Who wants peace in the Middle East?

BOTH Israelis and Palestinians have too much to lose if the Middle East problems that separate them are solved. Neither is interested in a solution for that would lessen the attention that is paid to them.

Israel receives $3b of aid from the US every year. If there were peace in the Mideast, that aid would fall away – after all when a country is at peace with its neighbours, why does it need such large amounts of aid? The Palestinians are in the same boat – if they were not at loggerheads with Israel who would pay them much attention?

Egypt has little interest in backing anything other than US plans. The US gives the country $1.3b in aid every year, second only to Israel. Why would Egypt, despite having Muslim fundamentalists being at the helm, want to put this money in jeopardy?

Down the years, there have been countless rounds of so-called peace talks. But if nothing has come of them, it is primarily because of the factors listed above. Additionally, there is the religion factor – some aspects of the Middle East imbroglio are not negotiable because of their emotional nature.

Jerusalem is a city that is sacred to both Judaism and Islam. Neither side will countenance the other taking command of this city. Even if peace talks make progress, they will stumble when they come to the question of this city.

Perhaps hopes were highest in 1993 when Norwegian brokers managed to put in place the so-called Oslo accord. But 19 years have gone by and there is nothing to show for it.

And there will not be any more to show than has been so far. There are too many vested interests who have a stake in the current game for any change to occur.

Cheating is universal (not that this excuses Armstrong)

WHEN the Australia dollar shoots past the greenback, it enables people to buy goods that they previously avoided due to the cost.

On the internet, for the most part, the outlets keep to this rate, or at least stay close to it.

But on the ground, this does not always work out. In other words, exchange houses will not give you what you are supposed to get.

Recently I bought 500 American dollars at a Travelex outlet. That day the Australian dollar was buying $1.02 American dollars. Yet I had to pay $509 Australian to get those 500 US dollars.


Wait till you hear the next bit. While in the US in September, I went to a bank and asked them to change $500 Australian into US dollars. They directed me to the airport, saying that banks in that town, Columbus, Ohio, would not exchange currency.

At the Columbus airport, once again I encountered a Travelex outlet. There was no other exchange house. They gave me $440 US dollars for my $500 Australian. This was on a day when the Australian dollar was buying nearly $US1.03 according to the international exchange rates. Travelex also gave me an official receipt for the sale, which works out to 88 American cents for every Australian dollar.

Cheats again? Or this is part of the American make-up?

I travelled from Florida airport to the Caribe Royale hotel and paid $US55 for a cab. My return, from that hotel to the airport, cost $75.

Cheats all over again?

At Dallas Fort Worth airport I bought a SIM from an outlet. The salesman, an African-American named Joshua Jones, told me that it would be up and running within 15 minutes. I went off to catch my flight.

Nothing happened for the next 45 minutes – I couldn’t get a connection. As my flight was being delayed, I went back to Jones and asked him what had transpired. He gave me another SIM.

Both these SIMS were broken out of their cards. I should have been suspicious. My fault.

The second SIM worked. But it was supposed to provide me 100 free minutes. I had hardly used 30 when the SIm cut out and I could not use it any more without loading on more money.


US voters go one way; Australians are different

GIVEN the fact that the Democrats were returned to power in the recent US elections, there is a tendency for people in Australia to see a similar trend emerging in the electione due Down Under in 2013.

One should be extremely careful when drawing such conclusions.

Those who incline towards the view that the leader of the Coalition, Tony Abbott, will suffer a fate similar to that which befell Mitt Romney, should take into the fact that voting is compulsory in Australia.

That fact tends to change things a great deal.

In the US, certain voting groups tilted President Barack Obama’s way in overwhelming numbers in 2012. For example, 93 per cent of African-Americans who voted, cast their ballots for Obama. In the case of Hispanics, this was in the 70s.

But these percentages are only of those who turned out – the total turnout in the US did not exceed 55 per cent.

Given that other groups – women, young voters – also turned to Obama in larger numbers than to Romney – there is an opinion forming that there are not enough conservative voters in the US to tilt an election the way of the Republican party.

This is an unsupported conclusion. In the case of African-Americans, for example, many analysts have pointed to a possible reason for the bigger-than-usual turnout – they were offended at the way Obama was treated during his first term and the numerous insults that were hurled at him and hence they turned out in larger than usual numbers to vote for him in 2012. They are unlikely to turn out in such numbers every time – and indeed they do not.

But unless the full electorate turns out, one cannot come to any conclusion about the numbers. One cannot say, with any measure of certainty, that one group or the other has insufficient clout to tilt an election the way of their candidate – as people are saying about white, older, conservative voters in the US.

In Australia, voting is compulsory. Or rather, turning up to a poll booth and getting one’s name ticked off is compulsory. One can do what one likes with the ballot paper thereafter and there are a fair number of “donkey” votes every year.

But one can come to conclusions based on a study of the voting trends because all the eligible voters who are on the rolls do vote. There are a few who do not and there are a fair number who are not on the rolls but the fact that a fine has to be paid by those who keep away from the poll tends to make people vote.

To take statistics from the recent US election and try to draw conclusions about Australia has no rational basis at all.