-- R.G. Menzies
LIBERTARIAN/CONSERVATIVE DIGEST AND COMMENTARY FROM AN ACADEMIC PSYCHOLOGIST in Brisbane, Australia. My academic publications are widely read
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Little Leftist Shitheads
Essentially two little leftist shitheads stole a car and got involved in a high speed chase, and to the benefit of society, crashed and killed themselves.
All the little leftist shitheads' friends, being little leftist shitheads themselves, used it as an excuse to cause typical little leftist shithead damage and blaming the police for their mercifully dead little leftist shithead mates not being allowed to steal a car without consequence.
And the fact this is the third night of rioting shows that the state government is being too soft on the little leftist shitheads.
What the police should be doing is forming their line and charging the little leftist shitheads and beating each one they get so severely that they are physically unable to return the next night for more rioting.
But of course you can't expect a Labor government to come down hard on little leftist shitheads. After all, these little leftist shitheads are going to form the core of future Labor voters.
And isn't it amazing all the rhetoric and all the violence stemming from these little shitheads (It is all the police's fault, they incited it, they want to fight so we are gonna give it to them, this is revolution et al) is EXACTLY the same that we get from all the leftists that start riots at WTO, WEF meetings etc
Exactly the same, right down to their cowardice when they are actually met with force in return. I was lucky enough to see some news footage with a little leftist shithead on the ground with a German Shepherd attached to his leg and for a big, tough rioter who was all brave to throw things at police, he sure was crying like a little bitch "Oh my leg. My leg"
And I must say, the police around him were trying far too hard to detatch the dog from his leg. The police should have used that time to beat him some more until he truly learns not to be a little leftist shithead - or until they damage him enough so he is no longer able to be a little leftist shithead - I prefer the latter.
Australian Greens crush dissent. Ironic, don't you think?
It's as if it NEVER HAPPENED. Which seems such a shame that I took all those screen shots. As of 8 o'clockish this morning, the poll was around the 79% in favour of sending the remainder of the ADF into Iraq. And there it finished. As predicted. Monday morning, the hippies come back to work, and stare in horrified fascination at the screen. 'NOOOOOOO! What's going on?' would have been the cry. That's not the expected result, particularly if you are a Brown Nettler. (New Australian bird variety, cousin to the cuckoo, difference being that it's prone to laying it's eggs on freeways)
So, to those intrepid button pushers, I give a hearty 'Huzzah!'. A blow for common-sense, in some small way. And right now, the weasley little fuckers are trawling the referrer logs, looking for the IP's and seeing if they can identify their opponents. Well, no point hiding the fact. I'M OVER HEEERRREEEE!
Fucking hippies. If anyone is interested or has more media clout than me, can someone let Andrew Bolt know what the 'dissent crushing' party did. I'm content to know that I helped piss off the Greens party.
UPDATE: Who's a lazy sod then? If I'd bothered to actually check that address, I probably wouldn't have gone off half-cocked. Still there's no mention of how to get to that page on the home page now, or via the poll result page. Click here or paste this into your address bar. http://www.greens.org.au/450xtratroops
Cross-posted at Bastards Inc.
Nobody expects consistency from Leftists but....
Well the ALP still controlls all the states but now it is all a big wankfest for them.
The following elements form the basis of a fractal (a fractal has statistical self-similarity at all resolutions and is generated by an infinitely recursive process; you can see examples here) model of development and learning, applicable to all levels of human behaviour, from the individual to human society as a whole.
I have used the term cognitive organism as shorthand for each element of this fractal scale:
1. Cognitive organisms are the products of society and the production takes places through long periods of time.
2 . Only the simplest cognitive organisms are fashioned at the beginning (“immediately").
3. The environment in which a cognitive organism originates causes the gradual development of organisational elements or components - this is the cause of diversity.
4. Growth is inherent in all parts of the cognitive organism.
5. Cchanges in conditions cause the modification of the cognitive organism over time.
6. All cognitive organisms undergo changes in their parts - cognitive organisms are not fixed in nature, but are in a constant state of flux.
7. Adaptation by a cognitive organism to the environment is effected by a process termed learning.
In considering this model, it is crucial to understand what learning means and to delve more deeply into the process of learning; I recommend a book by W. Calvin, How Brains Think, (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson: 1996) - a review is available here.
As I get more involved in the world of blogging, I am beginning to think that the elements outlined above could be used to describe the evolution of a multi-author blog, as well.
"And I like to think that Charles Darwin and William James would have liked the idea that mental life involves copying competitions biased by a multifaceted environment. Sigmund Freud might have been intrigued with the mechanism it suggests for how subconscious associations could occasionally pop into the foreground of consciousness."
W. Calvin, op. cit.
We Won't Ask If You Don't Tell
Here's the latest gem:
Gosh, guys – maybe that's why you don't know what's going on. Just an idea – maybe you better hold a Senate enquiry (because they seem to be running about setting up enquiries into just about everything else).
LABOR today admitted it had made no requests to the Government for briefings on Iraq.
Oh – silly moi. They've already thought of it:
Labor has said it would consider setting up a Senate inquiry into the troop deployment if it does not receive a satisfactory briefing.Okay – first we want a Senate enquiry into why we forgot to ask for a briefing. As soon as we've concluded that it was the Government's fault, we'll have another Senate enquiry into whether or not we got enough from the briefing we forgot to ask for in the first place (personally, I don't like their chances – they're far too busy setting up Senate enquiries to remember).
A spokesman for Prime Minister John Howard said today the Federal Governmenthad not received any formal request from Labor for a special briefing on the deployment of extra troops to Iraq.Kidding, right? When we've got all these Senate enquiries to set up? Who's got time for a bl**dy briefing!
Labor's defence spokesman Robert McClelland today admitted the party had not actually made a request for briefings.Just a teeny weeny little tip, Bob: 'ask and you shall receive'. Of course that hasn't stopped them screaming for the lack of briefings. With all that screaming, of course, it's no wonder they forgot to ask. . .
He told Channel Seven today he had not received any briefings on the situation in Iraq since last October's federal election.
"We've had advice regarding the troop deployment, their position and so forth, but at no stage have we been provided with a briefing as to likely or possible scenarios that might happen in Iraq."At no stage did we get a briefing! None – none, we tell you! That eeeeeevil Government.
Asked whether he had requested them, Mr McClelland said: "In terms - no, quite frankly."Oooooops. To anyone who's wondering, and just in case the rest of that sentence got in the way, that's a plain old, every day kind of 'no'. Well, at least he's being frank. . .
Opposition Leader Kim Beazley said yesterday he had written to Mr Howard seeking a briefing on the government's decision to send an extra 450 troops to southern Iraq.Oh well, better set up another enquiry, then.
Mr Howard's spokesman said no request had been received.
Mr McClelland said that until Labor had a briefing, it was "flying in the dark" on the issue of intelligence.Well, I can agree with them there – on the issue of intelligence, 'flying in the dark' pretty much sums them up. Problem is, I don't think any number of briefings is going to help you on that front, fellas.
Better stick with the enquiries.
Friday Night Terror
In fact, I did not hear about the attack until last night, at which time I was not in the correct state of mind to blog about it. I have since had time to reflect more on the events of Friday night, and write something more cogent than anything I may have produced last night.
So far, 4 innocent people have been killed, with over 50 wounded. These are just statistics, but behind each murdered or wounded person is a story. Dreams have been shattered, and families destroyed.
The angel on the left was Yael Aurbach, who was only 28. She was set to get married in only two weeks time. Her fiance has not yet heard about the death of his beloved. A precious life extinguished by a callous murderer, with many more lives irrevocably affected.
The other victims so far are:
These are the people whose lives have been cut short. Their familes and friends have to live with the pain of their loss. In addition, amongst the 50 or so wounded are lives severely damaged. People who will lose eyes and limbs. People who will carry the horror of Friday night for the rest of their lives.
I think it is important to look beyond the statistics and realize the real brutality of such attacks.
So many innocent lives affected, and for what? Israel has made it clear that she wants peace and has been taking risky actions leading to PLO Arab self-rule (like she has been doing since 1993). Our government has released hundreds of prisoners. Our government has taken steps to withdraw from Gaza. Our government has stated that we will end targeted killings. Our government has decided to adjust the route of the security fence to minimize its affect on the PLO Arabs. And in response, the PLO Arabs have deliberately murdered more of our innocent civilians.
Pro-PLO Arab apologists will point to a number of possible justifications for the attack. But even the terrorists themselves cannot agree on a reason. The bomber himself gave this justification:
The aim of the bombing was "to attack the self-rule Authority, which acts according to American interests," Badran, 21, said on the tape.In other words, he went to a place frequented by young Israelis wanting to enjoying themselves, and tried to spill as much of their blood as possible - to prove a point to the PA. The Islamic Jihad, at first denying involvement, later claimed responsibility from its Syria-based bureau.
"The calm period with the [Palestinian] Authority was an agreement for a month and that has ended," said Abu Tareq, a member of Islamic Jihad's "Israel has not abided by the pacification period. This is the main reason that led to this operation," he said without elaborating.In other words, they decided to stop killing us for a month, but now the month has passed and we are all fair game again.
The fact that the terrorists are providing different reasons for the attack, should indicate that no real reason does exist, other than hatred for Israelis and Jews. Pro-PLO Arab apologists can claim it is all the fault of the "occupation", yet none of the terrorists have even pretended that this is the reason. This reason also rings hollow at the very time that Israel is taking such risky steps towards peace.
Israel has decided to act as follows:
Notice no military action to speak of, even though it would be justified against the PA terror groups, as well as against Syria. I personally think that Israel made the right decision in not reacting militarily at this time.
By insisting that the PA fight the terror, Israel has put them to the test. Now we will be able to determine whether or not the PA is serious about peace. If the PA fights terror, then we may be more optimistic about the prospect of peace. If not, the US will place more pressure on the PA, and any Israeli military responses may be met with less opposition.
The handover freeze demonstrates to the PA that they will suffer if they do not fight terror. I believe that this "carrot-stick" approach may be effective if the PA is genuine about peace. If not, then we will surely discover this.
(Cross-posted at Israellycool)
Coping with Modernity - Leftism and Islamism
Amidst all this modernization, work has become more efficient, the world has become smaller, and people were in touch with each other as never before. But concurrently, people have become less in touch with themselves. For these three hundred years, the now-familiar story of dysfunctional families have been the subject of many sermons and philosophers, as traditional leaders bemoan the dying of the "Good Old Days". The trauma of this transition into modernity has been sharper in nations that have not had to endure the long, very public debates that nations which were in at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, leading to social disruptions. Different societies have developed different ways of dealing with the trauma. Singapore, Taiwan, and South Korea represent the successful accomodations of traditionalism and modernism; while Japan during the Meiji Era and China during the Cultural Revolution demonstrate the massively disruptive effects this accomodation can have on society when it is forced upon the populace by the government.
Even the West, or Europe in any event, has had its troubles with dealing with modernization. In the United Kingdom, where industrialization began earlier than in other nations, the adatation has been relatively smooth. In the United States, which was a little slower to the game, the changes brought by industrialization have included increasing feelings of alienation and individual isolation, a loss of a sense of purpose. This, in combination with the religiosity of Americans, contributes to the cyclical rise of charismatic Bible-thumpers, from George Whitefield during the Great Revival of the 18th Century, to Billy Graham today. Yet this process, too, has been relatively smooth, and has often had the effect of reconciling people with modernity instead of setting them at loggerheads.
The same cannot be said for France, where adaptation to industrial modernization was often hampered by the great political turbulences that began with the French Revolution of 1789. Because of the lack of a large bourgeoisie, France's political spectrum resembled a sideways hourglass rather than an almond. That is to say, the middle class that did exist was a weak bond between the upper and lower classes. Thus, when domestic tranquility was finally brought about after the 1848 crisis, there was already a large political class that found itself temporarily unemployed. They looked abroad, and found Marxism to be an intellectually stimulating model and a rich source of sloganeering. (After all, the very last sentence of Das Kapital was an exhortation to political revolution on behalf of an unenfranchised class, which appealed to the liberal instincts of the most intellectual members of that political class.)
The most tragic and turbulent forced modernization probably came in the form of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 in Romanov Russia. By this time, Marx' ideas had been around for well over half a century, and there had already been international Communist congresses. What followed the revolution were three strands of thought: Leninism answered the need for political organization for a revolutionary party (as a model, it was very successful, and remains a model for political party organization even in many democracies); Trotskyites pushed for modernizing the serfs so that they could fulfill the role of the proletariat, in true Marxist fashion; and Stalinism, which was a ruthless study in authoritarianism. What essentially was provided by Marxism was the ability not only to recognize and acknowledge the trauma of modernization, but to shoehorn it into a model. In this model, modernization is seen as an arrow of history, along which cycles of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis (borrowed from Hegel) ping-pongs down the arrow of history until arriving at last at pure communism. By providing a model for explaining reality, and for making predictions regarding the future, and particularly by envisioning a brighter, better future, Marxism became an idea with real currency. It is the only formalized school of thought that acknowledges that we can't go back to yesterday, and through a sense of determinism and an expectation of utopia, it implied that the Good Old Days™ were not necessarily that.
However, Communism was only the least unsuccessful of several pseudo-scientific Leftist schools of thought. A distinguishing characteristic of the Left is its insistence on a neo-elitism. While all societies hope to be led by wise men, Leftism, as with other, more traditional forms of governance, relied on a cadre of elites, often refusing to allow the people a say, on the premise that the public would be too foolish to choose the best leaders. Instead of relying on a religious basis, Leftists tended to rely on "science": Marxism was based on a so-called "scientific model of history", and called for a "dictatorship of the proletariat". So, too, German National Socialist Workers Party of the 1930's called for an elite cadre to oversee an extreme form of eugenics, at the time a very popular and widely accepted "science", that would lift the nation out of the misery it had endured since the end of the Great War. Like the Bolsheviks, the Nazis claimed to have a scientific model upon which to shape history. In both cases, that extended even into the economic sphere, as both championed central economic planning, or "command economies".
At the end of the Second World War, Stalinism, a far more virulent and violent form of Communism (Marxists, though, might balk at the characterization), with the help of its largely English-speaking Allies, prevailed over Nazism. Leftists might point out that the reason was that Nazism was, after all, an ideology heavily reliant on nationalism as well as socialism (if they would accede that second point at all), and as such, not only violated the internationalist spirit of Marxism, but also thus could not appeal to other nations, particularly subjugated ones.
However, nationalism was not to die completely. After the Second World War, drained European powers began to decentralize their Empires. In the case of the British Empire, the transition was relatively peaceful. Not so with the French and Belgian Empires. (In fact, the breakup of the French Empire ended up pulling the United States into its most controversial military adventure.) While Europeans learned to keep their nationalist sentiments relatively quiet due to the balance of power on the Continent during the Cold War, developing nations found it useful to assert their national identities in the hopes of gaining the support of one or the other of the two superpowers. (In fact, Ho Chi Minh appealed first to American support for Vietnamese independence from French rule, but when the Americans decided to side with the French, whose support in the Cold War the Americans needed, and who were still sore at the American intervention in the Suez Canal crisis of 1956, Ho turned to the Soviets and the Chinese.)
Nationalism works best, though, among people once great. Irredentism is also a common feature of nationalism: Hitler wanted the Sudetenland; the Chinese still want Taiwan, Tibet, and the Spratlys; and the French want their dignity, and the respect they used to be held in when the Sun King reigned. But Hitler was defeated; the Chinese are now trying to rebuild their economy, which centuries ago was the envy of the world, gambling that a vibrant economy and a high standard of living might just be enough to entice plucky Taiwanese into rejoining the Motherland; and the French try to earn brownie points by being the loudest voice against anything American. So one threat is merely simmering, while the other two have, effectively, been neutralized.
But there is one place in the world where nationalism was not only not to die, but was to be blended with more extremist influences.
Between the ends of the First and Second World Wars, the remnants of the old Ottoman Empire, which had chosen the wrong side the first time around, had been carved up and distributed to Great Britain and France, the pre-eminent European powers, as mandates under the League of Nations. Thus a large chunk of the Arab world passed from the hands of an occupying power that not only had become a fact of life after some centuries, but was also Muslim, into the hands of people that looked different, spoke very much differently, and, most infuriating of all, were more likely to be Christian or atheist. Still, the new occupying powers, particularly Great Britain, brought about infrastructure reforms, thus raising the standards of living. Nonetheless, the differences were jarring, and a nationalist sentiment gathered steam. After the Second World War, the French gave up Syria and Lebanon, and the British created the Hashemite Kingdoms of Transjordan and Iraq.
In 1948, however, a great wrong was inflicted upon the Arab world with the creation by the United Nations of the Jewish state of Israel. To many Arabs, it must have seemed like a betrayal of the promise of independence, especially as it seemed to aid an already-growing independence movement among Palestinian Jews. In the eyes of the Europeans, though, it was justice served, as recognized by the Balfour Declaration. By giving the Jews a homeland, it was thought, not only would they have a national sponsor of the rights of Jews worldwide, but they would also have an incentive to leave a Europe that could not look them in the eyes for the atrocities of the Holocaust.
Thus the Arab resentment at the creation of Israel would engender several wars. For the Arab powers, it was a poor testimonial to the efficacy of their governments, that they could not even stand up for the rights of "brother Arabs", to say nothing of the corruption that would seep into their domestic affairs. Pervertedly, the Israeli victories would become a bogeyman for the Arab regimes, a way to deflect criticism of their harsh rules. Yet the failure in foreign policy was but a reflection of the failures in domestic policy.
Much as was the experience in Nazi Germany, the National Socialist regimes in Syria and Iraq (better known by their Arab name, the Ba'athists) at first afforded much modernization, particularly in Iraq, which had oil resources, and was anyway the seat of Mesopotamia, the Cradle of Western Civilization. But the Socialist policies in the Arab world resulted mostly in stagnation, as was also the case in other places, such as India until the '90s. Meanwhile, a political culture rooted in nepotism and corruption and undemocratic means (including even the European mandates of the early Twentieth Century) meant that governments that were failing to raise living standards were, even so, incapable of addressing their citizens' grievances. As with any corrupt regime, the Arab governments presided over an immense wealth gap, one that offered the poor absolutely no way of rising to the top.
As with any other modernizing process, that in the Arab world witnessed a growing resentment of the more corrupting influences. As industrialization encroached, and communications and entertainment became more instantaneous, private, and personal, communities began to lose cohesion. Against this backdrop of confusing change came a religious revival not unlike the Great Awakening in the United States over two centuries prior. But this Arab Awakening was also political in nature, and in many occasions worked with pan-Arabism. The name that would be given this political religiosity would be Islamism, named after the Brotherhood of Islam, which first arose in Egypt.
The Islamists were not simply people who sought to bring back some traditional Islamic values to everyday life, but, perhaps due to the pervasiveness of politics in everyday life, to overthrow the corrupt and repressive regimes. Their greatest victory came with the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981. Thus Islamism is an extremist political school whose tactics are little different from the Basque Separatists (ETA) or the Irish Republican Army (IRA).
However, in already religious Saudi Arabia, the reaction to the corruption of the House of Saud took on the character of the austere national sect of Wahabbism, in the form of bin Ladenism. Established by Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, the bin Ladenists began as a group of militant Puritans fighting the atheistic Soviets in Afghanistan. Indeed, just as the Islamists had been critical of Sadat's socialist policies in Egypt, the bin Ladenists were rather critical of the Ba'athists in Syria and Iraq. But the bin Ladenists were also pan-Arabists; though they certainly hoped for a revival of the Caliphate of Baghdad, preferably with bin Laden as the Caliph, instead of the secular Saddam Hussein.
In its war against modernity, though, al-Qaeda's tipping point against the United States was the repulsion of Iraqi forces from Kuwait in the Persian Gulf War of 1991. That Saddam was defeated probably brought mixed feelings due to his secularism; but the establishment of American military bases in Saudia Arabia drove bin Laden to oppose the United States -- at least Saddam was an Arab. The clash of civilizations had, in bin Laden's view, begun. The rest of that is history.
But what I want to deal with here is the notion of the how different groups react to modernization. New Sisyphus notes, in his article on the Left's central thesis regarding the Cold War, that the International Left is not only suspicious of military action, but, as has not changed since the days of Karl Marx, fingers industry and commerce as the motivating factors for violence.
The reason for this is clear: the U.S. isn't interested in winning liberty for the world's people. Nor is it even very worried about the so-called Soviet threat. It's all about profits, power and control. We prop up dictators in Central America because major companies and Republican-campaign contributors rely on the profits of United Fruit, Dole and other major American conglomerates. We have military bases in the Philippines because they are instruments of neo-colonial control. We dominate Korea because it provides a ready market and an endless supply of cheap labor.
Concern over the Soviet Union is nothing more than cheap cover (and threadbare cover at that) for a program of world domination, the hallmark of which is the exercise of raw, deadly power whenever it feels threatened. Labor organizers in El Salvador, human rights campaigners in South Africa, dissenters in Saudi Arabia die in their dozens as a result.
If we can only reduce our view of the Soviet Union to that which reality should lead it (i.e. an impoverished nation actually incapable of inflicting much harm), and strip away the hypocritical lies of the Right, the United States could get back on the right side of history and support the worlds' peoples' rightful struggles for self-determination, justice and equality. Until then, the U.S. is only going to suffer more Vietnams and more embarrassments. We must work for a people's democracy, one that speaks to our real values and conduct ourselves in accordance with those needs and wants and not those of General Motors.
Meanwhile, Arthur Chrenkoff ponders what he calls the "Red-Green Alliance": The shared short- and mid-term political goals of the International Left and the International Islamist movement. Many commentators and pundits, particularly on the Right, have argued that the Left and Islamists are not just allies of convenience, but kindred spirits. But Art is skeptical.
I don't believe that the far left are the ultimate realists who would support the Islamist assault on their own societies in order to weaken the domestic political, economic and social structures to a sufficient degree so as to allow a painless takeover by the left to complete the revolution.
Islamofascism is irrelevant to the left's designs because the left doesn't believe that Islamofascism matters per se. It is not a problem, but a symptom of a problem. The problem is the West, and when it gets fixed, the symptoms will vanish, too. For the left, Islamism is an understandable reaction to Western (or more specifically, American) policies and actions: the support for Israel, the thirst for oil, support for Muslim autocrats, economic exploitation, cultural imperialism, militarism and interventionist foreign policy, unilateralism and political hegemony. Eliminate all of these and reduce the United States to a status of an appendage of the United Nations, a sort of an American Union, and Islamism will disappear, too. Because there is such a huge overlap between the grievances of the left and grievances of Islamofascists, and because the critique of the Western society is so often indistinguishable between Berkeley and Beirut, for the left, therefore, Islamofascism is not a weapon or a tool as much as a propaganda exhibit and a debating point.
All very well and good, but I would submit that, while bin Ladenism is not seen by the Left as relevant other than as Exhibit A of the consequences of national capitalism, it shares with the Left not only an advocacy of the destruction of the Western capitalist system, but both seek to usher in a period of revolution, after which they would take over. To borrow an idea from Art, both bin Ladenists and Leftists hope that the other is destroyed along with Western capitalism, so that each could take over.
Bringing back the point of the Great Revival, notice that both the Left and the Islamists in general believe not only in intellectual narcissism (if only everyone thought and acted like me, the world would be perfect), but both have spawned more radical branches that are willing to effect violence in order to achieve such goals. If the world really did run the way they wanted it to, there would be no room for argument, except possibly in regard to tactics during the run-up to the Revolution.
Despite these similarities, however, they are different strands of thought. Leftism generally is forward-looking: Its supporters generally believe in an end of history, an ultimate goal (not unlike the Christian view, incidentally, and perhaps related, due to its origins among European intellectuals). Islamism, on the other hand, generally is backward-looking: Its existence is largely dismissive of Western decadence and amorality to begin with, and yearns to return to an imaginarily austere Caliphate. There are, of course, exceptions. Among the Left there is a rather large subgroup that is very backward-looking, that makes a fetish out of anything "untainted" by civilization. These are your New Age types, who dredge up every ancient belief from all around the world because the Western culture they grew up with was somehow unable to answer their spiritual needs. And among the Islamists there is a smaller subgroup that believes in integrating Islam with modern institutions, so that the civil code of Egypt, for example, need not be precisely sharia, but is informed and influenced by it, much in the same way many European institutions are informed and influenced by nominally Christian sensibilities. But these are exceptions.
Finally, history is not a static thing. We see it move in great waves, such as the Protestant Reformation, the American Revolution, the two World Wars, and so on; and we see it in small ripples, like when a Richmond High School basketball coach insisted that his formidable team must first earn passing grades before being allowed to play. Trying to roll back tides is trying to roll back time, and thus Islamism's current fetish is nothing but a pipe dream. And supposing that the waves will immediately cease once they reach a determined point, that there is, indeed, such a thing as an end, is equally unrealistic.
Perhaps it is this unrealism that makes these goals somehow seem worthwhile. An incomplete Revolution will always need soldiers, and if, as Shakespeare said, "all the world's a stage", then everyone will want to have a bigger role. Because these dreams are unreal and unfinished, the dreamers will go on dreaming and trying to live and realize the dream.
[Cross-posted at Between Worlds]
So, that means that I've been officially laid off and I am -- at least for the moment -- a professional blogger. Sure, I don't have as much money saved up as I'd like, RWN is smaller than I'd like, and my expenses are way too high per month, but...wait, a second, I'm going to DIE! J/K =DThis raises the question - what costs would be involved, and exactly how would a blogger go about making enough money to go full-time?
Actually, I am having to cut back on my living expenses quite a bit, but believe it or not, I think I'll AT LEAST be breaking even given the revenue stream I have coming in and with what I'll have my costs down to by April 1. Although I would feel a lot more comfortable with a few thousand dollars more in the bank, after crunching the numbers, I think full-time blogging is going to work. And of course, if it doesn't, well, I can always get another day job.
Over the next few months, I should be able to spend more time on RWN, get to work on the book I've been planning, have time to start writing regular columns again, and work on a little project that I hope to unveil in the next few weeks. I'd also like to get some paid writing gigs (email me if you'd like me to do something for your magazine or paper).
Well, first we'll take a look at costs. You'll (ideally) need to pay for:
- Blogging software: US$70 (AU$90), one-off cost.
- A URL for your website: Next to nothing, plus it's a one-off cost.
- Webspace/Bandwidth: Approximately US$500 (AU$635) a year.
- Keeping your computer up-to-date: AU$400 (US$315) should do it fine.
Add in costs for subscriptions to important publications, and we'll round it up to around AU$2,000 (US$1,575) a year. Now if blogging is a full-time job, you'll (obviously) need to cover all your expenses out of that, but there are plenty of ways to make revenue, starting with BlogAds.
Obviously there aren't many (if any) blogs as big as Daily Kos. But their ad spaces cost big money:
- Premium: US$12,000 a month.
- Second Slot: US$3,000 a month.
- Standard: US$1,800 a month.
Even if the Premium and Second Slot ad positions aren't taken, and there's 5 standard ad positions taken, that's still US$108,000 (AU$137,300) a year in income. Add in the top two slots, and you're talking about US$288,000 (AU$366,120) a year, which pushes blog owner Markos Moulitsas well and truly into the upper class.
Your next form of income as a professional blogger would be tip jars/Paypal/pledge drives. Michelle Malkin noted that Andrew Sullivan raked in US$200,000 in two pledge drives (they were 12 months apart, I believe), and that doesn't include the normal amount he'd get from donations. Sullivan gets a monthly hit count that is not much more than triple what Daily Kos average each day.
So hypothetically, a blogger with 5,000 committed readers willing to donate 10 bucks a year, plus 5 BlogAds charging 800 a month would make a blogger around 100,000 dollars. It's feasible - if you've got the readership and the commitment. Let's hope for John's sake that Right Wing News can continue to grow and support him.
(Cross-posted to The House Of Wheels.)
The Religion of Peace
Wounded Israelis are helped by civilians after an explosion rocked in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv. Three people were killed and about 30 wounded in a suicide attack in a seaside discotheque in Tel Aviv, Israeli public radio said(AFP/Tal Cohen)
Whistle Shoenberg while you work
When did serious concert music die, asked Martin Kettle in his jeremiad against modernism... his considered answer seems to be 1948... Apparently modern music isn't very popular and, he hints, not very good.Oh come now. That sort of accusation is often made against modern art, but not very often against modern literature - and when it is, it's to nowhere near the same degree. Martin Amis may be sometimes accused of not turning out rattling good yarns, but no-one says he can't turn out an entertaining, well-crafted sentence.
Not surprisingly, this is an argument that can also be levelled at modern literature and art - they aren't all that popular and there is more than the odd iconoclast who reckons they aren't much good.
But the much more interesting question is why modern literature and art can survive reasonably comfortably in a fairly uncomprehending world while contemporary music struggles. Which may have more to do with the underlying economics of these cultural forms and the fact that those who enjoy any kind of serious music are older, and therefore by nature more conservative.The underlying economics, eh? Wonder if we'll get any explanation of what this means?
And why does the fact that serious music fans are older and therefore more conservative mean that modern music struggles to survive? It can't be a hip pocket problem - older people and their high disposable incomes are supposed to be the reason why fossilized rock bands like the Rolling Stones still rake in hundreds of millions a year.
Is the idea supposed to be that because serious music fans are older and thus more conservative they're less likely to enjoy experimental modern music? But then the argument would make no sense. It would amount to this:
(1) The only people who are remotely interested in serious music are older people. The great majority of young people aren't interested in serious music (let alone modernist music).
(2) But because the great majority of these older people are conservative (precisely because they are older), they aren't interested in modernist music either.
The obvious conclusion to draw from (1) and (2) is this:
(3) Almost everyone has no interest in modernist music.
In which case Walsh's hints about it all being the fault of serious music fans being older and therefore more conservative are irrelevant. Anyway, modernism's been around for decades now, so what's the conservatism of old people got to do with it? If anyone should like it, it should be them.
Kettle fails to mention that much of the music that people of his ilk enjoy today has emerged from a trough of unpopularity. Beethoven was regarded as a wild revolutionary and died in straitened circumstances, as did Vivaldi, whose ubiquitous Four Seasons was barely played even 50 years ago. Most people are aware that Carmen was booed off the Paris stage and was originally regarded as obscure and erudite... It is woefully ignorant to assert that when a cultural movement does not meet instant acclaim it will never find a widely appreciative response.Woefully ignorant Guardian writer! The poor man doesn't even know that some great art was unpopular for a time!
Actually, Kettle never said that unless a cultural movement has instant success, it will never have a big audience. But fifty years of audience indifference is nevertheless a good indicator, although you wouldn't know that from Walsh's one-sided diet of examples. (He goes on to mention Shakespeare and the Impressionists, neglecting the thousands of artistic movements that had fifty years of audience indifference followed by hundreds more). Is he seriously suggesting that fifty years of boredom is no guide to the future at all? Will errand boys be whistling Schoenberg's twelve-tone symphonies one day after all?
(And it's a bit rich for a man who thinks that "wild revolutionaries who died in straitened circumstances" is an adequate description of the life of Beethoven and Vivaldi and the reception of their music to use the phrase "woefully ignorant".)
Kettle laments that opera as a popular art form died with Puccini's unfinished Turandot. He would no doubt be amazed to learn how regularly the Australian Opera stages works by Britten, Janacek and Richard Strauss, which play to hugely enthusiastic audiences.Well, actually, what Kettle said was that Italian opera died in 1928. And unless Britten, Janacek and Strauss have had posthumous Italian nationality conferred on them, I don't think they qualify.
And I don't think Kettle would be that amazed to find that Britten and Strauss's operas are well-received these days, seeing as he wrote that Strauss wrote possibly the last great piece of classical music in 1948, just before he died (and probably doesn't count as a modernist by his standards), and seeing as he implied that Britten was an exception to his "no good modern composers" claim right at the start of his article. (Janacek is something of an exception, yes - although as he died in 1928, he's not really that much of an exception.)
But he also fails to recognise that opera's problems lie not with modern composers and their new-fangled ideas, but with the fact that it is a hybrid artform and that theatre evolved greatly in the 20th century, making conventional opera seem hilariously melodramatic.So let me get this straight. Conventional opera is unpopular mainly because it looks silly on stage compared to the modern theatre. But it's the old-fashoned, melodramatic operas that get the biggest audiences. Modernist opera, despite having had more access to modern theatrical techniques, hardly attracts anyone. So how can the lack of popular appeal of modernist music be anything to do with looking melodramatic on stage?
Whatever decline opera has suffered has been more than compensated for by the rise of musical theatre as an art form and by the contributions of composers such as Kurt Weill and Stephen Sondheim, as well as the more popular Bernstein, Gershwin, Lloyd Webber and others.But it's precisely Kettle's point that modernism drove away audiences to popular, commercial music!
The really sad thing is that the economics of modern publishing allow the plotless Salman Rushdies and Garcia Marquezes to live in relative luxury. Modern abstract artists, with a bit of luck, can become squillionaires... one dare not ask about the earnings of a Henryk Gorecki or Arvo Part, whose sublime music surely will resonate in the ears of countless generations to come.There goes those economics again, "allowing" people to live in luxury. Nothing to do with the fact that however pretentious Rushdie and Marquez are, their books do actually sell. No, apparently they're getting away with something, because this economics thing "allows" them to. And Walsh finds it inconvenient to mention the tens of thousands of authors who don't live in luxury, or even make more than a few hundred a year from their books, which sell in tiny quantities. Nor does he mention that the vast majority of abstract artists don't make much money, let alone squillions, and many that do manage to make ends meet do so only because we already help them out with public funding.
Couldn't be that he's leading up to a funding pitch, could it?
It is pitiful enough that such geniuses must tolerate so great an inequity without loading them up with Kettle's prattle as well [my italics].Looks like he is, then...
Australia's contemporary musicians, who are experiencing a fabulously fertile period at the moment, are forced to eke out precarious livelihoods, dependent on intermittent commissions from our fine orchestras and ensembles, plus those from enlightened film, theatre and ballet companies. They deserve both respect and greater financial support [my italics].Who forced them to eke out their livings this way? Did the government single them out as children, and tell them they had to become composers, and that they wouldn't be allowed to do anything else?
Why not write the pragaraph this way?
Australia's contemporary musicians choose to work in a field that is highly competitive and where work is sporadic (a fact that they have always been aware of), and as a result they don't make quite as much as the rest of their upper-middle class friends. They already receive a great deal of their money through public funding, but they feel that they are entitled to a whole lot more. In return the taxpayer will get either of two results. If we're lucky, we'll get a reasonably good and tuneful piece of classical music that a tiny number of well-off people will want to listen to (and any such performances will themselves be subsidized by taxpayers). If we're unlucky we'll get a dire, tuneless, modernist dirge that symbolizes American hegemony that even less people will want to listen to.Update: Pomposity abounds in responses in The Guardian's letter's pages:
The 20th-century was a period of unprecedented global insanity: two world wars, Auschwitz, Hiroshima, Soviet Russia, Maoist China. Looking back it seems miraculous that we survived. And how would we have preferred our composers to respond? With denial?Er, how about with some enjoyable music?
And apparently it's all relative anyway:
Those brought up in a harmonic tradition find dissonance hard to swallow. Yet there is nothing inherently more attractive in the classical idea of tonality; the proof of that is how little other musical traditions bear in common with western notions of harmony. It's a matter of educating your palate to appreciate the unfamiliar.But the fact that there is some elasticity in our musical apprecation doesn't mean it's infinitely elastic, and it doesn't mean that our palettes can be "educated" to appreciate anything. Otherwise, why couldn't we educate our palates to appreciate random electronic squeals as wonderful music? Why wouldn't this be as inherently attractive as Bach? (And to think some people deny that such simple-minded relativism really exists).
Finally, if you can stand the "trendy vicar" writing style, a modern composer named John Woolrich responds here:
Martin Kettle is afraid of those unknown bits of the old maps that said "here be monsters".Or, perhaps, Martin Kettle has actually visited the area and found a lot of monstrous old bores?
(They're not all monstrous old bores, of course - and I quite like a bit of modernist music myself - but a lot of them are).
Cross-posted at Blithering Bunny.
Australian Greens. The watermelon party.
Click here to see screenshots of the poll results over the last 36 hours.
Keep letting the Greens know what you think folks! It's the only way to get the point across. Well, technically, writing 'Dickhead' in Magic Marker on a baseball bat and wrapping it around their skulls is another way, but apparently it's illegal where I live to cull hippies out of season...
Let us hope the Communist Shitstain gets his arse booted out of office. I don't think it is likely however. Were there more massive power shortages like last year when we were told not to turn our air conditioners on because of the way Gallop had fucked up our power supplies, it would be certain he would be gone.
I did my best to waste as much power as possible but it never happened this year.
Today we also had to vote (I feel dirty for even having to say have to vote) on extended trading hours for weeknights and on Sundays - thereby bringing WA into step with the rest of the civilized world.
I voted Yes to both extended trading hours questions. It concerns me greatly that a Conservative who is supposed to stand for minimal government interference is pushing the lies and bullshit reasons of the No campaign which will result in the government still being able to tell us when we are allowed to shop.
But I also fear the lies and bullshit of the No compaign will also get up.
UPDATE: Polls have closed and counting has begun. More as the night progresses.
18:55 Ugh! I was going to watch the ABC coverage during the ads in Seven's coverage but if I do that I am likely to throw my remote at my tv and put a hit out on Kerry "Fuckhead" O'Brian.
19:10 Some dickhead from 6PR is spewing bullshit about Howard and the troops and not supporting Barnett so it consolidates his own power in Canberra. Someone needs to tell this dickhead that Howard has already consolidated his power in Canberra - remember the landslide election victory in October last year?
19:15 Noel Crichton-Browne is his usual abbrasive self, calling the ALP candidate in the seat of Murray, Nuala Keating, a token candidate having been sent there to ensure a minimum number of women in any ALP government. Probably an unfair comment but there is only one major party that uses quotas instead of merit and it ain't the Liberal party.
19:45 With roughly 22% of the vote counted, the general consensus seems to be a swing against the ALP in regional marginal seats, but metro seats should keep it in power.
20:50 Looks like those predictions were right and we are heading for four more years of the Communist Shitstain. Disappointing to say the least.
21:25 Barnett gives his concession speech. A bit rambly. Let's hope next time he starts putting in appearances from now, rather than waiting four years for the next election to be called.
21:40 The Communist Shitbag is giving his speech. What a fucking joke - "Democracy is a great institution" - yeah - just like your hero Marx thought eh, you Communist Shitbag.
22:10: And it appears, as expected, the lies and bullshit of the No campaign for extended trading hours has gotten up.
Incase you missed it ....
Slovakia leader hits media on Bush slant (registration required)
The prime minister of Slovakia yesterday blamed the media for unfairly turning the European public against President Bush by negatively slanting coverage on Iraq.Slovakia like many other former Soviet Bloc countries has a better understanding towards what is at stake in this war.
After meeting with Mr. Bush twice in less than a week, Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda told reporters that the president also blamed the press for portraying him as eager to invade Iran to eradicate its nuclear program.
"President Bush told me in Brussels: 'I am so unhappy that media creates the picture that Bush wants war in Iran. This is crazy,' " Mr. Dzurinda told a small group of reporters over lunch.
The prime minister was reminded that while the governments of Central and Eastern Europe supported Operation Iraqi Freedom, the populace was much more skeptical, according to polls.
Mr. Dzurinda responded by telling the journalists, including one from CNN, that he was "shocked" to see media outlets like CNN and the British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) showing "only American soldiers killing people. But nobody was able to show Saddam Hussein, who killed many, many thousands of Iraqi people."
"It was impossible to see a real picture of this regime," he lamented. "And the result is the public is one day strongly against Bush. 'Bush loves war,' he's 'new terrorist,' and so on and so on."
The prime minister predicted that it is "only a question of time when people in Slovakia, in Germany, in European countries, will understand more that this activity were necessary. And the world, without Saddam Hussein, is much more democratic than before."
Mr. Dzurinda, who grew up under communist oppression in the Soviet bloc, said nations such as his were more supportive of Operation Iraqi Freedom because they remembered communism. Slovakia has sent troops to Afghanistan and Iraq.
"I spent many years under tyranny," he said. "So I completely understand what it means to fight for democracy -- don't take this for granted.
"Maybe this is why I understand better than Chirac or Schroeder," he added, referring to French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, both of whom opposed the Iraq war.
Mr. Dzurinda also faulted Mr. Chirac and Mr. Schroeder for not understanding Mr. Bush's decision to abandon diplomacy and invade Iraq.
"I understand, [with] the president of the United States, that this is impossible to wait forever," he said. "I hope that the German chancellor and French president understand more today than yesterday."
It would be a miracle if they did.
Ted Rall, at it again
Several Bushist blogger types have written to assert that there are as many violent and threatening remarks and insults coming from liberals online as there are from conservatives against liberals. I've spent many sadly-lost hours online, and I say: no way.Rall first uses as examples comments from LGF (thus breaking his own rules), to which Charles responds with:
So here's my challenge: Please email your worst, most vicious examples of liberal/leftie blogger vitriol (with links, natch), and I'll post 'em right here. If they exist, obviously.
In his latest blog post Rall attacks Little Green Footballs specifically, by pulling a few out-of-context quotes from our visitor comments and falsely attributing them to me. (Gee. I’ve never seen that tactic used before.) One of his quotes about being “targeted for termination” refers to Rall’s job as a Washington Post cartoonist being terminated; it’s obvious since the thread is about exactly that subject, so Rall is either deliberately misrepresenting or too full of bile to see straight.Rall provides more quotes from the Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler in an attempt to back up his claim, however - there's a catch. They're not actually from the Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler. This one is in comments, as is this one, and this one, and this one. Which means one thing - if comments from right-wing blogs are in play, then comments from left-wing blogs and forums are in play. In which case, I present the forums of Democratic Underground.
I win. Rall loses.
But even though Rall couldn't stick to his own rules (he now won't accept bloggers agreeing with prominent left-wing non-bloggers), Polipundit and Right Wing News took him to task, but John Hawkins discovered that Rall isn't really up to it:
Rall has an email address up for the challenge. It bounced when I sent a message into it.I sent an e-mail off, and mine bounced as well - not just the one to email@example.com, which was the one listed on Rall's site, but also to firstname.lastname@example.org simply because his website is at both tedrall.com and rall.com. Which means the only e-mail address that works is email@example.com - so I sent Ted an e-mail telling him that it bounced.
This is an automatically generated Delivery Status Notification.
Delivery to the following recipients failed.
No wonder he claims that "The Right-Wing Challenge...Remains totally unanswered" - he hasn't allowed anyone to answer back.
(Cross-posted to The House Of Wheels.)
Two true stories -- and Snopes
STORY NUMBER ONE
Many years ago, Al Capone virtually owned Chicago. Capone wasn't famous for anything heroic. He was notorious for enmeshing the windy city in everything from bootlegged booze and prostitution to murder. Capone had a lawyer nicknamed "Easy Eddie." He was his lawyer for a good reason. Eddie was very good! In fact, Eddie's skill at legal maneuvering kept Big Al out of jail for a long time.
To show his appreciation, Capone paid him very well. Not only was the money big, but also Eddie got special dividends. For instance, he and his family occupied a fenced-in mansion with live-in help and all of the conveniences of the day. The estate was so large that it filled an entire Chicago City block. Eddie lived the high life of the Chicago mob and gave little consideration to the atrocities that went on around him.
Eddie did have one soft spot, however. He had a son that he loved dearly. Eddie saw to it that his young son had the best of everything: clothes, cars and a good education. Nothing was withheld. Price was no object. And, despite his involvement with organized crime, Eddie even tried to teach him right from wrong. Eddie wanted his son to be a better man than he was. Yet, with all his wealth and influence, there were two things he couldn't give his son; he couldn't pass on a good name and a good example.
One day, Easy Eddie reached a difficult decision. Easy Eddie wanted to rectify wrongs he had done. He decided he would go to the authorities and tell the truth about Al "Scarface" Capone, clean up his tarnished name and offer his son some semblance of integrity. To do this, he would have to testify against The Mob, and he knew that the cost would be great. So, he testified. Within the year, Easy Eddie's life ended in a blaze of gunfire on a lonely Chicago Street. But in his eyes, he had given his son the greatest gift he had to offer, at the greatest price he would ever pay. Police removed from his pockets a rosary, a crucifix, a religious medallion and a poem clipped from a magazine. The poem read:
The clock of life is wound but once
And no man has the power
To tell just when the hands will stop,
At late or early hour.
Now is the only time you own.
Live, love, toil with a will.
Place no faith in time.
For the clock may soon be still.
STORY NUMBER TWO
World War II produced many heroes. One such man was Lieutenant Commander Butch O'Hare. He was a fighter pilot assigned to the aircraft carrier Lexington in the South Pacific. One day his entire squadron was sent on a mission. After he was airborne, he looked at his fuel gauge and realized that someone had forgotten to top off his fuel tank. He would not have enough fuel to complete his mission and get back to his ship. His flight leader told him to return to the carrier. Reluctantly, he dropped out of formation and headed back to the fleet.
As he was returning to the mother ship he saw something that turned his blood cold, a squadron of Japanese aircraft were speeding their way toward the American fleet. The American fighters were gone on a sortie, and the fleet was all but defenseless. He couldn't reach his squadron and bring them back in time to save the fleet. Nor could he warn the fleet of the approaching danger. There was only one thing to do. He must somehow divert them from the fleet. Laying aside all thoughts of personal safety, he dove into the formation of Japanese planes. Wing-mounted 50 caliber's blazed as he charged in, attacking one surprised enemy plane and then another. Butch wove in and out of the now broken formation and fired at as many planes as possible until all his ammunition was finally spent. Undaunted, he continued the assault. He dove at the planes, trying to clip a wing or tail in hopes of damaging as many enemy planes as possible and rendering them unfit to fly.
Finally, the exasperated Japanese squadron took off in another direction. Deeply relieved, Butch O'Hare and his tattered fighter limped back to the carrier. Upon arrival he reported in and related the event surrounding his return. The film from the gun-camera mounted on his plane told the tale. It showed the extent of Butch's daring attempt to protect his fleet. He had in fact destroyed five enemy aircraft.
This took place on February 20, 1942, and for that action Butch became the Navy's first Ace of W.W.II, and the first Naval Aviator to win the Congressional Medal of Honor. A year later Butch was killed in aerial combat at the age of 29. His home town would not allow the memory of this WW II hero to fade, and today, O'Hare Airport in Chicago is named in tribute to the courage of this great man. So the next time you find yourself at O'Hare International, give some thought to visiting Butch's memorial displaying his statue and his Medal of Honor. It's located between Terminals 1 and 2.
SO, WHAT DO THESE TWO STORIES HAVE TO DO WITH EACH OTHER?
Butch O'Hare was Easy Eddie's son.
Snopes has an extensive commentary on the above stories that tells us more about Snopes than anything else. Snopes appears to accept that all the purported facts given above about Easy Eddy are indeed facts but clearly wants to discredit the stories nonetheless. This is in keeping with what seems to be its usual negative approach to stories that are supportive of conservative thinking.
So what Snopes does in the present case is simply to speculate. The story above about the motivations of Easy Eddy is convincing and includes evidence (pocket contents etc) for its account of those motivations. Snopes however leaves out the bit about pocket contents and simply speculates that Eddy could have had other motivations. Speculation is a long way from fact-checking, however.
Snopes also pooh-poohs the deeds of Butch O'Hare but fails to explain why he got a major airport named after him if his deeds were so insignificant.
Snopes gained its reputation as a fact-checking service but now seems to have gone well beyond that to become a bias-providing service for Leftists.
Green Left Weekly exposes massacre
The article details the experiences of Dr Salam Ismael, now 28 years old, who was head of junior doctors in Baghdad before the invasion of Iraq. A thoroughly impartial eyewitness, a young leader in Saddam's regime before the illegal and immoral invasion of the peaceful, law-abiding Iraqi nation, the good doctor relates his experiences in Fallujah and recounts the tale of horror of US troops massacring women, children and babies in cold-blooded murder. Here's an excerpt of this brave man's struggle to tell the truth.
"On November 12, Eyad Naji Latif and eight members of his family — one of them a six-month-old child — gathered their belongings and walked in single file, as instructed, to the mosque. When they reached the main road outside the mosque they heard a shout, but they could not understand what was being shouted. Eyad told me it could have been “now” in English. Then the firing began.
US soldiers appeared on the roofs of surrounding houses and opened fire. Eyad’s father was shot in the heart and his mother in the chest. They died instantly. Two of Eyad’s brothers were also hit, one in the chest and one in the neck. Two of the women were hit, one in the hand and one in the leg.
Then the snipers killed the wife of one of Eyad’s brothers. When she fell her five year old son ran to her and stood over her body. They shot him dead too. Survivors made desperate appeals to the troops to stop firing. But Eyad told me that whenever one of them tried to raise a white flag they were shot. After several hours he tried to raise his arm with the flag. But they shot him in the arm. Finally he tried to raise his hand. So they shot him in the hand. The five survivors, including the six-month-old child, lay in the street for seven hours. Then four of them crawled to the nearest home to find shelter."
So we have a place and time of occurence. We have witnesses who can talk to the investigators. Let's call the UN into this. Who's running the UN Human Rights Commission at the moment? Libya, that's right. An excellent choice to to start an investigation into this tragedy. I demand answers! Let's have Bushitler's head on a plate, with a side order of Rumsfeld and Cheney. ALL MUST PAY!
(Crossposted at Bastards Inc
Democracy in action
"John Howard has decided to send an extra 450 troops to Iraq. We should:
a. send no more and withdraw all Australian troops,
b. only go at the invitation of the new Iraq government,
c. send the whole Australian Defence Force."
In a demonstration of democracy, I urge you all to vote and let the Australian Greens party know what message needs to be sent to the Australian government. (*Cough*vote with your ConsCienCe*Cough*) In the words of the socialists, vote early vote often.
(Crossposted at Bastards Inc)
The Western Australian elections
AUSTRALIAN electors are a tolerant lot, generally loath to throw out governments after only one term. But in Western Australia voters have good grounds to make an exception and dismiss the Gallop Government when they vote tomorrow.The article then goes on to list the more prominent errors of Gallop's term, however it also points out that the Liberal Party, under Colin Barnett, have done next to nothing to show why they should be in charge either. Barnett's mistake yesterday was a comical howler:
Running the state should not be hard. With a resource-based economy which is less growing than galloping ahead at 7.5 per cent a year, born largely of China's insatiable desire for the state's gas and minerals, the job of government is basically to ensure public infrastructure is in place and to stay out of the way of the wealth-creating private sector. Yet Premier Geoff Gallop has managed to make a mess of providing services, which is the staple of state administration.
Journalist: "Under the figures, you'll be in deficit in 2006-2007."Matt Price called it "unutterably excruciating", and it's hard to disagree. That "critical column of figures" ended up being 11 areas where the extra $205 million was saved.
Barnett: "No, I'm sorry, we won't, we'll be in surplus."
Journalist: "That's what your numbers show."
Barnett: "No, we'll be in surplus, I assure you."
Journalist: "Your number is wrong then." Within an hour of the press conference, Mr Barnett telephoned media outlets to apologise and explain that a critical column of figures had been omitted from the documentation.
The other big story of the campaign is the 3700km canal going pretty much all the way across the state which Barnett plans to build. It's a huge public work like you'd see in Roman times, and while it sounds good in theory, there are two sides to it:
COST: It could end up costing more than $4 billion, while it has been costed (non-independently, mind you) at under $2 billion. This will require extra funding, which Barnett is almost certain not to get. So basically, he's screwed, unless he can convince someone with the cash of the...
BENEFITS: "It estimated the canal will add $475 million a year directly to Western Australia's regional economy, turnover effects will add a further $1.14billion, wages and sales $147 million, while 2800 direct jobs and indirect employment for a further 600 people will be created." That sounds quite good, but we all know it won't work quite as well as that. A run through of the facts of the canal, with a noticable Barnett slant can be found here.
Now for those that think that this isn't really that much money we're talking about, Western Australia is a state of around 2 million people, and the total cost of Gallop's promises comes to $1.1 billion. So to West Australian voters, you have a choice between more of the same horridness and something that could potentially be a lot worse, but at least has plans.
I'd lodge a protest vote (Christian Democrats, Family First, Democrats, it doesn't really matter as long as it's not the Greens) with preferences to the Liberals, and preference Labor in the Senate. The more pressure forced on whoever wins after their victory, the better.
(Cross-posted to The House Of Wheels. And no, I'm not from Western Australia and thus I won't be voting.)
The epidemiology of crime
If the hypotheses that crime is spread by memes and that the causation of crime is multi-factorial are valid, it should be possible to use epidemiological methods to understand the causation of crime – but with great caution.
Let me give a health-related comparison to explain why caution is needed. It was long thought that stomach (or peptic) ulcers in humans were caused by a reaction to environmental stressors. Treatment was primarily palliative, with the aim of reducing symptoms through a controlled diet and by reducing levels of stress.
A study in 1994 produced these conclusions:
“Age, inheritance, and cigarette smoking are all important risk factors for peptic ulcer. The increased risk associated with low educational background indicate that social strains, comprising lifestyle and diet habits, are part of the multifactorial aetiology of peptic ulcer. No support was found for the assumption that peptic ulcer disease is a psychosomatic disorder. This study did not support the view that duodenal and gastric ulcers have different aetiologies-rather it showed a similarity in risk pattern.”
This study was typical of the time and was considered credible, valid and reliable.Now we know (or we think we do, anyway) that most if not all peptic ulcers are caused by a bacterium, namely H. Pylori, with these consequences:
- 80% of peptic ulcers are cured with dual or triple therapy
- Two weeks’ treatment with amoxycillin, metronidazole and omeprazole are sufficient to eradicate the bacterium
- Short term recurrence rates are low
- Long term recurrence rates are unknown, as yet
- Drugs have changed the need for ulcer surgery over last 20 years
- Admissions for elective surgery have significantly reduced
- The incidence of complications remains unchanged
- May be increasing due to increased NSAID use in elderly
- Bleeding and perforation still have mortality of >10%
So, it is important in structuring any epidemiological study not to start with the wrong premise. The 1994 study was valid because it was predicated on the assumption that peptic ulcers were caused by environmental factors – that is then what the study looked for. What you measure is what you get.
Next time we will consider how to avoid falling into this trap when studying the causation of crime.
(Cross-posted at Temporanea)
Europe and the USA
I have been pondering the hypothesis that the XIX century Great Game is about to be replayed in the XXI century, but on a larger scale (see here for a good description of the earlier Game). The discussion of arms sales by Europe to China, with the USA bristling at the prospect, is a preview of what is to come.
My hypothesis is based on certain assumptions. First, the new Great Game, like the old, would be played and won through diplomacy, espionage and with subtlety, rather than with overwhelming shows of force. My judgment is that the USA has a poor record in both diplomacy and espionage and that subtlety is not its strong suit.
On the other hand, the Europeans, Chinese and Japanese have a very strong record, when it comes to using state powers and home-owned corporations to spy and plot to their own advantage.
Second, the USA has economic and military might on its side, but these advantages are waning in importance. This is because by the middle of the century, at the latest, Europe and China/Japan will match the USA economically and could, if they chose to do so, match the USA militarily. Also, in a globalised economy military power must be used sparingly, to minimise the risk of irreparably damaging the economic and financial flows on which all developed nations depend.
The attitude the USA is displaying vis a vis Iran and North Korea is illustrative of this point. These are not developed countries, but a war with either of these nations could have catastrophic implications for the world economy. This could not be said of Iraq or Afghanistan. Wars between countries that are capable of fighting back and are in pivotal geopolitical spaces are going to be avoided like the plague by anyone who understands the likely consequences.
Wars between developed countries are going to become even less likely later in the XXI century than they are in its first decade. After all, excluding the Falklands aberration (if Argentina in the 1980s rated as a first world economy, which is itself doubtful), the last war between developed countries was World War 2, which ended sixty years ago.
This is not dissimilar, in a way, from what Samuel P Huntington concluded in The Clash of Civilisations and the Remaking of World Order, though I disagree profoundly with many of his assumptions, a point to which I will return another time.
EU Arms Sales Watch
Taipei Times reports that President Bush is now hinting that the U.S. could take action against the EU if it lifts the ban without adequate restrictions on what technology can be transferred.
"There is deep concern in our country that a transfer of weapons would be a transfer of technology to China which would change the balance of relations in between China and Taiwan," Bush said.
Talks on the issue in Brussels with European leaders had been "constructive and open," he said, but signalled Washington might take punitive steps against the EU if it ends the ban.
Although he said he was open to EU efforts to draw up a plan to make lifting the 15-year-old embargo more palatable to Washington, he added skeptically: "Whether they can or not, we'll see."
For all that the EU rants against American oil interests in the Middle East (which is hypocritical as the entire developed world benefits from those same interests), it is no better in this case, as it is exporting a potential shift in the balance of power between a totalitarian pseudo-Communist power and a peaceful democratic people in favor of the totalitarians. Moreover, it would chip away at American advantages should a military showdown occur. For shame!
[Cross-posted at Between Worlds]
In The Symbolic Species, Terrence Deacon makes a strong case for the fundamental importance of language as a factor distinguishing humans from other animal species. He presents the hypothesis that language and the human brain have co-evolved to make us what we are, dealing a strong blow to both sides of the culture-nurture debate.
It may turn out that other species on Earth are capable of developing or using language, but there is no evidence that any species other than Homo Sapiens tells stories. The subject matter has varied greatly, from tales of giants, to tales of gods, onto romance, crime and adventure, down to the tales, homilies and diatribes pouring out of the many branches into which knowledge has been split by modern science.
The scientists might not be aware that they are engaged in story telling and might even deny it, fearing it might taint their work with the brush of subjectivity or, worse, with the whiff of fiction. However, it is obvious from a quick perusal of any book by Darwin or Stephen J Gould or Paul Davies or Stephen Weinberg that good science is the telling of a connected series of happenings.
Good science writing rises above the realm of data and information to give us access to learning and, sometimes, wisdom.
Stories come from within us and also shape us, as individuals, as communities, as nations and as a species. Stories carry the memes that make us who we are, generally in cooperation, but sometimes in conflict with our genes.
In the beginning, stories were painted on cave walls or told kinaesthetically, with and through objects and rituals. Then, the spoken word took over. Skilled and highly respected individuals with seemingly prodigious memories roamed the world connecting people and communities through their story telling.
More recently, as alphabets were invented and the scribes assumed pre-eminence, stories were written on whatever material technology could supply. The bards were confined to the stage and then to the cinema and TV.The ability to write became commonplace and to be well read became the hallmark of an educated, nay a civilised person.
Despite the seeming prevalence of visual media, the printed word remains dominant. We consume almost twenty thousand times as much reading material as people did at the beginning of the printed book, in the Middle Ages. Ten billion books are produced each year... how many blogs, I wonder?
Despite the appearance of great change, not much has changed, really, between the time of the scribe and the time of the printing press or of the e-book. Technology has made the written word cheaper to produce and cheaper to consume, but the creative process has remained largely unchanged.
This may not be so for much longer. It may be that the very nature of the creative process if being reshaped. A process that has been with us since our time in the caves is perhaps about to evolve into something new. There are straws blowing in the wind that presage that the times are changing, as a late 20th century bard used to tell us.
Where that wind is taking me is well-said by a another great story-teller.
"Where, for instance, is the identity of myself? There's a special quality that makes me different from everything else and also from all other selves. And I want that identity, my own self, to continue. So where does that identity dwell?"
"Where indeed?" asked the Buddha. "That self to which you cling is in constant change. Years ago you were a baby, then a youth, and now a man. Which is your true self—that of yesterday, that of today, or that of tomorrow which you so long to preserve?"
"I see I have misunderstood things," replied Kutadanta slowly, "and although I find it hard to endure the light, the truth now dawns on me that there is no separate and enduring self. I will take my refuge in your teaching and find that which is continuing and everlasting in the truth."
Majjhima Nikaya, from Buddha Speaks, edited by Anne Bancroft, 2000.
(Cross posted at Temporanea)
The Beirut Wall
Der Spiegel is not generally regarded as a serious publication, any more than, say, Rolling Stone or Vanity Fair. At least, when it comes to matters of foreign policy. Nevertheless, its readership, as with the other two, can be fairly wide. In any event, imagine my surprise to find that they've run an item suggesting that George W. Bush might actually have gotten it right with regard to how to advance peace in the Middle East.
Quick quiz. He was re-elected as president of the United States despite being largely disliked in the world -- particularly in Europe. The Europeans considered him to be a war-mongerer and liked to accuse him of allowing his deep religious beliefs to become the motor behind his foreign policy. Easy right?The author builds his credibility by sympathizing with the viceral disgust some folks experience when they listen to Bush's ideas (to say nothing of his voice), but challenges readers to recall that they had felt very much the same way about Reagan before, and thus open their minds to the possibility that maybe, maybe, they just might be wrong about Bush's vision.
Actually, the answer isn't as obvious as it might seem. President Ronald Reagan's visit to Berlin in 1987 was, in many respects, very similar to President George W. Bush's visit to Mainz on Wednesday. Like Bush's visit, Reagan's trip was likewise accompanied by unprecedented security precautions. A handpicked crowd cheered Reagan in front of the Brandenburg Gate while large parts of the Berlin subway system were shut down. And the Germany Reagan was traveling in, much like today's Germany, was very skeptical of the American president and his foreign policy. When Reagan stood before the Brandenburg Gate -- and the Berlin Wall -- and demanded that Gorbachev "tear down this Wall," he was lampooned the next day on the editorial pages. He is a dreamer, wrote commentators. Realpolitik looks different.
It was difficult not to cringe during Reagan's speech in 1987. He didn't leave a single Berlin cliché out of his script. At the end of it, most experts agreed that his demand for the removal of the Wall was inopportune, utopian and crazy.For those who reflexively tune out anything Bush has to say because he is a Republican, or because he's got a relatively high-pitched Texas twang, or because he's been compared to a chimp, but who do appreciate some good rhetoric, New Sisyphus has a great reaction to Bush's Brussels speech.
Yet three years later, East Germany had disappeared from the map. Gorbachev had a lot to do with it, but it was the East Germans who played the larger role. When analysts are confronted by real people, amazing things can happen. And maybe history can repeat itself. Maybe the people of Syria, Iran or Jordan will get the idea in their heads to free themselves from their oppressive regimes just as the East Germans did. When the voter turnout in Iraq recently exceeded that of many Western nations, the chorus of critique from Iraq alarmists was, at least for a couple of days, quieted. Just as quiet as the chorus of Germany experts on the night of Nov. 9, 1989 when the Wall fell.
Just a thought for Old Europe to chew on: Bush might be right, just like Reagan was then.
But, more to the point (and to remain consistent with the title of this post), the imagery of the Berlin Wall as a simile for the winds of change in the Middle East are captured even more succinctly in a piece by David Ignatius for the Washington Post, inspired by an interview with the anti-American, anti-Israeli, anti-Syrian Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, as wella s imagery in Beirut.
"Enough!" That's one of the simple slogans you see scrawled on the walls around Rafiq Hariri's grave site here. And it sums up the movement for political change that has suddenly coalesced in Lebanon and is slowly gathering force elsewhere in the Arab world.Indeed! It is important to recall that it is not absolutely necessary to the United States that new democracies in the Middle East are particularly pro-America, or even that they are friendly or lukewarm with America. All that is important is that their peoples be given a chance to make a better future for themselves, under the presumption that if they are too busy building schools and hospitals and banks and cafés, they won't be indulging in paying Palestinian families to encourage their teenage sons and daughters to blow themselves up in the hopes that little Israeli boys and girls will be annihilated along with them.
"We want the truth." That's another of the Lebanese slogans, painted on a banner hanging from the Martyr's Monument near the mosque where Hariri is buried. It's a revolutionary idea for people who have had to live with lies spun by regimes that were brutally clinging to power. People want the truth about who killed Hariri last week, but on a deeper level they want the truth about why Arab regimes have failed to deliver on their promises of progress and prosperity.
Jumblatt dresses like an ex-hippie, in jeans and loafers, but he maintains the exquisite manners of a Lebanese aristocrat. Over the years, I've often heard him denouncing the United States and Israel, but these days, in the aftermath of Hariri's death, he's sounding almost like a neoconservative. He says he's determined to defy the Syrians until their troops leave Lebanon and the Lahoud government is replaced.
"It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq," explains Jumblatt. "I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world." Jumblatt says this spark of democratic revolt is spreading. "The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it."
The United States has had the great fortune, since the end of the Second World War, of being able to build its economy and continue to improve its military capabilities at the same time. True, this has come at the cost of a large national debt, as well as expensive entitlement programs. But the U.S. is not at as much risk of going bankrupt as many European socialist regimes are. The one other contender for power in the second half of the Twentieth Century, the Soviet Union, was able to keep up militarily for several decades, but its economy was unable to keep up. It's a shame those Communists don't believe in the very capitalist notion of credit, I guess.
To take a very clear example, look at France. Its people can sometimes be even more anti-American than some Arab peoples, and its government has been decidedly anti-American since Charles de Gaulle, no doubt exacerbated by America's defense of Egypt against British-French-Israeli encroachment on the Suez Canal in 1956. Yet the French and the Americans manage to co-exist quite uneventfully, sometimes even quite happily. And nobody seriously thinks France would ever go to war with the United States or doubts how that war would turn out if it did happen.
The times, they're a changin'!
[Cross-posted at Between Worlds]