Friday, August 14, 2015
In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG says the homosexual "marriage" issue is just a way of causing division among conservatives
Leftist Jews are a strange lot: Michael Brull, for example
Most Leftist Jews are in the USA but there are quite a few in Israel too. Australia has one (though not the only one) in the person of Michael Brull, who writes for the far-Left "New Matilda". In a recent article he condemns Israel as "racist". The way Leftists use "racist", it usually means something like "normal" so that is of scant interest.
What got me was the way he wrote of Israel's most recent intervention in Gaza: "Israel invaded and bombed Gaza last year". No mention that it was an attempt by Israel to stop the constant rocketing of Israel from Gaza. It was even pretty successful at that. How does anyone manage to close their eyes to that? The man seems deep into Freudian denial, a serious neurosis. As an articulate Jew he can hardly be unaware of the whole story.
And we have this from him:
"In a way, Australia’s an extreme example. A lot of racism passes without comment or condemnation here. Perhaps this shouldn’t be too surprising: Australia’s history is among the most racist on the planet. Because of the White Australia policy, and the devastation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, Australia is still overwhelmingly white. Ethnic minorities have struggled to gain enough power, influence, and even visibility to successfully resist the kind of bigotry and prejudice that pervades our society, major institutions and halls of power."
He completely overlooks Australia's biggest minority -- about 5% of our population: The Chinese. There are people from various Asian sources in Australia but, regardless of source, most of them are Han Chinese. Why is that? Because the unfortunate Han are persecuted everywhere in Asia except in their homeland. There are Chinese minorities throughout Asia, particularly in SouthEast Asia. There are even Chinese restaurants in Bombay. I ate in one once.
But whenever there is some sort of political upheaval, the Han are blamed for what is wrong and get it in the neck. Their homes are burnt, their businesses looted and they are all to often killed or driven out: Quite reminiscent of Jewish history in Europe. And the Han are of course well aware of their marginal status in the countries concerned. So at every opportunity many who can do so get out -- mostly to countries with European populations, such as Australia.
Australia? That hotbed of racism? The Han clearly don't share the Leftist view that Australia is a hotbed of racism. They have been coming for many years so would have heard by now if Australia was indeed a hotbed of racism.
There have always been Han in Australia. My mother's grocer was a Chinaman. But the big influx started in the aftermath of the Vietnam war. Most of the "boat-people" from Vietnam were Han, fleeing racist Vietnamese. They got onto rickety boats and came to Australia at the risk of their lives. Many of them disappeared at sea.
Like John Howard, I was apprehensive about the Chinese influx. I was aware of the old "White Australia policy" from Federation days (abolished by the conservative government of Harold Holt in 1966) so thought that the Chinese influx might incite race riots. Both Howard and I were wrong. We underestimated our fellow Australians. The Chinese were absorbed without a murmur.
But were they? I personally have certainly seen no evidence of animus against them but statistical evidence is hard to find. I have been a keen reader of the news for most of my 72 years and I recollect no accounts of anti-Chinese riots. I have heard grumbles once or twice about them but that is all. And race-relations are after all a major interest of mine. I have had over 100 papers on the subject published in the academic journals. So neither in the popular nor the academic literature have I seen any mention of anti-Chinese upheavals in Australia. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence but I think it is pretty indicative in this case.
There are of course tales of minor discrimination at school and such places but the "cool kids" at school discriminate against members of their own ethnic group so that means nothing if taken in context. The upshot is that the Han move unhindered among us as our medical specialist, our pharmacist and our restaurateur (etc.)
And something that is very vivid about race relations in Australia is the huge frequency of little Chinese ladies paired with tall Caucasian men. I see examples of it almost every day in the shopping centre I usually go to. Neither the man nor the girlfriend on his arm seem to realize that they are racists!
So why is all that important? Because it shows that Australians are NOT racist. If they were, a visibly different group like the Han would surely be persecuted. They are not. So if Australians are critical of other ethnic groups, it is because of something other than racism. Southeast Asians are demonstrably racist but Australians are not.
And it is far from clear that Australians were ever racist in any serious sense. As is set out extensively here, the Immigration Restriction Act of 1901 was primarily devoted to protecting existing Australian workers from low-wage competition. Some of the speeches made in support of the Act utilized the racist beliefs that were common worldwide at the time but the basic motivation is perfectly clear if you look at all of what led up to the Act.
There were some anti-Chinese riots on the goldfields of the 19th century but they were again largely economically motivated. The Chinese miners were taking away a lot of the gold. And most of the people on the goldfields at that time were immigrants, not native-born Australians. A bit more on racial attitudes in Australia of the early days here
Now that I have looked at what Brull did not cover, let me look at what he did cover. The bulk of his article is an assemblage of criticisms of Islam. He rightly says that Islam is not monolithic and that the majority cannot be blamed for the deeds of a few.
Since it is clear that Australians are not racist, however, such criticisms cannot be taken as flowing from racism. Even more fundamentally, Islam is a religion, not a race. Muslims are of many races and you can change your religion but not your race. So on that ground also Brull's claim of Australian racism falls by the wayside.
But is criticism of Islam legitimate and proper? Brull clearly thinks not. But why not? Leftists sometimes make swingeing criticisms of Christians so why are similar criticisms of Islam not allowed? Both are major religions. I await Brull's article assembling and condemning Leftist criticisms of Christians.
So what is wrong with Brull? Why all the selective reporting? I cannot believe that he is unaware of the sort of thing that I have just covered and he seems too articulate to be a raving nutter. So I must conclude that he knows perfectly well that what he writes is propaganda, not balanced reporting. He knows that, in typical Leftist style, he is reporting only those things that suit him. He is a crook.
But why is he a crook? It is because his writing is a servant to his hate, not any attempt at an accurate picture of the world.
But why is he suffused with hate for the world about him? In his case it is moderately clear. He is a Jew. And the world that Jews inhabit has been incredibly hostile to them. Hating that world is understandable, if stupid. The world has changed. Outside Muslim lands, Jews are no longer endangered. But Jews do tend to feel the burden of the past heavily upon them, which is why a big majority of American Jews are Leftist. Leftists are people who, for whatever reason, hate the world about them: "the system" or the "status quo" if you like. Brull has joined that sorry fraternity.
But it is surely strange that, despite their great intellectual gifts, so many Ashkenazim seem incapable of truly critical thinking where politics is concerned. From Moses onwards, the Hebrew prophets condemned Jews for their whoring after false Gods. Not much seems to have changed. Emotion swamps reason still.
Abbott’s policy victories have well-disguised benefits
Tony Abbott had two significant political and policy victories this week, settling long-running and divisive policies within the Coalition, and yet will struggle to see the benefits.
The victories mean the Liberal-Nationals Coalition will survive, that the Liberals have had a cathartic experience and that the government can press forward with reasonable political arguments against Labor.
Yet a combination of continuing process problems, a lack of proper public analysis, personal ill-discipline and clashing political ambitions create a sense of brittleness and frustration within the Abbott government.
On Tuesday, after more than six years of tearing itself apart on climate change policy, the Coalition reached a consensus on cutting greenhouse emissions by 2030.
Even some of the so-called dinosaurs, flat-Earthers and “deniers” gave grudging support and praise to a target of 26-28 per cent reductions by 2030 without an emissions trading scheme.
As opposition leader, Abbott was brilliant in attacking the carbon tax, but now he faces a difficult task convincing people he is taking action in line with industry and popular expectation.
There will be ongoing criticism but the Prime Minister has managed to keep the Coalition together and hold on to his job.
Abbott’s challenge is to turn this policy achievement into a political argument and persuade the public he is doing as much as is viable. But, typically, any success is blotted out by internal bickering or procedural failure.
Even as Abbott tried to launch the climate change policy and seek the endorsement of his partyroom, all the negative factors came into play and pitchforked same-sex marriage into the spotlight.
Against Abbott’s advice, the private members’ bill on same-sex marriage was raised at the partyroom meeting, which was largely devoted to climate change discussion, and resulted in an unsatisfactory result for all, then led to six hours of talks through the evening.
Abbott’s “call”, based on the overwhelming majority view of the partyroom, was that there would be no free vote for Liberals, effectively putting off a parliamentary vote. This was another victory for Abbott.
Yet, again, Abbott’s position was not clearly expressed and was publicly disputed by Malcolm Turnbull, who thought the plebiscite — raised by about six MPs — would be a continuing distraction through to the next election and beyond. The distractions do not end nor do they help Abbott’s authority.
Vulnerability of official birth and death records
Imagine trying to get your driver's licence or passport renewed, only to be told you are dead.
Australian computer security researcher Chris Rock, of Melbourne-based IT security firm Kustodian, has shown this scenario to be entirely possible thanks to a major flaw in the way several state governments register deaths in Australia.
Appearing at the infamous annual Def Con IT security conference in Las Vegas on Friday (Saturday in Australia), Mr Rock demonstrated gaping flaws that have surfaced in the rush to go digital with the process of registering births and deaths in Australia.
Speaking to Fairfax Media via phone after giving his presentation, titled "I Will Kill You", Mr Rock said a malicious person could theoretically use the flaws to kill themselves off to get their life insurance money paid out, or go after others for retribution.
A person targeted by a fake death might not even know they were declared dead until doing an activity like trying to renew a driver's licence or passport, he said.
But it wasn't just deaths that could be registered; he also found it was possible to create non-existent babies that could be used for malicious purposes such as money laundering once they reached adulthood.
Given it would take 18 years for a criminal to make use of such a person, Mr Rock said he saw the flaws as a potential form of investment that criminals could use to create non-existent people for shady activities. "You could use a virtual person to commit a crime and if that virtual person gets caught you could put them into bankruptcy," he said.
He was "completely shocked" at how easy the process had been made while researching the topic over the past year. "They're not even making an attempt to secure it," Mr Rock said, referring to governments the world over not securing their systems. "I could kill anyone in any state," he added.
The process of declaring someone dead in Australia typically requires a doctor and funeral director's sign off. While this previously required paper-based forms, states such as Victoria, Queensland and South Australia have moved to online systems. These systems don't require log-ins and typically only need a doctor's name, practising address, and registration number in order to verify a doctor's identity.
The problem? All of these details are available on the publicly accessible Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency website for patients to verify that their doctor is legitimate, meaning a hacker could impersonate a doctor with ease.
While some "doctor speak" was required to fill out the forms in order to avoid circumstances that might trigger the need for investigations into unnatural deaths, online guides were available to ensure red flags weren't raised, Mr Rock said.
The second step of registering a death - a funeral director's sign off, which includes how they plan to dispose of a body - is also able to be faked by impersonating a funeral director, Mr Rock said.
Alternatively, a malicious person could sign up to become a funeral director in Australia, which requires very little paper work.
Mr Rock said he actually did this by making a website for a sham funeral home and used that to support his application for an account as a director. He got an automated email a few days later saying he was approved.
Although Mr Rock understood why the birth and death registration process had been made easy - to ensure accurate records that don't have illegible handwriting - he said the systems were open to people doing malicious activities with them.
"The reason the systems are so easy to use is because governments want accurate, centralised death records and accurate birth records," Mr Rock said. "They don't want doctor handwriting where there are errors, and they want the records quick so that if there is a mass mortality they can get quick death records."
While he said he never went through and "killed anybody off", he did consider it. "I thought about killing myself but I could think of nothing worse than starting again with a tax file number and company registration and all that sort of stuff," he said.
"I went through all the formal logic. I saw the online medical form. I then interviewed doctors in Australia to find out who fills out these forms and how it works. I then looked into the funeral industry."
Mr Rock said he began looking into the death industry a year ago after Victoria's Austin Hospital accidentally declared 200 patients dead. "I really had no interest in the death industry and it wasn't until I saw that news article, which caught my eye that they had obviously gone through an online process," he said.
"In my head [I thought] traditional doctors were filling out a certificate of death and then that would go to the funeral director and obviously the next of kin would get a death certificate." Clearly that wasn't the case, he said.
The Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages holds about 14 million records and each year adds 77,000 births, 37,000 deaths, 29,000 marriages and 11,000 change-of-name registrations.
But even if one particular state's system was secure, another state's less secure system could be used to register a death of a person from another state without raising suspicions, Mr Rock said.
Asked if he had disclosed any of the issues to the various government bodies, detailed his work in a book called The Baby Harvest: How virtual babies became the future of terrorist financing and money laundering, he said he hadn't as the issues were a global phenomenon.
Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, which was highlighted in Mr Rock's presentation, said in a statement it had a range of public and private validation processes to support the accurate registration of life events and to prevent people from seeking to engage in fraudulent behaviour. "The Registry is always seeking ways to improve the security and timeliness of registration information for the benefit of the Victorian community," a spokesman said. "There is a series of checks conducted before an event is registered. This is true for both birth and death registrations."
Father denied access to Perth Modern School exam questions
Bureaucratic secrecy at work. Feedback from parents would be too much trouble! Just trust us
An elite Perth school does not have to hand over a chemistry test to a parent who fought for three years to see the questions his daughter answered during the senior school assessment in August 2012, the Supreme Court of Western Australia has ruled.
The ruling backs an earlier finding from the state Information Commissioner, Sven Bluemmel, that the father of the student was contemplating "parental debate" and "informal collateral disagreement" about the quality of the test at the inner-city government high school for academic high achievers, the Perth Modern School.
Such debate undermined the finality of the assessment and review process and was not in the public interest, Mr Bluemmel ruled in November last year.
The father argued that tests should be disclosed to aid "a prod-uctive feedback mechanism from parents and to improve the quality of the tests at the school". He said the quality of the questions would improve through continual feedback.
The West Australian Education Department let the man, known as H, have his daughter's test answers but not the test questions. He sought an external review of that decision and, when Mr Bluemmel sided with the department, appealed to the state's Supreme Court, which on Friday rejected his appeal.
Judge John Chaney said the father raised many arguments as to the merits of his claim for access to the test but the court could only rule on whether there was a legal flaw in Mr Bluemmel's decision. There was not.
The Education Department had argued that disclosing tests would force teachers to spend time writing new questions that met strict criteria. "This will result in many more hours devoted to developing a bank of effective questions, at the expense of other teaching duties," the department argued.
Mr Bluemmel accepted it was in the public interest for parents to make a contribution to students' learning. "However, I do not consider that the complainant has established that there is a public interest in parents being able to debate the content of each test and the teachers' marking of each individual test," he wrote.
"In particular, I do not consider that the complainant has shown that the quality of the tests is such that parental debate, of the kind contemplated by the complainant, would significantly affect the quality of the tests or their marking and thus add to a student's education.
"Further, it is clear from the complainant's submissions that he would seek to subject exam questions to informal collateral disagreement. This would undermine the finality of the assessment and review process. I agree that this would be contrary to the public interest."
Mr Bluemmel was satisfied the school had agreed to discuss academic issues with the father and held a meeting with his wife.