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FRIDAY NIGHT DOG BLOG – TRAIL OF MEMORY March 31, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in DOG BLOG -.
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We are creatures of habit, humans and dogs alike. Sasha reads my behavior more than Dexter as I get ready to go out. As it happened I missed going out one day this week, and now I cannot why we did not go out on Sunday. It may have been raining. In truth I cannot remember. It is a beaten path, a routine, and even with the pictures I am likely to forget. Unless something something exceptional happens. Then it is burnt vividly into my mind. Every time, I walk to the top of the track where the lighting bolt flashed and the thunder clashed it is evoked again. The lens, the camera is a cold eye without memory, yet often a record of what is forgotten and unnoticed.


Sasha all ready to go out . 25 March 2007Posted by Picasa


Dexter looking elsewhere. 26 March 2007.Posted by Picasa


Sasha attends. 26 March 2007.Posted by Picasa


What could that be? 27 March 2007.Posted by Picasa


Sasha looks up. 27 March 2007.Posted by Picasa


A place in memory. 27 March 2007. Posted by Picasa


Cooper, local dog “houdini” visiting. 27 March 2007.Posted by Picasa


Pleased to be here. 29 March 2007.Posted by Picasa


But let’s look around. 29 March 2007.Posted by Picasa


Sasha wants to keep going. 30 March 2007.Posted by Picasa


Dexter takes in the view. 30 March 2007.Posted by Picasa

This week we will seek to board Friday Ark#132 at Modulator and join the Carnival of the Dogs at Mickey’s Musings.

INFORMATION AND CLIMATE March 30, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Humankind/Planet Earth, Natural Environment.
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P J O’Rourke, on Lateline, said I believe something to the effect that the great contribution of Adam Smith that he discovered the economy. Very much like somebody discovering mathematics, history or geography. These subjects were intertwined of course, but each subject was distinctive and important enough to lend itself to methodologies, practices and ways of thinking. You dig away in one area, and risk losing a view of the overall scene, or else climb up the hill created by the excavation and get the view from that perspective because these activities are ways of processing information. I remember one day in an economics class they did start talking about information flows, which interested me, but they were talking only price signals.

Then the sky falls in. Radical change builds up over a period of time, slowly at first so it can be ignored, and then it gathers momentum, until change becomes inexorable. When the implications of the change hit us, we find ourselves unable to think about it because it is a netherworld that like mist has intruded upon our encampments. We almost have no way of coherent understanding and acting. Friars and monks, for example, which today exist as residual visages in European (hence Western) cultures were once, hundreds of yeas ago, deeply ensconced. In fact, Henry VIII was the Margaret Thatcher of his day, privatising the monasteries, creating a class of wealthy landowners echoing down to the novels of Jane Austen. I would suggest this behavior had more to do with political economy than theology.

Monks and economists both might have been ignoring important signals for some time. Still there has to be an explanation why the Australian Prime Minister, for example, refuses or does not understand the full implications of what climate change has for life on planet earth. I would have thought that the coal industry would recognize before anybody else the economic reality that if the costs of mining coal outweigh it benefits, then it ceases to be a resource, and the industry will die. The strange reasoning that applies seems to be that only after the global system chokes to death can we stop coal. It is so much easier to deny the implications of their actions until the inevitable occurs.

If we ignore the implication of our actions, because we are comfortable and it does not affect us for the moment, change has the habit of running on. Of course, the evidence for climate change is the shifts in the range of weather conditions, with extreme events becoming more extreme and more frequent, albeit unpredictable in specific occurrences. This means that our relationship, perhaps a set of information flows, to the natural world has changed.

Climate change affects animals, and other life forms, as well as humans. This is of interest because new information our relationship to animals, in particular the higher apes is reported. Gorillas, bonobos (?), orangutans and chimps are almost human beings and to deny them claims for recognition amounts to denying human rights. Blinded by blinkers, it can be suggested that rights of human existence is subject to denial, as real as the denial of climate change, but all human beings might well aspire to fully human as an expression of their nature.

(Greater clarity may emerge with more paddling.)

But let us ask one expert about global warming:

No worries. Just keep on burning coal, and if you are a monk just keep on praying and otherwise keeping to your daily observances and everything will be all right. The facts can be made to be reassuring – that is, after all, is the purpose of thinking.(Video via Truthdig.)

Background on The Heritage Foundation, set up originally by beer money, can be found here and here. Slick and savvy, ah? So believable. I cannot help thinking I have heard something like this before. Perhaps it was the talking points used by the Prime Minister?

ATO SCAM ALERT March 28, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Life Experience.
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I note how commenters at Catallaxy are united in the opinion of how bad and stupid David Hicks maybe, as if that would justify his treatment at Guantanamo, and his denial of fair trial. Fair trials, on the contrary, the no more necessary for the foolish and the bad, as anybody else. It just amazes me that people who presume to make judgments without giving people the opportunity to express their side of events represented by a competent attorney.

So as not to lose the thread the theme is gullibility, if not stupidity. Probably like hundreds of others, I received an email purportedly from the Australian Tax Office requesting my credit card details to get a tax return. The email looked credible. So I went ahead to claim my refund and provided my details. Luckily I was told it was a scam almost immediately, and cancelled my credit card.

It is a good money saving exercise, but otherwise very inconvenient not to have access to my account. Still I have a lot of sympathy for David Hicks and other stupid people. The clever can be insufferable, if not inhuman.

Here is the email text with logo:

atologo.gif

After the last annual calculations of your fiscal activity we have determined that you are eligible to receive a tax refund of $173
Please submit the tax refund request and allow us 6-9 days in order to process it.

A refund can be delayed for a variety of reasons. For example submitting invalid records or applying after the deadline.

To access the form for your tax refund, please click here

Regards, Australian Government

© Copyright 2006, Australian Taxation Office – All rights reserved..

The good news is that the link no longer works on my server, and hopefully all servers. The signoff is a bit of a give away. I would guess it signed by the (Deputy) Commissioner of Taxation.

Postscript: 29 March 2007

I was told it is possible to find the source of emails. This can be done in Outlook Express by going into View/Options – Internet Headers. The message box is at the bottom, which in this case has this information:

07:56:55 +1000 (EST)
Received: from User (sautoser.static.otenet.gr [62.103.28.65])
(authenticated bits=0)
by ss54.shared.server-system.net (8.12.11.20060308/8.12.11) with ESMTP id l2QMBC07007114;
Mon, 26 Mar 2007 15:11:14 -0700

I take that to mean that this email originated in Greece (.gr). This appears to be the ISP used by the scammers. A test for the long arm of the ATO?

200 YEARS AGO: SLAVERY ABOLISHED March 28, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Human Rights.
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Those who are the descendants of slaves are not so self-congratulatory and equanimitous as those you decided to abolish slavery 200 years ago. Self important people such as Queens and Prime Ministers may be affronted, but I am not sure what I think.Did my forebears, whoever they were, benefit from the slave trade? I doubt it.

Whatever else the direct action of disrupting the commenerative service at Westminister Abbey has the effect of drawing attention to the issue. The protester,Toyin Agbetu, said:

“This nation has never apologised … there was no mention of the African freedom fighters,” he added. “This is just a memorial of William Wilberforce.”

 

HICK’S PLEA BARGAIN March 27, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Human Rights.
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David Hick’s father as reported by ABC Online said that he pleaded guilty to get out of Guantanamo. That would appear to be the commonsense position adopted by most commenters that I have read at Road to Surfdom and Blogocracy. Aside from the legal opinion that the charge he faced was retrospective, there is a lower threshold for establishing quilt on the charge of providing material support for terrorists than there would be in a charge of conspiracy in a criminal court. As I understand them, both charges are considered “prosecutors charges” due to the difficulty of defending them. In all the circumstances, his legal advisers, or legal adviser, might well have suggested he take the course of least resistance.

As far as I know plea bargains do not form part of Australian legal practice, so I hope somebody somewhere will put the case for them. It hardly deserves comment that the Government’s position, as I recall, was that Hicks should face trial. Now it seems they are happy for him to driven to accept guilt on a retrospective charge, before a dubious tribunal with almost no chance of defending himself.

This outcome begs the question: Why was Hicks and the other internees at Guantanamo not given due process in a properly constituted, fair court, with proper regard to International Law, without extensive delays and mistreatment, if not torture? To those that have done such a things, and those that have abetted them, what must they be thinking? When you distill all the circumstances and decisions down to their essence, what is the purpose of this behavior other than to create an Orwellian state based on fear? To whom will this profit?

The conclusion following this path of thinking is that the terrorists reside in the White House as much as those in the caves in Pakistan or Afghanistan. So the questions then becomes is it logically valid and are its premises truthful by according with the facts?

Postscript:

It looks like Robert Merkel and the commenters at Larvatus Prodeo are addressing the legal issues, including my question about plea bargaining.

On 7 March the President of the Law Council was of the view that Hicks should be released without any involvement in the Guantanamo judicial process. He set out his concerns in a letter to Senators.

DANCING AND BURNING BEDS March 27, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Blogging in general.
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Kim at Larvatus Prodeo runs posts of an article in The Sunday Times proclaiming that abandoned blogs are evidence of the demise of blogging. The evidence in the article is based on the decline in the daily rate of new entries to blogging, and a decline in the number of blogs with a variable estimate worldwide of 30 to 70 million. I doubt on the basis of the evidence whether CB radio ever approached these figures, being surplanted by the mobile phone phenonmena, or has had the demonstrated social and political impact of blogging.

Of course, framing social and technological phenomena in terms of celebrity behavior is enough to call into question the vitality of journalism, a redundant observation. Some journalists and bloggers, as we have daily evidence, often run out of valuable and useful things to say.

Blogging, and the variety of bloggers, call for serious. careful analysis and thought, interestingly enough this appears to be something that journalists are not capable of doing. This in turn raises the question why?

It strikes me as important to observe that so few journalists and politicians have taken to blogging, when prima facie it would appear to be inviting to them. I suggest a reason might be that blogging challenges the status quo. They want to keep on dancing, even as the sounds of the revolution can be heard in the distance out on the streets.

You Tube is a phenomena, which may have affected music sales. It is not just the music, people can supply the images as in this example featuring Midnight Oil’s Beds are Burning:

The MSM has lost its monopoly over commentary and imagery, a development of some significance?

Postscript:

I am wondering how long this you tube connection will hold out – no long I suspect judging by the number of plays.

THE PLEASURE AND THE PAIN March 26, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics.
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I sat through the ABC television coverage on NSW election night with almost total incomprehension. Anthony Green’s abrupt prediction was borne out. The polls appeared to have predicted the overall outcome. Ian Kortlang and Stephen Loosely provided the incisive analysis, respectively to the extent of the failure of the Liberals and the effectiveness of opposition research and attack advertising. I would have thought that the Liberals might have been favoured in raising money.

The thing that I was completely in the dark about was the size of the percentage movement in votes required by the Liberals to take seats from Labor. As I recall, Bob Carr conducted the previous State Election in the fog of war and in the shadow of the 9/11 attacks, and I had not appreciate the effectiveness of seizing the hour turned out to be. My guess is that incumbency is a two-edged sword. I am sceptical that votes gained by the exigencies and circumstances of one election will necessarily flow through to the next.

As the condition of the Liberal Party shows, political parties have, I suspect, largely ceased to be mass movements but political machines controlled by apparatchiks versed in the dark arts of electoral manipulation. Here as elsewhere, the more skilled the practitioners, the more successful the electoral outcomes, with the people I saw hading out “how to vote” cards as the vestiges of democratic participation. The focus is on the the “great” leader.

I would be astonished if the Liberals did not change their State leader after their defeat. The failure to do so would suggest that they are not running to form. Four years in opposition will prove a long time, even for the one or two bright new faces and new Nationals.

The State Government was mediocre before, and I would expect continue to be mediocre, regardless of how hard they work. The work ethic is wonderful, but smartness and creativity is wow. The fact is the services in the State will not run themselves. Vision and execution has to come from somewhere: Be alarmed and dull the pain.

At the federal level, the times have suited John Howard. He has had the opportunity to cast the Nation in his own image. It is my expectation and observation that the pressures of being prime minister take their toll. Howard has stood up remarkably well – it must be those early morning power walks. It is little wonder he looked tired last week. Who would not be. He had flown to Tokyo then to Baghdad via Afghanistan, as the Santoro scandal was embroiling his government. Those who observed at the time that he should have resigned when he was ahead, like Carr did, may have been very perspective, not only for himself but for the party he leads and his government.

The broadband policy announced today by his Communication Minister smacks of panic, or at the least making policy on the run, part of the dynamic of a government not just in crisis but one that is unravelling. (I saw that woman, Helen Coonan, on television this morning. I cannot bear listening to her. I think she waffles, much like Senator Vanstone.)

The government may well be in its last throes. They desparately need some kind of boost from the polls. If not the pressure will build, not just on the Government but in particular on the Prime Minister, who in six months will have to undertake an exhausting election campaign. Of course, if they could they might change leader, the clock is no longer their friend. In this circumstance, look for a “Tampa”. It has worked before.  When survival is all that matters, morality and ethics are not even considered. What will they do?

Postscript:

Among other factors, no doubt I am overlooking “work choices.” I cannot even pretend to be impartial. To simultaneously deny a vicious class war while practicing it is evidence of delusion or evil intent as to make any proponent or party unqualified for government. What others think, I have not a clue.

NSW ELECTION March 24, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics.
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The Iemma Labor Government was returned with a reduced number of seats and with reduced margins within seats. The result in the lower house, the Legislative Assembly are shown here on the ABC.

In a preferential voting system, people understand that their two party preference determines the outcome. This equally true in an optional preference system. Even so, looking at the first preferences we can see distortions. 24% of people cast their first preferences for Independent and other parties result in 6 seats won by independents. The National Party with 10% of the vote obtains 13 seats. The first preference voters for Independents and small parties is less than 3% behind the primary vote obtained by the Liberals who had wond 21 seats, with this portion of the vote counted.

The importance of the NSW election is the implications is holds for the Federal Election. There is a suggestion that success at State level makes it harder for Labor to win the National Government. I doubt the reality of the notion of checks and balances by having different parties in office at commonwealth and state levels. I would have thought that the balance of power can be more effectively held by the Senate than by State Governments.

Because the elections are close in time, I suspect that way people have voted in the NSW election is a good indication as to how they will vote in October or November for the Federal Parliament. Given there are different issues, Labor should be able to improve its position in NSW.

THE STATE OF IRAQ March 24, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Iraq.
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Juan Cole provides a daily briefing on events in Iraq. The situation is dangerous for at least two reasons: it is out of control and potential chain reactions could embroil the region. The uber power is not uber, but to a significant extent on its own.

Juan Cole reports a set of events occurring within Iraq, including the katuysha rocket falling close to where the UN Secretary-General was speaking, the discovery of a factory to manufacture chlorine gas weapons, and the continual refugee flow, particularly involving Christians. As is known, Turkey is not kindly disposed toward the independent Kurdish government in Northern Iraq, and is threatening to have its troops cross the border in pursuit of insurgents with its country. And as well, Professor Cole notes reports that due to the lack of potable water a major cholera epidemic could break out in Iraq.

Four years on, the implications of bad policy are clear but there is not recognition from those responsible, to use that word loosely.

Postscript:

Some time ago I predicted that when attacks took place within the Green Zone we would know the jig was up. Not only was the UN Secretary-General interrupted by an exploding Katushya rocket, the Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq has been injured by a suicide bombing within the Green Zone. At the very least such reports would appear to indicate a pattern of deterioration, not improvement.

FRIDAY NIGHT DOG BLOG – IN THE MOOD March 24, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in DOG BLOG -.
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One picture is worth a thousand words. Yet every subject captured in photography is an object. We cannot tell what they are looking at, and what they are thinking. On the basis of photographic evidence, we have as much evidence, for example that dogs are conscious beings, as we have for humans. Then again photos are selected. Sasha and Dexter are content to go about their own business, following what interests their senses. It is rare when they look in my direction, or hold the pose I want.

“No problems Dexter!” 18 March 2007.Posted by Picasa

At the end of our tether. 18 March 2007. Posted by Picasa

Antipodean moment. 18 March 2007.Posted by Picasa

(As a child when digging a hole, the story was that you would dig your way to China. In fact, the Iberian Penninsula is more diametrically opposite, or the antipole, from our perspective.)

After the rain. 19 March 2007.Posted by Picasa

Sasha and Dexter: Composition. 20 March 2007.Posted by Picasa

(I do not know how it happened, but I like this photo.)

“. . . foster child of silence and slow time.” (Keats) 20 March 2007.Posted by Picasa

Bleak House. 20 March 2007.Posted by Picasa

(This is the scene that Sasha and Dexter are looking at in the previous two photos.)

Sunny outlook. 22 March 2007.Posted by Picasa

Sasha disposition. 22 March 2007.Posted by Picasa

Cross blades. 23 March 2007.Posted by Picasa

As the sun sets. 23 March 2007.Posted by Picasa

Dogs and children are not given to dissembling. In these, at least, and other instances too,it seems to me that the mood is authenic when caught in the frame of the photograph.

Despite the fact that my time zone seems to have shifted, we hope to board Friday Ark#131 at Modulator and go over to the Carnival of the Dogs at Mickey’s Musings.

KING GEORGE AND THE SUBPOENAS March 23, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Category to be ascribed.
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Or is it the shootout at the OK Corral? As far as I can tell the “liberal-biased media” are calling for Bush aide, Carl Rove and others to appear under oath before the Senate Judiciary Committee and they are calling in unison for the resignation of Attorney-General, Alberto Gonzales. The president is evoking “executive privilege”, which taken to its conclusion would create a constitutional crisis to be resolved by the Supreme Court. This matter has arisen from the firing of eight US attorneys, lawyers appointed by the president, and has involved an unprecedented link of numerous emails from the Department of Justice.

Just minutes ago, The New York Times reported:

The Senate Judiciary Committee today authorized the issuing of subpoenas that would summon Karl Rove and several other top Bush administration officials to Capitol Hill to testify under oath about the dismissals of eight federal prosecutors.

The step, taken on a voice vote of the committee, came a day after a House Judiciary subcommittee passed a similar measure.

Last minute compromise anyone? A “surge” perhaps?

DEJA VU: PROFILE IN COURAGE March 23, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics, Iraq Policy.
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The Australian prime minister in a speech to security and military experts said:

We believe that restoring security in South Vietnam is critical to creating the space and time South Vietnamese need to find a lasting political solution. This means that we are opposed to a precipitate withdrawal. It means we are opposed to setting timetables for withdrawal.

This course is in Australia’s long-term national interest. And it happens to be the right thing to do.

Of course, he referred to Iraq and Iraqis – same policy though, and same recipe for more deaths. It is so hard to understand that people do not like being invaded. The Australian contingent makes a difference, as the British withdraw 1,600 troops, and who knows how long the Americans will be prepared to stay. Still and all, John Howard, political genius wants Iraq to be an election issue, and appears to believe his political boilerplate and in particular his debating point about the stationing of troops in Afghanistan will cut it with the wider electorate, if not with his immediate audience.

Boilerplate is one thing, but the mass killing continues as it has done now for four years. It is not hard to find alternative points of view. For example, without trying consider firstly Simon Jenkins of The Guardian who concludes:

The arrogance that only by staying can we ensure that “things get better” or that “civil war is averted” is now beyond obscenity.

Patrick Cockburn concludes, for example:

The invasion four years ago failed. It overthrew Saddam but did nothing more, It destabilized the Middle East. It tore apart Iraq. It was meant to show the world that the US was the world’s only super power that could do what it wanted. In fact it demonstrated that the US was weaker than the world supposed. The longer the US refuses to admit failure the longer the war will go on.

As a co-dependent of American policy and strategic failure, the Prime Minister would have us stay there to share the ignominy.

PENNY FOR HER THOUGHTS March 23, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Miscellaneous.
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Here is the photo – the woman is Helen Clark, the prime minister of New Zealand, currently visiting the White House. The New Zealand Herald raised the question.

clarke-and-bush.jpg

And the newpaper’s readers have done a pretty good job of supplying the caption. It occurs to me she might be thinking: ” I could have flown to Canberra!”

THE BROADBAND ELECTION March 21, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics.
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The current polls aside, it does not take much of a shift in the electoral ballast of the ship of state to change the government. The number of seats needed to form government gives one perspective. Seen in another way, if one person in twenty changes their minds that can be very significant, subject always to where they live.

The policy to upgrade broadband announced today by Labor, it seems to me, may well be decisive. Here is the report from ABC News Online. The way this has panned out tends to confirm me in the speculation that attack is not always the most effective political action. No doubt the policy will now be dissected and analyzed in detail, but beyond the criticism it is still visionary and with the political attack, distinctive.

Looking back from some point of time in the future, we may be able to conclude that on this day, with this policy, Labor won government. Australians do not have the reputation for the quick adoption of technological innovations for nothing, and this is a technology at the finger tips of many people, not just generation x and y. At the very least, it is strategically clever policy, and it is the first evidence that Kevin Rudd, assisted by Lindsay Tanner in this instance, can kick goals.

Of course, this is just a theory based on no more than intuition. The policy strikes me as Whitlamesque in the way that is long term, “nation building”, transforming and captures the imagination. cs on his Santogate post at Troppo provides support, at least for the contention that events six months from polling day can be decisive:

There is a decent amount of support around for the idea that elections can be won and lost well before the campaigns proper. Many attribute Clinton’s second term to the success of his campaigning in swing states a year or more out from the poll. There are theories that Keating lost with the infamous Dawkin’s budget, or in November 1995. Based on research six months or more before the 2004 election, Hugh McKay was a rare commenter in never giving Latham a chance in hell. As always, these things are indeterminant, but one possibility is that the election is decided – only time’ll tell.

When making predictions, I do not do so in the belief that I will be right, but rather that I might be right. There definitely is not a sense of unanimity among the comments at The Australian. There seems to be a marked divide between those who think it is a good idea, and those who follow the Government’s line about taking money from the future fund. Still in these matters, I contend it is best to ignore the ideologically and politically blinkered.

Postscript: 22 March 2007

While the commenters are sceptical Peter Martin, via Troppo’s Missing Link( the “hivemind” or the wisdom of juries, or the hegelian collective mind), believes that Labor and Rudd have been suckered by Packer and others on the broadband proposal. Certainly, it is a better line than the Government’s confected attack. The political lesson here is sometimes it take time and study the proposal in depth.

My point, supported by some of Peter Martin’s commenters, is that the proposal as an idea will resonant with many voters. Perhaps from the Government’s point of view, they should wait on the quantative and qualitative research before they lauch their counterattack – and counter proposals – and perhaps their response simply represents the bearpit nature of parliamentary debate, and they are running the talking points from last year’s Republican playbook as well as what they imagine despite the polls is the publics frame on Labor policy.

Still I think policy initiative matters, in this instance especially because it enables Labor to get out ahead of the Government’s soon expected intensified public advertising campaigns and the announcements of budgetary largress that is expected to start flowing about August.

I suppose aside from considerations about the tactical shadow plays involved, it is reasonable and required to consider carefully whether the broadband proposal is good policy. In dealing with the substantial questions, some of us will be more challenged, which is not to say that answers are not required.

Postscript: 24 March 2007 

Now John Quiggin is on temporary leave, Fred Argy at Troppo has taken up the challenge to provide the economic analysis of the broadband proposal.

SANTORO RESIGNS March 21, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics.
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Santos Santoro has lead a charmed life as far as been appointed to Senate and to Cabinet as distinct from being elected to the Senate(via Mark on return at Larvatus Prodeo). That is probably the reason that the missed out on the briefing that all incoming Senators (I am guessing) have in regard to the register of pecuniary income. Santoro’s resignation, which adds to the distinction his career has in Australian political history, probably makes a Senate inquiry and public accountability unlikely. So in six months the story will be a distant memory, or that is perhaps what the Government hopes.

Elevated rhetoric is not the style of Australian politics, so congratulations to the soon to be ex-Senator, as he is reported by ABC Online:

“I advised the Prime Minister tonight and I here wish to advise the Senate that I will shortly resign from this august institution,” he said.

I suppose that the names given to our bicameral parliament suggests they were copied from the American examples, but the origin of the Senate is Roman. Of course, the Roman Senate was never more august than after Julius Caesar marched across the Rubicon, and subsequently as events played out his nephew Augustus put an end to the Republic, sometime after 27 BC.

With the fireworks display of politics and the ritual sacrifices, which must be entertaining to somebody, the underlying issues laid bare in the past weeks are studiously ignored – ministerial responsibility, the role of money and influence peddling, accountability, and perhaps the smell of corruption. Peter Costello may yet proclaim that anybody that meets or has dealings with Santos Santoro is “politically and morally compromised”. Well he said it about Brian Burke.

The whole Burke/Santos affray leaves me wondering whether attack is the best form of defence. If the polls continue showing a preference for Labor, which might be expected given their consistency, the Government will be under pressure, and it has now been hit twice. They will be hoping Baseball rules do not apply: Three strikes and you are out.

The mystery is what do the polls mean? Assuming they have a representative sample of the population, within acceptable range of error, they have be saying something about public opinion, as distinct from ballot decision-making.

NEWS MANAGEMENT March 20, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics.
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ABC News Online now has a habit of taking the Prime Minister’s talking points and using them as headlines. We are to believe that John Howard is very angry at the recalcitrant Senator Santos Santoro, perhaps as the letter writers in The Sydney Morning Herald observe he was caught out, and he was found out from the downstream effect of the Burke bucket. In these matters the PM has clean hands. Sometimes, as the story changes, we are told that accountability lies with the prime minister, and at other times that he is too busy. Ministerial Responsibility has become a slippery concept.

Still the Hicks story keeps cropping up. This is news that the Prime Minister and his minions can respond to, but not control. Therefore, it is more dangerous politically. Today we first had the story that Hicks had been severely medicated about the time he was charged, and we are supposed to believe that the authorities at Guantanamo Bay will undertake an independent enquiry, or that is the fig-leaf that Attorney-General hides behind. Also we hear that the PM and others may be called to provide evidence and to be cross-examined before the full Federal Court inquiry on Hicks, which echoes the AWB Affair except that the PM has not written the terms of the inquiry. Then there is the five foot three Congresswomen Jane Harman (D-Cal) who with Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) announce :

. . . the introduction of two bills that would address and reverse problematic parts of the Military Commissions Act.

Both the “Restoring the Constitution Act” and the “Habeas Corpus Restoration Act” will bring credibility to the process of detaining terrorist suspects by placing it within a legal framework, including the restoration of habeas corpus, narrowing the definition of “unlawful enemy combatant” as defined in the Military Commissions Act, prohibiting evidence obtained under coercion, and affirming the Geneva Conventions.

This is the type of legislation that might well apply ex post facto. According to nine international lawyers there is a matter of the legality of the charge against David Hicks.

Effective control of the news cycle is the necessary condition for political genius. The same political problem applies in Iraq where General Petraeus has said that after six months if the the surge is not working he owes it to his troops to say so.

Postscript:

The Santo Santoro Scandal goes from bad to worse from a government point of view. Tim Dunlop recounts the news that he was involved in major proposal to develop nursing homes and retirement villages. Sound to me like the metaphorical hole in the head. No wonder such 71 share transactions would slip his attention. The PM has given the incoming Minister the responsibility to look into the matter. There is a case here for “an independent investigatory procedure”, which might possibly be created on the initiative of the Senate.

SUMMARY OF SUCCESS March 19, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Iraq Policy.
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. . . which is only part of the story. The Independent provides a summary, just to support the contention that the invasion and occupation, neo-imperialism, has been a stunning success:

A nation in ruins

2,000,000 Iraqis now live outside Iraq, according to UNHCR

12,000 doctors have fled Iraq since the war began. Another 2,000 are said to have been killed, and at least 250 kidnapped

50% Average inflation in 2006, according to the World Bank

6.3 hours of electricity daily in Baghdad in December 2006. In May 2003 there were 16-24 hours

32 percentage of people in Iraq with drinkable water

3,700,000 Iraqis now receive food aid from the UN World Food Programme

16% Proportion of Iraqis who said in January that their income meets their basic needs

The argument goes that the job is only half done, and that the imperialists have to stick it out until the mission is complete. Howard, among others, will have a pitch for the Federal Election. The imperialists live a lie. Then they admit the truth. They never take responsibility. They should be indicted for their crimes.

These figures do not include estimates of the number of people who have died due to the invasion, the civil war and the continued US military presence. So what would happen if the Americans withdrew all there forces from the Green Zone and from the putative permanent bases? Can Iraq now be put back together? Can the civil war be abated? What is the best guess for what will unfold in twenty-five, fifty and one hundred years?

Of course, these questions are not an easy mental exercise, but they do concentrate the mind on the variables of enduring significance eg demand for oil, wider political and social developments in the Arab and Islamic world, including resolution of Palestinian dispossession. Most of the variables, for example selected by The Independent, which reflect the hardships and suffering now experienced by the Iraqi people, are hopefully short term. How the Americans will leave Iraq, broken like so many of their returning soldiers, or with dignity, is merely a short term problem in a greater framework of global civilization and survival, the human story on planet Earth.

Anthony Arnove at TomDispatch, via Juan Cole, gives another accounting of the ramifications of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

THE CRICKET WORLD CUP March 17, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Miscellaneous.
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The good thing about the competition, which does not really begin until the semi-finals is that the ultimate winner is anybody’s guess. For the most part, the lesser countries – the Netherlands, Kenya, Canada, Ireland – do not have the talent to compete with the major cricketing nations.

There may be one exception. Bangladesh defeated New Zealand, admittedly in a friendly, warm-up game, and New Zealand defeated England last night in a preliminary round match which still means that both contestants go through to the next round.

Still, there must be a chance that Bangladesh get through to the final eight teams, and I am hoping they are successful, or failing that will do enough to be considered to play against the major countries.

The success of the world cup idea, in any sport, perhaps illustrated by the Australian performance in Soccer, occurs when minor countries do not simply participate but are accepted as being able to play with the best.

Update:

Bangladesh have bowled India out for 191. Subject to obvious qualifications, such as the conditions of the pitch and the batting ability of the the Banladeshis, this total is very gettable. Do the Bangladeshis have the batting and can they withstand the pressure? Even at this point they have done very well.

The Bangladesh elections have been postponed in January. Sporting success may be good for the country. Here is hoping.

Update #2.

So far so good for the Bangladeshis. The were 1 for 69 off 13 overs. So they are on target with a good start. Fingers crosssed.

Update #3

Bangladesh win. Ho hum. Five for 195. I thought if that happened it would be a turn up, but I missed the St Patrick’s Day sensation: Ireland defeated Pakistan. This is curtains for Pakistan.

Postscript:

And sadly it was curtains for the Pakistan coach, former England international, Bob Woolmer. The suggestion is that he died from a heart attack brought on by pressure, particularly of the lost to Ireland. Still 58 is not a bad innings. We do not live forever. Maybe we might practice every day to die. Socrates was, I think, pretty good on the post death experience suggesting it was like a long peacefuluninterrupted sleep – something to long forward to.

How should a life to evaluated? The matches played. The partnerships. The number of balls faced. The singles ran. The fours or sixes hit. The excellence of the defensive shots. Simply, the way it looked on bright sunny days, or when weather threatened. As for myself, the guiding policy is mediocrity, the quintessential principle. Or is it humility?

FRIDAY NIGHT DOG BLOG – FREEDOM AND RESTAINT March 16, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in DOG BLOG -.
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Ever since Sacha got a long palm fern spike in her foot, and simply because Dexter worries me, I have always kept the dogs on leads. The suggestion was put today that dogs should be given some freedom off the leads. The issue here is control and responsibility. Leashes are also used for young children, which attracted Tom Peter’s ire. He sees this issue in the frame of centralization versus decentralization. Still I contend you have to see the matter, at least as it applies to dogs, in relation to environmental contingencies, although I acknowledge that full dog socialization and freedom to romp would be ideal. The photographs tend to suggest that the dogs enjoy the walks despite the restrictions.

Yes, we had rain. 10 March 2007.Posted by Picasa

Hot enough for Sasha to stop to cool off. 11 March 2007.Posted by Picasa

. . . to be joined by Dexter. 11 March 2007.Posted by Picasa

It is a long way to somewhere. 12 March 2007.Posted by Picasa

“Don’t bark until you see the whites of their eyes”. 12 March 2007.Posted by Picasa

Oh! Just a motor bike. 12 March 2007.Posted by Picasa

Now this is of interest! 13 March 2007.Posted by Picasa

Me and my shadow. 14 March 2007.Posted by Picasa

“Sit, Sash”. 15 March 2007.Posted by Picasa

“Then follow me down.” 15 March 2007.Posted by Picasa

Always something of interest. 15 March 2007.Posted by Picasa

Time out in the shade. 15 March 2007.Posted by Picasa

Sasha looks happy. 16 March 2007.Posted by Picasa

“Here’s looking at you.” 16 March 2007.Posted by Picasa

The in-house critics do not hold back, and you too may feel there are too many photos here, but I say it does not take long to look at a photo, and if you are interested they can be enlarged by clicking on them. Then they are too large. There is no happy medium, something like the issue of freedom and restaint.
We will be hoping to board Friday Ark#130 and to join the Carnival of the Dogs.


LIBERAL SURRENDER IN NSW! March 16, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics.
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There are many others better to comment on this development than myself, but I am amazed to hear that the NSW Leader of the Opposition has apparently thrown in the towel for the State Election due tomorrow week. In recent days commuters have been subject to extended delays on State Rail, so I would assume many voters would be of a mind to punish the State Government. Surely, after twelve years the “it’s time” response would be working for the Opposition. According to The World Today on ABC radio, he was giving in based on polling, and yet as Andrew Leigh, for example, points out poll predictions in Federal Elections have been less that perfect. (Bryan Palmer at The Oz Political Blog has a set of rules of thumb relating to polling.)

The thought that immediately occurs is that this announcement is a political tactic to win the underdog status, and to maximise the vote for the party. This contention is not supported by Peter Debnam’s obvious emotion when making his statement. Secondly, it may suggest that incumbency has decisive advantages, or simply that the alternative policies, such as the proposed cut back in the public service do not attract support. Finally, perhaps the protest vote, there surely must be one, is flowing to third parties and independents. Overall, I am surprised, I would have thought that the Liberals on the electoral rebound from the last election would pick up seats as a natural correction.

Inevitably, there will be comments elsewhere. There is little evidence that I know of that suggests Australian voters do not discriminate between State and Federal Elections. So what is going on in NSW voterland?

Coda

It occurs to me that the resignation of the Bob Carr, of his own volition, more than eighteen months before the election gave Labor in NSW the chance for a new look. Morris Iemma took some time to settle in, and it seems many of the failings of the Government were not blamed on him.

These circumstances contrast with John Howard who decided to hang on and appeared to be riding well until recent events leading to ministerial resignations have knocking the hair off and denting his coconut body politic. While I am sure that the Liberals at the Federal level will continue their negative campaigning these two resignations of Ian Campbell and now this evening Santo Santoro show this tactic to be a two-edged sword.

I think there are three reasons why it will be continued. Firstly, and most importantly it worked last time. Latham imploded. Secondly it applies pressure on the opposition which does not have the advantages of incumbency. Thirdly it can be slotted into the news cycle so that over time a negative image can be created, explaining to me why they gone so early on this tactic. The second point runs together with the third in that the advantage of incumbency provides opportunities to influence and shape the news cycle. For example, news today of John Howard’s secret trip to Afghanistan to visit the Australian troops there.

The same circumstance regarding leadership applies in Britain where Blair has grimly lingered on giving the opposition traction that will not be easily won back. Leaving a top political office is a difficult act, but Bob Carr has perhaps has demonstrated that it can be done successfully, not just in personal terms but in the interest of the governing party.

Still, this is merely speculation, a week is a long time. We will see.

Postscript:

Peter Debnam reveresed himself. It was all a misunderstanding. The Liberals seems to have some weird policies – throw 10 year old children into jail, reduced the public service by 20,000 – which quite possibily not attract support among the voters.

I notice Michael Duffy observes that that ministers were there under Bob Carr, but ignores my point that at Federal level for example the Liberals given the prominence and central focus of the front person are “Brand Howard”, very much as Labor in the UK is “Brand Blair”. In the course of politics this is somewhat of a simplication, but it is an impression. It is, in my view, not so much orwellian as advertising and media positioning.

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