Friday, November 19, 2010
Prince William's forthcoming wedding good for the monarchy
The British monarch is also the Australian monarch but there are some Australians who want a republic instead
By Miranda Devine, writing from Australia
The timing of Prince William's engagement is a serious setback for the republican movement. There's no doubt he'd be a better king than his father.
THE Queen announced the news of her grandson's engagement yesterday with the following tweet - yes, tweet - on social networking site Twitter: "The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh are absolutely delighted at the news of Prince William and Catherine Middleton's engagement."
It was a sign, not just that the monarchy has finally arrived in the 21st century, but that it belongs to William's generation. Twitter and Facebook, after all, are as alien to fusty 62-year-old Prince Charles as fidelity was in his first marriage.
After all his public agonies, Charles should now take the many heavy hints that have piled up over the years and sail off into the sunset with his mistress-turned-wife Camilla, leaving his far more formidable 28-year-old son to be king, and the far more appropriate Kate Middleton as queen.
Not least among the hints to Charles, first in line to the throne, is the longevity in office of his mother, the Queen, who forges valiantly on with her daily royal chores at the age of 84. Surely, if she thought her eldest son were worthy of succeeding her, she would have retired long ago to relax with her corgis.
With news of the royal engagement, the monarchy can now smoothly bypass Charles and Camilla and instead install the young, wholesome, photogenic, down-to-earth and thoroughly likeable couple as King Wills and Queen Kate.
This, of course, was the original revenge plan of William's beloved mother, Princess Diana, which she unveiled in her famous tell-all 1995 television interview with Martin Bashir on BBC's Panorama, two years before she died in a car crash in Paris.
Diana's sapphire-and-diamond engagement ring on Kate's Middleton's hand now seals the deal. "It's my mother's engagement ring," William said in a remarkably gracious television interview with his fiancee beside him, the highly recognisable ring firmly on her finger. "So I thought it was quite nice because obviously she's not going to be around to share any of the fun and excitement about all this. It's my way of keeping her sort of close to it all."
The couple appeared to be so lovely and genuinely in love, it's no wonder their news has delighted their economically troubled nation, with the Prime Minister, David Cameron, and his Cabinet reportedly pounding fists on their desks with happiness.
In Australia, meanwhile, can't you just hear the sound of republicans gnashing their teeth? "The fact that in 2010, a wedding announcement to the other side of the world between two young English people stands to impact on our own constitutional arrangements is simply absurd," the Australian Republican Movement's chairman, Mike Keating, said in a statement yesterday.
The truth is that Prince Charles was the republicans' best tool. It is hard enough in Australia to justify the existence of a foreign monarch in modern times, let alone one as kooky and flawed as Charles. It's not Charles's age that is the impossible impediment to his taking the throne. It is his track record.
Of course, many people will never forgive Camilla, whom Diana nicknamed "the rottweiler", for ruining her marriage to Charles. Even though she married her long-time lover five years ago, the opposition in the United Kingdom to Camilla becoming queen has grown, and runs as high as 90 per cent in some opinion polls.
William's engagement announcement also couldn't have come at a better time to eclipse the bad publicity that is sure to come from his father's forthcoming greenie documentary, Harmony. To be broadcast this week in the US, it is reportedly an attempt by Charles to pitch himself as a British Al Gore. It could also be seen as his last-ditch pitch for what Diana called the top job.
Charles says in the program: "I can only somehow imagine that I find myself being born into this position for a purpose - to save the planet." Billed as a call to action on climate change, the project was his idea, and comes with a book as well as a children's version.
"He felt there were a lot of urgent issues to be discussed," his co-producer, Stuart Sender, told Reuters. "He is very involved in the movie as a narrator, and on camera . . . some of the prince's projects are also featured in the film."
The timing of William's engagement announcement - made three weeks after he proposed to Kate in Kenya -- may simply be unfortunate coincidence, from Charles' point of view.
But his first response to reporters' questions yesterday was abrasive. "They've been practising for long enough," he said. Camilla said the news was "wicked". Yes, she had just come out of the musical of the same name but why would she employ a slang word used by people 40 years her junior, which has such an obvious double meaning?
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard firm on homosexual marriage policy
A CHANGE of Labor policy may not be enough to persuade Julia Gillard to back gay marriage. A motion from the Greens, amended by Labor, due to be voted on in parliament this week calls for all MPs to canvass the issue of gay marriage with their local voters.
The motion has reignited debate on gay marriage, which is not supported in Labor's national platform. Left faction members and other Labor MPs have indicated their support for a conscience vote in parliament and want the platform changed at the party's national conference, expected late next year.
Ms Gillard said she had no problem with the Greens' motion passing in its amended form and for the debate to be had at the Labor national conference. "The platform is decided at the conference and the federal parliamentary Labor Party, led by me, makes decisions on how we will go about working on platform questions," Ms Gillard said. She said people were "getting way ahead of themselves" if they thought the issue could be resolved quickly.
Ms Gillard said she hoped the conference and the party would continue to talk about "the things that will determine prosperity, opportunity and equity in this country for the decades in front of us".
The Herald Sun reported former Labor leader Kevin Rudd had agreed to let MPs have a conscience vote on same-sex marriage in his second term, in a deal with key Left faction leaders, but the plan lapsed when Ms Gillard replaced him as prime minister. Ms Gillard told reporters she was not aware of the deal.
Private property will save Aboriginal culture, not destroy it
By Helen Hughes, Mark Hughes and Sara Hudson
Australians are fed up. Despite expenditure of vast taxpayer funds – some $5 billion annually on top of normal education and health, etc – Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders in remote Australia continue to live without jobs, on welfare, and in appalling public housing. Alcoholism, poor health, and violence are the consequence.
Private Housing on Indigenous Lands, released this week by The Centre for Independent Studies, cuts through to the causes of Indigenous dysfunction – the denial of individual property rights (private home and business ownership) – on Indigenous lands. Private Housing proposes that individual landowners be identified so they can receive the benefits of their land rights rather than allow these to be wasted by land councils and other communal organisations. A kick start to private property rights is proposed by giving long-term public housing tenants the choice of taking ownership – at no cost – of their dwellings, which are often mere shacks.
In mainstream Australia, private and communal property rights are complementary. Australians can get a job, own a house, and start a business side by side with sharing communal property such as schools, hospitals, roads and parks. This two sector economy is denied to Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders on Indigenous lands. By only enabling communal ownership, a communist system has been imposed on these lands.
The benefits are appropriated by a small elite – the nomenklatura – who live in nice houses, while the regime fails to deliver decent housing to everyone else. Indigenous townships are like Omsk without the snow. Most are lucky to have a single shoddy communally owned supermarket, and there are no thriving coffee shops and other businesses of country towns. Criticism of communal landownership is attacked as being ideologically unsound, not on the basis of factual evidence.
The fact is that private property rights are essential to Indigenous economic development. Without private property rights, family and social dysfunction will continue. Indigenous languages are dying out and culture is under threat. Economic prosperity will encourage a revival of Indigenous languages, literature, art, music and dance. Pride will replace despair.
The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated 19 Dec. Enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.
Human Rights in the Middle East
Robert L. Bernstein
During my twenty years at Human Rights Watch, I had spent little time on Israel. It was an open society. It had 80 human rights organizations like B’Tselem, ACRI, Adalah, and Sikkuy. It had more newspaper reporters in Jerusalem than any city in the world except New York and London. Hence, I tried to get the organization to work on getting some of the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, particularly free speech, into closed societies – among them, the 22 Arab states surrounding Israel. The faults of democratic countries were much less of a priority not because there were no faults, obviously, but because they had so many indigenous human rights groups and other organizations openly criticizing them.
I continued to follow the work of Human Rights Watch and about six years ago became a member of the Middle East North Africa Advisory Committee because I had become concerned about what had appeared to me to be questionable attacks on the State of Israel. These were not violations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but of the laws of war, Geneva Conventions and international humanitarian law. There has been an asymmetrical war – you might call it a war of attrition in different ways involving Israel – not only with Palestinians but sometimes involving other Arab states, but of course, involving Iran and its non-state proxies Hezbollah and Hamas. In reporting on this conflict, Human Rights Watch – frequently joined by the UN – faulted Israel as the principal offender.
It seemed to me that if you talked about freedom of speech, the rights of women, an open education and freedom of religion – that there was only one state in the Middle East that was concerned with those issues. In changing the public debate to issues of war, Human Rights Watch and others in what they described as being evenhanded, described Israel far from being an advocate of human rights, but instead as one of its principal offenders. Like many others, I knew little about the laws of war, Geneva Conventions and international law, and in my high regard for Human Rights Watch, I was certainly inclined to believe what Human Rights Watch was reporting. However, as I saw Human Rights Watch’s attacks on almost every issue become more and more hostile, I wondered if their new focus on war was accurate.
In one such small incident, the UN Human Rights Commission, so critical of Israel that any fair-minded person would disqualify them from participating in attempts to settle issues involving Israel, got the idea that they could get prominent Jews known for their anti-Israel views to head their investigations. Even before Richard Goldstone, they appointed Richard Falk, professor at Princeton, to be the UN rapporteur for the West Bank and Gaza.
Richard Falk had written an article comparing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza to Hitler’s treatment of the Jews in the Holocaust. Israel, believing this should have disqualified him for the job, would not allow him into the country. Human Rights Watch leapt to his defense, putting out a press release comparing Israel with North Korea and Burma in not cooperating with the UN. I think you might be surprised to learn the release was written by Joe Stork – Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch Middle East Division – whose previous job for many, many years, was as an editor of a pro-Palestinian newsletter.
Following this, Richard Goldstone resigned as a Board member of Human Rights Watch and Chair of its Policy Committee to head the UN Human Rights Council investigation of Gaza. Human Rights Watch has been, by far, the biggest supporter of the UN Council, urging them to bring war crimes allegations against Israel – based on this report. I don’t believe Human Rights Watch has responded to many responsible analyses challenging the war crimes accusations made by Goldstone and also challenging Human Rights Watch’s own reports – one on the use of phosphorous, one on the use of drones and one on shooting people almost in cold blood. A military expert working for Human Rights Watch, who seemed to wish to contest these reports, was dismissed and I believe is under a gag order. This is antithetical to the transparency that Human Rights Watch asks of others.
After five years of attending the Middle East Advisory Committee meetings, seeing the one board member who shared my views leave the organization, another supporter on the Middle East Advisory Committee who had joined at my request being summarily dismissed, and having great doubts about not only the shift in focus to war issues but also the way they were being reported, I wrote an op-ed in The New York Times questioning these policies. To me, the most important point in my op-ed was the following: “They (Human Rights Watch) know that more and better arms are flowing into Gaza and Lebanon and are poised to strike again. And they know that this militancy continues to deprive Palestinians of any chance for the peaceful and productive life they deserve. Yet, Israel, the repeated victim of aggression, faces the brunt of Human Rights Watch’s criticism.”
A Human Rights Watch Board member told The New Republic that they go after Israel because it is like “low-hanging fruit.” By that, I think he means that they have a lot of information fed to them by Israel’s own human rights organizations and the press, that they have easy access to Israel to hold their press conferences, and that the press is eager to accept their reports. The organization, most would agree, was founded to go after what I guess you would call “high-hanging fruit” – that is, closed societies, where it is hard to get in. Nations that will not allow you to hold press conferences in their country. Nations where there are no other human rights organizations to give you the information.
It has been over one year since the op-ed appeared. Little has changed. For example, within hours of the flotilla incident, Human Rights Watch was calling for an international investigation pointing out that any information coming from the Israeli Army was unreliable. That was before any of the facts were known. I spent the first week of October in Israel seeking out as many different views as I could. I was privileged to meet Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. I spent a day at Al-Quds, the Palestinian university in the West Bank, with the university’s President Sari Nusseibeh, his staff, and students. I also met with NGOs including Jessica Montell of B’Tselem, passed an evening with my dear friends Natan and Avital Sharansky, and spoke with many journalists and government officials. I visited S’derot, the town most shelled by Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza. I came back convinced more than ever that Human Rights Watch’s attacks on Israel as the country tried to defend itself were badly distorting the issues – because Human Rights Watch had little expertise about modern asymmetrical war. I was particularly concerned that the wars were stopped but not ended – so they became wars of attrition.
Arab People vs. Arab Governments
In talking about Arabs, I want to be clear. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in 40 years of human rights work, it’s that you must separate the people that you’re talking about from their government. When a totalitarian or authoritarian government are the rulers, the people, whatever they believe, are shut down – shut down hard – and only the views of the government rule, while those with other views are imprisoned, tortured, exiled – anything to silence them.
People, I believe, are the same everywhere and I believe that, given the chance, good things can happen. I’ve learned it over and over again, starting with seeing Germany and Japan change so dramatically after a devastating war – and more recently with South Africa, South Korea and with many countries in South America.
I believe the Arab people, given the chance, would not be opting for committing genocide of Israel – as Iran, supported by Hamas and Hezbollah, does. I believe the Arab people, like any people, would opt for a better life for themselves. The great majority would want it on this earth, not in the hereafter, and I question very much whether they would want to go to war if there were any other possible way of avoiding it. We will never know until their governments allow free speech, or until human rights organizations do a better job of trying to ferret out what the people actually think, as opposed to their government.
The Rockets of Hamas and Hezbollah
It is impossible to talk about human rights in the Middle East without looking at some of the factual background. The UN passed resolution 1701 at the end of the Lebanon War, which said that Hezbollah should be disarmed. The UN sent between 12,000 and 15,000 troops who are in Southern Lebanon, near the Litani River, which is 15 miles from the border of Israel. Not only has Hezbollah not been disarmed, but it has also reportedly brought in between 40,000 and 60,000 rockets from Iran. The rockets are of much longer range and power than they had at the start of the last war and it has been reported that some may contain biological and chemical agents. These weapons are buried in homes and public buildings – all along the Israeli border. This, of course, has occurred under the eye of the UN forces.
In addition, despite the blockade, I have read that thousands of tons of arms have poured into Gaza. When President Obama was in S’derot in southern Israel, the town most targeted by Hamas rockets, he said he would not want Sasha or Malia to go to school there. I believe that President Obama is dedicated to the defense of Israel. It’s obvious to him and all of us that if there were 40,000 to 60,000 rockets on the other side of the Potomac River or the Hudson River near New York where I live, or any place where American citizens were threatened, and these rockets were in the hands of an enemy that had demonstrated it had little care about protecting its own citizens, you would not want your children to go to school there either. In fact, I question if we would want the rockets just left there on our border, opposite one of our great cities, with the enemy having the option of whether or not to use them. The fact that the UN has been unable to stop this build-up of arms, in the two places that Israel has voluntarily left, is a huge international failure. It is difficult to see how anyone can promise Israel security without addressing the situation.
It is hard for human rights organizations to do anything when war starts. Can anything be more threatening to civilian life than the thought of another war in Gaza? Shouldn’t human rights organizations be talking to the Gazans about the wisdom of their government in re-arming? Instead, there is a debate about the blockade of Gaza. The debate over the blockade and whether Israel is achieving the right balance in trying to keep Gaza livable while keeping Gaza unprepared for war is too complicated to discuss here. We do know that a ship, coming from Iran and loaded with sophisticated arms, was apprehended by Israel off the coast. Yet, many visit Gaza and call for a complete lifting of the blockade without mentioning arms. Human Rights Watch believes the blockade is illegal based on their opinion that Israel and not Hamas controls Gaza. If one believes Hamas controls Gaza, a blockade is a legal way of trying to prevent rearmament. Hamas’s irresponsible use of arms, even to the point of sacrificing its own citizens as a way to build world sympathy, is well-known. When you visit the Gaza border, the Israeli Army will give you a long list of everything that is going into Gaza and it is known that as the rocketing seems to have been contained, that Israel is trying to be more liberal. With all this happening, should a human rights organization limit the debate to a discussion of a blockade without discussing the arms build-up?
It is containing the arms build-up that is holding back the unfettered economic build-up of Gaza, which the world is so willing to help and which would create jobs. I have read that many of the youth, unable to get any other jobs, go into jihad as the only way to get money. It seems to me that, sadly, the blockade is not very effective in stopping arms. Like on the Lebanon border, their use could lead to war and the time to talk about that is now. In fact, the last war in Gaza occurred when the blockade failed to stop rockets going into Israel.
When I was in Israel, I went to the Gaza border and I learned that since the beginning of 2010, more than 11,000 patients with their escorts exited the Gaza Strip for medical treatment in Israel. Surprisingly and sadly, this policy has risks. I was told the Israelis make the Palestinians change cars at the border because cars had been rigged to explode. A woman on crutches was changing cars. She fell down. Three Israeli soldiers ran to help her get up. She blew herself up, killing the four of them. The Hamas government is preaching genocide of Israel, yet Israel is treating Gaza’s sick. It struck me as bizarre that in an asymmetric war of attrition, which we’re still learning about how to fight, a nation cares for the sick of a neighbor that is preaching genocide to its people and the only human rights comment has been that they are not doing it well enough.
Much more HERE
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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.