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BIZARRE BEDSIDE MANNERS May 17, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in US Politics.
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“It was Wednesday, March 10, 2004”, so begins the testimony, but all the time the viewer might be thinking what is all this about? The video, via Truthdig, shows the Senate Judiciary Hearing:

Then this editorial from The New York Times provides the context for what is being described. The best commentary provides a framework of meaning, free of spin, that allows questions to be raised.
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LIQUIDATING THE EMPIRE May 17, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Modern History, US Politics.
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Tom Dispatch has a article by Chalmers Johnson: Is Imperial Liquidation possible for America? He suggest that imperialism is not only destroying American democracy; it is destroying the American economy. Whereas following the Second World War, Britain avoided the post imperial trap of self destruction, America seems set on that path. Elections may change governments, or presidential administrations, they do not change the system. He foresees such a fundamental change will require a mass movement something akin to the Civil Rights Movement to be effected – and the prospects of that happening are not great.

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TREADMILLS AT WORK May 16, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Social Environment.
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As an overweight person myself, who used to be obese according to BMI reckoning, I can see the practicality of introducing treadmills into the sedentary workplace. I certainly think that physical activity is important to combat, among other ailments that silent killer, heart disease. The BBC has the details.

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Photo: BBC Online.
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BLAIR IN SUMMARY May 14, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Iraq Policy, Middle East.
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“It is not only God”, writes Avi Shaliam in The Guardian , “that will judge Blair over Iraq”. George Bush may be a miserable failure, but Blair’s Iraq policy has won the plaudit: “catastrophic failure”.

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PLANETARY AWARENESS May 14, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Humankind/Planet Earth.
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Source: United Nations Environment Program: Maps and Graphics.

The Reith Lectures, delivered this year by economist Jeffrey Sachs, and just completed on the BBC and just begun by the ABC,have things to say about China and Planet Earth which he describes as bursting at the seams.

Jeffrey Sachs’ approach is to be both optimistic as he is practical. He argues that the problems, in relation to population, the environment and poverty, once recognized might be solved.

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NO BUDGET BOUNCE? May 14, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics.
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ABC Online reports, the first poll since the budget apparently did not record the expected “surge” in support for the government. This result, on the face of it, is counter intuitive. Do you mean to tell me the fist full of dollars is not working as an electoral ambit claim anymore. I am shocked!

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WOW! HOWARD COULD LOSE BENNELONG May 13, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics.
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Opinion polling, as reported by The Sydney Morning Herald suggests the Prime Minister would loss his seat of Bennelong if the election was held now.

If nothing else this report serves to remind us to the difference here from the United States. Redistricting in the United States for the House of Representatives seems an ad hoc process, or at least leads to some weirdly shaped electorates. In reality, of course, the process is the result of careful computer-driven distributions to shape demographics and manufacture outcomes. In Australia, as in other rational democracies, these matters are in the hands of a non-partisan government body, the AEC, who must redistribute seats between states due to population changes, and electoral divisions in such redistributions are subject to such criteria as community of interests.

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SHAPE OF THE SOLAR SYSTEM May 13, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Humankind/Planet Earth.
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ThisĀ  diagram representsĀ  a solar system whose shape I do not recognize. Perhaps not so much as misconception as a failure to appreciate the nature of the solar system and its relations with the wider universe. The graph from the National Geographic suggests a reconception is required.

:shape-of-the-solar-system.jpg

Graphic: National Geographic News.

Now this requires some explanation:

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FRIDAY NIGHT DOG BLOG – DAILY JOURNAL May 12, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in DOG BLOG -.
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Sasha and Dexter went out this week following their familiar round. Sometimes they get interested in what can be smelt or heard and stop of their own accord. They do not seem to mind when I tie them up (usually) to take a few photos.

So here are some photo records of the daily journal:

Waiting patiently. 05 May 2007

Steady as she goes Sasha. 06 May 2007

Intent Dexter 06 may 2007.Posted by Picasa
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REPORTING POLITICAL SPEECHES May 11, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics, US Politics.
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Kevin Rudd gave his reply to the budget last night in parliament. What I heard on the radio this morning was at odds with what I remembered. Two things were highlighted by the reports; the plan to have apprentice training in secondary schools and the intention to fix the leaking water pipes. I heard those things but they did not catch my attention. I was struck by Rudd’s reference to the low rate of productivity in the Australian economy, the need to address climate change, and the goal to have flexibility and fairness. I also noted his emphasis on the importance of good management. As for the theatrics, I have never seen before the all the ALP members at its end rising to their feet and applauding. It reminded me of the State of the Union.

There was a reference to ” great American president who said. ‘ the time to repair the roof is when the sun shines”. It turns out that this quote was made by John F Kennedy, which in turn reminds me of his speech at the American University in Washington on 10 June 1963. Jeffrey Sachs makes references to this speech in his third BBC Reith Lecture. I am sure that the reporters of the time would have headlined the decision to ban atmospheric nuclear testing, or at least the recognition by Kennedy of the losses experienced by the Soviet Union in the Second World War, which was the part of the speech that made the greatest impression on Khruschev.

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UNEMPLOYMENT RATE May 10, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics.
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ABC Online reports that the unemployment rate is now 4.4%, which they add is a 32 year low. So good news for a government behind in the polls? They seem to think so.

There are some issues though. Is the unemployment measurement now in place the same used 32 years ago? My guess is that it may not be. It seems to me that the participation rate for the various demographics would be more significant. My guess would be that more women are employed across the age groups. Most of the employment is part time. The flexible, non-core disposable workforce may be characteristic of the countries working class. Still the creation of 50,000 jobs, even if most are part-time seems to me a lot.

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GRAND COALITION HOLDS TOGETHER May 9, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in European Politics.
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some-balancing-works.jpg

Balancing Act: Photo via Deutsche Wella

Of course it is precarious to make such an observations, but so far the unity of the German Grand Coalition between the major parties of the right and left has held. Kudos must be given for this result to Chancellor Merkel, an apparently effective female leader but not in the Thatcher mold, and the first German leader since reunification from the East. In most political systems a coalition between the major political parties of the right and left would not be possible, except in times of national emergency such as wartime.

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SOCIAL DEMOCRACY AND GLOBALIZATION May 9, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Global Electoral Politics.
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While I would suggest that in his broad brush picture he does not get the politics right, E J Dionne may well be on to something with his contention that globalization is undermining social democracy. As I have noted previously, I believe that The Guardian got the politics right with respect to the French election, and given the handicaps that she was working with, Segolene Royal did well, although clearly defeated. And here I am talking about economics again. So I must repeat again my qualification that that is subject, along with most others is something that I do not know anything worthwhile about, but in this case I am merely repeating the opinion of others. E J Dionne’s piece was originally in The Washington Post, and republished at Truthdig.

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BUDGET, WHAT BUDGET? May 9, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics.
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I am pleased to see that ABC Online correctly describes the Federal Treasurer’s statement in parliament this evening as an “election budget”. As I fully expected there is nothing for me, but I would not have expected anything else. But there is a broader claim that the budget is directed to strategic investment. No doubt there are many devils, much detail, and a few stray hares running.
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WHITHER CAPITALISM? May 7, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics.
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I do not know anything about economics, but that of itself should not stop all speculation, only provide an important qualification. It seems to me that capitalism does not work in a broadly socially beneficial way without regulation, whether it is the role of central banks, the trade practices legislation, or the removal of collective bargaining from employer-employee relations. If this proposition is broadly true, it follows that deregulation is problematic, deserving of legislative scrutiny, something that manifestly did not happen with the Howard Work Choices.
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FRANCE VOTES AGAIN May 7, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in European Politics.
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The indications are, according to this BBC report, that voters are turning out for the Second Round of the French Presidential election. This sounds like good news for Royal since her coalition has more parties. However, it seems to me crucial as to who effectively wins the middle ground, the voters who opted for Bayrou in the first round. I am no expert but I inclined to think that Sarkozy has the inside running in this election. According to Deutsche Wella opinion polls give Sarkozy a 10% lead.

We will probably know tomorrow morning.

The result is now in. It appears that Nicholas Sarkozy has won over Segolene Royal by 53% of the vote to 47%, so a comprehensive victory, with 85% of registered voters casting a ballot. The BBC reports that the centre was not decisive, with the result in the Second Round pretty much reflecting what had happened in the First:

Polls suggest that they each won over 40% of the Bayrou voters, and that 20% did not cast a ballot in round two.

 

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WHY BUSH? May 7, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in US Politics.
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The fact that George Bush has always been unqualified to be President, yet was selected and elected, not once but twice, has always puzzled me. For example, compare Bush to Kennedy, Johnson or Nixon.The power of the media is one reason, the ability of candidates to avoid scrutiny of the sought that George Tenet subjected himself to on Sixty Minutes, and the blogs have diversified news content and opinion. Then there is the presumption of the intellectuals who thought they could whisper into the ear of “the Gentleman”, and George would listen to them. Obviously, it must be a surprise that Bush has morphed into the ” Commander Guy”.

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VOTING IN SCOTLAND May 7, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in European Politics.
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The Scottish National Party achieved the majority of seats in the Holyrood Parliament. Now it is has to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats and the two Green members, or be outflanked in the coalition forming stakes by Labour. The issue for the SNP in forming coalitions with other parties evolve around its plan to hold a referendum on Scottish independence.

The vote took place on Thursday, which might go some way to explaining the low turnout of less that 49%. There were problems with invalid votes and voting machines. There is possible legal action.
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FRIDAY NIGHT DOG BLOG – DAILY JOURNEY May 5, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in DOG BLOG -.
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Last week I had trouble posting photos because for some reason Google was not working. It is now, but I do not know whether I contributed to that state, although I may have.

So I have some photos left over from last week that I can include this week. Mostly I remember to take the camera with me, and it various parts, but sometimes something is amiss. The selection is not as strict as it should be, in part because I want to maintain its daily journal aspect.

As for Sasha and Dexter they are , I imagine, happy to get out. and insofar as it represents exercise for me and them it is worthwhile for all.

A line of vision. 25 April 2007Posted by Picasa

Time to look up. 26 April 2007.

Dexter steps. 26 April 2007.

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‘WE MISSED CHENEY” May 3, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Iraq Policy.
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The former UK Secretary of Defence was interviewed by The Guardian:

. . . Geoff Hoon reveals that Britain disagreed with the US administration over two key decisions in May 2003, two months after the invasion – to disband Iraq’s army and “de-Ba’athify” its civil service. Mr Hoon also said he and other senior ministers completely underestimated the role and influence of the vice-president, Dick Cheney.

“Sometimes … Tony had made his point with the president, and I’d made my point with Don [Rumsfeld] and Jack [Straw] had made his point with Colin [Powell] and the decision actually came out of a completely different place. And you think: what did we miss? I think we missed Cheney.”

Cheney has been the enduring presence and so it seems the major influence behind the scenes in the Bush presidency. Most of his pronouncements on Iraq, including famously his description that the “insurgency was in its last throes” have been spectacularly wrong. Mistakes are never admitted, so they go on being made, with what cost it is hard to say, but responsibility and costs are never bought to bear on those who made the decisions.

No doubt there will be more comment on this interview elsewhere.