Allan Takes Aim Blog

Archive for December 2009

A short note to let people know that circumstances have forced me to take holiday but that the blog will return early in the New Year.

Let me also wish all readers of the blog a Happy, Prosperous and successful New Year with a traditional Scottish salutation.

Slaintè mhath
(slan – ji – vah)


Post the Copenhagen climate change debacle, our notoriously shy and retiring Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is noticeable by his absence. Could this be because the majority of the 193 delegates attending the conference were not in accord with his suggestions about a Treaty thus giving him little opportunity to declare how he had saved the planet?

Worse still, despite his self vaunted view of how the Chinese valued him, China seemed to pay little heed to him when decision time came because, apart from the US, the Chinese seemed to think delegates from Brazil, America, South Africa and India more important.

As for climate change scientists and environmentalists who think the IPCC data on global warming is holy writ, let me say to them a lot of people think holy writ is questionable to say the least. And though I am a sceptic about climate change I respect both the scientists’ and environmentalists’ opinion, but not that it adds up to planetary doom.

Unfortunately, global warming is the cause that fits the bill for Greens and politicians such as Al Gore, Bob Brown and Kevin Rudd who need causes to serve their ambition. Let me add that I believe there is a difference between Gore, Brown and Rudd the difference being Brown is sincere in his belief – extreme though it might be – in climate change, while Rudd’s belief and that of the sycophants around him, of whom 114 also went to Copenhagen, seems to me a matter of political convenience as is Gore’s politically inconvenient truth. As for myself, my belief is that man, who has managed to survive every past doomsday prediction and gone on to make the world a better place, will continue to do the same.

Having said that let me go further and say that if, in times past, the armies that followed benefits previous doomsayers had won we would still be waiting for many items we use today. Indeed we could still be living as hunter-gatherers. Perhaps some Greens would prefer this, but not me. My preference is for today’s lifestyle not the lifestyle of centuries ago. I suspect, too, that many Greens would share my preference.

Indeed, I feel confident that once the global warning scare has died down, man, with his infinite capacity to develop technology that will ensure the maintenance of as much of our environment as possible, will also develop technology that will help us keep on keeping on in comfort.

The global warming argument is all about energy. In my view 100 years from now, the environment will have changed and technology will have been developed that will make Nuclear Fusion the world’s main energy source. Unlike nuclear fission, fusion energy is waste free and clean.

I believe also, that not only advances in genetics will be helping the world produce food in arid areas to help meet the needs of an ever increasing population but also that technology will have been developed that will make redundant the use of water for mundane daily chores.

It is in areas such as these that we should be spending most of our research money instead of spending it covering the earth with wind farms and fields of solar panels that will contain the inexorable tide of progress. Unfortunate as it is, every society has its Luddites who rail against progress.

There were Luddites against the printing press, steam engine, motor car and other developments too numerous to mention. And while I think of the Greens as the Luddites of today as technology advances, new Luddites will emerge and on occasion many people will be seduced by what seems like irrefutable evidence of future doom.

Fortunately, as in centuries past, common sense will ultimately prevail and the world will carry on. And while Luddites in the future will also predict doomsday and arguments will rage about who is right and who is wrong, my only wish is that I could there to take part in them.

I also think science will make future debacles like Copenhagen un-necessary.

COP 15 has been a total cop out. From where I sit the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen puts me in mind of the TV programme Deal or no Deal although it seems to me the intellectual capacity of competitors on the TV programme compares favourably with the capacity of many delegates attending Copenhagen.

That apart, from the stream of Copenhagen reports in the Australian media it would have been easy to draw the conclusion that Prime Minister Rudd was chief mover and shaker at the conference and that his fellow delegate were queuing up to hear his words of wisdom. He wasn’t and they weren’t, though probably they wanted to hear his opinion.

He had plenty to say, of course, but that’s not unusual for Rudd. Unfortunately for Rudd, the person they really wanted to hear was President Obama, that shining new political star from the US who promised to light up the political galaxy but who, more and more, and sadly, seems to have fizzled and is rapidly becoming something of a damp squib.

But give politicians time to talk and at Copenhagen they did. For two weeks short of a day they went round and round in circles. Indeed to the embarrassment of the United Nations, no deal was the order of the day and any thought of a treaty was wishful thinking.

It was confidently expected that following President Obama’s arrival a treaty would get on track. Unfortunately, it didn’t. The less developed nations wouldn’t come to the party and had the temerity to stick to their guns about the conditions they agreed in the Kyoto Protocol. It has to be said also that even President Obama in his speech was less than positive about the conference outcome.

Conveniently on the evening of the penultimate day of the conference a leaked report from the UN published in Britain’s Guardian newspaper said there would be a rise of three degrees in temperature unless the conference decided to take positive action.

A simple man I wonder why the UN”s International Panel on Climate Change didn’t make this known earlier, after all they’ve been working on the problem for many years. Although the Danes are not to blame, I am not being cynical when I say that, in relation to this announcement “ there was something rotten in the State of Denmark.”

Because of the announcement a flurry of meetings took place on the final day. The most important meeting was that between Brazil, America, South Africa, India and China (BRASIC) at which an accord – not a legally binding agreement- was crafted and that all countries had accepted. They hadn’t. Not only is the agreement a sham and an ugly display of might is right it is also a face saving deal for the Presidents and Prime Ministers, including Mr Rudd, of the 27 most developed nations among the 193 attending the conference.

The accord has been accorded the merit it deserved. If the climate change scientists are right it will do nothing to ease the dire climate change prophesied by the global warming alarmists. Indeed if the accord does anything at all it will help increase the number of press releases from climate change extremists and global warming alarmists containing more extreme and alarming announcements, a number only to be exceeded by the number of press releases issued by the Prime Minister that will show him as a Copenhagen hero.

Published The Chronicle Canberra 15 December 2009

Hillary Clinton has been reported as asking the Hon Julia Gillard the following question: ‘”Do you speak English in Australia?” I wonder if she asked just to make sure that when travelling around Australia she wouldn’t run into the same problem Julia Gillard might encounter in some parts of the United States?

There is such a problem because how people speak English is determined (though not entirely) by geography. For example, John Smith from the North of England is likely to speak differently to Babu Bose, from North-Eastern India, thus, John and Babu will use different words, phrases and sentences, to convey the same meaning: e.g.

John: ‘ I fell off my bike’: five words.

Babu: ‘I was riding my cycle in a perpendicular position when, due to circumstances beyond my control, I was momentarily, and unfortunately, catapulted into a vertical position, following which I was forced to assume a position of horizontality.’ I’m sure you’ll agree that Babu’s 37 words, like John’s five also describe falling off a bike. (Credit for these examples must go to Chronicle reader Martinho de Souza who also advised they came from an 1855 Portuguese-English phrasebook co-authored by Portuguese writers Jose da Fonseca & Pedro Carolina.)

This interesting book, published years later (1833) in both London and Boston (USA), had a foreword by Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) that helped turn the book into a bestseller in both England and America: In his foreword Twain said: “Nobody can add to the absurdity of this book, nobody can imitate it successfully, nobody can hope to produce its fellow: it’s perfect.”

The truth, of course, is, that there are various styles of English. For example, Australian English, which some Australians even call ‘poetic.’ But poetic or not, because The Chronicle is a family newspaper, I hesitate to cite examples of the poetry to which poetic refers.
Then there’s British English style that some UK citizens think cool, calm, clear, correct and concise. But is it? I ask because having lived in various places in England (and as Gillard might find with the US) an interpreter would have come in handy.

There are many kinds of “English as she is Spoke.” For example, Indian English, which tends to the pompous and bombastic; singsong Kenyan English; Goan English, which is floral and ornate; and Chinglish, of course, which, or so it seems to me, dominates the computer and mobile phone instruction book market.

A brief return to “The Hon. Julia Gillard.” Born in Wales, bought up South Australia, her accent is Anglo-Aussie. She speaks the brand of Australian English spoken by Adelaide’s upper classes. (In South Australia, as in every other Australian State or Territory, the upper class speaks posh and the lower class tosh.)

But no matter who we’re talking about, perhaps we should take greater note of what Philologist Syme said to his friend Winston in George Orwell’s 1984.
“YOU haven’t a real appreciation of Newspeak Winston,” he said almost sadly. In your heart you’d prefer to speak Oldspeak with all its vagueness and its useless shades of meaning. You don’t grasp the beauty of the destruction of words. Do you know that Newspeak is the only language in the world whose vocabulary gets smaller every year? Don’t you realise the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? Has it ever occurred to you Winston that by the year 2050, at the very latest, there won’t be a single human being aljve who could understand the conversation we are having now?”

No doubt you have noticed that, as yet, I haven’t mentioned the best English speakers.

I doubt anyone would deny the Scots and Irish that honour. That they speak the best English is only to be expected of two intelligent races that, to their own discomfort, not only sent millions of their people across the world to give others the benefit of their intelligence but also how to teach them how to speak good English.

Although they’ve partly succeeded in Australia, they’re still working on the United States.

Finally to all readers from Boadicea and myself: Best wishes for the festive season and for a happy, healthy and successful 2010.

For the best of Canberra’s community news The Chronicle, published every Tuesday.

NB. The Chronicle will next appear on Tuesday 12 January 2010 but additions to the site will continue to be made

First Published “The Chronicle” Tuesday December1, 2009  

Although a global warming sceptic the performance of Federal MPs over the past few months nearly persuaded me that man plays a major role in global warning. With apologies to Churchill: Never has so much hot air been expended by so many for so little.

That man exhales Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is known, but it seems to me the performance of our Federal Politicians must have caused such an enormous increase in CO2 emissions that in the interests of the planet a sequestration sink in which to bury their breath should be dug out under Federal Parliament. At the same time, to make full use of the sink, the breath from staff in the many bureaucratic offices with which Canberra is well endowed, and the breath from academia, business and the ACT Legislative Assembly, should also be piped up to Capital Hill and buried in the sink.

Interestingly, while researching the content of the human breath, I found that, apart from containing CO2, it contains a greater level of Nitrous Oxide (N2O), a more dangerous greenhouse gas, better known as an anaesthetic and/or laughing gas. Indeed N2O is so dangerous that, over a century of use, it will have 298 times more impact per unit weight than CO2. If you don’t believe me but can contain your disbelief until 2013 when Canberra celebrates its centenary, you will then be able to measure it.

When I learned this it dawned on me that perhaps politicians should not only be paying greater heed to N2O than to CO2 but also that they should be talking less, an action that would give many voters pleasure, otherwise they could cause the Silly Season to last for months.

But perhaps what made the effect of N2O more serious was my recollection of Government Members falling about laughing recently when Brendan Nelson said Malcolm Turnbull suffered from a narcissistic personality disorder. Being a sceptic I wondered why they had laughed: was it because they were affected by a build up of N2O or knew that, in the narcissism stakes, Turnbull would run a distant last to Kevin Rudd?

Fortunately every cloud has a silver lining and that being the case it’s good to know that one Opposition Member at least, doesn’t need N2O to get a laugh: Wilson Tuckey manages it, even if the laughter is directed at himself.

But the more I thought of Tuckey the more I thought the behaviour of all MPs needed examination starting with Prime Minister Rudd. As I examined the PMs behaviour the more worried I became because he seemed to display symptoms of some very serious conditions: ARS (Always Right Syndrome), PM (Political Megalomania) and PV (Political Viagrism).

To some degree, every politician suffers from ARS and PM but not every politician suffers from Political Viagrism, the artificial economic stimulus condition that compels politicians to give away huge sums of your money in the hope it makes them look generous.

However, that the PM suffers from PV is somewhat of a paradox because at times he also displays symptoms of PRS (Political Reduction Syndrome) a condition that compels politicians to avoid giving money away in the hope of looking like a conservative and tough economic manager.

Sadly I have to report that some Members of the ACT Government seem affected in the same way as their Federal colleagues. For example: Chief Minister Jon Stanhope seems affected by ARS, PM, PV and PRS and, while it might be stretching things a bit, it’s hard not to think that Treasurer Katy Gallagher and Planning Education and Tourism Minister Andrew Barr are affected, albeit less seriously, with the same conditions as Gillard and Swan.

But with Christmas soon upon us and with Christmas a time for being generous, let me say, that although critical of the Assembly’s performance at times, I wouldn’t be without it; I mean what would I do for a laugh?

I think most Canberrans secretly agree with me, not necessarily about it being good for a laugh, but about trying to make sense of what it does. That apart isn’t Christmas wonderful?

For the best Canberra Community news “The Chronicle.” Published every Tuesday

First published The Chronicle, Tuesday, 24 November 2009 

Have you heard of writers’ block? No. Well it’s not like an executioner’s block on which writers, including writers of letters to the editor, metaphorically lay their head to get it chopped off because they’ve upset readers, it’s when they can’t think of anything to write.

The real root of the problem however, is not upsetting readers but the fact that many writers labour under the delusion that everything they say is wise, illuminating and important, and if they don’t get it down on paper the world will experience catastrophe.

And when inspiration deserts them only a few days before having to submit something for publication, imagine the panic. Worse still, in their panic they write something they later wish they hadn’t.

More important, people who read what they’ve written also wish they hadn’t. I know making this statement will give my critics the opportunity of putting in their two bob’s worth to the effect that I have been in a permanent state of writers’ block for years.

All I can say in reply is: as critics always know they are right, this is an argument I will never win.

That said, you might ask how could anyone get writers’ block in Canberra, a city full of politicians who never seem to stop talking and, like writers, think what they say is important.

At times indeed, one might wish that they would suffer from a talking block. But politicians are not alone in this regard. Hosts of radio talk back shows have the same problem to the extent that it wouldn’t do some of them any harm if, like politicians, they suffered from a talking block.

Indeed if a talking block did nothing else it would help them stop propagandising listeners with their personal views.

Others who have a problem are the victims of the Andy Warhol Syndrome who want their fifteen minutes of fame, something easily achieved on talk back radio.

This becomes more obvious with particular subjects. A recent example: Civil Unions. As an agnostic, but not a contributor to talk back radio, let me put my point of view: I support civil unions for same sex couples. However, Marriage is different.

Apart from being founded in love, one of its main purposes is the continuation of human life. Unfortunately, much as same sex unions can be founded in love, they cannot do the latter.

And nor can this function be conferred by human rights and equality laws.

That said, because marriage is different does not make it discriminatory of same sex people.

Another issue that pops up regularly on local talk back is the Arboretum. Again speaking personally, this is an issue that attracts a lot of propaganda from some talk back hosts who support it and give its supporters a voice.

Unfortunately the voices of non – supporters are noticeable by their absence.

And much the same can be said about Global Warming. While Al Gore may be finding it an inconvenient truth, more and more people are becoming sceptical of his doomsday scenario.

Indeed Gore should understand that most sceptics actually believe in global warming: what they don’t believe in are the Armageddon prophecies of Gore, his evangelists and those working in the media and politics who support his views.

One of the latest issues to take up time on talk back is the old Bus Depot, home of a one day Sunday market. While I can understand a few people getting emotional in letters to the editor and on talk back radio about it disappearing, as a long time resident of Canberra, I cannot recall it ever being talked about as a structure of significant heritage value.

And while the one day Bus Depot Market has been mentioned as a tourist attraction, having long been involved in ACT tourism (for years longer than most talk back hosts and some tourism “experts”) and formerly General Manager of the Big Pineapple, one of Australia’s biggest tourism attractions, the Bus Depot Market’s capacity to attract tourists is limited.

If the reverse is true then a move to a new area nearby should not be a problem. By the way, this column is dedicated to my critics.

The Chronicle for Canberra’s best Community News. Published every Tuesday


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