Archive for March, 2011
And you thought all of the news on Syria was about authorities beating protesters to death and the president firing the government to hold on to power. No, apparently they’re about to be elected to the UN Human Rights Council too.
Don’t you love the UN?
March 29 (Bloomberg) — Syria’s government, accused of shooting peaceful protesters, is bidding at the United Nations for a seat on the Geneva-based Human Rights Council less than a month after Libya was suspended for attacking demonstrators.
Syria is one of four candidates for four seats on the Human Rights Council that will go to Asian nations when the UN General Assembly votes on May 20 for new members. The so-called clean slate endorsed in January by the UN’s so-called Asian Group of countries puts Syria in a position to win a three-year term on the 47-member council unless another Asian nation seeks a seat.
David Blackburn in The Spectator has written an article on the demise of Waterstone’s, the biggest book retailer in the UK, but there is a bright, gleaming silver lining to the cloud:
The bell seems to be tolling for the high street bookshop. The HMV Group, which owns Waterstone’s, has issued its third straight profit warning. Waterstone’s is supposedly on target for this financial year, but 11 of its branches were forced to close across the UK and Ireland in February alone and the company has conceded that it can’t compete in the mass market. Therefore, managing director Dominic Myers has decided on a strategy that challenges readers to escape the ‘stifling homogeneity’ of Dan Brown and Katie Price. The latest campaign will push 11 exciting first time novels on a public that largely ignores new novelists.
Admirable though this plan may be, it is accompanied by the whiff of panic. It is the exact Granta-inspired business model that Tim Waterstone demolished in the early ’80s. But, given that the ruminations of a meerkat from an advert top the bestseller list, Waterstone’s has little choice but to gravitate towards quality.
This is kinda what I was getting at in this post – stores like Borders and Waterstone’s lost their edge to Amazon because all they do now is sell bestsellers that everyone has heard of, which Amazon can do better and cheaper. The advantage that bookshops have over online retailers is the allure of stumbling across something that you had no idea about whilst browsing books. When the only fiction titles on display are Twilight, Steig Larsson and Dan Brown and the non-fiction is all bright-coloured autobiographies of B-list celebrities that have been ghost-written by the same Rolling Stone journalist, you are giving away that advantage. Add to that the fact that the sales staff are 16-year-olds on minimum wage who have never read anything outside of the afore-mentioned library and you have signed your 21st-Century bookstore death warrant.
Hopefully, other stores will follow Waterstone’s and start actually looking for writing talent again. Who knows, people might actually read more (but probably not, because people are dumb).
As you should all (hopefully) Know by now, the Liberals won Saturday’s NSW election in an unprecedented, record win – stripping away seats from Labor’s heartland that no one ever expected a Liberal to represent with swings upward of 20%. More relevant to this blog is that the Greens performed very poorly relative to everyone’s predictions, not winning a single seat in the lower house and winning only 1% of the voters fleeing from Labor (by comparison, the Libs had 11.4%).
By everyone’s account, the Greens have really collapsed in the last few weeks. Some say this had a lot to do with Fiona Byrne and her BDS effort, particularly the double-game she was playing later, trying to deny her support for the movement to the media whilst simultaneously flouting it to groups that may vote for her because of it. The Sydney Morning Herald’s editorial this morning even referred to the policy as “childish and indulgent”. Matthew Franklin and Amos Aikman give a pretty good run-down of this for The Australian, particularly regarding the Greens’ admission that the issue hurt their campaign:
Federal Greens leader Bob Brown admitted yesterday that voters were upset by Ms Byrne’s repeated misleading statements over her decision in December, as Marrickville Mayor, to support a motion boycotting goods and cultural exchanges from Israel.
Ms Byrne said early in the campaign that if elected to parliament she would push for a statewide ban. However, she subsequently labelled her comments a “falsehood” when they were reported by The Australian. Ms Byrne later denied she had “pushed” for the motion, but was revealed to have been planning to speak at an anti-Israeli-apartheid rally this week.
Asked yesterday whether Ms Byrne’s actions, which plagued the latter days of her campaign, had contributed to her failure, Senator Brown said: “I think it had an effect on it — that’s my feedback from the electorate and it’s no doubt something that the NSW Greens will be looking at.”
Another issue that was brought to light in this election is that the major parties, particularly Labor, are finally realising that supporting the Greens only hurts them. Labor NSW upper-house member and campaign spokesman Luke Foley has repeatedly called for Labor to turn against the Greens, and in only one seat – Coogee – did Labor and the Greens come to any sort of preference deal, presumably because Labor candidate for Coogee Paul Pierce is rumoured to be married to a Green. Coogee fell to the Liberals regardless.
Victorian Liberal senator Helen Kroger has written on how the Greens’ ostensible success was mostly as a result of the major parties preferencing them in order to take power away from each other. Without Liberal preferences, Adam Bandt would never have won Melbourne.
THE Victorian and New South Wales elections may have put an end to Bob Brown’s hopes of an advancing political greenslide in Australia. In the NSW election on Saturday night, the ALP primary vote dropped 13.5 per cent but the Greens picked up only 1.4 per cent, with the Coalition’s primary vote increasing 14.1 per cent, picking up the overwhelming majority of disaffected Labor and independent voters.
The Greens were relying on the Liberals to win four seats in the Victorian state election. We [Liberals] refused to preference them and they didn’t win a seat. On Saturday night, they were expected to win the inner-city seats of Balmain and Marrickville, but they now look like winning neither.
With a huge collapse in the ALP’s primary vote, the Greens should have won these seats where the swings required were only 3.7 per cent and 7.5 per cent respectively. More and more, the public is becoming deeply suspicious of the consequences of the extremist policies of selfish inner-city professionals who vote for the Greens.
These voters – usually on the government payroll and in secure jobs, living comfortably in wealthy inner-city suburbs – can afford to worry about climate change and not about jobs, mortgages and a future for their children.
These voters are largely disengaged from the general public in the suburbs.
This last point is particularly important. The Greens have really shown themselves to be a fringe group of “champagne socialists.” Moving more and more into the mainstream does not seem to be moderating them, but rather exposing them as ideologues and extremists with little real political credibility. This is particularly true in NSW, where their leader, Lee Rhiannon, is a former Stalinist who supported the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and of course this business with Fiona Byrne.
The above image is from Damien Murphy in today’s Sydney Morning Herald. NSW election is only one day away and the Greens look poised to take three lower house seats – Coogee, Marrickville and Balmain.
There was a great breakdown of why the Apartheid comparison is “nonsense” by Bruce Loudon in The Australian, a former international correspondent in both actual Apartheid South Africa and the Middle East:
FIONA Byrne, the Greens candidate who is favourite to win the seat of Marrickville, is being plain silly in trying to draw parallels between Israel and apartheid South Africa.
In a word, it’s nonsense. Anyone who knew South Africa in the bad old pre-1994 days of apartheid and is familiar with Israel and the Middle East knows that to be the case.
…Israel is a vibrant, fully functioning, hotly contested parliamentary democracy in which every citizen can play a part. It is the only such democracy in a Middle-Eastern sea of corrupt autocracies and dictatorships that are now being challenged by Arabs seeking freedom and a new course for their countries. A place where there is completely free political debate, a completely free press and a completely free judiciary.
Contrast Israel’s democracy with the situation in South Africa during the dark days of apartheid when a small elite of whites held virtually all the political and economic power and members of the numerically overwhelming black majority – 30 million to fewer than three million – were, simply because their skin was the wrong colour, discriminated against at every level and denied any role that didn’t involve servility and servitude.
“Whites Only” signs meant that blacks were excluded from park benches, couldn’t go to beaches, had to queue in different lines at post offices, couldn’t get hospital treatment, could mostly work only as menial labourers or domestic servants, had to ride in separate elevators, and had relationships across the colour bar only on pain of being hauled before the courts and imprisoned under the Immorality Act.
For a time, blacks were even barred from placing family funeral notices in newspapers. The right to mourn the loss of loved ones was segregated. That was the evil of racial discrimination.
This message, unfortunately, has been lost on our friend Mayor Fiona Byrne, although she does seem to have miraculously realised that maybe this whole BDS kerfuffle is damaging her reputation as a real politician. Australian reporter Imre Salusinszky noted today:
A GREENS candidate in the NSW election who denied she had ever “pushed” for a boycott of Israel was slated to speak at a public rally next week in support of such a boycott, and in protest against “Israeli apartheid”.
Fiona Byrne, the Greens candidate in the inner-western Sydney seat of Marrickville, initially denied to The Australian she had agreed to address the “Sing Out Against Apartheid: Boycott Divestment and Sanctions” rally outside Sydney’s Town Hall next Wednesday.
…It is the second time this week that Ms Byrne has been caught playing fast and loose with the facts about the extent of her involvement in the global movement to isolate Israel economically and culturally.
After she denied ever expressing an intention to introduce an Israel boycott into state parliament, The Australian revealed a tape of a press conference last month where she did so.
She’s already lying on the campaign trail, this doesn’t bode well for her seemingly impending election into State Parliament.
Speaking of which, the ALP has been panicking about losing Carmel Tebbutt to Byrn in Marrickville, so has been telling everyone who’ll listen how evil the Greens are and why Liberal voters need to preference the ALP over the Greens because it’s better to have anyone except The Wicked Witch of the (Inner) West. Fair enough, and you would struggle to find someone who could convincingly dispute that.
Only problem is that apparently this only applies in seats where Labor is threatened by the Greens and the Liberals can help. On the other hand, if it’s the Liberals threatening Labor, they are more than happy to “deal with the devil” and hang on to power.
In what is seen as a compromise, the Greens in Coogee will preference “progressive independents” before Labor, but Labor before Liberal. After informal talks with the Greens but no written agreement, the Labor Party will preference the Greens in Coogee.
This is a really worrying double standard. The Greens have only got where they are today because of Labor preferences (although Liberals helped Adam Bandt in his Melbourne bid) and even though the Greens are now posing a serious threat to Labor’s standing as the party of the mainstream Left, they still seem to be repeating the same mistakes.
I could compare it to fishers who fish all of the fish out the water until there are no fish left, only these fish never tasted any good in the first place.
Just a little one (more serious post later today): Is it just me, or does the poster for the new Little Red Riding Hood movie make her look a little…Islamic?
As one colleague pointed out to me, Wolf is a Jewish surname. Maybe there’s more to this fairytale than we think…
Below are a couple of Israel boycott-inspired images. Feel free to distribute them, but please put a link to my blog somewhere when you do.
My first image is responding to this story. I figured that there was something to what old Iran was saying, so I decided to really give Iran something to boycott:
The second image was inspired by this VexNews story:
The NSW Greens party is in a state of panic about signs appearing throughout the Sydney state electorate of Marrickville highlighting their candidate Fiona Byrne’s involvement in supporting causes associated with Israel’s homophobic and racist enemies, including a notorious council boycott of the Jewish state.
One anonymous broomstick-wielding Greens party hack, described by onlookers as acting in a manner that was reminiscent to them of a witch, was seen near the Petersham train station this morning attempting to use her powers to dislodge the signs that were out of reach of mere mortals.
So I figured that it would be a good idea to make Fiona Byrne look like The Wicked Witch of The West from The Wizard of Oz, just to illustrate the effect that she’ll have on NSW if elected. Anyone in Marrickville not planing on voting for Carmel Tebbutt, please preference her above Byrne, we really don’t want this moron running our state.
I didn’t say anything in the last couple of days about the Israeli settler family who were murdered as they slept, or the Israeli government’s response – announcing 500 new units to be constructed in the 3 blocs that almost everyone agrees Israel will hold on to in any final-status agreement (see HERE). This is a huge issue though, and would have received a lot more coverage if the Japan earthquake weren’t overshadowing it all.
The Wall Street Journal‘s Bret Stephens has written an extremely eloquent piece on some of the implications of this saga and the reactions to it, in the context of the broader issues. He argues that the world jumps to criticise Israel for acts of little or no consequence (like construction in an area that they realistically will never withdraw from), whilst giving a “free waiver” to any Palestinian crimes (like butchering children as they sleep), dismissing them as “understandable”, given the alleged severity of Israel’s actions.
I have a feeling that years from now Palestinians will look back and wonder: How did we allow ourselves to become that? If and when that happens—though not until that happens—Palestinians and Israelis will at long last be able to live alongside each other in genuine peace and security.
But I also wonder whether a similar question will ever occur to the Palestinian movement’s legion of fellow travelers in the West. To wit, how did they become so infatuated with a cause that they were willing to ignore its crimes—or, if not quite ignore them, treat them as no more than a function of the supposedly infinitely greater crime of Israeli occupation?
…It is precisely in this sense that the frenzied international condemnation of Israeli settlements and settlers does the most harm. Having been accorded the part of George Orwell’s Emmanuel Goldstein—perpetual target of the proverbial two minutes of hate—they have drained whatever capacity there was to hold Palestinian actions to moral account, to say nothing of our ability to understand the nature of a conflict that is more than simply territorial. The demonization of the settlers has made the world not only coarse but blind.
Much of the conversation that I’ve seen from left-leaning Zionists has been condemnation of the new settlement policy whilst almost overlooking the actual horror of the event. An act as barbarous as this cannot possible be looked-on with anything but disgust.