Wednesday, August 07, 2002

YOU WOULDN'T WANT TO GET AN UGLY ONE, WOULD YOU?

If you think you know what this story is referring to without clicking, you're probably right.

More from the New Republic.

Having read Greg Easterbrook's A Moment On The Earth, I can say that he is one of the most persuasive, rational writers on the environment I have ever read. The shame of it is that he didn't get the recognition that went to Lomborg, even though he was ahead of Lomborg by about five years.

In The New Republic, Easterbrook makes a good case for foreign aid.
The realistic benchmark is whether international assistance has made the world better than it would otherwise have been. And by that standard, foreign aid has not only been a success; it has been a triumph.

There is more optimism: a doubling since 1974 of the number of people living in multiparty democracies; doubling since 1975 of the number of people living in reasonable conditions; global literacy at 73 per cent, up from 40 per cent in 1970.

Easterbrook also makes some useful comparisons between the Third World and the rest, to give some perspective on the pace and spread of development.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, average life expectancy in the United States was 47 years; today it is 66 years--for the world.

It took about 150 years, from 1800 to 1950, for typical European life expectancy to advance from four decades to six. In most of the developing world, it has taken just 40 years, from 1930 to 1970. Helping most of the world achieve, in 40 years, the life-span improvement that took Europe 150 years is a spectacular achievement--partly attributable to the advent of antibiotics and partly to international aid.

He goes on to express his disgust at the way in which:
Anti-globalizers romanticize farming with animal-drawn plows as "appropriate," but most wouldn't last a day at the dehumanizing toil this form of existence imposes and rewards only with meager survival.

Easterbrook has maintained his anger about antiglobalisers who block projects in the developing world that fail to meet
the left's shaky definition of "sustainability," which more or less translates as no fossil fuels, no built structures, and no packaging. Indeed, foisting this standard on the developing world is a formula for keeping living standards low

I agree with his amazement that the broad left will support the banning of hydro-electric dams, not only for electricity and the wealth it brings.
Not only do nearly all developing nations need more electricity generation to improve living standards--India currently has 6 percent as much electric power per capita as the United States--but to improve human health. The number of children in developing nations who die each year from respiratory diseases caused by indoor air pollution, mainly from indoor fires for cooking and heating, exceeds the number of Americans of all ages who die of all causes. Anti-globalizers oppose the dams, power plants, water reservoirs, and other big aid-backed projects that could change that, and their views have gained surprising influence among the Western donor institutions that now live in terror of PC criticism.

In my not-so-humble opinion, the crunch for the green left will come when they are seen around the world preventing the export of GM crops to developing countries, for no reason other than scare ones (we don't know everything, so do nothing). Without a proven, or even quantifiable risk, they will show themselves as more interested in holding political positions, than delivering real benefits now.

The New Republic has a short sharp article that details the reasons to go to war.

Weapons of mass destruction: The CIA believes Hussein to possess 2,650 gallons of anthrax; Hamza testified that credible German intelligence indicates he already has enough uranium for three nuclear weapons by 2005. Thus, the argument: We must go to war to destroy the lunatic's existing arsenal.
Inspections: A related rationale holds that Saddam's decision to remove UNSCOM inspectors ("We will fool them and we will bribe them," he had reportedly said previously) in 1998 proves an unacceptable willingness to flout international will--specifically, Security Council Resolution 687, which made the end of containment hinge on the destruction of Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.
The ceasefire: Yet another related contention stipulates that we're already at war with Iraq, since Hussein violated the terms of the ceasefire that ended the Gulf War.
Al Qaeda: The final case frames the war against Saddam within the context of the war on terror, citing the dangers of Hussein cooperating with Al Qaeda fanatics or other terrorists who seek our destruction. Just as the United States destroyed one regime that gave succor to terrorists, so it must with another.

Read the entire thing, and you will find they dismiss three of the four, but the remaining one makes the attack necessary.

NO, THOSE ARE YOUR OPPONENTS. THE ENEMY IS BEHIND YOU.

Am I worried or surprised at this analysis of ALP infighting by Brad Norington? Not in the least.

The more ascendant the Left becomes, the more unelectable the ALP is. Imagine Anthony Albanese as Shadow Treasurer. Or Senator Kim "il" Carr as Foreign Minister. Victorians have long memories, and will not elect a Federal Government run by the people that brought them Joan Kirner.

Tuesday, August 06, 2002

I’m too tired for much new content tonight, but here’s a few bits and pieces I have been reading:
Professor Bunyip gives me reasons to buy magazines again, particularly those with sharp edges.

Jason Soon and Tim Blair beat up on an actor who is trying to make hay from having a familiar name. Kind of like those weird lookalike agencies. Creepy.

Gareth Parker praises Peter Walsh for his visceral loathing of greenies, and spends a moment to knee-drop Ian Macphee for his mopey views on immigration. Thanks are due to him for pointing out the implications of this
Surely it is time to abandon the legal mantra and adopt humanity.

And this from a Minister of the Crown. From a Red Guard, I would expect it.

On the international scene, Stephen Den Beste makes a good fist of explaining what the Bush Doctrine is, and how to recognise the straw men thrown against it.
In usual form, Phillip Adams tries to make a statement by asking questions about differences between members of the human race.
MALE vs female. Straight vs gay. Young vs old. Serb vs Croat. Haves vs have-nots. East vs West


How do I loathe thee? Let me count more ways we can be defined, differentiated, turned into enemies.


Class vs class. Caste vs caste. Sacred vs secular. Science vs religion. Church vs state. Right to life vs pro-choice. Tabloid vs broadsheet. Beta vs VHS. Jones vs Laws. Conservative vs progressive. Workers vs management. Capitalism vs communism. Good vs bad


Problem for Adams is, he is them. He’s rich, white, upper class, capitalist, conservative, straight, broadsheet. He makes his living doing the bidding of a billionaire. He moves carefully in wealthy circles, from Paddington to Yarramalong.

How much further to the right can he get?

Monday, August 05, 2002

There are reports that Federal Opposition Leader Simon Crean is facing an internal revolt over his drive to reduce union control in his Party from 60% to 50%. His own internal faction is reported to be organising a "revolt" against the move.

Call me cynical, but I refuse to believe that the Labor Party, which has some of the most skilled political operatives in the country, will deliberately throw the election by insisting on a vote that will cost the Opposition Leader his job.

Unless ….
The entire thing is stage-managed from the get-go to make sure that Crean gets to have a victory, in an internal rule reform that will do little to change policy, but looks hairy-chested to the punters.
Or …
The NSW Right Wing faction has decided that Crean in unelectable, and this is their chance to cripple him, so that one of their own can get the job.

I go for the first option, and predict that there will be a dramatic last-minute compromise that will let Crean look like a winner, regardless of reality.

He needs a win to dent the Prime Minister's popularity at home, and it's obvious that the coming war with Iraq will be very popular at home. That action will be done by this time next year, clearing the decks for Howard's retirement in favour of Treasurer Costello. Crean will be unable to stand against a "generational change", and to step aside in favour of another Labor aristocrat will not help.

So playing at ructions in the union-party relationship makes sense, as it doesn't require any actual policy reform, and the Head Office has enough clout and enough Byzantine rules to get around anything the State branches can throw at them.

Sunday, August 04, 2002

Take a look at Shannon Davies for an example of why Australian unions consider Freedon of Association to be a one-way street.

Saturday, August 03, 2002

WHAT TO DO, WHAT TO DO.

Last week, former Indian High Court Judge, and now UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Justice Prafullachandra Bhagwati released his report into the detention of people who arrive in Australia without authorisation. We are no longer able to call them “illegal immigrants”. They are not refugees, since there are no refugees in detention in Australia. Some are asylum seekers, but most have exhausted all avenues of appeal, and are awaiting deportation.

I’ll go out on a limb here, and venture that the good Judge is a volunteer in his current occupation, and he gets a reasonable amount of autonomy in his choice of assignment. That is, I’m confident he chose this task over any others that might have been brought to his attention, and it’s safe to assume he thought his time was better spent pursuing the Australian Government, ahead of any other country he could have chosen.

Justice Bhagwati spent 12 days “in country”, although he only managed to spend about four or five hours in contact with actual detainees. The rest of his time was occupied in speaking with activist groups, pressure groups, church groups, and the occasional Minister of the Crown. Taking into account travel time, report writing, initial research and meetings, we would not be far wrong to assume this matter has taken him a good working month to complete.

So here’s my question: might there have been a better use of his time? If he is concerned about child welfare, he might have looked at Child slavery in Togo. Or he could have spent a month helping theInternational Labour Organisation, who could have used his help, since they believe 250, 000, 000 children in the world are forced to work to survive. (for those without a calculator handy, that’s 2,500,000 times as many children in detention centres in Australia, none of whom are forced to work)

With a bit of a stretch, the Judge might have switched his trip to Cambodia Cambodia, to investigate child prostitution or to South Africa for ritual child murders (possible up to 300 so far, that’s about three times the number of children in detention here, none of whom have been murdered).

A month’s work in South Africa might have been appreciated, where a combination of ignorance and cultural misogyny has led to over 21,000 child rapes per year, as HIV-infected men attempt to cure themselves (that’s 210 times … you get the picture). Head north a few hundred miles, he might have dropped in on Malawi, where corruption has exacerbated the famine, and caused donor countries to cut aid. With a bit of help from his staff, I’m sure Justice Bhagwati would have been able to find some children there who could have been helped.

One phone call and he might have gotten directions to one of the thirty countries currently using an estimated 300,000 child soldiers.

Instead, Bhagwati thought his time was better spent here, telling a democratic country what it can and can’t do in pursuit of its border protection. A country with an acknowledged leadership in human rights, where race or religious crime is a virtual unknown, despite over one quarter of the population being born overseas.

I can’t imagine the local Australian Refugee Liberation Army keeping quiet if an Australian judge went to, say, France, and ripped into them for their detention policies. So why should we listen to a judge from a country where 5000 women die each year because their parents didn’t stump up enough dowry, where child marriage is common, and where Human Rights Watch estimate child labour at between 65,000,000 and 115,000,000. My calculator is starting to smoke, but I think you get my point.



For more rantings on Hugh Mackay, tool on over to Whacking Day, where you can also learn about Zen and the Art of Penspinning. I kid you not.
Will some kind person tell Hugh Mackay to shut up and go away? For a man who makes his living by being in touch with community thinking, he must be either not reading his own reports, creating his assumptions from whole cloth, or wilfully distorting what he’s hearing in his precious focus groups.

He tries to get this old nag to gallop
Exactly one year ago, the Howard Government was on the ropes, having been mugged by voters' resistance to the GST and by the hostility of business to the complexity of its implementation. Howard was beginning to look like a liability.

A quick check of Newspoll
for July 27-29 2001, the most reliable poll extant exactly one year ago, shows Prime Minister John Howard’s Coalition leading the Opposition 43 to 39, and Howard with a 7 point lead as preferred Prime Minister. In March, the Opposition was ahead by 12 points. So Mackay’s man “on the ropes” and looking like a liability had managed a 14 point turnaround in four months. Mackay is not indulging in a spot of distortion, this is simple untruth.

Then there’s the trick of linking two conclusions together without a shred of evidence
He is widely and extravagantly praised for three qualities that have always been seen as characteristic of him, but are now cited as veritable virtues: toughness, persistence and political cleverness.
Let's be clear what this is about. Bombarded with propaganda about a "crisis" involving a potential flood of illegal immigrants from Afghanistan - most of them Muslims and some of them possibly even terrorists - voters have rallied behind Howard and his Immigration Minister, Philip Ruddock.

Toughness, persistence and political cleverness. He could be describing Paul Keating. Back at Newspoll, we see that by 5-7 October, Howard had indeed surged ahead in the “decisive and strong” polling. He was also leading strongly in understanding the major issues, and having a vision for Australia. Yes, that “vision thing”, Hughboy. Oddly enough, for a politician Mackay decries as populist and tapping in to base racism, Howard was losing on “in touch with voters”, “likeable” and “cares for people”.

But here’s the one that Mackay really doesn’t want to know about. By 5-7 October, Howard was ahead as “best able to handle the economy" 58 to 23. A 35 point spread. And under “best able to handle national security”, he had it 56 to 24. And this in a time when terrorist attacks on Australian soil were a very real possibility, and against an opponent who was a former Defence Minister.
So the surge of support for Howard … has been based firmly on his Government's handling of the detention of asylum seekers and its almost hysterical emphasis on border protection. If you've been puzzled about this, simply replace "border" with "Howard" in the phrase "border protection", and it all makes sense.

Certainly not on any of those side issues like 6% home loans, falling unemployment, support for popular allies and the failure of the GST to cause Sydney to slide into the sea. No, it’s all based on racism, fear and “hysterical emphasis on border protection”.

I wonder if Mackay would have written the same article had the ALP won the election. Given that the then Leader of the Opposition proudly stated that there was only a “cigarette paper’s difference” between his party and Howard's on border protection. Try this: simply replace “Beazley” with “Howard” in Mackay’s piece, and you’ll know if it’s likely. Or even possible.

[people] might prefer a little more inspiration, vision and statesmanship, but, in a crisis, they'll settle for toughness.

As Newspoll shows, voters think Howard delivers all three.

He limps toward the end, with more rubbish
The dark side of the present situation is that by engaging in the politics of fear - blatantly manipulating propaganda about asylum seekers to dehumanise them and heighten our hostility towards them - Howard and his colleagues have given us permission to sink to new depths of intolerance and prejudice. When we are encouraged to pillory the refugee, other prejudices are also unleashed: anti-Asian, anti-immigration, anti-Muslim, anti-Aborigine

In Mackay’s universe, a Government can be simultaneously anti-immigration, and have the highest immigration intake in a decade. It can be anti-Muslim, and see huge swings towards them in strong Muslim seats. The country can sink to new depths, and still rank in the top five places to live in the world.

Why won’t he just shut up?
We'll ultimately feel worse about ourselves as a result of all this because we are denying expression to some of the most noble values that lie within our culture. Yes, the rehabilitation of Howard has been achieved, but have we paid too high a price for it?

No examples, no ideas, no solutions. Just carping and cant from an aging whiner who has forgotten that old-style journalists who assume their readers can't fact-check their arse are in for a rude shock.

Just Go Away Hugh.

Jason Soon has produced the phrase of the week, in his look at Taliban Dundee David Hicks, currently enjoying US hospitality at Guantanamo Bay. Surprisingly, Jason opts for capital punishment for treason.

I am not a supporter of capital punishment, but my resistance does not stem from a belief that the state should have no right to take life. Rest assured, I would have no personal qualms about executing anyone who raped or murdered me and mine. And I might not wait for state sanction, either.

However, I have to say that as a punishment for treason, capital punishment is not suited, at least for civilians. It is reasonable to assume that virtually all civilian treason is motivated by ideology or money. In the case of money, the fear is not punishment, but poverty as defined by the traitor. For ideologues, death in battle may be a positive. In a mindset that defines martyrdom as the key to never-ending carnal delights, the gas chamber becomes their version of the pearly gates.

Far better for both to be placed in isolation, prevented from mixing with other prisoners, and kept under 24/7 surveillance for the rest of the natural days. Ensure that their sentences can never be overturned without legislation, and leave them to die in jail.

Given the endless stream of woolly-headed lawyers lining up to defend these swine, why add to the bill. Try them for treason, and make sure the sentence means: die in jail; you’re not worth the effort of killing.

ASIDE: One thought has occurred to me with regard to Hicks and his apparent brother in arms, Mamdouh Habib.

There is a very vocal industry in Australia devoted to telling us that the Taliban are not whipped yet, and that Afghans should not be forced, or even enticed, to return home.

Why are none of these people raising a stink about the possibility of a couple of for-real Taliban getting sprung from Gitmo Bay and showing up in Australia to harrass the existing Afghan refugees?

Friday, August 02, 2002

I was going to tear this moron a new one, but the Forces Of All That Is Good have got there ahead of me.

Gareth Parker asks
how did such a "quality" paper allow such a logic-avoiding piece to be published in the first place?

Damn good question Gareth. Did anyone see these articles when the ALP brought in mandatory detention, sold more assets, and instituted enterprise bargaining?

Tim Blair conducts a forensic takedown, including
PC nancy boy


But for real fury, you can't go past Whacking Day.
Tex is not content with running the silly bastard over. He uses a four wheel drive (in the city!), backs over him a few times, and then sools the dog onto what's left.
It's the argument of people who cannot accept that the Australian population are a peaceful, rational people who are capable of making their own choices or forming their own ideas without having been brainwashed by the Big Evil Conspiracy of The Right.
It's the argument of people who - despite their shrill protestations - have a deep contempt for the stupid, unenlightened masses who refuse to accept "correct thinking".

Bloody brilliant Tex.

Watching the News Hour with Jim Lehrer last night. Kind of a soothing balm against Nightline and Phillip Adams. One of their interviewees raised a salient point: We are not talking about starting a war with Iraq. The war has never ended, and is underway as we speak. American and Australian forces work together to enforce UN sanctions against the Butcher of Baghdad.

ASIDE: can you even imagine what kind of a loony-tune you have to be to get the title of butcher in that part of the world?

What is being foreshadowed is an escalation of existing hostilities. Every day US planes enforce the Kurds safe haven by shooting and bombing Iraqi installations. Every day Iraq violates UN Security Council resolutions on weapons inspections. Iraq has provided all the reasons necessary to escalate the war, and enforce the UN wishes.

Suspected Taliban fighter David Hicks will remain in Gitmo Bay for the time being.

GOOD!

Get a grip, civil libertarians! This guy volunteered to fight for one of the most evil, repressive, misogynistic, bloodthirsty regimes that the world has seen. He supported a government that sheltered terrorists, blew up ancient statues, exported heroin, conducted public executions, created famines, murdered gays, starved women and children, razed villages.

Do you get it yet? There is no way that Hicks was not aware of most, if not all of the crimes of the Taliban. And he went. The bastard payed his own way! He's a volunteer! Would anyone be squealing this loud if he had been captured fighting for the Serbs in Kosovo?

I can tell you, I'm glad my government is leaving him in Cuba. And when the Americans are done with him, I want the mad bastard sent back to Afghanistan to be dealt with. I do not want people like that here. You do not want people like that here. And especially, the moderate muslim community better recognise that they will be better off if thugs like Hicks are kept out.

Thursday, August 01, 2002

Tom Friedman in the New York Times put an interesting case about what will happen to world oil prices after kick off in the war against Iraq.
That would mean Iraq would be able to modernize all its oilfields, attract foreign investment and in short order ramp up its oil production to its long-sought capacity of five million barrels a day. That is at least three million barrels of oil a day more on the world market, and Iraq, which will be desperate for cash to rebuild, is not likely to restrain itself. (Now you understand why Saudi Arabia, Iran and Kuwait all have an economic interest in Saddam's staying in power and Iraq's remaining a pariah state, so it can't produce more oil.)

Most interesting analysis. I've been getting desperate for actual analysis of the situation that didn't start from the Bush-is-Satan-incarnate bus depot.

Friedman concludes with this wide-ranging prediction

Bottom line: A quick victory that brings Iraq fully back into the oil market could lead to a sharp fall in oil incomes throughout OPEC that could seriously weaken the oil cartel and rob its many autocratic regimes of the income they need to maintain their closed political systems. In fact, give me sustained $10-a-barrel oil and I'll give you revolutions from Iran to Saudi Arabia, and throw in Venezuela.
If that scenario prevails, you could look at an invasion of Iraq as a possible two-for-one sale: destroy Saddam and destabilize OPEC at the same time. Buy one, get one free. But you better prepare for the consequences of both.

I like it!

MAN OF STEEL, WOMAN OF KLEENEX

This is a post of a Larry Niven vignette about why Superman can't get lucky.

Thanks to Silflay Hraka for the heads-up.

I do enjoy reading James Morrow, and it's good to see him back on the job. Listen to his assessment of Telstra service levels
staffers whose work ethic and productivity makes Margo "100 Words a Day" Kingston look like a book-a-month airport novelist,

Niiice.

SPORTS I'D PAY TO SEE

In the Winter Olympics they have a bizarre event called (I think) the heptathlon. Cross country skiiers tool around on a circular course, stop and fire rifles at targets.

What say we combine this, with the downhill slalom events? Ski around the circle, stop, and fire at the slalom competitors. This will improve the aim of the rflemen, and you know we're going to see some improved times in the slalom.
Three dingbats, no waiting, thanks to the perfectly-formed Imre Salusinksy.

And while we're at or near the subject, can we have an end to letter-column guff about Meg Lees betraying her party by passing the GST? The Democrats went to the 1998 election on the specific policy of holding the elected Government to their promises. At no point did the Democrats say they would block the GST. They modified it, botched it, made it more complicated and harder to collect. Isn't that enough?

Margot Kingston must be secretly overjoyed that the Children Overboard inquiry has closed, without hearing all evidence from all players, and spent huge sums of taxpayers money on High Court challenges. Had the inquiry ground its way to the end, and heard all the tiresome bureaucrats tell their gobbledegook, then it's likely that the outcome would not have been clear enough.

But this way, no-one can say for sure what would have come out. And if you're in the conspiracy business, then it just won't do to have endings and conclusions. After all, there's always the danger that it might not go your way.

Simple facts are often better to rely on, and political motives are good barometers. The Opposition was terrified of setting a precedent that would allow the Senate to call Ministerial staffers to give evidence. Flat out terrified. Not to mention the idea that retired Ministers might have to front up. Does the ALP want Graham Richardson to have an excuse to talk? Under oath for God's sake?

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