There are things that matter and things I really don’t care two hoots about…

For example:

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Click that for the latest report from NOAA.

Read in today’s Sydney Morning Herald Where even the earth is melting.

THE world is on the cusp of a "tipping point" into dangerous climate change, according to new data gathered by scientists measuring methane leaking from the Arctic permafrost and a report presented to the United Nations on Tuesday.

"The permafrost carbon feedback is irreversible on human time scales," says the report, Policy Implications of Warming Permafrost. "Overall, these observations indicate that large-scale thawing of permafrost may already have started."

While countries the size of Australia tally up their greenhouse emissions in hundreds of millions of tonnes, the Arctic’s stores are measured in tens of billions…

Geologist Dr Iain Stewart in Earth: The Power of the Planet (2007– )

And so many other things today, reaching a grand climax in THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD!!!! Yes, it’s JULIA, THE VAMPIRE FROM SLATER AND GORDON! JULIA THE GETAWAY CAR DRIVER! JULIA OF BONNIE AND CLYDE FAME!  Or as I said, risking being labelled sexist perhaps, on Facebook last night and yesterday afternoon, especially having watched Julia Bishop’s confected outrage during her press conference:

This "Get Julia" session of Parliament is perhaps the lowest point Australian politics has reached in my lifetime — even counting the Dismissal, which at least was about very serious matters. Right now I couldn’t care less if Julia turns out to have been a vampire 20 years ago. I just want to see her government governing, albeit in many areas not very well — refugee policy for one– and the Opposition looking like a credible alternative and not a pack of slavering bitches — no gender implied…

Congrats Julie Bishop on yr press conference. Succeeded in firming up a vote for Labor with me. Well done! What a heap of ordure this now is…

Julie Bishop: why should I care? I really don’t any more. Try policy debate instead of this crap and let the government govern. I really do not care what Julia may or may not have done 20 years ago according to the gossip and hearsay you are retailing no matter that it’s in a stat dec, which you know as well as I proves nothing except that the declarer asserts he/she thinks whatever it is is true — maybe…

Pissed off because the overblown rhetoric pre carbon tax is now proven piffle? Is that it?

If you can be bothered, here is the latest little gem:

BRUCE Wilson, Julia Gillard’s former boyfriend, said he ”perhaps” asked an AWU employee to deposit $5000 in her bank account, but could not recall it. The PM said she could not remember receiving such a sum.

Mr Wilson, appearing on the ABC, was emphatic that no money from the union slush fund set up by him and fellow official Ralph Blewitt was spent on Ms Gillard’s house. He said that after there were technical problems getting the fund registered, he had asked Ms Gillard to help. ”It was a simple matter that needed to be done, she did it, end of story.”

Mr Wilson said he had not benefited financially from the fund but said Mr Blewitt had taken money out. He had been ”packaging it up and burying it in his backyard” – and some of it rotted away. Mr Wilson felt sorry that Ms Gillard ”has to go through all this because it’s just not warranted”.

MICHELLE GRATTAN

See also Lenore Taylor’s Bishop bluster loses wind in an obvious absence of evidence.

However, some real light on this and related matters does come from these three posts and their comment threads. The three bloggers together represent years of experience in the law, business, and the Australian Public Service and are all far more qualified than I am.

Finally, not a story of cosmic significance perhaps but a nice local one nonetheless — about Yours and Owls and my ex-student Stewart Holt (not “Stuart”) — Illawarra Mercury today.

Charges against the owners of Wollongong cafe-bar Yours and Owls have been dismissed following a graffiti incident at the venue earlier this year.

Two of the venue’s three owners – Balunn Jones and Ben Tillman – stood accused of malicious damage after a graffiti message appeared on the business’s Kembla Street facade in March.

Last month the charges were withdrawn and dismissed.

Mr Jones credited solicitor Stuart Holt – a regular customer who offered his services pro bono – with seeing through the case.

The venue is now hosting a new street art project on its inside walls, but Mr Jones said the trio planned to soon sell the business.

"Hopefully it goes to someone who’s got a similar point of view to us and it doesn’t just fade away. It would be nice if it happened."

Mr Jones said the trio was selling "for a variety of reasons", but did not elaborate.

The men – friends from the Illawarra’s northern suburbs – opened Yours and Owls in 2010.

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Mad pollies: cut, cut and cut again, and hang the consequences…

Let’s hope they have more brains than that, but I am not holding my breath.

From The Illawarra Mercury.

Illawarra’s multicultural services will be forced to take up the slack if multicultural program staff are lost in a Department of Education and Communities restructure.

NSW Teachers Federation regional organiser Nicole Calnan said the multicultural support positions were not included in a draft proposal of the restructure sent to department offices this month.

Under the restructure – part of the NSW government’s plan to save $1.7 billion in education spending – Illawarra schools will be absorbed into a super region and support jobs will be cut.

"There is no provision for ensuring that the current level of multicultural program support for schools will continue," Ms Calnan said.

"Under this realignment, the positions of multicultural/ESL [English as a second language] consultant, community information officer, regional multicultural support officer and ESL/refugee- teacher mentors won’t even exist."

Ms Calnan said the multicultural program staff performed several roles, from providing professional learning and support for ESL teachers to running multicultural and anti-racism programs in schools.

Earlier this week, the Multicultural Communities Council of Illawarra (MCCI) convened a meeting of all CALD (Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communities) representatives from the region.

MCCI general manager Terrie Leoleos said the loss of these valuable school roles would adversely affect the region’s already disadvantaged communities.

"The Education Department’s multicultural support program has played an intricate and important role across the state in supporting migrants, refugees and humanitarian entrants and settlements into this country, particularly in regional areas," Ms Leoleos said.

"Cutting positions like these … will be detrimental not only to those communities but it will put a lot of pressure on multicultural services, which are already stretched and will have to take up the shortfall."

The MCCI this week sent a letter to the Education Department asking that they do a comprehensive review and engage multicultural services and communities in the process.

A department spokesman said a revised model of the restructure would be available on Monday, with a final model to be released on December 21.

Having been an ESL teacher in the not too distant past, I know just how much I valued, indeed needed, the services that it appears may be about to become victims of small government ideology/bean counting. They operated on a shoestring even back in the late 90s and early 2000s, but I can’t begin to tell you how good they are! Consider, for example:

Refugee support programs

A refugee is a person who has fled his or her country and cannot return because of a well-founded fear of persecution due to their race, religion, nationality or membership of a particular social group.

In recent years, increasing numbers of young refugees, in particular refugees from Africa and the Middle East, have enrolled in government schools in both metropolitan and country areas of NSW. About 1,600 enrol each year. At any time approximately 12,000 refugee students are enrolled in NSW government schools.

These students come from a number of countries in Africa, including Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Kenya, Congo, Uganda, Nigeria, Eritrea, Ivory Coast and Burundi, as well as countries in Asia and the Middle East, in particular Afghanistan and Iraq.

Many refugee families have lived in protracted refugee situations before coming to Australia. Some students were born and have lived all their lives in refugee camps. All have experienced disrupted schooling. Some may have had very limited schooling and, as a result, have few or no first language literacy skills.

Many of the recently arrived refugees have high resettlement and educational needs and may need high levels of support. However, it is important to avoid over-generalisation as this is not the case with all refugees. Conclusions about a refugee student’s capabilities and needs should be reached through careful assessment over a period of time.

Traumatic experiences that refugee students encounter before they start school in Australia may impact considerably on their learning and behaviour at school. In some cases, post traumatic stress and poor health due to refugee experiences can lead to absences from school, or manifest in poor behaviour in the classroom.

The safety, security and support provided by schools are critical factors in ensuring the adjustment of refugee children and adolescents to life and schooling in Australia. Officers at Multicultural Programs Unit can assist regions in planning and delivering successful refugee support programs.

I am not directly familiar with what is happening in schools down here in the Illawarra, where I now live, but one may get an idea from school sites such as Wollongong High School of the Performing Arts.

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Images from a Wollongong High Powerpoint presentation.

Recent developments in our asylum seeker policy continue to depress me. Some consolation may be found in seeing fellow feeling among the Herald cartoonists lately.

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The dog returns to its own vomit…

As a dog that returneth to his vomit, so is a fool that repeateth his folly. Proverbs 26:11

This is truly the Age of Idiocy.

First we have a set of irresponsible so-called Christians in the USA making a childish hate film about Islam, flying in the face of their Lord because if ever there was a clear case of “What would Jesus NOT do?” this was it – that is, the film makers are clearly NOT doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. So the pea-brained film-makers, knowing full well the likely effects of their cheap drivel, crashed on in all their arrogance claiming “free speech” as a justification for gross irresponsibility.  See The ‘Maverick’ Egyptian-American Copt Behind the Anti-Muslim Film on Sojourners:

…Florida Pastor Terry Jones ignited deadly riots by threatening to burn Qurans in 2010, and by torching the Islamic holy text last year. Recently, Jones said he would promote a crude film that portrays Islam’s Prophet Muhammad as a foolish sexual pervert.

But in the days before the protests, Jones made no public mention of the film — called Innocence of Muslims — even as he prepared to stage an “International Judge Muhammad Day” on Sept. 11.

Instead, the man who translated the film into Arabic, sent it to Egyptian journalists, promoted it on his website and posted it on social media was an obscure Egyptian-born Coptic Christian who lives near Washington and proudly touts his ties to Jones…

…fellow Copts depict Sadek as a fringe figure and publicity hound whose Islamophobic invectives disrupt Copts’ quest for equal religious rights in Egypt.

“Mr. Sadek is a maverick who belongs to a very narrow extreme current of Coptic activists,” the Washington-based group Coptic Solidarity said in a statement. “He likes to use inflammatory and abrasive language to insult Muslims and Islam. As his actions agitate more the Islamic extremists, some people wonder if he is not in fact working to fulfill their agenda.”

Cynthia Farahat, Coptic Solidarity’s director of advocacy, said Sadek “has done a lot of harmful things for Copts in Egypt.”

“Every single thing he says is used by Islamists to justify terrorism against Copts,” Farahat said…

Second we have all these idiots who think Allah somehow needs a lot of angry and homicidal human beings to match hate with hate.

So we have responsible believers on all sides marginalised, as has so often happened over the past insane decade or so, by the worst and the totally demented and we all lose. And people actually die – let’s not forget that!

I am so sick of it.

Maybe the protestors should home in in stories like this one. I suspect Allah and The Prophet would be far better served by worrying about things like that and the greed and social injustice that fed it, rather than stupid bloody American fundamentalists and their movies.

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Look, I said everything I could say between 2001 and 2005.  Why the hell should I bother to repeat it all? Look in the side bar if you want to know more.

So the bottom line is this: Edward Gibbon was pretty much right about ALL the Abrahamic religions a couple of centuries ago. And yet we go on.

Why?

And all those who are now taking the chance to get up in arms about Muslims all over again: you know as well as I do that you have absolutely no bloody idea at all about what practically can be done about a world that contains what it contains.  Except that somehow, some day we do have to master the art of living together in peace, or at least with minimal mutual harm. And that means learning ON ALL SIDES the lesson of pluralism – because that is what reality is and you’ll be constantly kicked in the balls until that lesson is learned.

I really hate bigots, whoever they are, and I am still convinced that if God has been writing books, as some seem to believe, then he has made an awful mess of it.

So bugger off the lot of you. And leave us in peace.

I really don’t feel like wasting another word about it.

But do consider a couple of other people.

1. Ruby Hamad

CNN reports that the cast have issued a statement disavowing the film, claiming they had no idea they were hired to propagate anti-Islam propaganda:

The entire cast and crew are extremely upset and feel taken advantage of by the producer. We are 100 per cent not behind this film and were grossly misled about its intent and purpose … We are shocked by the drastic re-writes of the script and lies that were told to all involved.

Take a moment to absorb that information. The producers of the film, intent on enraging Muslims, hired actors without informing them exactly what they were participating in.

And just who are the producers? Originally thought to be one Sam Bacile, an Israeli-American living in California, that name is now known to be fake, and US law enforcement has just named Nakoula Bassely as the man behind it all. Astute enough to attempt conceal his own identity, Bassely was more than willing to place his cast and crew in danger.

Outrageous does not even begin to describe these actions. That is not to say that there is no room for criticism of Islam or Muslims. I myself have publically questioned what I consider to be problematic aspects of the religion I was raised in.

But there is a difference between reasoned criticism and the racist buffoonery of this video, which appeals to the lowest common denominator by portraying Mohammed as a mildly idiotic, sex-crazed paedophile.

Films like this actually create an environment that makes it more difficult for others to provide genuine critique. The West cannot bully a region of the world in which free speech is an alien concept into sharing a worldview that took us centuries to develop.

There is also a difference between sticking your own neck out for what you believe in and endangering other people. Bassely betrayed his own cast in order to deliberately enrage a region of the world so racked by war, poverty and oppression that many people feel they have nothing left but religion. And when that is desecrated, what do you have to lose by taking to the streets?

Nothing justifies violence but neither does intolerance alone explain it.

2. Irfan Yousef

MEDIA: Thoughts on stupid movie and stupider response …

[01] Professor Bruce Lawrence from Duke University wrote an incisive piece in Religion Dispatches that included the following:

Beyond all the issues that have been discussed, debated, and fine-tuned since the 9/11/12 tragedy in Benghazi, one central point has been missed, and it needs to be made again and again and again: expect the unexpected, look for the unrelated to be connected, then projected for the interest of dissident groups savvy about the nature of the modern world and, above all, media ‘neutrality.’ There are no topics so hateful or obscene that they’re debarred from the Internet. They travel virally in a world that welcomes them but cannot monitor either their content or their impact. What al-Qaeda did today, other ill-wishers or polemicists or terrorists can, and will likely, do tomorrow. This is the greatest, and sobering, lesson of the death and destruction that came out of the 9/11/12 debacle. Alas, it is a part of our brave new world of endless information and mindless usage of that information. Gertrude Himmelfarb once observed: “Like postmodernism, the Internet does not distinguish between the true and the false, the important and the trivial, the enduring and the ephemeral.”

… and he continues …

… the still young but perilous 21st century. It is a century, our century, that belongs neither to the USA nor to China, neither to imperialists nor terrorists, but to the CyberKingdom and to those who grasp the endless good and evil wrought by the Information Age.

We’ve just had a flash mob in Sydney ensuring that relations with the Muslim community will go backwards.

Next day

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Yesterday in Sydney —

that message is

totally and utterly UNACCEPTABLE

in Sydney

or anywhere

Please read To the Islamic protesters … by Peter FitzSimons.

…We have to ask: Do you have the first clue as to the ramifications of your actions? Do you not understand that the net result of such irresponsible, appalling action is to give ample fuel to every racist in the country to reinforce every bad stereotype they have ever had of you, and that will affect badly the hundreds of thousands of other peaceful and law-abiding Islamic Australians?

In short, WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING?!…

Racists have said for years, “If you don’t like the way we do things here, go back to where you came from.” The net result of your actions yesterday is that – for those people specifically disgracing themselves in the CBD yesterday, not the vast bulk of Islamic Australians – much of the country now feels the same.

Nice work.

But also read Paul McGeough: Light the touch paper and stand back.

What the hell was that? In a perfect global storm: massive over-reach by crackpot Christian fundamentalists in California collided with what may have been a lucky break for the remnants of al-Qaeda’s leadership hiding in the wilds of Pakistan – throwing the whole Arab Spring into question, upending the US presidential campaign and, leaving the rest of us gasping at the volatility of a region with too many naked flames.

Take out the tragic death of four American diplomats in Benghazi, Libya, and there’s an element of ”we’ve seen this before …”

A pox on ALL fundamentalists who believe God/Allah is so piss-weak, so impotent he needs their ignorance and rage….

Monday

I was hoping – expecting, rather – that Waleed Aly would have something useful to say.

WHERE do I start? Perhaps with the viral image that will come to define this episode: a child who’d be three or four hoisting a sign triumphantly above his head blaring ”Behead all those who insult the Prophet” while a woman, presumably his mother, thinks this is cute enough to capture on her smartphone. Alternatively, I could begin with the observation that the trailer for the anti-Islamic film that ostensibly started this all, Innocence of Muslims, is now a blockbuster, with YouTube hits in the millions thanks largely to the protesters around the world who think nobody should see it.

No. Let’s start with the fact that so few of the protesters who descended on Sydney’s CBD this weekend seem actually to have seen the film that so gravely offends them. When asked by journalists, they bluntly admit this, one even adding that she refuses to watch something so offensive. It’s almost impressive how cyclical this stupidity is. But it’s also instructive. In fact, this is the key to making sense of something so gobsmackingly senseless. The protesters – at least the ones quoted in news reports – know nothing except how offended they are…

We know because so much of the weekend’s ranting was nakedly gratuitous: ”Our dead are in paradise, your dead are in hell”. Pardon? Which dead? Weren’t we talking about a movie?

This is the behaviour of a drunkenly humiliated people: swinging wildly with the hope of landing a blow, any blow, somewhere, anywhere. There’s nothing strategic or calculated about this. It doesn’t matter that they are the film’s most effective publicists. It doesn’t matter that they protest using offensive slogans and signs, while protesting against people’s right to offend. It doesn’t matter that they object to insulting people on the basis of their religion, while declaring that Christians have no morals. This is baffling only until you realise these protesters are not truly protesting to make a point. The protest is the point…

The irony is that it grants an extraordinary level of power to those doing the offending. It puts them constantly at the centre of your world. That’s why, when Gallup polled 35 Muslim majority countries, it found that of all the gripes the Muslim world has against the West, among the most pervasive is the West’s ”disrespect for Islam”.

And it is this disrespect that is the overarching grievance that subsumes others. Everything, global and local, can be thrown into this vortex: Swiss minaret bans, French niqab bans, military invasions, drone strikes, racist stereotyping, anti-immigrant politics, and yes, even films so ridiculously bad that, left to their own devices, they would simply lampoon themselves.

This is what gives Innocence of Muslims meaning: not its content, but its context. It’s a symbol of contempt, which is why protests against it so quickly turn into an orgy of anti-Americanism…

The trouble is that in our digital world, there is always something to oblige. Anyone can Google their prejudices, and there is always enraging news to share with others. Entire online communities gather around the sharing of offensive material and subsequent communal venting. Soon you have a subculture: a sub-community whose very cohesion is based almost exclusively on shared grievance. Then you have an identity that has nothing to say about itself; an identity that holds an entirely impoverished position: that to be defiantly angry is to be.

Frankly, Muslims should find that prospect nothing short of catastrophic. It renders Islamic identity entirely hollow. All pride, all opposition, no substance. ”Like the Incredible Hulk,” observes Abdal Hakim Murad, a prominent British Islamic scholar, ”ineffectual until provoked.”

Sometimes you need a scandal to demonstrate an underlying disease. And that’s the good news here. The vast bulk of Saturday’s protesters were peaceful, and Muslim community organisations are lining up to condemn the outbreak of violence. But now a more serious conversation is necessary. One that’s not about how we should be speaking out to defend our prophet and ourselves. One that’s more about whether we can speak about anything else.

Whatever — there is a place too for this image:

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Asylum seekers and policy in sinking condition

I have had quite firm views on asylum seekers: on this blog and earlier. Trouble is in recent times the whole issue has got worse and worse. And I have a reservation of my own that has been growing along with that: The Greens and others who advocate much more “humane” solutions – as have I – really are caught by the FACT of drowning people. Even if we accepted all boats and abolished Christmas Island and the dodgy excision of bits of Australia for immigration purposes, wouldn’t the very fact of boats still have led to those drownings? Something really does need to be done to make the boat journeys either undesirable or unnecessary – which is why I have even been prepared to consider Clive Palmer’s idea: fly them all here from Indonesia and process them here, sending back any who turn out not to be refugees by the fist available  plane.

Mr Palmer said Australians collectively bore the responsibility of asylum seekers drowning at sea.

"We can eliminate the people smugglers. We can eliminate the problem. We can eliminate the drownings. We can treat people as human beings."

Mr Palmer said he did not approve of the offshore processing supported by both major parties.

"What sort of a nation are we if we don’t follow our international responsibilities and allow people to come here safely?" he said.

Quite a bit was well encapsulated in last Monday’s QandA – with both Malcolm Turnbull and Chris Bowen looking uncomfortable arguing their respective party’s positions – but both at least being rather more than glove puppets too. However, no-one could top Nahji Chu:

JOHN WHITING: I have a question for Ms Chu. I don’t know all the details of your journey to Australia but assuming that you were processed by the former Australian Government procedures, I wonder how you’d feel if your admittance to Australia had either be delayed or denied because refugees coming by boat, having paid people smugglers, had effectively gazumped you?
VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Nahji Chu?
NAHJI CHU: Well, you know, I just have to say that I came by any means possible, whether that was legal or illegal. My life was in danger.
VIRGINIA TRIOLI: You were three and a half years in a camp.
NAHJI CHU: And I came at the age of 9. I arrived – I left at the age of 5. I arrived at the age of 9 and lived three and a half years in a camp.
VIRGINIA TRIOLI: And they were pretty tough times, I imagine?
NAHJI CHU: They’re tough times. I mean, you know, I went through the correct procedures but, I mean, there’s no orderly queue in a camp. There is no such thing as order in a refugee camp. It is…
VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Would you have considered or your parents have considered paying people smugglers to get over here?
NAHJI CHU: We’d do anything possible to have a life.
MALCOLM TURNBULL: Of course they would.
NAHJI CHU: A safe life.
VIRGINIA TRIOLI: So such people who make their way here are not gazumpers, as our questioner asks?

NAHJI CHU: They’re not gazumpers. I mean, look, if you gave them – look, you know, it’s a stupid really is a stupid debate that just keeps going around and round in circles. We’ve had this same debate for ten years. We’ll have this same debate for another ten years. There is no solution other than let them in. Pacific Solution is not a solution, it’s hypocrisy. Malaysia Solution is not a solution. It’s, you know, let’s not acknowledge that we have a solution. Let’s process them here, there, everywhere. It doesn’t matter where we process them. The fact is we need to process them in Australia. You know, like, whilst I was studying up on my notes today, I just couldn’t help but see that footage that someone emailed me. It was the public execution of the 22 year old, Najiba and the headline news was all around the world, you know, “It’s inhumane and it’s un-Islamic.” For me, to turn back the boats is inhumane and un-Australian as much as that was inhumane and un-Islamic. Turning back the boats, you know, four words, "Turn back the boats", they appeal to our dark side. They appeal to the side of us that says, no. They appeal to the side of us that look at outsiders as a threat. It does not look it does not even, you know, make Australia look like a nation that celebrates what it is: a nation of immigrants and refugees. The problem we have at the moment with refugees is not really a large problem. I think, you know, according to UNHCR figures, we actually take 3% of the world’s refugees, as opposed to Canada that takes 31%.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Well, I know…
NAHJI CHU: No, Europe takes 69% and the United States that takes 15%. Now, since 2007 the rate of change has been minus 9% in Australia, as opposed to Canada which is plus 9%.
VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Let me go to Thierry De Duve because I’ve been hearing him making noises here on my right and clearly observing it as an outsider. What do you think of this? Is what Nahji saying making sense?

And in case you had forgotten why these people exist:

And this story this morning:

A DESPERATE plea for asylum by a doctor trying to escape violence and possible execution in Syria and the Australian embassy’s bureaucratic response to him are among more than 2 million Syrian emails obtained by WikiLeaks.

”Please help me I want … humanitarian asylum or political asylum … the Syrian intelligence would kill me,” reads an email from a Syrian doctor to the Australian embassy in Jordan in May last year.

The Herald has obtained access to the WikiLeaks database of Syrian government, commercial and private emails and has started searching the material for significant information relating to the Syrian conflict, and Australia’s dealings with the troubled Middle East state.

Sent from a Hotmail address, the emails from the Syrian doctor provide a dramatic, personal illustration of the human tragedy of the 16 month conflict in Syria which observers estimate has claimed more than 16,500 lives.

”I am a doctor … in a hospital in Homs in Syria. Syrian intelligence want to kill me,” one email in broken English reads.

The doctor wrote that he had joined in protests against the embattled regime of the President, Bashar Hafez al-Assad.

”I went to the street with all the people who want to topple the Assad regime,” he writes.

After his brother had been killed by government security forces, the doctor went on the run with his wife and family. However he could not get a passport to travel abroad because of the interest of Syrian intelligence.

It took the Australian embassy in Amman, Jordan, a week to reply with a pro forma email that said any application for a refugee and humanitarian visa needed to be lodged directly in Amman.

This prompted a further email from the doctor, again begging for help. ”They kill my brother and burn my house … because I know what they do in hospitals in Syria and I refused to take part in the killing of youth revolution, who do not want to Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria …[They] take all my papers from my house and burn my house …”

The embassy then referred the doctor to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship’s website for visa application information. He responded that access to the website was blocked in Syria.

After another pro forma email response from the embassy, the doctor restated his circumstance: ”Intelligence Syrian want to kill me because I did not accept to kill any infected in the hospital of the young people who do not want the Assad regime.

”I am a fugitive in a place and my wife in another place and my kids are [away from me] more than 24 days, please help me.” …

Is it any wonder people might risk their lives and spend all they have to get on a boat? (Or plane — but as we know we don’t seem to worry so much about them…)

It has been great for the cartoonists though:

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Can anything more capture this nadir in our debate on the issue than Abbott rabbiting on about boat people being “unChristian”? Not to mention the whole “turning boats around” crap. See my January post Populist crud Abbott’s unworkable asylum seeker policy and Captain defied order on boat in yesterday’s Herald.

Meanwhile, I commend thoughtful reading of PDF The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre’s Submission (6 July 2012).

The party’s over

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Well may Julia be cracking hardy in that image from the ABC.

Some Labor MPs are convinced Saturday’s landslide LNP win in Queensland is an ominous warning ahead of next year’s federal election.

Forty-three Labor MPs lost their seats as the LNP swept to power on the back of an unprecedented wave of public support.

Queensland Labor is expected to have just seven MPs in the new parliament, while outgoing premier Anna Bligh fell on her sword yesterday and announced she was retiring from politics.

Outwardly the Federal Government argues the Queensland drubbing is a local phenomenon, but privately there is a lot of soul-searching going on…

In the state of its origin the ALP now has barely enough seats to retain its status as a party…

See Peter Hartcher’s analysis with a headline very many of us would agree with: Federal ALP needs to stand for something.

I do feel for Anna Bligh: I thought she was magnificent during the natural disasters that struck Queensland in the last year or two.

As a non-resident of Queensland, I find it hard to understand why that state has punished the Labor Party to the brink of possible extinction (”Bligh quits Parliament”, smh.com.au, March 25).

My observation of the former premier, Anna Bligh, is that she, unlike many of her contemporaries – both male and female – presented a warm interest in and empathy with those in need.

Her replacement will have big shoes to fill and Queensland is worse off for her resignation.

Karen Eldridge Leichhardt

That letter to the Sydney Morning Herald I rather agree with.

But once upon a time…

Even my reading has been infected by Jules and Kev!

So I am reading The Jesus Man by Christos Tsiolkas and there’s all that wanking and that death by self-castration – and guess what I inevitably think of!

Yes, the ALP and Jules and Kev…

And the eBook I am working through is Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy – where this guy called Kev takes Jules out in a rowing boat on an isolated lake and…

Well, you know the rest…

To paraphrase Bill Hayden many years ago, even a drover’s dog could win for the Libs come the next election, whatever happens today — whether Bruce Hawker or Jules and the No Faces gets up.

I recommend the books.

So now we know

Jules has the support of a clear majority in the Labor Caucus.

That ought to settle the matter, but we’ll see I guess. People do forget that we do not — thank God! – operate in a US style presidential system and consequently to not vote directly for the country’s leader. We do vote for the local candidate who embodies more of the policies than not that we would like to see operating in the country, and that usually (but not always) means picking one party or another. The party that sweeps or scrapes in overall then forms the government and the leader of that party – however chosen – then leads the country.

Thus Julia Gillard is at present the legitimate head of government in Australia.

Goodbye, Kevin. Goodbye Bruce Hawker!

Had the 2010 election led — as it well may have — to a hung Parliament with Tony Abbott as Prime Minister we equally would have had, under OUR system, no say in the choice of leader. If I had the choice, as a matter of interest, Malcolm Turnbull would have had the guernsey.

Next day

Peter Costello is not far wrong, in my opinion.

Those ministers who came out for Rudd were largely the ones who had been demoted by Gillard and bore her a grudge: Kim Carr, Chris Bowen and Robert McClelland. The only person of significance to declare for Rudd was a weepy Anthony Albanese (why is it that Labor strongmen resort to tears on occasions like this?) and ”Albo” had been the numbers man on the last occasion. He was not a convert to the "new" Kevin. He was the last man standing with the "old" Kevin.

The most damning thing for Rudd was that apart from those mentioned above, and the honourable exception of Martin Ferguson, the whole of the cabinet was against him. His support was least among those who knew him best. Sometimes the closer you get to a person, the more you admire them. And sometimes you don’t! Rudd was stronger with the public because they were too far away to see behind the cheesy and slightly nerdy public persona. Those of us who have mixed with him in the parliamentary forum know the other Kevin as well.

This time the Gillard forces were determined to shine the spotlight on that other Kevin. They were led by Wayne Swan, someone who has known Rudd from high school. He described Rudd as "dysfunctional" with a "demeaning attitude to other people". He accused him of "sabotaging" policy announcements and leaving the government in a "mess". Swan told us that Rudd put "his own self-interest ahead of the … country"…

None of this would have surprised those who had followed Rudd’s career in Queensland, where his treatment of fellow public servants earned him the moniker "Doctor Death". The amazing thing was that it had been so well hidden. Every time a question arose about Rudd’s integrity in the lead-up to the 2007 election – for example, over his dealings with Brian Burke or his account of his night in a New York strip club – it was laughed off. The press were happy to ignore it because they wanted a change of government. And no two people did more to cover up for Rudd than Gillard and Swan…

I’d rather talk about Leonard Cohen

Vomitous – that in all honesty was my very personal assessment of the Kevin Rudd resignation that was oh so obviously stage managed and timed for the peak news slots back home in Australia. But then the whole saga is – to put it mildly – disappointing.

I rather agree with rob1966 in his comment on Malcolm Farnsworth’s account of the crisis that ought not to be.

Rudd’s carefully timed speech had Bruce Hawker stamped all over it – down to the "catch phrases", the "careful wording", the "mannerisms", and the "facial expressions".
Hawker-Britton, the "strategists" that created the problem that is NSW Labor, now attempting to do the same with the Federal Party.
This leadership turmoil is NOT about policy difference, it is NOT about wanting to take the party in a different direction, it is NOT about what is good for the country – it is ALL about personal grievences, personal scores to be settled, and personal ambitions.
The country suffers as a bunch of bickering children carry out their playground squabble – initially behind closed doors, but now out in the open for all to see.
As an aquaintance of mine mentioned in passing last night – hopefully we can have a federal election soon, and elect some politicians who are actually interested in governing for the good of the nation instead of their own vested interests and egos.

And that doesn’t include Tony Abbott either in my book.

Come the election I will vote for Leonard Cohen:

In Paris, after the press conference, I’m discreetly ushered into a back room for a rare interview alone with Cohen. Up close, he’s a calming presence, old world courtesy mingled with Zen, and his smoke-blackened husk of a voice is as reassuring as a lullaby. I ask him if he wishes the long and painful process of writing his songs would come more easily.

"Well, you know, we’re talking in a world where guys go down into the mines, chewing coca and spending all day in backbreaking labour. We’re in a world where there’s famine and hunger and people are dodging bullets and having their nails pulled out in dungeons so it’s very hard for me to place any high value on the work that I do to write a song. Yeah, I work hard but compared to what?"

Does he learn anything from writing them? Does he work out ideas that way?

"I think you work out something. I wouldn’t call them ideas. I think ideas are what you want to get rid of. I don’t really like songs with ideas. They tend to become slogans. They tend to be on the right side of things: ecology or vegetarianism or antiwar. All these are wonderful ideas but I like to work on a song until those slogans, as wonderful as they are and as wholesome as the ideas they promote are, dissolve into deeper convictions of the heart. I never set out to write a didactic song. It’s just my experience. All I’ve got to put in a song is my own experience.”

In Going Home, the first song on Old Ideas, he mentions writing "a manual for living with defeat". Can a listener learn about life from his songs?

"Song operates on so many levels. It operates on the level you just spoke of where it addresses the heart in its ordeals and its defeats but it also is useful in getting the dishes done or cleaning the house. It’s also useful as a background to courting."

Is a cover of Hallelujah a compliment he has grown tired of receiving?

"There’s been a couple of times when other people have said can we have a moratorium please on Hallelujah? Must we have it at the end of every single drama and every single Idol? And once or twice I’ve felt maybe I should lend my voice to silencing it but on second thought no, I’m very happy that it’s being sung."

Does he still define success as survival?

"Yeah," he smiles. "It’s good enough for me."