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SOMEWHERE A PLACE FOR US November 30, 2005

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I had occasion to have a small celebration in recent days , when I discovered that we had paid off out housing loan. There are a number of ways of looking at this development and not all of them good. For example, we have lost access to an economic way of raising money. I am somewhat surprised that the Bank did not want to contact us before this happened.

There are two related issues, which do not seem to me to get much attention. Firstly, let us surmise that owning a house is a desirable outcome, and represents one of the ways that ordinary people have of acquiring a wealth creating asset, other than superannuation. Furthermore, that presupposes people have secure employment to take out a mortgage. Some, who are interested and savvy, unlike me, will trade and have a number of houses over time with the accompanying capital gains.

Senator Bartlett, at least, is concerned about the raising bar of the threshold of entry to house ownership, and in a large urban conglomerate such as this one, travelling time and cost to work for people who must live on the expanding urban periphery. The Treasurer apparently successfully parried this question so that it was not put on the political agenda. There are those people who over commit, whose anxieties were real as I had direct experience of, and who became the targets of government propaganda during the last election campaign.

And then there was the news item, for a fleeting moment, that reported on the rising number of homelessness, and earlier reports that homelessness was more prevalent among Aboriginal people. Homelessness would, it seems to me, make permanent employment difficult, as it would the provision of any form of social services.

It is no great insight to suppose that secure employment, one supposes with reasonable terms and conditions, is an underlying causal factor. And the critical issue, that the IR legislation does not address, should employment be other than a form of economic slavery, or commodification?

I get the impression that this Federal Government is wrapped in an ideology and does not care. The law of the human jungle, or social darwinism, should apply. A blind person could predict that homelessness and social distress will increase. They will seek to discipline the population with mindlessness and martial law. And as for housing, that only creates labour inflexibility, so in truth they are not interested in benefits for the population at large.

TO SERVE HONOURABLY November 30, 2005

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“I cannot support a msn [mission] that leads to corruption, human rights abuse and liars. I am sullied… I came to serve honorably and feel dishonored.”

When the national purpose has descended into pornography as in the Iraqi slaughter house, any decent person would be greatly troubled. I am saddened that a decent man could not live with it.

This story (via Barista) would give a normal political trickster pause, but reflection is a stranger to those who promoted the disaster, and who perhaps smugly believe that all the pain is quarantined in Iraq, but fail to realize that poisoned bread thrown on the tide floats back to shore.

The ignominy of retreat will not be so easy to manage (via Brad DeLong) , according to Martin van Creveld. I suspect it becomes more difficult and deadly, the longer the blockhead remains in the White House.

Professor Martin van Creveld, of the Hebrew University, keeps his most stinging observations to last:

For misleading the American people, and launching the most foolish war since Emperor Augustus in 9 B.C sent his legions into Germany and lost them, Bush deserves to be impeached and, once he has been removed from office, put on trial along with the rest of the president’s men. If convicted, they’ll have plenty of time to mull over their sins.

POSSUM TIME November 29, 2005

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See you in jail possums:

We’ve got this government you see, that thought it would stay in government in perpetuity, and just to make sure it decided it jail half the population. Not smart, but what did they care, because once you are in jail then you work for nothing, no wages, not terms and conditions. Brilliant!

CELEBRATE!!! November 29, 2005

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Time to celebrate, I believe.

Today, I discovered that we have finally paid out our mortgage. No more 17.5% housing interest rates- at their peak.

I celebrated today with a small bottle of Cascade, which was a step up from the bottle of softdrink I had to celebrate putting on ADSL.

A matter of small moment I suppose.

REPLY FROM STATE MEMBER November 28, 2005

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My local State member replied to the matter I raised in relation to the sale of land, rezoning, land reclamation and the development proposals. His reply was by post.

He said he was not aware of the detail of the sale of the mine site land. He did say the mining lease and the ownership of the land were legally distinct. The mining lease could not be extinguished until the rehabilitation of the land was carried out to the satisfaction of the Department of Mineral Resources, and that he would seek further information for me in relation to this matter.

The City Council as the local planning authority has the responsibility to consider the issues I raised. He said the development of the Brickworks site was for medium density housing, not high density housing. He also said he was unaware of the proposal to develop the mine site for industrial purposes, which presumably referred to my reference to a business park.

It looks to me that the City Council is the place to go for further information, although I surpised that David did not mention the Department of Planning. State authorities, I believe, can over rule local decisions. We shall see.

WHAT IS GROWTH? November 27, 2005

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Growth, properly understood, when it applies to living things or economies is qualitative in nature, which is not to say it cannot be misunderstood in quantitative terms. Growth, as a concept, like energy, is not easy to clarify and explain. Hence, among other reasons, my reference to Gestalt theory.

Measurement might be treated with caution. My doctor tells me when examining a patient, it is not sufficient to work through all the recommended decision trees of diagnosis, the process is not completed until the gut feel, the global sense is satisfied.

Our quantitative goals can sometimes miss the point. According to Dannielle Teutsch, in the Sun-Herald:

AUSTRALIANS are resigned to the fact their political leaders are taking them down a path of economic reform in the pursuit of greater material wealth, but that is not where they want to be heading, a survey reveals. Instead, an overwhelming majority of people – 93 per cent – polled for the Ipsos Mackay survey said they would prefer a greener, more community-based society.

Richard Eckersley, a fellow at the ANU’s National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, said the survey showed a widening gulf between political attitudes and public opinion. “The future, as seen by political leaders, is based on a strong economy and higher wages, but that’s not the future Australians want,” Mr Eckersley said.

A prime example was the voter backlash against the Federal Government’s industrial relations legislation, he said. “It suggests that we need to think about whether the future our leaders are promising us – the fast-paced, high-tech, good life scenario – makes for a high quality of life,” he said. “Growth is not the main game any more.”

I am incredulous that this is what Australians say they want, and I would expect such a sentiment, if true, to be reflected in comparable societies.

There were reports, which I did not link to, suggesting that people were experiencing increased levels of stress due to the intensification of work, which can become antithetical to productive learning and creativity. Work without creativity, is life without meaning. For example, consider this report , of the International Futures Forum, as giving substance to my shadow-play sketch.

Postscript: I have deliberately mixed a few things together here. It is not that they are unrelated, in my view, but require to be reconfiqured, so as to be seen anew.

VIRTUE OF THE FRENCH CONNECTION November 26, 2005

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I have no idea what Anglo-Canadians think of their French-speaking compatriots, but it occurs to me without them they would be supplicant to the writ of American leadership, even – here is the obsenity – when the President is George (“Bomb al Jazeera”) Bush.

Just a thought.

PITTWATER BOILOVER November 26, 2005

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It is looking as if the Independent has taken the NSW state seat of Pittwater from the Liberal Party.

This seat was held by the previous leader of the Liberals in NSW, John Brogden, who due to the viciousness of the party infighting attempted suicide.

With about 70% of the vote counted and distributed between the two leading candidates, the Independent has 56% of two-party preferences and the Liberal candidate 44%. Unless there are factors I am not aware of, and there could be, this result would suggest that the Independent will be elected. With preferential voting (run-off voting) because it becomes clear would the leading candidates are, the preferences of the minor candidates for the leading candidates, in this case the Independent and the Liberal, can be distributed, creating in effect a two horse race. I get the impression that the preferences of the minor candidates are flowing disproportionally to the Independent. If this was first past the post, the result would be very close.

I would put this result down as a victory for Australian decency, and the resentment people feel of parties foisting candidates on them.

At the same time, I believe it makes the case for a multi-member proportional system. The Liberal Party was run over in the last election run in the fog of the Iraq War. It needs more members and talent to do its job as an effective opposition. By building up a large majority in a seat such as Pittwater, the Liberals in this case lose out whereas with MMP could help to elect list candidates. Similarly, if you happened to be a Labor supporter and lived in Pittwater, your party of preference would never be elected.

The results of the Pittwater by-election are here. One further point, that I have not mentioned, is that at the State-level we have a optional preferential system, which means that the electors can express as many preferences as there are candidates by ranking each of the candidates, some of the candidates, or voting for one candidate.

The ABC reports the Liberals have lost Pittwater with a swing against them of 25% – which despite the fact that Labor did not run, has to one of the largest swings in Australian history.

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the Independent announced his victory as soon as the booth results were to hand.

27 November 2005 – I would have thought the local issues would have been sufficient for this result – the Brogden case, “the arrogance of those in power toward local issue, and the absence of the ALP neutralizing the protest against the State Government. cs points out the results mirror national opinion polls. The results are more clearly reported here on first preferences.

People who suggest the IR legislation is simply a hip pocket nerve issue, do not understand it. One is left wondering at the despicable evil, hubris, and cruelty of its proposers, and their casual indifference to, and remotenes from, the welfare of their fellow citizens. What is wrong with people, who given the choice, seek blood and brutality? Oh, we got that covered, we have got the terror legislation.

SEE YOU IN THE RUGBY WORLD CUP MAKIS November 26, 2005

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Who would have thought they play rugby in Madagascar?

The BBC reports they do, and they are good enough to beat a reasonable level South African side, which means they are not too bad. Given their location, it is up to the South Africans to play the role in developing their game by providing competition. Although, they seem to be part of the Francophone rugby playing world.

Competition provides a positive role in sport, in that you think you are doing OK until you come that can play at a higher level that leads to a revaluation. The Wallaby (Australian) scrum has been struggling all year, yet England showed them up.

Tonight, I predict that Australia will beat Wales reasonably comprehensively. I hope Wales continue with their attempt to play attacking rugby. The criticism I hear of British sides is that the backs do not have quick hands. There is room for improvement in the All Blacks. They have been playing like millionaires, rather than with clinical execution in attack. I do not see Scotland even coming close. The really interesting game will between France and South Africa.

Here are my predicted scores:

TEAMS========PREDICTED SCORE====ACTUAL SCORE
Australia v. Wales======35-16=======22-24
All Blacks v. Scotland==53-7========29-10
Springboks v. France====23-19=======20-26

In the meantime, I expect to hear big things from the Makis.

27 November 2005 – A night of victory for the Northern Hemisphere countries. Wales beat Australia France beat the Springboks, England beat Samoa and Italy beat Fiji with the exception that NZ beat Scotland.

It seems to me this end of the season tour by Australia has been no preparation at all for next years Tri-Nations or the Rugby World Cup. I would expect the coach to be replaced. The All Blacks(link via cs at Troppo) have a chance to review a number of players, some of whom will not make the World Cup squad, but the problem they have is building team combinations. Remembering, it is the start of their season it is pleasing to see the improvement in Wales and Scotland. What chance of England developing skilled back play, combined with more atheleticism in the forwards?

FRIDAY NIGHT DOG BLOG – DOUBLE TAKES November 25, 2005

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Sasha and Taffy were able to get together. The mine reclamation is now finished. So we took a short walk through the bush, and went down to the beach. Taffy, despite his recent injury, was proved to be the most durable.

Walking through the Bush:

Sasha and Taffy: Being themeselves. Posted by Picasa
“Let’s move on now.” Posted by Picasa
“We know the routine.” Posted by Picasa
Taking a survey. Posted by Picasa
“We’ll humour him.” Posted by Picasa
“And sometimes we don’t.”Posted by Picasa
” OK we’ll pose now.” Posted by Picasa
“This is more fun.” Posted by Picasa
Sasha and Taffy fix on a common interest. Posted by Picasa
Walking to the Beach.
“Where have all the earth-movers gone?” Posted by Picasa
Pause at the bridge. Posted by Picasa
Another pause for Taffy, appreciated by Sasha. Posted by Picasa
Dogs down on the beach. Posted by Picasa
“They’ve gone.” Posted by Picasa
“And now home .” Posted by Picasa

My observation, for all it is worth, is that it is far easy to take photos of one dog. As you may notice this is our time for rain, with some early summer thunder storms. Given we have had water restrictions throughout the winter, the rain is really appreciated.

Visit Friday Ark at Modulator and Carnival of the Dogs at Mickey’s Musings for more animal photos. Click onto photos to see the enlarged versions.

LATIN AMERCIAN ELECTIONS November 25, 2005

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The BBC reports that there are twelve elections coming up next year in Latin America.

Here is an opportunity to get ahead of the curve by at least knowing what the dates for these elections are to be held.

COUNTRY—– DATE———– TERM
Honduras— 27 Nov 2005— 4 years

Chile———- 11 Dec 2005—- 6 years
Bolivia——- 18 Dec 2005—- 5 years
Haiti ———-27 Dec 2005—- 5 years
Costa Rica—- 5 Feb 2006—- 4 years
Peru———– 9 Apr 2006 —–5 years
Colombia—— May 2006 —-4 years
Mexico ——-2 Jul 2006—— 6 years
Brazil ———1 Oct 2006—— 4 years
Ecuador——- Oct 2006 ——4 years
Nicaragua –5 Nov 2006—— 5 years
Venezuela—- Nov/Dec 2006- 6 years

Elections are important but they are not the be-all of the democratic political process.

THE NOBLE CAUSE November 24, 2005

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George Walker Bush has refused to engage Mrs Cindy Sheehan on the question of the noble cause for which her son died.

The suicide bombers in London on 7 July would have been in no doubt about the noble cause for which they were giving their lives, and taking the lives of others. They too did not wish to discuss their noble cause.

Yet, it is my contention at least, that when our actions inspired either by self interest or a noble cause, directly affect others who become our neighbours, to which we owe a duty of care, we are obliged, I contend, to describe our self interest and our noble cause openly in the public arena. Those who occupy positions in a democratic government have no less a responsibility than do citizens.

We are concerned here about a practical ethic. Smart or cunning political operators have always sought to shape and influence public opinion, but disguising purposes becomes poison in the body politic as it creates distrust. The cynical, at times correctly, may attribute the outcomes with the intentions.

In the case of George Walker Bush, I surmise that he chose to hide away from Ms Sheehan because he could not adequately engage in a skilled discussion about his noble cause, although supposedly, as the president and we presume a responsible adult, he made the decision to invade and occupy Iraq.

It seems that big oil is going to get access and control over the Iraqi oil fields. Reuters reports, via Informed Comment:

A push for “energy security” by the United States and Britain is a driver behind this commercial approach, said the report, backed by charities and thinktanks including War on Want, Global Policy Forum and Institute for Policy Studies. But many argue PSAs, the most sought-after contract in the oil industry, will ensure swift development of Iraq’s reserves, the world’s third biggest after Saudi Arabia and Iran, speed up reconstruction and hasten the return of cash to the country. They say contracts of this nature are the only way to attract foreign expertise in view of the country’s instability. “In order to make major quantum increases in oil, we need to have production-sharing agreements, but that has to wait until after the formation of parliament,” Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi said recently. A new parliament is due to be voted on in December. Iraq’s most valued oilfields will require some $20 billion to expand their capacity towards a six million barrels per day (bpd) target. But repeated sabotage has prevented Iraq meeting its immediate aim of three million bpd, last seen in 1990. Output has been stuck near two million bpd. For international oilmen, deprived access to vast Iraqi reserves for decades, long-term PSAs offer the ability to book reserves, protection from future adverse legislation and healthy profits during low oil prices.

But I suppose the Bush noble cause was spreading democracy in the Middle East. Even allowing this might have been the self conscious reason, we ought to have started by developing democracy in the United States, Britain and Australia.

After all, there is an urgent need, and the cause is noble with very few lives lost, and perhaps many saved in its implementation.

SAVING VENICE November 23, 2005

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Venice (via BBC)

And the solution may be a saline one.

According to the BBC, engineers and geologists from the University of Padua have proposed a plan which would involve pumping sea water down into the sand sub soil of Venice, which if all went as intended would lift the city by 30cm in 10 years, which is as much as it has subsided over the past three hundred years.

Not everybody is convinced this plan can work, and one critic has described it as pure science fiction. Still the mayor is in favour, and this, and similar engineering projects, require political support before blueprints are realized.

BUSH OUT OF CONTROL? November 23, 2005

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Did President Bush actually intend Al Jazerra’s television studios in Qatar to be bombed?

I find this report, via the Daily Mirror in London, so bizarre as to be not believable, but then The Guardian reports that British newspapers have been banned from any further reporting under the Official Secrets Act, which suggests the reporting was substantive.

The Daily Mirror was equivocal:

A source said last night: “The memo is explosive and hugely damaging to Bush. “He made clear he wanted to bomb al-Jazeera in Qatar and elsewhere. Blair replied that would cause a big problem.
“There’s no doubt what Bush wanted to do – and no doubt Blair didn’t want him to do it.” A Government official suggested that the Bush threat had been “humorous, not serious”. But another source declared: “Bush was deadly serious, as was Blair. That much is absolutely clear from the language used by both men.”

Take your pick I suppose. Anyway, I thought Bush understood, he is only to do or say what is in his script. But then he is the president isn’t he? He is not supposed to frighten us. The response of the British Government seems excessively heavy-handed and counter-productive.

Source: The Angry Arab News Service

Jefferson Morley, writing in The Washington Post, has a follow up reporting that, “Other reputable news outlets are now picking up on the story.”

24 November 2005 - Juan Cole, as expected, has more of the background, pointing out that Al Jazeera has been attacked before. Kevin Drum has more – the story has wings. At this point, I am tempted to envoke the Brad DeLong mantra: “Impeach . . .”

A NEW CHANCELLOR, A NEW ERA? November 22, 2005

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The new German Black-Red team – Merkel and Platzeck. (Deutsche Wella)

Most Germans do not, it is reported expect the grand coalition to last four years. Angela Merkel has now been voted in as Chancellor by the Bunestag.

It will be fancinating to watch the progress of this government. Deutsche Wella concludes:

Still, she and the new head of the Social Democrats, Matthias Platzeck, have presented a united face to the public regarding reforms. The fact that both of them hail from in the east — Platzeck is from Potsdam — gives them something of an outsider’s perspective on things, and could prove beneficial since they did not grow up with many of the material benefits of West Germany or with a sense of entitlement. They are both former scientists, analytical and pragmatic and have proven in the past they are not afraid to tell it like it is, even if the news is unpleasant.

Platzeck won the support of the population of the state of Brandenburg with his straight talk about the dire economic situation there. The population found it refreshing. Merkel and Platzeck can only hope that will apply on a national level as well.

I thought it would be significant that Chancellor Merkel came from the East, and her social democratic partner in government is also from the East.

HISTORY THAT DARE NOT SPEAK ITS NAME November 22, 2005

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The history of the United States, (via Common Dreams) so it seems, is not unlike that of Australia in relation to the indigenous people.

There as here, we must deny the truth of what happened.

And yet the claim is made in both cases that our countries promote truth and freedom. Now to be fair, the Bush Administration has never claimed to promote truth, and the Howard Government has never practiced it.

Let us be the change, as Gandhi said, that we want to see in the world. Justice, reconciliation and democracy could be advanced in the first instance within our societies, and then we might have the credentials to participate in bringing justice and reconciliation to, for example, Palestine.

PERSPECTIVE ON RICH AND POOR November 22, 2005

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America it seems is divided between those who have wealth, with many born on the home plate, and the poor.

The Economic Apartheid (via Common Dreams) is the dream of the Howard Administration, and motivates the nightmare that will be the new poor laws, with considerable suffering for those affected. If these figures are an accurate reflection, toss in falling median incomes and growing incomes for the rich, they represent the market at work.

My guess is that government is always shaper of market outcomes, acknowledged or denied, intended or unintended. Governments are such economic players, and I suppose if scale is the factor, so too must be the largest corporations, to resonate with popularism, that they can never be ignored. However, this is purely speculation on my part; I am not offering evidence.

It is not honourable that the trust of the electorate is abused by our political leaders, and our elected representatives, but it is what we should expect.

KENYAN REFERENDUM November 22, 2005

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Kenyans waiting to vote on referendum. (via BBC)

The BBC reports that the no campaign has been successful in the Kenyan Referendum. The new referendum was to provide for the following according to the BBC:

Prime minister – works to the president
Bans foreign land ownership
Land commission formed – individuals can no longer distribute land
Christian and other religious courts set up; Muslim courts already exist
Regional parties banned
Elections for local officials
Same-sex marriages banned
Women get equal rights to inherit property
Abortion outlawed – unless permitted by parliament

It is interesting to reflect, given this referendum and the recent Californian propositions, that these exercises in direct democracy, more often than not are rejected, especially when they are seen as been promoted and in the interests of the power holders, calling into question there role as avenues of direct democracy.

The specific interest in Kenya was that each side was represented by a fruit – an orange for NO and a banana for YES.

Looking at these voters in the photo reminds me of how we lined up to for each semester at university – until a better system was found.

60TH ANNIVERSARY OF NUREMBERG TRIALS November 21, 2005

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The Accused in Court (Der Speigel)

The sixtieth anniversary of the Nuremberg Trials is noted in articles in The Independent and by Speigel Online.

LEADERSHIP? November 21, 2005

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Perhaps this comment in Speigel, and my earlier comment here, are merely expressing the obvious.

In that case why does President Bush go on preaching to the Chinese, and for that preach to the Iraq and the Islamic world about the virtues of democracy?

Still it now back to Washington DC and Camp David. I doubt he will even be given a chance to recover from jetlag which may continue at least until next week.

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