Friday, August 16, 2002

Posting will be light today, and until Monday Australian time. Partly due to publishing glitches at Blogger, but mainly due to the fact that The Good Lady Wife has planned a weekend away with the three r's: Rest, Room Service, and Rumpy Pumpy.

Yesterday a judge gave a gang rapist a maximum sentence of 55 years. Do I care if this boyo dies in jail? No. But what I do care about is the impact on future victims. for a detailed economic explanation, see Jason Soon. Put simply, if there is no distinction between punishments, but the lesser crime leaves witnesses that will assist in conviction, the "reward" for not murdering is lessened.

I can't say for sure, but I think there is a fair overlap between people who will claim (rightly) that high welfare payments discourage job seeking, and the group that wants uniform high sentences across the board.

Thursday, August 15, 2002

MILES AND MILES OF BUGGER ALL AND BULLDUST.

An old description of the Outback from one Henry Lawson. I write after reading an article from our very own Russel Coight. (Although it may have been ghost-written by his mate Glenn Robbins)

Coight is the fella we prefer to this idiot when it comes to Outback adventures. In an effort to make sure international readers can appreciate the article, I will translate some of the more esoteric terms:

Drizabone: condom
Yabby: Dingo
Tall poppy syndrome: personal use, all right?
Swag: infection
Coight-Ranger four-wheel-drive: See Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras

I hope this has been of some assistance.

I liked this from the wonderfully-named Assume the Position.

Lynxx Pherrett beats some sense into revisionist history that wants to portray the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki not only unnecessary, but racist. In an interview with Brigadier General Paul Tibbets, Ret., who piloted the Enola Gay and dropped Little Boy on Hiroshima, we learn the interesting news that
My edict was as clear as could be. Drop simultaneously in Europe and the Pacific because of the secrecy problem - you couldn't drop it in one part of the world without dropping it in the other.

and this:
Racism exists, but it wasn't a racist decision to use the atomic bombs on Japan just because they weren't used on Germany. Germany surrendered in May 1945, the first successful atomic bomb test was July 16th, 1945, and Little Boy destroyed Hiroshima about three weeks after that test. If the Manhattan Project had gone faster, atomic bombs might have been dropped on both German and Japanese cities.

Doesn't fit in neatly to the "kill the yellow devils" scenario, does it?

Pherrett carefully explains the difference between conditional and unconditional surrender, the latter being the only acceptable ending to the war started by the Japanese.

Given the possibility of nuclear strike and counter strike against Iraq, historical accuracy is assuming greater importance.

Read the good Professor today, if you read nothing else. But wait until you put the coffee aw&y 3rom the kweweyboard.

Wednesday, August 14, 2002

THAT SINKING FEELING

Must be running rampant through the Refugee Liberation Army, right about now. Having staked their dwindling credibility to one Ali Bakhtiyari, and his claim to asylum because he is an Afghan, they are starting to realise they have been sold a pup.

In today’s Australian newspaper, this story goes to considerable expense to do what the Immigration Department can not reasonably be expected to do for unauthorised arrivals; travel to the boondocks of Afghanistan, and conduct definitive background checks.
The face in the photo is that of Ali Bakhtiyari, perhaps Australia's best-known refugee. But, after hours of questioning dozens of people in Chaper – his alleged birthplace – and in neighbouring Charkh, where he says he was a farmer, Mr Bakhtiyari's identity appears to be as mysterious to the Afghans as it is to immigration officials in Canberra.

Mouthpiece for the Refugee Action Collective, Cyrus Sarang, said the Australian reporters had picked the wrong village. The reporter, John Zubrzycki, told Sydney radio they used UN maps of the highest quality, second only to US military maps. Bakhtiyari himself described and co-operated in locating and identifying the village, and Zubrzycki says there is not another village called Charkh for 150 kilometeres.
Shahristan also is the heartland of the Hazaras, who trace their ancestry back to Ghengis Khan. Being Shia Muslims in a predominantly Sunni Muslim country, they suffered under the Taliban. Thousands were killed and scores of Hazara villages destroyed.
But the remoteness and poverty of Charkh and Chaper saved them from the violence and brutality that was the Taliban's trademark, says Akram, a local Hazara militiaman who uses only one name.
The information appears to contradict Mr Bakhtiyari's claims that he was arrested by the Taliban, detained for three months and forced to do hard labour.

What’s happened here is something the refugee lobby hoped would never come about: someone called the bluff. It is obvious to anyone with more than a toe dipped in reality that the family is a fraud, one of hundreds of people who yearly attempt to gain entry into Australia by deception. He is an economic refugee, using his wealth to travel into Afghanistan so he could learn about the oppressed locals, and then used their suffering to help his family.

They stole a place that could have been used for someone actually in danger. Somewhere there is a family who are not here, who are in genuine need. They are not here because Bakhtiyari took their place. He may as well have tossed them them back into the camps himself.

Having lashed themselves to the Bakhtiyari family, assuming that endless pictures of sloe-eyed children and dramatic embassy dashes would suffice where mere facts and proper law would not, the lobby now finds they are sinking. Quickly.

This story is staggering towards an ending that I will be ambivalent about. On one hand, the spectacle of all the king’s lawyers, and all the king’s lobbyists, trying to hold the line against the steadily rising tide is amusing in a Roman Games kind of way.

But the lobby will have squandered what little credibility they ever had, and there will be many less people prepared to even give them the time of day. Any good they might have been able to do in the future, will now diminished. They have no-one to blame but themselves, because they let their hatred of the Government blind them to facts, even when those facts became obvious to anyone outside the game. But that’s always the way, isn’t it?

The new edition of The New Republic is on line, and contains the usual stiletto analysis. Especially worth reading is this skewering by Peter Beinart of the tendency to pretend that calling for further debate is the same as having a position on something.

There's nothing wrong with all these calls for dialogue. But it's hard to have a useful discussion when only one side knows what it thinks. And right now only one side does. Bush and most Republicans are arguing that the United States should go to war against Iraq; most Democrats are arguing that we should argue about it.




Right now we are facing important decisions about national security and foreign policy. Instead of alternative policy, we get dross. Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition seems content to squeal “Rambo rhetoric” every time, and I mean every time, the Government opens its mouth. The Labor Party is so terrified of losing more support to their loopy Left wing that they will play this game all the way to the wire, and then support the war.



Today we get the spectre of a former Prime Minister, and well-known Mugabe supporter, telling us that we can’t go in unless everybody agrees it’s a good idea.

During the Gulf War there was a coalition of 34 nations. The operation was sanctioned by the UN Security Council. Any future involvement must also have Security Council support. The US should not go to war without a broad coalition.


Malcolm doesn’t tell us how many of the 34 the US needs to have behind them. And given that Saudi Arabia and Germany have both put their thumbs down, a full crew is unlikely.



There is some light of reality:

There is no doubt that the government of Iraq has done the most terrible things. It waged a long war against Iran; it invaded Kuwait; it has turned its brutality against its own people, both the Kurds and the Shiites; it has been producing, and has shown a willingness to use, weapons of mass destruction.


But this is not enough to justify going it alone:

But before war is contemplated, final efforts must be made to reinstate United Nations arms inspectors with appropriate access across Iraq


Note the careful absence of a recommendation for action if and when diplomacy fails, or even some clue as to what would constitute diplomatic failure.



As for Australia’s role in this, the bar gets even higher:

If we end up being involved, we should seek to establish arrangements as an appropriate partner in conflict. That would involve knowing America's mind in relation to every aspect of the war. Ideally it would involve having somebody of ministerial rank participating in the war councils in Washington. Then we would truly know the considerations of the Bush Administration.



Fraser doesn’t confide if this would be a deal breaker, or just a convenient get-out-of-responsibility-free card.



Beinart puts it smoothly:

Making international opposition the primary rationale for opposing war with Iraq is essentially a way for Democrats to outsource the moral and strategic thinking they need to do themselves.




There will come a time, and soon, that everyone will have to choose up sides. I suggest to those who reflexively oppose any war the US involves itself in, that they consider the consequences of being seen to stand shoulder to shoulder with one of the vilest regimes on the planet. You looked pretty bloody stupid after Afghanistan: do you want to repeat the effort?

For further beatings, try this:
What is it about loser ex-PMs that makes them incapable of keeping their mouths shut, and instead bless us with their condescending wisdoms? Didn't you dicks do enough damage fucking up foreign policy and wrecking our economy when you were in office? Don't you get it? We voted you out so your ideas wouldn't be put into practice.

from Tex at Whacking Day.


Tuesday, August 13, 2002

A warm welcome to visitors from Pejman Pundit , Daily Pundit, and One Hand Clapping.For a rant, try here, for a laugh, try here for more sports I’d pay to see.

Monday, August 12, 2002

I want to draw a few threads together and clarify some thinking that floats about the anti-war movement. And when I say anti-war, it’s pretty clear this means anti-American war.

Over the past 20 years there have been horrendous local wars, civil wars, uprisings, coups, repressions, crackdowns and other nastiness. At no stage have I ever seen a single march by any of the peace movement umbrella groups unless the US or the UK was involved. Iraq vs Iran – one million dead. FARC kills thousands of Colombian peasants yearly. It doesn’t matter to the peace crew, because there aren’t any white folks involved. Let the wogs kill each other, we have bigger fish to fry!

The arguments against pre-emption seem to boil down to a few basic scenarios.

1. We don’t have proof Iraq was involved in has nukes/bioweapons.
Since the only firm proof is the actual explosion of a nuclear device, this is a fairly high bar to set. Once he has a working device, the entire balance of power shifts towards Saddam. He is in a position to dictate terms to his neighbours, and the rest of the world. By threatening to smuggle nuclear bombs into Western cities, he has the ability to kill millions of citizens, and destabilise the world economy. For all intents and purposes he becomes impregnable to attack from within and without. Put simply, once he has nukes he will never be defeated without the use of nuclear weapons. The Iraqi people will suffer worse than ever before, and it will never end.

2. It will hurt the wheat trade
Excuse me? Did I hear people demanding that we resume trading with despotic mass murderers rather than injure our balance of payments? Where are the anti-apartheid warriors of yore? In the 80’s they led a worldwide campaign against South Africa, which to the best of my knowledge did not invade its neighbours, kill millions and use weapons of mass destruction. Now that the oppressor is non-white, the heat seems to have gone out of the issue. Could it be that the only bad guys that rate their attention are whities? That perhaps we shouldn’t hold others to the same standards? How racist is that?

3. The Government should not send young men to die if they’re not prepared to fight themselves.
Oh please. This is tired old 60’s claptrap with an air of “why can’t we all just get along” wishful thinking, and that has no place in discussions about matters that are a matter of life and death to millions. And frankly, unless you are prepared to put out your own house fires and investigate your own crimes, spouting this type of tripe proves you a hypocrite.

4. The US is the aggressor.
Firstly, this is not the US, it’s the UN. Secondly, this is a continuation of containment of aggression on Iraq’s part. Not once but twice he has invaded his neighbours, killing hundreds of thousands of people. Not the relatively few that died in the Gulf War. Saddam sent missiles into Israel, a country with no part whatsoever in the conflict, in a bid to widen the war and shake the coalition against him. Iraq was offered a conditional surrender and cease-fire to suspend hostilities. Not end, but suspend. Think of Iraq as a parole violator. When someone violates parole, their sentence is re-imposed.

5. It’s all about the oil.
Well duh. That’s why Saddam invaded Kuwait in the first place. To get their oil. It’s the oil that delivered Saddam the means to make war on his neighbours in a manner that requires our intervention. Why would the US, or frankly anyone, care about a benighted, backwards part of the world, with an unpleasant climate, poor infrastructure and run by a group of violently right-wing religious governments? If the oil was not there, we would not care all that much. Same as we don’t care all that much about slavery in the Sudan, Syrian occupation of Lebanon or border disputes in Paraguay.

6. The US has no right to effect a change of government in a sovereign state.
Then I have one word for you: Yugoslavia.

7. Pre-emptive strikes are wrong.
When someone pulls a gun and points it at you, should the police wait until he fires before disarming him? Until they shoot, you have suffered no physical harm. Of course they don’t wait, because a crime as been committed. Legally, a threat is assault. The punch/gunshot/nuclear strike is battery. If a police officer shoots someone threatening you with a gun, technically that is a pre-emptive strike. It’s justified because the law views the consequences of waiting to be too high to justify that standard of proof. And when our government is dealing with threats against millions of our citizens, then the stakes rise exponentially. The issue here is the continued existence of millions of humans, none of whom have done anything to deserve death by nuclear incineration.

8. We don’t know what will replace Saddam. Destabilisation is to be avoided.
It’s difficult to imagine how it could be worse. The region is not stable now, it is tipping. To wait means only that it tips further. He will never be replaced by unassisted internal revolution, and his neighbours will not act. He will stay in place until he is replaced by his psychotic sons, or we remove him. More of the same gets you more of the same.

Now why should we go in? What justification is there to back the US, or the UN, in a war to replace Saddam. What is the alternative?

That Saddam is a threat to his neighbours is beyond doubt. He has repeatedly invaded, bombed, gassed, shot and executed hundreds of thousands of Iranians, Kurds, Kuwaitis and Iraqis. He has manufactured and used weapons of mass destruction, the only time since World War Two that they have been used. He has violated UN Resolutions on arms inspections that were a condition of the cease-fire at the end of the Gulf War.

Defence planning is always based around capacities, as much as actual hardware. Someone with the means to make a nuke is almost as much of a threat as someone with a working device. Indeed, in some ways more of a threat, since the existing players have presumably reached an accord. A new player destabilises the equilibrium, affecting all others. Our decisions on invasion are not based on Saddam actually having a bomb, since, as I said before, by then it will be too late. Saddam will be able to own the entire Middle East, by virtue of threatening to annihilate the sacred cities of Mecca and Medina. No-one in the region will stand up to him, for fear of the consequences.

Deterrence is not really an option either, for two reasons. Firstly, deterrence only works if your opponent is a rational player. That is, he has a reasonable regard for his own welfare, and accepts that your response will not justify his possible gains. Since Saddam gains a measure of victory merely by existing, he will see only upside to threats to use the weapons.

Also, I think there are reasonable questions over his sanity, and his grasp on objective reality outside his intensely clannish and sycophantic ruling clique. There is a saying in Tikrit, his home town: “I against my brother, my brother and I against my cousin, my cousin and I against the world”. He has systematically liquidated anyone who questions his rule, or his decisions. The man shoots people during Cabinet meetings. Do you really think he’s getting much reliable advice? If you’re an Iraqi Minister, do you risk certain death, along with your extended family, by standing up to him, or do you roll the dice on what the Americans might do?

Secondly, deterrence only works if your opponent truly believes you will act on the threat. That you will back up your rhetoric with action. Imagine two men with a gun at each other’s head. If one is certain that the other guy’s weapon is unloaded, what’s to stop him pulling the trigger?

If Saddam acquires working nuclear weapons, then the only way he can move forward is to call our bluff. We will draw a line in the sand, and he will cross it. We will respond with massive force, short of nuclear weapons. Saddam will threaten to use the nukes against our civilian population. We will warn him that the result will be the flattening of Baghdad.

At this point, Saddam can do one of two things: surrender or launch. If he surrenders, he knows that he will not live to see out the month. If the mob doesn’t tear him apart, he will be quickly tried and executed. So from a personal point of view, he has absolutely nothing to lose. And the people surrounding him are in the same boat. They are all implicated in his murderous regime, and they know they will all go down with him. So they have little incentive to stop him pushing the button. After all, the West might still back off. They did once, didn’t they?

So he launches. This will be in the form of a nuclear missile attack on Israel, and a smuggled bomb and/or biological and chemical weapons planted in Western cities. At that point, the US, France, Israel, the UK and probably Russia will launch overwhelming strikes against Iraq. The entire population will be killed, the region devastated. The fallout will travel over Iraq’s neighbours, allowing Saddam to inflict one more injury. Tens of millions of people will die horribly, because we failed to recognise that threats have to be met with force before they become actions.

A few years ago, I served on the jury at the trial of a big-time heroin importer. When we looked at the evidence, one of the things that stood out was that they guy had never acted as anything but a drug dealer. At every stage he always chose the path that fitted the crime.

Saddam has never behaved as anything other than a bloodthirsty despot, intent of remaining in power at any cost to his own people or the world. He is a mass murderer of children and innocents, a wilful polluter on a scale seldom seen before, a threat to his neighbours, and a danger to us. Removing him is a positive good.

Professor Bunyip has provided today's required reading. He makes his case for some new form of colonialism to replace the decades of neglect masquerading as self-determination.
If Australia is serious about the reponsibilities Sheridan would have us shoulder, it can bestow nothing finer on the region than the reverence for property rights, free speech and civilised tolerance that have made our own land a stable and thriving success. These principles aren't just for white folks, they are universal absolutes -- the only stones fit to build a sturdy edifice in which citizens may bow in gratitude and security before the rule of law.

Get this straight: there is no racist argument here, and no desire to return to the days of howdahs and drinks on the plantation. The good professor is accepting some degree of responsibility for abandoning Papua New Guinea when they patently did not have the social capital in place to run a democracy. The place is unravelling, and as sure as night follows day, famine will follow the collapse of the central government.

Read it, and remember that what PNG has now is manifestly not working.

Now this is interesting. Iran has coughed up some Saudi al-Qaeda fighters who bugged out to Iran when Afghanistan got clobbered.
Iranian authorities handed over the al-Qaeda fugitives, all Saudis, knowing that any intelligence obtained from them during interrogation in Saudi Arabia would be passed to the United States, the prince said.

I wonder if the tide is carefully shifting.

Sunday, August 11, 2002

A MOMENT OF YOUR TIME. FOR THE CHILDREN.

There’s an old story of a man digging a big hole in his backyard. His neighbour leans over the fence, and asks what the bloody great hole is for.

“Tiger trap”

“But there’s no tigers around here. This is the suburbs!”

“See how effective it is?”


Is there are point to this? Well yes. Once again, civilised nations give thanks that this year’s Hiroshima Day protests have once again kept the spectre of nuclear war from our doorstop.

For it is only the unflagging efforts of these brave souls that has brought the American hegemony to heel, and restrained their endless slavering to loose the hell-hounds of war on the peaceful governments of North Korea, Syria, China, Iraq, Iran and Libya.

Theirs is an unbroken record of success in shielding us, their countrymen, from the flaming rain of death from above. There has not been a single instance of a nuclear attack since World War Two, and the unprovoked attack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Never. Not one.

Can we even imagine the world without citizens brave enough to march unprotected through the winter sunshine of Sydney and Melbourne, risking disappearance, torture and death as they wave their banners and make their speeches? Nuclear wasteland, punctuated only by the sobs of the children and the laughter of the gun lobby as they hunt the survivors for sport.

So pause a moment as you step out tomorrow, breathing fallout-free air, safe in the knowledge that the Apocalypse has been postponed again. Pause and give thanks to the few, the proud and the brave men and women of the peace movement for their willingness to sacrifice their weekends to keeping you safe. They will not ask for gratitude, those angels of the collective, those saviours of the sit-in. But we must give it. For the children.


IT’S NOT JUST FOR CHRISTMAS

It’s hard not to feel sorry for Phillip Adams on some days. Sure, he has the house in Paddington, hobby farm in the countryside, 20-odd million in art, and a national radio program. He has established himself well in the guilt-arbitrage business.

But where is the satisfaction? Because people like Adams are interested in one thing: power over events. And the best kind of power is unelected power. After all, being unelected means never having to be responsible for anything. You get all the benefits and perks of office, with no risk of dethronement and the priceless gift of being able to slink off when things get sticky.

Adams used to enjoy quite a bit of influence, in the heady days of ALP hegemony and Hanson witch trials. His pendulous words would ooze over the think-tanks of Chippendale and Collingwood, to the guilty real estate millionaires in Balmain and Hawthorn. Eager listeners to his taxpayer-funded squelchings would daily find themselves in furious agreement yet again, forever reinforcing the need for an independent national broadcaster to service their needs.

The hard men of ALP factional warfare would cock an ear, the better to know which buzzwords to include in their next press release celebrating the Vision Thing, while their Government sold all that was not nailed down and blew the proceeds buying worthless banks from their own States.

But being unaccustomed to the idea of elections, Adams never quite grasped the concept of losing elections. Or indeed, that his patrons might actually fall from grace, to be replaced by the Visigoths and Vandals of the Liberal Party.

Since then he has worked assiduously to repair this lapse of judgement on the art of the electorate, pitching harder and harder to fewer and fewer followers, ignored by former political satraps no longer in a position to deliver vital arts funding.

Then he got his two big breaks: Tampa and September 11. And he’s never looked back.

After seven years, suddenly the policy of mandatory detention of unauthorised arrivals was The End of Civilisation As We Know It. Tampa was not a hijack, an act of piracy or just a boatload of immigrants looking to upgrade to business class. It was the SS St Louis, The Berlin Airlift and the Rape of Nanking all rolled into one shining moment, waiting to be seized by the man ready to lead his people to the Promised Land of a change of Government.

Only it didn’t work out. His hagridden Labor Party refused to repudiate their own values by committing electoral suicide. Instead they followed their supporters and members and stood shoulder to shoulder with the Government both before, during and after the election. In poll after poll, voters have stubbornly refused to see that their insistence of controlling immigration is leading to trade sanctions, diplomatic crises and the birth of two-headed goats.

Now Adams has brought us Australians for Just Refugee Programs, or Just Australians for Refugees, or Refugees Just for Australia. Again, unelected power without responsibility. Since there is no chance that any of the boat people can afford to live anywhere near Adams or his dinner party guests. Large influxes of cheap labour are unlikely to destabilise the left-wing shock-jock industry.

So I suggest this to his lordship, that he might show himself to be prepared to accept some of the consequences of his advocacy. Sell off, say 10% of the art, raising about $2 million. Mark off part of the farm, and build some barracks in the accepted “humane” architectural style to house about 100 rejected asylum seekers. Make sure their dwellings are at least as nice as the manor house Adams lives in, the better to avoid charges of elitism. So no fences or security systems of any kind. Accept personal and fiscal responsibility for your guests, paying a bond to cover their continued parole. Since they will naturally all stay put, Adams could accept a mortgage over the rest of the art collection. There’s enough money pouring into the coffers of Adams’ group to cover the cost of feeding them, and the green fresh air of the farm country has to be better than Woomera.

As the RSPCA might put it: a rejected asylum seeker is forever.

UPDATE: Bernard Slattery provides entertainment taking after Adams for yesterday’s column.

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