Monday, December 31, 2007

A dishonourable list (1)

A brief but biting editorial from "The Times" below about the annual British honours list (knighthoods etc.) just announced. I must say that an awful lot of nonentities have been gonged this year: Pop singers, actors, TV presenters, a rag-trader, a BBC apparatchik etc. Being already popular or being brown-skinned seem to have been major qualifiers. A more comprehensive commentary here

There are few more predictable annual rituals than the new year honours list. There are always a few well merited awards, valuable when they are given to people away from the public eye who would never dream of such recognition for the good work they do. But the list tends to be dominated by a mix of worthies and entertainers who ought to be content with the honour of banking large sums of money for their work. The latest list is little better. In the context of the refusal to honour those who put their lives at risk to save the lives of others on 7/7, it looks insulting.

Gordon Brown is in danger of promising much and delivering little. The prime minister made a song and dance about honouring members of the public who show bravery during terrorist attacks. As he put it in July: "It is right that we look at how our honours system can recognise those in our emergency services and members of the public who showed such bravery and heroism in the face of the recent terrorist attacks." That turns out to have been hot air. In reality, as we report, the Cabinet Office has actually turned down such nominations as undeserving.

Awards have indeed been made for behaviour on 7/7 - but to civil servants sitting at their desks co-ordinating the work of others. Heroes such as Tim Coulson, a teacher who smashed his way into a bombed Tube carriage, gave first aid, had a man die in his arms and was so badly affected by his experience that he has had to retire early, have been snubbed. Not one member of the public has been rewarded for bravery. Mr Coulson's wife was told by the Cabinet Office that "honours are awarded to people for meritorious service over a sustained period and not specifically for saving someone's life" - an explanation which contradicts the citation to the bureaucrats honoured for their co-ordination role on 7/7.

There have long been calls for the honours system to be reformed. Now the shame of these snubs to the brave brings dishonour to the establishment that bestows them.


A dishonourable list (2)

Rod Liddle offers a lighter version of the points made in the editorial above

Another year goes by and no bloody official recognition. Slave my guts out every week alerting people to the fact that Bono, Patricia Hewitt, Sting, the Milibands, Ruth Kelly, all doctors and most of the Conservative party are agents of Satan, all for no thanks. Not that one does it in expectation of ennoblement, of course. One does it, without fear or favour, for the good of the country. And for money, obviously.

But then you read the new year's honours list and discover, halfway down, that George Alagiah and Hanif Kureishi have both been bunged some Establishment bauble, and the rancour begins to build. Kureishi's got a CBE - for what? I mean, I have nothing against the chap. He's quite a good writer, in much the same way as Jimmy Carr is quite a good comedian and Bas Savage, of Brighton, is quite a good footballer. In truth, the three of them inhabit that vague, shadowy area where "quite good" merges imperceptibly with "actually, not very good at all".

Martin Amis, Iain Banks and, strange to say, JG Ballard have never been honoured - some people might argue that they have performed a greater service to literature over the years than Kureishi. Some people might even remember the name of a book one of them has written, which gives them the distinct edge over Hanif.

And then George Alagiah, recipient of an OBE - what's he done, exactly? Read the bloody news from an Autocue. Again, I have nothing against George, who seems a likeable chap. But his is an occupation that requires nothing in the way of skill, tenacity, intellectual ability or fortitude. All you have to do is sit there, read what's been written for you by some marginally postpubescent PC BBC monkey and try not to belch or snigger. A pig's bladder on a stick could read the news. Probably. You begin to wonder what honours are for.

Why, for example, has a person called Jazzie B been handed an OBE? Because he was the driving force of Soul II Soul, a mediocre Brit R&B band a decade or so back? Hell, is that all it takes? I could form a mediocre Brit R&B band tomorrow and so, I suspect, could you. If Jazzie B can get an OBE then surely So Solid Crew deserve knighthoods.

And then there's Kylie Minogue, who gets an OBE for shoving her arse in our faces whenever the opportunity arises, or for having successfully recovered from cancer, or for having taken part in an episode of The Vicar of Dibley. Gordon Brown recently published a book about what can be achieved by individuals who struggle against overwhelming odds to inspire and transform their communities. It was quite an uplifting book in a way. It's just that I never knew it was written with Kylie Minogue in mind, still less Hanif Kureishi. Are those the people he meant?


How The News Is Made

By Barry Rubin

Ring, ring, goes the telephone. And of course I answer it. The voice on the other end says that he is "Joseph" of Reuters. I get many calls from journalists and wire services but never has someone I don't know introduced himself by first name only. Since he has an obvious Arabic accent it is quite clear that he thinks I am either so biased as to care what his family name is or so stupid not to guess why he isn't giving it. So the effect is to achieve the exact opposite of what he wants. It puts me on my guard.

Next he tells me that he is doing a story on how Israel is strangling the Palestinian economy. In such circumstances, I have taken to arguing back with correspondents. By framing the story that way, I explain, Reuters is building in a bias. After all, the story should be: What's wrong with the Palestinian economy, how to fix it, and will the massive infusion of aid--$7.4 billion just promised for three years by mostly Western donors--help?

Aren't wire services, and the media in general, supposed to be somewhat balanced? They ask an open question, collect viewpoints, and let the reader conclude what the factors are, or at least wait until they have gathered some evidence. This is supposed to be especially true of wire services, which supply newspapers and other media with the basic facts on which they can build their own stories. What is going on here, then, is not reporting but propaganda.

Clearly unnerved, he promises to quote me accurately. And he does keep that promise fully, sort of. But the outcome is quite predictable. And here is the dramatic headline that went out in the resulting story: "Analysis-Aid can't save Palestinian economy in Israeli grip." No doubt is to be left that it is Israel's fault that the Palestinian economy is in shambles. And so pervasive is this evil that even the whole world cannot save them. So after that $7.4 billion is all gone with no result everyone will know who to blame, right?

Before continuing let's note the problem with this analysis on two levels. First, Israeli closures and control on movement are the result of Palestinian terrorist attacks, coupled with the unwillingness and inability of the two Palestinian governments (Palestinian Authority-Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip) to stop them. No attacks; no closures. And this is absolutely clear. If attacks were to stop, so would Israeli restrictions. But if Israel removed all roadblocks and closures, the attacks would continue. This makes obvious the principal, fundamental cause of the problem and what needs to change in order to fix it. In other words: if Palestinian terrorism stops, Israeli restrictive measures will end and the Palestinian economy has a chance to develop.

But if Israeli restrictive measures end, Palestinian terrorism would continue and thus the Palestinian economy would not develop because Israel would put back on the restrictions eventually and also, of course, no one will invest in the middle of a war. Is that clear and logical? Obviously, not for Western leaders and much of the news media.

Second, even if all Israeli action were to disappear, the Palestinian economy would still be in trouble. There are a number of reasons for this which are all well-known and were vividly seen in the 1990s, at a time when there was massive aid and a low level of Israeli security operations. These factors include: huge corruption which siphons off money; the lack of a clear legal framework for investment and commerce; the incompetence of the Palestinian regime; internal anarchy and violence by gangs with political cover; and an ongoing war against Israel.

Naturally, if you pump $7.8 billion over three years into a society of under 1.5 million people on the West Bank--around $1,600 a year for every individual person there--it is going to have a positive economic effect. Since current Palestinian per capita income is $1,200 a year it would more than double it. In 1992, the figure was around $2,000. This represents, for all practical purposes, an increase of 400 percent over the aid being supplied two years ago. But most of the money is merely budget support for the Palestinian Authority, meaning it will pay salaries for the bloated government bureaucracy. At the end of that time the funds will be gone with no effect.

Yet the December 20, 2007, story by Reuters and two similar articles by the Associated Press (for my detailed analysis of the latter see here) simply omit all this information and put all the blame for problems on Israel.

In this case, though, slanting is not enough, however, and the Reuters report must stoop to outright dishonesty. It states:

"The $7.4 billion pledged exceeds the sum [Palestinian Prime Minister Salam]] Fayyad had asked for in his three-year economic plan, but is less than the $8.4 billion that the World Bank reckons Israeli curbs on movement have cost Palestinians in lost income over the past five years."

This is a lie and clearly a deliberate one. In fact, the World Bank annual reports are entitled "Intifada, Closures and Palestinian Economic Crisis." They make the very simple point that the intifada--an armed Palestinian war on Israel--leads to closures and thus the combination brings on a crisis. The reports are quite careful in pointing out all the factors that led to the Palestinian economic decline. They do not say the losses were strictly due to Israeli curbs on movement. On the contrary, the 2003 report for example, written at the height of the violence, says the closures and movement restrictions are pretty insignificant. (see it here). This specific example of dishonesty matters because the approach we see here--predetermining the story, ignoring most of the factors involved, blaming Israel--sets a pattern for a whole raft-full of stories:

* Why is there no peace? Israel doesn't give enough concessions. Often there is no mention of Palestinian hardline positions, behavior in not keeping commitment, terrorism as a key element in the failure to achieve peace. Most important of all, there is endless talk about what Israel can or should give for peace but far less about what the Palestinians must give: end of conflict, full recognition of Israel, return of refugees to a Palestinian state, a real end to incitement and terrorism.

* Why is there suffering in Gaza? Israel's restrictions. Far less mention of Hamas hard line, openly genocidal stance, constant aid to terrorist attacks and rocket firing, refusal to meet even minimal international requirements.

* Why are Palestinians, to quote the Reuters story, "Deprived of dignity"? No mention of a corrupt government and gangs of gunmen who couldn't care less about their well-being, and a strategy that starts unwinnable wars. It's all Israel's fault.

It is bad enough that this kind of coverage is shaping the way that many in the West see the Middle East. What is really horrible is that these articles are being deliberately written to do so.


What stupid paternity laws do

INFERTILE couples desperate to have children are facing agonising waits for donated sperm. The Royal Hospital for Women has had no new sperm donors for more than 12 months. Reproductive specialists say attracting enough men to satisfy demand has always been difficult, and waiting lists are longer because of the growing number of childhood cancer survivors rendered infertile by treatment. The dwindling stocks are also sought by single women and same-sex couples.

The director of the hospital's department of reproductive medicine, Stephen Steigrad, said at least 20 men who had undergone aggressive cancer treatments requested donor insemination for their partners every year. Without new donors, the service would have to be stopped within six months. The Centre for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Sydney Children's Hospital at Randwick says one in 900 Australians aged between 16 and 45 has survived childhood cancer.

Changes to NSW legislation this month requiring donors to register their names on a mandatory central register had turned potential donors off, said Professor Michael Chapman, from IVF Australia, which has a waiting list of two years. The Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill guarantees children access to their father's name, date of birth, education and medical information once they turn 18. It may also require details of the donor's partner and other children to be listed. "Previously men could donate knowing there was no way they were going to get a knock on their door," Professor Chapman said. "Now men are less likely to donate."

Dr Anne Clark, from Fertility First Hurstville, said the sperm shortage would be compounded by the new laws, which legislate that one man's sperm can go to only five families, down from 10.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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