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“ANTI-AMERICANISM” RAMPANT May 31, 2006

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If I, for example, supposing it to be possible,were to write this or this, I may well be accused of anti-Americanism.

Of course, that might well be code for telling the truth. Among the most rampant “anti-Americans” are Americans. Surely, this is a good sign, but not significant enough for it to be a basis for hope.

Both articles come from Common Dreams. So what is the truth?

SYMBOLIC RECONCILIATION May 30, 2006

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Words fail … Pope Benedict walks through the gate of the former Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz.
Photo: AP (via SMH)

The German Pope visits the concentration camp in Poland. It is a major story. He speaks in Italian rather than in his native German. He makes sure that he walks through the gates.

All of this is about symbolic reconciliation. There is no hint of practical reconciliation, and it would be hard to know what that might mean in this context.

One day we will have a prime minister who does not have a tin ear when it comes to the descendants of the original nations of this continent, a man or woman with imagination and not cool death-like calculation for the concerns of the swinging voters. That is not today, but we might hope for tomorrow.

The Pope’s visit to the Auschwitz Concentration Camp demonstrates that reconciliation has its symbolic expression combined with practical purposes, one of which is memory.

Postscript: 31 May 2006

From this opinion in The LA Times, while the pope’s actions may have been appalled, his speech was lacking in substance. Walking the talk in the spirit of reconciliation is harder than it looks.

The Independent raises further questions: Who should accept responsibility and who should be accountable?

Here is the speech of the Pope at Auschwitz. I said today reconciliation requires the leader not only to walk the talk but to talk the walk, which was labelled as incomprehensible. However, the critics of the pope would claim he did not do the later.

James Carroll comments on Benny’s speech here. (5 June 2006)

YOGYAKARTA EARTHQUAKE May 29, 2006

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In the background Mount Merabi rumbles away promising a major eruption, while on Saturday an earthquake on magnitude 6.3 on the Richter scale hit killing up to 5,000 people and making another 200,000 homeless.

The ABC News Online reports that aid is “trickling in”.

I have to say when I heard of the scale of the earthquake, my first thought was that it did not sound too bad, but that was because I am not closely acquainted with the Richter Scale.

Descriptor Retro Earth magnitudes Earthquake Effects Frequency of Occurrence
Micro Less than 2.0 Microearthquakes, not felt. About 8,000 per day
Very minor 2.0-2.9 Generally not felt, but recorded. About 1,000 per day
Minor 3.0-3.9 Often felt, but rarely causes damage. 49,000 per year (est.)
Light 4.0-4.9 Noticeable shaking of indoor items, rattling noises. Significant damage unlikely. 6,200 per year (est.)
Moderate 5.0-5.9 Can cause major damage to poorly constructed buildings over small regions. At most slight damage to well-designed buildings. 800 per year
Strong 6.0-6.9 Can be destructive in areas up to about 100 miles across in populated areas. 120 per year
Major 7.0-7.9 Can cause serious damage over larger areas. 18 per year
Great 8.0-8.9 Can cause serious damage in areas several hundred miles across. 1 per year
Rare great 9.0 or greater Devastating in areas several thousand miles across. 1 per 20 years
Via Wikipedia (Adapted from U.S. Geological Survey documents.)

ABC Radio reports said that people were lining roads with signs begging passers-by for help.

Postscript:
The striking observation in relation to earthquakes and their magnitude is their frequency. I guess it is a question of populated versus non-populated areas of the globe

EAST TIMOR TORN May 29, 2006

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Photo: Brendan Esposito (via SMH)

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Dili was burning out of control. More recent reports on ABC News Online suggest that the present of the foreign troops, predominantly Australian with contingents from Malaysia and New Zealand, with military police from Portugal, have brought the situation to some semblace of social order.

Reading such reports on the situation in East Timor gives rise to a reflection on the fragility of small, or newly formed, nations that can seemingly be so easily and completely rent apart by social divisions.

In retrospect the political management of ET should never have been taken for granted. They might have done better had they adopted presidential rather than a parliamentary system(?). The sacking of the 570 or so soldiers seem in hindsight to have been extremely foolish, evidence of a lack of political judgment and skill, as well as rivalry between the president and the prime minister.

Aside from the workability of the political system, ET was apparently facing significant unemployment among its young and growing population. Unemployment will remain a problem, exacerbated by the flight of foreign capital. I doubt that ET will manage its oil dividend as well as Norway.

I have posted a comment at John Quiggin’s Monday Message Board to see if more informed opinions, either about ET’s political or economic situation, might become available. Such an exercise is not quaranteed to work.

Postscript:

1. Ken Parish sets out the legal relationship between the president and prime minister.

2. I suppose the comparision I drew between parliamentary and presidential is incorrect, and what I should have said is whether there should be an executive prime minister or executive president. The founders of the Australian Constitution, for instance, had for the most part fifty years of experience of parliamentary government to call upon. And at that time the monarchy suited their needs. However, by giving the Senate equal power of supply they set in train the potential for a constitutional crisis. (30 May 2006)

3. Hugh White, in this article today in The Sydney Morning Herald, will have to do as expert comment. He suggests that events, rather than policy, have controlled Australian involvement, and now we find ourselves responsible for sorting the security situation, as well as creating the climate to rebuild the political system. There is, he thinks, no guarantee of success. There has been criticism that the deployment was too slow, and perhaps there has been a lack of intelligence.(30 May 2006)

PASSING SENTENCE May 28, 2006

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How is this for a sentence?

It just keeps going, and going on, and on . . . until finally, “I could just spit”. Furthermore, as a sentence, it works in the sense of accurate description, or at least up until that point when I skipped to the end.

FRIDAY NIGHT DOG BLOG – DAY AFTER DAY May 26, 2006

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Each day is a new day, but each day has the same routine. Fortunately, Sasha and Dexter live for the moment and are pleased to be out in the morning. The camera has a eye for detail and of the instance which otherwise might not be seen or else be forgotten.

Pause for thought.(20 May) Posted by Picasa
A way up to catch their attention. (20 May)Posted by Picasa
Dexter blending in.(20 May) Posted by Picasa
The ears have it. (20 May) Posted by Picasa
Sasha having a romp. (21 May) Posted by Picasa
Covering each direction. (21 May) Posted by Picasa
Birds in flight against the morning sky. (22 May)Posted by Picasa
Dexter moves toward the camera. (22 May)Posted by Picasa
Sasha on the move. (23 May) Posted by Picasa
A moment to rest. (23 May) Posted by Picasa
Elegance in action. (24 May) Posted by Picasa
Dexter at full stretch.(24 May) Posted by Picasa
“Do you want to know a secret.” (24 May) Posted by Picasa
Stepping lightly, looking intently. (25 May)Posted by Picasa
“We’ll see you next time”. (26 May)Posted by Picasa

By clicking on them, these photos can be enlarged. Do not forget to celebrate Friday Ark#88 at Modulator, or visit Mickey’s Musings for Carnival of the Dogs.

POLITICAL CONSCIENCE May 24, 2006

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Robert Manne had a interesting observation of John Howard in yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald:

Even if Howard continued to defend his actions strenuously, if he at least was anxious or agitated about this state of affairs, I would be able to feel for him some respect. What unnerves me is the calmness of his demeanour, the apparent near-absence in him of a troubled conscience or the kind of self-scrutiny that might lead eventually to remorse. Howard is one of the most nimble but also one of the most morally complacent politicians I have ever observed.

I tend to agree with the observation now I have seen it, but I do not think Howard is alone among modern politicians. I do not seek to disparage politicians in general, but I would be interested to have examples of modern politicians who are not demonstrably morally complacent.

One supposes it is the electorate that establishes the ground rules, or is it that we are all in the maw of the marginal seat strategies which appeal to a particular segment of the electorate, and thus favor the “morally complacent”.

It seems to me that the same observation could be made about Bush and Blair.

INCOME AND POLITICAL INFLUENCE May 23, 2006

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In his article in The Sydney Morning Herald today, John Garnaut observes the super rich are back.

Someone at Macquarie Bank was given to say in relation to executive salaries, “that is the way the world works.” I thought to myself,” that is interesting the world has not always worked that way, and so perhaps it is time to re-examine what is happening and why, and more importantly what are the implications?”

The Garnaut article observes:

Interestingly, hyperinflating executive salaries are an English-speaking phenomenon. Elsewhere, including Japan and continental Europe, executive salaries and the overall income shares of top earners have stagnated.

Then that limits it a bit: it is the way the English-speaking world works.

And how is the world working, and is it good – or need we ask these questions?

A study this year by Ian Dew-Becker and Robert Gordon for the National Bureau of Economic Research showed that fully one half of all America’s productivity gains since 1966 had found their way into the salary packets of the top 10 per cent of earners.

The other 50 per cent of productivity gains filtered down to the bottom 90 per cent, where real wages fell. Australian inequality is widening only at the top. Low earners have been protected by generous family welfare payments and wage-setting structures.

Nevertheless, the recent rise of the super rich has led some observers to worry about the social fabric.”It’s possible that this affects political outcomes: very skewed income distribution may allow the super rich to have a disproportionate influence on election outcomes,” says Professor Leigh. “In a deeper sense, there’s the possibility that we split into two Australias: two groups that occupy different worlds, use different social services and have no interaction with each other.”

So that is how the world is working, and that is how we like it, right?

Postscript:
I was wondering about the Professor Leigh stuff. And this is not America, remember. As I understand it, Dr Leigh is the correct title.

CIVILIAN CASUALTIES May 23, 2006

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Photo: Reuters/Ismail Sameem (via SMH)

Sometimes news reports, such as this example, carried today in The Sydney Morning Herald deserve reflection.

The article mentions that US Air Force pilots bombed a Taliban stronghold, and a number of “suspected” combatants were murdered as a result. Of course, they could have been civilians, or non-combatants. Not one person will be held to account for these deaths.

Furthermore, the article goes on to report:

At the city’s Mirwaise Hospital, one man, with blood smeared over his clothes and turban, said insurgents had been hiding in an Islamic religious school, or madrassa, in the village after fierce fighting in recent days.

“Helicopters bombed the madrassa and some of the Taliban ran from there and into people’s homes. Then those homes were bombed,” said Haji Ikhlaf, 40. “I saw 35 to 40 dead Taliban and around 50 dead or wounded civilians.”

Another survivor from the village, Zurmina Bibi, said about 10 people were killed in her home, including three or four children. “There were dead people everywhere,” she said.

So far, no one American pilot has been held to account for the crime of murder.

And, if that is not enough, the same article goes on to claim:

The escalation in fighting came amid reports that US military officials have secretly requested a “prodigious quantity” of ammunition from Russia to supply the Afghan Army in case a Democrat president takes over and pulls out US troops.

Pentagon chiefs asked arms suppliers for a quote on a vast amount of ordnance, including more than 78 million rounds of AK-47 ammunition, 100,000 rocket-propelled grenades and 12,000 tank shells – equivalent to about 15 times the British Army’s annual requirements.

The Bush Administration is said to be worried that the next president could be a Democrat, possibly Hillary Clinton, who could abandon Afghanistan.

Alright so this latter copy is speculation, but it is a serious allegation suggesting the US Military is out of civilian political control and is now making policy. We knew that the Bush Administration was out of control.

So the American republic faces a greater threat than terrorists, real as that may be, it may faces a threat to constitutional government. Sleep on, enjoy the ride, and wake from your pleasant fantasies to a nightmare. Alarmist? – remove the battery – and sleep comfortably.

Postscript: 25 May 2006
Afghan President, according to this ABC report, has summoned the commander of the US Air Force in Afghanistan to his office to explain the civilian deaths in the air raid. There were expressions of regret that some civilians had been killed. The problem remains. No individuals are held accountable, or indited. The implication is that these deaths are incidental and the people who died do not matter. In that case, the Americans are operating on the same ethical level as suicide bombers.

UPDATE: THE WAR OF TERROR AND TORTURE May 22, 2006

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This war has a longer history than I had supposed. I had thought it may have started on 11 September 2001.

The practice of torture has been taught and applied in Central and South America for many years, in fact going back to 1946 with the opening of The School of the Americas.

Joanne Cowan

Here is the account, via Common Dreams, of Joanne Cowans protest told by her friend and fellow Quaker. Linda Jacobson, claims:

Her decision to take this action comes from a deep faith. Joanne is a Quaker. Our belief is that “there is that of God in everyone.” What we do to each other, we do to that piece of God. We also believe in the concept of “being called.” We believe that all people can hear the words of God, like the prophets of old. But since there are, and have always been, false prophets, Quakers provide many means of determining whether something is a true calling. That torture is wrong and inconsistent with our teachings is obvious. Still, Joanne underwent a lengthy process of discernment to determine whether this step of risking her health in an act of civil disobedience came from mere ego or a deeply felt necessity.

I have seen the results of this process in Joanne and how she relates to the world. Those personality quirks that we all manifest are not at the moment apparent. She speaks of a deep peace and a lack of fear that are tangible.

Those who know Joanne have accepted the truth of her calling, and have supported her intention in various ways. Today I have chosen, as my own personal witness, to write this piece. For Joanne’s action to have meaning, it needs to reach as many people as possible.

And the story of her arrest at Fort Benning is told in her own words here.

I have mixed feelings whether these protests will be prove to be effective or forlorn as I have suggested elsewhere. Still I have an admiration for trouble makers who act out of ethical or even spiritual values. It all reminds of the report of the bloke who caused a ruckus by overtuning the tables, among other things, of the money lenders in the temple some years back.

THE FATE OF POLITICAL COALITIONS. May 21, 2006

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No doubt, we are caught as Hegel hoped in the historical dance of the dialectic. I am never sure what the spirit of the times is, or which way we are heading – to the greater disaster or to the lesser disaster. Yet when, if true, electoral coalitions unravel, we might suppose something is afoot.

Sidney Blumenthal has an analysis that the immigration issue has of the disintegrating of the Republican coalition. Mass parties are usually coalitions. I suppose then we might conclude that the Republicans have wedged themselves, but in my view the real reasons for the disintegration of the the Republican coalition is a combination of incompetence in government and the abject failure of the war thesis, which needs to go further so that a peace thesis might replace it. Implicit in this rejection I believe, think median wages, is that war profiteering and other forms of corporate economic privilege should be brought to account.

And the times, that suit some, not others, allows somethings to be said, which otherwise would have no publicity. Sydney Blumenthal recalls:

In 1938 Franklin Roosevelt confidently spoke to the nativist Daughters of the American Revolution. “Remember, remember always,” he said, “that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.”

No Australian politician has ever been able to say something similar because our history shuts it out, and no American politician could say something in similar terms during the Cold War, or now during the War of Terror and Torture no American politician would repeat something similar. That such a statement ever could be made by an American president is remarkable in itself.

COLD-BLOODED KILLERS! May 19, 2006

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Speigel Online reports, along with other media that:

A senior House Democrat with close ties to the military claimed Wednesday that U.S. Marines wantonly killed innocent Iraqi civilians, including women and children, in an early morning raid last November, buttressing a March report by Time.

“Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them, and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood,” said Jack Murtha of Pennsylvania, a decorated Marine Corps veteran who served in Vietnam and is among the most influential Democratic voices on military matters. “This is going to be a very, very bad thing for the United States.”

The explanation proposed is that:


“These guys are under tremendous strain — more strain than I can conceive of — and this strain has caused them to crack under situations like this,” Murtha said.


The psychological strain Murtha described has been well documented. Veterans describe the violence of war as having a numbing effect on soldiers, making it possible to carry out otherwise unthinkable acts. This is especially true when a fellow soldier has been killed. “Once you reach that point, all sorts of restrictions you may place on yourself are removed,” says Rion Causey, a medic in the infamous Army platoon known as Tiger Force, which may have killed as many as several hundred unarmed civilians in the central highlands of South Vietnam in 1967. Causey did not participate in the atrocities.

Subject to the proviso that the allegations prove to accurate, who is most responsible and who should be held most accountable? Is it the soldiers, their field commanders, their generals, or ultimately their political leaders? Once exceptions are made for Americans, the same exceptions must apply to other combatants.

Further developments can be expected.

FRIDAY NIGHT DOG BLOG – LOST DOGS May 19, 2006

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As you may appreciate the photos are taken every day as we go out. I try to take the dogs out at a time so I can let them run around. On Wednesday, this week I had to leave earlier so I took the dogs out in the half light of morning and let them off. They then disappeared. Sasha came running after me about twenty minutes later. Dexter was away for forty-five minutes, by which time I was starting to think I would not see him again. I saw him running, and he did not stop until he got to our back gate. Now I am loath to let them off even when the sun is up.

Dexter stops for a rest.Posted by Picasa
Casting Shadows – Dexter.Posted by Picasa
Casting shadows – Sasha.Posted by Picasa
Freedom!Posted by Picasa
Sasha in motion.Posted by Picasa
Dexter closes in.Posted by Picasa
. . . and gets closer.Posted by Picasa
“I know it is here somewhere”. Posted by Picasa
“What’s up there?”Posted by Picasa
Dual intensity.Posted by Picasa
After the adventure, coil up at home. Posted by Picasa
Yesterday morning mostly forgotten.Posted by Picasa
A new day.Posted by Picasa
Creek bed closure.Posted by Picasa

These photos can be enlarged by clicking on to them. More dog photos can be seen at Modulator’s Friday Ark#87 and The Carnival of the Dogs at Mickey’s Musings.

NUCLEAR POWER CONTRADICTION May 18, 2006

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It turns out the Blair finds it his duty to prescibe building new nuclear power stations in Britain. It is not just okay to build nuclear power stations, it is said by Blair to be a duty.

Now what about Iran?

Postscript: 21 May 2006

John Howard has joined the chorus, but as Bob Brown, leader of the Greens, among others, points out the nuclear waste problem still remains.

GUANTANAMO DETAINEES May 17, 2006

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The Independent provides the full list of the detainees at the American concentration camp in Cuba. We are to understand the people named and held are the worst of the worst.

But it might be mistakes were made along the way for we are told that some prisoners are continued to be held for their own self protection. The Independent says:

Guantanamo has come under growing criticism in recent months, but the Bush administration continues to resist demands that it be closed. The Pentagon claims it must continue to hold some prisoners who are of no intelligence value, either because their countries of origin will not accept them, or their safety cannot be assured.

The spin keeps coming. John Howard might be seen as gross or masterful, on the assumption of public indifference. The Sydney Morning Herald quotes Howard as saying in regard to David Hicks:

Mr Howard said a court challenge in the United States was the primary reason Hicks’s trial before a military commission had been held up. He said it was essential that Hicks face a military commission before any return to Australia. “We do not believe that he should come back to Australia without facing a military commission,” Mr Howard said.”He cannot be charged with an offence in this country and, given the seriousness of the allegations made against him, we remain of the view that he should face trial before the military commission.”

Granted this is not the full quote, but is this a straight or crooked argument? If he cannot be charged in Australia, how can he be charged in Cuba for behavior in Pakistan or Afghanistan? Surely a fair trial is a fundamental principle in our society, which we take pains to accord to marginal individuals. The impression is created that Hicks can be subject to this kangaroo court because he has been branded as a “terrorist”.

John Howard, and others, are wont to talk about values. If a fair trial is not a primary value in our society, our claim to decency is lost. A fair trial may not be a Howard value, but I would believe it is common value in Australian society. How can Howard get away with this, and why is he not made accountable?

In an earlier report in The Sydney Morning Herald, the British Attorney-General described the camp as “unacceptable”. And then the spin continues, with the insufferable Blair’s office reported as claiming:

Asked about reports that Goldsmith would criticise the US government over the camp, Blair’s official spokesman said the prime minister believed there was a “genuine dilemma” because US officials believed many of the detainees were dangerous and could not be released.

They will say anything.

Bush, Blair and Howard should be indicted as war criminals.

Postscript:

The Law Council of Australia in responding to Howard’s comments described him as deceitful, as per ABC News.

Update: 19 May2006

The United Nations Committe on Torture has called for the Guantanamo facility to be closed, according to this BBC report. The Bush Administration doubtless will ignore the recommendation.
Meanwhile, the ABC reports, a US District Judge has dismissed a torture case on the basis of national security.

THE DANUBE WITHOUT CUSTOMS May 16, 2006

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One aspect of the potential membership of Romania and Bulgaria of the European Union is that it will represent the first time that the Danube has been free of border controls and customs, since a short period in the Second World War. Here is a map from Wikipedia:

Map via Wikipedia

I note in passing that Adam Smith notes this situation of the Danube in the Wealth of Nations(1776).

The eventual membership of Romania and Bulgaria will be subject to qualifications as this DW report notes.

Oops it looks like Serbia will have to be a member as well. Still brick by brick eh! And just perhaps let us not forget Moldova – or Ukraine.

THE CULTURAL REVOLUTION May 16, 2006

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Photo via BBC

The BBC reminds us that it is now 40 years since the beginning of the Cultural Revolution.

The story suggests that the movement had the opposite effect to that intended that seems to suggest that even communists, who might be thought to understand these matters, are not immune to the dialectic of history.

LOST AND FOUND May 16, 2006

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This morning I had to leave for work earlier than usual, and consequently took the dogs out when it was dark. On the premise, a questionable one, that there are no other human beings or dogs in the vicinity, I let them off so they can run around, and not be on the leads all the time.

After fifteen to twenty minutes Sasha found me as a I proceeded along the normal course. We then had to look for Dexter. After more than thirty minutes I was resigned to not finding him racing along, without harness, but he who not come to me, but nonetheless when to our back fence.

Today they, in particular Dexter, have been I am told quieter than usual. At the time these photos were taken Dexter started coughing, and at a later time in the day actually coughed up blood. So he had to got to the vet.

Dexter and Sasha back home! Posted by Picasa

And whatever I have said about Dexter, or his breed, I did not want him to die, which I thought we might have to face. The moral of the story goes to the question of taking risks. Perhaps, wisdom is a mixed blessing, especially if it is devoid of experience.

UTILITARIAN EDUCATION May 15, 2006

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All the thinkers have thought their thoughts and reached their conclusions which in short is that the lower orders should not be trained in rigour of higher thought, but rather should be given to menial activities to fit their menial abilities. These verdicts have been reached clandestinely, and now policy is enacted and is bipartisan.

Implicitly, education at public expense, or at least mostly public provision should be used for public purposes, and these are held to be inconsisent with a liberal view that education is about the growth and development of individuals. A business education, which supposedly is practical, is about a series of techniques, and so, for example philosophy, has no place. The same might be said for the way in politics is practiced.

Still it is encouraging to see, via Common Dreams, that somebody would propose:

I thought of these things with the tools with which we English majors graduate into the world — not the tools that enable you to splice genes, cantilever bridges, or make piles of money, but those that enable you to analyze, to see patterns, to acquire a personal philosophy rather than a jumble of unexamined, hand-me-down notions; those that enable you not to make a living but maybe to live. This least utilitarian of educations prepares you to make sense of the world and maybe to make meaning; for one way to describe the great struggle of our time is as the endeavor to become a producer of meanings rather than a consumer of them — in an age when meaning as advertising and marketing, as others’ definitions of pleasure and terror, is daily forced down our throats.

I cannot say really, except to posit that the best education for each individual is that that enables him or her, at least in potentiality, to express their best possibilities. Of course, this may involve practical skills, which are means to ends. And as the Bible says, and I am sure as the preacher quotes, “it is the spirit that giveth life.”

LOCAL IS GLOBAL May 14, 2006

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The president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, will be greeted by the mayor of London, Ken Livingston, and not the insufferable prime minister of the United Kingdom, Anthony Blair.

According to Chavez “North American Empire” is now over, and it has become a paper tiger. It may be more accurate to say that unilateralism, despite the support of John Winston Howard, has failed miserably when it hit the rock of global political reality, and the American disablement is no small measure of the ineptitude of its main man – “the decider”.

Personally I do not subscribe to the view that democracy has failed per se, but that it has been undermined, perhaps critically, by failures to recognize the pernicious impact of the professional spin machines, by failures in electoral process, the economic problems of the msm, and deterioration to almost non-existence of accountability, personal ethics, and responsiblity of those entrusted with leadership.

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