Friday, October 03, 2008

Plenty of cultural self-assertiveness in Austria (The Ostmark der Deutschen Reich, as an infamous Austrian called it)

History's most notable Austrian carried cultural self-assertiveness way too far but there is a middle way in all things. The golden mean was a popular concept in ancient Greece and it lies behind the Anglo-Saxon predilection towards compromise too. Leftists, however, seem incapable of anything but simplistic black-and-white thinking in their political utterances. I guess you don't have to be too subtle when all you really want is to tear things down

The far Right has made a grand return in Austria, emerging from yesterday's elections as the second biggest parliamentary block, according to preliminary results. The two parties that campaigned on an anti-immigrant and anti-European Union ticket have captured about 29 per cent of the vote, pushing the country's traditional conservative party into third place. Heinz-Christian Strache and his Freedom Party, who were accused of xenophobia and waging an antiMuslim campaign, won 18 per cent - a rise of 7 per cent compared with the last elections. Mr Strache's former mentor, J”rg Haider, won 11 per cent of the vote with his new party, the Alliance for the Future of Austria.

The mainstream parties recorded their lowest share of the vote since the Second World War, with the Social Democrats dropping 7 per cent to 29.7 per cent, while the conservative People's Party won 25.6 per cent of the vote - a decline of 9 per cent compared with 2006. The far Right block could still nudge ahead of the Social Democrats when the final result is published after all the postal votes are counted on October 6.

A throaty roar filled the Freedom Party's election tent in Vienna when the results flashed up on a screen. The crowd - mainly young and middle-aged men drinking beer - punched the air in triumph. They cheered more when Mr Strache announced that his party would only join a government that was led by himself.

Many Viennese were horrified by such a prospect, however. "It is disappointing that so many Austrians agreed to what was basically a xenophobic campaign," said Adelheid Mayr, 39. "I am ashamed of the results and I hope none of the far Right parties will be allowed to rule the country."

The elections, held two years early, were precipitated by constant squabbling within the grand coalition of the Social Democrats and the People's Party. Austrian voters seemingly punished both parties for their inability to govern together.

Analysts believe that the surge of the far Right reflects the voters' dissatisfaction with the failure of the two mainstream parties to provide a functioning government. Their success also owes much to rising anxieties over immigration and the influence of the European Union. Anton Pelinka, one of the country's most prominent political analysts, told The Times: "In Austria there has never been a clear distinction between the far Right and the mainstream political parties. Unlike in other countries, there has never been a cordon sanitaire. Extreme positions have become more and more socially acceptable over the years." In 2000 Mr Haider's Freedom Party was invited into a coalition government after winning 27 per cent of the vote. The move sparked EU sanctions against Austria.

According to Professor Pelinka, the far Right could enter government again. He said that the most probable outcome was another grand coalition, but the Social Democrats could try governing with Mr Strache's Freedom Party. Another alternative is a minority government of the Social Democrats with support from the Freedom Party and other smaller parties.

Mr Strache, 39, the biggest winner of the day, had sought to exploit fear of foreigners and Islam during his campaign. Speaking at his final election rally in Vienna's working-class district of Favoriten on Friday, he said that people were scared to see women in burkas running around "like female Ninjas", and added: "Many decent people have come here and they integrated: Poles, Hungarians, Croats and also Serbs. We are all European brothers because we do not want to become Islamised." His disdain for Islam extends to culinary matters. "One should not roast mutton in council flats. I would also not grill a wild pig in Istanbul," he has declared.

Mr Strache has attacked the EU with equal venom, railing at "the capitalists and the neo-liberals" who were turning common people into "slave workers of the European Union". Mr Strache's rally in Vienna last week was marred by a violent confrontation between hundreds of left-wing opponents and his far Right supporters, some of whom were jackbooted skinheads. The police had to separate the two sides.


Hey! Australia's new Prime Minister is not such a Leftist bleeding heart after all!

Kevin Rudd calls Bali bombers cowards who deserve 'what's coming'. Kevvy does after all come from my home State of Queensland and we do tend to be pretty forthright here. Queensland attitudes are not quite Alaskan but it gets close at times -- particularly as you go further North. I originally come from the Far-North and my views are pretty mainstream there. I am at home in my home

PRIME Minister Kevin Rudd says the convicted Bali bombers are mass murderers and cowards who deserve what's coming to them. Three convicted bombers Amrozi, his brother Mukhlas and Imam Samudra, face execution for their role in the october 2002 Bali terror bombings which killed 202 people, including 88 Australians. Yesterday, they were allowed out of their cells at their island prison off Central Java to mark the Islamic holiday Idul Fitri, with Amrozi telling reporters others would take revenge if they were executed.

Mr Rudd said the bombers could make whatever threats of retribution they liked. "The Bali bombers describe themselves as holy warriors. I say the Bali bombers are cowards and murderers pure and simple and frankly they can make whatever threats they like," he told Fairfax Radio in Perth. "They deserve the justice that will be delivered to them. "They are murderers, they are mass murderers and they are also cowards."

The Bali bombers were associated with terrorist group Jemaah Islamiah, which conducted a series of terror attacks across Indonesia. JI has been hard hit by Indonesian counter-terrorist forces and conducted no significant attack since October 2005.

Mr Rudd said his government and its predecessor had ensured anti-terrorism policies were in robust order. "That means cooperating very closely with the Indonesian authorities on every matter concerning terrorism," he said. "It means also cooperating very closely with all of our intelligence agencies to make sure we have the best information out there on travel advisories for Australian tourists."

Mr Rudd said anyone travelling anywhere in the world should keep track of travel warnings. "Things can change quite quickly and I would urge everyone to go quickly to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website and to check the most recent and up to date travel advisory. It is very important," he said.


Challenging the politics of passivity

Whether lecturing parents or exaggerating security threats, both Obama and McCain see Americans as helpless victims

The American presidential race is now supposed to be the `change' election. On one side, Democrat Barack Obama has used the `change' slogan since he first emerged as a viable candidate, and he now argues that his policies represent a break from President George W Bush's. And on the other side, Republican John McCain has recently sought to make `change' the central theme of his campaign too, claiming that his maverick, corruption-fighting posture means that he is the candidate who can shake up Washington.

In fact, neither represents real, substantive change. Both Obama and McCain offer only shallow versions of change: all they have in mind is distancing themselves from the Bush regime, mostly in superficial ways. And both of their `change' agendas are small-minded: both lack any Big Idea about how to change politics, the economy or society fundamentally.

But there's another important indication that this election is not really about sweeping change: the candidates do not view their fellow Americans as agents of change. Instead, both Obama and McCain conceive of people as essentially passive. Both exaggerate the dangers of the world, and both view people as weak and vulnerable in the face of these dangers. In this mindset, people are not working confidently to attain the American Dream; they are victims in need of support.

This point is by no means an obvious one. But if you take a closer look at the candidates' policies, you will see that both Obama and McCain share negative assumptions about the capacity for people to effect change. Here are some of the debilitating themes that underlie their positions:

The politics of fear. Many associate the `politics of fear' with the Bush administration's war on terror, but it's more pervasive than just that campaign (1). Both McCain and Obama, like Bush, hype the threat from terrorists, but more significantly both candidates attempt to utilise fear as a means of generating support for their positions.

McCain's world is one of seemingly endless threats: contaminated water supplies and vulnerable chemical plants; internet predators and sex offenders; even `major accidents and nature itself' is a homeland security concern. Obama also plays by fear: he holds out the threat of environmental catastrophe to argue for climate change initiatives, and justifies his healthcare plans in terms of the threat of rocketing health insurance costs.

But rather than being a clever motivating tool, fear-mongering tends to paralyse people, turning them into frightened individuals. A fearful public is more likely to hunker down than seek ambitious change.

Vulnerable Individuals. Both McCain and Obama refer to people as essentially isolated and weak, and offer themselves as support. This can be clearly seen when the campaigns discuss the economy: both candidates' convention speeches, for example, contained call-outs to individuals, citing the hardship those folks had endured. Some lost their jobs, others their homes, but the overriding impression that McCain and Obama give is of sad victims who can't cope with a complex and harsh world, and not, say, people who are mad as hell and won't take it any more. This low-expectations outlook reinforces passivity.

Trust no one. As noted, McCain has made fighting corruption a main plank in his campaign. It's hard to think of a presidential candidate in modern times who thought that cleaning up Washington was the most important issue. Obama, too, has made a name for himself in this territory: he proposed federal ethics reform measures in Congress (that were eventually incorporated in the final bill) and claims that he is `in this race to tell the corporate lobbyists that their days of setting the agenda in Washington are over.'

But an obsession with sleaze and corruption only encourages pre-existing cynicism about politicians and other authority figures - and ultimately supports the prevailing prejudice today that no one (even fellow citizens) can be trusted. Cynicism is not a motivation for change; it is a criticism from the sidelines that concludes that real resistance is futile.

Personal behaviour modification. Traditionally, Washington politicians would not see it as their place to discuss personal matters such as diet, health, sex and parenting strategies. But Obama has taken it upon himself to get up on the bully pulpit and lecture parents about how they raise their kids; earlier this year he told parents to `turn off the TV, help their kids with their homework and stop letting them grow fat eating Popeyes chicken for breakfast.' (2)

McCain has a lower profile in this regard, but he's also joined in; his education plans state that programs `will be focused on educating parents on the basics of preparing their children for a productive educational experience. These programs will place an emphasis on reading and numbers skills, as well as nutrition and general health' (my italics). This focus on behaviour modification is condescending and treats adults like children. It also encourages people to focus on personal matters rather than public life.

Identity politics. This election may be remembered most of all for the recurring invocation of identity politics. The Obama campaign charges Republicans with racism (for trying to `scare' voters, because Obama `doesn't look like all those other presidents on those dollar bills'), while the McCain campaign accuses Democrats of sexism (for criticisms of Sarah Palin).

But in the hands of these two campaigns, the discussion of identity politics has exploded into competing lifestyle tribes, dividing us even further (3). A focus on identity is problematic because it says what's important is who you are, rather than what you think; and it emphasizes where you have come from, not where you might go. Identity is passive rather than transformative.

All in all, the pessimistic worldview shared by Obama and McCain assumes that people do not bring about change. Change is something that happens to them, and not in a good way.

In one sense, this is not really about Obama and McCain. Their gloomy visions of the human potential merely reflect the prevailing views in Western societies today. But their campaigns are influential and serve only to reinforce these negative outlooks.

The election discourse reveals the need to challenge today's common-sense politics of passivity. In contrast to Obama and McCain, we should argue for the capacity for people to make a difference, both in their personal and public lives. We need a new type of politics that assumes individuals are robust, not victims in need of help; looks forward to social advancement, rather than be immersed in issues of personal behavior in the present; engages in rational assessment of risks rather than indulge in fears about the worst-case scenarios; and emphasizes universal values and our ability to transform situations, rather than be reduced to handed-down particularist identities.

The candidates can talk about `change' all they want. But the change that's worth its name requires a politics that assumes people are strong enough and smart enough to sort out their problems, and that includes the political and social problems facing us.


Australia: A Leftist State government subsidizes homosexuality

Maybe this will inspire the New Zealand government to subsidize sheep-shaggers! How about a sheep 'n shagger Mardi Gras? Should be good for the NZ lamb industry.

TAXPAYERS will for the first time be forced to fund the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras after the State Government last night came to the financial aid of the debt-plagued event. Mardi Gras organisers and new government body Events NSW confirmed the deal last night after it was leaked to the gay media yesterday. A major Sydney attraction, it is claimed the new funding deal would boost the $30 million the parade injects into the state each year.

"This is really a tactical investment to allow them to build a platform that they haven't been able to build in the past, to drive more money into the state," Events NSW CEO Geoff Parmenter said last night. "We're investing in the development of the plan that will allow them to develop more visitors and more investment than the event's able to do now." Until now the Mardi Gras has struggled on the volatile income of fundraising and membership fees to stay afloat. Government support has included help with policing and public transport, and financial exemptions.

The new funding arrangement, which follows months of negotiations, will involve taxpayer dollars going directly into the colourful parade for the first time. The extent of the financial lifeline was not revealed last night. Terms of the deal were kept secret but the parties confirmed the Government would put up a portion of the several hundred thousand dollars it costs to hold the parade each year.

"It is injecting a considerable and significant level of support with reference to the Mardi Gras parade which is going to enable us to sustain and grow, increase production values and creativity, and to assist us in bringing more tourism into the state," New Mardi Gras chair David Imrie said. "It is now going to be self-sustaining and grow. We are going to see higher production values now. "It's really exciting because we're going into the 31st year now and it enables us to start a new generation with a strong foothold."

The financial turnaround was already underway before the deal, with New Mardi Gras reporting a $500,000 profit this year. Despite its massive popularity, organisers of the festival faced debts of $700,000 in 2002 after a voluntary administrator found they had been trading while insolvent. New Mardi Gras emerged from its ashes and now the financially healthy - and government-backed - event, which started as a protest in 1978, draws an estimated 500,000 spectators each year. Mr Parmenter said the decision to fund the parade was the result of studying existing successful events and "seeing where we can assist to get them to work a bit harder".



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 readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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