Saturday, October 05, 2002

Light posting today: 700 kilometre round trip to pick up the kids from their holidays at Nana’s.

Frank J at IMAO has his additions to the propaganda push on the Iraqis.

One year ago, Muslim fanatics deliberately murdered several thousand civilians, and several hundred military service men and women. There was no lack of military targets that their “jihad” could have impacted. They flew past them to get to the civilians of New York and Washington. Yesterday New York proved its place as the Greatest City The World Has Ever Seen. How? By holding, without incident, the Muslim Day Parade.

Friday, October 04, 2002


Expect to see more of this in the weeks to come.
The U.S. military has dropped leaflets over southern Iraq in a promised psychological campaign to undercut support for Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, U.S. officials told CNN on Thursday.
The propaganda is being dropped over southern Iraq, warning the rank-and-file Iraqi military not to target coalition warplanes. The wording notes a determined U.S. effort to attack the sources of such ground fire, and says "You could be next."

My pick? As the force buildup becomes more overt, further propaganda efforts will include:
· Leaflet drops to tell the rank and file to surrender the moment they see the first Allied tank or face annihilation, along with helpful diagrams on how to identify the tanks;

· High altitude leaflet drops into Baghdad, warning the population of what’s coming, and advising them to stay away from mosques and shopping areas;

· High intensity jamming-type radio broadcasts on command frequencies, informing unit commanders (possibly by name) that they will be held responsible for the conduct of their units. These will tie in with the surrender leaflets;

· Offers through diplomatic channels or other means to high ranking Iraqi military, offering amnesty/mitigation/vast sums of readies/head start, for whoever kills Saddam first after the bombs start falling.

Thanks to Little Green Footballs for the link.

Too Damn Much Time On Their Hands
This is not the funniest joke in the world.

This is.

Two cannibals are having lunch. Today’s special is a nice fat clown they caught earlier.

One take a bite, chews thoughtfully, and says “Does this taste funny to you?”

Over to Clubbeaux for jewellry of mass destruction.
Lifted straight from Sully (my emphasis)
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: "[M]y disagreement with the peace-at-any-price men, the ultrapacifists, is not in the least because they favor peace. I object to them, first, because they have proved themselves futile and impotent in working for peace, and second, because they commit what is not merely the capital error but the crime against morality of failing to uphold righteousness as the all-important end toward which we should strive ... I have as little sympathy for them as they have for the men who deify mere brutal force, who insist that power justifies wrongdoing, and who declare that there is no such thing as international morality. But the ultra-pacifists really play into the hands of these men. To condemn equally might which backs right and might which overthrows right is to render positive service to wrong-doers ... To denounce the nation that wages war in self-defense, or from a generous desire to relieve the oppressed, in the same terms in which we denounce war waged in a spirit of greed or wanton folly stands on a par with denouncing equally a murderer and the policeman who, at peril of his life and by force of arms, arrests the murderer. In each case the denunciation denotes not loftiness of soul but weakness both of mind and morals." - Theodore Roosevelt, anticipating Jim McDermott, from TR's "America and the World War."

EAST AND WEST. Halle Berry gets $250,000 per nipple for a few seconds work.
Iranian film director cops a $2500 fine for being kissed in public, and it wasn’t even his idea.

Thanks to Steve Den Beste for the link.

Could this be the very definition of irony? The Uniting (Episcopalean) Church is advocating a tax revolt by their congregation.
Yesterday Tasmanian and Victorian Uniting Church members vowed to begin a campaign of civil disobedience in protest against deployment by not paying any war tax if one is levied.

If the Church itself joins in, will that mean they will revolt and actually pay tax?

Right Wing News has a good before & after series on 9/11.
ALL TOO BELIEVABLE. Black delegates at the African and African Descendants' World Conference Against Racism in Barbados have given non-black delegates the boot. Why? Because
it was too traumatic to discuss slavery in front of them.

And for added unintentional hilarity:
Attorney General Mia Mottley of Barbados urged delegates to build upon last year's U.N. conference against racism in South Africa

Sounds like they are making progress. Just not in the direction that will win them any friends among their aid donors. Wouldn’t you have liked to be a fly on the wall, listening to the whitey delegates explain to each other why it was right and proper that they be kicked off the bus?Thanks to Bigwig for the link.

How often does an article actually turn your stomach? For me, it’s Holocoaust-denial stuff. Just can’t read it. Perhaps you remember all those missives that told us that the Russian people were comfortable under communist oppression, often couched in terms like “it’s all they’ve ever known”. As a bonus, there is always the fall back position of the old faithful, improved literacy. How many times do we have to put up with missives offering literacy as a reasonable trade off for virtually all political and economic freedoms. It’s a bit like the Catholic God: “here’s your sex drive, here’s your free will. No don’t use it!”

The only surprise in this article is that it does not contain the obligatory “Saddam is awful but …” get-out clause. No mention of secret police, wars of aggression, chemical and biological weapons. Just the Bad Guy West, and the demand for the Iraqis to be allowed to remain happy in their police state.

Today there is a truly sick-making apology for the murderous Ba’thist regime of Saddam Hussein, brought to us by the Sydney Morning Herald and one Kalpana Sharma, Mumbai-based journalist.
We start with a hoary old peace slogan
If you believe in peace, can you seriously talk about war? The United States talks constantly about war. Yet it claims it wants peace in the world. Is that possible? In a world so interconnected, can we avoid the fallout of war, even if it is not nuclear?

By this logic, we can look forward to Sharma coming out against chemotherapy, armed police and recordable CD sales. We can assume she responds to the threat of theft by leaving her doors unlocked.
If he [Bush] is concerned about human rights violations, he should know that the threat of war will not change any country's mindset.

Here she may be on the money. But the promise of war, subject to good behaviour, can have a salutary effect on behaviour. But if you want to change a “country’s mindset”, it’s hard to beat massive, humiliating defeat. Compare the mindset of Japan with North Korea.
So why Iraq? We are told it is because Saddam Hussein possesses, or has the potential to manufacture, weapons of mass destruction that he will use against the US and other Western nations. But does he have nuclear weapons? The evidence is inconclusive. In any case, so do India and Pakistan, and they came pretty close to throwing them on each other earlier this year.

I wonder how her neighbours feel about her willingness to throw India on the pyre?
The US justified bombing Afghanistan because it suspected that Osama bin Laden was holed up in its mountains. It also argued that this was the only way to dislodge the Taliban which treated women abominably.

Yes, only “suspected”, and “argued”. Nothing conclusive, just opinions by the stupid, blundering Westerners. And no hint that the situation of Afghan women might just have edged up a wee bit after those useful idiots the Americans got rid of the Taliban. Can’t say anything about that; it would undermine the whole “war is bad bad bad bad” theory.

Here’s a good one. Don’t bomb Iraq because they have a better human rights record.
But Iraq is probably one of the most liberal governments in the Arab world when it comes to women's rights. Unlike Afghanistan under the Taliban, Iraq remains a secular state as established by the ruling Baath party. Saddam has not changed this.
Under its secular constitution, Iraqi women have the benefit of many progressive laws. They played an active role in politics in the past.

Liberal compared to what? Secular only if you ignore all those snazzy pictures of The Chief plastered on every available surface. An active role in politics is a good idea, but not if it consists of agreeing frantically with the Head Loon on whatever the Conspiracy O’ The Week is.
Under the Ba'thist Party, Iraq reformed its laws so that sex discrimination in the workplace and sexual harassment were prohibited. It had laws that worked towards creating gender parity in voting, divorce, taxes and land ownership.

Voting for one party (and not too often thank you), gender parity in the torture chambers (tell us what we want or we’ll kill your children), taxes (everyone wants the Rais to have another palace!) and land ownership (somewhere to hide when the press gangs show up).

Annnnd Noowww: The Children ™!
But women have suffered because of the economic sanctions imposed on Iraq after 1991. The worsening economic conditions have forced many to abandon their education and to take up whatever jobs are available to feed their families. And that is not easy.

Feeding what was left of their families who had not been used as human mine detectors against Iran, or gassed by Saddam, or rounded up in a security sweep, or locked in the special Children’s Jail, or drafted to fight in Kuwait.
An estimated 5000 children die every month because they are hungry. They die of ordinary illnesses because there are no medicines.

There that number again. It can’t be easy to maintain this level of ignorance. The Children ™ don’t die from sanctions. The Kurds are not dying from sanctions in the North. Like all people under Saddam, they are dying because the regime refuses to submit to UN Resolutions, and because the humanitarian aid that gets through is stolen by the enlightened Ba’thist system to build resort cities for the Party elite, Presidential palaces by the score, and prefers new weapons systems to normal trade relations.

Go for the scare grab:
Will removing Saddam "save" the Iraqi people? Or will it push them into greater insecurity as even what little remains of the country, or has been rebuilt in the last decade, is reduced to rubble

Dunno. Let’s ask the Iraqis.
Bush and company need to be reminded that war is about people, about killing people.

And comfortably secure journalists need to be reminded that dictators are about saving their own hides, and articles that draw equivalence between wars of liberation or self defence, and brutal police states, belong in the same videostore shelf with the complete works of Leni Riefenstahl.

Just in case you weren’t already retching from this parade of Vichy apologies, let’s check Sharma’s record on human rights. Perhaps she has a consistent attitude of promoting Stalinist human rights as the way to go forward.

Sometimes she is worried about
a disturbing pattern of state intervention that disallows legitimate and democratic discourse on important developments in the country.

The midnight knock on the door? Political parties banned? Well, not quite. Sharma is upset about the people of Mumbai having to suffer a film ban.

Although she has doubts that liberating the Iraqis from that nice man will “save” them, Sharma has no such doubts about her own countrywomen. She writes about the effect of reserving local Government seats in India for women:
What they illustrate is that once you let the genie out of the bottle, you cannot force it to go back. Once women have understood their rights and entitlements, they will not be held back. Whether the law to give one third representation to women at the national level goes through or not, it is clear that women have begun clamouring for their place in the sun.

So one rule for Indian women, one rule for Iraqis. With a nod to Lileks, can anyone distinguish this rubbish from the “happy darkies” literature of centuries past?

UPDATE: James Morrow proves the existence of Parallel Evolution in the Blogosphere.

Thursday, October 03, 2002

Usually I stay away from linking to Lileks, not least of which is that he seriously does not need my itty-bitty traffic blip. However, today he addresses some legal questions over a US Senate election.
I prefer clear laws with regrettable results to judicial legerdemain in the service of “higher causes,” the nature of which vary from person to person. You can always endeavor to change the law through elected representatives who serve at the electorate’s pleasure. Letting the courts allow a hand-picked candidate who did not run in the primary to replace a primary winner who screwed up his campaign does not strike me as, ahem, genuine democracy. It's

What’s this to do with us in the Land of Oz? I think his point is very applicable to law in general, and immigration laws in the specific. One of the chief functions of law is to exist and to be agreed on before the fact. If a situation arises that the law cannot reasonably cover, the courts of Appeal exist to correct and interpret law, and the legislature exists to make new laws.

But when instances arise where the law directly applies, then it is hands off. That means refugee activists, Federal Court justices, xenophobic politicians, lawyers and radio hosts. Feel free to advocate new law, better law, different ink for the law. But don’t expect impartial treatment under statutes applying to you, if you’re not prepared to accept impartial treatment before the fact.

Cold Fury is one of my daily stops, being a great supporter of “News, Views and Random cursing”. Today he runs a thought experiment that frankly raised the hairs on the back of my neck.
Can I get DVT from Economy Class Chair syndrome?
This is for the peace-pushers who bleat that there is “no immediate danger” to Australia.
Fears of bio-terrorism have prompted the Government to start stockpiling 50,000 doses of a smallpox vaccine, which are expected to arrive in Australia in the next few weeks.

The only other explanation for this move is that somehow the Federal Government has managed to convince dozens of senior health bureaucrats of danger of what they know to be a non-existent threat.

Do you get it now? Am I getting through?

I should have linked to this when I read it via the Bunyip’s blog. The Straits Times understands that there is oil involved, but this is not all there is to Iraq. They have worked in Russian debts, NATO, US military advisors in Georgia, OPEC-busting and the Security Council.

You might not agree with it, but at least someone’s thinking outside the mythical trans-Afghanistan pipeline.

Ever get the feling that "the mother of all battles" is just that: like fighting someone's mum?
Psst! Tim: you know that line you’re not supposed to cross?
Just commit [to the war], already. You know you want to. You're Germans.

Look behind you.

Wednesday, October 02, 2002


Fashion-conscious protesters plan to breach the fence of the listening post and alien accommodation
at Pine Gap.

Unsurprisingly, security details are little hard to find, but
The demonstrators are likely to attack the fence of the secret facility on the outskirts of Alice Springs on Saturday afternoon, Melbourne-based organiser Jacob Grech said today. "I'd be very surprised if the perimeter fence was not breached," Mr Grech said

I’d be very surprised if the perimeter fence was less than three miles from the facility. I say the guards should ride herd on the buggers using air-conditioned golf carts and spring water coolers. As Henry Lawson was wont to say: “miles and miles of bugger all and bulldust”.


INTERESTING. Sarah Madison, spokesbeing for the Women's Electoral Lobby told the audience of Sydney Radio 2SM (about 11:52am) that the WEL will never allow a man to run the organization. Even better when it came after an hour of Madison bellyaching about the glass ceiling.

While this hardly comes as a surprise, it is unusual to see their prejudice expressed so clearly. Doubly so when we look at the policies of
the WEL.
WEL policy seeks to increase the representation of women in all
- both elected and appointed - public offices as a priority until such time
as women are present in Australian public life in numbers proportionate to
their representation in the community and their desire for involvement.

And from the WEL NSW site:
WEL is an independent, non-party political organisation
dedicated to creating a society where women's participation and potential are
unrestricted, acknowledged and respected, and where women and men share equally in society's responsibilities and rewards
(my emphasis)
Although information about the funding of the Women’s Electoral Lobby is hard to find on the web, I found this tidbit from the Office of the Status of Women entry on the WEL.
Financial Base
Funding is through membership subscriptions. During 1998-99, operational funding was provided by the Commonwealth Office of the Status of Women.

Can anyone tell me if it is legal for an organisation so sexist to receive Government funding?


The signatories of the Not In Our Name ads have made much hay from slyly questioning the legitimacy of right of the US to self-defence by asking “What have we done to deserve this?”. The argument has a seductive quality to it because it allows an inward focus on what would otherwise be random violence. A citizen can feel that perhaps there is something they can do to lessen the chances of injury, even if that action is only limited to protesting, or just complaining. The technical term for this, supplied to me by The Good Lady Wife, is “locus of control”. There is a natural urge to convince oneself that the chances of random death from the skies can be influenced by action an individual takes. The alternative is to live in fear, or to ignore the risk. In the situation that has arisen since 9/11,with saturation media coverage of the attacks, it is quite impossible to ignore the reality. So the idea of blaming yourself, and by extension your country, becomes more acceptable to more people.

The problem that I can see is that perhaps the wrong groups are being questioned.

Chomsky et al want you to think that the attack on America was because of America’s foreign policies. This despite the repeated announcements by Osama Bin Laden that he despised the USA for reasons totally unrelated to foreign policy. His stated reasons were the secular (read non-Islamic) nature of the US Government and the treatment of women and homosexuals.

There is a reasonable case to the proposition that Osama and his group was the de facto government of Afghanistan at the end, or at least a very significant part of its workings. Regardless of the level of involvement, there can be no argument that the Taliban’s policies were Osama’s, and vice versa. He stood four-square behind the Office For the Prevention of Vice and the Promotion of Virtue. The death by stoning of adulterers, random beatings of unaccompanied women and the execution of homosexuals would have met with his approval. We can use the behaviour of the Taliban as an indicator of the direction of al Qaeda anger.

So the question on the table is this: are the wrong groups being targeted as the “root cause” of the 9/11 attacks, and for Islamism in general?

For instance, judging by the sheer numbers of women killed, executed, enslaved and oppressed we may deduce that Islamists consider them to be a greater menace than Americans. Yet there are no voices questioning whether women should withdraw into the home and leave the affairs of men to men. Is it not possible that a worldwide adoption of Islamic modesty would reduce the chances of further attacks?

What about homosexuals? Can we not lessen the anger of the Arab street by forcing them back into the closet, and winding back the rights granted them under the US system? Their constant parades, floats, and pressure for full marriage rights is an affront to the more stringent forms of Islam, and it is likely that withdrawal of community approval for such behaviour would make Western society a safer place.

Let’s not even get started on adulterers. It’s obvious that nothing less that a re-introduction of the Scarlet Letter will suffice, with a view to life imprisonment at a minimum.

It is not known whether these measures will be enough to satisfy the demands of the Islamic world. Their success in resisting the trend towards liberalisation within their own borders has shown results, inasmuch as there have been few if any terrorists attacks on Arab nations. The thousands of Palestinians summarily executed by their own Authority cannot be counted as terrorism, and must viewed as the only possible response to external forces.

There are about 300 million Americans. There are 2 or 3 times that many women in the world not living under strict Sharia law. About half a billion homosexuals are not being killed by having walls pushed on them. The number of adulterers defies calculation, but a billion would be on the conservative side.

It’s obvious which groups are more of a provocation. These people need to ask themselves: Why do they hate us?


Two examples today. For the Director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Hugh White seems remarkably optimistic about Saddam’s intentions.
Saddam will agree to effective inspections only if he thinks the most likely alternative is a major US invasion. He may think there is an element of bluff in the US position, but he can't be sure.

There is no evidence whatsoever that Saddam would ever back down in the face of threats. The record points in precisely the opposite direction. He had months to get out of Kuwait, while the biggest buildup of forces since 1944 assembled on his doorstep. Did he think they were just there for the sun?

The second point here is that word “effective”. There are two possibilities facing the Allies: he either has a WMD program, or not. If he has, then he cannot agree to an “effective” inspection regime, for fear that the program will be uncovered. Exactly as it was in the past. If he has no program, the inspections will not find it, but this will not satisfy the US. The past record of concealment makes an assumption of innocence unsafe and irresponsible. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
If Saddam's army proves to be good at urban warfare, the Battle for Baghdad would be, by far, the most formidable military operation America would have undertaken since the Vietnam War.

The Battle for Baghdad? Has White ever heard of any new tactics, like siege warfare? Cordon off the city, and rain down J-DAM munitions each time a tank or artillery placement exposes itself. Given that only the Special Republican Guard is allowed in Baghdad, I don’t think they will hold out for more than a few weeks.

Alan Ramsey, on the other hand, is seeing a return to the Good Old Days , when resistance was king, and Labor was its handmaiden. His ever-present anti-Americanism, always simmering just below the surface, gets a good outing today, as he boots a collection of self-proclaimed elder statesmen around the block for their resistance to the war. Contradiction? Ramsey is taking the Old Left line that nobody who ever supported a war at any time can ever go against a war at any time in the future. And of course, he understands the Real Reasons.
Yet doesn't anyone twig that the Republicans have got a mid-term congressional election next month amid a climate where the domestic US economy, in more normal times, would likely have crucified a number of Bush's colleagues? Don't you think all this bellicose bluster about Iraq and the "axis of evil" and September 11 might, just might, have something to do with simple politics and the manipulation of political advantage?

It’s all about the elections, OK? For our benefit, Ramsey might like to define the Election Event Horizon and exactly what is the time frame for election-free planning? Given that the American system involves Congressional and/or Presidential elections every two years, we are talking about a fairly narrow window of time. This fight is over events that happened in September, less than one year after the previous election. A generous reading of Ramsey’s assumptions would mean that no war planning can take place within a year of an election, regardless of circumstances, and regardless of when the cause took place.

Look forward to smart terrorists planning attacks for late October, safe in the knowledge that the authorities will end investigations in a few weeks to avoid the charge they are involved in “the manipulation of political advantage”.

For my money, the Elders are guilty of rank political opportunism and wilful blindness.

Ramsey is confusing right with legal, and has a fairly confused idea of what legal means when it comes to international relations. There is no international law, because there is no international tribunal to which sovereign states cede their authority. That’s why there is such fear of a US invasion; that it might erode the sovereign right of nations to do whatever the hell they like to their own populations. A competent tribunal with enforcement powers is precisely what the members of the UN fear. Not the UN mind; this would suit the UN down to the ground, as their recent effort to get the International Criminal Court going has shown.

What is right, however, is a different matter. There is a fair degree of accuracy in “might makes right”, provided you are on the side of the might. Fortunately for us, we also happen to be on the side of right. There is no dispute over whether Saddam should be overthrown. There are only arguments about paperwork. People like Ramsey and Robert Corr
are like lawyers standing around defending the system that lets a child die of abuse, rather than kick a door in without a warrant.

Tuesday, October 01, 2002

Got some anti-war friends? Email them this link for a concise rundown of the Truth about Iraq.
Thanks to Little Green Footballs for the link.

Andrew Sullivan writes up the departure of Christopher Hitchens from The Nation, and by extension, the broad Left.
At some point, when you look around and see that this is the quality of one’s ideological allies, you have to break ranks, if only for the sake of personal moral hygiene.

Sullivan’s analysis uses the term “anti-anti-terrorism”, reminiscent of the anti-anti-communists in the 1950’s. This position allows adherents to maintain their moral stance, without endorsing the totalitarian beliefs of those that are sheltering under their umbrella. It’s amazing that the lessons of Stalinism and his “useful idiots” have not yet been learned.

Ken Parish is having a bet each way on left-wing bias in the Oz Meeja.
First, I don't doubt that the ABC manifests an evident left-ish bias at times

All good so far.
Similarly, there is a detectable slightly left of centre bias in some of the news selection and editorial decisions of the Fairfax press (The Age and SMH). However, I don't accept that this is the case with op-ed pages (where scrupulous balance appears to be sought) nor in the letters pages. I don't detect any left-ish bias at all in the Murdoch press.

Parish doesn’t get the difference between private and public money. The Fairfax and Murdoch press can call for the head of John the Baptist on a spike, and a return to steam-driven computer hard drives. It’s company money and the editors are answerable to their shareholders.

The ABC, on the other hand, uses public money. Part of the common law heritage is that we always treat misuse of public monies harsher than misuse of private funds. They have no right to run an agenda that manifestly contradicts the ABC Charter. The Friends of the ABC not be as sanguine on the subject if, for instance, the ABC took a resolutely pro-war stance. Or condemned talk of a treaty with Aboriginals. Or suggested that perhaps the word of the President of the United States might be worth more than the word of a Middle East dictator.

I love the smell of napalmed Herald journalists in the morning. Read The Bunyip.
This letter
makes a point, but not the intended one.
Do you think there is any truth to the theory that because America was late for WWI and WWII, it wants to make amends by starting WWIII?

It underlines the obvious: that America cannot win. Here is a twit complaining in the same letter that America was “late” for two world wars, and mocking an attempt by the US to get on the front foot on this conflict. The ignorance of the letter writer is highlighted by the “WWIII” inclusion.

Is there any difference between the “this is not our war” faction of 1915 and 1940, that cannot be found today among the “peace at any price” brigade?


Paddy McGuinness has moved on from asking why strike at Iraq, to hoping it is done efficiently.

He raises a few important points, not least of which is the fact that pacifists are immune from being held responsible if their methods prove ineffective. To this day, Chamberlain is more likely to be remembered as a knave pursuing the noble goal of peace. It should be noted that this is probably not the feeling on the ground in Czechoslovakia. Pacifists and appeasers can rightly be confident that their peers, which is the only opinion they care about, will always forgive them for their misguided but noble goals.
What these [non-violent] means might be is, of course, not specified. It only needs to be noted that there has never been a case in which non-violent means have proved effective against a determined and ruthless aggressor. (Gandhi's Satyagraha, or non-violent resistance, only ever worked because Britain was always a namby-pamby, civilised colonial power.)

It’s probably not stretching the truth to call Britain “namby pamby”, when compared with other colonial powers of the day. And Paddy is on the money when he points out that non-violent resistance is unique in that it relies entirely on the opposition not using their superior strength. In other words, the success of non-violence relies on the enemy accepting the rules of non-violence as presented to them by their enemy. While I can accept an individual’s right to place their body in harm’s way, isn’t suggesting non-violence as national policy another form of the draft?
brinkmanship may in fact be the best tactic to employ against Iraq. If Saddam can be convinced that there is a credible threat, he just might back down and allow effective sterilisation of his WMDs. Only if one believes that he would never employ such weapons to further his own ends (one of which may well be to destroy Israel) does it make any sense to simply sit back and hope and pray to a God who has never been known to prevent a war. As Napoleon said, God is on the side of the biggest battalions.

Perhaps the oddest thing is the assumption by peace-pushers that Saddam will not use the weapons. Why are we not hearing from the Cold War peace activists who were absolutely convinced that the US would launch missiles, simply because they had them. Remember the argument of “why else would they build them?”? Anyone who felt that way must be able to see that Iraq is an order of magnitude more likely to launch that a superpower. Where are their voices? Could it be that maintaining solidarity with their peers is more important than telling the truth?

Monday, September 30, 2002

Take note of Lileks’ succinct dismantling of the “chickenblogger” argument:
the term is not only toothless and tiresome, it’s just wrong. It means that Timothy McVeigh’s opinion on a military operation is more valid than, say, Bill Clinton’s. After all, McVeigh served in the military.

By this logic, I cannot have an opinion on abortion, gay unions, forest management (I don’t live in or near a forest, after all) vouchers (no kid in public school) or any number of subjects. And the poor have no right to vote against tax cuts if they’re not paying taxes. Et cetera. blockquote>


In an analysis in today’s Australian, Associate Professor of Sociology Katharine Betts dissects the last election result. She seems to be stating the blindingly obvious in many parts. It is not a big breakthrough to realise that support for the ALP plummets when confronted with issues on which their two biggest support bases are diametrically opposed. How can the ALP be the party of forest workers and environmentalists?

In the last election, issues of border control and national security took over what would normally have been a regular election fought out over economic issues. Australian elections tend to be fairly sedate affairs, with little to angry up the blood. Howard would probably have been elected, as the economy was in fairly good shape, and the Opposition was trying to present as few firm policies as humanly possible.

After August, things went pear-shaped quickly for the Labor Opposition. For the first time, the Federal Government had a legal opportunity to safely turn back a vessel carrying people attempting to make illegal landfall in Australia. The MV Tampa was, significantly, a flagged vessel, so the Government knew who the owners were and where they lived.

Many commentators have accused Prime Minister Howard of populism by refusing the Tampa permission to enter Australian waters. This ignores the fact that there was no polling available on this move. Howard made a decision in a matter of hours to turn the Tampa aside. The polls later bore out the support of the electorate for the policy, and the Opposition had already responded by loudly supporting the Government’s approach, albeit with a few minor changes. Nevertheless, the then Leader of the Opposition proudly boasted that the difference between the two sides over the issue of border integrity was “less that a cigarette paper”. It’s difficult to make a charge of rank populism stick when there was no data at the time on which to base a poll-driven decision, and there was no possibility of claiming a significantly different position from the Opposition.

Interestingly, no small number of the same people calling Howard a “populist” and “opportunist” then, are the same voices demanding that he base war decisions on opinion polling now.

Labor made several mistakes in response to Tampa. They failed to move quickly and decisively in support of the Government. On several instances, they appeared to be wavering on border security. Many of their supporters in the media gave the impression that a nudge-wink agreement was in place to relax security once the election was over. They were left with few firm policies already released, and their ability to get anything heard over the media noise of Tampa meant their strategy of presenting a small target for as long possible had backfired.

But the fundamental problem for Labor was that large parts of their support base were opposed to each other on border protection. In a close election, disunity is death. Labor spent many years courting the ethnic/multicultural vote, winning support from outer-urban immigrant communities and cosmopolitan inner city professionals and university graduates. After 13 years in office, the ALP set a pattern of distributing largesse to ethnic pressure groups, while presenting a good line of rhetoric to the educated middle classes. This was fine as long as they were in power, in a position to deliver.

Once in Opposition, power shifted away, and splits previously papered-over quickly became gaping holes. Established migrant lobby groups were trapped between the demands of their political patrons, the ALP, and the rising rebellion in their constituents, who viewed illegal immigrants as queue-jumpers who refused to take the road that the overwhelming majority of new arrivals to Australia had used. There was a great fear that migrant places taken by non-authorised arrivals would be taken from precious family reunion places.

Betts uses outdated class terminology to identify the split:
The working class is proud of the nation's institutions and its history. In contrast, social professionals are attracted to causes that are changing the nation, such as multiculturalism, immigration, Aboriginal self-determination and closer ties with Asia. They identify with kindred spirits overseas and see the fight against racism as a core value.
Many working-class voters believe these causes are not just changing their nation. They are eroding it. They also resent it when their feelings are misinterpreted as nothing but xenophobia.

Take careful note of that last sentence. When the leftist professionals began advocating policies that sounded increasingly like a recipe for open borders, migrants with actual experience of the results of these policies began to feel uneasy. When the professionals countered criticism of their position with accusations of xenophobia and racism, migrants living in suburbs less salubrious than their critics compared their reality with the leftist fantasy, and voted accordingly.

It would be asking too much for an Associate Professor of Sociology like Betts to make the leap that perhaps the Conservative side of politics was able to present a more coherent social and economic policy to the electorate, and that perhaps this was why a third-term victory was accompanied by an unusual swing to the government. But according to Betts:
So it was not that border protection won the election for the Coalition; rather it lost the election for Labor.

Geddit? No bouquets to the Party that won, only brickbats to the losers. This corresponds to the professionals who Betts says were
appalled at Labor offering any support for Howard's policies and switched to the Greens or Democrats.

And this:
Eleven per cent of former Labor voters, however, voted Green or Democrat. Most were opposed to the border protection policy.

Betts grasps that political divisions in Australia are being “reshaped by questions of national identity”, but seems to have trouble getting her head around the reality that the ALP is well behind the curve on the changes. The vocal supporters of multiculturalism have traded for many years by relying on abuse and vilification of their opponents, without feeling the need to present the case for their policies; they were always assumed to be “self-evident”, with the implied assumption that any failure to support the accepted wisdom was a moral failure on the part of dissenters.
Expect to see more divisions in ALP and leftist ranks over Kyoto. When you rely on the votes of environmentalists and coal miners, you’re headed for a fall.

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