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FRIDAY NIGHT DOG BLOG – PERCEPTIONS. June 30, 2006

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Last Sunday, I wish I had taken more notice of the dog’s body language, because sure enough there were other dogs, and I struggled to hold them when they came by as Dexter carried on. I think it may arguably be true that dogs are more aware of human than we are of their behavioral signals. Looking at the pictures it should not surprise me that the dogs interpret situations differently from me.

Two points of view: Dexter and Sasha.(24 June 2006) Posted by Picasa
Ditto (24 June 2006)Posted by Picasa
On Alert (25 June 2006) Posted by Picasa
Further confirmation – probably other dogs. (25 June 2006) Posted by Picasa
Apprehending other dogs – this time at the track. (26 June 2006) Posted by Picasa
Dexter: pause for concern. (27 June 2006) Posted by Picasa
“What about me?” (27 June 2006) Posted by Picasa
. . . and then there is the escarpment. (27 June 2006) Posted by Picasa
Sasha has equanimity: Dexter a stick. (27 June 2006) Posted by Picasa
Dexter: Nose to the ground. (28 June 2006)Posted by Picasa
Sasha looking away. (28 June 2006) Posted by Picasa
Ah! Now that might do! (28 June 2006) Posted by Picasa
Let’s get to the bottom of this track. (29 June 2006) Posted by Picasa
We want to go up here. (30 June 2006) Posted by Picasa
Another day. (30 June 2006) Posted by Picasa

If you wish you can enlarge these photos by clicking on to them. Friday Ark has reached #93, and I believe Carnival of the Dogs carries on despite the impending nuptials. Best wishes and congratulations from here to there.

GUANTANAMO RULING June 30, 2006

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So the British were right, and the Australian Government was just plain dumb wrong.

The US Supreme Court has ruled that the President has exceded his authority in relation to Congress, the Geneva Conventions must apply to prisioners, and those prisioners must be given a fair trial. That at least is my summary. The Boston Globe’s account is clear.

The mystery remains. How did George Walker Bush ever get close to the presidency? He made a statement about “killers”. It is so sad. And what of the consequences?

WOULD YOU VOTE? June 29, 2006

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The Boston Globe reports that the US Supreme Court has upheld the Texas redistricting scheme which will have implications for other states.

Presumably, potential electors are not stupid. Why would anybody bother voting where it is transparent that the system is rigged. The Court upholds the separation of powers doctrine and ensures that the rich in effect rule.

Given the system, it is not surprising that Jared Bernstein via Kevin Drum notices the consequences.

Now the beneficiaries of this crooked system have the impertinence to want to inflict “democracy and freedom” on other countries.

“MOST OF IT RUBBISH” June 29, 2006

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Miranda Devine did not disappoint today, even as she assumed the guise of a reporter. Australians she reflected in the opinion of leading lights such as Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer are global citizens.

The American, Rupert Murdoch, was announced as the most influential Australian. But do we then take his opinions seriously? He is reported as saying:

“In the media we feel we are in the most exciting place in the world today. We’re in an industry which is challenged by technological change which is going to bring about a better world.”

He described the world as at a “tipping point”, with universal internet access and broadband imminent for all. “The easy access and influence creative people have will challenge everything Â… there are millions of people on the internet – mainly writing rubbish but a lot are writing words of wisdom. As you find your way around it, it is a magnificent thing to see Â… We’re on the cusp of a better world.”

For such equivocation Murdoch should shamefully report to the “Orthodoxy Council” of Fox News for fence sitting. His excuse might be that he was engaged in spin – and that would be, of course, more than acceptable.

We will have to wait for the history to judge whether the telephone, the mobile phone, or the internet bought about a better world. Content is another thing. One might suggest that Murdoch’s newspapers and television stations present mainly rubbish, and more of that kind than the bloggers do.

It is hard to escape the conclusion that The Sydney Morning Herald would do themselves a favor if they were able to obtain columnists who did not write rubbish to the extent they do. Their present columnists could then become bloggers, and so lift the level of discourse, or not.

For other, and more informed views on this subject you might consider the Andrew Leigh and Gary Sauer-Thompson.

THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME June 29, 2006

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I could never understand what was going on in the First World War trench warfare. The Guardian has in my opinion an excellent interactive presentation, which for me makes sense of what was going on and the carnage for what turned out to be little gain.

The first of July will mark the 90th anniversary.

So what was the decisive turning point in the War? Was it, for the example, the entry of the Americans on the Western Front? Or was it the development of superior technology such as aircraft or the tank?

WORLD CUP ENTHUSIASM June 28, 2006

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Another time another place, slightly different script, but the same story, via Al Jazeera.

In late seventeenth century London, some religious leaders were concerned with the attraction that plays held over the populace.

Now it seems that some religious leaders in Kerala are concerned about the attraction that the World Cup soccer games have for young people, both male and female.

Why is that religion is so inherently popular, and how has it survived?

SECONDHAND SMOKE June 28, 2006

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The LA Times reports that the US Surgeon-General claims that:

There is no level of exposure to smoke that is safe, and the children of smokers are at special risk, Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona said in releasing the new report.”I am here to say the debate is over, the science is clear,” Carmona said during a televised news conference from Washington. “Secondhand smoke is not a mere annoyance. It is a serious health hazard.”Studies in the two decades since the first federal report confirm that secondhand smoke is linked not only to heart disease and lung cancer, but also to breast cancer, childhood cancer, nasal sinus cancer, ear infections and asthma. Recent results have also shown a clear link to sudden infant death syndrome.

Now of course smokers will get this message and exercise due care with respect to others, not least their own children. Pigs will fly!

SOCCER AND IRAQ June 27, 2006

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You might have noticed I start on one subject and end on another. It can be done it seems.

I have to admit I got up at 2am this morning to watch the Socceroos play the Azzurri, and the Italians won. Good luck to them. I thought they were better. Still if the Socceroos had won the whole of Italy would have gone into mourning. I say let some other team be the cause of the Italian tragedy.

The English soccer team is another national tragedy in the making, but by now that country has got use to be losing, and there are always excuses. Much as Gary Younge points out in the Observer, via Common Dreams, like the war in Iraq.

He argues the massacres by American soldiers in Iraq are an inevitable consequence of the invasion and occupation.

To treat even these few incidents as isolated chapters is to miss the broader, enduring narrative. For these are not the unfathomable offshoots of this war but the entirely foreseeable corollaries of it. This is what occupation is; this is what occupation does. There is nothing specifically American about it. Any nation that occupies another by force will meet resistance. For that resistance to be effective, it must have deep roots in local communities where opposition to the occupation is widespread. Unable to distinguish between insurgent and civilian, occupiers will regard all civilians as potential insurgents and all territory as enemy territory. “Saying who’s a civilian or a ‘muj’ [mujahideen] in Iraq, you really can’t,” one marine under investigation told the New York Times recently. “This town did not want us there at all.” Under these circumstances, dead women, children and disabled people are the price you pay for being invaded.

. . . International law was broken but there will be no punishment. The few who are responsible remain in the White House while the many who are embroiled in the conflict are brutalized or murdered, or both. “You’ve got to do whatever it takes to get home,” said one marine. “If it takes clearing by fire where there’s civilians, that’s it.” There is, of course, another option. Just go home. If the wanton murder of civilians is what it takes to complete your mission, there is clearly something wrong with the mission.

“Stick it out”, or “cut and run”, take your pick. Still at Socrates had it, “the unexamined life is not worth living”.

BLOG MILESTONES June 27, 2006

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I have just noticed that I have now put 900 posts on this blog. I just wonder whether this might not be a more significant milestone than my second anniversary that comes around in July this year.

There might be some dispute as to what constitutes a post versus a substantive argument, and that is fair enough. There are times when what I have put has attracted attention, and other times, perhaps more often, when they have not. I just keep on plugging along with whatever is of interest to me. I always try to be reasonable, or at least clearly biased.

I really wish I knew how to organize the various posts into categories, which would be useful to me if nobody else, because it would be easier to appreciate the contradictions. Contradictions, see in a Hegelian light, are the engine of history.

Here might be the place to mention that I am continuing on an irregular basis to read Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. It is, in my opinion, worth reading. Reading quotes is not quite the same as reading the book, and by reading the book you can find quotes. For example, I noticed tonight on the train:

. . . All for ourselves, and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the master’s of mankind. As soon, therefore, as they could find a method of consuming the whole value of their rents themselves, they had not disposition to share them with any other persons.

It seems to me that Smith, like Marx, is literally a progressive. For Smith trade and industry is the method.

CENTRALISM June 26, 2006

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The new IR laws have all the appearance of centralizism by legislative edict arising from the fact that the government has the numbers in both houses of parliament.

But, for whatever reason, and perhaps the rush to implement legislation is part of the explanation, they do not seem to have thought it through. Now we get this situation, as reported by ABC Online, which appears absurd, and contrary to the whole intention.

All the minister can do is protest and wring his hands. I suppose it is fair enough if the Federal Government wants to do its thing, why should not the States do theirs. Sometimes when you spin, you get a tangled web.

Coda:
Of course, we could have a notion of co-operative federalism, in which all stakeholders had a voice, implying a process of negotiation, in which all stakeholders had a voice. Then again, the Howardian view, is contrary to such a proposal.

CARING FOR VETERANS June 25, 2006

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There will not be many years when the George Bush fiasco in Iraq will be a memory to be suppressed, much like Vietnam.

And then what will happen to the veterans of “the army of the slums”? It appears, via Juan Cole that many are not faring too well now, and that does not include those would will suffer mental illness from being rounded up for the “noble cause”. I recall seeing a figure of about 10% for the British forces, and they, unlike the Americans, have not been on the front line.

Leaving aside the members of the National Guard, who would normally not be expected to be deployed to fight imperialist wars, my understanding is that many soldiers do not see any better social welfare benefits from civilian alternative, so they re-sign in the interests of their families. The upper class, who now disproportionately secure all the social and economic benefits are freed from the need to spend time in the Iraq theatre of the absurd.

Patriotism has not so much become not just the recourse of the rogues but of the rich. It is not divinely ordained, at least in Christian theology, as I understand it, that the poor should have to die and suffer for the rich. And the American Political Science Association reported in 2004 on American Democracy in an Age of Rising Inequality. For example, the more a person earns, the more likely they are able to vote in a presidential election. The rich have a stronger political voice, the poor a mere whispher, as is evidence in the refusal of Congress to raise the basic wage.

FRAMES AND FACTS June 25, 2006

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John Mayard Keynes said many things including when the facts change, my opinion changes. Whether this was true for Keynes, I do not know, but I suspect it is not true for most people, and the political debate is more often about frames than facts, and in the case of the crowd around George Bush it is wholly about frames. Our emotions, when strong enough crowd out the facts. I have to go back to an earlier post for definitions. Therefore, to engage in a political argument it is necessary to understand the frame, as much, and sometimes more so, than to understand the facts.

Troppo was running under it banner a quote from John Stuart Mills to the effect that the person who only knew one side of the argument could not understand even that argument. Logic is often about apparent cleverness and not truth.

There are examples everything. I noticed a report, in the Sydney Morning Herald about the division in world views between Islam and Christianity, and yet largely the outcome of understandable ignorance, deliberately enhanced by the politics of fear and polarization, for which no mealy-mouthed politician will take responsibility. The failure to assume responsibility is in stark contrast to the social responsibility insisted on for welfare recipients.

As I have said previously the immediate withdrawal from Iraq is as much a grave moral issue in the face of the suffering inflicted on the Iraqi people by, in the simplest terms, imperialist greed (oil), hyprocrisy(aerial bombing, “shock and awe”), and criminal incompetence. Now, Rove and the crude crew, want to frame the opponents to their failed imperialist adventure as cowards (cutting and running).

Larry Beinhart, via Common Dreams, has the right appoarch, which in essence is do not accept the frame put about by Rove and the gang.

FRIDAY NIGHT DOG BLOG – WINTER REFLECTIONS June 23, 2006

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There is good news – the rain came, and with one exception we still followed our familiar path. The photos freeze odd moments but do not reflect fully the diverse interest and attention of Sasha and Dexter. They can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Dexter, ol’ blue eyes in the background.(17 June 2006)Posted by Picasa
Sash catches the flash. (17 June 2006) Posted by Picasa
. . . then caught in the act. (17 June 2006) Posted by Picasa

Serious about posing – at least for Dexter. (18 June 2006)Posted by Picasa
Together we stand. (18 June 2006) Posted by Picasa
The exception not the rule. (19 June 2006) Posted by Picasa
It’s (also) a dog’s world. (19 June 2006) Posted by Picasa
Dexter on a slope. (20 June 2006) Posted by Picasa
Over there. (20 June 2006) Posted by Picasa
Showing tongue. (20 June 2006) Posted by Picasa
Listening to the earth? (21 June 2006) Posted by Picasa
Rain and contemplation. (21 June 2006) Posted by Picasa
A more careful analysis. (21 June 2006) Posted by Picasa
Something doing? (23 June 2006) Posted by Picasa
Sasha sits. (23 June 2006) Posted by Picasa
Dexter chews. (23 June 2006) Posted by Picasa
Adieu. (23 June 2006) Posted by Picasa

Friday Ark at Modulator has now reached #92, and do not forget The Carnival of the Dogs at Mickey’s Musings.

POTENTIAL PITFALLS OF DOG OWNERSHIP June 22, 2006

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Yesterday, Dexter escaped. A dog came by when he and Sasha were out the front as they were playing with a ball. The ball went under the gate, and the gate was opened, and then Dexter was out in the street. He soon got bored with the other dog whom he raced down the street to visit. Then he was enjoying himself racing around from one front yard to the next. He eventually was held and returned home safely. I was at work while all this was going on. Sometmes you get lucky.

This dog (without a name?) was not so lucky.

The Sydney Morning Herald has the story. I had trouble tightening Dexter’s old harness. I am told it is like doing up a bra strap. Obviously the leash issue is important. Just to be on the safe side, if I were to take Dexter in a public place, such as a street, I would put a muzzle on him, despite the contrary view that in so doing he would become vulnerable to attack from other dogs.

The real question is why do dogs attack people? You have also to wonder why people do not register their dogs? Then you have to wonder why the dogs are not desexed?

EQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITY SLIDES AWAY June 21, 2006

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Once upon a time there was a country dedicated to the fair go. Times change and the old policies were changed. The prime minister who oversaw this change was particularly cute, and so thought of him as a “prince charming”, and then he exchanged the old workers benefits for two cents an hour.

We are now told that we are becoming a country of two classes – the rich and the poor. Some people are very happy about this development, but whatever you should not make comments about snouts and troughs.

According to the economist, Fred Argy, via Ross Gittins at The Sydney Morning Herald in days of yore in the twentieth century both major political parties pursued the same policies including:

* Full-time employment for anyone who wanted it;

* A legislated set of minimum wages and conditions sufficient to sustain a decent standard of living, rising in line with national prosperity;

* A balance of bargaining power in the workplace;

* A means-tested but dignified safety net of welfare payments to cover short-term contingencies;

* A strongly progressive tax system; and

* Equality of access, across socio-economic groups and geographic regions, to public services such as good education and health care, housing and public transport.

Most people have been left with stupid jobs that pay low wages, and we call it progress.

SENATE COMMITTEES June 20, 2006

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So far Andrew Bartlett has no post on the Bartlett Diaries, but perhaps we might expect some comment.

ABC News Online reports:

The Federal Government has announced a plan to cut the number of Senate committees from 16 to 10 in what it says is a bid to reduce duplication. Under the proposal, all 10 committees would be chaired by a Government senator. Currently there are 16 Senate committees and half of them are chaired by the Opposition. The Government leader in the Senate, Nick Minchin, says he expects criticism. But he says the current committee system is dysfunctional and the Government has decided to overhaul it. “So I think it is a very reasonable and sensible proposal,” he said. “No doubt the minor parties and the Opposition will complain, but that’s a complaint against the fact the Australian people gave the Coalition majority status in the Senate. Now they should respect democracy, just as we do.”

Of course, it would be more efficient to have no committees at all. Since when did executive government take account of a report of the Senate Committees. Still it will be nicer now that government senators will have majorities on all committees, and by definition more efficient now the executive government has decided there is to be less of them. Why is it that I do not get the sense this is a democratic process, rather the reverse?

When we say that “the Australian people gave the Coalition a majority status [of one] in the Senate”, you ought to keep in mind the electoral process that gave rise to this result, and whether that process permits the State and Territory gerrymanders to give expression to the intention of the Australian people.

A DOG’S LIFE June 20, 2006

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It seems that dogs are happier in the country than they are in the city, or so this report suggests.

In relation to these findings, the researchers should perhaps not just interview the dogs, but also include the dog owners.

Happiness for a dog, as for a human being, might be a function of a number of variables, some of which might be very predictable.

“GUANTANAMO POST MORTEMS” June 19, 2006

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The BBC reports that the Saudi parents of the former detainees whose bodies have been returned to their homes are having post mortems. They do not believe the story of their suicides. Suicide goes against the tenets of Islam.

Yasser Talal al-Zahrani was just seventeen years of age when he was incarcerated. He was no more than a boy. He was incarcerated for four years. These are simple facts.

The former British detainee, Feroz Abbasi, as reported by the BBC, gives descriptions of mistreatment of prisioners and legal incompetence.

Then there are the charges against David Hicks, which according to Richard Ackland , via the SMH, simply do not stand up to preliminary legal scrutiny.

Hicks is called a terrorist, yet he is charged as though he was a prisoner of war, although he is not afforded any of the rights of a POW.

At the same time the charges against him are largely fictions, unknown to the law of war, despite the fact that Downer and Ruddock keep gravely intoning that they are “very serious charges”.

Just look at them. There’s a charge of “conspiracy” to attack civilians, civilian objects, engage in terrorism, etc. Yet Bush only set the commissions up to investigate and prosecute violations of the law of war, and conspiracy is unknown to the law of war. As Scheffer says: “The error reflects the Bush Administration’s confusion about pursuing a war on terror with overlapping applications of anti-terrorism law and the law of war. It is a needless mess.”

There’s a charge of attempted murder, which again does not fit neatly into the normal law of war. Hicks was guarding a Taliban tank at Kandahar’s airport and as such he would appear to have been in a combat action, not a terrorist action. The attempted murder charge is highly problematic.

Finally, he is charged with aiding the enemy. Yet as an Australian, and almost a British citizen, fighting for the then government of Afghanistan he is entitled to “privileged belligerent” status and he certainly does not owe any obligation to the US.

Far from being grave, the charges are a fudge and any half-decent court would chuck them out. Only a military commission packed to the rafters with non-lawyer military officers could be expected to swallow them.

STAYING FOR WHAT? June 18, 2006

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I would like to see a situation,with the exception of emergency circumstances, in which the Parliament takes responsibility and has the decision to deploy troops overseas. For ethical reasons, in recognition that wars cause unnecessary deaths, injury and hardship, any deployment should meet the requirements of a just war.

The question arises as to what individual responsibility we bear as citizens in a liberal democracy for the consequences of war. I suppose,if we were to be held individually responsible, it would be necessary to hold a plebiscite. If I were to hold myself responsible for the needless murder and brutality associated with the Iraq invasion and war, and by being made complicit in this moral wrong, I would have every reason to be extremely angry.

What I think is most disturbing about this war is not so much the spin, perhaps that has always been part of the political discourse, but the lack of political accountability. For one thing there needs to be openness and honesty about motives and purposes, which must be stated clearly. After three years of murder and mayhem, with a continuing and unabating resistance to foreign intervention, we are entitled to ask what progress has been made, and what progress towards the goals that would justify invasion and conquest is likely.

We ought to at least measure the losses. The continued financial cost of the war. The deaths and injury caused, both military and civilian.

We do not get responsibility and accountability. We get spin and pathetic journalism. The ABC Online report of John Howard’s explanation for continued deployment is just another example.

The Prime Minister, John Howard, has warned that an early withdrawal of Australian troops from Iraq could undermine what has been achieved so far.
. . . “To jump from primary responsibility to no responsibility would be to risk a smooth transition to what we all want, and that is a position where the Iraqis can look after themselves,” he said.

He will say anything. Previously we were told the role of the Australian troops was to defend the Japanese, who are now leaving. He is never asked what exactly has been achieved so far, and at what cost? At what point did the Iraqis cease to be able to look after themselves?

Coda:
The reasons for the invasion and war on Iraq are revisited byJohn Quiggin, in the light of subsequent repudiation by the initial boosters.

Postscript:19 June 2006

Not withstanding Howard’s spinning and equivication yesterday, today we find out more about the reployment. ABC Online News reports today:

The Prime Minister John Howard has given more details of their new role. Mr Howard says Australia’s 460 troops in Al Muthanna province in southern Iraq will shortly head for Tallil, where there is a big US air base. “The primary purpose would be to provide a security reinforcement or back-up for the Iraqi security forces,” he said.

Mr Howard will not say if it is a more dangerous assignment, only that any operation in Iraq is dangerous.

As noted, effectively this is a new deployment. There was no parliamentary consulation.

GANSUS – THE MISSING LINK June 16, 2006

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The Duckpond in the nature of things is going to be interested in matters avian, and especially the discovery of missing links. The Boston Globe reports not only that a missing link for modern birds has been found in China, but that the samples were remarkedly well preserved:

Gansus was about the size of a modern pigeon, but similar to loons or diving ducks, the researchers said. One of the fossils even has skin preserved between the toes, showing that it had webbed feet.

The remains were dated to about 110 million years ago, making them the oldest for the group Ornithurae, which includes all modern birds and their closest extinct relatives. Previously, the oldest known fossils from this group were from about 99 million years ago.

The fact that Gansus was aquatic indicates that modern birds may have evolved from animals that originated in aquatic environments, the researchers said.

“Our new specimens are extremely well preserved, with some even including feathers,” Lamanna said. “Because these fossils are in such good condition, they’ve enabled us to reconstruct the appearance and relationships of Gansus with a high degree of precision. They provide new and important insight into the evolutionary transformation of carnivorous dinosaurs into the birds we know today.”

The remains were found in an ancient lake bed near the town of Changma.

Given the nature of this blog means there is an equal, perhaps greater interest in matters related to duckspeak and doublethink.

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