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ALP WOES June 30, 2005

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It is not surprising that the Australian Labor Party will be feeling pain at the federal level, notwithstanding Mark Latham’s criticism, as reported at Public Opinion.

Losing four elections on the trot would take the wind out of any political parties sails. The same would apply to the Liberal Party.

In the last election, it was a hard job to get anyone to talk about the industrial relations, probably better described as workplace relations, policies of the major or minor parties, and the number of people in the electorate who were familiar and understood these policies might be measured in hundreds, not thousands, but I have no idea. In winning elections brand is critically important, with brand strongly linked to party leadership. Use your polling and your focus groups, as well as having a long term strategy to use existing attitudes, at least among key voting groups to undermine their leader, and therefore their brand. For some reason, at the federal level, the ALP is completely hopeless in this aspect of campaigning.

This should, I would think, give rise to two major issues. I do not believe, and I am open to correction, that policies win elections. Firstly, they must figure out what they must do to win. Winning elections is about building electoral collations, while recognizing social changes in attitudes, beliefs and values. In marketing terms it is about building your brand and positioning it with the critical groups, not forgetting or ignoring core supporters. Secondly, they should review and change party structures and processes, not easy to do in federal organization, with a view to attracting wider, and strategic participation. Australians are not in general joiners and participators in political parties, and that will not change. What you need are the critical numbers from the strategic groups to build your winning coalition.

The key ingredients for electoral success in my opinion are: energy, brand, leadership and money. And you have to start building long before the election campaign. No matter how good a driver, or how good your policy package, you are not going to outpace a HR in a Model T.


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Bush has made his last major speech on Iraq.

The Iraq problem will not go away, but as predicted he will neither withdraw American troops, or increase their numbers. He can neither run or hide. He is the lamest of lame duck presidents. His strategy is to leave the problems he has created in Iraq to the next president. In a no-win situation American troop morale can be expected to decline, and the armies of the allies, with the exception of the Australians, to melt away.

The danger in this strategy for Bush is that the American forces may be repeatedly heavily hit, perhaps both in Iraq and increasingly in Afghanistan. Should this happen American public opinion will become hostile.

As was pointed out in an article in The Los Angeles Times, by Ronald Brownstein, there are significant inconsistencies in the Administration’s account of the war, beginning with the problem that the US military presence in Iraq is the problem and not the solution. But now, there is a problem of convincing public opinion that they can be withdrawn without leaving an even greater problem. Yes, indeed, why was not a political strategy employed from the beginning of the occupation?

Meanwhile, Juan Cole points out that terrorism is a military tactic of the relatively powerless and not a coherent ideology, such as communism, despite Bush’s references to the terrorists “murderous ideology”, and “hateful ideology”. Terrorism has been used by other groups. Terrorism has been created by the presence and actions of US forces in Iraq, for example in Falluja and Ramadi.

If the resistance to the occupation do have a ideology it may be nationalism for some, and religious fundamentalism for others.

Given inertia as the top of the command structure, the US military has somehow to avoid becoming caught up in a civil war, in which it might be seen as supporting the Shiites against the Sunnis.

There is plenty that can go wrong in the quagmire over the next three years or more. I expect the Europeans will be polite towards Bush as the Glenagles meeting and make provision for climate change as best they can.

See Kevin Drum for a more conservative take on the speech – no grand predictions – and for the transcript.

QUAGMIRE June 28, 2005

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The situation as reported by Patrick Cockburn, in The Independent, appears to have gone pear-shaped to the point that the US military admits that they cannot win this war, or restore civilian rule in Iraq. Here is an extended extract from his report:

The sense of fear in Baghdad is difficult to convey. Petrol is such a necessity because people need to pick up their children from school because they are terrified of them being kidnapped. Parents mob the doors of schools and swiftly become hysterical if they cannot find their children. Doctors are fleeing the country because so many have been held for ransom, some tortured and killed because their families could not raise the money.

Homes in Baghdad are currently getting between six and eight hours’ electricity a day. Nothing has improved at the power stations since the hand-over of security a year ago. In a city where the temperature yesterday was 40C, people swelter without air conditioning because the omnipresent small generators do not produce enough current to keep them going. In recent weeks there has also been a chronic shortage of water.

Some Iraqis have benefited. Civil servants and teachers are better paid, though prices are higher. But Iraqis in general hoped that their standard of living would improve dramatically after the fall of Saddam Hussein and it has not.

Adding to the sense of fear in Baghdad is the growth of sectarianism, the widening gulf between Sunni and Shia. Shia mosques come under attack from bombers. Members of both communities are found murdered beside the road, in escalating rounds of tit-for-tat killings.

The talks between US officials and some resistance groups revealed in the past few days probably does not mean very much for the moment. The fanatical Islamic and militant former Baathists and nationalists who make up the cutting edge of insurgency are not in the mood to compromise. They are also very fragmented. But the talks may indicate a growing sense among US military and civilian officials that they cannot win this war.

Bush may well deliver an impressive speech about freedom and democracy and the evils of terrorism at Fort Bragg tonight, but it will not change the facts on the ground.

What is to be done?

The Americans will have to withdraw, raising the question of who is to replace them and the question of the political skill of the American leadership to do so without losing face completely. Perhaps this will be the big news in Bush’s speech tonight?

Of course, I do not expect anything of the kind, rather the opposite, but attitudes and spin is changing far faster than I had anticipated over the last few days.

ROCK AND ROLL June 28, 2005

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The reasons for the willingness of a British Labour Government to support Bush’s invasion of Iraq, have not been, and are not clear to me.

Juan Cole reports:

Tony Blair and the British military are caught between Iraq and a hard place. The Bush administration is putting enormous pressure on the British to send more troops to Afghanistan, where the Taliban are regrouping and launching an Iraq-style guerrilla war. So the British began making noises about reducing the number of their troops in southern Iraq (around 10,000) and shifting them to Afghanistan.

But no. Bush recently told Blair that Iraq is on the brink of disaster, and that the British need to send more troops to that country, in addition to sending new units to fight the Taliban.

Juan Cole goes on to say that the British are keeping to their barracks, much like the Americans and the Australians I suspect, and when they go out they run into trouble. He suspects that the situation in Southern Iraq may be much worst than we have been told.

Should Iraq become more perilous and Afghanistan become a hot war, the British would not be able to sustain a larger military commitment, despite American pressure, causing the downfall of the Blair Government.

If Bush indeed told the British that Iraq is on the brink of disaster, I would not bet he will be telling the American people. If this were true, he will be lying to them again.


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talking w Howard in shop...

talking w Howard in shop... (Photo credit: giveawayboy)

Bradon Ellem and Russell Lansbury suggest the Howard reforms will increase the gap between high income earners and low income earners.1

These changes are not just aimed at wages, but wages and conditions. The authors conclude:

To secure prosperity and to meet the challenges of labour market and skill shortages, slowing productivity and work-life tension, Australia needs innovative reform. Yet the Government has come up with an old-fashioned, low-wage solution.

Howard’s employment relationships policy shows the familiar characteristics, managing to be both divisive and cruel. Howard might be a Thatherite: “There is not such thing as society”.


1.I well aware of the pathetic ad hominen arguments against these authors.


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One view holds it that every president as soon as the second term opens becomes a dead duck.

The Republican majorities in the Senate and the House of Representatives tends to negate this proposition. Bush has three major challenges, that I can foresee.

With declining support for this Iraq adventure, he has to make a good case for “staying the course” in tomorrow’s address to another military academy. Let us see.

The Europeans may cow to the American dictates about climate change, but this cave in will not meet favour with the European electorates. Schroeder, for example, has a lot at stake.

The mid-term elections will be starting to exercise the mind of Congress. There are probably too many individual electorates, even for Rove, to cope with. The pendulum will tend to swing, weighted by a reported widespread antipathy to the Iraqi invasion.

Still events can happen that might dramatically increase Bush’s political capital. The future is unknown – at least to me.


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Now it transpires, according to Secretary Rumsfeld, as reported by the BBC, the largely Sunni Resitance, at least in the first instance to the invasion, could last for maybe ten or fifteen years.

The challenge here for the loyalist to the imperial cause, such as myself, proud citizen of Oceania, is to get my head around the contradictory propositions from the great leaders. “Mission Accomplished” was submitted to the memory hole, and we must understand that that sign appearing on the aircraft carrier never existed. This is somewhat disturbing. What I see and read on television is true at the time but they cease to be true. Last week, after our hate session, we were told by vice president Cheney, that the insurgency was in its last throes, and we cheered, we cheered. We lifted to the seventh level of ecstasy. Now we are know that the Iraqi war will not end anytime soon. Rumsfeld says it going to continue for at least a decade. But the hate sessions are going really well. We hate the terrorists – bearded Muslims in turbans. Bush called them the enemy, and it caused me confusion.

Although he does not look like a terrorist, more like an emaciated, weasel human being with his eyes turned inward. He is different. He is a terrorist. I hate Winston Smith.

UPDATE: Monday, 27 Jine 2005

Enough of this nonsense. We ought, as Kevin Drum has, put the prospect in serious terms:

These guys still can’t face the reality of what’s happened to their lovely little war. They willfully ignored the advice of the uniformed military officers who had actual experience in fighting modern wars, and because of that they didn’t know what they were getting into before the war, they didn’t know what they were up against after the war, and they’re apparently still clueless about what to expect in the future. It’s long past time for George Bush to either find someone who’s serious about winning this war or else someone who’s serious about getting out. Rumsfeld is neither.

The question about finding someone “serious about winning this war” is like asking how many more Iraqis can we kill?

Juan Cole does not find it possible to be serious about “the last throes”.

Explanation: An Australian Federal member of parliament, Sophie Panopolous, described her party collegue proposing legislation to mitigate the harmful effects of the detention policy as a “terrorist”. At once foolish, ineffective, while being quite nasty, giving me pause to think more ofthe years of the communist menace and their contrasts with the present developments. DVD’s provide old movies from the era, and sometimes the newsreels as well.

IRAN AND USA June 26, 2005

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This similarity had crossed my mind as well.

Here are Juan Cole observations:

By the way, rightwing US commentators often slam Iranian elections because the candidates are vetted by the clerical Guardian Council for their loyalty to the Khomeinist ideology. In the past two years, the vetting has grown ever more rigorous, excluding relative liberals from running for parliament or president. The commentators are correct.

However, in the United States the “first past the post” system of winner-takes-all elections and the two-party system play a similar role in limiting voters’ choices of candidates. Neither libertarians nor socialists are likely to be serious contenders for the presidency in the United States, since neither of the two dominant parties will run them. The US approach to limiting voter choice is systemic and so looks “natural,” but US voters have a narrower range of practical choices in candidates than virtually any other democratic society.

I would have made the further point that given the size of the American political markets, that only millionaires, and well-funded candidates need apply. I remember comment about the $250 million campaign chest that Bush had prior to the election. For a person of Bush’s talent to attract that type of funding support is rather surprising, but perhaps to his financial sponsors such considerations do not matter, leaving the door open for the philosophers to play their destined role.

Successful third candidates usually cause a defeat for the candidate that their supporters would otherwise have supported. This means that new political parties get nowhere, at a national and state level, whereas I consider that the creation of new parties, as vehicles of interest aggregration and expression, doubltless often perceived as a threat to the existing parties, is a necessary part of the democratic process. An analogy might be made with an economic system that blocks the development of new businesses.

WONDER TO BEHOLD June 25, 2005

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George W Bush, according to the BBC, said:

The enemy’s goal is to drive us out of Iraq – they will not succeed.

A nicely tailored assertion. “We have always been at war with Eurasia.” “Ignorance is strength.” The spin machine goes on spinning making a very nice cobweb.

This may be unkind. Perhaps Bush is acknowledging the legitimate purpose of the Iraqi resistance (“the enemy”), and I suspect Iraqi public opinion.


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Sometimes the dogs are clearly, to my perception enjoying themselves, as they appeared to be on this recent Sunday.

Sasha and Taff having a good day. Posted by Hello
Then in this sequence, Sasha does something unexpected:

“You want closer?” Posted by Hello
Unlike humans, dogs almost never do what you want them to do. Sasha likes to chuck a surprise every so often.

Not too bad afterall – even for Taff. Posted by Hello
Sometimes, despite the imposition of these ridiculous photo shots, Taffy lightens up.

The horses gallop to greet the dogs. Posted by Hello
For some reason, on this occasion the horses gallop over to the dogs.

Easy familiarity. Posted by Hello
The horse is interested in Taffy, but he is otherwise attending. Sash is doing her relax and take it easy thing.

Eye contact. Posted by Hello
When looked at like that, I suspect, Taffy is not too comfortable.

Dog-Horse communication perhaps. Posted by Hello
It seems possible that other species communicate better than humans, since we rely more on an elaborate verbal system, whereas they rely on smell and intimacy.

NO WITHDRAWAL June 24, 2005

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ABC News Online reports that Secretary Rumsfeld appearing before the Senate has declined to give a timetable for the withdrawal of US forces.

The Secretary of Defence appeared before members of Congress as public support for the war in Iraq wanes in the United States amid continuing violence. Mr Rumsfeld says the US will persevere for as long as it takes to stabilise Iraq. “If the coalition were to leave before the Iraqi security forces are able to assume responsibility, we would one day again have to confront another Iraqi regime, perhaps even more dangerous than the last,” he said. Mr Rumsfeld said setting a deadline for a US withdrawal is counterproductive to US military objectives, saying it would only embolden America’s enemies. “It would throw a lifeline to terrorists, who in recent months have suffered significant losses and casualties, been denied havens and suffered weakened popular support,” he said. Mr Rumsfeld insisted US troops are defeating the stubborn insurgency in Iraq and rejected calls that the Pentagon scale back the military presence there. “Any who say that we’ve lost this war, or that we’re losing this war, are wrong. We are not,” Mr Rumsfeld said.

The situation is he claims is, “we are winning, but we have not yet won, but we will win”, and if we withdraw now we would strengthen our enemies, who are implicitly a global force in opposition to us, and who if not defeated in Iraq will become a more potent opposition to us. Perhaps the Americans are winning, but “by what metric”? From this report of what he said, the impression is given that Secretary Rumsfeld offered rhetoric and assertion, without evidence.

My observation is that opposition to conquest is usually long and sustained, and where the subject population is much larger than the conquering force, regardless of the technology of suppression, the people prevail, in one way or another, but it may take time, and an immense amount of unnecessary suffering. Perhaps, seen from the point of view of American objectives, a major criticism of the occupation has been its political and cultural hamfistedness, and reliance on coercion.

The other side of the coin is the question, as to whether the invaders can sustain the losses and costs of war. We can expect to be hearing a redefinition to a win/win game theory rhetoric sometime in the immediate future of three to five years.


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The invaders of Iraq have never been transparent and accountable about their motives. Rhetoric and lies aside, the most credible reason to me was the control of the strategic resource oil, and to ensure that its price was not denominated in euros, rather than dollars, as Hussein had threatened to do.

From this perspective of realpolitic and imperialism, it could be asked was there an alternative? The timing of the invasion had everything to do with the “political capital” Bush was given following the 11th September 2001 attack, and onset of the first mid-term congressional elections and the presidential elections. And it worked like a charm, and in the context of the imperialist framework, Bush’s action was strong and effective, at least in removing Hussein, but the main objective has not been achieved.

There are many differences with Vietnam, not least the historical and geographical context, but there is, as far as I can see, one thing in common in that a guerilla resistance cannot defeat a technologically superior across the board armed force. Their guerilla resistance was a function of the fact that they had become so weak militarily and economically following the first Iraq war and the imposition of sanctions. The Iraqis will be calling on their own history of occupation and of the Middle East in general to orientate themselves to the new situation. For example, once the mad crusaders had conquered Jerusalem, it took a hundred years until Salladin could liberate it again, but which on a parallel time scale Iraqi oil would have become irrelevant. Of course, I should perhaps be referring to the capture of Baghdad by the Seluk Turks in 1067, but my historical understanding of the middle east is weak, and is entirely euro-centric.

The risks and costs of the Iraqi war have to be seen in the frame of its objective, the control over the oil resource, and perhaps the secondary one of strategic military bases. This is a judgement perhaps better made by an economist with the relevant facts and figures, which I am not, and which I do have. Even if Bush becomes a lame duck, which is not certain that he will, but which is possible, there is no way that the Americans will withdraw in the next two years. So the killing will continue, provided the resistance can be sustained.

Given that condition, we have a catch 22, the war will continue as long as the American stay, and the American stay in the belief they can win by military power. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. One side must be defeated, at least in the immediate terms, and long term sustainable peace in the world does not look in prospect. Imperialism is the path of war, suppression and rebellion.

Out of this very bitter and horrible experience, much like after the First and Second World Wars, provided our fragile and beautiful planet remains habitable for us, we will have to look for a consensus for recognizing and reconciling interests between contending groups. In the immediate future, there is more cause for despair than hope. Sometime soon, the powerful will have to change their thinking and behavior.

Liberal Democracy might be an important part of the answer, but it has become so perverted, I would not bet on it.


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It seems that the Americans may start building nuclear plants again, according to The LA Times, without the benefit of a public debate.

There are problems of course, including waste disposal and financial risk. The program has the support of the President, and so the overt purpose is not reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


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The claim made by vice president Cheyney can be contradicted on the basis of this article in The New York Times.

From the point of view of the American occupation, a significant improvement in the resistance’s ability to combat their overwelming military strength must be a grave concern, and may not be permanent.

There are more details but the article reports:

American casualties from bomb attacks in Iraq have reached new heights in the last two months as insurgents have begun to deploy devices that leave armored vehicles increasingly vulnerable, according to military records.

Last month there were about 700 attacks against American forces using so-called improvised explosive devices, or I.E.D.’s, the highest number since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, according to the American military command in Iraq and a senior Pentagon military official. Attacks on Iraqis also reached unprecedented levels, Lt. Gen. John Vines, a senior American ground commander in Iraq, told reporters on Tuesday.

The surge in attacks, the officials say, has coincided with the appearance of significant advancements in bomb design, including the use of “shaped” charges that concentrate the blast and give it a better chance of penetrating armored vehicles, causing higher casualties.

Another change, a senior military officer said, has been the detonation of explosives by infrared lasers, an innovation aimed at bypassing electronic jammers used to block radio-wave detonators.

Terrorism is simultaneously the resort of the arrogant and the weak. The technology of terrorism on behalf of the weak has increased by an order of magnitude.

Justice remains the best defence against terrorism, because it is the basis on which different groups of people will commit to the common good, whether they be strong or weak. In essence, this is a principle advanced by Aristotle, so there is nothing new in this idea.

VEGAN VICTIMS? June 22, 2005

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It seems that soya is not an unblemished good. To be fair, since I pointed to the research linking overconsumption of meat eating and cancer, I should quote the article originally in The Independent, republished in The New Zealand Herald.

On the over hand, this could be a good option, if conception is not the immediate issue, or when religious and other social inhibitions suppress other options. This may be where the reliability and “provisionality” of those scientists comes to be tested.


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Reflecting on the war in Iraq, claimed by some that “we” are winning, I recall the words of the poet, Mosafer Allah Werdis. The occasion is the indiscrimate murdering following the capture of Jerusalem (15 July,1099).

We have mingled our blood and our tears.
None of us remains who has the strenght enough to beat off these oppressors.
The sight of our weapons only brings sorrow to us while the swords of war spark off the all-consuming flames.
Ah, sons of Mohammed, what battles still awaits you, and how many heroic heads must lie under the horses feet!
Yet all your longing is only for an old age lapped in safety and well-being, for a sweet, smiling life like the flowers of the field.
Oh that so much blood had to flow, that so many women were left with nothing but their bare hands to protect their modesty!
Amid the fearful clashing swords and lances, the faces of the children grow white with horror.

As Frederick Heer observes in The Medieval World, from which this quote is taken, “He continues with a call to resistance and to battle.”

A NEW QUEEN June 21, 2005

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Mysteriously, we have just heard that the new Queen, Victoria has today ascended to the throne. You have to understand that this Saturday, 24 June 1837.

From The Guardian report of the events, we can confidently say this is an occasion for convoluted prose, not fawning you must understand, the newspaper wishes to disassociate itself from those rogues at The Times, and that the new Queen is a dear, sweet girl.

Her father, it seems, was a bloke, called Bill.

FURTHERMORE: Wednesday, 22 June 2005:

I do recall that King William Street is the main street of Adelaide, implying that South Australia was settled as a planned settlement, influenced at the outset by William Gibbon Wakefield, presumably before the ascent of Victoria. News to me.

The settlement of this part of the world, of which, as is obvious I know very little, is nevertheless a set of family histories with their ups and downs. Perhaps, given such insights, we might have more empathy for more recent arrivals.

THE LAST THROES June 20, 2005

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There is a need to be careful in making any assessment about the situation in Iraq.

If the insurgency was in its last throes you would expect the frequency and effectiveness of the attacks to be decreasing. You would expect its capability and its desire to be lessened. Desire I take to be a function of the support among its key supporters, in this case the Sunni population. American behavior has done plenty to fuel their behavior – the torture of Iraqis, the depopulation of Falluja, and so forth. From the Bible we might say, they are reaping the storm they have sown.

What can be said, aside from a general impression of the persistence of attacks, is that when the American Government claimed the insurgency was its last throes, and while they had plenty of opportunities, they neglected to provide good evidence and reasoning for that outcome. Consider the relevant section of the press conference, quoted by the Daily Kos, given by the Presidential press secretary.

The alternative possibility is that the stakes, the potential conflagration of the Middle East with the spread of the Iraqi Civil War is a risk too high to bear by the United States, as it becomes increasingly isolated, leaving perhaps the only possibility to call in the United Nations. This is, I believe, a simple precis of Juan Cole.

Given the intransigence of its President, and his effective isolation from contrary information, whether in the matter of Iraq, or climate change, the United States has become the most dangerous government nation on earth.

Soft power – what soft power?

ANOTHER VIEW: 22 June 2005:

Rafe presents an alternative opinion suggesting the insurgency is being contrained and forced to attack soft civilian targets, which sounds as plausible to me. It is amazing to me to observe how the context of the analysis is broadened, for example in the contention that we are fighting them there and not here. For example:

We are not fighting in a battlespace that includes our own society. The enemy has failed to engage us there effectively, since 9/11. The political sniping between Blue and Red, left and right, is not warfare. It is politics; and I think it is no nastier now than it was in the 1990s. As far as the GWOT goes, then, here is the important fact: we are fighting it entirely in the enemy’s society. Our own society is not changed by the war; if anything, society is reverting to pre-9/11 mores. In the global war, then, I think we are winning and winning big.

Iraq, by this contention has become a global war, not an imperialist invasion, of which there have been other examples – Grenada, Panama, El Salvador, Nicaraqua, perhaps Afgahanistan – but a clash of civilizations, or at least religions. We – the capiatlist clique at the top of Western societies – are not winning if, as seems to be evident, the techniques of contra-imperialist war are improving, and there is an opening divide within the Western societies caused by avariciousness and desire, it seems, for social control, at whatever cost. Even a professional army, it seems requires volunteers from the lower classes. Of course, climate change is the looming backdrop to this global war.

Then again, Western Civilization, and even the United States, may once have stood for values. Actions speak louder than words – but I am appalled, as indeed most Americans would be. What was that about winning?

The essential characteristic of an imperialist war is disregard and contempt for the rule of law, and for humanitarian values and rights. And the anti-imperialists, when they get their chance, often reply in kind arguing that the superstructure of law has been removed, leading to a escalation of inhumanity. The Bible is undoubtedly right, “blessed are the peacemakers”.


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I am stoked.

Not so long ago, I was hearing that Bangladesh should not be playing test cricket. Now they have beaten Australia in a one day game in Cardiff.

For all I know this will have been the best moment for the Bangladeshis since independence. Sporting triumph does not change economic circumstances, given the importance of success at sport for Australian nationalism, it is not unimportant either. On the other hand, with the seemingly endless number of one day games, these results soon pass into irrelevance. And I suppose, consideration must be given that the aging Australian team has not had the normal domestic season before travelling to England to get up to speed.

And the English, who one might have thought to know better, take an odd and archaic view of Australian vocabulary. “Stewth” – never heard it uttered myself.

GOOD POLICY June 19, 2005

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This sounds like good policy to me.

Perhaps it does not go far enough. Smoker’s rights end at another person’s nose. This is the principle advanced by JS Mills.

People who do not believe it is dangerous to smoke, do not believe it will be dangerous for anybody else. Such an opinion simply represents negligence.

Given Bush’s reluctance to admit the fact of global warming, there is a lesson in the persistent and successful lying of the Tobacco Corporations.