#syria

Why the WEF’s 2020 gender gap report rankings are utterly meaningless

The most glaringly obvious anomaly in the World Economic Forum’s (WEF)’s 2020 Gender Gap report is that Syrian women are supposedly luckier to have a higher health and survival ‘gender gap’ score even though they live 15 years shorter than Aussie women. Go figure?!?

Await the media parroting headlines based on the WEF’s executive summary of the latest 371-page 2020 report on gender equality without any context. Australia slipped in the rankings, so don’t be surprised to see our media slam us without analysing the data behind the claims. Because within the data, it is marginal. Moreover, the basis of the data collection is frankly ridiculous.

We should remind ourselves that the WEF is an organisation that prides itself on rank hypocrisy. It wasn’t so long ago that 1,500 private jets landed in Davos to debate the number one concern at the WEF conference – climate change. As there is no airport at Davos, some took helicopters from Zurich Airport to the summit.

The WEF believes that the economic gender gap will take 257 years to close, up from 202 years in 2018. Technological change is driving a disproportionate effect, with women more highly represented in roles hit hardest by AI (e.g. retail). What’s more, not enough women are entering professions where wage growth is fastest. It is most likely the old white male patriarchy that forced women to go into retail rather than of their own volition.

It would be all too easy to chastise Australia for falling from 39th to 44th position, but the reality is that we improved our overall score versus 2018. Before the luvvies lavish praise on New Zealand, which climbed two places to 6th but saw its aggregate score decline, Australia is only 8.5% below NZ. So is that worth beating ourselves up for?

In the subcategory of Economic Participation and Opportunity, Australia ranks 49th vs NZ at 27th. Even though there is only a 4% difference. Liberal heads will explode to know that Trump’s America ranks above NZ.

In terms of educational attainment, Australia ranks =1st, despite the quality of our education system leaving much to be desired. Although it is a bit disingenuous as 38 countries are equal first. We just happen to benefit from alphabetical ordering.

Australia ranks 104th in health & survival but it is less than 1% difference to the 39 first placed countries (which include Angola and Syria). Although if we take Syria as a reference market, the average healthy life expectancy for women is 59.5 years vs 52.5 for men meaning that the gender gap helps score the war-torn country higher than Australia. Australia is 74.1 and 71.3 years respectively. Still,  FNF Media is sure Syrian men and women would gladly trade places with Australians even if, in this instance, the gender gap narrowed on this metric.

Note that even last placed China is less than 4% off the top spot in the health and survival gender gap subcategory. Precious little insight.

Political empowerment is where Australia gets smashed with a paltry rank of 57th. Presumably, if Australia had more female politicians then perhaps our rank would catapult. Should the voting public be admonished if Dr Keryn Phelps was beaten by Dave Sharma? Do voters select candidates on ability or genitalia?

Of interest, all one need do is a simple weighted average of the four subcategories to come up with the aggregated ranking scores provided by WEF.

If we stripped out political empowerment, Australia is within 1% of NZ and 4% of where #1 ranked Iceland is. Hardly anything to feel triggered by. Our score would be 0.898 vs the 0.731 awarded. NZ would be 90.8% vs 0.799 awarded. Iceland would be 93.5% vs 87.7%. Why haven’t the media done their homework?

In short, the supposed gap WEF thinks will take 99.5 years to close won’t be anything near that for Australia.

Which stands to reason, shouldn’t some categories be weighted higher than others in terms of closing a gender gap? Surely women in one part of the world might rank economic participation at 50% as opposed to 25%. Given health is so close across 153 countries measured, is it worth ditching that as a metric?

Between countries, maybe Zambian women place 100% emphasis in their struggle on economic wellbeing but Icelandic women 100% on political empowerment. If that was so, Zambian women would rank 0.831 vs Icelandic women at 0.701. The most value that could be added by the WEF would be to ask women in each country what was important to them. That way we wouldn’t have to standardise rules and regulations. Because this report effectively says that we should all aspire to be Iceland even if ambitious women in Botswana don’t wish to seek a career in politics.

The WEF concluded the 371-page report with,

The Global Gender Gap Report 2020 provides a comprehensive overview of the current state of the global gender gap and of efforts and insights to close it. The index offers a benchmarking tool to track progress and to reveal best practices across countries and subjects. This year the report finds that the gender gap has closed slightly since last year, yet it will still require 99.5 years to achieve full parity at the current pace.”

Unfortunately if one flips through to the country profiles, there are so many statistical gaps in certain categories making meaningful comparisons even more meaningless than they already are.

Therein lies the fatal flaw in this doorstopper. Data can be used in ways to paint a picture. It is so easy to put Australia in a negative light but in most metrics, while our rank may have fallen our raw scores have improved. But don’t be surprised if the media just tells you how bad we are. Narratives are easy to draw from a document that proves the adage of “garbage in, garbage out!” Yet don’t be surprised to see politicians making hay over the findings, if we can even call them that!

Completely despicable

Another reason to like Rep Tulsi Gabbard, although she is nowhere in the polls despite her straight talking. If there was a Democratic Party candidate that even marginal Republicans could lean toward she is it.

CNN moderator Anderson Cooper asked what Gabbard thought of Trump’s withdrawal from Syria. The answer he got was a little more pointed than he expected.

Gabbard said,

Well, first of all, we’ve got to understand the reality of the situation there, which is that the slaughter of the Kurds being done by Turkey is yet another negative consequence of the regime change war that we’ve been waging in Syria…

…Donald Trump has the blood of the Kurds on his hand, but so do many of the politicians in our country from both parties who have supported this ongoing regime change war in Syria that started in 2011 — along with many in the mainstream media who have been championing and cheerleading this regime change war…”

…now she gets really serious…

“…The New York Times and CNN have also smeared veterans like myself for calling for an end to this regime change war…Just two days ago, The New York Times put out an article saying that I’m a Russian asset and an Assad apologist, and all these different smears. This morning, a CNN commentator said on national television that I’m an asset of Russia. Completely despicable.”

Iran & the media vs Trump

So Iran has yanked the chain of the British. While a British ship prevented an Iranian tanker headed to Syria from reaching its destination in violation of sanctions, the Iranians returned the favour, albeit without legal pretense.

It is easy for Iran to take advantage of the political malaise in Britain but it would be unwise to risk antagonizing Trump beyond this because there will be no red lines with invisible ink unlike his predecessor.

To Iran’s benefit is the Trump hating media. No doubt they’ll make much noise saying that the ayatollahs are paragons of peace and defenseless against American might. If a saber is rattled then it’s nothing more than chest beating and Trump will only look to whack a ‘shithole’ country to please his base.

Pretend for a second it was Obama. If an ally had a civilian ship boarded by armed Iranian Revolutionary Guard troops in violation of international law, would we protest if Obama stood up and warned Iran to step off or face military intervention? The media would embrace it.

Iran is itching to push Trump’s resolve. It’s deep involvement in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq is not lost on anyone with their eyes open. This proxy war has been ongoing for decades.

Don’t be surprised if the Russians start shipping some more S-400 Triumf SAM systems to Iran in order to level the playing field a bit. The Iranians already have the upgraded P-270 Moskits and P-800 Oniks anti ship missiles. If you see America attack Iran, these batteries will be first on this list to be take out as they are virtually unstoppable once launched. Can one imagine the implications of a US carrier sunk in the Gulf? That would cause a massive reprisal which would move this beyond a skirmish. Buy Gold.

Don’t forget Iran is Rosoborenexport’s second largest export client. That will be proper collusion, not the nonsense dreamed up by the Dems at election time which even if true would wilt in the shadow of Google’s meddling.

This has the potential to turn very ugly. It all rests on Iran’s shoulders. It’s not the Iranian people who are a problem. It’s the regime.

Israel trolls Iran

The Iranian Air Force Chief threatened to “eliminate Israel from earth” after the Israeli Air Force bombed Syrian based Iranian installations. This is how the IDF responded on Twitter to the threat.

Do arms suppliers have a moral compass?

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40 murdered children in Yemen.  The Saudi logic behind the attack was that the Houthi rebels were training these kids as soldiers. A far-fetched claim. Yet where has the condemnation of Saudi’s role on the UN Human Rights Council been? Countless civilian deaths in Yemen at the hands of the Saudi military are nothing new. Where was the outrage then? The decades long proxy war has only accelerated since the assassination of former Yemeni dictator President Ali Abdullah Saleh in December 2017.

CNN looked to put the blame of this latest tragedy at the feet of US defence companies. Surely the Europeans are just as blameworthy for selling the Tornado or Eurofighter aircraft that likely dropped the American ordinance on these kids? Mattis has openly criticized the Saudi attack in this instance.

Arms deals are a dirty business. Let’s not pretend otherwise. Unfortunately these dangerous toys rarely come with a “please use responsibly” section inside the box of instructions. Some might argue that in certain cases users are not of the appropriate age bracket to play with them. Bribery scandals (aka incentives) are often more notable than the weapons deals themselves. Yet have there been incidences of arms suppliers turning down multi-billion dollar contracts?

If we go back in history, the Americans refused to release the source codes to the Saudis in a potential multi-billion dollar US jet fighter sale that would have allowed certain weapons (the US weren’t prepared to supply) to be fired. Even if the Saudis bought the US jets and sourced the banned weapons on the black market they wouldn’t be able to be fired.  Instead the Saudi’s bought the Panavia Tornado because the Europeans were happy to sell a similarly capable platform that the US refused to sell. UK defence contractor BAE Systems won a long term maintenance contract known as Al-Yamamah as a result of this Tornado deal. Why not bash the Brits for taking advantage of the US putting regional security ahead of arms sales in Saudi Arabia?

Perhaps we could question the moral fibre of the US refusing to sell the F-22 Raptor attack fighter to the Japanese. The Japanese top brass pleaded for the plane but US Congress refused to approve it claiming the billions required to redo all of the computer systems and source codes to ensure it had a lower capability than the USAF plane. The reality was more likely to prevent a leakage of its capability (something that had occurred when the Japanese ordered Aegis destroyers). The result was Japan didn’t get them even given its peaceful history post WW2.

Should we bash the Russians for supplying military hardware has been behind the deaths of over 100,000 Syrians? Or Ford for making the car that ran down people in Westminster?Or should we question the operators of these tools?

If we really want to get petty the Paveway Mk-82 bombs responsible for killing these kids were sold to the Saudi’s in a deal made in 2013 under the Obama administration. Was it Obama’s fault in allowing the sale? CM doesn’t believe he is but interesting that CNN left the period of sale out. Easier to attack the $110bn arms sales going forwards.

40 dead children is a tragedy. Arms deals are far from if ever holy. The instruments of death are sadly not always deploy in manners which are either moral or ethical. The Iranian backed Houthi almost sunk a French made Saudi frigate in the Red Sea at the beginning of last year. Several Emirati patrol boats have been severely damaged by the Houthi in the same area, the most recent incident occurring  last month. There are countless skirmishes along the Yemeni/Saudi border.

Unfortunately the Saudis and several other gulf states are key allies of the US in the proxy war against Iran/Russia. Do not expect a wholesale change in US arms deals with Saudi Arabia for the foreseeable future.

In closing perhaps people might question China’s new interest in the Middle East? Many may have missed it has deployed 5,000 troops (including special forces) in Syria since 2017. Geopolitics seldom look to protect the rights of anyone other than the home side. Don’t pretend it does otherwise.

Putin’s puppet?

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Not surprising from Rasmussen overnight:

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 65% of Likely Democratic Voters believe critics of Trump’s recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin truly believe he is a treasonous Russian puppet. Just as many Republicans (67%) disagree and think those critics are only making the charges for political purposes, a view shared by a plurality (47%) of voters not affiliated with either major party.”

Trump’s  unconventional (yet unsurprising) outburst of diplomacy against Iran (if it can be called that) on Twitter in capital letters does dispel this somewhat. To fire a social media salvo at Rosoboronexport’s second largest arms customer (one Russia has sold weapons to Iran  for 98 years) would somewhat dispel that myth of kowtowing to Putin’s every move. 85% of Iran’s military hardware is Russian. Syria is Russia’s #1 export client with the prize being the naval base in the Mediterranean port of Tartus.

In any event both Iran and Syria serve Russia’s ability to interfere with US policy in the Middle East. Israel now claims Iranian Revolutionary Guard soldiers have stepped up from being mere advisors in the Golan Heights to actively fighting. Israel has commenced day raids in Syria such has the threat escalated.

If POTUS is intending  to remove one or two of Putin’s clients (list here) then one suspects the Russian dictator should be pulling Iran’s strings to get them to arm in silence rather than pick a fight with the US.

Perhaps a more apt way to look at this is Trump’s hatred of Obama’s (foreign) policies far outweighs his supposed love of Putin. The evidence for that is not only obvious but entirely factual, backed with empirical evidence.

Israel – myths and realities

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You’ll never understand Israel until you visit it. Almost everything you read in the media is a falsehood. Nadav Tamir, former advisor to the late Prime Minister Shimon Peres, sarcastically quipped this week, “if Moses had possessed GPS there is no way he would have picked Israel as it is the only place in the Middle East without oil.” It might explain why this nation has had to work so hard to be innovative in order to survive. It has no natural resources. It had to invent drip irrigation so it could turn the arid chalky soil into fertile green pastures. Much of the technology inside your smart phone was designed in Israel. Household names Intel, Microsoft and Apple have all established their core R&D centers in the tiny nation state. Israelis are pragmatic and know too well that necessity is the mother of invention. Perhaps the great grandmother might be more apt.

It is perhaps one of the best kept secrets in the world. Sadly also one of the most misreported countries on the planet. Make that the most. Israel wants peace with its neighbors. Yet the mainstream media will not report the fact that Israeli hospitals are treating wounded Syrian troops of Assad as CM writes, The media won’t report that the local Druze population is livid that their fellow Israelis are doing this. Where are the media reporting the fact that hospitals not far from the Gaza Strip are caring for children who can’t get proper access to medical attention because Hamas is only concerned with spending on more rockets and building tunnels using the supplies given to it by the people supposedly oppressing it? Unfortunately the press seem to be stuck in the “if it bleeds, it leads” narrative.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry has launched a program of soft force. PM Benjamin Netanyahu launched a website in Farsi with full details of how to overcome drought gripping Iran through drip irrigation for free. While Iran shouts “Death to Israel”, Israelis shout, “we want to give life to the Iranian people.” Who is the aggressor? The Foreign Ministry is also gaining huge traction with Iraqis with an Arabic Facebook page discussing Iraqi-Jewish history. It launched in May 2018 and has 34,000 followers. Israel believes that the ‘digital embassy’ is an impactful way to get around the hatred often espoused by the regimes.

Then people miss out on news of amazing people like Tanya Oziel,  CEO of the Trans Tasman Business Circle who led a delegation from Australia & NZ to investigate tech fusion in Israel. Tanya, a Sydney based Jew of Iraqi origin, is someone of such passion and foresight that she arranged for AFL legends like Ron Barrassi to come to Israel to train local and Palestinian kids to play a game with a ball they’d never seen in mixed teams. All of a sudden the noise of the two peoples supposedly at each other’s throats was replaced by a sense of common purpose. While some of the Palestinian kids have been pilloried by some quarters in their community they still remain actively engaged with Tanya. They look beyond the hateful rhetoric so often fueled by the media. She has every right to be proud. The idea that this is some sort of jackbooted police state is engaged in apartheid and genocide is patently untrue.

Apartheid is a strange word to be used in an Israeli context. In a tiny country of just under 8 million citizens, the country’s 1.5 million Arabs, whatever challenges they may face enjoy full freedoms, voting rights and serve in the Knesset and the Supreme Court. Ask yourself how many Jews serve in any capacity (much less live) in Egypt, Morocco, Syria, Iraq, Algeria or many other countries? Egypt had 75,000 Jews once upon a time. Algeria 140,000, Iraq 135,000 Jews. Syria 30,000 Jews. Next to none now. Where is the apatheid? Where are their Jews?

Palestine is often a point of deep criticism. At the time of the State of Israel in 1948, 90% of Palestinian Arabs lived in Transjordan. A movement to create a Palestinian state never existed at the time. In fact it wasn’t until 1964 that the PLO was first established at a time the West Bank belonged to Jordan.

What is conveniently forgotten is that of the c.4mn refugees scattered across 60-odd refugee camps, the Palestinians have automatic rights to Jordanian citizenship yet they only covet Israel. Even though 21 Arab nations share a common language, they won’t offer asylum to Palestinian refugees which seems rather calculated. It provides a convenient excuse to maintain hostilities to Israel using the suffering of Palestinians as the bait.

Jordan doesn’t actively push Palestinians to take up citizenship which is their right to do so. While Israel remains an open, democratic and multi-ethnic society the PA has proven itself to be an intolerant, corrupt and self-serving dictatorship which has little interest in serving its constituents as the comptroller of its first ever audit revealed. International aid money lined the pockets of the leaders of the PLO. The French money laundering authorities discovered that Arafat’s wife’s bank account had amassed $3bn over 20 years. It is ironic that most of the original founders of the PLO didn’t live in the Palestinian Mandate when Israel was created. Arafat was born in Egypt. 

How is it that the army of Jordan’s King Hussein murdered thousands of PLO militants in 1970 yet the PLO has never called for the overthrow of the Hashemite monarchy? How is that even with the Oslo peace process coming into effect in 1993 that the PLO carried out 4,000 attacks till 1999. The Israelis so desperate (under Ehud Barak of all people) for peace gave the PLO 95% of their territorial demands yet they still kept up the attacks killing more than 1,000 Israelis, a total exceeding the previous 25 years combined. 

Arafat was presented with an outcome he did not want – peace with the State of Israel. Despite this serious peace offering Arafat accelerated the intifada. These are sad truths.

We need only look at the siege of Masada, the tale of the final revolt of the Jews against the Romans in 73CE. It truly points to the stoic nature we see today. Despite burning the citadel atop Masada and the killing of their families to evade capture, the Jews left the grain and food stores untouched as a way to tell the invaders that they were never at risk of starving but preferred death to being bonded in slavery. It typifies their pride and refusal to submit to persecution.

Jerusalem, the nation’s capitol, holds deep significance as it has been for millennia. CM’s grandfather stood by the Western Wall in 1940. The Jewish people who saw his picture felt a sense of deep gratitude that he helped defend her. The walls were built around the summit of Mount Moriah, where biblically, Abraham offered his son, Isaac, as a sacrifice. In 1948, the Jordanians took control of the wall and it was only in 1967 that Jews were able to pray at the foot of the Temple Mount again. To witness prayers on the Sabbath is something powerful. There is not one whiff of hatred. The chants, songs and prayers resonate throughout the walls. There is nothing but love in what they do. There is no extrapolation of the ancient texts to take extreme measures to murder in the name of their religion.

To witness Judaism, Christianity and Islam in the one city, one can honestly sense and feel similarities than differences. Think of the prophets. Abraham to the Jews was known as Ibrahim to the Muslims. Same for David/Daoud, Mary/Miriam and so on. Indeed if the Jews were as intolerant, racist and deranged as made out surely they would use the pretext to flatten the Al Aqsa mosque built over the Temple Mount ruins and restore it to its former glory.

Modern day history has been tough for Jews. The horrors of the Holocaust are documented at Yad Vashem. Trans Tasman Business Circle leader Johnny Weiss told the tale of how one of the guides showed a series of pictures of supposedly murdered Jews. One of them was his mother who is still alive at the ripe age of 94. What is more amazing is that she cut the guide off to say that “You are wrong. I know that girl is still alive. She is me!” After revealing her tattoo the entire tour group were floored by the revelation. Powerful beyond words. Living history as it were.

So when people wonder why the Jewish state take such measures against those that threaten to “drive them all into the sea” forgive them for doing their best to protect themselves. The last time they did not push back, 6 million died. It has taken 70 years to replenish those stocks. 70 years!

CM could go through the depths of innovation that was the key tenet of this tour. The sheer intelligence of those kids who learn advanced computer coding from age 7. We could discuss a 35 year old university doctor who has over 20 patents to his name but there is so much more to Israel. Its history has forced it to be the most advanced nation on earth. The start up nation is exactly that. When PM Benjamin Netanyahu says “we want your business” at a cyber conference speaking of the $50bn sunk cost in critical cyber infrastructure in the Negev Desert, he means it!

To sum up two weeks in Israel with this simplistic blog doesn’t do it justice. Israel is a proud country. Often brutally direct. Israelis will argue that if you think you’re the smartest in the room then it is time to change rooms. They are confident in their future because they back themselves explicitly. Failure is a good thing. Failing big is even better. Israelis think that experience is a hard teacher: they get the test first and the lesson afterwards. They believe that hard work, persistence and thinking outside the box is what counts. The education ecosystem breeds brilliance. There is no other word for it. This is deeply cultural and exceptionally hard to master.

Perhaps the highlight (there were too many to count) from the trip came on the final day. A photographer at a Tel Aviv flea market showed a picture (above) he took which chronicled a security checkpoint in 1990. The Israeli soldier and Palestinian female look tired of the situation. Things are not like that today. It feels no different to Japan. Not for one second has there been a nervous feeling about personal safety and security. Everyone who visits Israel for the first time will leave with the opposite preconceptions that they came with. It is by no means perfect but name a country that is.

It is with deep regret CM must board a flight tomorrow and leave a country that surprised on pretty much every level. It really is that amazing. Forget what you read in the papers. It is seriously fake news. See it with your own eyes and be prepared to blow your mind. Do it,