Saturday, June 08, 2002

I was finished for the day, but this piece of crap did vex me so.

Political pygmy-slayer Michael Millett takes a world-view of immigration and detention, and forgets which end of the telescope to look through. There are no reasons why our Prime Minister does anything, except for domestic political gain. It cannot be considered that perhaps, maybe, is it possible, that this might be done because it’s the best thing for the country?

Sovereign government becomes “us against the world”. New restrictions on immigration zones have little “evident justification” and are part of “Fortress Australia”. Millett naturally avoids all that tedious quantification that might give us poor befuddled folk some clue to his idea of what he might accept as justification. Perhaps he could enlighten us? But hey, “voters seem to like it”, ‘cos it’s all in pursuit of “main game - winning domestic elections”.

Is it possible Millett would use this kind of slanted, loaded language in pursuit of another issue, say the Republic? “Today the Australian Republican Movement continued their hardline stand in pursuit of their political goal: to win the referendum”. Not bloody likely.

Our media is told day after day, month after month, that they continuously chase issues that matter more to them than to the voting public, or even to the paper-buying public. Circulation is down, disgust with journalists grows daily, and it’s not hard to see why.


Some musings on tobacco.

As one of libertarian bent, I am naturally inclined to disagree with the anti-smoking brigade. The conventional position is to let people go to hell in their own manner of choosing. The same feeling counts to most currently illegal drugs, including (but not limited to) marijuana, heroin and many hallucinogens. Various caveats apply, depending on which drug we are talking about.

Then I put my taxpayer hat on. I want to people smoking today to sign huge, frightening waivers that preclude them from having any call on my public health dollar. I want yet another special levy put on cigarettes to fund private health insurance for every smoker still extant.

(ASIDE: try this for lively dinner party conversation. Resolved: that welfare recipients be prevented from purchasing and/or consuming tobacco products. Discuss. Hint: make sure the cutlery is out of reach)

DISCLOSURE: I quit smoking in early 1984, age 24. I smoked regularly from age 16, and when I stopped I was a 30 Camels a day man. 18 years on, and it’s still rare for me to go three days without a strong craving for a cigarette. I haven’t had one since 1984, though I do enjoy a cigar 2-3 times a year. I might be wrong, bit I don’t think I’m the only one in the boat.

CONTINUE. My question is this: are we obligated to keep extremely harmful substances out of the hands of the public, when we KNOW the outcomes of consumption? When we know the net effect of smoking in terms of health costs, productivity and lost tax revenue do not make up for the tax revenue collected now. Does personal freedom include the right to knowingly harm yourself, and then expect the public purse to pay for your care?

The immediate response is, and I agree, “Prohibition does not work”. Now I have to point out, for non-Oz readers, that we have very stringent rules about tobacco sales here. It’s illegal to sell cigarettes to under-18’s. There are no vending machines in public places, no advertising in print, television, billboards or point of sale. Australia has achieved one of the lowest rates of smoking in the developed world, and it’s still falling.

So here’s my idea: progressive prohibition. Every year, we raise the age at which it is legal to buy cigarettes. Flag the introduction for say, two years from now, and we take a thirty-year viewpoint. There must be sufficient Federal powers to make it legal. The benefits will come quickly. One of the selling points about tobacco addiction is that it can be conveniently satisfied. There are hundreds of outlets that will sell you cigarettes. Assuming you’re not somewhere in the boonies, then you can usually lay your hands on a smoke inside a half hour. But what if it wasn’t that easy? What if you had to go to a retailer who was prepared to risk heavy fines and possible loss of license for the profit to be made from your pack? Now it’s not convenient.

How many 25 year old smokers will be prepared to risk misdemeanour convictions or fines daily to maintain the habit?

(ASIDE: Is it possible the tobacco companies are funding cancer cure research? Not the causes, just the cure. If they can stay in business until cancer is not such a big deal, they might just fall over the line)

Anyway, that’s my thought for today. For non-Australian readers, I recommend the Action on Smoking and Health site. These guys have achieved very strong results, without government funding. Our past and present governments have resisted funding them since they seem to be bloody effective without it.


Friday, June 07, 2002

UMBERTO ECO AND UR-FASCISM continued part 3 (last I promise)

Here’s the full piece. Read and come back.

11. pacifism is trafficking with the enemy, because life is permanent warfare.

Thus dissent becomes a goal in itself, not as a tool to get anywhere, or further understanding. Questions about strategy are smacked down as “un-Australian”. Questions about questioners are “racist” or lack “compassion”.

12. Ur-Fascism is based upon a selective populism.

Politicians campaign for votes because they are “one of us” (ALP) or because they will govern “for all of us” (Lib). If there is an “us”, then there has to be a “them”. Columnists undermine democratic will by appealing to higher powers, or simply referring to election outcomes as the “so-called mainstream”.

13. Ur-Fascism must be against “rotten” Parliamentary governments

So elections are “stolen”. Voters are just too bloody stupid to see the Truth Revealed, and must be led to the promised land. Failing that, driven there like the sheep they are.

14. Ur-Fascism speaks Newspeak.

So to be a “progressive” means to resist progress. The right to free speech becomes the demand to be agreed with.

If anyone can define irony, I think the alliance of right-wing Islamic fundamentalists, hard left intellectuals and muddle-headed environmentalists, arrayed against the one country that guarantees all of the freedom and wealth to pursue their stated goal of bringing it all down – that would qualify.

UMBERTO ECO AND UR-FASCISM continued

Here’s the full piece. Read and come back.

6. For Ur-Fascism, disagreement is treason.

Try wearing a t-shirt that suggests that maybe Lomborg might possible have a point and maybe we should check those footnotes OWWW! Try breaking party discipline anywhere.

7. Through the fear of difference, Ur-Fascism is racist by nature.

It is racist to hold one racial group to a different standard, higher or lower, than your own. Protecting the poor little darkies from the luxuries you will not surrender is racist.

8. One of the most typical features of historical fascism is the appeal to a frustrated middle class.

The siren voice that “poses the hard questions” without all those tedious alternatives.

9. At the root of Ur-Fascist psychology, there is the obsession with a plot, possible an international one.

There is no conspiracy too loony, no scenario too bizarre, no official not bent on a coverup. Every story is a potential Watergate. We are not the masters of our fate. Evil multinationals plot to poison us all.

10. The followers must feel humiliated by the ostentatious wealth and force of their enemies.

Or, America had it coming. If you are rich, then it is because you made someone else poor. If I am poor/weak/ignorant, it is your fault, not mine. If my ally is a terrorist, it is because you, his enemy, didn’t supply him with a viable alternative to killing civilians.

Found this prophetic piece by Umberto Eco, writing in 1995 about eternal fascism, or Ur-Fascism. In it he gives 14 ways to recognise fascism when it come over the hill. Eco notes that some of these factors are inherently contradictory, but fascist groups are not required to have them all. Read the whole piece and come back to my efforts below.

1. The first feature or Ur-Fascism is the cult of tradition.

We see this in Islamism in its extreme forms. Also in “family values” politicians and demarcation disputes. In all cases what was good enough for Granddad is bloody well going to be good enough for you.

2. Ur-Fascist culture is syncretistic (look it up, I had to), that is, to be made up of different beliefs, but able to tolerate the contradictions.

How can the Greens support higher immigration, and lower population? How does a Liberal Party overrule voluntary euthanasia? Eco says the differing messages taken on board “each contain a sliver of wisdom”.

Naturally, when we are dealing with an assumed primeval truth, there can be “no advancement of learning”. Witness what happened to Bjorn Lomborg. His crime is to do the research in the first place, to question the Truth Revealed. Why does Paul Ehrlich continue to get gigs? Why is Silent Spring considered sacred text, when nearly everything Rachel Carson predicted hasn’t come to pass?

3. Traditionalism implies the rejection of modernity.

Bin Laden has made it clear he will have no truck with new-fangled ideas like equal rites for women. Guns good, movies bad. Australian conservationists denounce genetic research into reviving extinct species. What greater purpose could a scientist aspire to, in the eyes of a true environmentalist, than to save what was thought permanently lost?

4. Fascism can be defined as irrationalism, and this requires the cult of
5. action for action’s sake.

Bomb something, protest anything, support anyone, believe anything, as long as it is a move away from the mainstream. Being a “progressive” requires progress, even if it is in reverse. Mainstream culture is to be avoided as it requires thinking, which requires discrimination and critical thinking. When someone cannot distinguish between cruise missiles, and planeloads of screaming passengers, then discriminating thought has troughed out.

More to come.



Gaaaaaahhhh! Sick!

Wednesday, June 05, 2002

Browsing through Matthew Bates' recent thoughts. He takes our dark lord and master to task over criticisms of Media Watch, attributing the high rate of commercial mentions on the show to the plausible reason that there are three commercial networks. Yes, but the ABC operates in every market in the country and pumps out a lot more news and current affairs than any of the commercials.

Unlike Matthew, Blair remembered to point up the serious difference in Fairfax v News criticisms.

One last point: if Marr was planning on doing his job properly, why would ABC and Fairfax journalists feel comfortable going to his house to watch the first screening?

Though I will agree with Matthew about one thing: Kevin Rudd is a dickhead.

The idea of this guy representing my country to the world is not one that fills me with warm thoughts. I mean take a look at him; some people are born to be secret policemen.
More links added to the side, more to come.

One that might be out of line with the usual "kill them all, God will know his own" rhetoric, is the Global Ideas Bank. It's a collection of what contributors, and the editors, think are good ideas for life and governance, but are unable, unwilling or too incoherent to take to the polity. Big chunks of it reflect the ideology you would expect from anybody with enough free time to set the thing up, but about 40% is interesting.

My personal favourite is the DIY political spectrum analyser. This handy all-in-one tool is a start at getting us past the present outdated terminology. Print the thing out, and take the test. I tried it on some close friends, and I would say the results were the equivalent to a political version of Scruples. Send me the fallout.

Let's face it. The traditional left-right system is even less applicable now than in 1776. The practice is so debased that hard-line communists can become right-wing, while barking mad dictators are considered left.

More to come.
Now this is priceless. The UK Telegraph has calculated that the 60,000 attendees at the Earth Summit in Johannesburg will produce 500,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, or as much as 500,000 ordinary Africans would in a year.

Is anyone going to try and tell me that they couldn’t have done most of it by teleconferencing? But of course, that would reduce the amount of five-star schmoozing available.

Why call it an "Earth" summit? Are they considering holding it somewhere else? Perhaps at the bottom of the garden.

Tuesday, June 04, 2002

CARMEN'S LAW: Whoever uses "witch hunt " most often is the one
with the most to hide .

Contributions welcome.

Monday, June 03, 2002

O frabjous day! The dark gods are quieted for now. (Let's hope the neighbours didn't count the kittens)

I finally got the links working! Please try them. For Pity's sake.
Have we finally reached respectability, or is a new blogging course the beginning of the end? Via the Daily Pundit.

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