Julian
McGuaran’s defection from the Nationals to the Liberals has “exposed
how poisonous relations between the two parties have become,” says
Laurie Oakes in The Bulletin.
And out of this debacle, the Nationals may now finally realise they
need to be “prepared to look tougher and more independent,” and less inclined to follow
the government’s legislative agenda. From this point on “maintaining a
perception of discipline will be extremely difficult even for Howard,”
but should Costello ever take over as leader “it will be impossible.”
This current crisis “exposes how weak and dysfunctional they are, and
in doing so brings their extinction closer.”

“Television is the easybeat for just about any social ill,” says Christopher Bantick in The Courier-Mail.
“The box is often blamed, unfairly, for a decline in education
standards as well as behaviour,” and the prime minister’s attack on
declining civility in Australia was no exception. But it’s parents, not
television, who are responsible for any decline in our manners, although “you’d never know it,” says Bantick. “Manners are the
province of parents, not television networks or prime ministers.”

Research
into how to make our education system more effective is failing thanks
to some misguided funding by The Australian Research Council, says
Kevin Donnelly in The Australian.
“In addition to having a strong politically correct flavour, an added
weakness in many of the ARC-funded education projects is that they are
inspired and managed by academics far removed from the realities of the
classroom.” And “recycling new-age clichés about deep understanding,
active construction, authentic pedagogy and inclusivity and
connectedness” in classrooms “cannot hide the fact that teachers need
something more practical and realistic.” Researchers should remind
themselves that funds are not bottomless and research must be
“justifiable.”

“China
and India are going through their own industrial revolutions,” but no
one has stopped to think about the impact of this remarkable growth on the environment, says Ross Gittins in The Smage.
“The Chinese are rapidly turning themselves into the globe’s chief
source of manufactured goods, while the Indians have already captured
about half the global offshore outsourcing business.” There’s a huge
demand for energy, water and land, and this can’t continue for much
longer. For, as the Lowy Institute reports: “In the coming decades, we
will either find ways of meeting human needs based on new technologies,
policies and cultural values, or the global economy will begin to
collapse,” .

“The
Kremlin doesn’t need spiritual guidance from intellectuals, because it
has no interest in ideology,” says Yulia Latynina in The Moscow Times.
An ideology defines a system of values, and however broad those values
may be, any ideology would constrict Moscow’s future direction – which
is not tenable in Russia because President Putin wants to leave himself
“plenty of room to manoeuvre.” Putin’s anxious to tell Bush he’s all for
democracy, but of course he’s not serious. “Thieves don’t need
ideology; they need the tools to jimmy locks.”

“So much for Denmark, where complacency and smugness have reached extraordinary heights,” says Tabish Khair in The Guardian
– for, like many moderate Muslims, I too have been forcibly silent on
the cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad. “Not because I do not have
anything to say, but because there is no space left for me either in
Denmark or in many Muslim countries” to express my view. And in the
“clash of civilisations that is being rigorously manufactured,” the
moderate Muslim is stuck somewhere in between. “She can feel it getting
tighter. She can feel the squeeze. But, of course, she cannot shout.
She cannot scream. Come to think of it, can she really express herself
at all now?”

Now
that Russia has pushed Iran to the UN Security Council, President Bush
must “work hard to not let its disagreements with Putin elsewhere
jeopardise Moscow’s cooperation on Iran,” says the Los Angeles Times
– but this doesn’t mean becoming an “apologist for Putin’s troglodyte
views on democracy.” The US shouldn’t make concessions to Moscow when
pursuing a solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis, but “surely it’s not
detrimental to US interests to stress that friendly relations between
Russia and the countries on its borders are in everyone’s national
interest.”

“For
most of human history, religion and bigotry have been two sides of
the same coin, and it still shows,” says Christopher Hitchens on Slate
– and therefore those contentious cartoons “are affirming the right to
criticize not merely Islam but religion in general.” Taboos are meant
to be broken, and Islam is in no position to criticise anyway: “in its
art, there is a prejudice against representing the human form at all.”
Living in a “civil society means that free expression trumps the
emotions of anyone to whom free expression might be inconvenient,” says
Hitchens, and it’s outrageous that so many have discarded these basic
ideals” at the very first sign of a fight.”

Worth reading Highly recommended

Peter Fray

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