Friday, October 26, 2007

Freedom... Isn't Free.

Unfortunately, many in the West, and in this case I mean Australia in particular, take our freedoms, our rights like the vote, and our general security and prosperity very much for granted.

Many, many Australians have served, fought, and sadly, all too often died so that we may enjoy those Rights and Freedoms. And not just for us, our most precious resource - our citizens lives - have been put on the line for others also, in two world wars, and numerous other conflicts in SE Asia and elsewhere. Most recently in the middle east. Australians put on the uniform and serve for many reasons, among them, and most nobly, so that others (in places like Afghanistan, Iraq) can have a chance to live their lives with a chance at a somewhat better future than they currently endure.

Sadly, 2 more diggers have made the ultimate sacrifice in defence of those ideals very recently. The most recent just yesterday in Afghanistan.

I would like, here, to do my small part and Give Thanks for the service and sacrifice of all who serve in our defence, but particularly to these 2 men;

Sergeant Matthew Locke, Special Air Service Regiment (SASR).
"..The Chief of Defence Force Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston today paid tribute to Sergeant Matthew Locke who died yesterday whilst on operations in Afghanistan. “Sergeant Matthew Locke was everything you would expect of an Australian soldier. He was courageous, dedicated and very professional. He took great pride in being an Aussie digger, displaying the characteristics of loyalty, mateship and determination for which Australian soldiers are renowned, Air Chief Marshal Houston said. “Sergeant Locke died whilst working with our coalition partners and Afghan forces to drive the Taliban from their sanctuaries and create an enduring security presence in the area. Operation ‘Spin Ghar’ was to target and clear Taliban from the area around Tarin Kowt in Oruzgan Province. “Sergeant Locke had extensive operational experience in East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan and was one of the finest soldiers in the Australian Army. “Sergeant Locke will be greatly missed by his brothers in arms. He was admired and respected by all who served with him. His energy, enthusiasm and sense of humour made him a popular figure in the Special Air Service Regiment.’ “In 2006, his courage was recognised with a Medal of Gallantry, one of the ADF’s highest honours. With complete disregard for his own safety, Sergeant Locke braved heavy enemy fire to neutralise the Taliban advancing on the Australian position and in doing so saved the lives of his mates. His courage on that day was but one example of the extraordinary valour we have come to expect from the Special Air Service. “The thoughts and prayers of the entire Defence organisation are with the family, friends and comrades of Sergeant Locke. We will do everything we can to support them through this difficult time,” Air Chief Marshal Houston said.."
[Source: ADF Online Media Room]
"...During his service in the Australian Defence Force, Matthew was awarded the Medal for Gallantry, the Australian Active Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Australian Defence Medal, the United Nations Medal with the United Nations Transitional Authority East Timor Ribbon, the Iraq Clasp to the Australian Active Service Medal, the International Coalition Against Terrorism Clasp to the Australian Active Service Medal, the Infantry Combat Badge and the Returned from Active Service Badge.
Matthew is survived by his wife and son..."
[Source: ADF Online Media Room]

Trooper David Pearce
"Following agreement with the family, the Australian Defence Force today released the name of the Australian soldier who died as a result of a roadside bomb attack in Afghanistan yesterday.
Trooper David Pearce, 41 was posted to the Brisbane-based 2nd/14th Light Horse Regiment in October 2006. He was serving with the Reconstruction Task Force when he died. Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, and Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Peter Leahy, extended their deepest condolences to the family and friends of Trooper Pearce. “Though no words can ease their loss and grief at this very sad time, I hope the knowledge that they are in the thoughts and prayers of so many Australians will be a source of comfort for them. “Trooper Pearce was a highly professional, skilled and dedicated soldier. His comrades remember him as a loyal and reliable friend, ever willing to put the needs of others before his own. “He died while serving his nation and his sacrifice will never be forgotten. This loss is felt by all members of the Defence community,” Air Chief Marshal Houston said. Trooper Pearce was born in Liverpool, New South Wales, and enlisted in the Australian Army Reserve in 2002. Following a period of Reserve service he transferred to the Australian Regular Army in July 2006. Trooper Pearce had previous operational experience having deployed to the Solomon Islands with the 9th Battalion of the Royal Queensland Regiment in 2005-2006. Trooper Pearce is survived by his wife and two children who have requested that their privacy be respected at this difficult time."

[Source ADF Online Media]

[Press releases and photographs used courtesy The ADF 'Online Media Room', per the Copyright Act, 1968, S103B(b) ]

Friday Flat Jet.

(I had originally called this post 'Friday Not-a-Fat-Jet', but daughter's suggested name was better - a Pig in full cry is more flat than fat - kinda good, I thought!).

Again, thanks to Alex's photographic talents.

(For those not familiar with the Grand Old Girls, that is an F-111 - affectionately AKA a 'pig'. These wonderfully capable machines and their crews have been giving any potential adversary something very serious to think about before they get adventurous for something over 30 years now).


Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Nobel prize, Al Gore, and nine 'inconvenient' points.

Many would have heard that Al Gore, past US VP and Presidential Candidate, and of 'An Inconvenient Truth' fame, is co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

How many have also heard that his documentary had it's day in court in the UK recently. The findings?;
"Al Gore's environmental documentary An Inconvenient Truth contains nine key scientific errors, a High Court judge ruled yesterday.

The judge declined to ban the Academy Award-winning film from British schools, but ruled that it can only be shown with guidance notes to prevent political indoctrination....".
Interesting. Global warming believers are more and more resembling a religion. One that can not abide 'heretics' who disagree.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Friday Fat Jet.

Another Friday Fat Jet. Courtesy of Alex.
If you like Alex's work, you might also like Glen and co's work too.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Election 2007.

PM Howard has been to see the Governor-General. Writs for the election have been issued, and Australia goes to the polls on November 24th for a federal general election (including, as is normal, only half the Senate).

Over at Samizdata, Paul Marks asks:

"In Australia there is a budget surplus, unlike most nations. Taxation, in total, is lower than almost all other Western nations. Unemployment is about 4% of the workforce - the lowest it has been for decades. Both industrial output and GDP are growing at more than 4% (higher than almost all nations in the Western world), and this growth has been going for years.

And everyone tells me that Mr Howard is going to lose the general election.

Why? Someone explain this please.

"It is Iraq" - but Australia has had virtually no casualties in Iraq. I can not believe that the nation that suffered the mass murder of its citizens in Bali is going to submit to the will of Al Qaeda (which is what running away from Iraq would be).

"It is Kyoto" - but this agreement did not even limit India or China (the latter the biggest producer of C02 emissions), even the Democrats in the American Senate were not interested in ratifying such an absurdly biased agreement. Why should Australians wish to do so?

No I do not understand. Why should Australians wish to throw away their economy? All their prospects for prosperity tossed away on unlimited power for the unions and endless government Welfare State spending. I do not deny that most Australians are going to do this (I can not argue with a nine month opinion poll lead), but I do not understand why they are acting in this self-destructive way."
There were/are many replies, many along the same lines as mine, which was;

"I'm an Aussie voter. I also have a strong view on one particular issue, which influences my vote - but I'll leave that to last.

Firstly, the Australian electorate doesn't see one party being better than the other on economic management. The foundations of deregulation, floating the dollar, et al, were Hawke/Keating Labor reforms NOT coalition ones.
Some of us remember Howard as the treasurer in the Fraser gov - and that gov was not a shining star of economic management or ideas (Keating/Hawke in contrast were far better).
And, last election, a big issue was (mostly mortgage) interest rates, and the coalition line was they would stay low under them, 5 rises in a row has somewhat put paid to that argument, and in large part their credibility.

Second. 'Workchoices', which a significant portion of the workforce feel very uneasy about - if not for themselves, for their children, unskilled spouse, etc. Reform is good, but it perhaps went too far too fast.

Third. Howard is seen as a 'my way or the highway' sort of operator. Party discipline is iron-clad (unlike, say, US representative votes on issues).

Personally, I would usually be a coalition voter. But that one particular issue I mentioned is the '96 Howard gun laws. I'm a 'sporting shooter'. At least one factor that is not on the radar, but still very much out there is that alienating ~1.5 million voters is not going to help you, sooner or later.".

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Another Friday Fat Jet (on Saturday).

Another excellent shot from Alex. A C-17 at dusk (our own cumulus aluminiumnus).

More of Alex's photography here.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Where do 'Western' values, law and government come from.

Churchill once said something along the lines of; "Democracy is the worst form of government - except for all the others!".
I'd agree. It may not be perfect, but it's better than what most of the world suffers under.
It also is in itself a mechanism that self-regulates.

I was musing on my (long) drive home on the origins of those values and the system that has evolved to be 'the West'. Just what ARE those foundations and building blocks? In my opinion they are;

.The Laws of Moses. The 10 commandments (we are based on a Judeo-Christian ethics and morals model.

.Ancient Greek Philosophy (for me, best illustrated in Pericles Funeral Oration)

.The Anglo-Saxon values which won out over the Norman way, best illustrated by Magna Carta.

.The English Bill of Rights of 1689.

.The system which evolved based on all these, best summed up by Blackstone's 'Commentaries...'

.The baton passed. To the new world. the Jeffersonian ideals so succinctly put in what have to be the most beautiful words in the English Language - or any other - The US Declaration of Independence. (And the equally important US Bill of Rights).

The are are of course many other landmark documents. The French 'Rights of Man and the Citizen'. The UN Charter. However, I'd argue that these are both clearly based on the documents (and more importantly the environments that conceived them) already mentioned.

Most countries are UN member states. Many pay but lip service to the principles set out in the documents I've linked to. Few follow them. Those that follow these principles invariably prosper. Their societies deliver to their Citizens a longer, safer, happier and freer life (", liberty, and the pursuit of happiness..."), than ANY other system or ideology that has been tried. And with a consistency measured in centuries, in the case of England, a period approaching a millenia.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

An Alaskan cabin, a young couple with 'the pioneering spirit'.

I've been visiting this site for a while. I have to admit that Alaska fascinates me.

While our extremes are measures of how hot it can get, and still have people function, Alaskan extremes are the opposite - how cold an environment can you live in and still survive?
While our problems are not enough water, theirs is probably having too much snow. And so on. The two worlds are diametrically opposite.

And, it's just gratifying to see a young couple with the starch to strike out in what is still a frontier on their own, and make a go of it. heartwarming stuff and I wish Jill and Aaron all the best for their future.


Bathurst 2007

Well, the Bathurst 1000 is over for another year. A Ford win. (It's historically been a Holden vs Ford thing!)..

Note that 'the boys' have already updated the wikipedia article. Quick and good work.

I watched the start, the finish, and as much as I could in between, (but there were other things that had to get done as well). Channel 7 did an excellent coverage of the event. Well done!

This race is an Aussie icon. People who are not car racing fans will watch this race even if they don't follow the sport at all for the rest of the year (similarly, the Melbourne Cup is followed by those who wouldn't normally be interested in a horse race). A great day and a Great Race.

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Friday Fat Jet.

I've had the good fortune to see some of Alex's work over the last few months. It was only available to a rather closed and select audience. However, he has graciously allowed me access to some of his photography.

Here is one of his offerings, hopefully not the last. Here is a Friday Fat Jet (FFJ);

Alex also posts at PBase, and occasionally at Well worth visiting. A heartfelt 'Thank You Alex' for the use of your talent!


Thursday, October 04, 2007

The wonderful Right to vote.

Australia will go to the polls shortly to elect a new government at the federal level. It hasn't been called yet (the Prime Minister gets to decide timing) but it's due not later than 3 years after the first sitting of this current Parliament. (S28). It'll probably be mid to late November.

When I look at the rest of the world, especially places like Burma, Zimbabwe, North Korea, I really appreciate how precious that right is.

We are one of the few societies that made it through the 20th century as a free country choosing it's governments by popular democratic means. The list is indeed short. Not many more than Australia, Canada, NZ, the USA, Switzerland. Britain doesn't even make that list because elections were suspended for 'the duration' of WW2.

We, our friends and allies, as a bloc, saw off the Fascist challenge (Germany, Japan) in WW2. Outlasted and 'called' the communist challenge that was the cold war. Unfortunately, as one foe is bested, it seems another threat emerges (or maybe multiple threats?).

What unfortunately is different this time is that there seem those who like the idea of adopting the style of those societies in fighting those new threats. Who seem to advocate limiting the rights and freedoms that make us different (and better, happier, and freer) to 'them'.

I don't agree with that. We fought and won against our earlier foes by embracing and building on those freedoms, declaring that those differences was what was worth fighting for. In the final analysis, it's what we stand for that makes the struggle worthwhile.

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