SEPTEMBER 2015 CURRENT AFFAIRS FLASHPOINTS

Arriving in European Waters
Asylum  Seekers arriving in European Waters (Indian Express)

Asylum seekers are persons made in God’s image and are worthy of respect and dignity. (Genesis 1:26,28)

Democracy means Government by discussion, but is only effective if you can stop people talking. (Clement  Attlee,1957)

 

The Great Migrations (John Hayward, 2008, Quercus.)

The Politics of Failing Democracy

The Prime Minister is sacked. Long live the Prime Minister.

Rural Bliss and the Winds  of Climate Change

 

The Great Migrations

Since mankind migrated “Out of Africa” more than 100,000 years ago, small bands, tribal groups and populations have been driven out of their homelands by war or famine.  Their fate has either been absorption into a host culture or they have forged their own culture onto resisting indigenous inhabitants.

To place the current migration “Out of Africa” and “Out of the Middle East” into context, I have referred to John Haywood’s tome – The Great Migrations.  The decade 2010-2020 will be a critical one for western Christendom; its very foundations and future culture are to be tested.  Examples of significant migrations in the 19th and 20th centuries are instructive:w

  • The Boer Great Trek in southern Africa between 1835-1840.  The Boers were driven north to form the Orange Free State and the Transvaal, in all some 25,000 were involved.
  • The Trail of Tears – North America.  Between 1830-1840 over 100,000 Red Indians were forced off their lands by the United States Government to make way for new settlers.
  • Indian Migration in the British Empire between 1834-1947.  Movements of indentured Indian labour following the abolition of slavery, in millions were – Malaya 1.75, Burma 1.16, Ceylon 2.3, Africa 0.19.  During the partition of India in 1947, some 6.5 million Hindus fled from Pakistan and around 7 million Muslims fled from India.
  • The Armenian Genocide and Migration.  Over 80,000 Armenians fled to the United States following Turkish genocide between 1894-1896.  Another great wave of migration followed the 1915-1922  Ottoman slaughter of some 1.4 million Armenians.
  • Second World War and Aftermath – 1939-1972.  Europe was unstable for many years after WWII.  Nazi Germany had conscripted millions of Eastern Europeans into their war effort while millions of Ukrainian Slavs were displaced.  Finally, when the Soviet armies advanced over Europe  millions of Slavs and Eastern Europeans fled westward, never to return to their homes.
  • In 1989,  the Civil War in Greece generated by Russian ambition created 700,000 Greek refugees.
  • From the 1950s onwards, thousands of West Indians, Indians and Pakistanis migrated to Britain.  Germany encouraged thousands of Turkish “guest workers” and France encouraged the migration of thousands of Africans.  All these immigrant movements are now leading to increasing civil tension.
  • In 1994, the Ruanda civil war between Hutu and Tutsi, resulted in 1.75 million refugees destabilising much of Central Africa.

In volume and complexity, the current refugee/asylum seeker assault on Western Europe is on a par with the great people movements after WWII.  However, there is one fundamental difference– the vast majority are Muslim which will have a long term effect on the Christian character of Europe.

The basic facts on the current waves of refugees from Africa and the Middle East are provided by Amnesty International (4 Sept. 2015).  Currently there are around 4 million displaced Syrians.  Over 95% are supported in camps (in millions):  in Lebanon – 1.2; Jordan – 0.65; Turkey – 1.9; Egypt – 0.13; Iraq – 0.25.  Also, within Iraq there are 3 million internally displaced persons (IDP). The UNHCR (18 June, 2015) states 219,000 Mediterranean crossings have been undertaken.

Since the commencement of the refugee crisis following American Middle East ‘adventures’, only 104,000 resettlement places have been offered globally while over 400,000 Syrians require immediate resettlement.  According to The Guardian (30 July 2015), Germany is expecting 450,000 refugees in 2015 and so far this year, 180,000 have applied for asylum.

 

Boat Arrivals to Europe
Boat arrivals (‘000s), Jan-June 2015 (UNHCR-Graph 3a)

Amnesty International (September 2015) has noted telling trends in international refugee acceptance:

  • The Gulf States, Qatar, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait refuse to accept refugees.
  • Russia, Japan, Singapore and South Korea refuse to accept refugees.
  • Germany will resettle 350,000 in 2015 (75% of EU total), a later figure of 800,000 has been quoted. The German decision may prove to be farsighted as this intake will provide labour for future German industry.
  • Germany and Sweden have received 47% (of EU intake) of Syrian refugees between 2011 and July 2015.
  •  Remaining EU countries have pledged 8,700 resettlement places – 0.2% of Syrian refugees.
  • Australia has committed to resettle 12,000 refugees.

For Western Europe and the United Nations, the great international problem is to impose stability and rule of law, not democracy, on rogue states that are exporting refugees.  Resettled adult refugees will become good industrious citizens, however, young marginalised offspring will become a next generation problem – trawling grounds for a future terrorist organisation.  Penultimately, where in the world do two totally different faiths peacefully co-exist inside the same national boundary?

 

Overloaded Vehicle
Overloaded vehicle leaving  Central African Republic. (Humanconcern.org)

Hidden from the radar of the chattering classes is the continuing refugee  tragedy in central Africa. The Central African Republic is embroiled in the old chestnut  of the Christian-Muslim antagonism. Since December 2013 more than 930,000 have been displaced and have fled to Cameroon, Chad, Congo and Democratic Congo Republic (UNHCR Operation Profile, CAR, January, 2015).

An ultimate looming threat is that climate change may cause further instability in the Sahal and the Middle East.  There is a long term rocky road ahead.

The mega picture is that by end of 2014 there were 59.5 million people forcibly displaced from their homes  and are now asylum seekers, refugees and IDPs. In 2014 13.9 million people became newly displaced and the situation is worsening (UNHCR, Worldwide Displacement, 18 June, 2015).

In 1961, Bertrand Russell wrote ‘Has Man a Future?’ This was followed up  by ‘Civilised Man’s Eight Deadly Sins’ written by Konrad Lorenz in 1974. The question must be asked but will not be answered – has the United Nations lost the ability to save humanity from itself?

The Politics of Failing Democracy

The Western Democracies may be witnessing the rise of a totally modern unstable democratic system.  The current democratic model has probably reached a tipping point where now perhaps over 50% of the “western” populations are feeling economic and social pain.

The first of the new political leaders are Jeremy Corben – Labour, UK and Bernie Sanders, Democrate Presidential aspirant, USA.

Corben was elected leader due to his appeal to the bottom half of Britain’s economic pile.  His appeal to the masses is, in part, based on ending austerity, imposing rent controls and nationalising rail and power.

Sanders has sent a clear message that he wishes to halt the 40 year decline in the American middle class, decrease the gap between the very rich and everyone else, provide a living wage and distance politics from the billionaire class. It has been reported that the American dream is fading, housing is becoming unaffordable in Australia for young home-buyers and workers can no longer afford to live in London. These numbers are increasing.

Within the western democracies whole industries, driven by the wealthy, fleece the poor with payday loans and hire purchase/leasing agreements. On Social Europe website Dr. Simon Hix, London School of Economics (17 Sept., 2015) has provided informed insight into the relevance  of Jeremy Corben. He has mobilised young people and the expanding lower income population, key issues of the deprived have been clearly annunciated and he has mobilised the latent aversion towards the political establishment. In short, he has tapped into the anger of rising inequality. Politicians in Australia and America should commence some serious introspection.

 

A New Dawn
A New Dawn-At Last
Advance Australia Fair (Image-3)

Much has been made of five Australian Prime Ministers in five years. Reasons have been advanced for this merry-go-round. A contributory factor may be the electorate is becoming increasingly angry with irrefutable  evidence  of rising inequality that is difficult to annunciate in political terms and banal reporting.

Within democratic systems today, politicians should be well aware that home owners voting for stable government may well be  verging towards a minority  while the disaffected and those suffering economic stress, deprivation and fading aspirations are in the ascendent.   The days of the cosy Government-Capital relationship are coming to an end.  The political-economic model spawned by the Industrial Revolution is losing relevance.

The Prime Minister is sacked. Long live the Prime Minister.

The verbiage associated with the demise of Prime Minister Abbott and the ascension of Prime Minister Turnbull is nauseating. When the Chief Executive of a major corporate under performs  he/she is sacked with minimum fanfare before inflicting further damage on the company.

The Protagonists
The Protagonists at Question Time (AAP, Sam Mooy)

When the Chief Executive of Australia Com. is removed for under performance, the ether is filled with epithets on loyalty, disloyalty, merit, talent, back stabbing and the spoils of power, while the term ‘brutal’ resounds as if from a many headed hydra. Australia needs competent executives focused on results not numbers.

In reality the process was a crass exhibition of cabals seeking power (for the most honourable public motives) while discredited cabals sought to retain power, prestige and entitlements irrespective of poor performance. A nightly press unable to discuss serious issues facing Australia and a salacious audience ensures low standards. Australia cannot be a great democracy unless the level of debate is raised.

In the last days of September, Mr Abbott proved he is only a politician and unfit for the position of CEO Australia Com. He spoke of his lost chance of winning the next election; despite poor polls, he did not speak of increasing Australia’s export income or of running a profitable Australia, concepts critical to the wellbeing of Australians. He is condemned by his own words.

 

Rural Bliss and the Winds of Climate Change

The bull bar and winch wrere stolen from my truck while parked at Scone railway station. Police and garage mechanics have expressed total amazement at this act of vandalism- fortunately an insurance job. To rub salt into my insurance company claims                                        it has been established the hail storm last month so damaged the iron roof and the weather side of the house that both will have to be replaced.

The hail storm in the Murrurundi locality has produced damage running into hundreds of thousands of dollars – hail stones were the size of cricket balls. What is concerning is that storm cells producing  large hail are very violent. A few days ago the Central Coast suffered a devastating hailstorm, so heavy t looked like snow. All this and it is not yet the summer thunder storm season. At some stage we all will experience a very serious  weather problem.

 

Central Coast Hail Storm
Central Coast Hail Storm. (17 Sept.2015.
dailytelegraph.com)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AUGUST 2015 Current Affairs Flashpoints

Commodore Perry with Japanese dignitaries
Commodore Perry with Japanese dignitaries.(Library of Congress/Wikimedia)

War is nothing but a continuation of politics by other means. (Karl von Clausewitz, 1780 – 1831)

I sometimes sense the World is changing to fast for its inhabitants.(Elizabeth 11, 1997)

VJ Day 70 Years On
Aboriginal Constitutional Recognition                                                                                  Shares versus Bonds – a Red Alert                                                                        The Hurricane of Climate Change                                                                   Rural Bliss

VJ Day 70 Years On
Around the Pacific Rim nations remember VJ (Victory in Japan) Day, 14th August, 1945, when Japan surrendered  to Allied Forces.

The antagonism to the United States and other Western Powers originated in the 1850s when Commodore Perry  of the US navy forced Japan to sign trade treaties. This destroyed Japanese self respect and generated a deep resentment. The Japanese government was also terrified the nation would suffer the same humiliation as China that flowed from Western aggression, the Opium Wars  and the annexation of Hong Kong.

After the Russians drove the Japanese out of Siberia in 1918, the ruling elite turned eyes towards South East Asia for rubber, oil, iron and other minerals well before the start of WW2. It was an aggressive expansive nationalism fuelled by the realisation that without an Empire (like Western democracies) it could never become a world power.

By the 1920s, Japan was in a desperate  economic situation with the population on the verge of revolt. The Great Depression of the early 1930s hit Japan hard as the vast silk trade with the United States collapsed. Japanese  leaders considered the way to resolve economic problems was to acquire South East Asian colonies similar to Western European empires. The Emperor Hirohito was rendered impotent by his sabre rattling military.  During this period Japan invaded Manchuria, Mongolia and Korea to secure raw materials. The League of Nations expostulated and Japan withdrew its membership.

In 193, the United States restricted the supply of oil and metals which drove Japan to contemplate the energy supplies of Indonesia.  In194, the United Stated imposed a total oil embargo on Japan – a desperate situation.Thus Japan attacked Pearl Harbour in 1942. Japan’s fatal mistake was the failure to destroy the Naval Base and sink the remaining three aircraft carriers. The rest is history.

In the words of a Japanese military commander “We have woken a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve”.                 (www.quora.com/japanesenationalism)

Casualties (thousands) | WW2 | Asia and Pacific Rim
NationKilledWoundedPrisoners Civilians
Australia9.514.021.70
USA111.6253.121.60
China4 million3 million018 million
Japan1.7 million94 41.4393.0

The atomic bombs were not the prime reason for Japanese surrender. On the day Nagasaki was destroyed, the Russians with a 1.8 million man army attacked Manchuria and smashed the Japanese army. The Japanese feared the Soviets more than the Americans.   (Tsuyoshi Hasigawa,  Associated Press,  August 2014)

Aboriginal Constitutional Recognition                                                                 The Government has rubbed iodine into festering news by the decision not to financially support Aboriginal gatherings to discuss an amendment to the Australian constitution. The given reason is that there is no wish to see discussions degenerate to a ‘log of claims’. This opinion is an insult to the Aboriginal leadership and denigrates the tenor of anticipated discussion. The Government now appears to be softening and Aboriginal forums may be facilitated. It is still the Government’s objective to closely manage the deliberations by bringing the two principal relevant ethnic strands to the same table for a disinterested exchange of ideas. For legal precision, the term ‘Aboriginal’ requires clarification.

A  word on definitions relevant to settlement in new lands:                    **custodian – a person who has responsibility for taking care of or protecting  something                                                                                                         **occupier – a person residing on or using property as if the owner       **inhabitant – a person who lives in or occupies a place.

In any migration, a person will become an inhabitant and subsequently will become an occupier and possibly a custodian. For the purpose of legal clarity, any addition to the Constitution should recognise Aborigines as the first ‘inhabitants of the land’ now known as Australia.

The First Aboriginal Footprint on the great South land.
The ‘first’ Aboriginal footprint on the Great South Land

In 2014 on ABC News, Celeste Liddle, National Tertiary Education Union, opined  Australia is clearly not ready to vote for constitutional change and the electorate was clearly against the terms ‘sovereignty’ and ‘treaty’, both potential mine fields.

To place this constitutional discussion in perspective, Australia is compared with other Anglo-Saxon immigrant nations with minority indigenous populations (as %): Australia 2.5%, Canada 3.5%, United States 1.6% and New Zealand 18%.  America has over 300 treaties with Indian tribal groups and New Zealand is quite different from Canada and Australia.

Canada recognises the rights of first peoples in the constitution  and has negotiated treaties with aboriginal groups that provide for dwelling rights, hunting and food production (but only on a scale prior to European settlement). However, rights are not absolute under Canadian law.  The Government has retained the right to enter treaty lands, following consultation, for the purpose of economic development, power generation and environmental protection. In small areas, where local self-government has been granted, this has become a knotty problem. (Aboriginal Rights, Canadian Encyclopaedia, Bell and Henderson, 2015).

There are elements in the Australian Aboriginal community that favour a treaty as well as constitutional change. It is important that recognition be given that Aborigines were the first inhabitants of Australia, but to enhance the cause beyond that of other ethnic groups in the nation to have the potential to cause community tension.

The Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island People (2012) has recommended that the Constitution be amended as follows:                 —-Remove Sect. 25. Banning of voting on racial grounds.                                  
—-Remove Sect. 25xxvi. Ban racial discrimination laws.                                                 —-Add Sect. 116A. Ban race discrimination.                                                             —-Add Sect. 127A. Recognise the first Aboriginal languages. (The implication of this Section  must be carefully considered. If the ‘first inhabitants ‘are recognised, then ipso facto, the language is also recognised).

The stated benefits, according to the Committee  to a Constitution change, would be a redress of a previous exclusion, increasing feeling of self worth and trust would be encouraged between communities. The context of future discussions would change for the better. In this latter point,the term “discussion” requires definition.                                                                       
A suggested wording that would closely link first inhabitants to later immigrants in a common cause might resemble “It is recognised the first Aboriginal inhabitants and their descendants  have been joined by later immigrants to jointly populate Australia.”

Shares versus Bonds –   a Red Alert                                                                       –For those in employment and for those at the rear end of the gravy train, humanity has lived through an extraordinary epoch. For the past thirty years, leaving aside the Chinese phenomenon, there has been an imperceptible decline in economic activity in the Capitalistic West,  which has lead to an irregular decline in interest rates and a slow exodus in equities. Concurrently, there has been a steady increase in bond market activity that has enabled Western governments to fund their obligations as income tax receipts decrease. Currently, interests rates are the lowest on record, which has facilitated in a three decade long bond rally.

Western World Interest Rates. %
Switzerland(0.75)Britain0.5
Singapore(0.75)EMU0.75
Japan0.00Canada1.0
America0.25Australia2.0

Janet Yellen, Chair of the Federal Reserve, has warned that interest rates could rise in 2015 with the caveat that economic activity must improve. Any increase will cause angst in the bond markets.

Janet Yellen pondering interest rates?
Janet Yellen pondering interests rates? (Intelligent Investor)

Perusal of interest rates proves the Industrial West is suffering a decline in economic activity. During this period capital has moved into the bond markets at the expense of equities. Currently, bond markets are overvalued, particularly with an interest rate rise in the offing. Bond prices are much higher than they have been for many years: yields are low but are still ahead of Government rates. (See table). Few people remember the bond markets in the ’70s and ’90s when large financial losses were incurred. There is an approaching ‘crunch’ as the Fed considers a rise in interest rates driven by an indication that  American economic activity is improving.

As interest rates rise, bond holders will scramble to sell their bonds before discounts reduce value, although yields will increase. This will encourage a shift into equities. The rise in the American interest rate will be the first in nine years. In May 2015, Warren Buffet, Berkshire Hathaway, commented that long term bond rates are very overvalued. (Intelligent Investor)

For distressed Australian investors, there will be a double whammy  for those holding bonds and property when interest rates rise. Bonds will fall in value, interest rates on bank loans will rise and equity in property will fall as the real estate bubble  deflates.

Return Comparison, Australian Assets
Return % pa to 2012
(ABS, Thompson Reuters, AMP Capital)
5 years 10 years
Shares(1.8) 9.1
Bonds8.36.4
Property3.3 5.3

Even more, pundits are warning that  Australia is facing a recession in 2015. The RBA has lowered growth forecast to 2.75 % and  unemployment may exceed 6.4 %, the highest for over a decade. Terms of trade are estimated to fall to 3.9 % in 2015. ((Business Insider and Executive Committee of Australian Business Economics, November 2014)

Based on the above,he Government catch-cry should not only be jobs-jobs-jobs but exports-exports-exports.

The Hurricane of Climate Change                                                                                   The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has announced global temperatures for July were the hottest on record. To put this in perspective, below are the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Control (IPCC) carbon dioxide and temperature limits necessary to prevent a global climate catastrophe.

Carbon Dioxide  Critical Level  400 ppm                                                                * Pre-industrial Level (1880)——–270-280 ppm                                               * Current Level————————400 ppm                                                          * Rate of Increase———————1.9  ppm/year                                               (NASA Institute of Space Studies)                                                                             *Level by 2050 est.——————–460 ppm

Carbon Dioxide additions
Fossil Fuel and Cement Carbon Dioxide additions to atmosphere in Giga Tonnes. 2015 levels now 400 ppm (CDIAC/GCP/Friedlingstein)

Temperature 
Critical Level 2
*C above 1880 temperature.                      
* Pre-industrial Level————–Base Line (BL)                                               * Current Temperature————0.85*C above BL                                          
* Rate of Increase (2013-14)—–0.116
*C/decade (NOAA)                      
* Level by 2050 est.—————-1.26*C

Global Temperature Increase.
Global Temperature Increase from 1880 to 2015. (Paul Horn, Inside Climate News)

A leading climate scientist, Dr Mann (NOAA), opined in Scientific American (March 2014) that the critical 2*C could be reached by the mid 2030s,  based on current fossil fuel consumption.

The critical issue is carbon dioxide emissions. If temperature is to remain below 2*C above pre-industrial levels, then it is estimated green house gas emissions will have to be reduced by 80-90% by 2050.  (J Morgan, Director, World Resources Institute) This will require a seismic shift in the rate of increase  in the use of non- renewable energy. The critical 2*C was originally proposed by Dr. Nordhaus (Yale University) in the mid-1970s as an accommodation between science and political reality. A paper published by the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, considers the Climate Change Meeting in Paris in December 2015 will be unable to keep temperatures below the 2*C level.

A NOAA study released in June 2015, has confirmed the rate of global warming is increasing. Their  findings summarised:                          *1950-1999 —-0.113*C/ decade                                                                               *1998-2012—-0.086*C/decade                                                                                *2013-2014—-0.116*C/decade

The period 1998-2012 did not signify a hiatus in global warming –  it was the oceans operating as a heat sink.

Concluding Comment

1— 2006.  A Stern Commission quote “It was obvious that 2*C was far beyond any danger limit definition”.

2— 2008. International Energy Agency quote “It is obvious 2*C is catastrophically dangerous as is 1.5*C,  while 1*C  is the danger limit. (By 2050, the temperature will be 1.26*C on current  estimate.)

3— 2014. IPCC 5th Assessment quote “2*C is intolerably dangerous due to projected multiple disastrous to catastrophic impacts on human populations”.

Considering the foregoing, the current global disruptive weather events can only intensify since carbon dioxide levels exceed 400 ppm and global temperature is pushing towards the critical 1*C and rising.

Rural Bliss                                                                           
On Sunday, 23rd August, the Upper Hunter region was hit by the most violent storm cell recorded in the region since 1948. On the farm, 52 mm of rain fell in a couple of hours followed by a devastating hail storm with hail stones the size of tennis balls. Such was the intensity in the district, that solar panels and roof tiles were smashed and a young calf suffered a broken back. On my property, the hail fractured a water pipe and over 20,000 litres of potable water was lost. The storm surge in the creek threw the solar pump two meters up the river bank. This was the severest storm since my arrival  fifteen years ago.

This storm originated in the Indian Ocean. It created wide spread rain and hail in central New South Wales, a cyclonic storm cell in the Central West and floods along the South Coast hinterland.

July 2015 Current Affairs Flash Points

National Parties in Europe
THE CLASH OF CULTURES   EUROPEAN NATIONAL PARTIES  as percentage of electorate with immigration concerns. (Economist, Social Europe)

Contents

The Clash of Cultures
The Winds of Climate Change
The Eurozone Underbelly
Indonesia,  A Power Stirs
Rural Bliss
Towards the Final Hour

We have just enough religion to make us hate but not enough to make us love one another.  (Clash of Cultures)
Thoughts on various subjects. Jonathon Swift, 1711.

I said “It is most extraordinary weather for this time of year”. He replied “Ah, it isn’t this time of year at all”.  (The Winds of Climate Change)
Oliver St. John Gogarty. 1878-1957.

The Clash of Cultures
—-The ‘Reclaim Australia’ demonstrations round Australia in mid-July were predictable and are a distant reflection  of more violent events in Europe. The local demonstrations were a sinister mix of Cooee, Mateship and Advance Australia Fair.
—-For several years Europe has been  unsettled by increasing tension and friction between Islamic immigrants and Caucasian  ‘Christian’ inhabitants. Throughout Europe nationalistic parties have formed to voice concern over a perceived threat  to national identity by minorities with a different faith. Twelve European nations have been fractured by aggressive Patriotic political parties whose distilled concerns are:
*  feel threatened by Islam
*  fear a loss of national identity
*  fear a decline in conservative Christian culture.
—-These  National parties have gained additional popular  support due to the depressing economic conditions (GDP growth <1%), high unemployment and an uncertain future. Electoral support in eight European democracies varies between 13% and 26% while two National parties are represented in the European Parliament.The principal driver to this phenomenon is religion, not ethnicity. The critical question is whether completely different faiths and their associated culture can coexist under a democracy (Europe News).
—-On a historical basis a common thread in Western culture in the first decades of the 20th Century  was anti-Semitism. Economic and social conditions for the masses before and after the First World War were terrible. After the War the British Government promised  ‘a land fit for heroes’, it totally was not for the Europeans.  One hundred years later in the 21st century Western culture is suffering similar conditions therefore a rising Islamophobia is not unexpected. Recently the political heads of France, Germany and Italy have endeavoured  to calm national unrest without success.
—-Australia is in a difficult situation. For decades the Government has extolled the success of multiculturalism which was based on ethnic  not religious integration. To maintain this policy it must consider the concerns  of ‘Reclaim Australia’ which are natural while simultaneously allaying the fears of Australian Islamic society. An added complication is that our Muslim neighbour, Indonesia, will be keenly observing how Australia handles the threat of rising nationalism and simultaneously ensuring a peaceful domicile for its Muslim citizens. Russia was forceful when its citizens  in the Baltic States and Central Asia were under pressure  after the disintegration of the  Soviet Union.
—-“Reclaim Australia” is not an aberration, it has common cause with compatriots in Europe. It cannot be disbanded  by political pressure, the concerns of its supporters and sympathisers will have to be addressed.
—-So too today, a hundred years later, Western Europe including Australia is struggling under poor economic conditions, unemployment and uncertainty. Religion and associated customs are again magnified and have been exacerbated by Western democracies waging war, for what ever reason, on Islamic cultures in the Middle East for almost a generation. Propaganda by Western governments  have had the unintended consequence of encouraging  an unfavourable perception of Islam. This is an intractable problem which can only be partially solved by an improvement in national economies and the political leaders providing a more certain future for its citizens.
—-A philosophical question, can two mutually exclusive faiths peacefully coexist in a demoracy if one is a perceived as a threat  by the other?

The Winds of Climate Change

Antarctic Vortex, July '15
Cold air and snow precipitation.
( BOM, Australia)

—-RN Breakfast, 17 July, has aired another climate change warning. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has announced that 2014 was  a year of multiple records, globally the hottest, average sea level the highest, sea surface temperatures the warmest and the Arctic sea ice area the smallest. All the  major indicators  are rushing towards Hades while in Australia the political elite indulge in petty pedestrian politics.
—-A Polar vortex is currently sweeping over south-east Australia to the delight of the winter sports industry, so far unheard is an informed comment on its significance. Hearsay is this is the coldest regional event for over 50 years with snow within cooee of the Tropic of Capricorn. It was only a few months ago that a northern  Polar vortex swept over the United States dumping snow on 48 of the 50 American States. What does this mean?
—-The Antarctic Polar vortex is a 200 km/hr super cold wind circling the remnants of the ozone hole round the Antarctic continent. Normally this wind delivers rain to the Roaring Forties that nourishes southern Australia. Global warming is shrinking the diameter of the vortex  thus  dragging rain away from Australia and so worsening the usual drought cycles.
—- The current cold air from the vortex  over south-east Australia is due to global warming. There is an increasing temperature differential  between the equatorial and polar regions, this causes a distortion of the southern hemisphere jet stream which permits vortex air to migrate north  to dump snow and cold rain over south-east Australia (National Climate Centre, Canberra). The long term significance of this weather event for Australia could be profound but there has been a deafening silence of informed comment.

The Eurozone Underbelly

Greek Tragedy
Athens in the shadow of its past glory. The debt crisis.

—-Ffinancial convulsions that have consumed Europe, Greece and Greek communities round the world, however there is a larger canvas on which a more worrying picture is  emerging. The attached table derived from The  Economist World Debt Summary compares  Eurozone members and includes  Australia and its south-east Asian competitor and trading partner, South Korea. The table grades from the weaker to the more robust economies.

Country———-Public Debt——–Debt/person————2015
Population–M——-% GDP————–$US–‘000——–*Bud Bal> %
Greece——-11———177——————-22—————-(2.4)
Portugal—–10———153——————-27—————-(8.8)
Italy———-61———122——————-38—————-(3.0)
Britain——-64———101——————-43—————-(3.0)
America—321———-90——————–34—————-(2.5)
Spain——–47———-88——————–23—————-(4.5)
Germany—81———-85——————–34—————-(0.8)
Australia—24———-27——————–16—————-(1.4)
S Korea—–51———-27———————7—————-+0.8
*Budget Balance %

—-From the table it is clear Greece and Portugal are in a parlous financial situation. A principal difference is that Portugal plans to repay a $14 billion bail-out loan to the IMF while Greece has been unable to meet a $1.7 billion interest payment to the IMF. Portugal has maintained an onerous austerity program while Greece has failed. Within the EU there is a worry, however, that Portugal and possibly Italy may eventually default as the financial data is not encouraging (P. Wise, EU Economy). In contrast the more stable stronger economies are characterised by lower public debt and healthier Budget Balances.
—-Although Greece is responsible for only 2% of EU GDP Europe is riven by a divisive convergence, Germany requires Greece to remain in the Union for economic reasons (which have now been questioned) while France requires Greece to remain in the fold for political reasons. By mid-July the EU granted a further $80 billion bail-out for the third time but this is no solution to the problem!!
—–The larger picture is that five members of the EU (Ireland, Cyprus, Spain, Portugal, Greece) have been provided with financial packages from the ECB and the IMF. Spain as one of the largest economies in Europe has been of particular concern, since the GFC in 2008 it has received cash injections of over $US 200 billion. Spanish austerity measures and increasing competitiveness have improved the situation but its budget deficit is a concern. A major cause of Euro Zone problems was that the introduction of the euro was not accompanied by a common fiscal system. The statement by Mario Draghi, President of the ECB, that he ‘will do whatever it takes to preserve the euro’ may come to haunt him.
—-Despite the dire warnings of the Australian Government it is clear that within the OECD orbit (table above) Australia’s financial position is better than most, however, this is unsustainable unless Australia massively increases its exports.

Indonesia, a Power Stirs.

Twelve new submarines planned.
Plans for twelve new submarines. (S Kygsman, theaustralian.com.au)

—-In this Asian century America has announced it is expanding military cooperation with Indonesia, since this nation’s islands are washed by the South China Sea this is an understandable move. Indonesia is planning to establish a military base in this region as the rise of China can no longer be considered peaceful. Indonesia has already crossed verbal swords with China due to its claim on the Indonesian island of Natuna.
—-Australia is now facing the reality of an expanding military power as its closest nation. There is a relative shift in wealth and power away from Australia toward Indonesia and it is incumbent on Australia to manage this transition and remain on good terms with its near northern Islamic neighbour. PriceWaterhouseCoopershave estimated that by 2050 Indonesia will possess a GDP three times that of Australia. The Indonesian population is around 250 million, ten times that of Australia. Crucially the size of an economy is determined by the number of workers and their output. When Indonesia reduces corruption and improves it politics it will be well on its way to becoming a power house providing its 5% growth rate can be maintained.
—-Despite Australia being a country of immigrants its current immigration policy may ‘come back to bite it’. History can be instructive but never quite repeats itself. The Afrikaans nation went into decline because it was a minority group that wished to retain its national purity. Bearing in mind Australia’s high labour costs, its reliance on natural resources and its lack of a population critical mass Australia will be unable to match Indonesia’s GDP growth.
—-The point of this discussion is that Indonesia has indicated it requires its armed forces to be superior to its neighbours including Australia. As Indonesia grows in power it will become more involved in Asian and international affairs as, in relative terms, Australia’s military influence and GDP decreases (Strategic and Defence Studies, Canberra). Although over 50% of Indonesian military equipment is over thirty years old it pushing ahead with its military expansion. The objective is to build a modern military force by 2024 comprising 180 jet fighters, 300 warships and 12 submarines. This will be a three phase project, the first phase was completed in 2014 (Straits Times, 2015).
—-A historical flash back to 2014 provides a snapshot of comparative military might along with that of Japan and China:
Nation———Australia—–Indonesia—-Japan——-China
Personnel——57,000——-0.3 m———-0.23 m—–2.3 m
Tanks————-149———-0————–880——–6550
Aircraft———-109———96————–340——=1970
Large Ships——12———30—————-52———–80
Submarines——6———-13—————-16———–65
( Institute for Strategic Studies, News.com.au, February, 2014)
—-It behoves Australia to cultivate a more cooperative demeanour with Indonesia as perforce Indonesia’s enemy from the north will be Australia’s.
—-The Arafura and Timor seas that separate Australia and Indonesia represents an immense cultural, religious and social divide that will require a sea change in Australia’s foreign policy approach, an attitude that smacks of hubris will have to go. The 250 million citizens can no longer be taken for granted and Australia’s foreign aid can have no real effect on future growth and may be rejected as charity. The fantasy that “Indonesia has no better friend than Australia” will, to Australia’s relief, hopefully be replaced by “Australia has no better friend than Indonesia”.
—-Once again — History and change happen. There are those among us who wish this was not so.

Rural Bliss
—-Incensed, the mare, Maggie, galloped to the water trough scattering several calves wetting their noses. With Maggie drinking the calves closed in behind jumping and shaking their heads as if laughing.

Towards the Final Hour
—-Armageddon?

Quo Vadis Homo sapiens
The rise of Artificial Intelligence. (Credit: Shutterstock)

Quo Vadis Homo sapiens. The future Hamlet?
“Alas poor Yorick, I have destroyed my Creator”

—-Over one thousand scientists and engineers sent an open letter to the United Nations requesting it ban the production of autonomous warfare systems, that is artificial intelligence killing machines. The letter originated in Buenos Aires in late July at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence. Signatures include those of intellectual giants of our species, namely Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, Noam Chomsky and Steve Wozniak. The letter mentioned three weapons revolutions, guns (past), nuclear (present) and artificial intelligence (now upon us).
—-The future is murky. Two powers, the Soviet Union and the United States, consummated the the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT) in 1972 which limited the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Now some forty-five years later how much more difficult will it be when technically advanced rising powers, China and Iran, also require a place at the top table. There are two other complications; Britain, Israel and Norway already deploy missiles and drones that can attack targets without direct human control (New york Times, November 2014). Secondly this technology is not difficult to master and the concern is rogue nations or terrorist groups could manufacture their own artificial intelligence weapons.
—-According to Steven Hawking “full artificial intelligence in weapons could spell the end of the human race”. Homo sapiens–Quo Vadis?

JUNE 2015 Current Affairs Flash Points

US and Iraqi Military
US Army advisors training Iraqi soldiers.
(Khalid Mohammed/AP)

We are giving classes on the will to fight. (Sgt. Maj. D J.)

Laudato Si, mi’ Signore. (Pope Francis)
Praise be to you, my Lord.

CONTENTS
The Winds of Climate Change
Terms of Trade and a Red Alert
Clash of Cultures
Social Inequality and Housing
The Galapagos Syndrome and Amazing Grace
Rural Bliss
Towards the Final Hour

The Winds of Climate Change.

Pope Francis-Ency
Laudato Si.
The care of our Common Home.
[Reuters/Gampiero Sposito)
—Pope Francis has jolted, invigorated and annoyed his vast global flock by his Encyclical on the ‘Care of our Common Home”. His Holiness did not mince words as the approximate rendition illustrates. The Pope spoke of looming environmental ruin that could be heard as a cry from the earth and a cry from the poor. There was almost an order to stop environmental degradation and a command that influential individuals cease obstructionist attitudes. The Pope was sufficiently moved to say the World is becoming a vast pile of filth and the planet was on a fast track to disaster.
—It is timely to mention the book, ‘How Societies choose to Fail or Survive’ by Professor Diamond, UCLA. Since the beginning of time, mankind has created societies that have prospered and then, due to stupidity that resulted in catastrophic environmental degradation, have destroyed their culture in spite of clear warning signs. Retracing faltering footsteps along eons of history examples of self destruction are the early communities in Mesopotamia, the Norsemen of Greenland, the destruction of Polynesian communities in the Pacific Ocean, the American Anasazi who destroyed their fragile landscape, the Maya civilisation which collapsed due to destruction of forests, food shortage and fighting over resources.

Today’s mankind is destroying the Amazon and South-East Asian forests, global fish stocks are dwindling, the ‘bad lands’ of China and North America are with us, and increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide is hastening the melting of the Greenland, the Antarctic and Arctic ice caps. It is a little appreciated fact the Mediterranean littoral was denuded of forests due to the Persian, Greek and Roman ship building activity; the only vegetation that grew on the degraded landscape was olive trees.
—In Australia there is now a classic example of an Australian Authority pursuing a policy mentioned by Professor Diamond that will knowingly lead to Environmental Collapse. The Murray Darling Basin has released a Plan that has used 140 years of climate records but has made no projections for climate change. Modelling by the Australian Water Association has shown that a 10% reduction in rainfall could result in a 60% reduction in available water in the Murray-Darling Basin.

Furthermore, the Authority has announced a plan to release 3200 giga litres into the river system by 2024 while, concurrently within the system, swamp lands and river bank forests are degrading. The original figure was 4000 gl. The Goyder Institute has indicated the release is insufficient to ensure adequate flushing of salt out of the drainage system. The summation of dryer conditions, over allocation and salination will degrade the land. Fifty years hence??? The back drop is that 70% of Australia’s arable land supporting 40% of Australian farms depend on this water supply. The Authority is administering a $10 billion budget and appears to be following the Government line that Climate Change is not a critical issue.
—Once again Australia has been exposed for its tardy attitude to climate change. Rear Admiral Morrisey, the UK Climate Change envoi, is in Australia conveying the message to the Abbott Government that Britain and the United States would like Australia to take a more responsible attitude to Climate Change Security Strategy – that is, to plan for wild weather events and population instability as living conditions and food shortages worsen. No doubt America would almost certainly have one eye cocked on the security of its military establishments in Australia.
—-Another Government policy exposure. A new player has erupted onto the climate change scene, the Australian Climate Round Table. The members include the Business Council, the Climate Institute, ACOSS, Energy Supply Association and the Aluminium Council. Their demand is for a bipartisan policy must be framed and reiterating the Government is not doing enough to limit global temperature rise below 2*C. Remember the warning of Climate Analytics, Berlin, mentioned in my May blog.
Pakistan Heat Wave Far more concerning than the 800 deaths and around 8,000 in hospital (CNN) is the trend revealed by the records of the Pakistan Meteorological Department since 1938. The data shows the number of population conurbations with temperatures over 45*C and over 50*C. The trend is very concerning
——Time Range————45*C to 50*C————plus 50*C
——-1938-1999—————–5————————–2
——-2000-2015—————-22————————18
These are consistent with Australian weather disasters mentioned in my January blog; it is also a wake up call for a need for Homeland Security Forces.

Pakistan Heat Wave
People in Lahore Canal.
(The Guardian)

Terms of Trade and a Red Alert.
—By extraordinary coincidence on the same day, JP Morgan Bank and the Treasurer used the term ‘disaster. and ‘a tremendous set of numbers’ for the same announcement on the Australian economy. JP Morgan spoke of the Terms of Trade deficit of $4 billion as the worst in the past 45 years. On the flip side of the announcement the Treasurer referred to the growth figure of 0.93% for the March quarter, equivalent to an annual growth rate of 2.3%, this will not solve the youth unemployment problem and is even lower than the projected trend of 2.5%.
—Over the past year there has been a poor growth trend and this is down on the 2.8% growth for the 12 months ending June 2014. The trend in GDP per capita has also declined from 1.2% to June 2014 to only 0.7% to June 2015. These low growth rates illustrate the weakness in the economy. The only time the growth rate has been lower in the past 40 years was in the 1991 recession and during the GFC in 2007-08.
—It would have been disastrous for the Australian economy if the verbal eruption by Mr Forrest of Fortesque had been supported by the Government. The current high tonnage of low priced iron ore exports are vital in reducing Australia’s adverse Terms of Trade. At this stage the only two drivers of the Australian economy are finance and mining, both construction and manufacturing are a drag on GDP growth. (ABS 5206.0)
—The bottom line problem is the falling national economic demand (which the budget incentive of the $20,000 small business write-off hoped to address) combined with low wages growth results in decreasing competitiveness. In the March quarter the GDP per hour worked has fallen, in the past year productivity has only increased by 0.9%. (ABS 5206.0)
—Red Alert. There has been more than passing comment on the decline of Australian living standards. The quarterly growth figures, far from being ‘a tremendous set of numbers’, do in fact reflect a weak local demand in the economy and declining exports. The relatively high dollar is not helping our export industries. Somehow, productivity growth has to increase if living standards are not to fall. As if to drive this point home, Christine Lagarde, MD of the IMF, has requested the Fed not to raise interest rates in the United States but to keep them at historic lows. Forecast growth in the US for 2015 is only 2.5%. This low number does not auger well for Australia as the dollar will tend to be kept artificially high relative to a weak Greenback. This is not good for Australian exports or for the corrosive effects of the Terms of Trade.

Clash of Cultures.
—There is belated realisation the Islamic State of Syria and al-Sham is posing a serious threat to the Middle East and the Western World. There are shades of the First World War to this situation since it was a perception that ‘it would all be over by Christmas’- the initial advance by ISIS was treated in much the same way. Now, after a year of air strikes by the US military and its allies, the rout of the Iraqi army and the insertion of Western advisors to assist the mainly Shia Iraq military in an attempt to subdue the Sunni Islamic State the West convened conferences in Europe, America and Australia to ‘barn storm’ for ideas to defeat ISIS.
—Since last year’s assertion that American air power will ‘degrade and destroy’ the US jugganought air strikes have not stopped IS expansion. The allies are concerned that IS might obtain surface to air missiles which could affect deployment of American air power. It is also understandable there is a reluctance by the West to commit its own ground forces as close fighting would involve unimaginable savagery. It would be a nightmare if Western military personnel were captured. Current ground forces are Iranian Shia militias who might fill an Iraq power vacuum and the Peshmerga Kurds, who are fighting for their dream of an independent Kurdistan, Turkey willing. Sunni Saudi Arabia would probably enter the mix to counter Iranian theological expansion.
—According to the think tank Conflict Armament Research, London, IS is obtaining arms from twenty-one countries including Russia, China, Sudan and Bulgaria, plus vast amounts of American ordinance left behind by retreating Iraqis have fallen into IS hands. Cost to America according to the New York Times (April 2015) is around $30 billion. The American military has announced a setback in training Iraqi soldiers; the objective was to train 24,000 men but only 7,000 have volunteered. Another 450 American troops have been approved for service in Iraq as trainers to augment the 3,550 already there. Hawks in the Pentagon and Congress are now pushing for thousands of American military to join the fight but there is little public support for this measure. (The Guardian, Washington, 16 June)
—It is against this back drop Australia has organised two conferences on terrorism emanating from Islamic State ideology. The first in Canberra in May addressing ‘Safe Guarding Australia’ dealt with three principal topics:
**Targeting and Extermination
**Surveillance and Cyber Techniques
**Revenue and Funding of IS activity
Of the 29 speakers only two appeared to peripherally allude to an understanding of ideology and offering an alternative to radicalisation.
The second conference in June dealt with “How to counter Violent Extremism’. Twenty four countries participated and the thrust of discussions was early intervention and rehabilitation. The five key topics coagulated into a single sentence became one of recognition and reduction of threats to young people, ensuring educational support and ensure national and international cooperation. Nowhere in the final communiqué was the specific issue addressed of providing young people with a vision for their future within a just and fair society. This is one crux of the matter and it is in this matter that the Australian Government has a difficulty.
—Australia as a multicultural society must ensure an equal opportunity for all. If some are less equal (for whatever reason) they should be offered a more attractive future than that offered by ISIS. It was difficult to discern a plan by which radicalisation was to be prevented. The Australian Government,s proposed treatment of young Moslem citizens might slow down radicalism but will create tension and resentment in our multicultural society. Such a policy could create a sullen group of citizens unless policy can turn lives round to produce a vision and purpose in a civil society. This is a very real government problem amid current rising social and financial inequality.

Social Inequality and Housing.
—The cost of affordable housing is a problem for many large cities round the world. Twenty-five years ago (early 1990s) teachers, police, nurses etc. were being squeezed out of the London housing market – there was much disquiet on how far essential service people had to travel to work. The writing was on the wall for Australian politicians but there was a lack of perception. Now too, essential service personnel are finding it increasingly difficult to live in Sydney without financial assistance. Population growth and slow State government land release, disturbingly low interest rates, combined with vexatious negative gearing have created the perfect storm. This is not of Chinese doing, this is an internal Australian matter. Housing prices are now exacerbating inequality in Australia.
—Australia’s place in a United Nations survey on the ratio (rounded) of average income of the richest and poorest 10% of populations (GINI Index) which I have recast for OECD, ASEAN and BRICS, clearly shows Australia is facing problems.
-OECD———————ASEAN———————BRICS
Germany———-7——-Japan————-5——-India————9
France———–9——-Indonesia———8——-Australia——-13
Canada———–9——-S Korea———–8——-Russia———-13
N Zealand——-12——-Australia——–13——-China———–22
Australia——-13——-Hong Kong——–18——-South Africa—-33
Britain———14——-Singapore——–18——-Brazil———-41
America———16——-Malaysia———22
(Human Development Report 2009 UNDP)
This data is six years old but anecdotal evidence is that conditions are worsening.
—Clearly, for America the Great American Dream appears to be just that. Australia is not far behind while from the data Brazil and South Africa have reached a plateau of obscene inequality with Malaysia not far behind. Mexico at GINI 22 (illustrated) also has a problem.

Mexico Housing.
Mexico, poverty and wealth..(Kieran Corcoran,Daily Mail,2014

—Professor Krugman, (Princeton and London School of Economics), is worried that the 21st century has become the Age of Diminishing Expectations. Conclusions from his studies, reveals there is a similarity in the concentration of global wealth and assets between the Great Depression (1931) and post the GFC (2015). In both Europe and America there is a weakness of demand while among the Middle Class there is a rising debt level. The concentration of wealth at the top has resulted in bad political policy due to a commonality of narrow private advantage.
—Returning to Australia, the desire for upward mobility has lead to rising debt levels as parents endeavour to relocate in areas of good education. Low interest rates due to sluggish economic activity has led to a serious rise in domestic debt. So long as the Reserve Bank rate remains round 2%, economic conditions cannot improve. Somehow Australia must generate rising export income. To slam home Australia’s place in the inequality table Oxfam has reported that over the past 25 years the top 10% have increased income by 50% while for the bottom 10% has risen by only 25%.

The Galapagos Syndrome and Amazing Grace
—-This syndrome is defined as the isolated developement branch of a globally available product – Homo sapiens among life on earth is unique.
—-Two interrelated events at the end of June concentrate the mind on the nature of mankind. Killings in Tunisia, Kuwait and France and the rendition of Amazing Grace by President Obama in response to killings in America reflect a global problem that, in recent times, has been repeated almost ad infinitum. The former occurred under an Islamic influence while the latter was a cri de coeur to a Christian deity. Squarely in the middle between the two cultures sit global political and commercial systems that are inherently divisive. Despite egalitarian rhetoric the rich become richer and the poor become relatively poorer. (Currently there are reports 119 billionaires reside in London}.
—-The great psychological dilemma of our time is to admit that either Homo sapiens is a flawed species that cannot rise above its innate desires, or that the species is capable of reform through the United Nations, Governments and the Faiths. There are very few decades left before the prophetic words of Gilding, Diamond and Bertrand Russell are no longer in the future.

Rural Bliss
—Bird song, a green sward and seven black calves facing inward in a small circle, a perfect bovine coven. An extraordinary sight, I did not have a camera.

Towards the Final Hour
—Each Sunday I listen or watch Songs of Praise – it does my spirit good to witness people of faith. Without spirituality we are no longer human. In the real world we hear ‘Allah the Merciful’ and ‘In God we Trust’ not uncommonly as a prelude to war. Both major faiths endeavour to overpopulate the world, one by multiple wives and the other by non-contraception. Souls in heaven not bodies on earth should be the watch word. If men and women of the ‘cloth’ truly came together they could virtually eliminate the ‘clash of cultures, but they cannot due to the innate competition between the strands of Homo sapiens that originated ‘out of Africa’ and not in the ‘Garden of Eden’.

MAY 2015

VICTORY IN EUROPE (VE) DAY, 8th MAY 1945. GAZA, Australian casualties. Commonwealth War Graves.
(Source, The Conversation, Matt Hardy, Deakin University)

The soul destroying humiliation of living in lands only valued for their oil.
(Graeme Wood, Atlantic Magazine)

The 2*C temperature limit defines a ‘warning line’ not a ‘guard rail’.
Climate Analytics, Berlin.

Contents.
Victory in Europe (VE) Day
Clash of Cultures
The Winds of Climate Change
The Budget, Macro-economics, Climate Change plus a RED ALERT
Fortress Australia and the ANZUS Treaty
A Power Stirs
Chinese Investment in Australia
Rural Bliss

Victory in Europe(VE) Day 8th May 1945.
LEST WE FORGET-but we do.
(Peter Carlin, Poets Corner)
Australian War dead, 40,400 in European, African and Middle Eastern theatres.
(secondworldwar/history/statistics)

Clash of Cultures
There is a growing awareness that the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (IS) is more than blood crazed fighters or a ‘death cult’. Top management is controlled by educated Arabs that include medical, scientific and management cadres. There are Ba’athist military officers who served under Saddam Hussein. Many were hardened in the US Camp Bucca military prison in Iraq. It was in this prison that the seeds of IS were germinated within the mix of violent ideological extremists and former Ba’athist military officers ( SG Group Intel Briefs).
IS is quite unlike al-Qaeda, IS requires territory to remain legitimate and it has developed a top down structure to control and administer its territories. The movement has a medieval religious ethos with a commitment to return civilisation to a 7th century legal culture.
Although many Muslims reject IS it would be wrong for the West to deny it is a religious organisation with a theology that must be understood by the West. The theology is based on the original perfection of the Quran and reinterpretation constitutes apostasy. Such belief requires that IS is committed to purifying the world by killing vast numbers of people.
The strength and attraction of IS is based on a bitter accumulation of grievance generated from history over the past century, that is since the demise of the Ottoman Empire. Grievances include the partition of the Middle East by the West, the resulting bad governance supported by the West, the shifting social mores and the soul destroying humiliation of living in lands only valued for their oil. In the background is the lingering primal memory of the great Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates and associated culture.
The IS ranks are strongly infused with Islamic vigour and there is no shortage of male and female volunteers from Europe, United States, Indonesia, and Australia. The IS propaganda machine generates enthusiasm but no deviation from the sacred texts of the Quran. Slavery and other atrocities are spelt out within the holy texts, e.g. Sura 70:29-30; Quran 8:12.
Denouncing IS can be counter productive if the teachings of the Quran are questioned. The West is facing a faith based ideological problem that is reinforced by an entrenched political and sociological problem that has been imposed on the Middle East by a Capitalistic West. Until the memory of imposed bad governance following WW1 and the humiliating memory of a people and lands only valued for oil is expunged a “Cause” will remain. Contained by the West with the support of both Shia and Sunni moderates the IS will possibly ‘bleed’ to death. This will not be quick as an ideology must be turned around. There is a risk the Islamic State and al-Quaeda may discover a common cause and this will increase the threat (What IS really wants. Atlantic Magazine, 2015).
The Australian government has not spelt out how ‘deradicalisation’ of IS volunteers will be attained. Under IS social media pressure potential recruits become idealists and espouse an ideology that seeks the past purity and glory of Islam, this provides an objective and sense of purpose. The Australian government will have to enthuse young Muslim minds with a sense of purpose and a replacement ideology. Punishment and vilification will be counter productive, remember Camp Bucca.
Giving young minds a new sense of direction will be difficult and it cannot be achieved by repression or force, again remember Camp Bucca.
Both Russia and China have offered only the most tentative cooperation with America and neither are involved on the ground. Russia is well aware of its unstable Muslim underbelly while China’s north-west region is a hotbed of Sunni Uighur independence ferment. Both regions have provided volunteers for the IS militia.

The Winds of Climate Change.
Two intertwined global warming trends have been reported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOOA) and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIRO) on carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere and the rise of sea surface temperatures round Australia and the Antarctic.
For the first time the global average carbon dioxide levels have exceeded 400 ppm and green house gases are rising by more than 2 ppm per year. NOOA calculates that cutting fossil fuel emissions by 80% would only slow down the rise above 400 ppm but, of course, this is politically impossible.
From ice core data the 400 ppm concentration is the highest for the past 650,000 years. Around 1750 global CO2 emissions were about 11 million tonnes per year while in 2009 emissions were in the region of 32 billion tonnes ( Climate Analytics, Berlin).
The UN Convention on Climate Change has just issued an alert that “the world is in a new danger zone’ and tipping points for the following might become irreversible : drought, sea level rise, acidic oceans, loss of Arctic sea ice, melting of Antarctic and Greenland ice caps, methane release from permafrost and dengy fever.
Concurrent with rising greenhouse gas levels it was announced sea surface temperatures have risen by 0.7*C with warmer areas, up to 2*C higher, in north-western and east Australian waters. These warmer condition have generated a spate of cyclones over north Queensland waters and unusually strong East Coast lows along the south-eastern Australian coast line. The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has recently forecast another El Nino for south-east Australia, in conjunction with the Queensland drought (see map) this is worrying news.

The Budget, Macro-economics and Climate plus a RED ALERT
It is not often the celestial bodies moon, earth and sun are in syzygy alignment (yoked together, Greek), less often does a budget, macro-economics and climate change align in this most unfortunate manner. Two item in the May budget, the small business stimulus and the proposed funding assistance to develop Northern Australia infrastructure are both facing economic and climate headwinds.
The stimulus to small business of instant asset write down of up to $20,000 per item must be rationalised against Australia’s historically low interest rate of 2% and the appreciation of the $A against the $US, the Reserve Bank has hinted the rate may be further reduced. The Australian economy is flat lining, capital inflow has dried up and capital will tend to flee. The budget objective is to generate expenditure and promote youth employment. The tax reduction of 1-5% is derisory i.e. a $150 deduction in a $10,000 taxable income. In the following budget talk back comment a recurring theme was that $20,000 was far short for many business upgrade or replacement costs. It was the Canadian experience where economic stimulation resulted in increased productivity but not appreciable increased employment.

Queensland's current plus three year drought
Queensland’s current plus three year drought

The budget is to encourage infrastructure funding for Northern Australia-laudible. There is mounting evidence that climate change will progressively adversely affect the north. Rolling forecasts on the back of recent past and future weather disasters should be locked into development plans, the implications of 400 ppm, and increasing, atmospheric carbon dioxide must be understood. Currently 80% of Queensland is drought declared with the 31 month rainfall deficiency the lowest on record (Map above. Source BOM, Australia), the Northern Territory has also suffered a below average 2014-15 wet season. One swallow maketh not a summer, neither does a few bad years prove fundamental climate change however the Abbott government must back infrastructure expenditure with a rolling climate trend analysis, without this information there is a risk of creating a failed ‘food bowl for Asia”.
RED ALERT. What the Government did not tell Australians when the budget (dominated by the end of the mining ‘boom’) was being dissembled is the disturbing decline in national capital investment-hence the strident attempt to generate capital expenditure and employment in the small business sector. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures show capital expenditure figures fell by 4.7% for the quarter ending March 2015 as the budget was under preparation.
As mining investment came off the boil the hoped for rebound in manufacturing and investment services has not happened and these sectors are also declining. Manufacturing has fallen by 30% in the past 15 months and services by 20% in the past 18 months.
These are serious trends, forward estimates for 2015-16 are 25% below those for 2014-15. Westpac has indicated the Reserve Bank may be forced to reduce interest rates below 2%. ” Good for home buyers”, despite encouraging comment by the Treasurer this epizeuxis ‘Nope! Nope! Nope!’ by the Prime Minister would for once be appropriate. The cranials in our society will be wondering if Australia is about to join the exclusive ‘Sputtering Economies Club’ lead by Europe and America.

Fortress Australia and the ANZUS Treaty
The March blog noted the United States had quietly moved its Caribbean communication base to Western Australia. Not so quiet has been the proposed transfer of military bases to other locations including Australia. At a high level meeting in Washington it was announced a fleet of B1 bombers are to be rotated in Australia. These are supersonic long range aircraft with a payload of eighty 500 pound bombs.
There followed an immediate Australian political hubbub resulting twenty four hours later in a bemusing Pentagon statement there had been an ‘official miss-spoke’ and ‘there are no plans for B1 bombers to be rotated as of now but the United States intends to increase the rotation of of B52 bombers, fighters and refuelling tankers. Marine numbers on rotation to Darwin will also be increased.
The ‘miss-spoke’ cannot be a figment but probably reflects back room strategic discussions in the Pentagon. The American ‘pivot’ to Asia will certainly involve increased military hardware based in the Australasian region. Australia’s cooperation and support in the roll out of the ‘pivot’ policy is important to America. (RN AM and Late Line, 16 May). The Australian language matched the contorted phraseology of the Pentagon. The Prime Minister’s response approximately ‘the US does not have any plans to bring those aircraft to Australia’. This statement is heavy with the unstated and is not a rejection of the idea.
The cause of this political verbal minefield is the increasing Chinese military grip on disputed territorial claims in the South China Sea. The Chinese activities have been described as terra farming or geo-engineering (Prof. H White, Strategic and Defence Studies, ANU). Strings of coral atolls are being constructed into air strips capable of accommodating heavy military aircraft. This work is proceeding some 800 km from the Chinese coast and about 200 km from the Philippines. The United States have been reluctant to directly challenge Chinese activity in these disputed waters but now this problem has to be addressed. Its relationship with South-East Asian allies is at stake. Also in the mix are extensive areas of sea bed oil and gas deposits in this region.
China is not only flexing its muscles in a show of strength but its international trade is dependent on maintaining sea route safety in the South China Sea and the Malacca Straits. Chinese maritime power through a ‘string of pearls’ policy has developed or investigated naval base options in Pakistan, Seychelles, Mauritius and Myanmar. China has already conducted naval exercises with Iran in the Persian Gulf. All this to protect China’s oil imports, 55% of which originate in the Persian Gulf, pass through the Malacca Strait and into the South China Sea.
A seasoned commentator stated ‘China is slicing its way salami like to a leadership role in Asia’. Apparently incompatible with current bellicose behaviour in the South China Sea its initiative in setting up the Asia Infrastructure and Development Bank is the obverse side of the same coin. Already a dilemma for Australian foreign policy has arisen, Australia acceded to the Chinese request to join while America wanted Australia to remain outside this economic coven.
There is a deja vu with this B1 ‘bombshell’ and the salami slicing progress of the United States in creating an Australian military outpost. Back in the sixties there was initial unease over the construction of the Pine Gap communications facility, then further unease when an American general in Darwin let slip that Haliburton, an American arms contractor associated with Dick Cheney former Vice President, had completed the Alice Springs-Darwin railway. Critics stated there would never be enough traffic to justify its construction, at some stage it could play a vital role in moving heavy military assets and supplies towards northern front lines. Then there was diverse comment several years back on the rotation of American marines in Darwin. The recent relocation of the Caribbean communication facility to Western Australia appears to have occurred under the radar. Now there is to be a rotation escalation of B52 bombers, fighters and refuelling tankers based at Tindall air base, south of Darwin. Additional marines will be rotated from the Darwin base. Perhaps the B1 bombers were intended to be a high flying decoy!!!
Ultimately Australia will have to make a decision to go with our biggest trading partner, China, or go with our biggest ally, America. If Australia is forced to make a decision the ramification will be vast.
Sixty-five years ago Australia was reluctantly involved in another great decision when Winston Churchill had to make the judgement whether Great Britain should join the European Union or support the Empire. It chose Europe and forced Australia into the trading arms of the very recent enemy Japan and its potential bete noir, China. Will Australia’s great Federation fear yet come to roost?
The big picture is that History does happen and Empires do rise and fall.

A Power Stirs.
While eyes and armaments are directed towards the South China Sea the rising giant, Indonesia, is stirring by gaining economic and military strength, the IMF is forecasting an approaching sea change. Within ten years Indonesia is slated to have attained air superiority over Australia. What then of American marine and air bases in Northern Australia?
By 2020 the IMF estimates Indonesia will be the world’s 16th largest economy (GDP $1.3 trillion), Australia will be at 14th ($1.49 trillion). In purchasing power Indonesia will be three times that of Australia.
Translating this into air superiority there are looming implications for Australia and the ANZUS Treaty. America will supply Strike Fighters to Australia and Russia will supply Sukhoi Fighters to Indonesia, cost and capability compared:
*American Fighter $230 million x 100 = $23 billion, missile cost $1.1-1.7 million each, software superiority for now. Australia may not take the full 100 fighters.
*Russian Fighter $100 million x 180 = $18 billion, missile cost $0.57 million each, flies two miles higher, longer range and faster than the American fighter.
It is estimated China, Japan, and Indonesia will have military superiority exceeding that of Australia in about a decade this is against a perception the United States is projecting less power than previously. (Source: Weekend Australian, 23-24 May.) The years of ‘turning back the boats’ may be numbered and in the future let us hope ‘Australia has no greater friend than Indonesia!’.

Chinese investment in Australia
The Rockhampton Beef Exposition has drawn large crowds, among them are are at least 350 prospective Chinese importers of Australian beef which include representatives of the Xiangyu Group who are planing to invest between $300-$500 million over the next five to eight years in integrated grazing, feed lot and abattoir enterprises. The driving force is ‘an obligation to make a contribution to the Australian beef industry’: code for ensuring a stable beef supply for China. The recent purchase of the Glenrock cattle station (March blog) in the Upper Hunter for #45 million provides weight to interest at Rockhampton.
In tandem, the Chinese investment in housing in Australia is attaining new levels. Investment for year ending June 2013 was $5.4 billion and for 2014 was $8.7 billion, at an estimated cost of $2 million per dwelling this is 4,600 dwellings in the Sydney/Melbourne region. Credit Suisse estimates $60 billion will be invested in new Chinese housing in the next six years, this is equivalent to 25,000 new units at $2.5 million each. It is reported that Melbourne and Sydney have higher valuations than London,New York and Tokyo.

Rural Bliss
Not only do Cabbages and Kings have a use by date so too does farm machinery and rural domestics. The past few months has witnessed a rolling snowball of mechanical and electrical failures necessitating repairs and replacements that has pushed expenditure to haemorrhage flows.
Recalcitrant and failed equipment includes the waterhole high pressure pump, blocked reticulation lines, domestic water pump, ride-on mower, push mower, computer, electric drill, quod motor bike, electric iron, toaster, television and, shiver my timbers, the electric blanket. Hither too among the 21st century plasticised comestibles the old faithful 1985 Hoover washing machine that has regularly thundered round the laundry has,alas, become incontinent, it too must go!

APRIL 2015

Easter 2015
I am innocent of the blood of this Person. (Mathew 27.24)

ANZAC Day 2015
His wild heart beats with painful sobs
His strained hands clench an ice cold rifle
His aching jaws grip a hot parched tongue
His wild eyes search unconsciously
He cannot shriek. (Herbert Read, 1915)

Easter 2015.
This Easter there was a stark reminder of a modern day Pontius Pilate washing his hands before the Australian multitude and intoning “I am innocent of the blood of this Person. (Mathew 27.24)
In a Perth hospital a young Iranian refugee, Saeed Hassanloo, lay dying. He is on a hunger strike, he has been in detention for four and a half years, he is a Christian. His application for a visa was rejected and he is to be deported to Shia Iran. He claims he will be tortured or killed because of his faith.
The Minister for Immigration, Mr Dutton, has indicated to the Press he is unable to assist this refugee now that his application has failed. Like Pontius Pilate, Mr Dutton is washing his hands of this professed Christian. Some two thousand years later The Minister, like the Governor of Judea, intends to hand this man over to the (Iranian) mob for some form of crucifixion. So ends the Easter message.
It is by curious chance Mrs J Bishop, Australian Foreign Minister, was in Iran discussing the the repatriation of Iranian refugees. On Saturday Extra it was disconcerting to hear Mathew Brown, ABC Correspondent, discussing the forcible repatriation of Iranian refugees which requires them to be ‘drugged and cuffed’ prior to boarding the aircraft.
In the months before Easter, Christian Europe has witnessed a plethora of nationalistic gatherings demonstrating on the dilution of ‘national’ character by a decades long influx of migrants with their attendant Islamic faith. Western governments are endeavouring to hose down this widening concern. Despite the ‘tyranny of distance’ concern has now reached Australian shores. Supporters for multiculturalism and for ‘Reclaim Australia’ have faced off across police lines. The situation is exacerbated by a birth rate below replacement in the Christian West jostling with a higher birth rate of the Moslem immigrants, it is an inexorable trend line with a cross over point some decades ahead.
The world is no stranger to mass migrations and from these history shows there are two possible outcomes. Migrants will possess a similar faith to the host country and will assimilate or the migrants or colonists will impose their faith, law and culture on the original inhabitants. Turning back the pages of history show different faiths tend to have a fractious coexistence when sharing the same tribal or national space when cultural stability or dominance is threatened. The ‘blood lands’ of Europe do not lightly wear this appellation.
Further, on Saturday Extra and germane to the above was a discussion on Australian academics in south-east Asian universities, from this followed comments on how these Asian nations do not dilute their national characteristics by immigration. In this regard Australia, United States and Canada have a comparable policies of accepting immigrants, because it is to this process they owe their existence.

Outback Degradation
From the Mount Lofty Ranges, brooding over Adelaide to Victor Harbor on the Fleurieu Peninsular, where Flinders and Baudin exchanged compliments, the pasture lands are parched blighted grey dying stubble over which token sheep or horses slowly move. Scattered vineyards in autumn undress rustle in the wind. It has been a long hot summer, in keeping with the Mediterranean climate. On a flight from Sydney to Adelaide, across the sweeping dry plains of NSW and SA to the Gulf of Saint Vincent, it is indeed a wide brown land virtually devoid of visible surface water. The flight generated the question ‘by how much has the carrying capacity of the land decreased since first European settlement?’ A lot!
Unfortunately, unless there is change in land use, the trend ‘towards a final hour’ is apparent. Trawling through the Range Lands Journal 2012 (G M McKeon), the Australian Natural Resources Atlas, the NSW State Environment Report 2000 and an Australian Academy of Science publication has unearthed disturbing information.
Since the 1890s there have been nine major prolonged droughts over eastern and central Australia. Soil scientists have have reached four principal conclusions:
* drought on its own does not cause degradation,
* persistent over-grazing is doing irreparable harm,
* European grasses are destroying natural pasture resistance and promoting woody weeds,
* fertilisers are causing degradation and soil erosion.
Following drought, pasture recovery requires above average extended rainfall with low grazing pressure. An increasing problem for the Australian pastoral industry is that improved cattle breeding ensures cattle remain on drought stricken pasture longer. A no win situation. A final conclusion is that the cattle industry is facing a major management problem at a time of degrading pasture, higher input costs, declining income and worsening climatic conditions. Degradation accelerants are:
* Soil Salinity is one of the most serious issues facing NSW agriculture. Salinity degradation has increased from 4000 ha in 1982 to 370,000 ha in 2000. It has been estimated that by 2050 60% (480,000 sq km) of NSW will be salt affected. Major salinity drivers are: clearance of native vegetation and the decline in soil nutrients particularly in wheat areas due to the application of inappropriate fertiliser. Irrigated land in the Murray Basin is also witnessing rising salinity.
* Soil Acidification is on the increase due to application of nitrogen and sulphur fertilisers which causes nitrate leaching, loss of nitrogen and removal of alkaline material which renders soil acid. Some 4% of soils were affected in 1987 but by 2000 it is estimated 7% of NSW soils may be affected. To slow down acidification, around 1.5 million tonnes of lime are required each year, but this is insufficient to halt the degradation. Forgone income in 2003 was estimated as $378 million.
* Soil Erosion. A 1987 survey indicated 38% of NSW pastoral and arable land is degraded by water and wind erosion and mass movement. The State of Environment Report 2006 concluded that in the past century erosion rates have increased by up to one hundred times.
Towards a Final Hour. Degradation trends are proven, unless there is a fundamental change in agricultural management, the area of usable pastoral and arable land will continue to decrease. The Final Hour might seamlessly merge into Gilding’s forecast of the mid-century ‘Great Disruption’.

End of Mission Afghanistan.
This was no Victory Parade. This was a Welcome Home March for the military who had served in Afghanistan in Australia’s longest war. The raw statistics over the twelve year war were 30,000 troops served, 41 died in action, 262 were seriously injured and around 10% (3000) suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Four Victoria Crosses were awarded. Cost to the tax payer is around $7.5 billion.
Australia entered the war under the ANZUS Treaty soon after the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers, New York The objective was to destroy al Qaida which had master-minded the attack. The Australian force was part of the coalition, the NATO lead International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). During the war Australian troops were involved in several missions, initially to support the United States and finally to train Afghan forces to maintain their own national security. Australian strategy in Afghanistan was often contradictory and vacillating due to:
* politicians having a poor grasp of military strategic issues
* the Australian force was a niche operation with in the large American effort resulting in friction
* there was only a critical assessment of Australia’s role with rising casualties in 2005.
( MacArthur Foundation Security Project)
Afghanistan in 2014 is very different to that of 2001. Al Qaida is a spent force but the Taliban, although weakened, is endeavouring to re-establish a political presence. The country is a fragile functioning democracy, regional control is not absolute and corruption is endemic. However, terrorist groups are no longer rampant and social services have improved. ISAF forces have left a country with a potential for development but if this falters it may become Afghanistan’s nemesis.
Following the exit strategy controlled by the United States, the Australian Government will have difficulty defining to the Australian people what Australia achieved in Afghanistan. A tangible benefit is that Australia now has a military core capable of operating in challenging political and physical conditions.
Setting aside the political and military legacy, the enduring domestic issue is PTSD among returned service personnel. This is a largely unrecognised blight in our Australian community. Sitting couch potato-like, comfortably watching pointless violent bloodless television, many of our citizens can acquire no sense of a slow agonising death or the horrific injury of children or adults, endured or witnessed by those in the armed forces. Television is there for entertainment or ratings, education is a lesser third.

ANZAC Day 2015
ANZAC Day quite rightly commemorates the bravery, suffering and sacrifice of Australian forces at Gallipoli but at the same time the concentration of Government orchestrated influence does a disservice to those Australians who served on the Western Front and other later conflicts where carnage or the carnage rate was even greater. Four battles, among many, soon after Gallipoli are significant, namely:
* 1915 Gallipoli———–26,663 casualties over nine months (awm.gov.au/encyclopedia)
* 1916 Fromelles———–5533 casualties in one night (awm.gov.au/wartime)
* 1917 Passchendaele——-38,000 casualties over three months (awm.gov.au/military-event)
* 1917 Polygon Wood——–5770 casualties over two days (awm.gov.au/event)
* 1918 Villers-Bretonneux–2400 casualties in one night (ww1westernfront.gov.au/villers-bretonneux).
Gallipoli The terrible conditions are in the public arena; it is however sad that a popular image of this campaign is Simpson and his donkey that sanitises the horrors of war.
Fromelles. This offensive has been described by senior officers as a “tactical abortion and a bloody holocaust”. After the failed attack, an eye witness records Australians writhing in agony in a nomans land covered in pieces of human meat.
Passchendaele (3rd Battle of Ypres). The “intensity and horrendous conditions” moved a military officer to say, “this offensive symbolised the great loss,tragedy and futility of this war”. Five Australian divisions were involved. From this carnage sprouted ‘Flanders Fields where poppies grow’.
Polygon Wood. Amid seas of mud, 10,000 Australian troops of the 5th Division retook this position from the Germans.
Villers-Bretonneux (Amiens). The 5th Division took this position. It was a significant victory and crucial to ending the war. The Commander was General Sir John Monash who was instrumental in changing British military tactics.
The selection of Gallipoli as a focus for national ethos and commemoration is understandable, but illogical. The “birth” of Australian ethos could have equally occurred at Passchendaele which was a far more terrible event. Perhaps Gallipoli is an easier assimilable focus than the more defuse Western Front. This is regrettable as it ensures Australian youth has a myopic view of Australian contribution and sacrifice in the First World War and later wars. Somehow the Government must bring to the public mind a better understanding of Australia’s military history. With the effluxion of time and the passing of generations, historical fact will become garnished by myth. At some stage Gallipoli will have to share its pre-eminent position with military events of perceived greater moment.
In the welter of Gallipoli remembrance there appears to be a Government inspired culture of silence on the sacrifice and achievements of Australian troops in the Second World War. The raw numbers are:
* 17,500 casualties in the Pacific theatre (wikipedia.org/militaryhistoryofaustralia)
* 2,650 deaths on the Thai-Burma railway (anzacday.org.au/history/ww2)
* 40,600 deaths in Europe and North Africa (secondworldwarhistory.com/ww2)
Again, why the silence?
Australian military history represents an interesting triumvirate of endeavour, a partial compilation illustrates the point:
* First. The support of British Empire and the ANZUS Treaty well beyond our borders, e.g. Boer War, Western Front, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan etc.
* Second. Missions and Peace-keeping in Timor Solomon Islands, Cyprus, Sumatra etc.
* Third. Timor, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Malaya etc. This third group is significant as fighting in this theatre was actually involved in the defence of Australian borders. Australia was very nearly invaded by Japanese forces but Australians hear almost nothing on Australian victories and sacrifice in the defence of the Commonwealth of Australia. Why not? This is a fraught question.
A dark development may be unfolding. Hitherto, for one hundred years, the Turkish government has encouraged a secular society. By culture and tradition, Turkey follows Islam. Voices are now raised that favour a jihadist approach to the war with Australia. If momentum grows the nature of ANZAC services could be profoundly affected in Turkey. It has not been lost on Moslem intellectuals that Australia frequently calls on the Christian God when memorialising the Gallipoli campaign. Clearly Allah must also become involved.
I commemorated ANZAC Day at Pearl Beach, a small seaside village on the Central Coast. It was a day of quiet reflection. The pomp of National marches and the camaraderie is necessary however for people all over Australia – it is a peoples’ day. Letters on display to and from the Front contain deep emotions and longings that, if reflected in our own society today, would make it a kinder gentler society.

Rural Bliss
The face of the Upper Hunter and contiguous rural regions have transformed into an almost emerald landscape. Rainfall for the month reached 92 mm (over 3.5 inches) but it is still not sufficient to fill dams or make the local rivers run. Towards the end of April, a savage East Coast low battered and flooded coastal areas north and south of Sydney. To the Winds of Climate Change (January blog) can be added this latest weather disaster. Deaths. floods and wind damage have stretched Emergency Services.

The Drug Trade
There are four issues swirling round the events in Bali:
* ‘Saving face’ in Asian cultures is important. The megaphone diplomacy employed by the Australian Government gave no option to the Indonesian President but to maintain his Government policy. A back-down in the face of increasing pressure became unthinkable.
* The Australian Prime Minister has ‘lost face’ by his constant carping, one quiet phone call would have been sufficient. It is reported the President no longer accepts calls from the Prime Minister. The remainder of the Australian Government term will require bridge building. Australia needs Indonesia rather than visa versa.
* Throughout this sorry saga there has been a murky silence on the role of the Australian Federal Police. Their informant action has been expensive, has pushed diplomacy beyond accepted norms, has probably put trade at risk and polarised the community. The Federal Police owe the Australian public an explanation.
* As a fallout the Australian public should now see a ferocious policy on drug use in Australia. Such a policy should reflect the implacable opposition to the death penalty and an even more determined effort to reduce drug use in Australia. Anything less and sincerity might be questioned.
In this tense international situation Condorcet’s eulogy on the death of Benjamin Franklin comes to mind.
“He pardoned the present for the sake of the future.”

MARCH 2015

The Death Cult. Prime Minister Abbott.

In education there should be no class distinction. Analects of Confucius

The Winds of Climate Change 1
North America has experienced another Polar Vortex, a sustained blast of freezing air and snow from the Arctic. Historically these weather events occurred every twenty years. In quick succession in 2009-10, 2013, 2014 and 2015 these events portend climate rather than weather. This year snow has fallen in 48 of the 50 American states, Hawaii and Florida were spared. The situation was so dire that the Government ensured buses round the country with engines running all night provided shelter to thousands of homeless who would have frozen to death in temperatures down to -26*C.
The physics of these events is the Polar Vortex flowing round the Arctic Circle curves into lower latitudes. This is caused by the increased melting of Arctic ice as the sun heats the exposed water, moisture laden air rises to form feedstock for the violent Vortex blizzards which travel south displacing the more temperate Jet Stream. North America, Europe and Asia in recent times have all suffered unusual cold spells. As cold air roars out of the Arctic warm moisture laden air flows north to become feedstock for the violent snowstorms. Historically the Polar Vortex has been strong and kept the cold weather circulating round the polar region, this circulation system is weakening and the occasional Vortex is now increasingly looking like climate.
On the other side of the Pacific Ocean in Australia, listening to reports on the aftermath of cyclones Marcia (Cat.5) and Lam (Cat.4) a disturbing number of rural food producers are starting to give up after being flattened by three cyclone disasters in four years. Issues swirling round these disasters are leading to expanding mental health problems. Concurrently and related to increasingly violent weather events there have been over 1000 separate bush fires in Western Australia in what has been described as the hottest summer on record.
Reports of people giving up could be a growing global trend, is this a thin edge of the social wedge that gives weight to Gilding’s statement “The future is upon us”? Those entrusted with Homeland Security must be viewing trends with apprehension.

The Cockpit that is Europe.
Until Australia merges ethnically and culturally closer into South-East Asia it should remain very aware of developments in Europe. Caucasian Australians should be viewing with concern a growing crisis in Europe, a flash point that has its origins in European history. It is a situation shaped by the past and a disturbing present. After the Second World War and following the formation of the Common Market and later the European Union citizens were given to believe there would be a permanent state of prosperity. Put into collective amnesia was the fact that over 100 million people had been killed between 1914 and 1945.
After the Second World War the US Marshall Plan and the projection of unity was supposed to submerge the old animosities between France and Germany and between Britain and France. Since the late 1940s there has been a disturbing loss of sovereignty with power shared solely between Moscow and Washington. This situation lead to a declining vitality among European nations even as the Common Market formed to be followed later by the European Union, this was followed by the decline of the Soviet Union and the birth of a menacing bear, the Russian Federation. This loss of sovereignty and the lack of competition between Europeans left a dissatisfied nationalism manifest in the rise of right wing nationalist political parties across Europe.
Europe has a long lived fracture line extending from the Baltic to the Black Sea, this is the ‘blood lands’ of Europe, it is where the ‘Border Lands to Europe’ are situated some 400 miles from the sea, it is where orthodox Slavic Christianity and orthoprax Islam inter-finger with the Catholic and Protestant West. The current flash point is Ukraine whose national anthem is ‘Shche ne Umeria’, ‘Ukraine has not yet Died’.
The European international situation has degenerated to where Europe is not wealthy but Germany is wealthy, this nation has reached the unsustainable position where it exports 50% of its GDP, compared to an impecunious Europe. Intra-European markets have virtually closed down but what Germany needs is a free trade zone and it now has to look to South-East Asian markets and here there are huge problems.
German unemployment is only 5% and this is destabilising when compared to Greece 26%, Spain 24% and Italy 22%, although Greece only accounts for 2% of the European economy a measure of Euro instability can be judged by a concern for a Greek default. Populations in Europe are becoming increasingly reactionary and it is a German nightmare should countries in the Euro zone erect trade barriers
It has been mooted that Europe is in this ‘slough of despond’ because of the existence of the European Union. The Union destroyed competition between nations and levelled the playing field until it became a morass in which all became bogged in mediocrity. If Europe had kept only to the Common Market all would have been a lot better. Europe is a small continent comprised of some fifty sovereign entities, it was friction at the borders that created healthy competition. Neighbourley malice has been largely submerged by fifty years of growth, now malice and right wing nationalism is returning. Europe has slumbered on ignoring deep structural problems, national, economic and cultural, now these triplets are waking up after a long sleep. Ideas for this article have been derived from ‘The Future of Europe’ by Dr George Friedman, Stratfor.

Indonesia has no better friend than Australia.
; A map of south-east Asia showing the ASEAN Community is instructive, Australia is missing. The three pillars of the Community are socio-cultural, political and economic, these are laudable and it would appear Australia has much to offer. In assessing Australia’s place as an adjacent non member of the Community three exclusion factors are important, ethnicity, religion and an inherited GDP per head. Australia can never become a member of this Community in its present form due to these exclusion factors, GDP per head for ASEAN is $4,300 (The Economist) while for Australia it is $67,000 (World Bank). Historically and politically it is quite different but in time with Asian immigration and fecundity this will change.
In the unsustainable world of the 21st century Australia will become more isolated and perforce Australia and New Zealand will be drawn closer together under a defence pact with a potentially unenthusiastic America. Australian policy makers must hope America will continue to use Australia as a barracks for a fighting force, a naval base for refits, R&R and a military communications facility, in this context it is of interest to note that the communications base in the Caribbean has been quietly moved to Western Australia. Australia is included as a marginal outlier in the OECD ratings and a peripheral observer to NATO. Unfortunately the way the economy is declining it could loose its place in the G20.
Australia has two great opportunities to counter this potential isolation and to become central to South East Asian affairs. Its secondary and tertiary education standards are widely admired, Australia should now be training quality teaching staff and expanding existing schools and preparing to build new ones for a coming influx of Asian students. The second opportunity will be to contribute impressively to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership initiated by China. This will provide for Australian construction companies, engineers and research institutions to be at the forefront of infrastructure projects.
What has all this to do with the recent proximate quote by Prime Minister Abbott “Indonesia has no better friend than Australia, we will stand by you and help you in times of need”! Drilling into this statement it unwittingly reeks of superiority and an ex-Empire mentality. This turn of phrase would never be used between two equals.It is a statement that gives the impression it does not recognise the ruling elite and intelligentsia of the ASEAN Community are on a par or more astute than equivalent Australians. While Australian foreign aid appears well meaning it is not lost on many in Cambodia, Malaya, Nauru, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea that Australian aid may be associated with refugee issues.
With the exception of Thailand all other members of the Community have living memories of colonialism, Australia is tainted with this tar brush as it is a successful coloniser in another’s land and has inherited a standard of living that has its roots in Empire. Religion is another great differentiate, Australian Christian faith has virtually nothing in common with Islam or Buddhism.

The Winds of Climate Change 2
Following on from January blog cyclone Pam over Vanuatu and cyclone Olwyn over Carnarvon, WA, are both associated with similar physical characteristics. Cyclone Pam was the strongest ever recorded in this portion of the Western Pacific, it was classified as category 5 moving towards an unclassified 6, wind was gusting over 200 mph (320 kmph). According to the National Centre for Atmospheric Research, USA, the sea surface temperatures were 2*C warmer and moisture content was 10-20% greater than normal for this time of year. Likewise the sea surface temperature of the north-west coast of Western Australia was also 2*C above normal. In 2011 the Carnarvon region suffered devastating damage to its banana crops, it is the same again in 2015. Similarly with the banana industry in north Queensland in recent years, for how much longer can citizens climb out of the financial and physical debris and start again?

Fault Lines between Cultures
The Death Cult, what a ridiculous phrase! Is this absence of understanding on the part of the Australian Prime Minister or is it a deliberate attempt to mislead Australians as to the causes of this phenonomen? In either case it is unprofessional.
The Sunni Islamic State was conceived as a response to Bashar al-Assad’s minority Alawite (a corrupt off-shoot of Shi’ite belief) regime slaughter of Sunni Syrians, it was a response to a dreadful civil war in which the Christian West refused to become involved. The Islamic State is following an interpretation of the Qur’an and hadith of the Prophet. Considering the Enlightenment has not reached Islam there is a similarity to Catholic and Protestant massacres in the Middle Ages. That Islamic State has erupted in Syria and Iraq is not unexpected since both countries were controlled by essentially Shi’ite administrations that persecuted the Sunni majority.The movement must be tamed and its ideology redirected, Australians must be given more than jingoistic phrases to gain community understanding.
The term ‘radicalising of Moslem youth’ by third parties is only part of the problem. It would be more correct to suggest Australia is, in part, a contributor to the radicalisation. The French Government has recognised its responsibility and is looking at an integration program. Despite the back slapping hoo-ha of Australian multiculturalists it is likely many young Moslems cannot see a vision for their own future within a Caucasian society indifferent to their needs and aspirations, there is no manly challenge for them. The average Moslem is more religious than the average Christian so they may be enthused to take up arms in the name of Allah and right the wrongs imposed on Sunni by Shia.
That the Australian Government suggests this is not a religious problem is incorrect, it will mainly be Sunni who volunteer for the Islamic State, Shia Moslems have other concerns. This problem is a spiritual issue highly charged with emotion, it cannot be remedied by the dead hand of terrorist legislation. Surveillance and police raids will have some success but it will not purge the thoughts of thousands of young Sunni Moslems who are aware. The Romans tried to destroy Christian belief in the coliseum and failed
There are two related factors, for centuries young men have flocked to war, it is in the nature of young men to want excitement, derring-do and glory, that reality might be different is not a deterrent. The second factor is that young Moslems must be provided with a sense of purpose and satisfaction in their lives, this is even more urgent considering unemployment levels in Australia. Indonesia is concerned at the number of its youth attempting to join Islamic State, the population is 99% Sunni. This is significant as it suggests that the motive is primarily to join jihad. This fact is relevant for Australia’s approach to the problem since it can be inferred that discontent with life in the Australian community is of lesser moment than also a desire for jihad. This is a belief issue and will be hard to change while in the embrace of Sunni Islam. The Prime Minister must realise this is a religious problem.
Turning round young minds will take a long time but a suggested start is to initiate a modified Duke of Edinburgh award scheme that challenges bodies and minds and concurrently introduce current affairs-cum-politics sessions into schools, both would be a compulsory part of the curriculum. Enhanced training/ employment opportunities should be established in popular Moslem residential areas. The Government will have to lead this charge using open minded young Moslems who speak the language of their peers, ageing Imams are not the answer.
Any program will be costly for the Australian taxpayer but that is the cost of open ended multiculturalism where minority faiths are involved.

Education and Employment
The ABS produced informative figures of educational achievement in 2009 on the working age population of 10.15 million and its educational standards (rounded) are:
Post Graduates <1%, Bachelor 23%, Diploma 15%, Certificate 1-4 35%, Unskilled 26%. (410.2 Australian Social Trends, September, 2010) The Sydney Morning Herald (6/10/14) joined the chorus and reported on the serious STEM (science, technology, maths, science) study decline. Working on a post graduate estimate of <1% this means Australia is is producing less than 10,000 STEM graduates each year while the majority will be studying 'soft' subjects, on these numbers Australian future high tech industrial development will tend to stall. The Q&A show on the 16th March dealt with Education and Unemployment. Canada has a similarity to Australia, it was also reliant on natural resources but has revitalised its industrial capacity, the painful surprise was that as GDP increased so did unemployment. Modern industrialisation is now driven by computers and automation not factory labour. This outcome has special relevance for the 25 to 30 percent of the labour force (subject to adjustment for 2015) that is Unskilled. While it is important that students live with dignity and that HEX fees are not an intolerable burden the critical requirement is for Australia to raise standards and numbers of STEM teaching staff at schools and universities Commencing with Whitlam in the early 1970s Australia developed an egalitarian education system to ensure youth would have the opportunity to reach their potential. Now the Australian public must be made aware it is the upper echelon of the work force together with capital that will produce employment and industrialisation for the bulk of Australians. Meaningful employment will have to be generated for a probably increasing Unskilled group. To give these ideas substance more resources will be required to identify and and extend young minds to ensure what ever their 'class' they will have the opportunity to embrace STEM material. With in these same schools with the above arrangement classes can be organised to cater for those with aptitudes and aspirations towards trades and diplomas, this is 'streaming' but in an increasingly competitive world people may have to amend cherished opinions. Chinese Hegemony – A rising International Oligarch.
The confusing comments on the benefits of the proposed 49% leaseing arrangements of ‘poles and wires’ to a ?Chinese investor days out from a NSW State election generated a search for trends in Chinese industrial investment in Australia. Activity is from a low base but rising, if the trend continues by mid-century Chinese foreign investment will be considerable as will also be an increasing Asian demographic within Australian society. Individually investment trends may not be significant but the cumulative influence will become clearer because many of the commercial activities will be directly controlled by State organisations directed by Chinese government policy.
Data was gathered for Chinese investment activities in real estate, natural resources, agribusiness and electricity distribution, gross figures are:
* between 2006-2012 investments were $46.9 billion (US)
mining $36.9, gas $8.9, renewables $0.2, agribusiness $0.9
* for 2013 investment was $5.4 bn
* for 2013 Australian global share of investments was 10.8%
* since 2008 Chinese global expenditure on mineral/petroleum assets was $175 bn
REAL ESTATE.
The state controlled Sino Ocean Land Company is building huge (40 floor) blocks of flats in Melbourne and possibly Sydney, expenditure in 2013 was nearly $6 billion.
NATURAL RESOURCES. A surprising condition of the recently signed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China is that mines are specifically excluded from Australia’s strategic assets, China considers Australian raw materials are vital to its economy. Current major projects are the Curtis and Browse gas fields, lithium, alumina, Karratha iron ore mine, several coal mines in the Hunter valley, two coal projects in the Galilee basin and the Watermark coal project, Gunnadah, for which the Shenhua Group paid $300 million for the right to explore. The recent acquisition of the lithium resource south of Perth by the Chengdu Tianqi Group and the China Investments Corporation is significant. This is reported as the largest spodumene (lithium aluminium silicate) deposit in the world, 70% of production will go to China for electric car batteries.
AGRIBUSINESS. In the period 2011-2012 Chinese investment was $980 million for logistics facilities and sugar, cotton, crop and wine producers, a recent acquisition has been 50 dairy farms in Victoria. Breaking news, Chinese interests have purchased Glenrock cattle station in the Hunter Valley for $45 million. Prime beef production will now be directed towards the Chinese market.
ELECTRICITY DISTRIBUTION. The State Grid Corporation of China has purchased a controlling interest in the South Australian and Victorian networks.Should the Liberals win the NSW State election on the 28th March 49% of the State’s ‘poles and wires’ might be acquired by Chinese State interests. Thus for south-eastern Australia including the Australian Capital Territory power distribution could be controlled by an overseas Communist state. What other capital in a Western democracy is in this situation?
CONCLUSION. Chinese investment in Australia is frequently arranged through State controlled organisations. The investment is in critical industries, if prosecuted over time aggregate foreign control will become significant, the beneficiary being the Chinese market. The caveat is that to develop Australia foreign investment is essential. The Economist has predicted that in 2015 the outbound foreign investment by China will exceed inbound foreign investment
(Reference. Australian Business Review, August 2013. Financial Services,February,2015)

Rural Bliss.
A dry summer has morphed into a dry autumn. Graziers in a wide area of New South Wales are being forced to sell all but a few breeding cows. Dams are drying up and creek water has disappeared into gravels. The country is too dry to sustain pasture and to damp to sustain cactus. This is the twilight world of purgatory for many on the land.

FEBRUARY 2015

Australia has run out of Luck  (Gerard Minak, December, 2014)

We can no more hope to end drug abuse by eliminating heroin than we could alter the suicide rate by outlawing high buildings or the sale of rope. (The Global Fix, 1987)

 

Global Finance. From Financial Big Bang to Global Black Hole.
Seldom is one lucky enough to hear a lucid description  of global financial matters, Nicole Foss on ABC1. Big Ideas provided this information. Foss, formerly with the Oxford Institute of Energy Studies and  now a Systems Analyst,  provided an insight into the global financial system teetering on the edge of a Black Hole.
The term ‘limits to growth’ and sustainability are commonly heard, the phrase now applies to global finance. Since the end of the Second World War  there has been a relentless rise  in industrialisation, economic activity and growth of the money supply. Inflation has increased as the money supply increased . Signs of financial insatiability are visible in the  bursting of the property bubble in Japan, China and the United States. As bubbles increase in size so too does inflation.
The financial system will be the first to fail as civilisation moves further into an unsustainable future. With the growth of the halcyon fifty years after the Second World War expanding markets  witnessed the growth of the money supply which ultimately morphed into paperless money and ultimately into almost incomprehensible credit instruments. Money has become almost an intangible commodity. There are now signs of an approaching financial crisis with the fall in the money supply and the quantitative easing employed by the United States, Japan and now the European Union to stimulate their flagging economies. Central Banks  have reduced interest rates to close to zero in order to stimulate productive investment. Globally the financial system is on the verge of a bust phase. Australians should take no comfort  from the Reserve Bank  decision to cut interest rates.
The 1980’s was the Big Bang when Great Britain and the United States deregulated the money markets, money freely moved round the world and the WTO and other trade/financial organisations precipitated  an enormous growth in the money supply. Cash decreased  as credit hyperinflation exploded and inflation increased. The stage has now been reached where 99% of the money supply is under collateralisation. This situation has promoted a deadly game of ‘musical chairs’ where only a few bankers, commercial organisations or traders holding debt are safe.
The world is on the verge of global deflation. Europe has entered that phase and the situation will become worse should Greece and Russia default on loans. In Greece  creditors will buy assets and Greeks will become tenants in their own country. The situation will precipitate a flight of capital to safe havens like Switzerland and the United States, this will knee jerk other nations to impose capital controls and so world trade will slow down.
The above situation will precipitate a savage revaluation of the housing markets. Price will no longer be the driver it will be affordability. Owners with large mortgages will see their equity plummet.
With deflation gaining momentum (as in Europe), unemployment will rise, wages and benefits will fall and taxes will rise as governments face a Black Hole. Behind this situation is the world of virtual money, creditors will force debtors to terminate their lines of credit, this may become impossible since there is no money supply. It was Iceland and Ireland that imploded few years ago owing debt.
In this new era of globalisation the money supply dried up and trade became dependent on letters of credit. In an environment of of virtual money and economic expansion there had to be increasing trust. With inflation falling and quantitative easing  increasing there is decreasing trust as debt increases. For many there is a Black Hole hardship ahead.

Carbon Crash – Solar Dawn
Following on from January a study on world energy, heard on ABC Big Ideas, shows the global energy industry to be in a parlous state.In the early days of coal and oil energy the industrial output was 1:100, in recent years the efficiency has fallen to 1:15 but in the near future the efficiency is slated to fall to 1:5 thus there is a desperate need for a low cost energy source. This declining efficiency may be in part due to the provision of ‘social’ energy to large population centres which use power for daily living where as in the early days of power it was used principally for industrial purposes. The early energy was used for productive enterprise and a productive workforce that contributed directly to GDP, now energy is supplied to vast and scattered population centres that do not have high positive economic impact.
In the January blog Gilding stated the “the future is upon us”, final comment by Foss mirrors this statement when she opined the world is a very different place to that of early industrial energy and cheap credit. New financial and energy systems are also upon us.

Australia from Commodity Boom  to Liquidity Crunch.
The Australian Industry Group made cooing noises on the strength of the NSW economy for 2013 as mainly derived from construction in the housing industry. This is in part a ‘ false dawn’ as this industry tends to churn the domestic money supply rather than producing export income unless overseas investors are encouraged  to purchase housing, unfortunately this will tend to inflate house prices and adversely affect Australian property buyers. This is a nice problem for Government.
With the end of the mining boom both Australia and Canada will suffer a liquidity squeeze. The Australian Government is already facing an income shortage hence the budget shenanigans. Australia’s weak position is due to
**a highly geared industry driven off shore by high input costs
**there is a high level of credit card debt,  $34 bn or $4400 per cardholder (ASIC)
**there is a huge housing bubble, for Sydney, Hong Kong and Vancouver, a significant correction is probable
For over ten years Australia has been to reliant on the resources industry, the Australian dollar has been grossly overvalued which has largely destroyed the manufacturing industry and driven it off shore. Successive Australian governments have not prepared the population for this economic downturn except latterly to intone the budget must be brought back to surplus which can only be accomplished  by squeezing health, social service and education.
In April 2014 the Australian Treasurer (RN Breakfast) indicated Government debt was $667 bn and rising while the budget deficit was $123 bn and rising, interest payments are around $23 bn per year and also rising. A comparison with OECD countries (IMF) shows Australia is not in bad shape, but alarm bells are ringing, government debt as a percentage of GDP is:- Australia 14, USA 88, UK 83, Greece 155, Germany 84.
An important source of Australia’s problems is the down turn in China’s economic activity. In recent years China has overbuilt on infrastructure and has accumulated a large natural resource inventory. There are vast multi story  housing blocks unsold and unoccupied. The Chinese industrial explosion has involved huge amount of credit, this will have to be repaid and represents a further source of instability in  the financial system. Australian woes are due too two numbers, Chinese boom generating growth  has fallen from plus 8% to round 3%

Reserve Bank Interest Rate Cut.
On the 3rd February it was concerning to hear Treasurer Hockey enthuse on the interest rate cut to 2.25% claiming this was good for home owners and small business. What the Treasurer omitted to say was that these historic low interest rates are indicative of a sluggish economy, rising unemployment and a tendency for capital flight out of Australia. The European  Union has low interest rates, high unemployment and is teetering on deflation. Government advice to Australians should be to tighten their belts and work harder than ever.
In late December 2014 Mr Gerard Minak, formerly Head of Market Strategy, Morgan Stanley, ( ABC  Business Program)  said that Australia has “run out of luck” following a staggering resources boom. Minak has forecast the serious risk of a recession for Australia in 2015, there will be  a lower dollar, lower interest rates, under performing equities and a significant fall in house prices. Why is it our politicians never call it as it is?

Dammed with Feint Praise
The saga has been humiliating for Australian democracy, the protagonists and the thinking public. The prequel to the Liberal spill motion in Canberra was characterised by a journalistic rabble attempting to elicit views and outcomes to leading  questions.
The spill motion was dealt with in a few moments, 60-40 in favour of Prime Minister Abbott, this was marginally above a censure motion, indeed it was a result dammed with faint praise.
The sequel, the 7.30 Report, Mr Abbott presented so poorly one could almost sympathise with him, he appeared to be grasping for answers, not directly responding to questions and indulging in pedestrian comment. It was telling  that he intended to be more collegial and inclusive with his ‘back bench’ but only in passing did he  mention the need to address his approval rating with the electorate.. Many viewers would have been disappointed with his measured and so very carefully chosen words. He was just not speaking as a confident national leader.
The day following the faint endorsement of Mr Abbott the Australian public endured an excruciating interview  with the Minister of Defence, Mr Andrews. The Minister was in Adelaide to discuss the $20?-$40?-$50? billion submarine program with the Australian Submarine Corporation. His press conference was marred  by ad nauseam repetitions that he was the Minister of Defence, the government approach to the project would be careful, cautious and methodical and contractor selection criteria would be a “competitive evaluation process” The Minister either would not or could not explain this process or how it varied from the normal tender process. Diction was hesitant and wooden as if a rigid  script controlled the proceedings, they were totally uninformative. It was dispiriting rendition of Major General Stanley, “I am the very model of a modern Major General”.`
A sequel a few days later was there would be a competitive tender involving Germany, Japan, France and Australia. The decision will be politicised. Having a defence agreement with Japan could bring Australia into international tension with China due to the dispute over the Senkaku (Japan) and Diaoyu (China) islands.There is also the issue of linking Japanese platforms to American armament systems.Both France and Germany (constructed over 100 submarines in recent years) have offered to build the submarines in Australia. The very complex tender process will continue to the end of 2015. Once built the Government has indicated there will be over 500 maintenance jobs created in South Australia.

Towards the Final Hour
My right eye is misbehaving, retinal corrosion according to the computer image. I am now on a crash course of eye drops to right this ocular wrong. The ultimatum from a MacQuarie Street specialist ‘get it fixed or go blind’.
A magic night of Faust at the Sydney Opera House. Goethe wrote the opera when he was 59 years old in 1808, he was already an ageing man who stated that “experiments in life had left him more unsatisfied”. The production illustrated love, lust,incomprehensible faith and mankind’s preoccupation with warfare, it fitted like a glove into the 21st century. One has to be an ageing male to relate to Faust and Goethe, another well fitting glove.

Rural Bliss
Great progress, it was two days of thinning eucalyptus trees on a steep boulder strewn slope disrupted by disintegrating branches, lethally pointed up turned tree stumps, bull ants lurking in camouflaged mounds and persistent flies that were drawn to facial spasaming orifices. Keeping a hot smoking chain saw on the trees rather than my legs and torso proved a great preoccupation. Such progress was only possible with the help of Sydney friends who toiled and sweated along side me.
I attended the local chapter of the Wild Dog Association AGM in Timor. Trends are not good and baiting is to be expanded. Dogs are becoming larger, they are hunting in bigger packs and they are now attacking and killing horses, as well as tearing apart but partially eating cattle and sheep. Tracking devices have established dogs make their lairs in quiet inaccessible areas from which they travel over twenty kilometres on hunting sorties, this give them an operating area of 1200 sq km. So far Animal Rights groups and the RSPCA have expressed a thunderous silence on this carnage.

Yemen, under the popular radar.
Another flash point for Middle East stability and safe passage for oil supplies has risen, Yemen controls the Bab al Mandab, the narrow strait to the Red Sea through which passes some 8% of global oil. Shi’ite Hoothi Muslims have been fighting the Sunni government for years, supported by Sunni Saudi Arabia. In the past few weeks Hoothi militia have forced the resignation of the President, Prime Minister and closed parliament. Saudi has now terminated support, famine and chaos are now facing Yemen. Western embassies have pulled out, only those of China and Russia remain. Despite American drone attacks Al Qaeda is well established, quixotically Al Qaeda regard the Hoothi as heretics and seek to destroy them. Yemen is now an out of control state controlling one of the world’s oil routes.

The Drug Trade
Official Australian Government policy in recent weeks has been a persistent request that two Australians due for execution in Indonesia be granted clemency. Portions of the Australian public have supported this request.
There are major issues swirling round these frantic pleas for mercy directed towards the Indonesian President. The dispiriting quote from the Global Fix meshes with a recent ABC Health Report program which suggested that drug addiction and death could be reduced if young and middle aged citizens had meaning and purpose to their lives. The Conversation (2013) has indicated that one third of heroin users are over 40 but there is a rising death rate in the 50 to 60 year olds which may be correlated with long term unemployment. The UNSW National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre has indicated there are 74,000 heroin users in Australia mainly in the 20 to 30 year age group due to a combination of unemployment and little possibility of a normal family life. The ABS reported 366 deaths from heroin based drugs in 2005.
What ever the out come of the Commonwealth of Australia plea to the Republic of Indonesia ( it has been a mistake to make the supplication too personal) the Australian Government is now obligated to wage an implacable and sustained war on the drug industry and to institute programs that lift young people and older unemployed out of the ‘slough of despond’ that drives them into drugs. Anything less than a concerted bipartisan political effort could be construed as a reluctance to address the real issues behind two Australians on death row in Bali.

Coins for Australia.
If this initiative gathers momentum like a rolling snowball Australia’s humiliation in SE Asia could be devastating. Prime Minister Abbott in pleading for mercy for two Australians on death row in Bali mentioned the one billion dollars of aid sent to Indonesia after the 2004 tsunami, it is reported this statement has enraged many Indonesians. There is now a grass roots move to collect ‘Coins for Australia’ and return the aid, support is now coming from Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong. Let us hope this terrible gaff does not enter the history books along side:
***the Wooden Horse at Troy in 1178 BC
*** the Romans at Masada in 73 BC
*** the fall of Singapore in 1942
*** the Iraq victory claim on the USS Abraham Lincoln in 2003.
The irony of ‘Coins for Australia’ will not be lost on the intelligentsia of SE Asia who realise better than many Australians that the Great South Land has a rising deficit problem, rising unemployment and a moribund manufacturing industry. Australia is in an invidious position.

Postscript.The Future
I am increasingly concerned, I yearn to express some meaningful global good news on mankind’s progress deeper into the Anthropocene, suggestions welcomed. Living between rising carbon dioxide in the aerial ocean and concentrating plastic in the terrestrial ocean I now wonder about the future of all great grand children, recently born who will be 75 in 2090, forty years past the Great Disruption so eloquently forecast by Paul Gilding. Faith will help us to endure, only Churchillian determination will solve the problem.

 

 

 

 

JANUARY 2015

Australia Day
Pearl Beach Australia Day 2015

The Winds of (Climate) Change. (Harold MacMillan)
Carbon Crash-Solar Dawn (Paul Gilding)

The Winds of Climate Change
Hand in hand New Year Festivity and ‘unnatural’ disaster moved through Australia. In the first days of 2015, roaring plus 40 degrees   winds sand blasted bush fires in the Adelaide Hills and western Victoria. Trawling through the disaster records over the past 30 years (1985-2015) indicates the first years of the 21st century require explanation and are a cause for concern. Natural Disasters in Australia (australia.gov.au) highlight terrible events in two fifteen year tranches. The information speaks for itself
* 1985-1999  (No significant bush fires)
1990              Wide spread floods in Qld and NSW
1991-95       Drought in north-east NSW and Qld
* 2000-2015
2002-07     Drought, severe and wide spread
2003            Fire storm, Canberra
2006            Cyclone Larry (Cat.5), north Qld
2009            Fire storm, Black Saturday, Vic
2010             Floods, Brisbane, Bundaberg and districts, Qld
2011            Floods, Vic.    Cyclone Yasi (Cat.5), north Qld
2013           Bush fire , Blue Mtns., NSW. Cyclone Oswold, Qld
2015            Fire storm, Adelaide Hills, SA and western Vic
These ‘unnatural’ disasters occurred along side El Nino events, rising sea surface temperature and  heat waves. Meteorological  data from 2000 show Australia has in the past twelve years suffered the highest prolonged summer temperatures since readings commenced. What does this apparent increasing ‘unnatural’ disaster frequency mean for Australia?

Carbon Crash—Solar Dawn ( ABC Science Show 5th January)
Once again the Australian Government is shown to be out of step  on global issues. Three experts on sustainable energy R Slaughter (Futurist), P Gilding (ex CEO Greenpeace) and S Holmes a Court (Community Energy) discussed renewable energy,  Australia’s damaging policy and the coming Carbon Crash to be followed by a Solar Dawn. In dollar terms. some $300 billion is being  invested globally in new energy sources while major coal-gas utilities have lost 50% of their value, around half a trillion dollars. In misty northern Europe, Germany and Denmark lead the world in solar power generation. There is a global move towards households taking control of their own power; this will initiate a death spiral of the big power companies.
Under Australian government encouragement five years ago some 5000 homes were fitted with solar panels, there are now 1.2 million homes producing solar power and selling it back to the grid. The irony is that now during hot weather peak usage big generating companies are losing profits to solar powered homes. With Prime Minister Abbott’s scare tactics  on the carbon tax this drove more people to embrace solar power and thereby made matters worse for the coal fired power stations.Within the renewable energy industry the rate of change is rapid and chaotic, people are changing but the old established companies are not. Out of Cambridge University evolved the observation with regard to progress “Nothing should ever happen for the first time”, this certainly applies to to the renewable energy explosion. Gilding asserted the world is no  longer dealing with the future, it is upon us and the future is ugly but if mankind drags its feet the future will be very ugly.
It is Slaughter’s contention the future has darkened and that humans cannot just muddle their way through the global problems. Governments will have to be more proactive  and enforcers. Holmes a  Court described the Hepburn (Victoria)  cooperative wind turbine power station which has made the local community independent of the power grid. Denmark has built 2100  wind farms. Since Abbott testifies “Coal is King” the Australian government is not materially assisting this new growth industry.
The CEO of the Australian Solar Council (Environment ABC RN) states the government is winding back renewable energy:
**the solar roof program abandoned
**the reduction of the renewable energy target
**terminating funding for the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.
It appears Government policy is to reduce the impact of renewables on existing coal fired power stations thereby protecting big coal interests. To this end the California Energy Commissioner has stated “Australia is actually starting to fight the future, this is a mistake as Australia has a wealth of renewable energy resources. Who in our Parliament has recognised this bigger picture?

Towards the Final Hour
Not another medical condition!! At a routine post operation check up with my consulting oncologist he diagnosed an incipient case of gynaecomastia (Greek, gynae-woman, mastos-swelling), a slight swelling of the breast. This condition occurs in one third of older men and is due to a ratio change between testosterone and oestrogen. In my case the origin lies in the legacy of my excised cancerous adrenal gland. No treatment advised.

Fault Lines between Cultures
2015 has opened badly  but unfortunately represents a natural progression from the December blog. An Islamist zealot burst into the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine, and killed twelve and injured seven staff. The magazine had published an image of the Prophet Muhammed. Western intelligence agencies confirm the IS is planning more attacks on the West.
Leaders of France, Britain, Germany and other national representatives met in Paris in mid-January to discuss this fault line between Islamic and Christian faith. The French President, Francois Hollande, in a speech declared  that Islam is compatible with democracy but there would be no compromise with French commitment to freedom of speech. The massacre generated very large mass gatherings across Europe in protest. Predictably there were large gatherings in the Moslem world in support of the action to preserve the sanctity of the Prophet. In south-west Sydney several hundred Muslims gathered to support the prophet Muhammed.
There is a growing awareness that a new deal must be generated to improve integration into Western culture for the twenty  million Muslims living in Europe; young Muslims are living badly and unemployment is an immense problem, (Professor John Keane, University of Westminster). Western Governments will have to start tempering ‘terrorist’ rhetoric with firm proposals for a more inclusive society. There has been much comment on ‘radicalisation’ of Muslim youth. This is not a condition that just happens, within Australia  there must be ‘cells’ where inciting and stiffening recruits are carried out. Government policy must be to engage more closely with Muslim authorities, ‘somebody must know something’. As President Bush once infamously said “You are either with us or against us”. Those Muslims who recently demonstrated in western Sydney, where do they fit into this quotation?
A German ex-politician, Jurgen Todenhofer, has returned from a ten day sojourn with IS forces in Iraq. At a CNN interview he indicated 5000 fighters are embedded in Mosul among the three million inhabitants. Coalition air power cannot dislodge them. He states many of the fighters are intelligent, educated and articulate. It was said some fighters returning to Europe are considered losers. Todenhofer is concerned the West is not fully aware of the strength, capability or objectives of IS with respect to the domination of the Islamic world and its intended expansion into Europe. Is this a clever subterfuge by IS, or maybe Western Governments are not aware of the true situation or information is being withheld from citizens of the Western democracies?

Bravery Awards
The Sydney Morning Herald has run the information the Prime Minister  has written to the Governor General recommending bravery awards for those killed in the Martin Place siege  in December. For those who escaped prior to police intervention citations are recommended, besides suffering a traumatic experience and perhaps eventually stress syndrome the escapees were unharmed
To present awards to these escapees belittles the bravery of our military who faced the enemy at Gallipoli, Western Front, Pacific Theatre, North Africa, Vietnam and Afghanistan. By all means present low key ‘certificates of survival’. Considering such presentations sets a dangerous precedent  of recognising other civilians who escape from other traumatic events. It is essential Australians do not dishonour our armed forces who died bravely facing the enemy.

Global Economic Recovery?
The decision by the Swiss Central Bank to remove its cap on its currency against the euro is serious and does not bode well for global economic recovery. The Swiss frank soared 30% against the euro to create enormous repercussions for global markets, currency stability and international trade.  The suddenness of the move has caused losses of millions of dollars in the foreign exchange markets  and  probably bankrupted thousands in Europe holding Swiss loans.
The significance of the move is that the Swiss Central Bank has lost faith in the European Central Bank and its ability to protect the euro, there is a fear the euro zone will descend into deflation. Pressure has been placed on the euro by the financial disaster that is  Greece. The national debt now exceeds the national economy. Greece is slated to default on its debts, which will put pressure on the euro and the possibility is then Greece will return to its debased currency. the drachma.  As the financial power house of Europe there will negative repercussions for Germany if Greece does revert to the drachma.
The Swiss bank is also well aware that despite the marginally improving American  unemployment figures of 6.2% the real unemployment rate is 12.6% as reflected in the US government ‘U6’ report (under employed and unemployed), future trends are not encouraging. The move by the Swiss Bank does not auger well for the economic stability in the foreseeable future,

Rural Bliss
With the confused state of the world swirling above the yellow box tree tops on the farm my feet are firmly on the ground in sweltering heat as I continue to slowly chain saw my way through fallen timber and enthusiastic secondary regrowth. In hot dry weather the ground and timber debris is a lifeless miasma of pulsating  radiant heat. After rain, logs and timber debris are cautiously moved as potentially unfriendly life teems, white ant larvae,  scorpions, millipedes, goannas and snakes are ready to jump, pounce or bite. Great care is taken reducing fallen trees as branches may be trapped crossbow taught; injudicious cutting can result in a head severing whip lash missile. I have conclusively proved that chain sawing is not an advisable activity for older men but against all odds I have survived intact and have not added to my medical scars.

Australia Day 2015
Pearl Beach is a community in harmony, relaxed with itself and family visitors. On this day no politician declaimed the benefits of multiculturalism or Australia’s destiny. It was a morning of sporting activities on the beach for enthusiastic children and adults discarding their inhibitions. The Gosford Brass Band was the backdrop, along with the encircling sandstone cliffs, to an uplifting rendition of Advance  Australia Fair by a passing fair young vocalist. The Australia Day oration described the traditional owners of the Pearl Beach locality, the Guringai tribe and its famous son, Bungaree, This amazing aboriginal  twice circumnavigated Australia, first with Matthew Flinders (1801-03) and again with Parker King (1817), his responsibility during the voyages was to smooth the contact between the explorers and the local aboriginal tribes along the way.
This public holiday, if free of political manipulation, could remain  a deeply significant day for the smaller communities  round Australia. It has become a day to mix, converse and fraternise: to cross our cultural boundaries and indulge in unaccustomed  bonhomie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DECEMBER 2014

“Reconciling my Gross Habits with Less Income.”      
                                                                                                    Errol Flynn

Historical Fault Lines between Cultures

Climate
“It’s going to be a big one,” so stated a local grazier, but I doubted his ability to sniff the air.  In the first ten days of December, an area of south-eastern Australia was deluged with rain.  The Timor locality muddied under five inches which turned the local stream into a roaring foaming dragon.  In twelve years this was the greatest torrent I have seen.  Weather records in the Sydney region have also been broken – the longest period of thunderstorm activity since observations commenced.  In quick succession we have experienced the warmest winter, the longest summer heat wave and the warmest November on record.  No worries!!
Based on unusual weather events for 2014 a red light alert should now be flashing for Australia. During 2014:

  • there were two category 5 cyclones in the north Queensland region
  • Melbourne experienced four days over 41*C
  • Brisbane experienced super cell storms
  • Blue Mountains  were buried under spring snow storms
  • Australia has burned under the twelve hottest Novembers since 2000
  • over 79% of Queensland is in drought, the highest percentage ever
  • the most worrying event  is the exploding burning methane blowing craters in the Siberian tundra. Permafrost is melting and releasing methane into the atmosphere. Methane is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide in its global warming  capacity. There is the  possibility of vast fires in the Russian and Canadian  Arctic  due to global warming.

The Lima Climate Change Conference has ended with a watered down communique on a unified funding policy which will be ratified in Paris in 2015.  Progress?  Climate Action Network Europe has released a survey that shows Australia at the bottom of the list of industrialised countries on its global warming policy.

Mid Year Economic Forecast (MYEFO)  
The budget deficit has blown out from $30 billion to $40 billion plus.  Australia’s terms of trade are  the worst since records commenced in 1959.  Government revenues have plunged with the fall in prices for iron ore, coal, gas and wheat.  A comment on the budget update by Deloitte Access Economics (Chris Richardson, ABC RN) intimated Australia has just slipped out of the biggest natural resources boom. Due to the “worst terms of trade for many years the next couple of years may be ugly”.  Big Savings can only come from welfare, education and health.  To compound this situation, the unemployment figures are not encouraging, set to rise to 6.5% amid predictions of falling incomes for Australian citizens.  Errol Flynn’s maxim now takes on a revitalised meaning.
Last month “The Price of Inequality” was cited.  Hitherto , Australians have relied on natural resources for a component of their wealth rather than creating wealth through manufacture or intellectual effort.  2014 will prove to be the year when we no longer rode on the “sheep’s back”.
The MYEFO bad news has coincided with a report by the Gratten Institute (G Gencho) showing a decline in wealth of the 25-44 year olds relative to postwar baby boomers.  Before 1997 house prices and earnings maintained a parity, after 1997 earnings have risen 27% while house prices have risen by 121%.  There is a disturbing trend in home ownership between the 35-44 year olds and the over 65 year olds, between the years 1981 and 2013.

  35-44                                                      Over 65
1981 – 75%                                         1981 – 78%
2013 – 65%                                         2013 – 86%
The Gratten document had identified anger and resignation at this increasing skewed wealth distribution.
Asylum seeker policy is adding to the financial problems.  Chairman, Mr G Inness,  Attitude Australia Foundation (RN am 10/12) provided information on costs of maintaining holding centres on Manus and Nauru.  Running costs are around $1 billion a year while naval and defence support are estimated at $5 billion a year.   Costs for a maximum security prisoner is around $130,000 a year while to maintain an asylum seeker is round $500,000 a year.  This is not sustainable.  Bringing asylum seekers to the mainland would have enabled ABC and CSIRO to avoid budget cuts.  Is the above the will of the Australian electorate?

NDIS National Disability Insurance Scheme
There are alarums off-stage on the increasing costs of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (ABC RN).  Currently the initial program is catering for 9,000 impaired individuals with a staff of 75,000.  Assuming salaries are around $50,000 each per year, the annual administrative/operational cost might be around $37.5 million.  There are 460,000 registered persons with a disability – when the full scheme is rolled out, will it prove to be unsustainable?

Towards the Final Hour
Arrested development in the process of ageing is a good thing.  My condition of peripheral neuropathy has apparently reached stasis, blood tests, and an MRI on my backbone have drawn a blank. Nerve conduction studies have shown on a scale of 1 to 10 i log at 7, that is verging on a severe neuropathy, obviously not a problem since the doctor does not wish to see me until December 2015!  Soon after this diagnosis a splinter was driven in my big toe, the pain was exquisite, I now wonder on the veracity  of the diagnosis.!

In early November, my right eyeball had the lens removed and a plastic one inserted.  I was led to believe the world would be one of colour and vitality; I would indeed be looking on the “bright side of life”.   The moment cometh, bandage was removed and “quelle dommage”, all I saw was a dark grey fog.  There followed six weeks of consulting a retinal specialist.  Eye drops have become a ritual. However, such has been my improvement, the specialist does not wish me to consult him until the final days of January.

Fault Lines between Cultures
A Canadian study (Economist 17/10) has linked extra schooling with a declining attendance at church or mosque.  This study overlaps with the news (ABC RN, AM  16/12) that, in the past few years, the Taliban in Pakistan have destroyed more than 1,000 schools and in the last week, have  killed over 100 pupils in an army school .

The appropriate word for the loss of a family member under the siege situation in Sydney this month does not easily come to mind.  The public reaction is understandable and the media have played their part. It is appropriate to place the Martin Place siege into a time line and to examine  fault lines between cultures.

In the two centuries after the founding of Islam in the mid 600s, an Islamic Empire extended through western, central and southern Europe, northern Africa and central Asia.  The Crusades, terminating in the 12th century, left a bitter legacy between Christian and Moslem.  The Moslems were driven out of Spain in the 15th century and the Spanish monarchy endeavoured to expunge all traces of Islamic culture.  The great age of European maritime discovery and colonisation commencing in medieval times was, in part, driven to break Arab (Moslem) control of the spice trade.

Long after the Crusades, the Islamic Ottoman Empire controlled the Holy Land, the Arab Middle East and south-east  Europe.  The Ottoman Empire ended during the First World War (1918) when European powers controlled much of the Arab (Islamic) Middle East.   For the Arab world, this was a period of stasis until the mid 1960s which coincided with the dissolution of the Western European Empires.  During this stasis, and for years afterwards, there were those who knew of the great days of an Islamic Empire, its architecture, science and culture.

From the 1960s onwards, there has been a rise of Islamic nationalism and recollection of the glories of past caliphates.  As we, in Australia, magnify the memory of ANZACS, so too do Arabs remember Saladin and the battle of Hattin. Arab nationalism has grown with the growth of communications, historical knowledge and education.  In this modern era, there is now a world dominated by Christian/Secular culture and an all consuming capitalism that, for many reasons, Moslems “on the street” are unable to enjoy: Arab youth unemployment is terrible (Doha Round on Youth Unemployment).  The vision by some to establish a caliphate is an attempt, in part, to re-establish the glory days of Islam.

Scattered across the Islamic world are individuals whose dislike of Western culture has boiled over, whether “deranged” or “sane”, these thoughts exist, despite the fact that at “grass roots” level communities may wish to collegially co-exist.  A review of recent atrocities directed at the West in which “Allah is Great” might have been heard are:
1997 –Luxor – 62 tourists shot
2004 – Sinai – tourist hotel bombed
2014 – London – British soldier killed
2014 – Algiers – beheading of French tourist
2014 – New York – axe attack on police
2014 – Iraq – beheadings by IS
2014 – Riyadh – shooting of Danish worker
2014 – Saudi Arabia – stabbing of a Canadian
2014 – Abu Dhabi – stabbing of an American
2014 – Ottawa – shooting of a sentry
2014 – Sydney – two Australians die
2014 – France – pre-Christmas attacks
 (Source – Economist, 13-19 December 2014)
Many of these attacks appear to be “lone wolves” however, it may be these individuals have grown up with a litany of ill will towards the Christian West.  Quite rightly Western leaders have vilified the perpetrators.  However, no-where have I become aware of any concerted effort by political leaders from both sides to establish a commission of enquiry to study a healing process between the Islamic religious state and the Christian nation state.  This is a global problem not a localised regional problem.

Christmas 2014
Despite St. Nicholas (Sinterklaas), a 4th century bishop of Myra, originating the reality of Santa Claus the concept was hijacked by Christian northern Europe and relocated near the village of Rovaniemi, Arctic Circle, Finland from whence Santa Claus conducted his world wide mission. A giant theme park is now being constructed in the Chinese city of Chengdu and it is to be spread abroad the park will be the official home of Father Christmas. For years China has been producing Christmas decorations and gee gaws for Western Christian festivals.  Xinhua, a state run news agency, states that 60% of Christmas trinkets for the Christian West come from the Christmas city of Yiwu. Is the world about to witness a schism similar to that between Constantinople and Rome in the early Middle Ages!?

Christmas 2014, as usual unprepared anticipation, the degustation and the Boxing Day breather, it was a shared day with a cohort of the family, it left a very warm glow. The high point was the children’s carol service at St. John’s, Gordon accompanied by Jill’s almost reluctant grandchildren, enthusiasm sky rocketed with the terminating sausage sizzle. Come the day when the six enlarging families between Jill and I will sit-down to a great family Christmas celebration.
For as long as I can remember the Christmas period  is often marred by a tragic accident. This time there is the loss of a passenger aircraft between Indonesia and Singapore with the loss of more than 160 souls;  in Europe over 300 souls were trapped on a burning passenger ferry in the Adriatic sea while buffeted by a raging storm. It was a perilous helicopter rescue exercise.

The Middle East
Alas 2014 ends on a sombre note. On RN breakfast the Executive Director of the Strategic Policy Institute, Canberra, provided an assessment of the past four months  battles between the Islamic State   forces and the US lead coalition  with ‘boots on the ground’ provided by Kurds and Iraqis. The result is a hard fought stale mate. To date there have been only 1500 air strikes generally limited to IS vehicles. The IS fighters cannot be ‘degraded’  by this technique. The IS fighters have now changed tactics and embed themselves among a reluctant population thereby preventing effective air strikes. Currently there are around 3000 US advisors on the ground but to degrade IS forces at least 10,000 are required, the Iraq government has pleaded to the USA for more troops.
There is a developing reality to the situation in Syria and Iraq. There is a possibility Iraq may fragment into three states, the Kurds in the north, a Sunni caliphate in the centre and a Shia Iraq rump in the south. Such an outcome might precipitate an arms race between Iran and Saudi Arabia with further destabilisation in the Middle East. Such a scenario would undo the international boundaries established by Mister Sykes and Monsieur Picot following the First World War.
There are two further realities, a change in policy is not envisaged by President Obama during his final two years in office, the second reality is that the West may not consider Iraq sufficiently important  to engage in another war to maintain its integrity. The problem is that ideologically driven IS fighters are facing off a reluctantly defensive posture of a war weary West.
This analysis sparked a response from a retired Australian major-general who reiterated that it  will take a ” long time ” to defeat the IS.  It was stated there are 48 countries in the Coalition. With this potential fire power and resources ranged against the IS the public are entitled to reasons why the term “long time” is used.

Vale 2014
The  international and national events during theyear have been cause for concern . In my opinion the worst, scariest and best events  were:
* the response of the West to the ebola pandemic
*methane explosions in the Russian tundra due to global warming
*revitalisation of the Catholic church by Pope Francis.

On a personal basis due to my mid-year major operation I veered ‘towards the final hour’ but with great assistance from my wife I am now striding along a ‘yellow brick road’.