Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Excuses, excuses for a foolish HMAS Sydney commander

The story below is a dishonest attempt to cover up the folly of Capt. Burnett in the battle between HMAS Sydney and Kormoran under Capt. Detmers. They speculate below about Capt. Detmers using a white flag to fool Burnett, for instance. There is in fact zero mystery about what Detmers did. He certainly did all he could to allay suspicion as long as he could but Burnett was still amazingly overconfident in putting his ship within 1,000 yards of the Kormoran before final identification. And Detmers did NOT open fire before declaring himself. He did not even loose a torpedo until Sydney had fired a salvo. As soon as the Sydney came within close range, Detmers ran up the Kriegsmarine battle flag and THEN immediately opened fire with all he had. And he had a lot. For years. people doubted Detmers and the other German sailors who corroborated his account but everything he said from the beginning has eventually proved to be true and accurate so there is no reasonable room to doubt his account of the matter. See here for details of that account. It is in a way lucky that Burnett went down with his ship. There would have been ample precedent for court-martialling him had he survived.

The German raider Kormoran might have used a series of ruses to draw the cruiser HMAS Sydney into a range where it could ambush it with its guns, the HMAS Sydney inquiry heard yesterday. Captain (retired) Richard Arundel, former director of Naval Communications, said there had to be a reason why the commander of an Australian warship would make such a "gross error of judgment" in deciding to overhaul an unknown merchant vessel, believing it to be friendly, thereby putting his ship in a "suicidal position". It was "implausible" that Captain Joseph Burnett, with a tier of experienced naval officers to advise him, would have made such a manoeuvre unless there had been a "compellingly friendly identification event".

HMAS Sydney saw the Kormoran, disguised as a Dutch merchant ship, the Straat Malakka, off the West Australian coast on November 19, 1941, and challenged it. It drew very close, between 900 and 2000 metres, and the Kormoran dropped its disguise and attacked with guns and torpedo. Sydney sank with the loss of 645 men, and the Kormoran, also damaged, was scuttled.

Captain Arundel said that when challenged, the Kormoran did a manoeuvre consistent with a merchant ship's prescribed response, but it then sailed into the sun, making it difficult, along with the wind across the deck, for Sydney to read the signal flags. That would have tempted the Sydney to have come closer to get a better view. The Kormoran might also have been putting up its signals in a confused manner to convey the impression that it was a merchant ship in panic. [It did indeed do that]

He said this was conjecture, but the German Navy had made use of ruses before, such as in the Battle of Coronel in World War I , when its positioning of its ships in relation to the sun gave it victory over the British. Asked about the possibility of the Kormoran displaying the white flag of surrender, he said he had never seen one on a merchant ship and it was not part of the fitout of a warship. But Lieutenant-Colonel (retired) Thomas Whittaker said he believed the Kormoran might have displayed the white flag while it launched its torpedo. When the torpedo struck, it might then have removed its camouflage, raised the German ensign and opened with its guns. He believed that had the Kormoran decided to take away its camouflage and run up its ensign without putting in the initial blow, the Sydney would have blown it out of the water.


Paper's apology over anti-Semitic article 'inadequate'

On Tuesday "The Age" carried a very brief apology (under Contacts) on Page 2. I reprint it in full below:

"A column by Michael Backman, headlined "Israelis living high on US expense account" (BusinessDay 17.1.09) was published in error. The Age does not in any way endorse the views of the columnist, apologises for the distress the column caused to many readers, particularly in the Jewish community, and regrets publication of the column."

The Jewish community is considering legal action over the matter and in my view they should insist on "The Age" giving space to a comprehensive reply to the Backman article. With the Murdoch press on their tails (see article below) as well as the Jewish community, I think "The Age" would be wise to surrender quietly and soon

A former editor-in-chief of The Age has accused the paper of "journalistic failure", blasting the newspaper for printing an "inadequate" apology after it published a column espousing racist views. The apology said an article titled "Israel living high on US expense account", which caused outrage in the Jewish community, was "published in error". "The Age does not in any way endorse the views of the columnist, apologises for the distress the column caused to many readers, particularly in the Jewish community, and regrets publication of the column," the apology said.

Former editor-in-chief Michael Gawenda yesterday said the paper had missed the point, and demanded it tell its readers how it would prevent the publication of racist material in the future. "This is a journalistic failure, this is an editing failure," Mr Gawenda said. "The apology is not about offending people, the apology ought to be about the publication of something which should not be published. "Newspapers publish lots of things that they don't endorse, that's what an op-ed page does, it publishes views that the paper disagrees with."

Victoria's Jewish community has considered taking legal action over anti-Semitic comments in the article, written by London-based business contributor Michael Backman. The piece blamed the 9/11 attacks and the Bali and London bombings on the inability of the Israelis to make friends with the Palestinians, suggested the historical persecution of Jews constituted punishment for the death of Jesus and reinforced stereotypes that Jewish people were selfish and stingy.

Mr Gawenda, who served as editor-in-chief from 1997 to 2004, famously refused to publish a Michael Leunig cartoon that compared the plight of Jews in Nazi concentration camps during World War II to that of the Palestinians today. Before editing The Age, he worked as associate editor of the Australian Jewish News. Writing on a blog on The Australian's website yesterday, Mr Gawenda said: "What this apology seems to be aimed at doing is limit the damage to the paper from the publication of this piece." He told The Australian that questions should be asked about the journalistic culture at The Age. "What I want to know is how The Age has reached the point where racist rubbish like this gets published, and what the new editor-in-chief intends to do about changing this culture."

A source close to staff at The Age said employees were "upset and amazed" the article had gone to print.

Jewish Community Council of Victoria president John Searle said the apology was seen as a first step, but by no means the conclusion of the matter. The Age failed to return calls from The Australian yesterday.


Disgusting "postmodern" university media studies programme still in deep Doo Doo

If a conservative had made a film called "Laughing at the Disabled", there would have been hell to pay. But if you are a "postmodern" Leftist, your university will back you to the hilt -- and even attack your critics

Queensland University of Technology and one of its PhD filmmakers, Michael Noonan, face a maximum $250,000 damages claim after mediation talks with an Aboriginal woman broke down. The dispute, which has ramifications for how research involving indigenous people is conducted, has moved to the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia after conciliation talks were terminated.

Brisbane solicitor Stephen Kerin, representing May Dunne, has alleged the Boulia elder was racially vilified by depicting her as an intoxicated Aboriginal woman in a stereotypical manner in video footage as part of Mr Noonan's PhD project, "Laughing at the Disabled". Ms Dunne has denied she ever signed a consent form authorising her appearance in the film which has the working title "Darren & James' Down Under Mystery Tour". Mr Noonan maintains that he is holding a consent form signed by Ms Dunne after she danced with one of the disabled men in the Boulia pub.

Mr Noonan maintains that the clip shown at his confirmation hearing, the "Boulia pub scene", has been unnecessarily demonised by his academic opponents, John Hookham and Gary MacLennan, and was unlikely to have ever made the pilot.

In April 2007 two QUT academics, Dr MacLennan and Dr Hookham, wrote an article in the HES condemning the project as an unethical exercise in mockery. A dispute on many fronts was unleashed. QUT convicted Dr MacLennan and Dr Hookham on disciplinary charges, apparently on the basis they had overstepped the limits of civil debate. They said QUT had trampled academic freedom. The two academics responded with a Federal Court challenge, which was settled on confidential terms. They resigned, were cleared of misconduct charges and walked away with $200,000 each, the HES reported.

QUT is named as the second respondent to the latest complaint as Mr Kerin alleges it gave ethical clearance to Mr Noonan's PhD project, which included the footage depicting Ms Dunne. A QUT spokeswoman told the HES yesterday it is not appropriate for the university to comment on a matter that will be before the courts.


Your regulators will protect you -- as usual

Taxi sex fiends allowed back behind the wheel

TAXI drivers who sexually harass and assault passengers are being allowed back on the road and taking fares within months of being caught. The Courier-Mail can reveal drivers are escaping with little more than a slap on the wrist after groping passengers and making unwanted advances to women and children. One woman was even compelled to tell a driver she had a knife after being so frightened of his sexual small talk.

Documents obtained under Freedom of Information laws show life bans were handed out after a driver received a sexual favour as a fare from an underage girl while another was charged for allegedly raping a disabled passenger.

But tougher punishments are being demanded after seven cabbies in the past two years were still allowed behind the wheel despite multiple misdemeanours in some cases. One current driver was involved in four cases inside 12 months, including sexually assaulting two women and cajoling another to let him inside her home, before Queensland Transport suspended him for three months last year.

Transport Minister John Mickel yesterday insisted passenger safety was paramount, with all drivers convicted of an offence to be immediately banned indefinitely. However, Mr Mickel admitted to a loophole in which his department only heard about lesser complaints if taxi companies offered the information. "Assaults by taxi drivers against passengers, and particularly sexual assaults against women, are totally unacceptable," Mr Mickel said.

But Queensland Taxi Council chief executive Blair Davies said no driver caught for predatory behaviour of any kind should be allowed to drive again. "Where somebody has acted in a sexually and predatory manner in any way, there is no place for them and we would want Queensland Transport to get rid of them for good," Mr Davies said. Both Black & White and Yellow Cabs insist they tell the Government about all sexual complaints received.

But the FOI documents, which censored the taxi company identities, show companies often did not tell the Government. Black & White Cabs general manager John Tighe said only one of the cases involved the company and the driver was banned forever. "We take these offences very seriously and we act upon them and investigate them," Mr Tighe said.

The documents reveal a driver was spotted performing a lewd act outside a hotel in the Brisbane CBD in 2006. However, the taxi company did not tell Queensland Transport, with the driver not denying the claim during an interview. "What can I say?" he said.

The Government was finally told about the case a year later after the driver inappropriately touched a female passenger. He was banned for only eight weeks.


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