Saturday, November 09, 2002

Icon, therefore I am.

Friday, November 08, 2002


noun 1. a dodge; a slightly underhand scheme. 2. a convenient, often unethical, method of performing a task, earning a living, etc.

Also related to:
noun a fringe benefit or bonus; something given in addition to one's normal salary. [from perquisite]

So a good job may have plenty of Lurks and Perks.
GAWD! There’s more recommendations for a more recumbent foreign policy, this time from Geoff Kitney, again in the Herald.

His point? We need to do more to repair the relationship with Indonesia. Who should do it?
it won't be the gung-ho gang of commentators who believe that the best way for Australia to respond to Bali is to thump our chests about our superior social and political culture

Yes. Whatever you do, don’t point out that we are free, secular and democratic, while they are corrupt, theocratic and oppressive.
It won't be those who believe the only course for Australia is to make all other strategic interests subservient to joining the war on terrorism by sending the troops wherever the United States wants us to send them and cracking down ruthlessly on anyone who might have had even the most tenuous connections with Islamic extremists.

Heaven forbid! We could create another Afghanistan, routing terrorists and increasing democracy and freedom. Kitney hereby promises never to question any failure of intelligence gathering, as that might have resulted in “ruthless crackdowns”.
It won't be those who see these issues only in terms of domestic political opportunity, for point-scoring and playing to the dark side of Australia's sense of insecurity and fear

Ummm … like, journalists?
Leadership on these vital questions will come from those who recognise the reality of our place in the world and how dependent our security is on improving our relations with our South-East Asian neighbours, and with Indonesia in particular.

And what do these Leaders need to recognise? Rooooooot Caaaaauuuuuses.
It will come from those who recognise that the Bali bombings were not just a wake-up call about the reality of a terrorist threat on our doorstep, but about the issues behind it.

So what is the solution? What can Australia do to improve the situation? Our citizens killed, our domestic policies criticised. What's our move?
John Howard must be prepared to invest a significant amount of his domestic political capital in this task, starting with going to Jakarta and trying to personally counter some of the negative sentiment towards Australia.

“Thanks for receiving me, Madame President. I would like to start out by apologising and offering compensation for our citizens provoking last month’s bombing by their insensitive drinking, dancing and hard currency distribution. While the funds are being transferred to your Liechtenstein account, perhaps I can interest you in an omelette? I make it with three kinds of cheese!”

Former Federal Opposition Leader Kim Beazley is widely touted as the “nice guy” of the ALP, a party that could teach Huey Long a thing or two about hardball politics. No explanation is ever forthcoming about how a “nice guy” can climb high in what is widely acknowledged to by one of the toughest political parties in the world.

That aside, Beazley was a damn good Defence Minister, a reasonably good Finance Minister, and a bit of a dud as Opposition Leader. Her majesty’s Loyal Opposition has an important role in the Westminster System, and I don’t believe he really stayed with the game. He couldn’t even get over the line when Prime Minister John Howard fought and won an election on the policy of introducing new taxes.

But one thing you could count on with Beazley was intellectual honesty. If he knew something, or thought he knew something, he put that view forward. If he wasn’t across the issue, he let you know. In today’s Herald, that reputation has taken a battering.
The Howard Government's Indonesian policy has completely failed over the past six years. It has failed by acts of commission as well as omission and the performance in South-East Asia has not been much better. The root of much of this lies in partisan debate in Australian politics, as this Government sought to undermine perceptions of the vital character of engagement argued by its predecessors.

We bailed them out of their financial crisis, forced their proxies to stop slaughtering East Timorese, and now we have Australian Federal Police on the ground in Bali. All without taking a step back on Australian values. If this is “undermining”, then dig on, I say.

This has made it singularly incapable of either building on what had been an increasingly accepting attitude in the region to Australian diplomacy, to explain the necessity of actions such as that in East Timor, or exploiting what was a generous and understanding attitude which helped the region's economy during the 1998 meltdown.

Beazley is equating “a generous and understanding attitude” as a complete failure. And frankly, I would have thought our actions in East Timor were pretty much self-explanatory. At least they are to other Asian nations, like Thailand and Singapore.
East Timor became independent because Indonesia with considerable internal dissent permitted it. We did not invade. We helped ensure the transition after the United States at APEC stepped in to demand an end to the post-referendum intimidation of the East Timorese

Why not invade? Because part of the “vital character of engagement” maintained by Beazley’s gang was to recognise the occupation of East Timor as legitimate, making it part of Indonesia. Not that didn’t stop a hell of a lot of Labor supporters demanding we do just that.
The complexities of the interaction between domestic argument in Australian politics and our diplomatic stance in the region are many. They include the initial encouragement of Hansonism by Howard

At no stage did Howard ever “encourage” Hansonism. The worst he did was point out that Hanson had the right to say what she liked, particularly in the absolute privilege afforded by Parliament. If not condemning a position is now the effective equivalent of encouragement, where does that leave Beazley after 13 years of “vital engagement” between Labor and the Suharto dictatorship?

Beazley is also worried about communications:
talkback radio diplomacy with Megawati in the first three days of the Tampa crisis

How about the week-long delay that the silly woman took to send condolences to the people who lost almost 100 citizens on her watch? Why the hell should we care what she thinks?

Does the Australian Prime Minister have a duty to shore up the legitimacy of the Indonesian leader? Why
According to this view it was time they understood we didn't need them as much as they needed us, irrespective of the domestic difficulties a first visit placed on an Indonesian leader. Hence Australia secured a response only when President Wahid's authority had collapsed. It was a great favour Wahid did this country

In Beazley’s view, Howard committed a terrible insult by not going to Indonesia before Indonesia came here. Never mind that the place had four Presidents in as many years, one of whom may well have been a garden gnome.

I did like this attempt at revisionism:
the Tampa crisis was constructed by the Howard Government

In the subsequent election, Beazley proudly declared there was “not a cigarette paper’s difference” between his position on immigration, and the Government’s.
A good position has been negotiated on participation in the investigation into this atrocity, and earlier, largely with the help of Indonesia's Foreign Minister, a good agreement on terrorism and illegal people movement. Our leaders have to understand, however, the deeper rhythm of politics in our neighbour's society. This understanding can only come with deep engagement.

Why do I worry that “deep engagement” involves a rubber glove?

Remember the top of the page, when Beazley gave his opinion that policy was a failure?
Immediately after the horror of September 11, I released a 10-point plan on what we should do to confront the problem for Australia and the region. It was put forward in a bipartisan spirit. Gradually, the Government has ticked off each of them.

I have a modest suggestion for Howard. It is what I would have done were I prime minister. Every five or six weeks, for a few days after Thursday Question Time, visit a South-East Asian nation. Don't make it official. It is what their leaders do all the time.

Can you spell C-R-O-N-Y-I-S-M?
We appear to be in the same "field of jihad", therefore we have common security problems. Start addressing their audience with half the enthusiasm you address the Australian audience.

So that explains why the Indonesian are threatening to withdraw co-operation rights for Australian Federal Police, if we keep up with the unacceptable practice of raiding and questioning people residing in Australia on their possible involvement in terrorist cells. Somehow, this doesn’t see, to matter when the raids are carried out by Indonesians.

We see the Prime Minister of India in dialogue with the heads of government of ASEAN and Australia's application for the same discussion put on hold.

Gee, I wonder if that is because one of them is a racist bastard?

Why the speech, delivered on October 31? Beazley led the Party to two successive election defeats, quitting after the last debacle that saw the Conservatives increase their vote. Today he is on the back bench, watching his party being led to certain decimation at the election. Past policies can’t be completely dumped without looking like complete dills. The Greens have gazumped the Hard Left, the Liberals have the votes of anyone with a mortgage, and are making inroads into the previously-unassailable ethnic vote. The Party is afraid to move to the Left or Right, and is threatened by fissures between the many mutually-oppositional pressure groups they had appeased for many years of Government. Recent polls have Labor voters preferring Beazley to the present incumbent two to one. Beazley has just indicated that he will be running again, as a backbencher, after previously hinting that he was just serving out his time. Given the certainty of a Labor defeat, and the equal certainty of a leadership spill afterwards, is this Beazley’s first shot in his comeback?

Thursday, November 07, 2002

Please welcome the Godlings Glossary to the Blogalogue. A sample:
The sudden (and usually messy) shift of icecubes from a higher energy state to a lower one in the beverage you have tipped up in front of your face

A lifeboat, filled with ALP State Premiers. Suddenly Victorian Premier Steve Bracks grabs an oar and starts belting the fingers clutching at the side.
“Piss off Simon! You’ll drown us all!”.

Congratulations to the US for putting the grownups in charge!

30 days war, go the whoa.
Maybe now we can stop pretending the Indonesians count? Can stop pretending that their system is the equal of ours? That what they say cannot be trusted, ever?

The delicacy of Australia's challenge in repairing its relationship with its neighbours while responding strongly to the bombing was further highlighted by damaging misreporting in Indonesia of comments by Ms Megawati. She was wrongly reported in two leading newspapers, Kompas and Media Indonesia, as having called the Prime Minister, John Howard, in recent days urging him to stop police and ASIO agents conducting "sweeping" raids against Indonesian citizens living in Australia.

So according to the Herald, we have to repair our relationship with the country that failed to prevent the murder of almost a hundred of our citizens. While we do this, we have to smile wide while the President of that country, who has flatly denied the existence of terrorists in her country, criticises our efforts to prevent similar occurrences here:
The Indonesian President, Megawati Soekarnoputri, has cautioned Australia not to overreact to the terrorism threat and not to harass Indonesian nationals, as the increasingly brittle relationship between the countries became further strained.

“further strained”? Baby, you don’t know from strained yet. Wait till we start attaching aid donations to anti-terrorism initiatives. Wait till we start seriously discouraging Australian businesses from paying bribes to Indonesian officials. Wait till we stop helping your armed forces maintain that little edge they have on the unarmed population. Wait till we stop pretending that your country is something other that spare parts flying in loose formation.
What about “wrongly reported”? Well, that doesn’t matter to the Indonesian Vice President:
Labor's foreign affairs spokesman, Kevin Rudd, in Jakarta for talks with Indonesian officials, said the Vice-President, Hamzah Haz, had confirmed Ms Megawati "had a conversation about this" with Mr Howard.

So the slimy little worm is so keen to impress the Australian Opposition, that he flat out lies to Rudd, in an effort to look tough. Try to imagine the response if the Australian Foreign Minister confirmed something that never happened?

What about the rest of the local aristocracy?
with relations between Indonesia and Australia the dominant political issue in the Indonesian media at present, politicians were quick to get involved in the dispute and add credibility to the incorrect claims.
The Speaker of the parliament, Akbar Tanjung, welcomed Ms Megawati's wrongly reported complaint, saying: "I think what's being put up by President Megawati is a positive thing. I think our Government must take action to protest those actions [raids on Indonesians in Australia]."

And it’s not just Indonesia. Regional poobahs have just finished their regular Australia-bashing meeting, and have again managed to blame everything on everyone else. The Tranzi population are again frustrated in shifting Australia To Be Part Of Asia:
this week's Association of South-East Asian Nations meeting in Phnom Penh, which decided to shelve Australia's application for a seat at its annual leaders' summit.

Can somebody tell me why we should even want to be in on this?
Dr Mahathir [Malaysian strongman] said claims by Australia and the United States that many parts of South-East Asia were now unsafe for tourists could equally be applied to those two countries.
"As far as the travel warning is concerned, I think Australia is unsafe as are the other ASEAN countries. In fact, at the moment Australia is particularly unsafe for Muslims."
In an apparent reference to recent police raids on suspected extremists, Dr Mahathir said Australian Muslims were being endangered by indiscriminate raids on their homes.
"I see pictures of doors being broken, which I don't think is essential. So people today are exposed to danger wherever they may be."

State and Federal Police enforce legally-obtained warrants, arrest no-one, and repair the damage caused to the one door broken in. This is the same as car bombings that kill hundreds. The same as religious riots that kill thousands.

Tell you what, Sunshine. When your country starts sending my country aid donations, maybe I’ll listen. When Australians start flying to Kuala Lumpur for medical treatment, you might get taken seriously. When our students start paying big bucks to attend your universities, I might care. When we start tossing political rivals into prison, give me a call.

But until then, sit down, take the bloody money, and shut the hell up

UPDATE: At least the Australian Foreign Minister and the Shadow Foreign Minister are not taking this on the chin.DOUBLE UPDATE: I just heard the Australian Council for Civil Liberties say it was a bit rich for Indonesia to criticise Australia on human rights grounds. What's next; a two-headed goat? Is this a sign of the End Times?

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

DAMN! Meryl Yourish has spent her time wisely, collecting a list of information banned and blocked by Saudi Arabia.

Last week a meeting in Sydney’s Western Suburbs heard a speaker talk about the impossibility of integrating Muslims into mainstream Australian society. The speaker, using a false name, claimed that Muslims are ”not a minority which can easily melt into Anglo-capitalist way of life”.
A spokesman for Auburn Council said its rules for renting the town hall were now under review. Leaflets and other publicity promoting the event did not disclose the conveners' name or address.

There is international data on the secretive group:
The Brussels-based International Crisis Group, headed by the former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans, has warned of the growing reach and influence of [the group]

The group is organised in a "secretive and hierarchical pyramid ... made up of many five-person cells whose members, after they have completed training averaging about two months, form their own group", the ICG report said.
Membership is usually expanded directly through friends, family and relatives and, the ICG said, there was private regret among some members that they were not allowed to use violence to achieve their aims.

Surprisingly, there appears to be little reaction from the groups that would normally be expected to protest religion- and ethnically-based prejudice. Perhaps this article goes part of the way to explain the silence.

Shades of Rohan Atkinson, Live Journal has a terrific piece on terrorists in Hell.
A fairly good Editorial in today’s Australian newspaper. As usual, however, the editors carefully avoid actually making a stand:
If the Iraqi dictator rejects the resolution, or allows inspectors in but then interferes with their work, a US-led attack on Iraq appears inevitable. While the case against him still stands, the Bali bombing has forced Australians to rethink our priorities. However, that does not mean abandoning our support for the US in its efforts to get rid of the Hussein regime and its weapons of mass destruction.

Yes? No? Maybe?

There is no way to predict with certainty how Australia's support for a US intervention will play out in Indonesia. It is too early to forcast how Jakarta's crackdown on Islamic extremists will impact domestically. Indonesia's affront at its citizens being questioned by Australian intelligence agencies over suspected links with Jemaah Islamiah shows how easily underlying bilateral tensions can come to the fore, even in the face of a horrific terrorist attack in which innocent civilians from both countries are killed. It is possible elements within the Indonesian political elite with old scores to settle would exploit any public anger over Australia's support for a US strike against Iraq.

Firstly, Indonesia is not an Arab country. Secondly, Iraq, as we are constantly told, is a secular state, not an Islamic state. Thirdly, Indonesian terrorism in response to an attack on Iraq would show up al Qaeda links, or Iraqi links, pretty strongly. Fourth, who gives a fat rat’s arse what the Indonesians think? Whichever way it pans out, we will know more. Indonesia has seen that we can prosecute a small war in their territory and there’s not a damn thing they can do about it They also know that inaction on their part will see the further collapse of their tourism industry, a major source of hard currency (and bribes).

But this was interesting:
Nor should we assume any backlash on our doorstep will destabilise Indonesia or the region. US intervention in Afghanistan did not set off an explosion of hatred by Muslims around the world, the vast majority of whom had no time for the Taliban. The US has come to the aid of Arab and Islamic parties in places like Egypt, Somalia, Kuwait, Bosnia and Kosovo. It supported the mujahideen groups to defeat the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. It even gave military aid to Iraq in its long and bloody war against Iran. As Barry Rubin writes in the latest edition of Foreign Affairs: "During the last half-century in 11 out of 12 major conflicts between Muslims and non-Muslims, Muslims and secular forces, or Arabs and non-Arabs, the United States has sided with the former group."

Puts fears about the “Muslim street” into perspective, doesn’t it? It means that claims of US repression of Arabs and Muslims are basically codswallop and can be easily disregarded.


Argy Bargy: Strong disagreement, usually without violence.
Ahh, the Melbourne Cup. Lost $200 on the race, and another $200 on the replay.

Had a racecourse once; raced him three times and beat him twice.

The pharmacist arrives back from lunch to see a man leaning against the wall, perfectly still. He asks the assistant what the problem is. The assistant explains the man has a bad cough, but because the store was out of cough supressant, he gave him a whole bottle of laxatives.
"What the hell did you do that for? How will that help him?"
"Take a look; he's afraid to cough".

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

Staying away last week, I missed the New Republic about a possible solution to North Korea.
First, the short, sharp reasons on why Iraq and not North Korea:
The immediate answer is simple: We must presume that North Korea now has a deliverable nuclear bomb and could therefore respond to any attack by vaporizing Seoul or Tokyo. That is why the administration's decision not to threaten war against North Korea is correct; but it is also why the North Korean case strengthens the case for preemption against Iraq: If we do not act against Saddam before he gets the bomb, we may forfeit our ability to act against him ever again.

Simple when you see it like this, isn’t it? There are people out there will simultaneously argue that we should not attack Iraq because they haven’t got the Bomb, and should attack North Korea because they have. Great Moments in doublethink.

The New Republic really wants to upset the Tranzi’s, by advocating a Great Power Solution:
The four powers around Korea--Russia, Japan, China, and the United States--should join to put a modulated end to the North Korean state by denying it all aid, except aid with tight strings attached that is aimed at gradually shifting its sovereign prerogatives into South Korean hands.

Read the rest. Author Adam Garfinkle shows that all parties can benefit from the arrangement.

The House of Saud has denied the use of air bases in any attack on Iraq.

Some points:
By putting this forward, in the absence of any actual request to do so, how is this not “unilateralism”?
By stating this position prior to any UNSC decision, weapons inspections or violations, is Saudi not “going it alone” without “pursuing all diplomatic options”?
If the right of the US to self-defence/retaliation is to be subjected to UNSC control, why should Saudi have the right to opt out?

Not heard from recently:

Noam Chomsky
Arundhati Roy

Find these people. Find them now.

Via Bargarz.

Salman Rushdie has come out in favour of taking out Saddam:
In this strange, unattractive historical moment, the extremely strong anti-Saddam Hussein argument isn't getting a fraction of the attention it deserves.
This is, of course, the argument based on his 31/2-decade-long assault on the Iraqi people. He has impoverished them, murdered them, gassed and tortured them, sent them off to die by the tens of thousands in futile wars, repressed them, gagged them, bludgeoned them and then murdered them some more.

Rushdie easily points up the dilemma for the No War Ever argument:
This is the hard part for antiwar liberals to ignore. All the Iraqi democratic voices that still exist, all the leaders and potential leaders who still survive, are asking, even pleading for the proposed regime change. Will the American and European left make the mistake of being so eager to oppose Bush that they end up seeming to back Saddam Hussein, just as many of them seemed to prefer the continuation of the Taliban's rule in Afghanistan to the American intervention there?

There is a nod to the skeptics of US policy:
The complicating factors, sadly, are this U.S. administration's preemptive, unilateralist instincts, which have alienated so many of America's natural allies. Unilateralist action by the world's only hyperpower looks like bullying because, well, it is bullying.

But then this curious prediction, which smacks a little of getting his ducks in a row for a very big I Told You So.
And the United States' new preemptive-strike policy would, if applied, make America itself a much less safe place, because if the United States reserves the right to attack any country it doesn't like the look of, then those who don't like the look of the United States might feel obliged to return the compliment. It's not always as smart as it sounds to get your retaliation in first.

The simple fact is that the “retaliation” excuse is just that, an excuse. All strikes against other countries are an exercise of raw power, to further the interests of that State. It may be self-defence, it may be pre-emptive self defence. It is often just a grab for land and money. But to imagine that the loons who might launch a terrorist attack against the USA should have their motivations examined with a view to divining their true reasons smacks of Fiskism. The primary motivation for terrorism is to kill as many civilians as possible, while avoiding contact with authorities.

But at the last, Rushdie will not commit to war regardless:
I am bound to say that if, as now seems possible, the United States and the United Nations do agree on a new Iraq resolution; and if inspectors do return, and, as is probable, Hussein gets up to his old obstructionist tricks again; or if Iraq refuses to accept the new U.N. resolution; then the rest of the world must stop sitting on its hands and join the Americans and British in ridding the world of this vile despot and his cohorts.

He has no Plan B, and is comfortable giving China a veto on taking down Saddam. The US is a “bully”, but he can’t admit to one simple fact: it’s the only game in town.


Flash, adj. Showy, ostentatious.
"As flash as a rat with a gold tooth".

from my Mad Mate Beaver.
Natalie Solent has a new definition of hacking.

Monday, November 04, 2002

I SUPPOSE WE SHOULD BE GRATEFUL. After three weeks, Phillip Adams has noticed that something might have happened in Bali, and perhaps it was worth commenting on.

An comment he does, naturally focussing the bulk of his words on his favourite subject, Adams, and how he feels about Bali. There is talk of Adams’ experiences with Balinese culture, Adams visiting [insert famous artist name here] in Bali. Some praise for the Balinese for their struggle:
Through the years I expected the onslaught of Western tourism to obliterate Balinese culture. Yet despite the distortions to the economy, despite the invasions of Germans, Italians, Australians, Americans and Javanese, despite being used as an exotic theme park by the world, a sort of tropical Disneyland, Bali and its traditions have proved tenacious.

He refers earlier to the Balinese traditions he is pleased to see maintained:
from time to time, pent-up feelings would boil over and there'd be sudden outbreaks of extreme violence, individual or even communal rages that couldn't be contained, or constrained,

But despite this wonderful tradition, Adams is prepared to assert the innocence of the locals:
Not violence resulting from the slow build-up of tensions within the rigidity of Bali's religious and social structures. This violence is not of their making.

What’s missing from this picture? There is not a single mention of Australian casualties. Not one. In fact, the only Westerners mentioned, apart from Adams’ friends, are tourists:
Drug addiction, HIV and prostitution came to the island on garudas with aluminium wings made by Boeing.

Drugs were previously unknown in a country with ancient trade ties to India? HIV, originating in Africa, could only have come in through Western contamination? It is good to know that Bali seems to be one of the few societies that has never known prostitution.

Adams has reached previously unthought of levels of depraved indifference. He has relegated the butchering of almost 100 of his countrymen to a less important status than domestic politicking, less urgent than bagging the Governor-General. The dead Australians, Swedes, Americans Danes and Brits are not worthy of his attention, but dead Balinese are not. The man has produced an equivalence that the most rabid Transnational Progressivist can only gaze at in awe and envy.

Robert Manne is a Professor of Politics at Melbourne’s La Trobe University. Fortunately he is not a Professor of History. If he was, this article would see his tenure assured. Australian history departments being concerned with rewriting history as much as recording it, Manne’s ability to paint our relationship with the US as strictly a Conservative affair would see him the toast of the town.
the most fundamental foreign policy belief embedded in the Australian conservative tradition - namely that the only reliable safeguard for our security is to offer faithful and predictable support to the strategic policy of one or another of what Sir Robert Menzies famously called our "great and powerful friends".

Compare and contrast this to the words of Kim Beazley, an ALP favourite son:
Beazley highlighted [ALP wartime Prime Minister] John Curtin's efforts in creating self-reliance for Australia in international politics by looking to America as the foreign policy keystone, without breaking Australia's ties with Britain.
"He is in this regard the real founder of the US/Australia alliance, but he saw it operating within a framework of optimal self-reliance," Beazley said.

But I know you want more, so let’s hear from a former Labor Prime Minister:
Curtin issued a statement which I have previously described as perhaps the most significant ever uttered by an Australian Prime Minister: "Without any inhibitions of any kind, I make it quite clear that Australia looks to America free of any pangs as to our traditional links or kinship with the United Kingdom."

Churchill regarded the statements as "insulting" but while Curtin informed him that it did not indicate any break with Britain he was remorseless in following his words with action.

Manne wants us to think that following the US line is a bad deal, by linking Resistance with Labour secular saint, Gough Whitlam:
For the past 40 years - with the exception of the Whitlam years - we have probably been the most reliable ally of the US.

Remember all those US bases Gough closed? Me either. Troops out of Vietnam? They were all out by the time he took office. Normalising relations with China? He preceded US policy, something Howard is routinely condemned for.
Let’s take it that one unfortunate step too far:
Among true believers it is, moreover, precisely for its plucky independence from the US that the foreign policy of the Whitlam government is most highly praised.

“Plucky”? What's wrong with "doughty", or even "feisty"?.

Within the Labor tradition there are, however, even more solid historical grounds than the valorisation of independence for resistance to a unilateral US war against Iraq. Since 1945 the ALP has consistently balanced loyalty to its great power protector with enthusiasm for international organisations, most importantly the UN, and for the principles of multilateralism and the spread of international law.

No examples given of course. Perhaps he is thinking of that wonderful moment when Bob Hawke declined to give the US permission to test missiles in outback Australia. Probably not, since Hawke followed the real ALP tradition, by unilaterally offering Australian airspace for the tests, and only reversing himself after public outrage. It’s amazing how the ALP “balancing” act has always, always meant the ALP in office has hewed to the US line. In Opposition, like any Party, they spout the usual rubbish, but once in power they do what every Australian Government has done, and always will do.

When the UN went into Kuwait, Australia went in as well. If the UN had not sanctioned the war, the US would have gone in without approval, just as they did in Kosovo. The idea that Australia, then under an ALP government, would have refused a request for support by the US is absurd.

Manne has trouble with the difference between popular and populist.
As things stand, Labor opposition to a war against Iraq, without unambiguous UN mandate, would have the backing of a substantial section of Australia's former political and military elite. It would also have a solid chance of support from a majority of the Australian people, who are at present overwhelmingly opposed to it.

Keep in mind, this “overwhelming” opposition theory is based entirely on opinion polls of about 1500 people or so. But when it comes to a slightly larger sample size, that is, an election, the story is different:
Since the Tampa crisis, moreover, Labor has been mesmerised by fears of the populist conservatism unleashed by the Howard Government - by its capacity to destabilise the ALP by a crude appeal to the most bellicose sentiments of the Australian people.

So policy formation by reference to opinion polls is legitimate, but win an election, and you’re “crude”, “bellicose” and “populist”.
Manne is right in one thing, but not for the reasons he wants”
Only one thing seems clear. If it comes to a US war with Iraq, it is around the attitude of Crean Labor that the future of Australian party politics will be shaped.

Yes. The ALP will do as it has always done, and always will do. It will support the US in whatever they request. They will ignore the whining of their Hard Left, recognising that those voters will not desert the party, and that the US alliance is enormously popular on the ground.

Sunday, November 03, 2002


Don’t we all wish we had this kind of back catalogue. The Meter tells me I’m still getting referrals from Steve Den Beste, aboard the Good Ship USS Clueless, from a post he wrote on the 9th of September. This is good value, and a sterling reminder that standards need to be maintained.

Steven is holidaying in Las Vegas, a town which has improved its attitude from 25 years ago. At that time, my mad mate Beaver was certain that the City Council would, if they thought they could get away with it, pass certain Regulations making it legal for the City Residents to pull tourists off their bus, rough them up, take their money, and send them out of town. This would be a more economic way of achieving the sole purpose of Las Vegas, which was to separate people from their money as quickly and in as cost-effective manner as possible.

These days, Vegas promotes itself as a family destination, with gambling played down. Although you might die, presumably your killer will be brought swiftly to justice, often within one hour.

Anyhoo, Steven’s ruminations about Vegas, and gambling in particular, reminded me of an excellent book, Inside Las Vegas, by none other than Mario Puzo. Puzo describes himself as a “degenerate gambler”, and as such is qualified to speak to the subject. Large pieces of the book can be seen in the film “Casino”. Grab it if you can, but for those reluctant, here are a few of the more quirky revelations:

· Gambling debts (markers) are not legally enforceable debts. The Casinos are a driving force in maintaining this situation, as they do not want to see large numbers of gamblers going toes-up financially as marginal operators take the legal road.
· Remember, the effective cost of a marker to the casino approaches zero. If you go $50,000 in the hole, what has it actually cost the casino to get you there? A small part of the dealer’s wages, perhaps some comp food, but that’s about it. If you are unable to pay, you will not get your legs broken, and they will probably settle for whatever you can afford without going broke (see above). But you will never, ever, get credit again.

For my own part, I agree with Steve (my bold):
When I play BlackJack I play $10 per hand. It's enough to be fun, without being so high as to threaten economic damage with the cards are unfriendly. (Of course, some other people will think I'm fucking stupid for playing that amount, but I don't do it often and I'm careful to stop each day when I reach my limit. I think of it as expensive and unusual entertainment, pretty much.)

I use my version of Casino Rules: start with a set amount of money. If you lose it, walk away. When you have won half of it again, take the original sum and put it back in your pocket. Under no circumstances touch that pocket again. As the old joke goes: Gambling is a tax on people who can’t do maths.

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