The family of a teenage girl who died after a health insurance company delayed approving her liver transplant has accused the insurer of putting money before their daughter's life. (source)
Maybe that invisible hand isn't so 'efficient' after all.
Saturday, 22 December 2007
Posts have been few and far between from me in recent times, though I hope, in the New Year, to provide some posts on Naomi Klein's latest book.
In the meantime, best wishes for the festive season to all who have loitered at this blog.
Tuesday, 4 December 2007
Those of you who thought the Cold War was over may not have noticed that some of the footsoldiers are still down in the bunkers, fighting for liberty, justice, and hotdogs.
To that end, I give you idiot of the week, 'La Russophobe'.
There are plenty of reasons why we might be concerned about contemporary Russia, not the least of which is the conduct of the recently re-elected authoritarian, 'oligarchic' Government. There is also the rise of the radical right, and concomitant bigotry directed towards blacks, Jews, gays, and Asians. There is the oppression of Chechnya, and there is also significant poverty.
Any of these things, along with several others, no doubt, would be pretty good grist for the mill for a Russia-watching blogger, with an eye on Putin and politics.
Sadly, La Russophobe goes further. She divides the world into 'Russophobes' (those, like herself, who oppose the Rooskies) and 'Russophiles' (everybody else, particularly Russians themselves). This black-and-whitism should give you a bit of a sense of the sort of George W style of 'logic' this blog contains.
The author explains the raison d'etre of her charming blog:
Don't forget: The main reason La Russophobe hates Russians is because they
are destroying themselves, in particular their innocent children...If Russians
want to shut La Russophobe up, all they have to do is stop failing.
Here the author uses the old Lovejoy rationale - Won't somebody think of the children!
Russia isn't the only country with a few problems at the moment. In fact, given the many conflicts occurring around the world at present, I doubt Russia is the first nation that comes to mind when it comes to people 'failing' their 'innocent children'. I mean, the US, for instance, has over two million people in prison, and this would seem to be a pretty harsh indictment of the ills of its society. But no, our anti-Tartar friend only 'hates' the Rooskies.
She also attempts to debunk several supposed myths about Russia, such as the following:
MYTH: Boris Yeltsin was loved by the ignorant West but hated by
REALITY: When Yeltsin told Russians to vote for Putin, they did so
Actually, Yeltsin was more beloved of the West than the Russians themselves, and is possibly the only person in human history too drunk to get into Ireland. After his corruption and incompetence, Putin's accession is almost understandable.
MYTH: Russia tried capitalism and it failed.
REALITY: Russia has never
been governed by anyone other than a king or a person raised under Communism. It
has certainly never been governed by a capitalist.
I think we need to ask some questions here of our authors' take on 'reality'. Last I heard, Putin and his cronies weren't exactly Marxists, and still less are they hippie commune types.
MYTH: Russia is the land of great literature and science.
famous as a land of hillbilly morons, has far more Nobel prizes for science and
literature than Russia.
Actually, both countries have their share of backwoods types. In any case, it's a rare treat to read a blogger with such fine taste in the arts. It's about time those hacks like Tolstoy and Dostoevsky were put in their place, so we can catch another episode of Girls of the Playboy Mansion.
MYTH: Russians are brave, and have shown it struggling against winter
REALITY: Russians are extraordinary cowards, and have shown it in
consistently refusing to oppose their own government. Russians fought foreign
invaders because the were more afraid of their own government than those
invaders, and because of their latent hatred of foreigners. Russians live with
the climate because they have no choice.
Venturing into the land of the truly unhinged, the author now seems to be forgetting those extraordinary cowards like Lenin and the Bolsheviks who, rightly or wrongly, stood up to Tzarist rule, or the millions who perished in WWII.
We shouldn't be surprised that, despite being a good candidate for an emergency psychiatric admission, this blogger is quoted with much approval on the right-wing blogosphere.
It's been a while since we've had such a stellar nominee for Idiot of the Week, and in the case of La Russophobe, the moniker is thoroughly deserved. Come on down and accept your padded cell!
Tuesday, 27 November 2007
At a time when the radical right of Russia are beating people senseless for the heinous crimes of being homosexual, Jewish, or 'foreign', that the country, and its leader, Vladimir Putin, are accused of being 'leftist'?
The 2007 election result must have addled a few brains. I'm just waiting on confirmation that Bill O'Reilly is a communist.
Whilst the sabre-rattling continues in the West over the 'Iranian crisis', many of you will no doubt have seen a story about a state that comes a lot closer to genuine theocracy (I won't use the non-sequitur of a name, 'Islamofascism'), Saudi Arabia.
Iran still manages to be subject to regular scrutiny by our media and politicians, in advance of a possible strike by the US, Israel, or both.
Naturally, any such war will be presaged by a litany of 'human rights' abuses which bombing Iran will necessarily put right.
Never mind that it is Saudi Arabia's government who has defended a court's decision to sentence a woman who was gang-raped to 200 lashes of the whip. The US State Department found enough confected outrage to term this sentence 'astonishing'. Nonetheless, the Republicans, normally so astute in matters Islamofascist, could not actually bring themselves to suggest that the sentence ought to be changed.
Never mind that of the minority of insurgents in Iraq who are 'foreign fighters' attacking 'our' troops, the largest proportion come from Saudi Arabia, according to a recent report.
Never mind the fact that, despite opposition from protesters, the Anglophone world's traditional imperialists recently (and sycophantically) rolled out the red carpet for King Abdullah, head of one of the world's least democratic regimes, Saudi Arabia.
Never mind that Judaism is banned in Saudi Arabia, and Israeli passport-holders are not permitted into the country. The purportedly genocidal Iranian regime cannot get rid of its Jewish population, even when the said population is offered bribes by Israel to leave.
No. It is Iran who must be punished, by sanctions at first, by war if 'necessary'.
Monday, 26 November 2007
It didn't escape my attention that on the eve of this year's election, Noel Pearson launched a scathing attack on Kevin Rudd, branding him a 'heartless snake'. This attack was prompted by an apparent wavering by Rudd on the issue of holding a referendum that would mention Aborigines in the Constitutional preamble.
At one level, Pearson is absolutely correct in questioning the professed good intentions of Rudd and the ALP. Any sane person would have to question the will of both major parties on Aboriginal issues, given that none has any particular stomach for a protracted fight on behalf of the Aboriginal people (mid-2007 military stunts by Howard notwithstanding). I don't expect that Rudd would be any different.
In fact, surely apart from Pauline Hanson and a few relics in the Nationals Party, there would be nobody in Australian politics with more contempt for the Aboriginal people, than John Howard.
So they question remains: why this shrill and meaningless attack on the ALP on the night before an election? Could it be a mere coincidence that this attack occurred precisely when the Libs were mired in race-baiting issues of their own?
I have had previous occasion to question Pearson's judgement, and the legitimacy of his claims of 'bipartisanship'. Surely this latest attack, however, is no lapse in judgement. Pearson is courted by the News Ltd Press, and he in turn feeds this press, (almost universally well-disposed to the Liberal Party), with soundbites and 'bipartisan' pieces that praise the Tory's cack-handed 'interventions', and repeat right-wing think tank cliches about 'elites'.
In short, I think Pearson is talking a lot of shit, and it's about time he was called on it. He seems increasingly like just another culture warrior, cashing in on his PC credentials. Little wonder, then, that that other 'bipartisan' News Ltd hack, Paul Kelly, makes a point of editorialising his stuff.
As opinion polling has predicted for the past 12 months, Howard's Liberal Government have been comprehensively repudiated by the Australian public.
The Liberals and their acolytes will need some time to pass before they can examine this result honestly. We can expect that, in the near future, only a few will have the intellectual cleanliness to admit that this election result was not merely a result of a bored electorate wanting a change. It was not simply a consequence of people thinking John Howard 'too old', and preferring a younger candidate.
Rather, Howard was lucky to have won 4 elections. Lucky in 1998 that he held onto marginal seats, after losing the popular vote. Lucky in 2001 that certain events (9/11 and Tampa) allowed the Libs to grimly hold on. And lucky in 2004 that Labor's Latham was perceived as unelectable.
Without world events or Labor implosions to assist, the Liberals never looked like the 'master politicians' that the News Ltd media think them.
Secondly, of all the reasons people have for voting against the Liberals (health, education, climate change), industrial relations is the single-biggest issue to distinguish this election from previous years'.
Many people, both on the left-leaning blogs, and elsewhere, argued that the polls pointed to a Lib defeat as a result of the 'doctor's wives' demographic. That is, the 'small l' liberals, also known as 'the Wets', would abandon Howard in the 2007 election as a result of the Liberal Party's social conservatism. It is well-known that the party is in thrall to far-right nutters and factional warlords in the NSW right branch. This, it was presumed, was driving the swing.
This hypothesis, in retrospect, was never entirely convincing. For instance, it did not account for why it was precisely in 2007 that the Wets would reject Howard, having presumably voted for him previously, when what we may politely term his 'social conservatism' was amply on display. It also failed to account for why, in this political climate, economically conservative and socially progressive parties (such as the Dems) could get no traction. As Robinson noted on the ABC site, 'liberalism' has been dead in the Liberal Party for some time now.
In contrast to this, I suggested a few weeks ago that there was a class-based analysis to which we could subject the polls. Namely, through his IR laws, Howard had declared economic and industrial war on Australia's poorest, many of whom would have been his erstwhile supporters. This suggestion did not find favour among some who encountered it at Larvatus Prodeo.
I suggested that if the Wets were driving the swing, then 'we should see big swings in seats such as Wentworth, Kooyong, Higgins, and Goldstein, among others'. If the class hypothesis were correct, then I predicted we might see major swings in places such as Corangamite, or McEwen.
Naturally, we cannot rule out the possibility of both options being at least partially correct. Nonetheless, I think the Workchoices/working class rebellion hypothesis goes the farthest in explaining the election result.
The results are not entirely counted at this time, but let us look at some of the figures thus far. The Wets' heartland in Wentworth appears to have recorded a 1.1% swing to the Liberals so far. North Sydney recorded a 4.8% swing to the ALP, in keeping with a trend that began at the 2004 election, and Goldstein experiences something similar (4.5%). Kooyong recorded a very minor ALP swing (0.7%), as did Higgins (1.9%).
How did the 'battlers' fare? Corangamite fell to the ALP (6.8% swing), and McEwen is poised to fall (6.6%). LaTrobe has recorded a similar swing (6.1%), with Holt voters changing their tune in a big way (11.1%).
Looking at individual polling booth results also yields some interesting analysis. For instance, in Kooyong, many of the wealthiest neighbourhoods (Hawthorn, Kew, Surrey Hills) actually recorded minor swings (1-3%) to the Liberals. In McEwen, for instance, outer suburban booths in 'mortgage belt' areas (Diamond Creek, Mill Park Lakes, Mernda) all recorded sizeable swings (6-10%).
Once final results are in, further analysis will be possible, but at this point, I think it is fair to conclude that Australia's working class has rejected the Liberals' cynical IR policies in a stunning fashion. We may also be approaching the time when we view 'liberalism' as increasingly irrelevant to Australian politics.
Any thoughts from readers on the electorates they know would be greatly appreciated.
Thursday, 22 November 2007
I'm referring here to a staffer of George Newhouse, the ALP's candidate for Wentworth in the election this Saturday.
Her name is Rose Jackson (daughter of former ABC presenter, Liz), and she had the audacity to make the following faux pas:
In an email addressed "Dear activists", Ms Jackson wrote to an internet education discussion forum last year: "I oppose Zionism because it calls for the creation of a Jewish state, and I think all governments should be secular.
Naturally, those great defenders of freedom and democracy (the usual suspects, I mean) have fallen over themselves, using Jackson's comments to demonstrate that all who criticise the Israeli government, or Zionism, are incurable anti-Semites, and inevitably of left-leaning persuasion.
'No Jewish, Islamic, Christian states anywhere in the world, just good, robust,
secular democracies,' she said. 'By speaking out on behalf of the Palestinians
and Lebanese people, we can give voice to those that some governments and media
would wish to silence...I'm just opposed to theocracy. I certainly support the
right of Israel to exist, but not as a Jewish state.' (source)
At one level, these critics of Israel's critics have a point. Jackson's characterisation of Israel as a 'theocracy' is confused, a point that Jackson herself later conceded.
The main objection to Jackson's comment, however, was not her mis-characterisation of Israel's Government - such slip-ups occur routinely, on all sides of politics. Rather, her detractors were outraged that she had the temerity to criticise the Israeli Government.
To clarify how the 'logic' goes - Palestinians are all either terrorists or supporters of terror. Terror is here used by the anti-Palestinian crowd to refer to attacks on civilians. Given that Palestinians can be more or less equated, wholesale, with terror, Israel's targeted assassinations can be understood as 'self-defence'. Collective punishment of the Palestinians is entirely appropriate - after all, they never learn in any case. Sure, the IDF feels free to kill with impunity, to execute without a trial - but special circumstances warrant special pleading. Sure, many more Palestinian civilians have been killed than Israeli - but these are 'accidents' (as if, after bombing or opening fire on civilians, IDF troops say 'Oops, my bad' when inspecting the aftermath). Sure, Israel may control almost every aspect of Palestinian life, and may have integrated Palestinian land and resources into their own economy, but hey - the Israelis won it fair and square.
This is more or less how the story goes, is it not? Supposed leftists who take issue with this narrative do not, as far as I can tell, endorse attacks on civilians, or support the Islamists' theocratic fetish, or deny that self-defence is a legitimate right. Nonetheless, these points are almost never granted.
Curiously, the Israelis themselves are not so squeamish when it comes to acknowledging that occupation may not be a barrel of laughs after all. Hardened Likudniks are ready to admit that the occupation is a nasty (though necessary) business - anti-Palestinians in the West are not willing to concede even this much.
As you can see, any criticism of the Israeli government, no matter how qualified, is liable to be 'rebutted' with accusations of anti-Semitism. After all, these charges against Israel have no basis in fact.
So never mind the ex-Israeli soldier who, writing of his experiences in the West Bank earlier this week, said:
[S]till the expansion continues, and still the stranglehold on the
Palestinians persists. While the Israeli public stays silent, while their taxes
swell the government's coffers, they are tacitly aiding and abetting slow
torture on a national scale. On top of the sporadic killing that the occupation
inevitably causes, the killing of an entire people's hopes and dreams takes
place 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. (source)
Perhaps he is one of those called 'self-hating' by the anti-Palestinians.
We should also ignore the death of a Palestinian teenager earlier this week:
Palestinian medical sources said nineteen-year-old Muhammad Al-Najjar was
riddled with 13 bullets.Eyewitnesses said Al-Najjar was standing in the door of
his house when Israeli soldiers disguised in civilian clothes approached him and
shot him without provocation. (source)
We should remain silent about the Palestinian children who are denied medical treatment by the State of Israel, according to well known Communist rag Ha'aretz - after all, 10-year old cancer patients are a threat to national security. And we should the alleged IDF storming of a refugee camp, shortly after Tony Blair visited it on a 'peace' mission. After all, any mention of such things would make you 'nasty and extreme', according to the blogosphere's least pernicious and most respected conservative commentator.
Tuesday, 13 November 2007
Or so some polemicists would have you believe.
In this article in the Financial Times, journalist Simon Kuper takes a long-overdue look at writers such as Melanie Phillips and Bat Ye’or, who eagerly propagate the notion that Islamic extremists are about to overthrow Europe.
The books in question in the review have salacious titles, such as While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within, Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis, Londonistan: How Britain is Creating a Terror State Within, or The Last Days of Europe: Epitaph for an Old Continent.
It ought to be obvious to anyone who has spent 5 minutes in Europe over the past few years that these books are spouting bullshit. With that in mind, I won't comment on all of Kuper's points, but will highlight a few money quotes:
A fixed trope of “Eurabia’’ books is the writer behaving as though only
he or she and a few other resistance heroes see Europe’s impending doom. Bruce
Bawer, a US journalist living in Oslo, credits his aunt for coming up with his
title, While Europe Slept, but Melanie Phillips sees Britain as forever asleep
too. “Only if we take up this civilisational gauntlet that has been thus thrown
down at us will we stop sleepwalking to defeat,’’ she concludes her book.
(Phillips writes for the Daily Mail, and reading Londonistan feels like being
imprisoned with a never-ending Mail editorial.)
This is straight from the Steyn playbook - the heroic anti-jihadist who stands up against the might of the Islamic menace. All the while, it is necessary for these people to forget that, in Europe, at least, this 'menace' isn't all that mighty, except in the minds of a few white supremacists. Nonetheless, with the overblown rhetoric and feverish imagination of a Steyn or Phillips, its not hard for the paranoid to view Europe's present situation as analogous to that of 1938, and to label anyone who dares question this motif as an 'appeaser'.
All these authors start with disclaimers that not all Muslims support terrorist jihad. This is then swiftly forgotten as the plans for jihad in Europe are outlined. Ye’or, for whom Muslims are always the same, describes jihad as a 1,400-year-old strategy. Like Bawer, she explains that “they’’ never got over losing Andalusia in 1492.
This is another familiar theme of the far-right blogosphere, namely, that Muslims are carrying grudges held since they lost Spain. We might, just as (il-)logically suggest that Christian America's warmongering is a continuation of Christians losing Constantinople.
About 16 million nominal Muslims live in the European Union, less than 4 per cent of the EU population. A tiny minority are terrorists. Nobody sane denies that. But the “Eurabia’’ theorists - with the partial exception of Walter Laqueur, the most judicious of them - seem to regard the mass of Muslims as the enemy. Phillips sees “a continuum that links peaceful, law-abiding but nevertheless intensely ideological Muslims at one end and murderous jihadists at the other’’.
The refrain of the radical right - 'there are no moderate Muslims' - is here given its 'intellectual' legitimacy by way of the Eurabians' posturing. A 'continuum' is a convenient way of abolishing qualitative distinctions and lumping a diverse cluster of people into an undifferentiated mass.
Kuper helpfully attacks the idiotic myth that Muslims can simply take over by breeding everybody else out of existence. If power were simply a matter of numbers, Asia would have dominated that world stage for the past hundred years. As Kuper explains:
[B]irth rates are likely significantly to decrease “eventually in the
Middle East and North Africa’’. In fact, they already have. In 1970 Algerian and
Moroccan women averaged about seven children each. Today the Moroccan figure is
below three, while the CIA World Factbook estimates the Algerian, Turkish and
Tunisian figures at below two, lower than France’s. No serious demographer
expects an Islamic takeover.
The other problem with forecasting numbers of
European Muslims in 2100 is the premise that sixth-generation European Muslims
will still be a foreign body in the continent - Islam as a bacillus that even
secular former Muslims carry around, forever dangerous.
One thing that the opponents of Islam, specifically, and immigration, generally, fail to understand is that immigration is a two-way process. An individual does not simply move to a country, spend years there, and remain the same as when he or she arrived. We might expect that the North African and Turkish Muslims who move to Europe experience a kind of 'liberalisation', and, for the most part, this is indeed the case. The interests of the Turkish kebab salesman in Kreuzberg, or the Moroccan youth in Marseilles, are not so vastly different to the other inhabitants of these cities.
Finally, before recommending that readers take a look at the entire column, here is a parting shot:
Islamic terrorists have committed about as much carnage in Europe in
the last dozen years as far-left terrorists did in the 1970s. This is not
Armageddon. But to concede that would render “Eurabia’’ literature pointless.
Its target market seems to be the US.
He forgot to mention the bigots and idiots of Australia.
Monday, 12 November 2007
I think it's time to collate the results of my blog poll.
The question was:
Who is the most nauseatingly predictable, sycophantically pro-Howard 'writer' currently in Australia's Murdoch media?
Easy - Andrew Bolt - 74%
Piers Wankerman - 3%
Janet 'skanky ho' Albrechtson - 2%
Gerard Henderson is Murdoch media, isn't he? - 1%
The chimp who does the editorials for the Australian - 6%
Who can pick just one? - 15%
Bolta, take a bow!
Of course, the one poll that matters will be held in less than two weeks, and, based on today's Newspoll result (55/45, Labor's way), should highlight just how useful all the pro-Liberal brown-nosing has been.
Wednesday, 7 November 2007
Thanks to a little spat in the radical right-wing blogosphere, we have further evidence of the wingnuts drifting so far to the right, they're falling off the spectrum.
The spat itself is some irrelevant internecine tiff among so-called conservatives, with allegations that one group are siding with anti-Semitic neo-Nazis, and counter-allegations that the said fascists were planted for the purpose of discrediting real Tories. This argument arose out of a demonstration of white nationalists in Belgium.
Closer to Australia's shores, we have the lunar right's take on the matter:
My position is going to be considered very radical indeed, even by those I
regard as friends and allies. It’s this:Our present track is taking us
inexorably towards slavery, whether by the bureaucrats and governments of the
left, transnational elites or radical islam. I see no effective way right now to
counter that, since every major public institution has been captured by the
left.Therefore, I’ll work with any organisation, any person who opposes it,
regardless of their ideology.Because their far-right ideology may (MAY) not
survive the resulting civil chaos, but neither will the left and we can sort out
the ideological details after the dust settles. The urgent task is to derail the
left and I’ll make a compact with the devil if that’s what it takes to do
Neo-Nazis, come on in! Just make sure you kick a Muslim or a lefty on your way. Apparently, this is justified because leftists and Muslims are forming an almighty alliance, and taking over vital institutions. Hey, we all knew that Marxists and Mohammedans ran the World Bank and the IMF.
The author explains his position further:
Should we on the Right insist on some ideal standard of ideological purity for
others before we'll accept them as allies? Revolting as anti-semitism is, the
far right hardly has a monopoly on it. The Left, remember is no friend of Israel
and anyone who doubts that has only to don a biohazard suit and trawl through
some of the more extreme lefty blogs.
I think he means those 'extreme' blogs that have the temerity to criticise Israel's treatment of the Palestinian people. This is somehow not merely anti-Semitic, but equivalent to neo-fascism.
We have to stop the left from setting the terms of this debate and if the
price of that is being labelled a Nazi or a fascist or a racist, then so be it.
They can take their labels and stick 'em where they belong--time enough to sort
that out after it has been made plain to the ruling elite that the voice of the
people will be listened to, or run the real risk of full-blown civil war.
The voice of which people? The ones rioting at Cronulla?
It's amusing that, at what should be the end of the Howard era, the true believers are either changing their stripes (like Bolt, for instance) or becoming increasingly unhinged (like Akerman, for instance).
As for the likes of our friend above, we will readily admit that most conservatives are not racist. Unfortunately for our friend, he is not a conservative, but a radical rightist. His talk of 'civil war' signifies that he has left the reality-based community, and is but one tinfoil hat away from a CAT referral.
Friday, 2 November 2007
Tuesday, 30 October 2007
Please note – this is a very long post. Bored readers are encouraged to wait a few days, when I will write some shorter fluff pieces. This argument a variant of “Capitalism needs a level of unemployment to work
This post is a response to a debate I had with Damien, examining the merits of unionism.
This is a multi-layered issue. At the most immediate and local level, the Federal Government’s Workchoices legislation appears to be deeply unpopular. Given that this piece of legislation is the major Federal policy initiative since 2004, and since it is also the major area of policy difference between the two parties, I think it is reasonable to say that the 2007 election hinges on how Australians want their industrial relations.
My opinion on the matter was that Workchoices served a number of interests for the Government, including centralisation of control on industrial matters, reducing the ranks of the Labor Party's financial support base (unions), maintaining corporate profits at a time of low unemployment by keeping down wages and conditions, and keeping wages from growing, and thereby slowing inflation. Contrary to much of the leftist blogosphere, I believe that blue-collar workers have recognised the threat to working conditions that Workchoices represents.
Consequently, I believe that Labor will be handed this election (narrowly) as a result of Howard’s foray into class warfare, and not because a few Liberal ‘Wets’ have decided that asylum seekers are important, after all.
In addition to the specific issue of Workchoices and the 2007 election, this debate has touched on the merits of unionism as a whole, and has implications for broader issues of the regulation or deregulation of the economy.
To present some context to the debate on ‘union power’, I will try to represent Damien’s theses fairly:
- ‘If unions get power and boost worker’s wages it boosts the cost of living (inflation) as businesses pass costs on to consumers. Plus now that labour is more expensive with greater union power it means that businesses can afford to employ less and so the unemployed stay poor.’
- ‘People on benefits from working Australians are also the most likely to be the poorest in Australia. So no.1 cause of being poor is no job. Giving them welfare handouts doesn’t cut it.’
- ‘Statistically there are well over 1 million Aussies that are either unemployed or would be ready for more work in 4 wks time if they could get it. That means we need to increase job supply…This may drop wages, penalties etc but then these benefits were only there excluding those that don’t have the benefit of work in the first place. This is especially true given the most unemployed are low skilled and low educated and so would benefit from some entry into the workforce at a lower pay.’
- ‘In fact, more than half on the minimum wage are from high income households, so dropping it will not greatly effect the poor.’
- ‘Economists predict that a 2% drop in real wages corresponds to a 1% drop in unemployment.’
- ‘[T]he enemy is wage increase which is not accompanied by productivity increases and the pre-1993 period made the increases easier to snowball.’
- Over recent years as the labour market has grown in flexibility so too has been a corresponding growth in productivity. Part of this has come from less reliance on awards and more on AWAs etc.
- ‘You can increase training to the hilt but it is no good if employment is too expensive for businesses to come to the table.’
‘There is nothing ‘magical’ about this whole process. It makes sense that a decrease in wage cost will provide more incentive for greater output from a business which means a greater demand for more employees.
The drop in union influence in Australia in recent years has seen greater productivity, real wage growth and unemployment decrease - see Access Economics report “Work Place Relations - The Way Forward”’
Addressing all of these points in detail would take something longer than a mere blog post, but I will try to sketch a few points in response.
It is curious that it is precisely now that the attack on unions has been ramped up, precisely at a time when many superficial readings of contemporary economics say that neo-liberal doctrine is the only game in town. Furthermore, it is should us as odd that the Howard Government introduced anti-union legislation precisely at a time of very high employment. Whilst employment levels have continued to increase, it is difficult to say that they are doing anything other than following a pre-existing trend.
Let us recall that unions emerged in response to the deregulation on 19th Century industrial capitalism. Each attempt at regulation of Western European industry was met with protest, and suggestions that industry would collapse should it have to incorporate child labour laws, limits to the working day, etc. Of course, capital ultimately did a good job of absorbing these faux-crises, and continuing to generate profit. The horrendous conditions of 19th Century industrial England, ably described in Das Kapital, had improved considerably within a couple of generations, thanks in large part to the trade union movement. In this sense, the union movement, far from being ‘anti-business’, actually served to maintain capitalism, merely taking the edge of its nastier aspects. For this reason, many early leftists regarded trade unionism as ‘counter-revolutionary’.
Today in Australia, union membership has clearly declined. About 50% of all Australian workers were unionists when Hawke came to power, compared to approximately 17% now. Nonetheless, it is worth remembering that unions are the largest political organisation in the country, with a membership that dwarves that of the combined numbers of all political parties. Australians will express, by democratic means, just what they think of workplace deregulation.
Deregulation & Unemployment
When we look at the behaviour of employers under conditions of deregulation, I see no reason to believe that ‘market forces’ serve anything other than the interests of employers. The tendency of employers to reform their behaviour, whether in terms of industrial relations, or, more recently, the environment, typically results as a consequence of pressure from within and without, and is usually met with significant resistance.
There are few truly ‘free’ markets to use as examples. Chile under Pinochet is arguably a case in point. Whilst Pinochet’s apologists hailed his economic ‘reforms’, many figures have suggested that, during his reign, the wealthy became very wealthy, whilst everybody else became poorer. It has taken the people of Chile a long time to recover from Friedman.
Little wonder, then, that employers’ advocates cry out for more ‘deregulation’. Yet there is still a persistent mystical strain in free-market thinking. Correlation is frequently mistaken for causation. For instance, when Damien says that ‘It makes sense that a decrease in wage cost will provide more incentive for greater output from a business which means a greater demand for more employees’, this is by no means self-evident. This is every bit as deterministic as vulgar Marxian economics, with the added obfuscation of a supposed causal link between incentive for ‘greater output’ and lower wages.
Similarly dubious assumptions are made by other agitators for deregulation. In a virulently anti-union paper, Gerard Jackson tells us that:
In the free market there is always a tendency for every factor of
to receive the full value of its product, especially labour. If
unions set wage
rates above the value of labour’s marginal product then
Again, there are some enormous assumptions made here – note the use of the terms ‘always’ and ‘every’. Absurdly, Jackson seems to miss the fact that if labour, as a ‘factor of production’ received its ‘full value’, then ipso facto the employer would cease to generate profit! No union in recent memory has set wages above the value of ‘labour’s marginal profit’, as this would self-evidently lead loss and downturn. The reality, of course, is that labour is almost never paid its ‘full value’. It is a question of ‘how much’ rather than ‘if’.
The extent to which labour is shortchanged is determined primarily by employers, and always with the profit motive in mind. When we speak of unions acting to shore up reasonable wage rates for workers, we are not speaking of paying workers beyond their value, since this logically cannot happen. We are merely talking about unions acting on behalf of their members to lessen the extent of the ‘shortchanging’ by which their labour is valued.
With the foregoing in mind, it cannot be held that unions ‘cause’ unemployment. Damien, and a variety of economists, repeatedly makes the weaker claim, namely, that unions maintain unemployment. By supposedly ensuring higher wages, unions act as a deterrent for businesses considering new staff.
This claim is as difficult to prove as it is to refute, as any statements here can only be based on the sketchiest of correlative evidence. There are always many factors determining unemployment – finding a single culprit is unlikely.
To submit this argument to a bit of reductio ad absurdum, the logical outcome of this thinking is an economic system like China’s, a much-feared ‘race to the bottom’.
Given that areas of staff shortage are generally for skilled, rather than unskilled employees, it seems unlikely to me that lowering pay and conditions will greatly assist employment of this latter group. A thousand lowly paid attendants of some sort will not fill a single vacancy in IT, teaching, medicine, etc. In reducing the pay and conditions of the lowly skilled, we are, in effect, depressing economic conditions, and run the risk of creating a ‘working poor’, all the more since Australia is experiencing conditions of relatively high employment. Let us note, also, that if Australia’s high employment rate has emerged as a result of ‘deregulation’, it has been that of the Hawke/Keating years, not Howard’s Workchoices. In an economic downturn, the latter legislation may facilitate great unemployment, given that employers are given the right to dismiss workers relatively easily, with few obligations by way of recompense. If the workforce has become increasingly casualised, surely this is in spite of the efforts of unions, rather than because of them.
I remain unconvinced that there is a substantial link between unions and the maintenance of unemployment. There is no evidence that this link exists in Australia. In countries such as Italy, where there are major differences in unemployment between regions, we also find that there are major differences in union membership between regions. The impoverished South is also the least unionized; the industrial North has a large, and, at time, militant union base.
In the US, the situation is different. Industrial law ensures that unions remain relatively weak. This weakness coexists with relatively low levels of unemployment in the US (I’m generalizing here, obviously the US is a big country). Nonetheless, even if we made the unsubstantiated assumption that deregulation and de-unionisation were responsible for this low unemployment, we still have to face the fact that the ‘working poor’ that has been created as a consequence by no means places the US in a better overall economic position. To be sure, employers are in a better position to profit, but the deregulators still need to explain why an unemployed Australian will almost certainly be in better economic health than a low-income American, and will quite likely have more money to put back into the larger economy. This is especially true when we observe that one of the artifacts of ‘deregulation’ in the US has been to drive down minimum wages in real terms over the past few decades. Hardly a success story, in other words.
In short, I don’t think that anyone can conclude satisfactorily that unionism maintains unemployment. Furthermore, I think we can conclude that ‘deregulation’ and the weakening of the union movement will almost certainly correspond with diminishing wages and conditions for those who are employed.
In some respects, this is a moot point for Australians. Workchoices, consisting of 1,200 pages of legislation, is the precise opposite of ‘deregulation’. None of this should surprise anyone who knows the Howard Government for its widespread use of corporate welfare and agrarian socialism. There are many compulsions built into the legislation, which even goes so far as to limit employers’ abilities to work constructively with unions in hammering out agreements.
Obviously, there is nothing in this legislation that remotely resembles a ‘level playing field’, or that allows worker and boss to be equal partners at the negotiating table. A boss can remove conditions and fire almost at will. The worker, on the other hand, does not even have the right to withdraw his or her labour! This is true even if the worker is attempting to negotiate for an AWA. Workchoices and deregulation are, I in this sense, two separate arguments. The main shared feature is anti-unionism.
Unionism and working conditions
I looked at some of the references provided in favour of the pro-deregulation, anti-union argument. I think that any attempt to correspond ‘reform’ in the economic sphere with reform in the industrial sphere must be met with strict limitations, but here is a brief look at some papers.
The 1998 article by Peter Dawkins argues for lower unemployment by way of lower wages and, to a much lesser extent, sustained economic growth. Whilst Dawkins says that there is ‘strong evidence’ that constraining wage growth will lead to increased employment, much of the paper is merely assertion. Dawkins himself acknowledges that, in the case of skilled workers, constraining wages (to minimise inflation) is actually likely to be antithetical to ‘market forces’ in a period of growth! Dawkins seems to presume that there are various disincentives to working, yet does not consider that reduced wages for unskilled workers may increase the disincentive to work. Moreover, he proposes that, in order to offset the impact of lower wages on the poor, we would need to implement a flat tax rate of 50% or more, particularly for higher-income earners. Again, this is hardly deregulation, and I can’t see Dawkins’ arguments winning much sympathy from the free-marketeers.
The article by Access Economics’ Charles Richardson, commissioned by the Business Council of Australia (itself a kind of union) is, like many in this field, entirely partisan in its sympathies. We would no more expect it to advocate against the interests of capital than we would expect ACTU media releases to argue against unions.
Overall, the paper reads more like a manifesto than an argument. A number of wild assumptions are made throughout the paper. For instance, consider the statement ‘fairness is better achieved through taxes and transfers than industrial relations policy’. Firstly, this statement is far from controversial, and is not exactly demonstrated by Richardson. Secondly, what precisely is Richardson proposing in concrete terms? A system of increased welfare to offset what would necessarily be a less fair industrial system? Notably, Richardson dismisses Australia’s long history of unionism, and workplace regulation (not all of which is directed toward ‘prosperity’ ends) as ‘mistakes’. This apparently ignores the fact that precisely these measures have given Australia one of the best standards of living, and standards or working, in the developed world.
In this climate of supposed deregulation, it should also be noted that, whilst workers are discouraged from collective bargaining, small businesses are encouraged to do the exact opposite. The Government’s own advertising material, aimed at business, avers that collective bargaining ‘enables businesses of all sizes to work together co-operatively’, and adds ‘flexibility’, ‘efficiencies’, more ‘power – without compromising individuality’, and ‘greater control and support when it comes to making the deal’. Are we supposed to believe that these benefits do not likewise exist for workers, as well as businesses?
These double standards are particularly galling when one considers Workchoices. AWA’s were already readily available to all workers under pre-existing legislation, but simply had a ‘no disadvantage’ test to dissuade employers from excessive shafting of workers. Even a year ago, they applied to only a tiny proportion of the workforce – about 3.1%.
Unskilled, poor and female workers are the most likely to be shafted under the new legislation. AWA’s tend to lower wages, and the above Griffith University study showed that women on AWA’s were working more than those on a collective agreement, but were receiving 5% less pay. When the Government were kind enough to share their figures with us, we learnt that 45% of AWA’s strip conditions to which workers would have been entitled under an award:
‘Conditions were stripped from the vast majority of the agreements examined,
and these included shift loadings (removed in 76 per cent of the agreements),
annual leave loading (59 per cent), incentive payments and bonuses (70 per
cent), and declared public holidays (22.5 per cent).'
This in a country where Australians already work long hours, already sacrifice much time with loved ones, and already have a poor ‘work/life balance’. One might have expected the free-market economists to place some value on these things also. Another study foung the new ‘no disadvantage test’ was ‘failing adequately to protect employees from a deterioration in their terms and conditions of employment’. Naturally, the Government no longer releases such data.
Unless the Government hopes that increased devaluation of females in the workplace will be some sort of backhanded incentive to more procreation, I can’t see the economic or societal benefits of such a manouvre. And this is another point that is missed by those with a narrow focus on ‘market forces’ and economic rationalism. Deregulation of the workplace can have a range of unintended consequences beyond the economic sphere, whilst unionism brings many non-economic benefits. At the broadest and most abstract level, a functioning union provides a democratic voice for workers and their interests, interests that are not worth less than those of business or various other lobbyists. It is no coincidence that from Saddam’s Iraq, to the former military junta of Indonesia, to Communist Poland, to contemporary Colombia, people with money and power violently persecute unionists.
At a more practical level, it requires fanciful leaps of the imagination to expect that workers’ OHS issues, for instance, can be ‘self-regulated’ by industry (or even Government, for that matter), or that any effective OHS system can emerge spontaneously simply by employers getting together and feeling charitable one day. Increased deregulation of the economic end of the workplace will correspond with increased deregulation of the OHS aspects too.
It is woth mentioning in passing that, for the individualists out there, there is nothing ‘individual’ about AWA’s whatsoever. An academic study found that AWA’s are used for 3 reasons: to foster employee/employer relations, reduce labour costs, and promote union avoidance. Far from offering more choice to workers, these authors found the opposite:
‘While it is possible for employers to utilise individual contracts to
foster closer ties with individual employees, the literature widely notes that,
in practice, there is generally not much that is “individual” about individual
agreements. In fact, individual contracts are often referred to “…as standard
packages, individually wrapped”. … [T]he widespread rhetoric of
“individualisation” has, in the practical sense, been accompanied with a general
trend towards greater standardisation of the employment contract.’
All in all, the evidence points to a widespread deterioration of working conditions subsequent to Workchoices and its ‘deregulation’. There are economic benefits, of course, but the evidence strongly suggests that these are reserved solely for employers.
I thought it may be useful to look at unionism under the aspect of productivity, and specifically, to challenge the myth that unionism equals reduced productivity, This is supposed to occur because unions impose work rules and conditions that make employers less efficient. There is significant evidence opposed to this myth.
For instance, Ron McCallum of Sydney University reported that, in the mining industry at least, there was no evidence that productivity was improved by moving workers onto individual agreements, and that managers largely sought such agreements for ideological, rather than economic reasons.
US researchers, among others, have argued that collective agreements give workers an incentive to improve productivity, by granting them a greater share in productivity gains:
literature points to the fact that
and high productivity are
certainly compatible. A recent study
broad swath of the literature,
concluding “a positive association
unions on productivity] is established for
the United States in
general and for U.S.
manufacturing” (Doucouliagos and
Laroche, 2003: 1).5
Earlier research also
came to similar conclusions. Brown and
373) found in looking at
manufacturing industries that
establishments are about 22 percent
more productive than those
that are not.”
Furthermore, the gains of productivity, which are not equally distributed at the best of times, are particularly inegalitarian under a de-unionised workplace system. In the three years from 2001 in the US, the above paper shows that corporate profits jumped by over 62%, whilst labour compensation grew by 2.8%. CEO’s are regularly given productivity-related wage bonuses, to the tune of millions, whilst such bonuses are supposedly ‘harmful’ to the economy if given to workers. This makes mock of arguments that contend that the economy is best served by anti-unionism. To say it again, a small minority receives economic gains – the rest work for them.
There are other economic and productivity benefits to unionism, such as lower turnover, which, in turn, means lower training and hiring costs.
Some papers have argued that the jury is still out on the positive correlation between unions and productivity, but, even here, where productivity gains are not achieved through unionization, it appears to be more reflective of the particular union (and workplace) in question than an inherent impossibility of the thing occurring.
International comparisons yield more evidence to suggest that the economic benefits of de-unionisation are dubious, at best. For instance:
‘The dramatic drop in unionization in the United States from 1979 to 2005 did not lead to faster productivity growth than in the seven largest European countries with union density greater than 60%. In fact, those countries' average annual labor productivity growth of 1.7% equaled productivity growth in the United States. Output per hour worked is higher in the Netherlands, France, and Belgium, where more than 80% of employees have union contracts (compared to the United States' 12% unionization).’
At the very least, we can safely conclude that unions do not harm productivity, and are likely to improve it.
I think I’ve outlined some good reasons to believe that unions are beneficial, not only to workers, but to the Australian economy as a whole. Many of the counter-claims do not, in my view, withstand scrutiny.
I understand the theory underlying the presupposition that unions drive up inflation, but in practice, I’m yet to see evidence for this happening in contemporary Australian politics.
Furthermore, the argument that unions are contributing to unemployment is also suspect. Even if we accepted it as true, it is the wages of unionized workers that is providing the unemployed with their sustenance. I assume that those who are pro-deregulation prefer private charity to public handouts. If this is the case, why do they wish to impede the ability of workers to distribute wealth privately?
Lowering of conditions and wages is likely, above all else, to result in the creation of a ‘working poor’, and create a concomitant drop in living standards. This is not desirable in Australia, a country which, for all of its faults, comes closer than most to being egalitarian, and being relatively free of overt class antagonisms.
I do not accept the notion that half of low-income/minimum wage earners are from high-income households. Those who are from such households are presumably the children or spouses of high-income earners, and not the sole providers to a family. In any case, undercutting the working conditions of women and children will eventually lead to reduced employment of breadwinners. Even now, we are all familiar with the phenomenon of employers working casualised teens to the bone from the age of 15, only to abandon them at 21.
Finally, the claim that productivity, so central to economic growth, is hindered by unionism is not supported by evidence. On the contary, the converse may be true.
We can readily understand why the likes of the HR Nichols society, or the Business Council, might advocate anti-union, de-regulatory policies. These groups are merely acting on behalf of their own interests. It is considerably more baffling that it should be thought appropriate for workers to be prevented from acting in their own best interests.
Many of the foregoing points are merely academic. Despite Howard’s claims, ‘union bosses’ have negligible influence over Labor policy. See the current nurses strike in Labor’s Victoria should you need any evidence of this.
Finally, I’d like to respond to one of the intertubes’ more belligerent commenters, who attempted the following counter-arguments to my earlier posts:
The benefits to employers of unemployment are obvious. The notion that economic growth creating a state of ‘equilibrium’ strikes me as almost theological. It is as if embracing ‘economic rationalism’ is akin to Jack planting his magic beans in the ground – miracles will just happen, take my word for it!
properly”, which is of course total utter bullshit.
As the economy grows and
more capital is invested in business more employment is generated until there is
a shortage of labour and what occurs is an equilibrium where everyone is
employed. This however doesn’t destroy the market place as businesses will
continue to compete for a persons labour.
Since when do you run an economy on feelings? Of course labour is a
commodity. I still don’t get why it is an axiom with left that economic
rationalisation is a bad thing.
Finally, it has always struck me as paradoxical that self-identified conservatives should be comfortable with the commodification of everyday life, and with the instrumentalisation of all human relations, where each individual is merely a means to somebody else’s end. One cannot worship two gods, and acolytes of the god of the marketplace inculcate consumerist values in everybody from a very young age. The conservatives look at the decay of contemporary society, with its grappling with fundamentalism, the trivializing of all human relations (including marriage, and parenthood), the reduction of humans, particularly women, as mere objects or ornaments, where any ‘experience’ is a mere consumer item, ready-made for purchase, where we see the prevalence of depression, and narcissistic pursuits of quick self-gratification. Having observed and decried these things, they find it easier to blame this on the sinister machinations of far-left ideologues than submit out social and economic systems to even a minutes’ scrutiny. Worship of the neo-liberal market place precludes both conservatism and radicalism – it is, strictly speaking, ‘liberal’.
This argument a variant of “Capitalism needs a level of unemployment to work
Saturday, 27 October 2007
Life doesn't really allow us the opportunity of performing controlled experiments in the area of philosophy. The 2007 Australian Federal Election will, however, give us the opportunity to test a hypothesis or two.
I think by now it's reasonable to assume that there will be an overall swing toward the Labor Party. Whether this swing will be enough to see them elected is another question, but several months of polls have consistently put Labor's popularity in the stratosphere, compared to the incumbents. A Liberal staffer has supposedly admitted that his comrades are 'shitting themselves'.
In some states, particularly Queensland and Western Australia, Labor hit pretty close to rock bottom at the last election, and were always likely to bounce a little, if only slightly.
The blogosphere and media are busily trying to analyse the whys and wherefores of the impending swing. One theory doing the rounds is the notion that so-called 'small "l" liberals', (also known disparagingly as 'doctor's wives'), in traditional, blue-ribbon Liberal seats, are turning away from Howard.
This theory suggests that the small l's can get all the 'fiscal conservatism' they like from Rudd, without having to endure Howard's ugly social policies. If this theory is correct, we should see big swings in seats such as Wentworth, Kooyong, Higgins, and Goldstein, among others. Some of these seats have never been held by Labor, and it's difficult to imagine the extent of blue-rinse suicides should such a theory eventuate in practice.
The other theory that has also done the rounds, and to which I'm somewhat partial, is what I'll term loosely the 'materialist' theory.
Howard has reignited class warfare with his attacks on unions, and especially, with his gutting of workers' rights via Workchoices.
Sure, unions are in decline. They still have about 1.7 million members, which is substantially more than the combined membership of all political parties.
And sure, our friends at News Ltd tell us that 'class no longer exists', and is merely a rhetorical fiction, intended to keep aging Trots in print. Those doing overtime on AWA's might beg to differ when examining their payslip.
If this theory is correct, we might see the biggest swings not in blue-ribbon seats, but rather, blue-collar seats. AWA's, interest rate rises and the Liberals' hollow claims about economic prosperity don't play so well among the so-called Howard's battlers. If I am correct in believing that these people will respond to the economic and industrial warfare being waged against them, we should see major swings in seats such as Corangamite, Paramatta, and even McEwen. I take my examples from Vic and NSW as I know these two states better than the others, but some people may have other suggestions.
Of course, it could also happen that both groups of voters swing towards Labor. At this point, I'm not so sure that this will occur. Despite some recent fluctuations in polling data, I'd guess the 'real' 2-Party Preferred vote is something like 55%-56% for Labor at the moment. The fluctuations have generally been well within the margin of error. If both groups are swinging, we might see an election of Canadian proportions.
We shall see which explanation is the more likely after several more long weeks.
This was an election-related post from 23/10. I gave some of the ideas contained therein a run on Larvatus the other day, and some people were mortified at the idea that supposed Liberal Wets were not going to single-handedly give Labor a victory.
Friday, 26 October 2007
Earlier in the week, I posted on a topic that had been on my mind a while, namely, the way some extreme rightists attempt to smuggle authoritarian, proto-fascist views under the aegis of libertarianism, or conservatism. In particular, I cited the examples of AWH blogger John Ray, who seems to expend most of his creative energies trying to demonstrate that blacks are intellectually inferior to whites. I also referred to his hapless follower, serial blogstalker Iain Hall, who has issued his unwavering support for Ray and his cronies.
In predictable squadristi fashion, my post was met with hostility.
Iain Hall continues to flood my comments threads with his efforts at dissembling, and appears to be carrying on a flame war with a character named Fang. He also seems to have turned his own blog into a 'Partisan Watch' site - 3 of his last 5 posts are dedicated to me.
Hall continues to view himself as a martyr of Christ-like proportions, when the only similarity he has with JC is an unwashed beard. Notably, he is the only defender of Ray's obnoxious, racist views. Anyone familiar with Hall's inept blogging will attest to the fact that, with friends like him coming to your defence, you really don't need enemies.
The response over at AWH has been less innocuous. Ray has been churning out post after post after post on his many blogs, attempting to lend a scientific veneer to his views on the intelligence of blacks. Here are some more pearls of Ray wisdom:
Glad you cleared that up for us.
The outrage brigade will have stopped reading by now but I must make
clear that I am NOT equating blacks with chimpanzees. Blacks are clearly vastly
more intelligent than chimpanzees.
Ray attempted to refute the claims of a statistician who pulled apart the mathematical basis for factor analysis and IQ testing:
An inauspicious start from Ray, who is perhaps attempting to refute his opponents by way of mentioning their ancestry. He concludes:
Cosma Shalizi is a rather egotistical-sounding young man of apparently
The sloth should rise above his fascination with mathematical processes and
focus on the underlying reality.
It seems our good Herr Doktor is not afraid to indulge in the personal abuse he professes to abhor. It also seems that he thinks he has privileged access to the 'underlying reality' of IQ-related matters. And what is this 'underlying reality'? According to Ray, it is nothing other than blacks being intellectually inferior to whites.
Naturally, the flailing from AWH's blackshirts didn't stop there. Ray penned this post accusing yours truly of 'hate speech'. As we might expect, his mindless sycophants and jesters chimed in with some charming comments:
And did you notice those very nasty allegations he made. Now if it was a(MK)
Hicks or some murdering terrorist, he'd be braying about rule of law, evidence
and international law, but for a Conservative blogger, no worries. No need for
any of that, just throw about any allegation or slur under the guise of free
His nom de blog "Happy Revolutionary" ought to tip anyone off that he is(kman)
just another Che T-shirt wearing,anti everything democratic -loser.
AWH should put a bounty out for his photo and address.(Panday)
PandayI would like to see that scrote have to own the vile slurs that he(Iain Hall)
splashes about with gay abandon but as attractive as the idea of giving him a
taste of his own medicine may be we should resist the temptation of descending
to his slime filled level. By all means he should be outed though. I have
absolutely no problem with anyone writing under a pen name but when someone,
like Hap, uses anonymity to slander people, who write in their own names, then
these anonymous scumbags become an open target to be named and shamed.Personally
I offer a bottle of Scotch to anyone who can name the scrote.
Hall doesn't seem to grasp that it's no act of virtue for unemployed hacks like himself and Ray to post under their names. Their identities are, after all, worthless.
Finally, I've long since been banned from commenting at AWH. This isn't something over which I've cried myself to sleep. There's no sense in debating these people, though there is some value in confronting them. In any case, when I open up the AWH comments page on haloscan, my ISP number is recognised, and I see a message at the top of the screen indicating that my comments will not be published. I was curious, then, to see that somebody had been publishing under my name and avatar here and here, to which AWH responded by launching a homophobic tirade.
So there you have it. Iain Hall is once again trying to 'out' his ideological enemies. AWH is still homophobic and racist. Ray is still trying to encase his contempt for blacks in scientific tartuffery. And deranged, far rightist trolls are using sock puppets, and impersonating me in an attempt to make their points.
Plus ça change, eh, mon amis?
Not content to flood my comment threads with idiocy, or devote his own blog to lame critiques of my posts, Hall has now taken to writing threatening emails. I received this today (26/10/2007):
Remove the vile slur from the text of your post, I won't expect
an apology because you don't have the honour for it to mean anything , and we
can all move on to far more important matters of political discourse. But know
this should you fail to do the right thing here I am not going to let this
matter drop. You will be pursued wherever you go using this blogging identity
and when your real identity is discovered, as it will be, you will be named and
shamed. There is a line, in even the most heated political debate, that should
never be crossed and you sir have crossed that line.
Once again we have this great defender of Western freedom trying to bully others into silence.
Ironically, there isn't actually any 'slur' directed at Hall, other than some attacks on his feeble 'arguments'. Once again, Hall has no shame, as he clearly intends to add to his long history of cyber-stalking, bullying and harassment.
Thursday, 25 October 2007
I think it's time for a bipartisan plea for a couple of words to be respected. Some words tend to get thrown around in political (and other) debates with scant regard for how they might actually be used properly. A couple spring immediately to mind, though other people may have other suggestions:
It's standard fare in a blogospheric debate for one party to accuse the other of 'projecting'.
Often, this arises from Debater A telling Debater B that he/she is 'hate-filled', or some other such thing. B then tells A that he/she is 'projecting', which is little else than a slightly more sophisticated way of saying - 'I know you are, but what am I?'.
The term projection derives from psychology and psychoanalysis. In the former discipline, its usage is somewhat 'loose' and outdated, but in the latter, it has a very precise meaning. I'll look briefly at both in turn, drawing somewhat from LaPlanche and Pontalis in The Language of Psychoanalysis.
The 'loose' use of projection can be found in psychological discourse for much of the 20th Century. I take it to signify, more or less, the act of 'meaning construction' or 'subjectivisation' or 'personal interpretation' undertaken by individuals. Almost every detailed paradigm within psychology has a theory of projection in this sense. Cognitivists, humanists, and psychoanalysts would all grant that individuals actively construct the meaning of their worlds, though different theorists differ as to how this occurs. This is the sense in which 'projection' is used with reference to 'projective tests', such as the Rorschach, for instance.
Consequently, this use of the term projection is too broad to have any use in debate. By this definition, one could accuse one's opponent of 'projection' almost anything, because the process of 'meaning construction' or 'sense making' is, in part, 'subjective' for all people. By this reasoning, we can see that the likes of Bolt and co, who use the term 'projection' frequently to disparage ideological opponents, are merely engaging in lazy and half-understood rhetoric.
The psychoanalytic usage of projection (Projektion) is much more precise, and derives, understandably enough, from Freud. Freud used the term to refer to a paranoid or psychotic defense mechanism, and expounded this notion at greatest length in his account of the Schreber case.
In psychoanalytic terms, projection should not be confused with transference, or with the 'loose' meaning of the term. To risk a somewhat simplified definition for the sake of brevity, Freud distinguished between the subject and the 'outside world'. Freud uses the term projection to refer to an instance of the subject finding an aspect of him or herself radically unacceptable, and, rather than come to grips with this 'something', dislodging it onto a part of the outside world.
In the case of Schreber, for instance, Freud argues that the subject projected his latent homosexuality onto his clinician, and ultimately, onto god.
Projection presupposes that the feeling or wish being projected is something the subject refuses to recognise. To look at a hypothetical example, take a self-described 'Howard-hater' who accuses the PM of contemptuous treatment of asylum seekers. Let us then imagine that the Howard-hater's interlocutor accuses him/her of projection their own malevolent tendencies onto the PM. We can see that, in this case, it makes no sense at all to refer to projection, since there is apparently nothing disavowed or unrecognised in the Howard-hater's position. Even if there were, it is highly unlikely that, according to any psychoanalytic definition, the unacceptable 'thing' would sit neatly at the surface of some argumentative discourse.
In a nutshell, it makes little sense to accuse one's opponents of projection, unless one is being ludicrously general, is referring to clinical practice, or is simply being speculative. In any case, the term is not suitable for rational debate.
There have been plenty of discursive shifts in the so-called 'post-9/11 world', one of which is to band the term 'existential' about as a predicate, to lend ballast to whatever empty noun one is expounding on. For instance, how many times have we heard some 'expert' on a current affairs show ramble about the 'existential threat' posed to a nation-state?
The obvious rejoinder to this sloppiness is to distinguish between an 'existential threat', and a 'threat to existence'. The two are not the same.
It may be useful here to think of Walter Kaufmann's edited book, Existentialism From Dostoevsky to Sartre.
Kaufmann traced the first use of the term 'existential' to the Danish philosopher Kierkegaard. It was the German philosopher Heidegger, however, who referred to his musings in Being and Time as 'existential analyses'. It should be remembered that, despite this, Heidegger affirmed that his philosophy was not itself 'existentialist', and ultimately this philosophy took a different path to that suggested by Being and Time.
Heidegger studiously avoided referring the 'existential' to anything we might broadly term 'concrete'. Heidegger's 'existential' analyses were, he said, ontological analyses, that is, analyses of 'being', and were not referred to consciousness or the empirical world in any great measure. Since our good foreign policy experts never speak of 'ontological' (or ontic) threats, we may reasonably presume that they are not Heideggereans.
The first and foremost self-proclaimed existentialist philosopher was Sartre. However, for Sartre, an existential 'crisis' or 'threat' was something that related primarily to meaning. It is the feeling of Angst one experiences when one contemplates openly the alleged void of meaninglessness at the heart of existence, or the irreducible fact that, as subjects, we are doomed to die. The existential, for Sartre, is bound up with the subject's consciousness, and cannot ever be used sensibly in relation to something like a nation-state, since this latter is a mere abstraction in Sartre's terms. In Camus' L'Etranger, it is just as 'absurd' that the protagonist must die 'in the name of the French people', as it would be any other grouping of people.
In short, 'existential' threats refer to individuals, not nations, and ought not to be confused with the threat of death. People emerge through existential threats by a range of means - reflecting upon life, seeking love or pleasure, listening to Leonard Cohen - but the threat of death is not dismissed via the same means.
So please, dear readers, when encountering foreign policy 'experts' who refer to existential this, and existential that, ask them to pick up a book for Freud's sake.
Tuesday, 23 October 2007
Since rage against Islamo-Fascism continues to be the new black this season, I thought I'd share a couple of relevant comments/posts:
As a woman, I really hate the way that the government of Iran treats women
in Iran. That does not mean that I want to bomb the women of Iran.
Oh the Feminists hate Republicans
And Republicans hate the Feminists
To mock all Feminazis
Is an old G.O.P. rule
But during Islamo-Fascism Week
You’ll see Ann Coulter On Our Backs at USC
She’s helping Muslims seek
Their Feminine Mystique
Simone De Beauvoir’s really very
Monday, 22 October 2007
Fascism, via other means...
In the Western World, the 20th Century was a battle, above all else, against fascism. It is convenient for some revisionists to suggest it was a battle against socialism - such revisionists invariably confuse the policies of the USSR with those of socialism itself.
Nonetheless, the ideology of the radical right persists in its attempts to
legitimise itself. To that end, the radical right, in Australia, at least, often
eschew the imagery and symbols of the Reich, whilst retaining similar
Since the vast bulk of people are repulsed by any politics that extols racial and religious discrimination, violence toward minority groups, vulgar Darwinian social and economic policies, and imperialism, it is necessary for the radical right to smuggle their doctrines into the mainstream vie other means.
These 'other means' are most frequently libertarianism and conservatism, of different sorts. Science, or at least a cartoonish version of it, is another vehicle for the radical right. Naturally, libertarianism, and even conservatism, are not explicitly and inherently racist. They do provide convenient shelter for would-be flag-wearing jackbooters.
Enter AWH blogger John Ray, he of the countenance below, and with a penchant for pseudo-intellectual justifications for bigotry:
Not to mention his witless followers, such as the increasingly embarrassing Iain Hall:
Would any responsible adult leave their children alone with either of these men?
An Aside on Intelligence
(I will offer a very brief aside on 'intelligence', as this concept is not the primary subject of my post. Simplistic nature versus nurture arguments are largely obselete, since these concepts are indiscrete. If we follow the theory of natural selection, 'nature' is itself determined by 'nurture'. Nature in turn may influence the sorts of nurture that one receives. Intelligence testing is predicated on the hypostasised warblings of the psychometricians. It serves a practical purpose for individuals. For instance, a child struggling at school may benefit from IQ testing, in order to establish his or her relative strengths and weaknesses, and 'learning style'. From IQ testing, we may learn that a child may benefit from greater 'chunking' of information, or may benefit from visual cues when presented with verbal stimuli. IQ testing is also a determinant in qualification for 'disabled' status. Other than these rather limited uses, I see little merit in IQ testing).
Why Science, Libertarianism, Conservatism?
When raising the proposition that Hall and Ray have seized upon Watson's comments as a result of their own racism, we can expect the same nonsense attempts at rebuttal. Namely, the 'PC' crowd have stifled freedom of speech, the 'enlightenment' tradition demands respect for all science (including, apparently, racist pseudo-science), and that these beliefs are consistent with conservatism and libertarianism.
We need to distinguish carefully between Hall and Ray in this matter. Hall is a credulous fool, but, until stupidity and love of ignorance become a doctrine, he cannot truly be considered an ideologue. Ray, on the other hand, likes to peddle himself as a kind of libertarian. You know, those fun-loving guys who are anti-tax, and pro-guns? (Presumably their utopia is Alabama). Libertarianism, whatever we may think of it, provides some far more respectable positions than anything on the radical, proto-fascist right. Though I don't agree with the libertarian perspective, it is not obviously racist in any way - see, for example, blogs such as Catallaxy, or Australia's LDP.
We can see that something like libertarianism provides a veneer of legitimacy to cretins such as Ray, by means of which they can peddle their race-hate.
Let us look at some of the evidence by which we can situate Ray, AWH, and their imbecilic followers with the radical right, rather than with the libertarians or conservatives (much less scientists). It goes without saying that Ray is of the school of thought that deems Hitler to have been a 'leftist', and repeatedly has said that Marx was a 'fascist'.
The Shame File - Fascist Tendencies Revealed
As I pointed out in a recent comments thread, there are several lines of argument that demonstrate the slithering proto-fascist inclinations of Ray and his clique of bedwetting poltroons at AWH:
1. AWH regularly calls for violence against Muslims and other minorities. This has been repeatedly pointed out by myself and other bloggers. This coincides with an increase in rightist, racist violence in Australia and the world. In Australia, asylum seekers are demonised, even whilst blacks are being bashed and murdered.
Unlike his sycophantic acolytes, Ray himself is sufficiently careful not to openly call for violence against blacks and Muslims. This does not prevent him from trying to provide a 'scientific' justification for such calls.
2. AWH ideology is warmly embraced by white supremacists. On 10/10/2007, disturbed AWH blogger Keef (aka KG) posted, word-for-word, the introduction of a post from another blog. Rather astutely, KG himself did not offer any comment on the diatribe he cited, this latter being a defence of right-wing extremism as regards racial matters.
Following the links, we come to the land of Norse myth, pornography, and Aryanism, by way of a nasty Scandinavian blog called the Gates of Vienna. Sure enough, we learn quickly enough why KG cited this post, given that it contains a turgid rant, replete with the following proto-fascist gems:
Numerous studies have demonstrated that people tend to prefer their own ethnic group above others. (Author cites one irrelevant study in support of this claim).
Guarding your identity is thus a universal human trait, not a white trait. In fact, it is less pronounced among whites today than among anybody else. (Hence the supposed need for a 'white' revival).
There are no Britons left in Pakistan, so why should there be Pakistanis in Britain?
There are not many Dutch people left in Indonesia, so why should the Dutch be rendered a minority in their major cities by Moroccans and others?
I suspect future historians will call this era the Age of White Masochism. (Probably not future Iraqi historians).
In amongst the charming banter of the comments thread, and between calls for whites to reconnect with their 'racial consciousness', who should turn up, but former member of the Australia First Party, and current member of the Anglo-Australian National Community Council, Darrin Hodges, warmly expressing his agreement with the sentiment of the post.
In fairness, Hodges' comments were more moderate than most of those found at AWH by the likes of KG or Tiberius. For a case in point, see the AWH defence of the Cronulla rioters, and deft avoidance of the fact that some of the said rioters distributed white supremacist literature. It is obvious that the AWH crew are the blood-brothers of Stormfront and the like, given that they share the same views on these matters.
It is therefore clear that, despite AWH's claims to the contrary, they are drawing water from the same ideological well as our friendly white nationalists, and have ventured far from anything that remotely resembles libertarianism or conservatism. I haven't the time or inclination to trawl the white supremacist blogosphere, but I'd hardly be surprised if there weren't more examples of good 'Anglo-Australian' nationalists cosying up to AWH.
3. AWH blogger John Ray openly supports racism. He has written about it numerous times, far and wide across the blogosphere. In fact, the number of blogs that this guy has makes Iain Hall's shameless efforts seem paltry in comparison.
It's not surprising that the radical right should seek to defend racism, and racialising theories. This fits neatly with their pre-existing prejudices, and provides them with good reasons to oppose any kind of progressive social policy.
Where do we begin with the racial theories of Ray and AWH? We could start with this AWH post by Ray, where he praises the use of racial categories. Nobody denies that racial categories exist within a given language. We might, however, debate the uses to which they are put. Ray helpfully points out some ways in which generalising on the basis of racial categories may prove useful:
And the generalization: "blacks are very crime-prone so it is safest to
keep away from them" is also a matter of fact and can be useful. And "white
flight" shows that most Americans act on exactly that generalization.
'Fact', eh? Ray gives his point further clarification here - 'once we have got to know an individual black person and found him peacable, it would be foolish to continue with avoidance behaviour towards him'. So if I've read this correctly, Ray is saying that whiteys should, as a general rule, avoid those awful 'crime-prone' blacks, as long as we make room for the exceptions, namely, any individual black person who Ray assesses as 'peacable'. Noice.
Pseudo-scholar John Ray is, like his fascist forebears, clearly obsessed with theories of race, having published mild racial theories in some social science journals. One wonders what the editorial board of these journals were thinking.
More revealing are Ray's many crap and hilariously unpublishable articles, most of which consist of an attempted debunking of Frankfurt theorist Adorno (by way of a woeful misreading), coupled with various defences of racism, such as the notion that racism is 'normal', and has nothing to do with either authoritarianism or individual neurosis. And down the slippery slide we go...
We might also take note of a 1979 article by Herr Doktor Ray, purporting to demonstrate that South Africa, in the throes of Apartheid, did not display any evidence of white racism. Obviously, there were plenty of non-consciously racist South Africans, but equally obviously, this was hardly universal. According to Ray, however, white South Africans were no more racist than any other white person. He sums up nicely:
In fact because the South African system keeps blacks "in their place".
South Africans might feel more free to be generous in their sentiments towards
blacks than members of many English communities would.
We have here a wonderful strategy for combating white racism - just keep the non-whites 'in their place'.
By all means, however, don't believe my view that Ray is a proto-fascist, who has dedicated his wretched life to peddling race-hate. In an article by Tim Wise, we learn that Ray has lavished:
praise for the “very scholarly” book on IQ by Christopher Brand, an admirer
of eugenics (policies to promote selective breeding of “superior people”), and
an adherent to the belief that blacks are intellectually inferior to
Again, noice. Wise provides another instructive passage on Ray:
In a more recent essay by Ray, on the opening page of David’s site for
October 8th, the author concludes that racism is not always bad, and is a rather
natural human instinct, suggesting, “Feelings of racial, national or group
superiority are natural, normal and healthy and can as easily lead to benevolent
outcomes as evil ones.”
Wise is not the first to have noted the proto-fascist tendencies of AWH's Herr Professor. Ray is the subject of a chapter on academic racism. I'd like to take the liberty of quoting some passages at length, just to make the nature of Ray's ideology entirely clear:
Ray himself holds some forthright views on racism. His book Conservatism"If, for instance, people suddenly find themselves living in close contact
as heresy(81) includes chapters with such
appetising titles as 'Rhodesia: in defence of Mr Smith' and 'In defence of the
White Australia policy'. Ray also argues that it is "moralistic nonsense" to
Well might Ray defend racism. He does not mince his words
when he writes about Australian Aborigines. Ray says that "aborigines are
characterised by behaviour that in a white we would find despicable . . . White
backlash is then reasonable. Unless we expect whites to forget overnight the
cultural values that they have learned and practised all their lives, they will
find the proximity of aboriginals unpleasant" (p.58).
Ray has conducted a
number of academic surveys in order to bolster his prejudices. For instance Ray
assumes that it is natural that whites should develop an antipathy towards
with Aborigines and Aborigines happen to be in fact rather unhygienic in their
habits, some people previously without prejudice will start to say that they
don't like Aborigines." (p.261.)
Therefore Ray designed a survey to measure
white Australians' attitudes towards Aborigines, comparing those who lived near
Aborigines with those who lived further away.
The results of his survey
failed to confirm his prediction; Ray did not find that whites living near
Aborigines were in fact more prejudiced. Ray described his results as
"disappointing" (p.267). Instead of discarding his hypothesis, Ray still strove
to maintain his own prejudices; he searched around for reasons why his
questionnaire might not have obtained the correct results. Thus, even in the
face of negative results, Ray clings to what he calls his 'rational prejudice
Ray's prejudices do not just relate to Aborigines. Dr. Ray enjoins us
to "face the fact that large numbers of even educated Australians do not like
Jews or 'Wogs'." (p.70.) Ray writes approvingly of people who will
"among friends, exchange mocking misnomers for suburbs in which Jews have
settled: Bellevue Hill becomes 'Bellejew Hill' and Rose Bay becomes 'Nose Bay';
Dover Heights becomes 'Jehova Heights'." (p.71.)
Ray obviously has sympathy with the racists and anti-Semites. Many of the
people who make the comments Ray cites, are according to our Australian
psychologist "superbly functioning and well-adjusted Australians". In Ray's
opinion such people will "justly deny being racists" (p.70): n.b. the give-away
The main reason why Ray does not find such attitudes racist is
that he considers them perfectly logical. Thus he asserts that people "who don't
like sloth . . . may object to Aborigines. People who do not like grasping
materialism, will certainly find no fault with Aborigines but they may find
fault with Jews" (p.265).
It seems that Dr Ray, in an academic paper about psychology, is repeating
the racist and anti-Semitic assumptions that Aborigines are lazy and Jews are
'grasping materialists'. It is hard to find any other explanation for Ray's
continual defence of prejudice.
In his academic papers Ray has a tendency to
use some curious turns of phrase. Thus when he criticises, as he often does, the
classic work in the psychology of fascism, The Authoritarian Personality by
Adorno, Frenkel-Brunswick, Levinson and Sanford, he refers to "the work of these
Jewish authors" (see, for instance, the start of Ray's article in the
distinguished social science journal Human Relations).(82) This is not the standard way of describing
opponents' research, at least not since the days of Nazi Germany.
again Ray is not exactly ignorant of the ways of Nazism. During the 1960s Ray
was a member of various Australian Nazi parties. In fact Ray has openly
described his seven-year association with Nazism (see, for instance, his article
'What are Australian Nazis really like?' in The Bridge, August 1972).
I will concede, from the outset, that I am intellectually merely a throwback to old-fashioned high theory and strident leftist. Perhaps a more enlightened soul can advise precisely how Ray's doctrines exemplify conservatism, libertaranism, or the Enlightenment project.
Clearly, in amongst these turgid attempts to produce biological theories of race, with a good deal of pseudo-psychological quackery, we are dealing with nothing other than an embittered, thorough-going racist, flailing desperately in an attempt to justify his bigotry. The evidence is irrefutable.
4. John Ray has lent his support to another noted bigot, disgraced Australian academic Andrew Fraser. Fraser taught at Macquarie University prior to being dismissed for peddling very similar racial theories to Ray, and has a long history of involvement in Australia's fledgling white nationalist groups. Fraser came to prominence after pursuing the argument that blacks are intellectually inferior to whites. He subsequently found it difficult to receive airtime in academia.
As you'd expect, John Ray claims to be in favour of free speech (except at his blogs, of course), especially where that speech concerns racial bigotry. Ray is also not averse to ignoring the appalling scholarship of his fellow-travellers. One presumes it was in that spirit of community-mindedness that Ray decided to lend his support to Fraser, to the extent of making the latter's vile defence of the White Australia policy available.
Ray says that his decision to publish Fraser's work was made because of his libertarian leanings. Nonetheless, as we've seen, Ray's preoccupations appear to revolve around race more than anti-statist censorship. Furthermore, he charmingly defends the article and distinguishes his own views from Fraser's, saying - 'I am not at all bothered by Australia’s intake of Asians, for instance.'
In sum, the phenonemon we have before us is an attempt to smuggle in a range of fascist belief systems under the aegis of more respectable right-wing views. Given the tendency of ideologues on the right to demand condemnation from of 'extremists' by 'moderates', the comrades and I will wait with baited breath for the genuine conservatives and libertarians to see Ray's racist drivel for what it is, and denounce it swiftly and sharply.