Daily Archives: March 7, 2009

“Must read” is inadequate for a post like Worldman’s latest

Worldman is Swiss. He is the same age as I am, but has had such a different life. His journey has taken him to many places, as his name implies. Professionally it has taken him to Darfur, where until very recently he had worked for the United Nations World Food Programme – for four years.  Here is someone who really knows what he is talking about.

Today he has posted something that should give us all pause to consider the unintended consequences of things, to question what to an outsider may seem right. I urge you all to pay careful attention.

I had an argument (and an outcry)

Last November, just before I was ending my 4 years mission in Darfur, I was sitting in a café in Khartoum, with a colleague. It was always a pleasure to be with her and to discuss about a milion things. At that time, several month had passed since Luis Moreno-Ocampo had filed his suit against President Omar Al-Bashir at ICC, the International Criminal Court.

I had a terrible argument with my colleague. On the ICC issue. She was a very strong defender of bringing the Sudanese President to court. And I was strongly opposed. She argued that people who do or did something wrong should be brought to justice. In particular when it involves war crimes and crimes against humanity. I said that of course I agree with this but that one has to look at the way how it is done. I told her that issuing an arrest warrant will not do anything. She answered that it would by all means send a signal. And I replied that it will make a big mess.

And now we have a big mess. ICC issued the warrant. It is obvious that the Sudanese authorities will never accept this. The international community is divided on this issue anyway. The Arab Ligue, the African Union and the Chinese Government are requesting for the execution of this warrant to be postponed. ICC could have made a statement that, in principle, there is a case but that the proceedings will be postponed by 12 month. They could have invoked article 16 of the court law to do so.

To give a chance for peace in Darfur to come. Of course, this chance is slim. But one has to give the benefit of the doubt. A few weeks ago, the JEM rebels and the Sudan Government have signed a first document in Doha. It just could be the beginning of something good to happen. But, of course, doubts are permitted. After all, the Darfur Peace Agreement signed in May 2006 (by only one rebel party) and hailed by the international community as a "major breakthrough for peace in Darfur", did not bring any peace. How can it, when the agreement is not signed by all parties concerned.

So, still no peace in Darfur, a "goof up" by an international institution (supported by Western nations), an angry government and its reaction. Kicking out international NGO. 10 of them, maybe more to come. I know all of them. In my last 10 years as a humanitarian aid worker I got to know them, in many different ways. Their not "being around" anymore will certainly not get the Sudanese President arrested. But the suffering of the people of Darfur will certainly become more terrible….

That is a generous quote, but there is much more to read there. Learn exactly what agencies and NGOs have been working there, and what they did. Read some linked material there from others who know what they are talking about.

…Can the international community be satisfied with this?

I am worried. For the people in Darfur. For all the devoted people, international and national, working with these NGO’s. And, last but not least, for all my colleagues and friends I left behind of this wonderful, amazing organisation:

The United Nations World Food Programme. I know they are not sleeping right now. They are working very hard to find ways to continue to bring assistance to the people in need.

As I said — a must read post if ever there was one.

Thank you, Worldman, for having a blog and letting us know.


Posted by on March 7, 2009 in Africa, current affairs


Two from The Oz

1. Malcolm Turnbull

I am not going to go here much. Neither has anyone else so far as it stands at 2.20pm with COMMENTS: 0 at the end. Sure is great at phrase-making though – almost Keatingesque:

It is bad enough to have Rudd trying to turn himself, in the blink of an eye, from an adherent of the cautious, responsible economic conservatism of Howard into a slightly more genteel version of a foaming-at-the-mouth radical such as Hugo Chavez.

But to add to that effrontery, we see him every day in the parliament denouncing neo-liberal extremism as he describes me as "the member for Goldman Sachs".

Which seems to be one of Mr Turnbull’s principal beefs in a piece that carries ad hominem to new heights.

I congratulate the Rudds, especially Therese Rein, on their success. Their business grew into a very substantial one in Australia and as other countries followed the Australian approach, grew there as well exporting the expertise developed by them when they seized the opportunity created by Howard’s decision in 1998.

But what are we to think of the wealthiest Prime Minister Australia has ever had, a man greatly enriched by the privatisation and outsourcing of government services, standing up again and again to denounce the very policies from which he and his family have profited so extensively.

It is more than a bit rich. It is as hypocritical, as chutzpadik, as his essay is absurd.

Whether or not Rudd’s essay – which I have read—is the world’s greatest analysis is beside my point really; I would agree that he glossed over the Hawke-Keating years in that essay. On the other hand he is far from alone in his concern that “neo-liberalism” is bearing fruit as we speak.

Whether Mr Turnbull’s essay prevents the Cato-like return from the plough of Peter Costello remains to be seen.

It is probably a good idea to compare Mr Turnbull’s essay with Michael Stutchbury’s feature in the same paper: Too big to resist. Makes Turnbull’s essay seem quite unimportant.

2. Phillip Adams

It’s probably fair to say that Phillip Adams writes and talks far too much, and sometimes it shows. Of course the last person who should say that is a blogger as obsessive as I am. Today is one of his better days.

Early in my newspaper career one of Australia’s most respected educators sent me a stern letter.

Dr James Darling didn’t mince words in his eagerness to mince me. "Dear Mr Adams, I do not approve of you. I do not like what you write. However, I understand that you may have some influence with young readers." He proceeded to attack my most recent column in which I’d been unusually pessimistic about the state of the world.

I’d got a bit rabid, and morbid, from a bite of the black dog, to employ Churchill’s metaphor for depression. Instead of being moist of nose and waggy of tail, as was and remains my puppyish style, a crisis in the Cold War had me snarling at the reader, provoking Geelong Grammar’s most famous headmaster to thrust quill into inkwell. Darling told Adams the cries of pain I was hearing in the world – and these are his exact words – "are not the pains of death but of birth", and recalled other moments in human history when observers had made the same mistake. Confusing – and these are my words – the deathbed with the labour ward. Among his scholarly examples, Greece in the 4th century BC.

Time to reread the old darling’s letter. At a time when the news is not merely of deficit and depression, but of Armageddon and apocalypse. When editorials read like suicide notes. When Obama in his inaugural and Rudd in every other utterance have the sky falling and the end nigh. The bears have killed the bulls and black dogs prowl in packs.

Dr Darling, later Sir James, was right. Forget dodos and dead parrots and cheer the arrival of stork and phoenix…

…This could be the time for the biggest rethink in generations. For improvements to the way we run our businesses, farms, governments, societies, personal lives. We should listen to the Dr Darlings and the Ismail Serageldins because pessimism is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s not enough to rebuild Henry Ford’s Detroit. It’s time to build William Blake’s New Jerusalem.

So why can I share the hopes, but not necessarily the optimism? Because I well remember another moment like this. And so do you. It was quite recent. The end of the Cold War…

The orchestrated dread of communism yielded to the dread of Islam – or what Christopher Hitchens called "Islamic fascism". It was as if we were addicted to fear and couldn’t live without it. The Cold War was reborn as the War on Terror – and we returned to paranoia. The moment was utterly, tragically lost.

Let’s demand better – the best – from our governments, societies, scientists, corporations and ourselves. Let’s not lose this moment.


Recession solving teacher shortage?

Ironic, isn’t it?

See When going gets tough, get teaching in today’s Australian.

IF Australia slides into recession, Connie and Peter Watson will be among the last to feel it.

As teachers in the public school system for decades, the couple not only love their profession, they know it provides a safe haven from what Kevin Rudd described this week as the financial "cyclone" about to hit our shores.

And they are not alone.

As the world descends into financial crisis, increasing numbers of school-leavers and early victims of the job crunch in other industries are cramming into education courses to seek a new, safer career.

This is no more apparent than in the former boom state of Western Australia, where anecdotal evidence suggests a significant rise in the number of applicants to teaching courses since the global slump in demand for resources brought the mining super-cycle to an abrupt halt.

"As a teacher, you not only ride out bad times, you don’t even notice them," Ms Watson told The Weekend Australian.

"You trade off a higher wage in the short term but you have solid employment and a predictable income."

The teacher of 40 years, who is now principal of Fitzroy North Primary School in Melbourne’s inner north, said she had recently hired several mature-aged graduate teachers who had come from the private sector.

"They have decided they would really like to teach and the security of teaching appeals to them after the ups and downs of the private sector," she said. "I am sure one of the strong appeals is the security of the job and the fact that people will always be needed." …

How to lift quality education outcomes? Test less…

I have mentioned this before, because it runs counter to conservative opinion – in which I include the various Labor governments in Australia! It also runs counter to most bureaucratic thinking in the Western world, wedded as that is to models derived from the corporate world and obsessed with measuring everything, even things which probably can’t be validly measured.

I mention it again because my English/ESL blog has recently had several visits from Reflections on TESOL,  a blog run by a Muslim English teacher at a university in the UK. That in itself is culturally interesting.

A recent post there is To test or not to test or teach?

…I recently came across an article about education in Finland as well as a podcast on the BBC. It was fascinating stuff!

In Finland, for most of a student’s life, there are no exams, and everyone passes. There are no failures. Finland’s philosophy on education is education for education’s sake it seems. Everyone must have the opportunity to be educated.

Teaching is the most popular profession. Hard to believe! Respect? For teachers? Is this the paradise we are all looking for? What’s more, for every teaching vacancy there are ten applicants.

In a UN survey, Finland came top.

Why are we not reading up on Finish educational techniques? They’re obviously doing something right.

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Posted by on March 7, 2009 in Australia, education, English studies, ESL, exams and assessment


First Saturday stats for March

The overall stats for last month are on Ninglun’s Specials: February blog stats 1 – most visited posts; February blog stats 2 — totals. Today looks at the posts most visited individually in the past seven days, according to WordPress. For Ninglun on Journalspace I use Sitemeter.

* Recent post.

Floating Life: 1,409 page views so far this month

  1. How good is your English? Test and Answers 54 views in the past seven days
  2. Australian poem 2008 series #10: Peter S 47
  3. Australian poem 2008 series #17: "Australia" — A D Hope 35
  4. * Pakistan on the Brink – Four Corners 32
  5. * Depression? 30
  6. Dispatches from another America 30
  7. The Great Surry Hills Book Clearance of 2005  28
  8. Australian poem: 2008 series #9 — "The Angel’s Kiss"  27
  9. Deadly Identities – Amin Maalouf 24
  10. * Thinking about Victoria – updated 23

Ninglun’s Specials and Memory Hole: 273 views so far this month

  1. Sequel: Art Monthly Australia July 2008 34
  2. 10. But is it art? Responses to the Bill Henson controversy 23
  3. Top poems 2: John Donne (1572-1631): Satire iii 21
  4. 05 — Old Blog Entries: 99-04 19
  5. Family stories 3 — About the Whitfields 18
  6. Family stories 1 — mother 11
  7. Personal Reflections: Saturday Morning Musings — the art of Jiawei Shen 9
  8. Family stories 2 — About the Christisons 8
  9. Gustave Dore’s "Ancient Mariner" illustrations 7
  10. Top poems 5: Thomas Hardy 1840-1928 — "The Oxen" 6

Neil’s Modest Photo Blog: 100 views so far this month

  1. * At Central – Monday 5pm 8
  2. Light, texture, architecture: Surry Hills 5
  3. * Old haunt derelict now 5
  4. * Paddy’s Market to Ultimo 1 – 4
  5. * Mardi Gras Fair Day 1 – a touch damp 4
  6. * Paddy’s Market to Ultimo 2 – 4
  7. * Regent Street Railway Station 3
  8. * Interlude – collages 3
  9. * Paddy’s Market to Ultimo 3 3
  10. * Passing parade Monday – Surry Hills 3

English/ESL: 2,857 views so far this month!

  1. * Mary Shelley, "Frankenstein" — and "Blade Runner" 437
  2. How should I write up a Science experiment? 347
  3. Physical journeys and Peter Skrzynecki’s poems 183
  4. * The "Belonging" Essay 169
  5. Studying the Gothic, or Emily Bronte? 129
  6. * HSC English NSW Area Study Standard and Advanced "Belonging" 1  120
  7. * Belonging pages: HSC 2009-2012 106
  8. * Backgrounding my essay: question and resources 74
  9. NSW Module A English HSC Advanced: on not seeing the wood for the trees 50
  10. Workshop 02 — NSW HSC: Area Study: Imaginative Journeys 40

Ninglun on Journalspace: 41 page views so far this month

Top entry pages – last 100 visits:

  1. 14
  2.   12
  3.   8…y-mardi-gras-fair-day-6-mixed/
  4.   7…hippendale-morning-wet-sunday/
  5.   6…h-dowling-street-east-redfern/
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Posted by on March 7, 2009 in site stats


What’s new Sunday 8 March to Saturday 14 March

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Recycled pic of Mardi Gras Fair Day, used as a top banner photo in the March South Sydney Herald

See 1 March to 7 March

What’s new on my other blogs

More to come

Posts here I don’t want you to miss

Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on March 7, 2009 in site news