Monday, July 31, 2006

Same s**t different shute!

I don’t really mean to cause confusion and consternation, but these are confusing times. I have obviously drifted a fair way from pure corruption.

Grub Street reflects the old English tradition of back street, or as Johnson put it ‘mean publishing’.

It is a scandalous scene composed of poets, writers and cut-price reformers, the likes of “that devil’ John Wilkes.

Like the internet today, the hand press created a means of disseminating alternative messages, allowing other voices to be heard.

So here we are, the ha’penny heretic of the new Grubb Street.

Cunning Stunts

The computer I am using for now doesn’t support current software versions, so I’m relegated to writing html to access the blogger edit window.

I’ll post this now then update it when I can move back into the 21st century.

I recently posted - Insane snippets
- an excerpt from the Guardian, an interview with an Hezbollah fighter. If you went to that article you would have also read:

"We stay put and we don't move till we get our orders, and this is why we are not like any other militia. A militiaman will fire whenever he likes at whatever he likes," explains one of the men, who says he has been involved in firing Katyusha rockets into northern Israel. "We have specific orders. Even when we fire rockets we know when and where [to fire] and each of the men manning the launchers runs to a specific hiding place after firing the rockets."

He says Hizbullah fighters expect the site of a rocket launch to be hit by an Israeli airstrike or shell within 10 to 15 minutes.

Article Here

Now since then you would have read news reports of Israeli rockets hitting an apartment building in southern lebanon. Can you put 2 X 2 together? Doesn’t that seem like a masterstoke of PR by Hexbollah?

They don’t give a rat’s arse about civilians. chikdren, they are terrorists. But Israel fired the deadly rockets and were duped into showing that they are also careless of human life.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Backs to the future

This image of Bush and Blair struck me as oddly symbolic

It is domestic politics

Whatever is happening in the Middle East must come back to the domestic politics in the West, particularly the US and Britain.

Blair is still fighting for his political life, as are Bush’s Republicans. Bush is on his end run anyway and is hardly likely to rewrite the parlous history of his incumbency before he packs his bags.

So back to the press:

Blair suggested that a plan agreed with President Bush after 90 minutes of talks to reach an international deal could halt the fighting as early as next week. But it seemed unlikely that this would placate a growing feeling in Labour ranks that Blair has stuck too closely to the aggressive American and Israeli positions throughout the conflict.

Even Blair’s own Cabinet ministers have been privately critical of his handling of the crisis, with one saying that it “could be the end of him”. London Times

During the talks Bush also apologised for America’s use of Glasgow’s Prestwick Airport to ferry laser-guided bombs to Israel without following proper procedures. “The President said sorry there was a problem. It was a gracious thing to do,” Blair’s official spokesman said.

An apology abrupty followed up with:

A U.S. plane carrying "dangerous goods" en route to Tel Aviv refuelled at a British airport on Saturday, a day after Washington apologised to London for breaking rules on Israel-bound flights with bombs onboard.

A second U.S. flight to Israel will also stop at Scotland's Prestwick airport on Sunday, said a spokesperson for the Civil Aviation Authority, Britain's independent aviation regulator.

As to the all important meeting between the pair:

…they set out a vague plan for bringing a cessation of violence in the Israel-Lebanon conflict at a joint press conference in the White House, they repeatedly referred to the threat posed by Iran and Syria, and their links with Hizbullah.

Voters in Britain want an end to this madness, as do many in Blair’s own cabinet. But Blair is unable to let go of his ties to Washington’s agenda, and continues to be seen as Bush’s poodle.

Bush, of course, is up to his ears in bad news; both militarily and domestically. Some of the headlines:

US economy sees growth rate halved

GLOOMY predictions for the US economy received a shock endorsement yesterday, as the growth rate in the world's largest economy more than halved.

Audit Finds U.S. Hid Actual Cost of Iraq Projects

Partisan Divide on Iraq Exceeds Split on Vietnam

Americans Pessimistic About Mideast

Housing Slows, Taking Big Toll on the Economy

Economy Slowed This Spring

Hikes Wages, Cuts Taxes, Looks Like a Dud

In the midst of all of this the administration is floundering. The much heralded control of congress is pretty much in tatters on all fronts as Republican candidates look to save their own arses.

The grand plan for the Middle East has fallen in a heap and lack of foresight means there is no effective Plan B.

Giving Israel the nod to bomb the shit out of Lebanon might have been seen as a cheap and effective diversion, instead that has blown up in Bush’s face. Instead of solving anything it has simply spawned greater fears for security.

As others here have pointed out, Bush’s planners have simply not understood the dynamics of the Islamic world. The Shiites and Sunnis are effectively at war with each other, a dynamic unleashed by the Bush ‘Democratization of Iraq Strategy’.

How many monumental failures, domestically and internationally, can leaderships sustain? The frightening part is that every move they take now to claw back domestic support simply makes matters worse; and worse in spades.

This is self serving politics out of control. It will not be solved until Bush and Blair are replaced by leaders who are able to think clearly and into the future, Short term political ambitions are at the heart of this whole mess.

My objective here was to try and determine exactly what the Bush/Blair strategy was. That the idea was overtaken by a completely different story probably suggests they don't really have one.

Insane snippets

This sounds awfully like a sideways admission of involvement in Israel’s rapidly failing attack on Lebanon:

U.S. President George W. Bush on Saturday cast the Lebanon war as part of a broader struggle against terrorism and said a strategy to end the violence there must address the threat posed by Hizbollah.

If so it is one more acknowledgement of the bankruptcy of strategy in the ‘war on terror, illustrated from some more story leads:

The ill-founded Somali strategy looks destined to develop another terrorist stronghold.

The killers of a Somali minister had links with foreign terrorism networks seeking to foment chaos in the violence-plagued Horn of Africa nation, Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi said on Saturday.

Who is Bin Laden, who cares? The attack on Lebanon has spawned a new pin up for radical Islamists.

To Arabs, he's the new Nasser, but to the West he has become the new Bin Laden

Even his mortal enemies admire his charisma, but Israel knows it must kill Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah if it is to claim victory in southern Lebanon. First, however, it has to find him

But this article is really worth a read. Look into the mind and the strategy of Hezbollah.

Inside a well-furnished apartment in a village on the outskirts of Tyre, with shelves of books piled from floor to ceiling, a black turbaned cleric and three men sit sipping bitter coffee. By the door is a pile of Kalashnikovs and ammunition boxes; handguns are tucked into the men's trousers. The four are Hizbullah fighters, waiting for the Israelis.

The final para of that story is chilling, and underlines why a wholesale attack on Lebanese civilians was strategic madness:

And even when the battle with the Israelis is over, he adds menacingly, Hizbullah will have other battles to fight. "The real battle is after the end of this war. We will have to settle score with the Lebanese politicians. We also have the best security and intelligence apparatus in this country, and we can reach any of those people who are speaking against us now. Let's finish with the Israelis and then we will settle scores later."

It should be noted that these bits are all taken from conservative or middle of the road media outlets.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Opposition vacuums

Doing some sums the other day I realised that I have been politically involved to some extent for just over 40 years. I started fairly young mind, I actually still have the party membership card to prove it.

Not that I’ve been a party member for that long, but one way and another the passion manifests itself.

After all that time I am still constantly amazed. Not be the voters, there is not so much democracy in the world that voters have a great deal of real choice.

What really amazes me is that bad governments continue to be re-elected. I’m not talking about governments whose policies I disagree with, either. I mean manifestly bad government, ones with a rack record of corruption and mismanagement.

Two spring to mind at the moment. The first from my old home town of Sydney Australia:

The NSW Labor government has an appalling record, by any standards. Barely a week goes by without a scandal wafting out of the old parliament house. Ask most people in NSW what they think of their government and the answer will be in good Australian and probably unprintable.

The second is Britain, where another Labor party is holding the reigns of power against enormous public ill feeling. Tony Blair, once the pin up boy has become the ‘stick it to him’ boy. He ranks with his buddy George W in the polls.

But here is the rub, both these malodorous government will probably be returned when they face election again. The reason why is probably the same as reason they are so deep in scandal; they have no opposition.

Both have ruled for a decade or more. I can recall being at a protest in front of Sydney’s parliament, seeking to stop a building know as ‘the toaster’ being built within spitting distance of the Sydney Opera House.

The developers won and an eyesore graces one of the historically important historic precincts. But the point of that story is that my former wife turned to me and said loudly, “I can’t see anyone from the opposition here.”

I cringed as I watched the then leader of the state Liberal’s, Peter Collins turn and look at us. She still didn’t know.

Nothing has changed, NSW has a different Liberal leader now, and the voters still don’t know who the hell he is.

Britain’s Conservatives aren’t much better off. If voters know who David Cameron is they don’t seem to care much for him or his party. Only 23 per cent of voters approve of the Government's record, the lowest figure recorded since Labour came to power in May 1997. But Conservatives need to be building their support and instead it is slowly draining away.

So why don’t voters find an alternative, if they don’t like the main choices? Because in both cases major parties have made the laws which virtually ensure one or the other will receive a majority, or close to it. They hold the monopoly on power and are not about to let go of that too easily.

When words fail

War on dissent

With the war on terror rapidly being revealed as a misconceived concept, doomed to failure, perhaps it is time to be looking more closely at some of the underlying agenda.

What really concerns me is that the ‘war on terror’ is taking a massive toll on a way of life it was reputed to protect and defend.

Most sub-cultures have inbuilt mechanisms which prohibit internal dissent. The prohibition is largely a defence mechanism against pressures from wider society. Fewer dominant cultures are so restricted, although there are some notable exceptions.

The US, for example, for all the proud talk of freedoms, of speech, of the press, of enterprise and on and on; has a handy, all encompassing damper to freedom. It is called patriotism, an odd and even redundant notion too many other cultures. But patriotism acts like whipped cream, and cover any number of blemishes in the underlying dish.

Another version of whipped cream more common between nations is notions of decency. The moral police are ever ready and willing to restrict freedoms for the sake of narrow perceptions of decency and morality.

These things are all about power of course, or notions of power. But think about notions of power. Rape is about power and control far more than it is about sex, ditto for that hideous peadophilia and the many other manifestation of what are, on the surface, sex crimes.

Psychopaths, the serial killers and others devoid of normal conscience are said to be driven by a lust for power and control; not over themselves but over society represented by their victims.

It has been long recognized that anyone who can fight their way to the very top of the political tree has, perforce, a seriously divergent mentality. To gain those positions they must be able to, sometimes literally, do so across dead bodies.

The real problem for the rest of us, the ones who have no great craving for power for its own sake, is that there will always be those willing to fill the vacuum we leave.

To do so they will invariably call upon notions of decency and morality to defend their claims, even indefensible claims.

I could conjure names like Hitler and Stalin, most do. But to take that route ignores our very own leaders who consistently commit the most heinous acts on their citizenry, claiming those acts to be for the betterment of the citizens the harm.

Many of these acts are so frightening that wider society is dulled to silent acceptance rather than admit such things are possible.

It is one thing, for our well honed senses of decency and morality, to accept the ‘necessary’ barbarous treatment of foreigners in the name of self protection.

To turn a blind eye to attacks on our own citizens from our own governments must surely defeat that purpose.

I am not discussing invasion of privacy here either; privacy is a dubious concept at best. However that attack privacy has a far more serious element and that is an attack and prohibition on the freedom to dissent, an obvious and essential element of democracy.

Now, post 9/11 if not before, dissent is voiced with an ever present shadow of a looming government shadow, ready to pounce.

Most of our democratic governments now have draconian laws in place, ostensibly to net ‘terrorists’ but more often to stifle dissent.

To speak out against incursions on democratic rights and freedoms is now to become an enemy of the state.

If I am to be seen as ‘an enemy of the state’ then so be it. But as such I would see it as equally important to indentify my enemies.

Oddly I put terrorists up there, along with our democratic leaders. Their collective game is not in the interests of the majority on this planet. They are, to my mind, psychopaths all.

Again, oddly, I think it would be wrong to cast George W Bush as the king pin, even though he is titular head of the ‘free’ world. Bush, from observation, simply does not have the wit or drive to fill such a roll. He is merely a puppet, an acceptable face for an unacceptable program. He is a stooge for far more sinister forces.

The Christian Right has now been well and truly discredited for their cynical manipulation moral and decency issues. True they hold some sway still, but history will march over their hypocrisy, as it always has.

Even if they were true to their stated beliefs, morality cannot be legislated, and reality always ends to come back with a vengeance. Pandering to their nonsense is to simply use them to gain other agendas.

To my mind, without getting into conspiracy theories, big money pulls the strings, as it always has. We have been talking about economics and its central importance to the way our societies function.

Historically, it is only the loss of an economic toehold in society, the loss of a dream of a better tomorrow which wakes electorates to threats we are facing. Even then few see beyond that imperative, few see the damage that is being done to our ever fragile democratic rights.

We can, and probably will keep sharing reports on unfolding events. Without putting those into some context the exercise is little more than an ineffective spectator sport.

As it is our individual reach, as bloggers, might be limited, but I do believe ideas spread and influence through this medium. We might not, individually or collectively, have the answers, but it is vital that we keep asking the questions and seed the doubts.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Odd Bits

So it was Johnny Howard’s birthday the other day and he was out doing his normal power walk, (Prime Ministers don’t just do any walk,) when he passed a bunch of school kids working on a rowing shell.

The young guy in the picture, giving the PM a birthday hug, is still carrying a screwdriver. If you squint you can see it. (or see the video)

So much for the terror threat in Australia, when security people allows anyone that close to the country’s leader, with what could easily be a weapon.

It beats Bush, surrounded by a small army of security, refusing even a sip of some little girls’ lemonade.

While we a looking at arseholes, it was interesting to see Senator Norm Coleman’s dad has the balls his son lacks.

Coleman is the Senate committee head who is consistently rolled by the administration whenever he launches an investigation. Twice he was stopped from looking into Australia’s oil kickback’s to Saddam in the oil for food rort.

But his dad,

The 81-year-old Norm Coleman Sr, has been cited for lewd and disorderly conduct after he was found engaged in a sex act with a 38-year-old woman while parked outside a Minnesota pizza parlour.

Coleman Jr, cringing, said: “I am deeply disturbed by what I have learnt. He clearly has some issues that need to be dealt with, and I will encourage him to seek the necessary help."

Bullshit Norm, he was getting his rocks off. Last I heard there was nothing essentially dysfunctional about having sex. I’m not even sure choosing a pizza parlour car park suggests any particular deficiency. You go for it old man!

For those who doubt

With the Israeli offensive in Lebanon meeting surprising resistance -- despite massive destruction from the air -- the recent publication of photos of Israeli children signing missiles about to be fired into Lebanon, with messages such as "From Israel with Love," have drawn renewed attention.

The Web site of the Jerusalem Post ( confirmed that the pictures are real, after they appeared on numerous mainstream news sites and blogs, where they continue to inspire wide feedback.

The Jeusalem Post site explained, "Questions over the photos' authenticity have been put to rest by authorities that were present during the incident, which occurred on July 17 near the northern border. The mostly local children had been brought to see the shells by their parents. Although it remains unclear who encouraged them to write the messages, their colorful scribbles, including a Star of David, hearts, and 'From Israel, with Love'....

The Israeli military said it did not sanction to episode.

For those who would accuse me of simply running unconfirmed ‘propaganda’, I hope this article puts at least one issue to rest.

Mind you, in many ways I would have been just as happy to find they were fake pictures; albeit with the lingering concern that at least some children were being exposed to glorification of war.

This is the sort of PR which makes it difficult to accept any moral authority in Israel’s actions, and seriously lowers the ‘defence’ to the sick level of the terrorists.

On a different note, I keep coming across the spelling Isreal. In fact when you google the misspelling there are about 5,020,000 incidences listed.

It had me confused for a while, that this was so widespread, until it was pointed out that the odd spelling mirrored the alternative pronunciation.

I obviously don’t watch enough American television.

Yes, we won't blame bananas...

It is, perhaps, ironic that in the midst of a discussion on relative economics we find some real time illustrations of the complexities and anomalies of monetarism.

I reported below on Australia’s impending ‘banana recession’, but economists are already jumping on that simplification proffered by the Howard Liberal government.

Howard is a card carrying post-Thatcherite. (Reganite – economic rationalist – this list of appellations changes constantly, but essentially adds up to monetarism.) Howard is in the forefront of Liberalism gone feral, the return to feudalism.

Now monetarism decrees that the politician is at arms length from economic adjustments, such as interest rates which we have note are the province of central banks.

That is well and good when the numbers are favourable, but becomes problematic when the squeeze comes, as it has downunder.

First Howard’s treasury rottweiler, Peter Costello, recognizing an impending rate rise counseled the Reserve Bank, who set the rates, to back off, leave things as they are. Of course he was duly told to ‘get a dog up him!’ No one tells the Reserve Bank anything.

Then Howard jumped in too, saying:

"It's got to realise in relation to the bananas, if I can put it that way, that will flow through and disappear.

"And it's also got to understand the consequences in relation to the fuel price increases."

He was simply ignored. But Costello came back into the fray, oddly claiming his right to speak out about the lack of justification for a rate rise, saying it did not undermine the Reserve Bank's independence.

Costello said it was written into the formal agreement between himself and the governor of the Reserve Bank that the government reserved its right to comment on monetary policy from time to time.

That’s as may be, but you can’t fry an egg and poach it at the same time, so try as they might the neo-libs are hoist on their own petard.

According to one leading economist the problem is not bananas, but Sydney; “the nation's largest economy is in a rut and it makes the bank's task of fighting inflation fraught.”

But whatever they blame Howard’s government is in deep economic trouble. Influencing a the interest rate could only have a marginal and short term benefit.

It is a panic measure from the government of fiscal responsibility. A panic spurred by the certain knowledge that the Australian economy, despite the wonders of monetarism, is headed for stagnation.

The government might well shift the blame to factors outside of its control, cyclones and the Reserve Bank being that chosen targets, but the people still labour under the belief that they elect governments to govern; and in their ignorance to understand the rules of monetarism or other devices, will ultimately blame the governments for failure to do so.

Wrong Wrong Wrong

In the heat of emotional debate it is easy to be misunderstood, or misinterpreted, deliberately or otherwise.

Let me be clear on a couple of key points:

I abhor Israel’s actions against Lebanon, the ‘coalition of the willing’s’ adventure into Iraq and any number of ill conceived interventions.

I abhor the terrorist concept of retaliation against perceived enemies, which do not target the actual enemy but innocent proxies – soft targets.

Both groups can justify their destructive aggression until the cows come home, and it is still wrong!

That I generally aim criticism at the defined military aggressors it is because they have many better ways of dealing with the menace of rogue groups, methods which would be more likely to elicit wider public support against a common threat.

Let’s be clear, we are all subject to the threat, thanks largely to the woeful strategic planning of the, notionally, US led military approach.

That the motives of those administrations who are part of this ill-founded, aggression have been constantly been shown to be doubtful does not engender any great trust.

What can you say about terrorists, regardless of the underlying stimulus for their madness, but they are WRONG WRONG WRONG!

My one great problem is that the same plaintive cry must be directed at that US led group of countries too. They are wrong in so many ways.

There can be no glory in watching Israel losing its tenuous grip in the Middle East because of blind arrogance which refuses to understand the dynamics of the whole situation.

There can be no glory in watching the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan sink to new lows, essentially loss of control, because the underlying motives for those adventures were false.

There is most certainly no glory in watching the ranks of terrorism, sympathies for terrorism grow because the US led adventure has got the whole picture so wrong.

For goodness sake, I would put up with a lifetime of George W’s, John Howards and Tony Blairs if it meant that we weren’t flushing our world, not to mention wellbeing, down the plug hole.

But these crooks aren’t content with having power, they want it all. It is a dangerous game of poker by those who control most of the chips to own them all.

The sad part is that if they succeed the world they will have created would be no more worth living in for them as it would for the rest of us. Let’s face it, when you control everything where else does your manic , acquisitive drive take you?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

NeoLiberalism in practice

One of the reasonings, as pointed out to me, Keynesianism’s lack of favour is that the theory rejects the laissez-faire aspect of liberalism.

Heaven forbid that we should actually regulate society, or so the monetarists would claim. But what the neo-liberals claim and what they do are two vastly different things.

Just this week a number of leaders overseeing monetarist economies have spoken out, for example, against the fast food fatties. No doubt they are right, but doesn’t it seem odd that they are even suggesting regulating the industry?

To be fair, they don’t use the term regulate, and they would not impose restrictions themselves, that would come through qangos (quasi autonomous government organizations), at arms length from government.

Smoking is another area of discrepancy, with a wide range of regulations imposed. Rarely by central governments it is true, but they are still vocal about the need for restrictions.

Taxation is an obvious area as well, but most of the obvious current regulations fall broadly under ‘health and safety’ policy.

I’m not sure why this is, but my best guess is that is involves the powerful and wealthy insurance lobby. Let me say, I don’t believe, in practice, that there is such a thing as insurance, and certainly no voluntary aspect for the companies.

Another interesting anomaly with monetarist governments is their willingness to subsidise so many aspects of big business, while extolling that laissez-faire at the lower end of the scale. Whether through massive tax ‘incentives’, direct subsidies or vehicles such as untendered contracts, the big winners are invariably big.

One of the practical aspects of Keynesianism is a certain flexibility to regulating markets, and perish the thought, government’s own commercial activities.

I guess if the economy called for it, the system would provide incentives to business, but generally to produce an economically efficacious outcome – like more jobs.

Intervention is to Keynesian economics as laissez-faire is to monetarism. It’s just a case of how far the peanut butter is spread.

Plane crashes in Afghanistan

An unidentified plane crashed in southeastern Afghanistan on Wednesday, reportedly causing casualties, but few other details were available, Western and Afghan officials told Reuters.

The plane had taken off from the southeastern province of Khost, where U.S.-led coalition forces have a base, before crashing in a nearby province, Afghan officials said.

A Western source said he had heard reports of casualties, but had no further information.

A spokesman for the coalition forces in Kabul confirmed the crash, but said he had no details.

The crash occurred in an area where Taliban insurgents are active.

My late, lamented mother used to do this to me all the time. Knowing I was interested in current affairs, she would ring to tell me:

“I just heard something on the news, I think it was important. This man said something. I forget what it was, but he was really very serious about something that happened.

“No, I don’t remember who he was, but he was someone important…”

At this stage I generally inquired after her arthritis, details of which she could impart with great precision.

Aging mothers are one thing, and the non-story was more than likely an excuse for contact. The news media hardly have that excuse, so why the hell do they run non-stories? This one is all the more worrying because it is from one of my favourite news sources; The Scotsman.

A favourite I should add, because it is an anti establishment (or anti-England?) publication with a quirky and inquisitive bent. They cover international events either dispassionately or with a good sense of humour; they constantly prod the UK establishment but rarely run outright nonsense.

Perhaps the editor has recently read E Annie Proulx’s Shipping News. Both the headline and story would fit well in that book’s fictional newspaper.

Economy slipped on a Banana

As the Melbourne Age put it:

FORGET the Swiss-crafted watch or Italian-made shoes as measures of wealth. A peek inside a person's lunchbox will do the trick.

With bananas costing up to $3 a pop, the fruit is more than just a nutritious treat — it's become a status symbol.

Fuel and banana prices have driven Australia’s inflation to an 11-year high.

The annual inflation rate has jumped to an uncomfortable 4 per cent, the highest since 1995…

Prices rose 1.6 per cent in the June quarter alone.

So what kind of economy is it than can be toppled by a banana? Not a banana republic alas, downunder remains a ‘constitutional monarchy’.

Inflation is now a full percentage point above the Reserve Bank's target of between 2 per cent and 3 per cent and the bank's weighted median inflation rate, which allows for one-off price fluctuations, has risen to 3 per cent.

The banana crisis stems from Australia’s Katrina, tropical Cyclone Larry which wiped out much of the northern Australian crop. For some unexplained reason the loss of the banana crop sent prices of other fruit higher as well.

You have to hand it to the Aussies, they obviously love their fruit. But global fuel price are also reflected in the figure, base prices rises and the flow on multiplier to transport of consumer goods.

The bad news for the economy is good news for those longing to see the back of John Howard’s Liberal government.

While a majority of Australians have been opposed to Howard’s dalliance with Bush and the agenda of aggression, they invariably vote on the economic wellbeing which Howard claims to deliver.

Equally, there is no guarantee that the government in waiting will take a substantially different tack on military issues. Only the language will change there, not the substance.

Still, the idea of a government slipping on a banana has a sort of overarching appeal.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Economics by Dummies Part II

So to Keynesianism and beyond

This is necessarily a thumbnail sketch, and I won’t be offended in the slightest if someone was to do the theory some real justice. I am not an economist, although I believe economics is central to our cultures.

John Maynard Keynes, 1883-1946 The link offers a bit about the man and his co-developers. Keynes and others developed a set of principles against a backdrop of, largely, Liberal and Socialist alternatives.

It is perhaps, because they were wary that harsh Liberalism might drive the masses to Socialism, capital reluctantly allowed Keynesianism a foothold. The First World War ushered in enormous social changes in Britain and her dominions, so the threat to capital was very real.

Keynes launched his career off the theory of the income-expenditure multiplier, which is still seen as a handy measuring tool, especially in growing regions justifying faster development.

But the key factor seems to be the inability of the then dominant systems to raise the ordinary toiler out of drudgery, life as a drone with no real hope of improvement.

It seems to me, central to Keynes’ approach is that personal and cultural incentive is vital to economic wellbeing. Liberalism, wherein capital controls the economy, fails to engage the toilers to the full benefit of society, nor does State controlled socialism. It could be argued, in fact, that both systems are socialist, particularly as Liberalism subsidises capital in practice.

So if we are going to marshal and use all our resources properly, (no pun intended) the system needs to be adjusted radically, opened up to allow real individual enterprise, not simply pay it lip services as Liberalism does.

Quote (from above link):

Among the revolutionary concepts initiated by Keynes was the concept of a demand-determined equilibrium wherein unemployment is possible, the ineffectiveness of price flexibility to cure unemployment, a unique theory of money based on "liquidity preference", the introduction of radical uncertainty and expectations, the marginal efficiency of investment schedule breaking Say's Law (and thus reversing the savings-investment causation), the possibility of using government fiscal and monetary policy to help eliminate recessions and control economic booms. Indeed, with this book, he almost single-handedly constructed the fundamental relationships and ideas behind what became known as "macroeconomics".

Keynes also condemned the liberal holy grail; laissez-faire economic policy. That is essentially a no holds barred, free for all. Which sounds good, until you realise that capital still owns the bulldozer. The enterprising toiler might be allowed to look at it, rent or hire it, but they would never be allowed to own it. Capital is still well in control.

He also advocated the use of public works to reduce unemployment and condemned the Treasury's fear of "budget deficits". Bear in mind the liberal tenet that government should not compete with business (capital). The fact is, both must compete for the same borrowings, so in a capital dominated system government musty be essentially free of debt.

That means that publicly funded schemes to provide work, as well as infrastructure, is anathema to liberalism. One of the worse tragedies of this policy is the current dearth of skilled trades, because, historically, governments have provided the bulk of apprenticeship training.

Then comes the WWII and a North American (born in Canada, operated in the US) John Kenneth Galbraith. Keynesianism has been an evolution, and Galbraith added a few more important aspects, put to practical application in the Marshall Plan.

There is plenty of documentation on the Marshall Plan, so I won’t go deeply into the subject. From my understanding the guiding principle was that post war reconstruction in Europe could be best achieved by full engaging the individual countries and their peoples. Give them the means, the guidance then let them get on with the job.

The result still stands in stark contrast to the concurrent Soviet Europe reconstruction and today’s Iraq reconstruction. The lessons are there to be seen and free, but capital obviously has other ideas for Iraq.

I’m not sure where this particular theory fits into pendulum swings. It has no particular power base, being a more diverse and equitable concept. I do know that economics students around the world fought loudly to have Keynesianism and other systems included in curricula, but I expect the dominant monetarism won that battle.

In fact I put it to a business economy lecturer, during Canada’s 2004 Federal election, that Keynesianism was far more efficacious than neo-liberalism. He readily agreed, then said: “But who is going to listen to you?”

Why Israel makes me angry

QASIM Chaalan thought he had died in the burning haze of the missile strike.

But it gradually dawned on him that he was still there, inside the ambulance. He still felt his body and, opening his eyes, could still see.

Chaalan and the other medics were lucky: they survived a direct hit from an Israeli missile. One of the dazed medics fumbled slowly for the radio and began: "We have an accident …"

He failed to finish the sentence because a second missile smashed into the ambulance behind them.

It is this sort of idiocy, terrorism, which makes me blind with rage over the actions of Israel and their neo-con apologists.

Fortunately I'm still laughing about the anon yesterday who mangaged to call me a fascist and a liberal (communist? I'm trying to Americanise his (its) language.) in the same post. So be warned. I have no problem deleting stupidity in my current mood.

Uniform definitions

Terrorism: The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence
by a person or an organized group against people or

The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized
group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing
societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons.

Or alternatively:

Terrorism is the systematic use of terror or violence to achieve
political goals. The targets of terrorism include government officials, identified
individuals or groups, and innocent bystanders. In most cases terrorists seek
to overthrow or destabilize an existing political regime, but totalitarian and
dictatorial governments use terror to

maintain their power.

A terrorist is obviously one who engages in terrorism.

Now, on the surface of it, those definitions can also apply to what we term
as offensive or defensive military actions. But there is a tendency to see terrorists
as non-uniformed.

So let’s add non-uniformed to those definitions just to be clear.

The state of Israel was created by proud Zionist terrorist. No one debates
that, nor that the USA was born out of terrorist activities. But they have since
become relatively powerful, and now wear uniforms, so they are now legitimate
military states.

Terrorists also attack innocent civilians, as part of their intimidation efforts.
Israel attack innocent civilians, but they wear uniforms while they do it. A
bit of a grey area there.

British troops in Afghanistan have engaged in killing innocent civilians as
they root out Taliban (terrorists). Some British troops have also been advised
to dress ‘like the local’ to try and win their confidence. Killing
innocent civilians, out of uniform? Is that a grey area?

Don’t talk to terrorists

Both the USA and Israel claim that they refuse to talk to terrorists.

First we might need to subdivide the terrorist definition. For example we hear
of Islamist terrorists.

Are all terrorists Muslims? No, by definition, terrorists can hold any religious
affiliation or even no religious affiliation.

Are all Muslims terrorists by virtue of their religious beliefs? See above.

Are some types (on religious grounds for example) better, worse or the same
as any other breed of terrorist? Again, by definition affiliation should not
make any difference.

Key legitimate military states, like the USA, state they will not negotiate
or have dealings with any terrorist group.

How does that square with the current support for non-uniformed, Islamist warlords
in Sudan? They fit the definition of terrorists.

US Congress supports terrorists

The US Congress has recently refused to ratify their side of a no-contest extradition
treaty with Britain. The clear reason for the refusal is that Britain might
call for the extradition of known IRA operatives currently in the US.

By all standards the IRA rate as terrorists, yet they have the support of the
United States Congress. Religious affiliation should make no difference, so
being predominantly Roman Catholic should not protect the IRA members.

US Policy supports terrorist havens

Lebanon’s civilian attacks are explained away because the Lebanese government
failed to deal with Hezbollah fighters on their territory.

So by definition, if a government harbours terrorists, willingly or not, that
country and its hapless civilians are a fair target for legitimate military

Tamil fighters (terrorists) in Sri Lanka regularly use Southern India for their

Yet President Bush recently completed a pact with India to allow them to develop
a nuclear capacity.

Pakistan is a regular haven for Afghan Taliban fighters and other terrorists.
But rather than punish innocent Pakistanis, the US goes to great lengths to
maintain strong relations with that government.

So far the only uniform definition I have found is that legitimate, uniformed
military states can justify just about any action they choose to take. They
can attack or condone terrorism as they please. But it would be folly, unless
you are uniformed, to question

their right to do so.

I am open to more clarification here. Because it seems to me that there is
a significant gap, at times, between stated policies and real actions. It could
simply be that legitimate military states know better than we ordinary people.
It might be, but I’m yet to see any evidence of that assertion. More likely
it is a matter of playing both ends against the middle and the people are totally

Economics by Dummies Part I


When I studied Political Science there was no element of economics on the agenda. Yes, we cruised through political theory, but that was not to dissect theories so much as get an overview of the ‘bad’ ones.

It was not until many years later, and many wrong ways, that I finally realized how integral economics is to politics, probably even dominant.

Back then the world (the ‘free world’) was in the grip of Liberalism, and I think there is an historic factor in that. To see why, you need to look at the birth of Liberalism.

It came out of the Industrial Revolution, out of the harsh social upheaval which replaced even the meager self-sufficiency of rural life with the total dependency of employers in industrial cities.

Even if there were time and energy to grow a supplementary vegetable garden, the soil was too ruined to sustain it.

Far from being born out of any great sense of compassion, Liberalism developed as a way of securing a relatively fit and happy workforce. No more than that because given too much freedom and self determination, employees would start competing with the industrialists.

The second wave of Liberalism emerged in the post-war period. (I have to stop and think about that term because what is real to me still is now just a concept to many.) But the world did need to rebuild after the Second World War, women needed to be sent back to the kitchen to make way for returning men and there was a goldmine waiting for cashed up industrialists.

But it was a different world, and by accident or design, the horses bolted. Ordinary workers, perhaps emboldened by war experience, began to challenge traditional capital for their own bit of gold.

The third wave of Liberalism struck after the fall of the Berlin Wall, building to a frenzy in the ‘80s and firming into what is variously called neo-liberalism or monetarism. This is perhaps the harshest form of all, because it divests economics completely of one of its two main pillars. Monetarism only reluctantly, for political benefit, recognizes a social aspect of economics. As we are witnessing in our brave new world, people are now expendable. Monetarism recognizes as primary, the return on investment. It does not require that anything be made; it does not recognize the needs of consumers, instead creating wants; employees are no longer valued for experience or loyalty. Producing profits is the whole thrust of neo-liberalism.

Of course all this occurred against a backdrop of dreaded socialism; itself a little understood or practiced economic theory. But between those two is Keynesian economics, so lets treat this as an introduction, a backdrop to part II.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Offensive Liberalism

I was, as a youth intrigued by politics, attracted to the state ‘beliefs’ of Australia’s Liberal Party. I note that on their website, those stated beliefs have not changed much:

We believe in the inalienable rights and freedoms of all peoples; and we work towards a lean government that minimises interference in our daily lives; and maximises individual and private sector initiative.

We believe in government that nurtures and encourages its citizens through incentive, rather than putting limits on people through the punishing disincentives of burdensome taxes and the stifling structures of Labor's corporate state and bureaucratic red tape.

We believe in those most basic freedoms of parliamentary democracy - the freedom of thought, worship, speech and association.

We believe in a just and humane society in which the importance of the family and the role of law and justice is maintained.

We believe in equal opportunity for all Australians; and the encouragement and facilitation of wealth so that all may enjoy the highest possible standards of living, health, education and social justice.

We believe that, wherever possible, government should not compete with an efficient private sector; and that businesses and individuals - not government - are the true creators of wealth and employment.

They represent philosophical Liberalism, the value of which I have since come to doubt. What they don’t represent is the practical values of Australia’s Liberals.

The Liberal Party I finally abandoned during the 1970’s was already drifting from its roots and to the right. To be sure, it still attracted true ‘liberals’, those who follow those beliefs stated above.

George Bush and Dick Cheney would find a happy home in the Australian Liberal Party, since it has become dominated by neo-conservatives of like minds.

I fell out with the party when I protested to a State Council over the efforts to recruit members to the John Birch Society. I won that battle with overt recruitment being stamped out. I lost the war because I had become part of a dangerously outnumbered ‘wets’ faction.

I still get a smile out of being called, on the same day by different people, both a fascist and a pinko. No one ever accused the rabid right of being discerning in their insults.

The Party is still very much in the business of sidelining dissenters. Just in the past week a number of NSW Party members have been given membership suspensions for speaking out about internal party corruption. There are more to come, including former Liberal MPs.

The NSW branch is now dominated by a group known as ‘The Uglies’, a largely right wing Christian power base. They achieved monopoly power through branch stacking and obviously intend to preserve it by silencing dissenters.

The Federal Liberal Government, led by John Howard, have shown their divergence from the stated beliefs in dubious legislation it has pushed through parliament.

Tax of course, like their US Republican friends, increasingly favours the wealthy and marginalises the majority. The justification, that neo-liberal catch phrase, is the discredited ‘trickle down effect’. It does not trickle down and never will.

In Australia, like the US, profits are not put back into the country but invested offshore to ensure greater profits.

The speed with which Howard’s government joined the Bush crew in international conflict says nothing for those stated beliefs. Australia saw no threat until Howard created one.

I am most definitely not a Liberal, even if I once thought I was. Neither are my more compassionate US friend’s liberals!

For all that I can sympathise with those on the left of US politics, it is only left in relation to the greater tendency to the right. Tame stuff indeed!

I am starting to believe that the real left was wiped out in an act bordering on political genocide. Through McCarthyism and beyond, those doyens of the left, the Guthries and Steinbecks have been wiped off the map.

But there remains a stream of readily rejects the excesses of the right, who crave a more humane and caring society.

I’m not sure that it is a dream that any of the worlds major political players can deliver on. The body politic seems to have trapped itself in self serving greed, blinded to the utter responsibility which their authority vests in them.

The best we can realistically hope for is a few regimes whose vision is a little fairer, but I’m not holding my breath.

A word to anons

Debate, discussion and argument have rules, much like other activities in life. They are based in sound reason, like extensions of your mothers’ warnings – don’t run while holding sharp objects…

Obviously, if one chooses to broadcast their beliefs (developing or immutable) then it is proper to garnish stated positions with some kind of supporting evidence. Becuase I said so does not wash.

To simply think, feel, believe something in the absence of some kind of supporting argument is a worthless exercise; an exercise lacking any authority or force.

To dress unsupported supposition with epithets is tantamount to an admission of the bankruptsy of the thoughts expressed.

Cloaking the thoughts (we can hardly call them arguments if unsupported) with anonymity speaks of uncertainty, or worse, of cowardice.

I would draw an analogy with snipers and suicide bombers, but even they display more dignity than the hit and run, anonymous commenter.

Know your enemy (if you seem intent on having enemies). You can cover your own identity, with all that entails, but you are generally attacking those with a body of writing which adequately reveals much about the writer.

For example, I am not a ‘liberal’ in the proper political sense of the strange American usage of the word. I am not, philosophically, a leftist; although it seems to be a convenient basket to lump me in.

My writing will show that I am fundamentally a humanitarian who subscribes to Keynesian economic principles. (In shorthand, that is the economic model on which the effective Marshall plan was based.)

My beliefs, however, are not immutable, and more than anything I detest minds which are unable to respond to the constant changes in our cultures.

I am an Internationalist, and have made that clear through my writing. That belief is rooted in the fact of obvious inter-related cause and effect, regardless of borders and narrow mindsets.

Most of all, having gone to the trouble of researching issues, I have little time for mindless hit-and-run stupidity.

I am willing to engage in discussion and debate from all sides. But it must be just that, otherwise I reserve my right to hit the delete button.

So please, if you have anything of value to contribute to the discussion, by all means join in. Otherwise you do yourself, your ‘beliefs’ and the positions you support no favours. You simply demean and belittle them and yourself.

If you choose to be anonymous (and some of you have left enough clues to some kind of identity) then that is your choice. Just think about adding to, rather than diminishing discussion.

Pipers revenge

Silly me, I was always under the impression that soldiering was a career fraught with serious hazards. All that standing in the line of fire, dodging bullets and bombs, sounds pretty hairy to me.

So I was delighted to hear that, in Britain, the health and safety people have now moved in to clean things up:

Soldiers learning to play the bagpipes have been told to limit their practice sessions to only 24 minutes a day, or 15 minutes when indoors.

Pipers will also have to wear ear plugs under the new guidelines brought in by health and safety officials.

Tests showed that outdoors the sound of bagpipes could reach 111 decibels, slightly louder than a pneumatic drill. Indoors, the instrument could reach 116 decibels, or as loud as a chainsaw.

So we await anxiously for all those other safety measures, to ensure the long and healthy life of warriors previously expected to test the penetrating qualities of military ordinance.

The times they are a’changin…

ONE moment last week epitomised the current quandary of American neoconservatism.

During the latest bout of conflict in the Middle East, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki issued the following statement: "The Israeli attacks and air strikes are completely destroying Lebanon's infrastructure. I condemn these aggressions and call on the Arab League foreign ministers' meeting in Cairo to take quick action ... We call on the world to take quick stands to stop the Israeli aggression."

So, suddenly, the neoconservatives found themselves in the position of having fought a war to construct a democratic polity in Iraq ... only for that polity to join Iran and Syria in condemning democratic Israel. The circle closed, and the irony was airtight. Andrew Sullivan The Times (London)

That, in itself is a fascinating insight into the waning powers of the US right; and with it we hope the worlds willing camp followers.

But it comes from an article which is making an even more critical point; the neo-cons are dividing into the rigid ‘post 9/11’ camp and believe the mindset is past its use-by date.

To Joe Public, what the political elite, the theorist espouse is unadulterated crap, they just want those throwaway confirmations and affirmations.

Of course 9/11 was a horror, so if the left is accused of ‘pre 9/11’ thinking, well anyone can see that is bad. Fox et al have no problem selling the concept.

But for those watching closely, the neo-con edifice is starting to crack, the theorists are beginning to question their own certainties. ‘Stuck in a ‘post 9/11’ mindset will slowly become a stick with which the right will beat themselves. The tables are turning.

reality-based educator introduced me to one of these theorists, George Will (George Will Slaps Down Kristol, Neo-Cons), but I failed at that reading to understand the import of Will’s comments.

Will, last week finally unleashed a real tirade against his Republican brethren. He called neoconservatism "a spectacularly misnamed radicalism" and urged patience, prudence and restraint in the war.

I recently wrote about Australian lawmakers having to personally face the repressions of draconian anti-terror measures in that country, a wake up call we hope.

Conservatives [in the US] who cherish individual liberty have lost faith in an administration that has wire-tapped Americans without warrants, tortured military prisoners and violated the ancient Anglo-American principle of due process and the rule of law.

My Bob Dylan days are long gone now, but the thought still comes to mind – ‘The times they are a’changin…’

Monday, July 24, 2006

The emerging split

The British Foreign Office minister Kim Howells has stood by his criticisms of the 12-day bombardment of Lebanon with a warning that Israel had to win the "political battle" as well as confronting Hizbollah militarily.

The Independent reports (in pig awful journalism):

…Howells, whose weekend remarks in Beirut and here yesterday appeared to reflect an emerging difference - at the very least in tone - between the UK and US governments over Israel's conduct of the war, repeated that Israel had to "think very hard" about the loss of civilian life and the impact on Lebanon's infrastructure.

Asked if he was saying that that Israel's bombardment, which has taken over 370 lives, was not "proportionate and restrained", Howells said: "Yes, I believe that is the view of the British government. We defend all the all the way down the line Israel's right to defend its citizens, cities and communities against Hizbollah, a ruthless enemy, but there is also a political battle to be won, and they have got to show proprtionality."

Like I say, the journalism is wanting and the political constructions strange, but the message is still clear. Britain’s government is not falling into step with the Bush admin on Israel.

The other noise coming out of London, and presaging rift, is the fact that Blair was actually quite pissed off by Bush’s G8 performance. If nothing else, it made Blair look like the patsy he is.

Happy days, the Mid Atlantic Ridge is rocking and rolling.


But just to show the real difference between the two nations; The US tend to fix bad press with name changes. If it stinks just call it something else. In Britain they dress differently to solve their problems.

Uniforms for passport teams 'will deter illegals'

Uniformed border control officers are to be introduced at ports and airports, John Reid, the Home Secretary, announced yesterday.

In addition, the budget for immigration enforcement will double to £280 million by the end of 2010 to try to clamp down on illegal immigrants.

Copping the bad news

It seems like centuries ago now, but back between 1994 and ’97 police in NSW, Australia, were subjected to a long overdue inquiry of Royal Commission.

Commissioner Woods left few rotting logs unturned, as he rooted out a deep culture of corruption.

A supercop, Peter Ryan, was bought in from Britain as a fresh face, only to have his police career destroyed in the clean-up process.

The end result was an acknowledgement of just how rotten the force was, but a certain powerlessness to fix things quickly.

As the Police Minister of the time suggested, ‘If we sack them all how do we replace them? And is their any guarantee that a new force wouldn’t revert to old habits?

About the only logical remedy was tougher training and a higher standard for new recruits. I guess they were looking to develop a new breed of cop who could and would say no to the corruption happening around them.

Last years intake was supposed to be the cream, selection of the very best possible candidates. This week we have the result of that effort.

A trainee has been arrested and stood down after he paraded his personal collection of illegal replica firearms at the Goulburn Police Academy.

He brought a replica MP5 submachine-gun and other weaponry into the grounds of the academy, then provided a demonstration to classmates.

When stunned onlookers reported his actions to academy hierarchy a raid was conducted at the man's private residence, where a stockpile of other military-style equipment was uncovered.

So it took most of his training period, then a show and tell session, to reveal a cop who has a passion for military assault weapons.

That is bad enough, but the news does get more sordid.

A stricter code of conduct has been implemented at the Goulburn Police College in light of allegations of sexual harassment and gross negligence.

The report says the documents reveal one case alleging a lecturer requested sex from a student for help in passing a course.

The report quoted a police spokeswoman saying 18 cases were closed with no action taken but three cases had sensitive information blacked out by FOI gatekeepers.

It is tempting to think that the problems with NSW police stem right back to the convict beginnings of the settlement.

I should also note that I’ve personally known some excellent NSW cops, although the system does tend to take its toll on them.

The weight of traditional behavior and inbuilt corruption and cover-up is not something easily taken on a beaten. It only takes a couple of bad cops to outweigh the good efforts of many.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Put lawmakers in front line

We have, in the past, raised concerns over the wider civil impact of anti-terrorism laws in Australia and elsewhere.

As usual, these draconian laws use a sledge to crack a walnut, more often than not. Although not meant to target innocent citizens, they invariably do. The laws are freely used in non-terrorism cases just as RICO has become a common standby in the US for non-mafia related cases.

The question must be, to those who vehemently support extreme laws; what happens when you are inadvertently caught up by these measures? Do you mind surrendering your civil liberties?

Well for Australian Lawmakers, the ones who allowed draconian measures through the legislation process, the chickens are coming home to roost:

FEDERAL politicians will be forced to strip off accessories and items of clothing if they set off metal detectors at Parliament House under new rules being tested from tomorrow.

If the alarm continues after items have been shed, security guards will ask MPs if they consent to be escorted to a private room for a personal search.

If pollies caught by the tighter security refuse a search they could be denied entry, creating a dilemma for security. Legally, MPs cannot be stopped or blocked from performing their parliamentary duties.

MP’s were told they were under no obligation to submit to a personal search. "If you wish to do so, you may leave the building and return after you have removed items from your person that may activate the WTMD."

Personally I call it poetic justice, along with some other things. It is stupidity, paranoia gone crazy. But it couldn’t not have happened to a more deserving bunch of short sighted, self-serving nitwits.

Now I would like to see a list of provisions which require full cavity searches for the vocally homophobic among the lawmakers. Perhaps warrantless searchers for those MP’s who regularly make unfounded charges of peadophilia against other MP’s and judges. Forced assets ldisclosures on the lot of them, including wire-tap, internet traces and the old paperchase.

In fact, I think draconian prohibitions and restrictions should be road tested first on the very lawmakers who allow their passage. What is sauce for the goose, as they say.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Time for crop circles

‘The corn is as high as an elephants eye’ so it’s time for crop circles.

Just to disabuse anyone who is tempted to fall for the “Is it aliens or nature” teasers, take a look at this lot.

The top one is from Southern Fejér County Hungary, and the rest from rural England.

Other sitings, from online news, include:

Southern Poland in a field near Piekary Śląskie – a city in Silesia.

USA Dubois County IN - Sunbury PA

I just love the pig!

Southwest of junction nine of the M11, wherever that is...

A 360-feet three-dimensional crop circle on a wheat field in Oxfordshire.

A Telling Toon

From The London Telegraph. The size rendering is disappointing in that the Hezbollah on the apple is not clear. But I guess you will get the message.

Friday, July 21, 2006

What does a peerage cost?

What does a peerage cost?

On average the answer is apparently £1 million, made in donations or loans to the Labour Party.
But a contribution of just £50,000 brings a 50-50 chance of receiving an honour, according to a new study.

Statistical analysis showed that 58.54 per cent of all donors giving more than £50,000 to Labour received an honour, compared to just 0.035 per cent of non-donors.

The study, published by the Bow Group, a centre-Right think-tank, shows that large Labour donors are more than 1,000 times more likely to receive an honour than a non-donor, andnearly 7,000 times more likely to get a peerage.

The survey suggested that gaining a seat in the House of Lords is cheaper than it was in 1922, when Lloyd George, the former Liberal prime minister, was selling honours.

At that time becoming a lord cost £50,000 or £1.9 million in today's prices.

But other honours are more expensive - a knighthood costs £747,683 compared to £15,000 (£571,923) in the 1920s.

Speaking on the unspeakable

Anyone who follows my musings will be aware that the Latest Israeli response has rendered me sick at heart. It has almost dried up my desire to understand and analyze the momentous events swirling around us.

But it is essential that we should understand, to the degree that we can, what is happening to our world.

I don’t except notions of nationalist isolationism; this row boat drifting the universe is simply too small and fragile to sustain such notions. We are not talking about a butterfly fluttering its wings in the Amazon, we are talking about sophisticated weaponry being lobbed violently in an inflammable zone.

The closest I have come to a reasoned explanation and analysis is an article from the Melbourne Age. A war with no winners

As far as Australia is from the epicenter of this tragedy, the country has large representative Jewish and Arabic communities. I still have friends from both camps, those I choose to entertain as friends. This issue is very real to Australians.

Having said that, some snippets from this essay:

Both Hamas and Hezbollah captured soldiers. To outsiders, that would seem to be fair play under the rules of guerilla warfare.

But soldiers carry an almost sacred status in the Israeli imagination. The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) is a conscript army, so the rhetoric about "everyone's son or daughter" is literally true. Its personnel are not seen as professionals hired to kill or be killed, but as citizens.

One eminent Israeli writer suggests that Israel, in a strange reversal of the norm, mourns a military death more than a civilian one - that it has a ceremonial, collective language for the former that it lacks for the latter.

Accordingly, it has become part of the national psyche that when a soldier is taken, he cannot be forsaken: the state must go to any lengths to ensure his return, even if that means bringing back a corpse.


Ariel Sharon could negotiate a prisoner exchange with Hezbollah in 2004, rather than bombing them from the sky, because he had no fear of being branded weak. Olmert and Peretz, by contrast, need to assert themselves. Hence Olmert's declaration that "we will demolish them and nothing is going to hold us back".

And the Defence Minister's vow that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah "will remember the name Amir Peretz for the rest of his life". In that mood, neither man was likely to rein in Israel's ambitious chief of staff, Dan Halutz. Instead, say the Israeli commentariat, there are "three Napoleons" running the show.


From all the rational, strategic calculations, this is the factor that is so often missing: the hatred sown in the human heart. Both sides have ensured this dreadful conflict spreads, not just across borders - but down the generations.

I guess the issue of a conscript army depends somewhat on passions. Switzerland has a compulsory conscript army, but they don’t really have a record of conflict. I’m not sure what you compare the Israeli psyche with.

On the issue of leadership the rationale is easier to understand. The post-foundation leadership simply doesn’t have the moral or political authority Israeli leaders are familiar with.

If taking a reasonable compromise is considered weakness, in them or by them, then the world hasn’t seen the best of it yet.

But the real issue is that this stupid conflict can only breed more hatred and more conflict. No one in that hot house is going to simply forget these atrocities and get on with life as normal.

Poor leaders on all sides have ensured a continuation and even an increase in hostilities, for years to come.

The Israeli leaders are crazy if they think they can simply wipe out the problem by murdering all and sundry around their borders.

The Arabic players, and they are not particularly homogenous, are crazy if they think the world will let them wipe out Israel. The history of the ‘beleaguered Jew’ is just too deep. Oh, and there is oil in them thar desserts!

Now if any halfwits, wingnuts, anons or other wastes of real estate feel moved to proffer their nonsensical crap, be warned, it will not see the light of day.

This issue does not encourage my sense of humour one little bit.

The real G8 summit

Masquerading as - hundreds of clowns partaking in a pilgrimage to the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City. Photo: AP

Cops whores and politicians

Still dodging the reality of world calamity, I was struck by a couple of items – one story and a pic.

I’m not suggesting any relationship between the two. In fact the Blair photo came just after his tête - à – tête with George W, so obviously it makes one wonder.

Now the story is a different kettle of fish. Did I say fish? Well anyway, I though it gave new meaning to the old "F**k you cops!"

It seems a New Zealand policewoman was caught working as a prostitute after hours. She copped a blast but kept her job. It seems she had financial problems, but she didn’t ask permission to take on the extra job.

A spokeswoman for the New Zealand Prostitutes' Collective said

she had heard of other police officers moonlighting as sex workers, she said: "We have law students that are sex workers, we have doctors that are sex workers. I mean anyone can be a sex worker."

I’m gonna make sure my next doctor has a good hand wash before examining me. But I’m curious about the cop whores. I’ve never come across one who raised my fanicies – cop that is.


Talking about cops and sex, this is from London:

A woman police officer was thrown through a glass door after she stripped off and jumped into bed with a chiropractor and his mistress, a court has heard.

The three shared a bed in their underwear after off-duty WPC Louise Flanagan spent the evening drinking at married Dr Matthew Hunter's home, a jury was told.

The evening ended with Miss Flanagan, 22, being shoved through the door in the kitchen by Dr Hunter's angry lover Hazel Tempest after an argument about his wife, it is alleged.

Does GW Just Rub Some People the Wrong Way?

Has the liberal media gone barking mad?
One would think so after reading some of the liberal pap about GW Bush's innocent rub administered to the neck of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

After hunting around for a bit I found a name to put to this tripe - Citizen Conservative, which strikes me as similar to anonymous.

It is supposed to be humour, but the antics of the ‘leader of the free world’ are hardly a laughing matter.

In fact, much of the media from the G8 summit, led by ringmaster Vladimir, went a long way to showing the worlds leadership are bankrupt of dignity.

Office of the President of the United States of America

It is odd that the right should see humour in demeaning the institution of president. These are the very same who insist on the sanctity of so many of the country’s constitutional institutions.

It seems, in their rush to denigrate political opponents they are willing to sacrifice one of the central pillars.

They have forgotten that the institution is not the man, a man who admittedly evokes humour. To berate ‘liberals’ for expecting the dignity of the office to be upheld is a dangerous ploy, it undermines their core beliefs.

I can still recall the time when a humble Australian senator was rebuked by his stentorian female aide, at a social function. It was photograph time; “Senator, the drink! You must never have your picture taken while holding a drink.”

She scared me so much I still can’t have my picture taken while holding a drink.

But her point was the impression of dignity. “Those who hold the public trust have a duty to present themselves as dignified and responsible,” she explained to me rather curtly.

Well America, I suspect political expediency is going to change your constitutional landscape by stealth and stupidity.

What will you do without blind patriotism? How will you cope without fixed, immutable truths? Will your next lot of primaries be held in comedy clubs around the country?

Comparative Corruption

A report on Nigeria’s Inspector General of Police, Sunday Ehindero’s, verbal assault on his senior commanders recently draws an interesting comparison of relative corruption.

He put the blame for high crime rates right the Commissioners of Police, saying they were liable for the high spate of crime because of their disobedience to some of his directives.

Well, he also said they weren’t watching what was happening under their watch and that despite his efforts to stamp out corruption in the force; graft remained a major vice among the rank and file police.

Of course we sophisticated nations don’t have that problem. Unless you count the New Zealand police woman who reportedly moonlighted as a prostitute; or New York’s Mafia cops who acted with impunity for years; or LA cops who have their own way of doing things; or Florida and Oregon jailers who trade sex for contraband; or the Australian cop who settled in with a hunted con-woman, impregnating her in the process; or the English cops who use the cover of anti-terror laws to shoot people they don’t like the look of.

If Nigeria’s law enforcement looks like the keystone cops, they are hardly on their own. But in developed economies it really is the sophisticated, hard to track corruption which eclipses the banana republic’s versions.

Sure, Nigeria and Kenya, along with others on the Dark Continent, can boast their big money corruption. Ironically, however, that big money comes from the West. It is the developed economies who are driving third world major corruption.

The scene of an angry and frustrated Inspector General, red in the face and spiting his words, is both funny and sad. The fact is, he’s on a hiding to nothing.

In Nigeria, like in the USA or Britain, corruption is led from the very top. The example set by leadership is picked up right down the feeding chain.

All power to the IG, but he is pissing into the wind. Even the voters, if they have such a thing in Nigeria, continue to accept entrenched corruption as a simple fact, just as they do in our ‘oh so sophisticated’ countries.