Super way to fix a kludge, or should a kludge fix super?

by Crispin Hull on November 28, 2015

THE word “kludge” has been around since the 1960s. Then, in 2013, political scientist Steven Teles introduced the word “kludgeocracy” – rule by “kludges”. A kludge is a collection of parts that clumsily but effectively provides a temporary solution to a fault or problem, especially in computer systems. [click to continue…]

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Half measures no good against ISIS

by Crispin Hull on November 21, 2015

WHAT else is there to say?

“We – the west — should declare war on ISIS and expunge them from the face of the earth.”

“We should close our borders to Muslim refugees and immigrants.”

“We should monitor all Muslims within our borders.”

“Islam is a religion of violence and conquest and so ISIS will not be satisfied until the world is under its control.”

“The vast majority of Muslims are peaceful and ISIS is unIslamic.”

“We should reach out to Muslims living in our countries and seek their help in condemning terrorist violence.”

“We should understand that western attacks and interference in the Middle East results in death of innocents there prompting reprisals in the west.

“The western media makes a big thing of deaths of westerners and ignores or plays down similar atrocities in Muslim countries.”

“This is a just a fight between Sunnis and Shiites – baddies v baddies – and we should let them get on with it without taking sides.”

“We must not let terrorists make us cower.”

“We must not allow measures against terrorism defeat the very freedoms we are seeking to observe.”

“We must sacrifice the occasional liberty in order to ensure terrorism is defeated.”

“ISIS is using the very tools of the freedom of speech it abhors to recruit people to its cause.”

“The terrorist acts are unspeakably awful, but they need to be put into perspective. The chances of being killed or injured in a terrorist act are very low.”

“The Paris attack has been a major failing of western intelligence and security measures.”

“Western intelligence and security measures have worked well in preventing terrorists getting their hands on weapons of mass destruction.”

And so, it has been a week of contradictory arguments – many persuasive, some not so. That is the strength of democracy and freedom of speech.

Importantly, out of this Hegelian thesis v antithesis, we might be able to draw some conclusions.

One conclusion is emerging from these seeming contradictions and it is therefore worth drawing attention to it. Many in security- and intelligence-related occupations are saying we have to take on ISIS fully with boots on theground to defeat them or we will only face more terrorist attacks, particularly against innocent people in places that extreme Islam sees as decadent – bars, music venues, sporting and cultural events.

Conversely, others in security- and intelligence-related occupations are saying this is essentially a Shiite v Sunni war and we should never have interfered and we should withdraw totally as soon as possible.

This should lead people to an inescapable conclusion: that what we are doing now (air strikes with no boots on the ground) is dumb. That policy is producing the propaganda and rallying point that Islam is a victim of western aggression, yet not doing anywhere near enough to wipe out the capacity of the extremists to launch terrorist attacks in the west.

Yet that was exactly France’s response – more of the same. Being seen to do something in the wake of popular grief and fury.

Surely, we should either go all out with boots on the ground or we should withdraw altogether and deny them the propaganda point which is propping up most of their radicalisation and recruiting attempts.

Even if NATO and Australia want to stay in the fray but do not want their troops involved, we should at least allow the Russians and the Kurds to do our dirty work for us. But no, we have put no pressure on Turkey to help rather than hinder the Kurds in their fight against ISIS – a fight which would be effective or even decisive if they were not under such a handicap.

Rather, NATO turns a blind eye to Turkish paranoia about the minority Kurds within their borders linking up with Kurds in northern Iraq to demand a separate state.

Russia could be given the nod to do more. After all, for a decade after 1979, the Russians held extremist Islam at bay in Afghanistan.

Also, greater pressure could be put on Saudi Arabia to stop supporting Sunni extremism. One of the best ways to do that would be to stop selling them arms.

And there lies the core to the whole problem. A far better “road map” to peace could be drawn if the US and NATO countries stopped selling arms to any country in the Middle East, including Israel.

France is the third-largest sellers of arms after the US and China. Unlike most other exports, it is an export of death and misery.

Radical Islam is similar to two other belief systems that posed existential threats to democracy and liberty – fascism and communism. The aim of all three has been a demand for universal submission to their system.

German and Japanese fascism was defeated by force. Communism was defeated by letting it defeat itself.

With radical Islam, do we fight with all-out force or do we no longer engage directly and wait patiently until it defeat itself – when enough people realise that religion is not worth dying for?

I’m tending towards the latter. At least we will be denying them a key driver of recruitment and the major justification for terrorist attacks in the west. Moreover, with a bit of help from the Kurds and the Russians, ISIS might have so much on its hands holding on to its existing territory, it might well leave us alone.

Further, history shows that boots on the ground or even swords and horses on the ground in the Middle East has never ended well for the west in the past 1000 years. So why would it now?

One thing is fairly certain: sorties from the air combined with continued hypocrisy over Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Russia will only result in more attacks like those in Paris last weekend.

But at least our leaders will be seen to be doing something.
This article first appeared in the Canberra Times and other Fairfax Media on 21 November 2015.


No reserve powers needed in a democracy

by Crispin Hull on November 14, 2015

THIS week, the 40th anniversary of the dismissal, was an interesting one for Opposition Leader Bill Shorten to renew his call for an Australian Republic. In the same week, Prime Minister and former Australian Republican Movement leader Malcolm Turnbull was in Canberra meeting Charles Windsor, who if nothing changes will become Australia’s next monarch, by dint of birth alone. [click to continue…]


Trickle down of ideas, not money

by Crispin Hull on November 7, 2015

YES there is a trickle down effect in the field of tax. Not in the Ronald Reagan sense whereby tax breaks for the rich allegedly result in more employment. That effect was often likened to a trickle down from the bladder whereby those at the bottom got worse than nothing. [click to continue…]


Dismal GG fails to met the historic moment

by Crispin Hull on November 3, 2015


Not since 1975 – 40 years ago – has a Governor-General performed so poorly at the Melbourne Cup. [click to continue…]

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Hockey’s reputation: lessons for all

by Crispin Hull on October 31, 2015

NOW that Joe Hockey is on his way to be Australian Ambassador to the United States and that the appeal period has run out, it might be a time for some sober reflection on his defamation action against Fairfax publications, including this newspaper. [click to continue…]


Waist not want not — the 5-2 diet works

by Crispin Hull on October 24, 2015

TIME flies. It is now a tad over a year since I went on the 5-2 diet.

It resulted from watching a BBC program that did a thorough expose on the diet industry and another program by Michael Mosely, a medical doctor and journalist, who quickly summarised all that was wrong with the diet industry and then went in search of the best medical advice to see what was the best way to loose weight. [click to continue…]

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Improving cycling and city life

by Crispin Hull on October 17, 2015

WITH all the talk about cities over the past fortnight, we should do something about Australia’s woeful approach to cycling. [click to continue…]


Reward needed for medical research

by Crispin Hull on October 10, 2015

YVONNE D’Arcy’s win in the High Court against a pharmaceutical giant has been widely applauded. But it may not be such a victory for the underdog as first portrayed. It would be unfortunate if the case resulted in pharmaceutical companies contracting their gene-research programs. It would mean cures and treatments for sufferers of a great range of genetic disorders would be unnecessarily delayed. [click to continue…]

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A well-known Irish joke tells of about a tourist in Ireland who asks one of the locals for directions to Dublin. The Irishman replies: ‘Well, if I were you, I wouldn’t start from here’. I don’t think it is as anti-Irish as seems at first blush. There is wisdom in it. If you want to go somewhere it is a good idea to start from a place where your goal is achievable. [click to continue…]