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PREDICTIONS 2007 December 31, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Category to be ascribed.
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I made predictions for the coming year in 2004 and 2005, and I was not too far wrong because I tried to pick well established trends. For the upcoming year I will try again.

The polls are showing the Iemma Labor Government in NSW is holding a decided edge over the opposition. The odds are stacked against the Liberals, but I would expect that they will make significant gains in the March State Elections, at least at the expense of the independents. Their numbers were cut back in the last State election which was held in the fog of war prior to the invasion of Iraq. All things being equal the Liberals should do better. Their situation illustrates the difficulties that opposition leaders face cutting through the government’s spin doctoring. It looks like Labor will be returned in NSW, which is not good news for Labor’s Federal prospects.

Age must eventually catch up with Howard, and I expect that this issue, with the unsettled question of his successor, will be the ghost at the party during the Federal Election, probably in November. Howard will have to go at some time, so why should it not be this year? The fact that the “work choices legislation” is an issue in the letters page of the Sydney Morning Herald would concern me, if I was a liberal strategist. As we all know Howard is not above playing the race card again, and I expect that perceived card will have Muslim written on it, suggesting that developments – or the lack of them – in the Middle East may impact on the Australian election.

The Senate will again be a lottery for final places. This time around the ALP might be more careful as how it directs the flow of votes to the minor parties, given that most people will vote above the line. My understanding the numbers suggest it is a safe bet that the Liberals will remain the majority party in the Senate.

Oppositions do not lose elections, so much as the times move against governments, and people tire of them. They can get around this by setting up phony issues, such as refugees and racism. Generally, it is true, at least in my opinion, if you maintain your principles the times will eventually suit you. For example, I do not know what will happen with interest rates, which are nominally outside their control, could damage the government’s chances. I think that Work Place Legislation will damage, simply because it is contrary to the interests of employees, and if it does not it will demonstrate that the low paid have become marginalized without an effective political voice, which in the long term will be damaging to Australian democracy.

The Australian Government has no control or influence over what happens in the Middle East, more particularly in Iraq. The probability is that the stupidity of the Bush policy will not change leading to greater disaster in Iraq, resignations from the Bush Cabinet, or both. When we hear the Green Zone being attacked in a significant way, then we will know the game is over.

The British are expected to make significant cut backs in the numbers of troops in Iraq toward the middle of the year, when Blair finally, at long last leaves the scene. No doubt to maintain absurdity to the end, he will be endeavouring to make himself relevant to the end. As a consequence Britain will turn to Europe.

The Europeans, and the Russians with the Chinese, will not tolerate an American attack, or Israeli attack on Iran. The defeat in Iraq will have grave consequences for the American empire, not least in the need of Europe to stand up united. By the end of the year recriminations in the United States will begin over “who lost the Middle East”, but rather “who lost America”.

Asia and Africa will continue on their set paths, I expect. China will have to exercise influence over the North Koreans.

As for myself, by sheer luck I somehow survived this year, much in the way that George Bush did, except that he faces a Congress with Democratic majorities, and that must make a difference. Similarly, winging it, may just come unstuck for me, as for him.

Postscript: 01/01/2007

There are, of course, predictions elsewhere. I am trying to predict trends that are likely to continue, but I do not have a quantative basis for them. I suppose my predictions are not remarkable, just guesses.

John Simpson at the BBC has a set of predictions for the Middle East. The regular contributors at Democracy Now have pronostications – via Mark at Larvatus Prodeo.

FRIDAY NIGHT DOG BLOG – SUMMER’S ON THE WAY December 29, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in DOG BLOG -.
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It is now past Christmas, yet summer has not truly arrived. For example, last New Years Day the temperature reached 44 degrees Celsius (111 degrees Fahrenheit), which we are completely unprepared for, and the flowers and plants started to wilt even after one day. During some weeks in perhaps October or November a summer pattern started to happen, but periods of rain followed(for which we are most grateful), and the weather has remained relatively cool. For example, this week started with the aftermath of rain. Still, I expect to be carrying water in February, and perhaps in January as well. I suppose I am ignoring the fact that Sasha and Dexter are keen to have a deep drink of water when they get back. I will endeavour to take Sasha and Dexter out earlier in the morning, rather than wait until midday, as is my usual practice on the weekends.

Differing interests. 23 December 2006.Posted by Picasa

Serious intent. 23 December 2006.Posted by Picasa

A Sasha moment. 23 December 2006.Posted by Picasa

Duelling tongues. 24 December 2006.Posted by Picasa

Not a day for fur coats. 24 December 2006.Posted by Picasa

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Noses to the ground. 26 December 2006.

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Phew! “Look my way dogs” 26 December 2006.

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Sasha’s sheepdog impression. 26 December 2006.

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Dexter seems happy? 26 December 2006.

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Dexter presents a profile. 26 December 2006.

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Sasha stands tall. 26 December 2006.

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Forward Looking. 26 December 2006.

Fun in the sun? 27 December 2006.Posted by Picasa

Sasha strikes a pose. 28 December 2006.Posted by Picasa

These photos can be enlarged by clicking on them – which is a point of difference from last week to the past.

As always we hope to catch Friday Ark#118 and the Carnival of the Dogs.

Happy new year.

VALE JERRY FORD December 27, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in US Politics.
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Gerald Ford, the 38th President of the United States died yesterday. He was the longest-lived US president.
The Boston Globe sums him up with the following observation:

. . . whose earnest manner and manifest personal decency helped restore the confidence of a nation traumatized by the Watergate scandal . . .

My memory is, that he was treated harshly by the media, who gave him no margin for error. Yet he was, I believe, a traditional Republican, a political view that can be respected by opponents. His personal qualities are sadly missed.

Postscript:

Juan Cole has a more comprehensive review of the Ford Presidency and a better memory.

Investigative journalist, Robert Parry, in a interview with Amy Goodman at Democracy Now provides a less charitable view of the Ford Presidency, in which I believe Kissinger continued as Secretary of State.

EXECUTION OF SADDAM HUSSEIN December 27, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Human Rights, Iraq.
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Now it seems the Iraqi Appeals Court has decided Saddam Hussein is guilty as charged, and he is sentenced to death by hanging within 30 days, even as another trial is in progress.

The decision was not a surprise. The BBC reports:

Saddam Hussein’s defence lawyer Khalil al-Dulaimi said the court’s verdict “was expected”.

“We were not at all surprised, as we are convinced that this has been – 100% – a political trial,” he said.

There are questions about the due process, or natural justice of the trial, the desirability of the death sentence – judicial murder- in the context of other crimes that Hussein may have committed, the fact that the fiat of the Iraqi government only runs to the Green Zone, in other words it is a client of the United States, and the fact that Hussein’s hanging will have implications for the ongoing sectarian conflict, which is the responsibility of the occupying powers, among other considerations.

Of course, it has been said that Hussein never gave anybody he had killed due process. An eye for an eye . . . The issue here is not the clash of civilizations as it is the clash of the civilized and uncivilized. As far as I know, Timothy McVeigh, for example, was given a fair trial with with expert defence attorney, and those who oppose judicial murder would still argue there is more to be gained by keeping such a person alive than by killing him. For Christians this comes down to saying: What part of “thy shall not kill” is not understood.

Those in the White House, and their toadies in London and Canberra, might reflect that Hussien’s sets a precedent by which other criminals when convicted by the appropriate international tribunals might be subject. It seems to me that the invasion of country on the basis of weapons of mass destruction prior to the completion of the inspection process set up by the United Nations may well be indictable grounds for prosecution on the basis of International Law established by the Nuremberg Trials. Such an indictment does not include the possible crimes committed during the course of a long occupation.

Still there will be expert commentary on this subject, and I will endeavour to keep tabs here. Human Rights Watch contend that Hussein did not get a fair trial.

Paul Reynolds of the BBC discusses the international implications of the deicision with regard to the emergence of the International Court of Justice, a body not recognized by the United States.

Postscript: 27/12/2006

I am puzzled as to how dictators such as Saddam can be removed, without the pain, destruction and death to the population as evidenced in Iraq. I tend to think it might be possible to establish principles of international law and provide recognized international courts with significant sanctions aimed at the culprit rather than the population. The rule of law means that no government leaders would be excluded, and that is the rub for some countries it seems. Otherwise, I believe such a unified course would be a pratical proposal. Saddam Hussein in this instance has been very much a red herring drawn across the path to divert attention from what is really going on.

Postscript 30 December 2006

Robert Fisk provides commentary in The Independent, as does Juan Cole at Informed Comment and Salon.Com. Juan Cole suggests 10 ways the US helped Saddam – he did not stay in power in Iraq for 24 years without outside help, and guess who provided most of that?

Check out David Wearing’s links at The Democrats Diary, in particular “worst atrocities”.

Postscript: 31 December 2006

The Aljazeera report suggests that the hanging, from which Sunnis were excluded, was carried out in the spirit of revenge.

Postscript: 01 January 2007

The BBC reports that a video taken with a mobile camera shows some among the invited audience taunting Saddam as he is murdered – just like the old days when he was running things. The prime minister who signed his death warrent, we are told will soon be replaced by his American masters.

Robert Fisk makes the point made by others that those criminals who supported Hussein and supplied poisonous gas and other weapons will be well pleased with his death.

David Tiley at Barista has written what I regard as an excellent account of the trial and assassination of Saddam Hussein.

Bottomline, with less elegance than others, those individuals who have invaded the country, caused unknown death and suffering, have not managed a higher standard of behavior, but given their form we could hardly have expected otherwise. Any of us who are citizens of America, Britain and Australia, nations that aspire to decency and standards of justice, can only feel profound shame and disgust. Just a reminder that Saddam was an American prisioner before the was released to the care of the Iraqi government.

POLITICS OF CHRISTMAS December 25, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Modern History.
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James Carroll, in the Boston Globe, reflects on the political significance of Christmas:

For those who follow him, today takes its name from Christ, but the events of Christmas belonged first to Mary, exactly as every birth belongs to the mother before it belongs to the child. In the Gospels, Mary is the still point at the center of turmoil. As the narrative unfolds around her — the angelic proclamation of peace, the star in the east, the arrival of three kings, the hint of her baby’s transcendent significance, the jealousy of Herod, the warning in a dream, the flight into Egypt, the murders of innocent children left behind — Mary is the one who knows.

The story of the birth of Jesus serves the Gospels as a prelude, establishing with staggering simplicity the main idea of this entire proclamation. And that idea was enough to strike fear in the heart. “She was deeply disturbed,” Luke says. But then the angel said to her, “Mary, do not be afraid.” (Luke 1:29-30) Those words, in fact, were addressed to the people who first heard this story, because the nativity narrative itself was dangerous.

It is hard to imagine now, when Christmas is the ultimate feast of domesticity, but the sweet tale of the coming of this child was, in its origin, an act of political treason. The Christmas story began, in the scholar John Dominic Crossan’s word, as a “counterstory.” People who first gathered to tell it to one another, as a way of saying what the memory of Jesus had come to mean to them, were signing up for revolution.

The baby Jesus, after all, is explicitly identified as an antagonist to no one less than the emperor of Rome. “Now at this time Caesar Augustus issued a decree . . . ” (Luke 2:1) Augustus, claiming to be a god, was said to have been born of a human mother and a divine father. When a peasant woman from the opposite end of the social order is “found to be with child through the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:18), a direct rebuttal is being issued to the self-idolatrous emperor.

. . . The birth of Jesus is the reversal of the imperial order. The story of that birth is told and told again because the imperial order is always attempting a comeback, always needing to be challenged.

Empire lives in the United States of America, and, despite assumptions of many Christian Americans, Christmas still rebukes the empire. The implications of Mary’s statement for contemporary politics are obvious. Violence marks power as much as ever. Hunger and poverty among masses of people are inevitable byproducts of a market system that rewards the few.

When economic inequity becomes so extreme as to turn the global social order into an effective state of permanent war, which side is God on? The shepherds tell us, and so do the kneeling kings. Above all, Mary tells us.

Those who love her story have no choice but to measure themselves against its meaning. So perhaps we do this every year not only out of sentimental longing for “news of great joy,” but also out the wish to be a better people than we are.

What is old is new again. An enduring story will always be relevant even to those who believe god theology is a delusion. Such a story is the need now to reforge and refight the struggle for human rights, peace, justice and democracy which was once thought won, and now needs to be won again. The fascists, says Gore Vidal, have achieved the heights of power. Fascist, Vidal says, is an old name for neo-conservatives. He has in mind specifically Cheney and Bush, those who act as if they are above the rule of law, followed by their imitators, acolytes and supplicants in Australia. The incarceration of David Hicks is a particular case. There are others.

Postscript: 27/12/2006

Oops I display my ignorance yet again. It seems there is a supermarket range of Brand Jesus’ to chose from, depending of which biblical author is prescribed, and hence a variety of Christianities. I am confused. Ida Chernus, via CommonDreams, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder, has the good oil.

FRIDAY NIGHT DOG BLOG – BLITHE SPIRITS December 22, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in DOG BLOG -.
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It was raining at least on one day, but we went out, so the dogs would be less bored. It was pretty slippery at times, I was taking chances, and eventually my luck ran out. I lost my footing completely on the embankment at the back. This mean that we came back home via the street, and the dogs practiced sitting at very provocation – well sort of. As I suggested having them sit means they are not putting pressure on me. Things cannot be too bad. Sasha and Dexter occasionally seem to enjoy themselves.

Seasonal spirit despite rain. 18 December 2006Posted by Picasa

Sasha enjoys the moment. 16 October 2006.Posted by Picasa

Opposite viewpoints. 16 December 2006.Posted by Picasa

Dexter sits. 16 October 2006.Posted by Picasa

Enlightenment. 17 December 2006.Posted by Picasa

Repositioning. 18 December 2006.Posted by Picasa

Sasha stands in a clearing. 18 December 2006.Posted by Picasa

Seated, synchronous tongues. 19 December 2006.Posted by Picasa

Standing together. 19 December 2006.Posted by Picasa

So it is raining. 20 December 2006.Posted by Picasa

Time for reflection. 21 December 2006.Posted by Picasa

On alert. 22 December 2006.Posted by Picasa

Best wishes: Merry next Monday and Yappy New Year.Posted by Picasa

If Friday Ark # 118 is sailing we will attempt to board it, and if the the Carnival is playing we will attempt to join it.

Click to enlarge. That may just work.

THE GREATEST December 21, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Modern History.
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There is a faraway country self-declared to be the land of the free and the home of the brave. Some of its people are staving. Most of its people cannot afford decent health care. Yet it can afford, so we are told, to wage a war of occupation in the Middle East.

Suppose either one or both these statements be factual then surely there is something very wrong. But what is it that is so awry. It is blinkered ideology perhaps? Or is there some other reason?

CODA: 22/12/2006

Of course my point is that if the US can afford the expense of the Iraq War, as distinct from the human suffering whether Iraqi or American, as has been claimed then it could in the absence of those costs do so much more for its citizens.

The idea of personal responsibility only seems to extend to the self, often without an accounting of all the advantages an individual might have recieved, and not to others. For example there are about 90,000 homeless people in LA, and the suggestion yesterday to adopt the homeless in the same way we adopt an African child.

In recent days, I have been travelling into Sydney and back, without a thought for the homeless.

The Cold War in retrospect had at least the positive aspect that it was a competition between social and political models so there was an incentive to improve the conditions of the less fortunate. Now that motivation has dissipated. It would be a good thing for all out societies if we could find some way to bring such competition into play.

Postscript: 23/12/2006

Then there is Bill Moyer’s Christian framing of the situation.

BLOG-REFLECTION December 20, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Blogging in general.
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Recently both Ken Parish and Tim Dunlop have made comments on blogging. They both, among others. leading proponents and supporters of bloggers. If anything, Ken ought to qualify for a special award for promoting blogging and good blog writing. Tim’s commenters make most of the sensible points intermingled with the weird, reflecting the neighbourhood’s character.

None of us should resile from critical comments. Blogging is what I do. I do it because it is there, and whether anybody reads it is beside the point, although I would prefer to have readers than not to have them. I would prefer to have written something that was worth reading, even if one reader thought it mildly relevant and important.

I agree that essay type entries are better, except that they take time and more work. Sometimes I am criticized for the time I spend here. It is obviously harder to write arguments and marshall evidence to arrive at conclusions – so I am always very pleased when whosoever reads these rare productions. Sometimes I have not got a clue what I think until I start writing and then I discover what I think, and that means more to me than to anybody else I suspect. Sometimes I am too tired to make much of an effort, but feel I should keep up with posting.

Of course, as sometimes happens I am always pleased to get comments, which suggest that somebody else was interested in what I found interesting. In recent times the comments have enhanced what I said, so I feel the post becomes a joint production, and far better for the contribution of others. And you need not be an expert to be interested, or to say something worthwhile – or at least let us suppose that to be true.

ISRAEL’S OBSCENITY December 19, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Israel-Palestine.
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Some nations are hardly fit to be members of the world community. Israel is foremost among such nations.

Chris Hedges at Truthdig reports in part:

. . .  Palestinians are not only dying, their olive trees uprooted, their farmland and homes destroyed and their aquifers taken away from them, but on many days they can’t move because of Israeli “closures” that make basic tasks, like buying food and going to the hospital, nearly impossible. These Palestinians, after decades of repression, cannot return to land from which they were expelled. The 140-plus U.N. votes to censure Israel and two Security Council resolutions—both vetoed by the United States—are blithly ignored. Is it any wonder that the Palestinians, gasping for air, rebel as the walls close in around them, as their children go hungry and as the Israelis turn up the violence?

Palestinians in Gaza live encased in a squalid, overcrowded ghetto, surrounded by the Israeli military and a massive electric fence, unable to leave or enter the strip and under daily assault. The word “apartheid,” given the wanton violence employed against the Palestinians, is tepid. This is more than apartheid. The concerted Israeli attempts to orchestrate a breakdown in law and order, to foster chaos and rampant deprivation, are on public display in the streets of Gaza City, where Palestinians walk past the rubble of the Palestinian Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of National Economy, the office of the Palestinian prime minister and a number of educational institutions that have been bombed by Israeli jets. The electricity generation plant, providing 45 percent of the electricity of the Gaza Strip, has been wiped out, and even the primitive electricity networks and transmitters that remain have been repeatedly bombed. Six bridges linking Gaza City with the central Gaza Strip have been blown up and main arteries cratered into obliteration. And the West Bank is rapidly descending into a crisis of Gaza proportions.

ISLAND DREAMING December 19, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Modern History.
3 comments

Britain was once great, to the extent it had an empire that stretched around the globe, and in its comparative majesty overshadowed the Roman Empire. It was even larger than those once commanded by the French, the Dutch, the Belgians, the Spanish and the Portuguese. The British Isles were once ruled from one city. Times change. For example, in 1776 some of the American colonies became independent, and started constructing their own contiguous, transcontinental empire. But sometimes people are fixed on the phantasmagoria of the past, which may often mean that they make bad choices.

So it seems this has happened to the present, long lingering, and decreasingly relevant, British Prime Minister. Britain was once a great power, and the delusion of greatness should have been brought to their attention fifty years ago. Blair thought he could influence Bush. This delusion, according to Paul Reynolds at BBC News, was “a terrible mistake”, or more exactly the decision to support the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Britain can be a player in Europe, which is not wholly monolithic, but which has the collective gravitas to stand up to the American imperium should it decide, or at least the major players within the European orbit decide on a common stance. Instead, fuelled by delusions, it seems to me that Britain and Blair have sought to undermine Europe. The Europeans, including the British, might get it into their heads that “the union makes us strong.” After all, over one million Britons chose to live on the continent.

KIDNEY BIOPSY RESULTS December 18, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Life Experience.
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I went to see my specialist today and got a copy of the laboratory results from my renal biopsy. Admittedly the medical language takes a moment to begin to decode. It is, for example, commonly known, that “itis” means inflammation, and then it is just a matter of constructing meaning from the common words.

Medicine is not without its political implications, of which the most important is what is available to least advantaged member of society. I do not quite fit the bill, but I solely a public patient, since I do not have medical insurance of any kind, and thus far I have not experienced this as a significant disadvantage. I suppose that, up to this point, I do have the minimum financial resources available to me to meet the upfront expenses of consultations with doctors and undertake some tests, such as ultra sound radiography.

My understanding is, and I must be very explicit I am in no way an expert in this area, that renal biopsies, perhaps thirty years ago could end badly. Now it seems with the combination of a renal doctor and a radiologist, they are if not completely accurate, considerably safer. I would almost have no hesitation in having further kidney biopsies done, other than all medical procedures are a freakout for me, including taking blood of which I have had much experience. To my mind a kidney biopsy is decidedly lower on the scale of concern than bone marrow biopsies, of which I have had two. In these procedures the human interaction skills of the practitioners become, at least for me, critically important.

As far as I can tell there are two types of diagnosis of the kidney samples. I may be wrong but I think they have applied varies petrie dish tests that they have looked at using an ordinary light microscope and then they have used the election microscopy to look with greater resolution at the samples. The conclusion was:

The overall diagnosis is not completely certain, but most of the features would favour a primary mesanglocapillary glomerulonephritis (? type 1.) but with relatively weak IF findings. No Light Microscopic or EM features to suggest secondary glomerulonephritis related to fibril deposition etc. No evidence of amyloid.

The result is uncertain but there are indications that it is a primary condition that means, I am told there is no guaranteed medication, but one possible approach is to use a steroid, which may or may not work, and has sometimes nasty side effects. So I was not keen to jump at this solution, but it is probably the only way to go.

As for the medical words they lose their mystery when deconstructed. “Mesa” I am guessing refers to mesial, which means “towards the middle”. “Angi” means vessel carrying lymph or blood. Capillary is self explanatory. The kidneys as I understand it, filters the blood at two levels the nephorn and the glomuli, which appear to be inflamed.

PLEASE NOTE: I am relating my experience, not suggesting I have any knowledge, and thus my inferences and other opinions may prove incorrect. If true, I will endeavour to provide a more accurate account at a later time.

UPDATE:

The first trial of medication has not worked, instead my kidney condition has deterioated. Now I am on prednisone.

FURTHER UPDATE: 06 December 2009

Now I am on prednisone and have severe and persistent <a href="Now the blood-soaked man of peace, Obama, has morphed with his magic words the Taliban into the existential enemy of United States and its subordinate allies, much like the Durand Line, national boundaries become irrelevant. (more…)

BEETHOVEN’S BIRTHDAY December 16, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Category to be ascribed.
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Kevin Drum notes that the 16 December is Ludwig’s birthday, and the recommendation here is Fifth Piano Concerto in E flat, Opus 73 (“The Emperor”). It is as well I have guidance in these matters.

My musical intelligence is poor, but I often wonder why people write songs whose phrasing creates problems for lesser singers, and not least the writers themselves. Examples of songs, include Bob Dylan’s “Knock, Knocking on Heaven’s Door”, and “Always on My Mind”. Some singers manage the phrasing, without yelling, or stumbling over the words, but remain lesser singers.

DEAR EUROPA December 15, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Multiculturalism.
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 In a parallel universe, George W Bush has a mind.

FRIDAY NIGHT DOG BLOG – OUT AND ABOUT December 15, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in DOG BLOG -.
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Based on most of the photos I have selected, Sasha and Dexter seem to enjoy their daily walk, whether as it was this week, sunny or raining. With the addition of Dexter to our household, as a matter of necessity, I have had to exercise more control than I have ever needed to before. They seem still to enjoy the time out.

Whereas once I would have been concerned, now I see the presence of other dogs and humans as an opportunity for familiarization, if not socialization. I endeavor to be proactive by ordering the dogs to sit, then I insist that they remain in that position, so that they do not put any pressure on me to hold them. If not always perfectly, this approach seems to be working.

Common tongues. 10 December 2006 Posted by Picasa

Over there. 10 December 2006 Posted by Picasa

Enjoy Sash. 10 December 2006 Posted by Picasa

Backwards glance, 10 December 2006 Posted by Picasa

Having a good time. 10 December 2006. Posted by Picasa

Common Outlook. 11 December 2006. Posted by Picasa

Sasha looks down. 13 December 2006. Posted by Picasa

Dexter close-up. 13 December 2006. Posted by Picasa

A new outlook. 13 December 2006. Posted by Picasa

Sasha takes a break. 14 December 2006. Posted by Picasa

Dexter enjoys the view. 14 December 2006. Posted by Picasa

Dexter joins Sasha. 14 December 2006. Posted by Picasa

Sasha cools off. 14 December 2006. Posted by Picasa

Just the thing. 14 December 2006. Posted by Picasa

What rain? 15 December 2006. Posted by Picasa

A little wet. 15 December 2006. Posted by Picasa

As usual we will seek to board Friday Ark# 117 and join the Carnival of the Dogs.These photos might enlarge by clicking on them – or they might not.

The photos are available at my blogger Duckpond.

NUCLEAR WINTER December 13, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Natural Environment.
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The Sydney Morning Herald carried an article today by John Johnson via The LA Times that suggested that the environment and societal consequences of using even tactical nuclear weapons would be dire.

The article says in part:

EVEN a small nuclear war could have catastrophic environmental and societal consequences, extending the death toll far beyond the number of people killed directly by bombs, says the first comprehensive climatic analysis of such a conflict.

Scientists say a few dozen Hiroshima-sized nuclear weapons exchanged between India and Pakistan, for example, could produce a pall of smoke that would encircle the Earth, causing temperatures to fall worldwide and disrupting food production for millions of people.

Owen Toon, an atmospheric researcher at the University of Colorado, told a meeting of the American Geophysical Union on Monday that although a small nuclear exchange might not trigger a “nuclear winter” that would wipe out all life, it could cause as much death as was once predicted for a nuclear war between the US and the Soviet Union.

“These results are quite surprising,” Dr Toon said. Regional nuclear conflicts “can endanger entire populations” the way it was once thought only worldwide conflict could.

Dr Toon and his co-author Richard Turco, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles, were part of the team of scientists that developed the concept of nuclear winter in the 1980s.

Meanwhile, it seems that Prime Minister Olmert has acknowledged Israel has nuclear weapons. And in recent days, the British Government announced its intention to spend billions upgarding Trident.

There is a urgent need, it seems to me, to reinvigorate the nuclear anti-proliferation and disarmament processes.

CITIZENSHIP TEST December 13, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics.
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The Prime Minister is proposing that prospective new citizens should have to undergo a multiple choice citizenship test, as they have in the United States, Canada, and from next year the United Kingdom.

The opinion expressed by The Sydney Morning Herald, and other politically savvy commentators, is that this ploy is a dog whistle by a politician who would presume among other topics test migrants on “Australian values.” The Herald observes:

But its clear political intent does not make the citizenship test a bad policy.

So I suppose in a general sense that is fair enough. My question is what would a formal test add to the existing arrangements, which includes an interview by a Department of Immigration officer. The existing arrangements, in my opinion, are fair and decent and very Australian. At least in this local government area, new citizens are given a native plant. Going back to an old argument used in the 1999 Referendum, the system is not broken.

The Prime Minister is of a mind to believe that unity and diversity are contrary. I think you can have unity in diversity, which is after all the normal state of affairs for immigrant societies such as Australia, not forgetting the indigenous peoples, with their different languages, some of whom, as pointed out in the Herald letters, learn English as a second language.

I believe in multiculturalism as a policy that recognises the individual and the value of the culture that individual brings. Nor should we forget it is not easy for most people to learn another language, and nor will most people ever be fully fluent in that language. Even if you happen to intelligent, linguistically smart, you still need time to acquire skill and the culture that perhaps your socialization did not fit you for.

There are issues that go beyond language. Even smart and socially gifted people may experience psychological stress. Refugees, whose numbers are likely to increase with the effects of global warming, are going to have particular problems.

The Boston Globe recently reported on an epidemiological study of the 21,000 Puerto Ricans who live in the Bay Area, I assume Boston and its immediate environs, and had been living there on average about thirty years. The study was unusual because it studied a segment of the Latino population which would normally be subsumed within a White/Black dichotomy. It involved a four hour interview combined with blood and urine tests. The subjects, it is reported, had found it difficult to fit into an English speaking environment. They found that 66% of women in this group and 44% of men were obese and that 58% of women and 38% of men experienced depression. They attributed the obesity to four reasons: poverty, social isolation, chronic disease (ie lack of access to medical care) and poor diet. Depression, judged by the researchers as an epidemic, was attributed to losing friends and family to warmer climates.

Of course, what is broken is not the policy of multiculturalism in general, or intelligent policy combined with decency on the part of most people in the population, but the policies pursued by the Howard Government in the Middle East, and specifically in regard to issues of peace with justice for the people of Palestine. Still if we are to have a citizenship why should it not apply to all? Furthermore, it might reasonably contain the question, provocative now given the determined misrepresentation, if not hard lying, associated the 1999 Referendum: Who is the Head of State of Australia?

Postscript:

On this and other matters, Andrew Norton (refer blogroll) holds to different opinions and uses different evidence. He argues that completing the test will increase the acceptance of migrants because it will have demonstrated that they have taken the trouble to fit in. In other words migrants should take the test to satisfy the home grown population.

I still think it is beholden for all citizens, in equal measure, to be cognizant of the requirements of citizenship relating to rights and duties. Of course, one suggestion might be to have a Bill of Rights in the Australian Constitution, or to follow the French example, a declaration of the rights of men and women. Since the Government does not appear to understand the principles of our Common Law tradition, including Habeas Corpus and natural justice, in relation to David Hicks, what hope is there?

BRITISH DIASPORA December 11, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Social Environment.
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I well remember hearing the opinion from a British tourist to Australia, whom I was casually talking to on a train expressing the view that Australia was “a home away from home.”

The BBC reports that :

An estimated 5.5m British people live permanently abroad – almost one in 10 of the UK population. The emigration of British people has happened in cycles over 200 years. The trend is now rising again: some 2,000 British citizens moved permanently away from the UK every week in 2005.

And the major destinations :

Country name Resident Britons
Australia 1,300,000
Spain 761,000
United States 678,000
Canada 603,000
Ireland 291,000
New Zealand 215,000
South Africa 212,000
France 200,000

In addition 5oo,ooo Britions have homes in other countries in which they spend at least half the year.

Brits Abroad has its own blog. The executive summary of the report is available.

WHATS WITH THE WEATHER? EUROPE EDITION December 10, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Natural Environment.
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Speigel Online reports that Germany is having its warmest autumn in 500 years. The average temperature of 12 degrees Celcius is up by 3.6 degrees Celcius. The same pattern is evident from Iceland to Greece. The Alps are the warmest they have been, it is reported, for 1,300 years.

So what is going on? There is an implication that these climatic phenomena are not due to the pattern of cyclical change. The article attributes the warming to the actions of human beings, namely the burning of fossil fuels.

Is that possible? Should we close down coal fuelled power stations as a matter of necessity?

DISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH December 10, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Social Environment.
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The evidence of the power of the ruling class can be found in the distribution of wealth in society. The media are news filters as much as news reporters, and this evidence rarely sees the light of day, although it should be a fundamental consideration by which public policy is judged. Still international comparisons are interesting and illuminating.

Chris Giles in The Financial Times reports that 2% of adults hold 50% of the world’s wealth. He goes on to observe that while the world’s wealth is concentrated among the usual suspects – North America, Europe with Japan and Australia – the concentration of wealth within each country vary markedly. He writes:

The concentration of wealth in different countries varies considerably, with the top 10 per cent in the US holding 70 per cent of the country’s wealth, compared with 61 per cent in France, 56 per cent in the UK, 44 per cent in Germany and 39 per cent in Japan.

Thus, I conclude, that public policy is not neutral. It is interesting to observe that the wealthy control the electoral process in the United States to a degree that does not apply, for example in Germany.

FRIDAY NIGHT DOG BLOG – TIME TOGETHER December 8, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in DOG BLOG -.
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This week because the dogs would be staying on their own longer in the back yard, we actually went on longer walks. While they were not rushed, time was an uttermost consideration, so the photos were restricted.

This could be wrong, but our impression is that the dogs have no problems with being on their own. Anyway we hope that is true.

Staying the course. 05 December 2006 Posted by Picasa

Sasha relaxes. 05 December 2006 Posted by Picasa

Sunny disposition. 05 December 2006. Posted by Picasa

Unanimity. 05 December 2006 Posted by Picasa

Dexter Stands his ground. 06 December 2006 Posted by Picasa

Different lines of sight. 06 December 2006. Posted by Picasa

As usual we will attempt to join the Carnival of the Dogs at Mickey’s Musings and board Friday Ark 116 at Modulator. These photos should enlarge by clicking on them. They are cross posted at the Blogger and Word Press Duckponds.

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