Friday, March 13, 2020

English language takes a battering in pursuit of power

Graham Richardson

How is it possible that in a country as bold, big and beautiful as the US, there seems to be great difficulty in finding a leader who is ­literate, with Donald Trump continuing to wrestle with the ­language and fluff and flounder his way through his presidency?

The first George Bush had some idea of English but his son was an absolute shocker. Just how Americans feel when they hear their commander-in-chief fumble his words time after time I can only imagine. The American public, and Trump himself, obviously believed the transition from successful businessman to successful politician would be little trouble. They simply did not understand the skills required in each endeavour are very different.

Trump made his money as the deal-maker. When your life is consumed by the next deal, it is too easy to forget the welfare of all those who voted for you, those who voted against you and, the real majority in the US, those who did not vote at all.

Trump has the knack of knowing how to pitch an argument to the America many voters would like to see rather than the one it actually is; for example, “Make America Great Again”. He will never revive the smokestack cities Bruce Springsteen sings about, but he lets Americans dream that it might happen.

Meanwhile, back in the land down under, the advantages of ­incumbency are on display. Over the long summer break, MPs and senators continued to try to make their points to electors. The ­Coalition has more MPs than Labor so they have an automatic advantage, but the big head start they get comes from the ministerial offices. Chockers with staffers and hangers on, they continue to churn out propaganda.

I have never been too sure whether the majority of this stuff is ever read or merely tossed in the bin. I suspect the latter. Undeterred, the activists continue, oblivious as to whether anyone reads the stuff they are disseminating.

Last weekend, I was privileged to be allowed into the home of the leader of the Nationals, Michael McCormack. In the beautiful southern NSW town of Wagga Wagga, where he has spent his whole life, McCormack is happily ensconced with wife, Catherine, who is also a girl from Wagga.

McCormack has always had an interest in journalism and was the editor of the local Wagga paper at the tender ago of 27. My brief look at this other world showed me why people want to return to the bush. Clean air, spacious grounds with friendly, open neighbours.

Like so many people in the bush, he also believes that country racing is just as much about an ­opportunity for a family day out as it is about the races themselves.

When you get to know him, you can see he is bright, hard-working and diligent. Suffice to say he is safely entrenched in his rightful place.


Fluorescent pink slug, unique to Australian mountaintop, survives bushfires

A fluorescent pink slug, found only on a single mountaintop in northern New South Wales, has survived the bushfires that burnt through much of its alpine habitat.

Around 60 of the brightly coloured Mount Kaputar slugs, which can grow to a size longer than a human hand, were spotted by National Parks and Wildlife Service rangers after recent rainfall in Mount Kaputar national park.

The Kaputar fire burnt through the area for more than six weeks from October to December 2019, affecting more than 18,000 hectares of land.

The mountain was formed by a now-extinct volcano, and is home to at least 20 species of snails and slugs found nowhere else in the world. The area has been identified as an endangered ecological community, the first of its kind in Australia.

Some of the fluorescent slugs would have managed to survive the fire because they had “retreated into rock crevices” in the heat, the Australian Museum malacologist Frank Köhler said.

But around 90% of the slug population, which also hibernates in bark and trees, would have been killed in the fire, he said.

Much of the slug’s food sources – fungi, moss and mould – would also have been burnt by the fire, but Köhler said these species should recover relatively quickly.

In coming months the slug might be at risk of being seen more easily in the burnt landscape by hungry birds and mammals, said Köhler, but the bright colour could also act as a warning to dissuade the predators.

The unmistakable slug is a “poster boy for snails and slugs” because of its distinctive colour, Köhler said, “but it comes with a number of other species that are similarly threatened by the fires that don’t get the same attention”.


'Political correctness on steroids': Perth principal's birthday cupcake ban backfires

An attempt by a Perth primary school principal to ban cupcakes on birthdays has backfired after the state government stepped in to put the policy on hold in the wake of widespread outrage.

The move by Arbor Grove Primary School principal Glen Purdy was chided by both sides of politics, with WA Education Minister Sue Ellery voicing her support of birthday treats and Opposition Leader Liza Harvey labelling the move "political correctness on steroids".

The Ellenbrook school's note to parents raised eyebrows after telling them the school executive had been mindful of the increasing number of students with food allergies and intolerances, the cultural diversity of the school, and the beliefs and traditions of those cultures.

The note asked parents to no longer send students to school with cupcakes, lolly bags or other unhealthy options to share with their classmates when celebrating their birthdays.

If a student arrived with such items, teachers would no longer hand them out, instead returning them with the student at the end of the day.

"I acknowledge that this may not be a universally popular decision, however it does avoid the risk of a child suffering a potentially life-threatening health issue that may arise should they ingest an item they are allergic to, is respectful to the cultural diversity within the school maximising inclusivity, and supports the School and Education Department focus on healthy food choices for students," the note said.

But Ms Ellery said the move went too far, telling ABC Radio she was not aware of which "cultural sensitivities" there would be around cupcakes.

She told the Department of Education to ask the school to reconsider the policy, and in an updated notice to parents Mr Purdy said the school had put the new policy on hold, pending the outcome of a survey canvassing the school community.

"I will meet with members of the P&C and also provide the opportunity for all parents to have their say through an online survey," he wote.

Ms Ellery said ensuring parents were sensitive to students with allergeies was "perfectly reasonable and indeed appropriate".

"But banning cupcakes for cultural reasons is a bit beyond me," she said.

Ms Ellery said birthdays were important for students and was confident it was possible to find a way to celebrate birthdays with food "in a way that is safe and inclusive for all".

Opposition Leader Liza Harvey asked where common sense had gone.

"For goodness' sake. We shouldn't change our culture for other people's cultural reasons," she said.

A parent at the school told 6PR Radio her son had brought cookies for his kindergarten friends to enjoy on his birthday, but the following day the principal's decision was made public. She said parents were happy to work around allergies.

Mr Purdy told 6PR the school's focus was to put children's safety foremost and sharing food was not allowed. The issue of allergies and intolerances was a serious consideration.

"We do have a diverse culture clientele and some of our families do not have animal byproducts in their food offerings," he said.

"We have always as a school supported the celebration of birthdays and will continue to do so."

Western Australian Primary Principals’ Association president Ian Anderson said the majority of primary schools would have policies in place around students bringing cakes, treats and certain foods to schools due to allergy concerns and health issues.

“My understanding is that teachers will still celebrate birthdays in their classrooms and that the new policy is simply around bringing treats that could potentially develop an allergic reaction in a student," he said.


The dark side of political correctness

“The PC movement is mad and dangerous,” says popular author and Australian Catholic University Fellow Kevin Donnelly.

“Instead of being able to discuss issues in a rational and impartial way, debate is shut down and reduced to ad hominem attacks based on emotion and politically correct groupthink.”

It’s a message he makes clear in his new book ‘A Politically Correct Dictionary and Guide.’

Though the book has a satirical nature and is accompanied with tongue-in-cheek cartoons by Johannes Leak, Donnelly highlights the underlying danger is kowtowing to political correctness.

“This is becoming a problem because it’s enforcing what I call ‘cultural left groupthink’, and cultural left language,” says Donnelly. “If you argue, for example, that multiculturalism isn’t the right thing, you’re attacked as xenophobic or racist.

“If you say a boy should be a boy, a girl should be a girl, if you’re against the whole LGBTQI transitioning movement, you’re attacked as homophobic or transphobic.

“There is a real problem I’d argue now in Australia in terms of the cultural left taking over institutions like schools and universities and enforcing this very strong ideological view of language and groupthink.”

A frequent writer for the Catholic Weekly’s comment pages, Kevin Donnelly has established a reputation as one of Australia’s leading conservative commentators and authors fighting against the cultural-left ideology and group think which many believe is poisoning society and stifling free and open debate.

Sky News commentator, journalist and former Chief of Staff to Tony Abbot, Peta Credlin describes Donnelly as “a rare and forthright warrior for common sense in a world where it’s more desperately needed than ever.”

“With his third book-length polemic against political correctness in just over a year, Dr Kevin Donnelly is on a veritable crusade against what he thinks is poisoning our teaching institutions, weakening our economy, and even sapping our ability to think clearly,” says Credlin.

“[His] latest work is full of telling examples of the cultural self-doubt that we need to recognise and resist.”

Donnelly remains optimistic, but is very aware of the potential dangers that can stem from political correctness. As he likes to quote from George Orwell’s 1984; “If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.”

“It used to be I think, therefore I am,” says Donnelly. “Now it’s I feel, therefore I’m right. They’re not coming from a rational, critical aware point of view, it’s just emotion.

“And that’s the danger, once arguments are reduced to emotion, you’re on the short road to totalitarianism.”


 Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

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