?). I do however feel that we achieve a level of freedom somewhat less than the ideal. Don't get me wrong there, I have worn the uniform of this country, I believe the political instutions of this country work reasonably well, but it could be better.

That site, which looks to reasonably objective, says some good things about Oz;
"...Australia is a constitutional democracy with a federal parliamentary form of government. Citizens participate in free and fair multiparty elections to choose representatives to the parliament....", and;

"...Australia is regarded as one of the least corrupt societies in the world and was ranked 9 out of 146 countries surveyed in the 2004 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index...."
But it also says things that could be problematic in later years;
'...The constitution does not provide for freedom of speech and of the press...".

'...The rights of assembly and association are not codified in law...".
What do the likes of me think we should do to fix things?

Firstly, note I support Australia being a Republic. We DO NOT need to be a Republic to enjoy our freedoms. However, the wrong model for a Republic could reduce our freedoms - and I believe the 1999 model was a wrong model - that model would have made the President (or GG) simply a creature of Parliament's choice, not as he/she could be - a final guardian of the people's interests

Secondly, We need a potent Bill of Rights. Not one that is filtered and vetoed by minority interest groups, but one which entrusts and empowers true citizens in a participatory democracy.

Thirdly, We should adopt the tools of Direct Democracy; Initiative, Referendum, and Recall, so that we can formulate, or strike down laws by a petitioning and majority vote process (Initiative), and call to account politians and officials on the public payroll to give account of their actions, and remove them from office by majority vote (Recall). Referendum we already have, but it could be fine-tuned.

We should also demand that we have a 'State of the Nation' report annually (or immediately prior to an election), where the head of government reports on the Nation's balance sheet, civil health (crime, economic indicators) and how they plan to address challenges identified especially in the medium to long term. They should also set out therir legislative plans for the next year.

None of these things are revolutionary ideas. They all currently work, and have for some time, in places like Switzerland and the US. They should be part of the debate on this nation's plans for it's future.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

A quite different world

While out sniffing the 'net, I found this blogger site; Afghan warrior. It is from a place far different from the one I type from in my study in my home in comfortable country NSW, Australia.

The perspective from which this guy writes affects me 2 ways. One is to wish him and his country the best in trying to build a life and a nation out of having been dealt a pretty rotten hand of cards in life's poker game. The second is that it makes me appreciate what our forebears built for us, what we have here.

Israel and Palestine - getting both sides of the story.

I have just added Michael Totten's site to my blogroll. Why? because he is one of the rare people to get on the ground and visit the West bank, and the refugee camps and actually talk, discuss the issues with both Arabs and Jews, Palestinians and Israelis.

What with the War on Terror, Iran, and of course, Iraq, Islam and it's relationship with The West is, IMHO, the issue of these times. A clash of cultures, if not of civilisation. The Palestinian question is one of the major markers of that clash. We should try to understand the issues.
For many in the West, the confrontation brewing with radical Islam is the third Totalitarian Challenge (after the fascist - German/Japanese/Italian one of WW2 - and the Marxist challenge, or Cold War, that ended roughly 1989). Many of us struggle to get good, real data on this very different world. Totten goes to the source. In this article, he visits the Palestinian West bank city of Ramallah.

"...As long as you aren’t dealing with Hezbollah psychopaths, Semtex-strapped “martyrs,” or Al Qaeda head-choppers, Arabs really are the most pleasant people you can find anywhere. There’s nothing quite like going to a place where you can regularly and reliably pull up a chair (or a space on a carpet) with total strangers and share coffee, tea, cigarettes, and conversation while basking in the glow of instant warm friendship. Arab hospitality alone is reason enough to visit the Middle East instead of Europe on your next holiday..."


"...He asked me what I thought about Israeli-Palestinian politics. I told him I didn’t know anymore, which is true. During the Oslo “peace process” years I was staunchly on the Palestinian side. Every time a suicide bomber blew up himself and others during the intifada, and every time I saw Palestinians cheerleading the gruesome attacks, and every time I saw polls of Palestinians that showed the majority didn’t want a two-state solution but the complete destruction of Israel, I felt my sympathy for the Palestinian cause bleed away. Eventually there wasn’t much left..."

That last piece is as good a sum-up as any I've seen as to the reason most Westerners tend towards supporting Israel rather than the Palestinians. Israel seems willing to make some accomodations, but many in the Arab world simply want Israel annihilated.
I will state quite bluntly that I believe Israel has a Right to Exist, and for her people to be secure and safe within her borders. The methods her adversaries use to advance their cause leaves me cold, and in fact drives my sympathies strongly away from that cause.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Serious Crime - Coming your way!

I have had a look a look at the ABS statistics for Australian 'reported' crime.
Averaged over the last few years, per100,000 people, at least 80 will be
raped, 100 robbed, 800 assaulted,(at least that because many fights,
rapes, robberies aren't reported).
Add those together then in any one year,serious crime is almost certainly
going to effect someone in your close circleof family and friends. The figures
suggest that at least one of those serious crimesWILL most likely happen
to you personally during you lifetime.

'Home Invasion'. The ABS figures (unlawful entry with intent) show there
are roughly 1,500-2,000/100,000 - ie 1 in 50 PEOPLE, but most people
live in a multiple household - about 2.7 people on av. That means it
happens to roughly 1 in 18 houses EACH year. Or to put it another way,
it will happen to someone like you every 18 years, or perhaps 4 times in
your lifetime. Or to put it yet another way, someone in your extended family
or circle much more often than that.

Putting the figures in perspective, serious crime coming YOUR way is not
so much a matter of asking 'if', but waiting, and wondering 'how often' and
once it happens the first time, knowing it's probably going to happen again.

Know what else? The trends usually show it's getting worse!

Gun control doesn't reduce crime. The Australian experience of last 10
years are proof positive of that. What it does do is give the criminal
element a degree of certainty that their victims will be defenceless prey.

Some may defend that situation, but I don't!