C'est nous qui brisons les barreaux des prisons, pour nos frères, La haine à nos trousses, et la faim qui nous pousse, la misère. Il y a des pays où les gens aux creux des lits font des rêves, Ici, nous, vois-tu, nous on marche et nous on tue nous on crève.

Thursday, 28 June 2007

As expected

Not too long after putting out this post on the Howard/Pearson plan for Aboriginals, one of the biggest fans of the Liberal Party and the News Ltd media (a self-styled conservative crusader calling himself Iain Hall) has decided to 'fisk' me. I won't waste too much space on this, but I might do a little 'bolting' in return. He says:

I have made the claim, which he hotly denies, that he is one of those
leftists that is willing the governments efforts to fail.

Unless you are a mind-reader, such claims are meaningless, the more so since no 'leftists' have indicated that they want the plan to 'fail'. The above comment is a pretty good illustration of those poor souls who conflate legitimate criticism of the plan with a heartless endorsement of child abuse.

My critic says that he agrees with the first couple of paragraphs of the offending post, and only begins to take issue with my characterisation of Howard's/News Ltd's arguments:

You see this is where Hap starts to be hobbled by his own ideology for a
fair and honest commentator would not pin their colours to the mast in such a
blatant way by describing the prime minister as cynical and acting from
political self interest. yet by doing so Hap very neatly demonstrates exactly
what he is trying to disprove in his post.

I was careful not to impute motives to either Howard or Pearson, as I am not a mind-reader either. Clearly, however, supporters of this plan have openly accused its critics of 'blind hatred' of Howard. Given that this sort of thing has no basis in evidence, I think we can fairly dismiss it.

I saw Mal Brough on SBS news last night where he very neatly laid this
Furphy to rest , He made that the point that during his tenure as minister he
has consulted very widely with grass roots people in the communities and that
the action that has been instigated by the government is just the sort of thing
that many of the people have been calling for.

If Brough has 'consulted very widely', why are large numbers of community leaders saying that consultation has been lacking? My previous post linked to evidence of this lack - Hall does not think it necessary to provide any evidence for is statements here. Elsewhere, I made reference to the appalling conditions of child protection services around the country, to which Hall responded:

No one disputes that hitherto the responsibility for child safety has lay
with the stats and the territory government. So if any blame is to be laid at
the feet of government for inaction it is not the fedral government who have to
carry this sorry burden of shame it is the state pollies who should be the
subject of Haps disdain, but hang on are not all of the state governments held
by the Labor party?

Nobody is denying that state governments have been asleep at their post on some of these issues. This does not, however, refute the fact that the NT government asked for Federal assistance a year ago, and was ignored. Unlike the states, the territories may arguably have some claim to be of Federal interest, particularly if they explicitly request assistance.

My post was particularly concerned with how dissent to the plan is being portrayed as a heinous crime, despite good reasons for such dissent, and despite the fact that the dissent has little practical effect in any case. Hall replies:

Is this is a bad thing? There comes a point when action is required and
that time is now.

But this, as any reader can see, is merely a reiteration of the argument that I initially forwarded. Unthinking, uncritical action is needed, and therefore dissent must be shouted down.

Iain also takes issue with my raising the point of land rights, and their proposed removal:

Some one who did not know the details would think that every square inch of
land under native title was going to be resumed by the government. This is
clearly not the case at all. Some suspension of native title over limited areas
of various communities has been deemed necessary so that particular legal issues
will not impede the rebuilding efforts.

Iain doesn't bother to show how they are 'necessary', just that they are. I guess it's case closed, then. It's notable that such measures aren't necessary anywhere else in combating child abuse.

Hap is one of those who are going into battle with the sound of rattling
speculums in his polemic on this issue when the government has repeatedly said
that such medical checks will be done with care, respect, and sensitivity.

'Rattling speculums'? I guess if the government says the medical checks will be done carefully, we should be satisfied with this. No need for a non-government viewpoint here. Iain also avers that 'rabid leftists are saying that children will be taken away.' Again, he does not provide a source for this, and it's not a view that has been well-represented in the mainstream media.

I am sure that the recommendations of the “little children are sacred ”
will be part of the solution but the first, and by any measure the most dramatic
part, of what will be a long process will be the stabilization of the situation
and the re-establishment of law and order.

Actually, as Kieran of The Dead Roo clearly demonstrated, the Government's plan is a rather strange interpretation of the report's recommendations, with no suggestion that this interpretation will be modified at any time. But Iain doesn't stop there:

You see the problem for Hap is that Noel Pearson is right on the money
here. for as much as Hap claims to want to see some real improvement in the lot
of indigenous children the reality is that in his heart of hearts he wants
failure more so that the government that he hates will be forced from

Actually, 'failure' will take several years to fully register with the public, and the present Government are unlikely to be in power for that long. In the meantime, a unique opportunity to take meaningful action, with all of the energy, emotion and resources that this implies, will have been lost, perhaps permanently.

Where was Hap on this issue twelve months ago? Dare I suggest NO where to
be seen?

Not having a blog at that time, Iain correctly asserts that I was not to be seen. Iain continues his rant for several paragraphs, but it seems to me that we can stop here. Nowhere does he provide any evidence for any of his claims about the proposal. Without a hint of irony, he dismisses criticism of Howard's plan as being motivated by a 'conspiracy theory', so that 'leftists' can maintain control of their 'fiefdoms'!

Perhaps the whole thing is a satire, because such responses clearly belong in comedy, not public debate. In any case, Iain illustrates my points nicely - the die-hard ideologues don't want 'debate', instead preferring to smear opponents with claims that they are complicit in child abuse. It is ironic that those calling loudest for 'bipartisanship', and who say these issues are 'beyond politics', are those who illustrate the opposite through their actions. It all reinforces the notion that this proposal is merely a point-scoring exercise for politicians and cultural warriors.

Friends, Australians, Countrymen...

Lend me your ears!

We have come to bury child abuse, not to praise it.

The evil that policies do lives after them

The good is oft' interred with...

As every Australian will be aware, the Federal Government, primarily Prime Minister John Howard, and Indigenous Affairs Minister, Mal Brough, with the endorsement of Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson, have declared a 'national emergency'. The emergency relates to Aboriginals who dwell in Australia's mythic heartland, the red outback of Central Australia. Veritable 'rivers of grog' have left communities awash in a sea of child sexual abuse, brutal family violence, and rampant sexual abuse. Vital services that might have stemmed the flow of this tide have been chronically under-resourced. Plan after plan, committee after think-tank, has been implemented, without success. The time for talk, or indeed, for thought, is over. Now is the time for action.

At least, this is the message that we have been given by our Government, and by Pearson, repeatedly over the past week. This message has been repeated by many of those who provide opinions in Australia's media. Indeed, the central contention at issue here is not disputed - people of all political stripes believe that there is a problem, that this problem is devastatingly serious, and that something must be done.

Where agreement ends, however, is in the detail. Sceptics point to Howard's history, and paint a picture of a cynical man, who seeks to generate good publicity during an election year, in the midst of disastrous polls. These sceptics are derided as pathological ‘haters’ of Howard, too blinded by ideological enmity to see the benefits of his plan.

Critics point to the lack of consultation with Aboriginal communities. In response, they are told, that consultation has been tried and failed. Such 'niceties' must give way to direct intervention where an emergency is concerned. The gravity of the current crisis is such that a state of exception is in order, whereby the usual processes of debate must be suspended.

Never mind the fact that, of course, this emergency relates to a state of affairs that was near-identical last year, and the year before. Federal and Territory governments were perfectly well aware of this, and did not declare any state of emergency. The NT Government actually approached its Federal counterparts for assistance last year, and were ignored.

Never mind that community consultation has empirical support to suggest its usefulness in the development of these sorts of interventions.

Never mind that land rights will be swept aside, to make way for leases for the communities concerned, only a fortnight after the Federal Government sought to purchase the relevant land.

Never mind that child protection services, ordinarily a State Government jurisdiction, are overburdened to the point of shambles in relatively wealthy, and well-resourced parts of the country (a topic to which I shall return in another post).

Never mind that no amount of 'Leftist' or Aboriginal dissent will influence Government policy one iota, and is therefore completely harmless to Howard's plan.

Never mind that intrusive medical checks, and subjugation to dispassionate authority can re-traumatise those children who have already been hurt. (Of this, the Government says it will be 'mindful').

Never mind the fact that communities are scared that this intervention will see the onset of another Stolen Generation. Prevailing wisdom indicates that perpetrators, not victims, ought to be removed, but the past experience of some communities will prove contrary to this wisdom.

Never mind that the report that sparked this 'emergency' has been ignored, in terms of the detail of its recommendations.

These facts are irrelevant, according to several articles in today's Australian. Both parties have supported the intervention of police and army, therefore the issue is bipartisan. Furthermore, according to Sheridan, Pearson himself is politically bipartisan, a sincere man seeking only to drive politicians to assist his people. The sceptics should 'ditch politics'; after all, Pearson says so, and Pearson is an honourable man.

The Editorial piece advises us that dissenters to the Howard/Pearson proposal are motivated solely by 'blind hatred' - dissent is, obviously, a pathology. After all, dissent is a will to failure, and 'Those who would rather see children continue to suffer than for the Howard plan to succeed should be ashamed of themselves.'

In the same paper, talk-back radio host and News Ltd. writer Neil Mitchell takes umbrage at rival broadsheet, The Age, for its questioning of the proposals. As he puts it:

Get angry with this. Get angry with the chattering classes like The Age who
turn it into a philosophical discussion. This is about kids. It's about
protecting kids and women. This is about people.

It must be self-evident that matters involving people are beyond both politics, and philosophy, and 'chatter'. That is, beyond anything that might subject the Government's plans to even the slightest scrutiny.

Pearson himself made an appearance on ABC's Lateline a couple of nights ago, explaining his support for the plan. His speech was widely lauded for its passion and integrity. He too indicated that dissent to the proposal was equivalent to 'willing failure':

I think that those who have objections to immediate intervention have to
ask themselves whether they're willing this whole exercise to fail, and geez, if
you're willing the whole exercise to fail, what kind of priorities do you have
in relation to the wellbeing of Indigenous children?

The good-willed dissenters apparently also are responsible for current problems in Iraq. Pearson says so, and Pearson is an honourable man:

You know, I hear people bleat uphill and down about self-determination and
in my view self-determination is about people taking responsibility for
themselves, for their own families and for their communities and, you know, it's
an absolutely shameful hour that has descended on us, absolutely shameful hour
where even an emergency intervention to protect the safety of our children is
hindered, is hindered by people who supposedly have good will for Aboriginal
people and in fact, those people are willing, they are willing the protection
and succour to Aboriginal children to fail in the same way and as vehemently as
they will failure in Iraq.

This latter comment is of particular significance, given that it has been noted by the usual pro-Howard shills, in order to further condemn idle discussion. Any hesitation in implementing Howard's proposal is interpreted as yet more evidence of moral depravity from those who dissent. These people are not normally concerned for the welfare of Aboriginals, but priorities change when there are political points to be scored.

Pearson's reference to Iraq is a telling one. Prior to war in 2003, we saw the emergence of emergency, a state of crisis to which the only response was to suspend critical faculties, and proceed to direct action, for the greater good. A state of exception was declared, thus legitimising the extraordinary occurrence of a 'pre-emptive' 'shock and awe' campaign. Yes, thousands protested in the streets, and on the Internet; but then, as now, it made little difference. To disagree with the war was to will a failure of treasonous proportions. In any case, it is fortunate for these unpatriotic dissenters that Bush declared the mission accomplished in 2003, thus rendering failure impossible. The bloodshed that is occurring on a massive scale is apparently a measure of success for war-supporters.

We have an analogous situation here. A long-standing, genuinely tragic, but opportunely 'urgent' situation has to entail that all disagreement to the Government's proposal must be shouted down. One of the most authoritarian and hastily-conceived interventions in Australian history is to be imposed upon our most vulnerable people, without a whimper.

Thus years of inaction, and criminal neglect by Federal, State and Territorial governments gives way to a suspension of all thought. Forget about 'land rights', Pearson tells us, and Pearson, after all, is an honourable man.

Yet just yesterday, the same Federal Government ended its funding for an Aboriginal Employment program in WA.

An author of the Little Children are Sacred report doubts that the Government has got it right.

In a circulating letter, an Aboriginal activist pleads for the Government to reconsider its implementation of the plan.

Aboriginal community leaders have penned an open letter, asking for urgent consultation before the Government's solution is imposed on them.

The ACT's Human Rights Commissioner has condemned the discriminatory singling-out of Aboriginal families for special treatment at the hands of interveners.

Of course, in a time of national emergency, silence is needed. The kind of silence that has been shown by the Labor party, and that Howard himself found 'puzzling'. A silence is needed that will stifle any alternative proposals, any consultation, any questioning. After all, as Neil Mitchell and Noel Pearson say, this is not a philosophical discussion. And Noel Pearson, at least, is an honourable man.

Perhaps they are all honourable men. We can see who is condemning whom, in fits of moral righteousness. The well-meaning dissenters, the thinkers, the other Aboriginal leaders, and those who prattle on about 'rights', are finally getting their come-uppance. Major flaws notwithstanding, to disagree with the plan is to endorse child abuse! Silence is all that is required, and the plan will continue, if need be, irrespective of it.

I make no claims about Noel Pearson's 'integrity', or sincerity. I do not doubt for an instant that he is no Howard stooge. Yes, he is an honourable man. Yes, he is right - urgent action is desperately needed. Nonetheless, if, in his enthusiasm for change, he has 'backed the wrong horse' as they say, and availed his honour to the promotion of a rightfully distrusted Government, he shall be a Brutus to his people.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

In the interest of fairness...

The next Federal election is drawing ever closer, even if the Liberals haven't had the chutzpah to call it yet. Those who aren't Liberal supporters must scarcely believe what they're seeing: Labor well ahead in the polls, over a period of months, and yet, according to the bookies, at least, still a plausible contender for the coveted 'underdog' status.

Those who aren't paid-up members of the Bennelong Boil's fan club may need to take these next few months as an opportunity to reflect upon Australia's second-longest serving Prime Minister.

Criticism of Howard from 'the Left' is often derided as 'Howard Hating', and apparently diagnostic of psychopathy (if you believe Janet Albrechtson at any rate). In the interests of showing that this Revolutionary is 'Fair and Balanced', I thought it fitting, therefore, to include some reflections on Howard by his own party colleagues.

Liberal Senator George Brandis:

Liberal Senator George Brandis does not deny routinely referring to the
Prime Minister as "the rodent".
He does, however, deny ever calling the Prime
Minister "a lying rodent". He believes John Howard is a truthful rodent.

Former Federal President of the Liberal Party, Shane Stone:

Mean and tricky, out of touch, and not listening.

Former Liberal Party leader, John Hewson:

To an Asian, our solution to the Tampa reeks of racism. It further feeds a
suspicion that still persists in Asia that we have never abandoned the White
Australia Policy.

Current MP, Wilson Tuckey on Howard:


Finally, it takes a Victorian to put some things best. Everyone knows that a Victorian's eloquence is matched only by his or her political acumen. To that end, it is only appropriate to recall a taped conversation between Andrew Peacock and Jeff Kennett, wherein the latter expressed his sentiments on our present leader, by way of recalling a conversation he had with Howard:

I said, "Tomorrow John" and he said, "I know where your sympathies lie",
and I said, "I couldn't give a fuck. I have no sympathies any more. You're all a
pack of shits and tomorrow I'm going berserk". Well he went off his brain and in
the end I said to him, I said, "Howard. You're a cunt. You haven't got my
support, you never will have and I'm not going to rubbish you or the party
tomorrow but I feel a lot better having told you you're a cunt."
I hope these guys are available for comment on election night.

Don't know much 'bout history, Don't know much 'bout geography...

Polling at the commencement of the Iraq War found that a majority (75%) of Americans supported the invasion. When the same polling occurred in April 2007, a majority (58%) said that the invasion was 'a mistake'. Public opinion around the world was even less favourable about Bush's war.

With this in mind, take a look at another recent survey, this one by Newsweek. The survey examined the views and beliefs of 1001 Americans aged 18 or older. The results were not flattering.

Even today, more than four years into the war in Iraq, as many as four in
10 Americans (41 percent) still believe Saddam Hussein’s regime was directly
involved in financing, planning or carrying out the terrorist attacks on 9/11,
even though no evidence has surfaced to support a connection.

The work of Republican speechwriters and Faux News has obviously paid off, then. One wonders what support for the invasion would be like if that 41 percent had their facts correct.

A majority of Americans were similarly unable to pick Saudi Arabia in a
multiple-choice question about the country where most of the 9/11 hijackers were
born. Just 43 percent got it right—and a full 20 percent thought most came from

The pollsters don't speculate as to why this might be: perhaps it is because Iran's (soon-to-be-invaded?) theocracy has taken the limelight from Saudi Arabia's brutal Wahhabist regime. The latter regime is, of course, of great concern to human rights organisations, but of much less concern to our bearers of 'Democracy', who count the Saudis among their allies.

And perhaps because most (85 percent) are aware that Osama bin Laden remains at large, roughly half of the poll’s respondents (52 percent) think that the United States is losing the fight against his terror group, Al Qaeda, despite no military defeats or recent terrorist attacks to suggest as much.

No military defeats (the Iraq War was declared 'mission accomplished' 4 years ago) and no recent terrorist attacks, yet the War on Terror is being lost; more cause for Washington (or Canberra) fear-mongering, no doubt. It is amusing to ponder the responses of the 15 percent who believe that bin Laden isn't actually at large. Osama's doing Elvis gigs in Vegas, perhaps?

Other results of the poll are also embarrassing:

Roughly half (53 percent) are aware that Judaism is an older religion than
both Christianity and Islam (41 percent aren’t sure). And a quarter of the
population mistakenly identify either Iran (26 percent) or India (24 percent) as
the country with the largest Muslim population. Only 23 percent could correctly
identify Indonesia. Close to two thirds (61 percent) are aware that the Roman
Empire predates the Ottoman, British and American empires.

It would be easy to interpret these results as evidence of 'dumb' Americans, and make reference to anecdotes of crass and boorish US travellers. After all, anyone in America (or Australia) with the inclination and resources can readily obtain a few basic facts about the world. Yet I think we should resist the 'only in America' interpretation, and sketch some possible explanations.

When discussing political matters, I often take the media to task. The reason for this is that, all that most people know about politics is what media agencies choose to tell them. Entire speeches are routinely condensed into soundbites, and state propaganda is allowed to pass unfiltered through a complicit media. This phenomenon has been discussed at length by the likes of Chomsky, who argued that US propaganda is as effective and pervasive as anything the Soviets employed with Pravda. Faux News and Australia's own Government Gazette differ from Politburo literature only in their sophistication. Clearly, the constant linking of Iraq and 11/9 by Governments and the media is a possible explanation for the results above.

Yet this is not the full story. Another recent (June 2007) poll that I found (courtesy of Ken L) found that respondents generally did not trust the media in America. Only 23% said that they had a 'great deal' or 'quite a lot' of confidence in television news. The figure was 22% when applied to the print media. State indoctrination cannot be the only explanation here. We might perhaps say of supporters of the war, after Žižek, that this is a case of 'they know what they are doing, yet they are doing it all the same'.

The next obvious target for criticism would logically be the education system, which, despite the bleatings of 'cultural warriors' here and in the States, has blatantly failed to educate its citizens with information that is damaging for the reigning regimes. Supposedly 'post-modern' teaching of history cannot be blamed for an ignorance of basic facts.

Whatever the explanation, it is likely that history shall remember the twin destruction of Iraq and Afghanistan as the most significant political event of the early 21st Century. Like Lady Macbeth's spot, the stain of blood spilled for conquest is not easily washed off, even in the face of pervasive ignorance. This is especially true when the 'spot' of blood is often more reminiscent of a torrent.

Shakespearean analogies aside, the significant distortion of history by our pro-Government, chickenhawk cheer-squads ensures that where there would be tragedy, there is instead farce.

I am not optimistic, but perhaps a little knowledge would go a long way to slowing America's sabre-rattling towards Iran. The Venezualans too fear that the Coalition will seek to 'democratise' them. Whilst it may seem a little too interventionist for the weak-stomached libertarians out there, perhaps the following should be distributed to the public, as a kind of war prophylactic:

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Engage in a bit of self-harm.

This is old news, but still worth a cheap laugh or two.

A magazine called, rather touchingly, Human Events, (described by Wiki as a 'weekly conservative magazine'), regularly puts out a series of 'Top Ten' lists, written with the US far-right agenda firmly in mind.

Several of them are chuckle-worthy, but one that I found quite revealing of a particular mindset was entitled 'Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries'. Let's see if we can catch a glimpse of America's finest 'conservative' reasoning at work - the list of modern literature's most diabolical creations is as follows:

1. The Communist Manifesto (Marx & Engels)
This one is no surprise. After all, everybody knows that it's only right-wing evangelical Christians who are the revolutionary class these days. They describe Engels as 'the original limousine leftist'. I guess these days, we Australian would simply call him a 'latte leftist', or 'chardonnay socialist'. Topping the list by a long way, this little book:

(E)nvisions history as a class struggle between oppressed workers and
oppressive owners, calling for a workers’ revolution so property, family and
nation-states can be abolished and a proletarian Utopia established. The Evil
Empire of the Soviet Union put the Manifesto into practice.

Actually, the 'Evil Empire' didn't, but that's history for you.

2. Mein Kampf (Hitler)
I haven't actually read this one, in fairness, and I doubt it has anything of value in it. I doubt history would have altered one iota had Hitler not published, given that I've heard it described as 'turgid' and 'vacuous'. Still, budding Nazis used to hand copies of this out as wedding gifts (what happened to coffee makers?), and I'd be surprised if it wasn't filled with all kinds of racist, anti-democratic, anti-leftist ranting. One for the Alan Jones set, I suppose.

3. Quotations from Chairman Mao
As the fundies put it:

Aided by compulsory distribution in China, billions were printed. Western
leftists were enamored with its Marxist anti-Americanism. “It is the task of the
people of the whole world to put an end to the aggression and oppression
perpetrated by imperialism, and chiefly by U.S. imperialism,” wrote Mao.

Billions? China's a populous place, but I hope you're not exaggerating there, guys. And so what if Mao spoke out against 'US imperialism'? It obviously didn't work.

4. The Kinsey Report
From a psychoanalytic perspective, I can't think of anything worse than sitting down to read some 'sexologists' bloated musings on sexual behaviour, backed up by half-arsed statisticising. Still, calling it harmful is a bit of a stretch. The Righteous explain the source of their concern:

“Kinsey’s initial report, released in 1948 . . . stunned the nation by
saying that American men were so sexually wild that 95% of them could be accused
of some kind of sexual offense under 1940s laws,” the Washington Times reported
last year when a movie on Kinsey was released.

Apart from the fact that the newspaper report about the book, rather than the book itself, is examined by the rightards, I think the above quote tells us that there's more wrong with America's 1940s laws than with Kinsey's report.

5. Democracy and Education (Dewey)
Think of evil, and I'm guessing that for most people, philosopher and education reformer John Dewey isn't the first name that comes to mind. Then again, Human Events tells us that 'He signed the Humanist Manifesto and rejected traditional religion and moral absolutes'. Yep, those damned Humanists, with their cross-burnings, and wars and...I mean, with their manifestos, and books, and with the signings, and such.

His views had great influence on the direction of American
education--particularly in public schools--and helped nurture the Clinton

Gasp! Not Clinton! The semi-competent president who was marginally less conservative than Reagan and the Bushes! If only he had offered Lewinsky a cigar instead of a harmful book...

6. Das Kapital (Marx)
Very impressive Karl - you've got two gongs already. If that's not a glowing reference, I don't know what is. But isn't Das Kapital a bit too wordy and philosophical to be truly harmful? Not according to Human Events, because this book is about:

portraying capitalism as an ugly phase in the development of human society
in which capitalists inevitably and amorally exploit labor by paying the
cheapest possible wages to earn the greatest possible profits.

This is obviously false, when capitalism is really about fairness and bunny rabbits, and capitalists are generous, and Kris Kringle-like. Just ask free-market Colombia, or capitalist paradise Djibouti.

Marx theorized that the inevitable eventual outcome would be global proletarian

Er, not in any of the four volumes of Das Kapital, he didn't.

He could not have predicted 21st Century America: a free, affluent society
based on capitalism and representative government that people the world over
envy and seek to emulate.

Ha ha ha! Great satire, guys!

7. The Feminine Mystique (Friedan)
Here, feminism rears its ugly, equality-demanding head. Our brilliant authors at Human Events manage, in a showcase of brevity and wit, to sum up Friedan's life work:

Her original vocation, tellingly, was not stay-at-home motherhood but
left-wing journalism.

Enough said.

8. The Course of Positive Philosophy (Comte)
We've had feminists, communists, and humanists, so, for the sake of completeness, we needed at least on French philosopher on the list. Unfortunately, these guys seemed to have picked the one French philosopher unlikely to be read by anybody outside of a Sorbonne philosophy course, with a major in obscurantism.

Comte's shtick ('Love as a principle and order as the basis; Progress as the goal') was to abandon organised religion in favour of science. This was only mildly racy in 19th Century France, but is apparently harmful to 21st Century America, because whilst Comte espoused universal principles of reason:

He did so while theorizing that the human mind had developed beyond
“theology” (a belief that there is a God who governs the universe), through
“metaphysics” (in this case defined as the French revolutionaries’ reliance on
abstract assertions of “rights” without a God), to “positivism,” in which man
alone, through scientific observation, could determine the way things ought to

Ah, those pesky metaphysicians, wasting their time on 'abstract assertions' of human rights 'without a God'. No wonder the UN doesn't work!

For the record, I think that positivism is crap. Still, it looks pretty smart when compared to 'Intelligent Design'.

9. Beyond Good and Evil (Nietzsche)
One of my favourites, the authors offer little in the way of reasons to consider Nietzsche 'harmful', except for this quote from the text:

“Life itself is essentially appropriation, injury, overpowering of the
strange and weaker, suppression, severity, imposition of one’s own forms,
incorporation and, at the least and mildest, exploitation,” he wrote.

Nietzsche is possibly quite wrong here, and could have been corrected if 'life' was replaced with 'consumer capitalism'...The authors point out, correctly, that the Nazis were fans of Nietzsche. They failed to point out that the Nazis could only produce a sympathetic reading of Nietzsche by cherry-picking through his quotes in a grotesquely self-serving manner, and omitting vast amounts of his work. A bit like the way a conservative 'reads' the Bible: Christ apparently was, after all, a homophobe, who, um, drank little wine, and who may not really have saved the alleged adulteress from death by stoning.

10. General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (Keynes)
One of the more ghastly of the evil tomes, this one advocates, (wait for it!), government intervention in the economy! Obviously, only the most reckless of parents would allow their innocent children to read something like this.

A number of other books got 'honourable mentions' from the conservatives. Here is a round up of the highlights:

What Is To Be Done by V.I. Lenin: What! They don't like Lenin...

Authoritarian Personality by Theodor Adorno: He wasn't that big on capitalism. Or authoritarians.

On Liberty by John Stuart Mill: The title is reason enough to avoid this subversive trash.

The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin: Down with biology.

Madness and Civilization by Michel Foucault: How is this harmful? He's French; case closed.

Unsafe at Any Speed by Ralph Nader: He's a consumer advocate, and not a Republican. Pure villainy and scum, in other words.

Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir: More feminist claptrap. Every fundie knows that women are not the second sex, but the third. After mules.

Prison Notebooks by Antonio Gramsci: God only knows what a communist would get up to in prison.

Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon: You stand up for the third world, you deserve to be called harmful.

Introduction to Psychoanalysis by Sigmund Freud: Whoops, with all the Marx, Nietzsche, and now Freud, I've been triple-harmed. But let's face it, the Three Essays on Sexuality are much saucier.

The Greening of America by Charles Reich: A dirty hippie. Decadent society. If books of this sort continue, we will inevitably see a social revolution, like women smoking unaccompanied at the opera. Or Woodstock.

Descent of Man by Charles Darwin: That's two for Darwin. Sure, the guy was a big Anglican. But we all know, the only 'descent' in Darwin's work was his descent into immorality and science.

That's the list done - I bet their top ten 'most helpful' books would make for an enlightening read...But that's enough for conservatives on literature - time for a shower.

Today's Recipe: Zuppa di democrazia, all'americana

1. Stage elections in the Middle-East with the support of your client state.

2. Interfere with the elections so that your preferred result is obtained.

3. Should the election result go against your intentions, with a huge majority electing a party that dislikes the goals of you, and those of your client state, provide the losing opposition party with tens of millions of dollars worth of arms and funding.

4. Stir for months, until boiling.

5. Serve with garnish of propaganda.

Friends of democracy, enjoy! As one happy customer put it:

“I hope they’ll all kill each other,” said Yvette Bagdasrov, 48, who works in a Jerusalem music store...“Every war among Arabs is a good war because they end up killing each other rather than just killing us. Fatah isn’t better than Hamas,” she said. “’Treifa’ or ‘neveila’” — they’re both the same, Meytal said, referring to two kinds of ritually unclean animals. (source).

Buon appetito?

Eleven theses on Psychoanalysis

In response to a long and interesting thread on Larvatus Prodeo, I think it timely to provide some clarificatory remarks on psychoanalysis, a much-maligned and oft-misunderstood discipline. I will try to be as schematic as possible.

1. Psychoanalysis is radical. The notion of a psychoanalytic unconscious, a part of ourselves that is fundamentally and irreducibly unknowable, beyond any control, and causative of a range of 'symptoms' (from the hysteric's phantom pains, to dreams, to the symptomatic nature of our romantic lives) is radical. Other psychoanalytic notions can make claims of being radical, however, the psychoanalytic unconscious is what gives the discipline its revolutionary character. Whilst Kant, Hartmann, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche and others all dipped their toes into the murky waters of a radical unconscious, none were as detachedly systematic, whilst at the same time frighteningly intimate as Freud.

Nonetheless, psychoanalysis is not politically radical, Reich being the obvious exception. Freud rejected Marxist theories of the origins of society, and Lacan too was dismissive of Marxism, at least, until the uprisings in 1968 Paris. It is possible that, being Jewish, many early psychoanalysts thought it impolitic to also be socialist, given the Zeitgeist in which they operated. A strong sense of social justice can be found in psychoanalysis, from Freud's Free Clinics to the low-cost services provided by psychoanalytic schools today. This notwithstanding, Freud, and psychoanalysis is best understood, in 19th Century terms, as neither conservative nor radical, but as liberal-bourgeois.

2. Psychoanalysis is not a science. At least, it is not scientific in the sense by which we understand the term in physics or mathematics. Psychoanalysis is a science of the particular, which means it will never deal in the relatively tidy universals of the 'hard' sciences. All the same, psychoanalysis displays greater rigour, reasoning, and explanatory power than most of the rest of psychology, which is why today's neuroscientists, such as Damasio, or Kendall, are turning to Freud rather than Beck or Skinner.

Those who proffer narrow and dogmatic notions of scientificity (that is, most of academic psychology) will find psychoanalysis wanting. However, psychoanalysis is perfectly 'empirical' - it deals with a series of 'ones' rather than seeking to apply structural equation modelling or alpha-tests to subjects reduced to some kind of statistical totality. Like any of the 'human sciences', psychoanalysis incorporates 'qualitative' methodologies, which, though they eschew statistical methods, nonetheless proceed by way of evidence and reasoned argumentation. Indeed, given the flimsy conceptual foundations of mainstream psychology, the latters' fear and hostility towards psychoanalysis must be explained by means other than a recourse to notions of 'empirical validation'.

3. Psychoanalysis is not an art. The discipline, as least in its clinical guise, is not simply some whimsical expression of its practitioner's fancy. Nonetheless, unlike other 'therapies', true psychoanalysis cannot be 'manualised', that is, broken into a recipe book-style series of prescriptions for a therapist or subject. Psychoanalysis stands closer to the arts than any other of the psychologies, partly because art itself is 'symptomatic' and 'over-determined', but also because psychoanalysis does not suffer from the same knee-jerk rejection of all that is not narrowly scientific that its psychological cousins exhibit.

4. Psychoanalysis is anti-authoritarian. When practised by way of assisting the analysand to interpret his or her own associations, psychoanalysis is far removed from the likes of CBT, and refrains from issuing directives and imperatives. Furthermore, psychoanalysis does not stigmatise and pathologise in the manner of the DSM-IV; after all, in psychoanalysis, neurosis is 'normal', or even a best-case scenario, given that the alternative is psychosis. Clearly, someone like Foucault was not enamoured of psychoanalysis, yet any criticism that he (or Deleuze or Guattari) might have made could be doubly said of the highly authoritarian treatment 'regimes' currently predominating in our healthcare systems

5. There are different schools of psychoanalysis. Few analysts would accept all of Freud's teachings, though virtually all would cite Freud as the founder of their discipline. In the post-Freud era, psychoanalytic schools include the Anna Freudian, ego psychology, Bion's analysis, object relations, Kleinian approaches, Lacanian analysis, and the intersubjective school. In addition, there are various offshoots initially inspired by, but ultimately distinct from psychoanalysis, such as Jungian psychology, the neo-Freudians, and Adler's individual psychology. Whilst some of these approaches differ sharply from each other, there is no more sectarianism that what one would find in any other discipline, and the dominant form of analysis that one learns is often a result of one's time and place, or the orientation of one's school. Still, psychoanalysis is not homogeneous.

6. Psychoanalysis is neither misogynist, nor anti-feminist. Whilst feminism has an uneasy relationship with Freud and psychoanalysis, there is a relationship nonetheless. Freud made several problematic statements in relation to feminine psychology, which can be attributed to 3 basic origins:

  1. Freud was a (relatively enlightened) product of his times, and consequently gave voice to a number of fairly typical prejudices.
  2. The exigencies of some of Freud's theories, and the extent to which he took these theories literally, inevitably led him to some odd conceptual formulations. The Oedipus Complex, when applied to females, is among the more notorious of these.
  3. Some of Freud's statements are in fact sexist, and seemingly have no basis in either theoretical or empirical necessity, and cannot be explained away via 19th Century prejudice.

Having established this, it should be remembered that not all feminists are hostile to Freud or psychoanalysis. American analysts such as Nancy Chodorow or Jessica Benjamin are excellent examples of a feminist (and intersubjective) engagement with psychoanalysis.

7. Psychoanalysis is not always encountered in its pure form. Indeed, whilst the neuroscientists and 'cognitive analysts' say that they engage with psychoanalysis, it would be more accurate to describe this engagement as one of colonisation. Psychoanalysis is often subordinate to some other discipline, or else the more radical and subversive aspects of its teaching are neutered. For instance, American ego psychologists, and the CBT practitioners (former analysts) shift the focus from the unconscious to the controllable and knowable conscious. Or take the difficult notion of the death drive, which has been virtually neglected by all post-Freudians other than Klein and Lacan. It is surely no coincidence that psychoanalysis becomes more acceptable, and more 'scientific' to people once it has been stripped of the unconscious, sex, and death.

8. Psychoanalysis is analogous to Marxism. That is to say, as Foucault pointed out, both psychoanalysis and Marxism are discourses that critically interrogate other discourses, often discourses of mastery. In psychoanalysis, discourses of mastery belie the subject of the unconscious, repressing to produce this illusion of 'mastery'. In Marxism, analysis is directed to looking at how class-relations are perpetuated through ideology, and how 'neutral' discourses are often sodden with ideological blindspots. This contributes to both disciplines being 'unacceptable'. Freud's discourse is further unacceptable because it engages meaningfully in those things often presumed to be meaningless, that is, the nonsensical elements of experience normally banished from polite academic company, such as neurotic symptoms, jokes, dreams, and slips of the tongue.

Whilst both psychoanalysis and Marxism undermine discourses of mastery, neither were intended to be applied in a haphazard, reductionist fashion. For instance, whilst a Marxist analysis of 'crime' enable us to observe how class relations and private property underpin our notions of legal transgression, phenomena such as sexual assault can never be exhaustively reduced by an analysis of class relations alone.

9. Psychoanalysis is not post-modern. Despite the protestations of Sokal, and others, there is nothing that Lacan has in common with the likes of Derrida, or Baudrillard, other than a similarly difficult oeuvre. Whilst psychoanalysis is applicable to non-clinical phenomena, there are many examples of what Freud called 'wild analysis' in this field. In addition, Kristeva and Irigary, inspired by analysis, have consciously engaged with the 'post-modern'. It should be remembered, however, that in his New Introductory Lectures, Freud explicitly said that the Weltanschauung of psychoanalysis was scientific and medicinal. All of the major theorists of psychoanalysis have since continued in this tradition, albeit incorporating the concerns of feminism, or linguistics. The struggles of psychoanalysts are not merely confined to obscurantist debates on paper; French analysts, for instance, have documented their battles with an unsympathetic and cynical healthcare system in the journal Lacanian Praxis.

10. Psychoanalysis is not dead. In particular, psychoanalysis thrives in places where Latin languages predominate, from Portugal to Quebec. It is Buenos Aires, and not New York, that actually has the highest per capita amount of psychoanalysts. In fact, psychology in Argentina is taught with mandatory units in philosophy, and does not waste its time with the niceties of statistical analysis. Last year, as I travelled through Europe, it was clear that Freud's 150th birthday was celebrated in London, Berlin, and Vienna. On the other hand, psychoanalysis, as enduring as it is, will never be the dominant paradigm, cumbersome as it is to both the 'normalising' discourse of bureaucratic-medical models, and to consumer capitalism. Historian of psychoanalysis, Eli Zaretsky, said much the same thing in the speeches he gave in Melbourne in 2005.

11. Psychoanalysis is on the side of freedom. This may be paradoxical, given Freud's apparent commitment to a thoroughly determinist model of mental functioning. Nonetheless, if we adopt a notion of freedom that is not simply either/or in nature, we can observe how psychoanalysis helps the analysand obtain freedom by degrees, by replacing ignorance and compulsion with knowledge and awareness.

It is no coincidence that psychoanalysis has been demonised by totalitarian regimes everywhere, from Hitler's Germany, to Stalin's Russia, and is today excluded from authoritarian modes of 'treatment' peddled in consumerist regimes. An anecdote that I heard from an Argentinian Lacanian suggested that Lacan's work found resonance in this latter country precisely because the obscurity of its language kept it from the attention of authorities.

Psychologist have ever but sought to change the human subject, that is, transform him/her into an object, force him/her to identify with a 'therapist', or to become the 'healthy', narcissistic, alienated subject of consumer capitalism.

The point is not to change things, but to interpret them. Through interpreting, change follows in any case, or moreover, analysand interprets for his or her own self. Psychoanalysis teaches the analysand how he or she 'enjoys' his or her symptoms; it does not enjoin the subject to necessarily cease this enjoyment.

'They're not racist, but...'

It is a commonplace of the co-called 'Culture Wars' that right-wing ideologues reject any notion that Australia is populated with racists. Racism is written out of history (except in history's 'Black Armband' guises), and is attributed only to fringe elements. Some go even further, and cite the progressives as emblematic of a kind of racism, or claim that those who criticise their country are 'self-haters' or bordering on the treasonous. Obviously, these clowns give little thought to how it might serve the ends of a conservative authoritarian government to construct a range of external and internal enemies.

With this in mind, Media Watch had some interesting examples of clearly racist behaviour on the blogosphere. The program looked at the News Ltd blogs in particular, as well as the private blog of Tim Blair, who is a News Ltd hack in any case. Some of the more egregious examples of racism were taken from the Daily Telegraph and Tim Blair:

Hey Mundine, go and eat some Coon Cheese and run it off around Nigger Brown

Dogs make Muslim “men” horny, because dogs can be cross dressed as goats or

Of course, those who publish such comments justify them in the name of 'freedom of speech'. (Ironically, Melbourne's Herald Sun, hardly the shiniest beacon on enlightenment, refuses to publish racist comments from bloggers). Irrespective of whether this freedom of speech is legitimate or not, what is noteworthy here is that these comments are not simply to be found on the websites of some lunatic right-wing fringe, such as AWH or Stormfront (to whom I will not link), but are part of a popular mainstream discourse. The News Ltd blogs are hardly constructed by fanatics writing from Unabomber-style shacks, and Tim Blair's little hate-site is supposedly the most visited blog in Australia.

All of this clearly refutes the notion that Australia's racism exists solely on the margins, if such refutation was even needed in the era of Hansonism, Cronulla, and Howard's dog-whistling. Whilst Australia is not, and never has been Nazi Germany, racism has a long and ignominious history, beginning with the Aborigines, then the Irish, and the Chinese, and culminating with anti-Islamic sentiments today. If you take a trip to Melbourne's Immigration museum, you can find examples of anti-Semitic sentiment also.

Naturally, the right-wingers who are confronted with this sort of evidence will try to justify it by saying that some Asians really do form 'ghettos', some Muslims really are 'anti-Western'. Even if these things were true (and by and large, they are not - I am yet to be made aware of Asian 'ghettos' in Ipswich, of all places) they would still be examples of racism by their adherents.

Once again, there is a Žižekian point here. In analysing the rise of vicious anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany, would we find it acceptable to examine what the Jews were 'really' like? Would anti-Semitism be okay if it were found that some Jews indeed conform to anti-Semitic stereotypes and caricatures, that some really are money-lenders, or, are indeed 'crafty'? Obviously, we can see that anti-Semitic racism is a product of the racist, not his or her 'object, and thus it remains the case of Australia's fanatics and ideologues today, who are numerable in the 'mainstream'.

I realise that none of this will convince the dedicated and avowed racist. Futility notwithstanding, I think it gives some hope that, as the Howard and Bush eras draw to their close, the Culture Wars will be won by those who have intellectual substance to add to mere ideological barracking, and the victors will not be either Blair, or his fellow gibbons from News Ltd. This does not mean that the battle has been won yet.

Thursday, 7 June 2007

Contra los mentirosos, los cerdos y los bastardos…

The Murdoch commentariat, ever-concerned with the welfare of Latin Americans, has decided to train its investigative eye upon the recent decision by the Venezualan government. The Venezualan government has decided not to renew the broadcasting license of the anti-government stations, RCTV and Globovision.

Our good-hearted friends in the employ of Murdoch have, in their humanitarian-inspired shrieking, taken quite an interest in Venezualan president Hugo Chavez, and his supporters, in Australia and elsewhere. Like a semi-retarded seaside caricaturist, who only knows how to draw one cartoon, Tim Bleh seems to blog about Chavez every other day. Matters Venezualan have also been getting the cartoon treatment from Andrew Bolt, well-known for his bleeding-heart sympathies for the downtrodden. And you know a third-world country is getting 'dangerous', and a democratically-elected leader, 'dictatorial', when this unholy trinity is rounded out by some 'fair and balanced' attention by Uncle Rupert's megaphone, Faux News.

Naturally, these champions of Latin American freedom don't feel that Venezuala's neighbour, Colombia, is worthy of the same attention, despite Columbia, (a country that receives more US 'aid' than any other in Latin America) having a horrific modern history. These history includes the mass murder of unionists, 'extrajudicial executions' of civilians, collaboration between military and paramilitary groups and drug cartels (courtesy of US cash), and the murders of indigenous community leaders. Perhaps the deafening silence that we hear from these News Ltd friends of freedom is not so surprising; dead unionists, US support for military, and the suppression of minority groups sounds like a rightard's wet dream.

It doesn't take a Rhodes scholar to realise the reason Venezuala is targeted for incessant criticism and disinformation. It is much the same reason that criticism of the US or Israel is shouted down, and 'human rights' is utterly ignored in places such as Colombia or Uzbekistan. Anything remotely resembling 'progressive' politics is subject to condemnation and apocalyptic murmurings. Even a blue-blooded Tory of grazier origins, such as Malcolm Fraser, is derided as a 'leftist' nowadays.

In any case, the fact of Venezuala losing some its anti-government media has received enormous attention. My point in this post is not to defend the dubious manoeuverings of Chavez, but merely to demonstrate that the hysterical rantings of the above 'commentators' has its more measured obverse.

Against the absolute freedom of speech argued for by Chomsky, I personally lean towards the 'freedom needs limits' approach of Žižek. It is obvious that freedom of speech is an inherent requirement of any democracy. Speech, however, is also an act, albeit one that is usually more tepid than 'direct action'. I see no essential reason why the right to shout 'fire' in a crowded theatre, or the right to incite violence against Jews, Muslims or gays ought to be accorded the same privilege as other speech. Nonetheless, there are likewise good reasons for 'anti-government' media to be allowed to exist, given that almost all we directly know of a government is via such media.

(As an aside - these issues are perversely distorted by the lens of ideology. The Flat Earthists scream for the ABC to air The Great Global Warming Swindle, in the interests of 'balance'. Given the status that these sorts of hired hacks have, 'balance' would be best served by airing such things at a rate of one per thousand, and only then, to satisfy the demands of propagandists and cranks.)

Stepping outside of the Murdoch echo-chamber, a number of views contrary to the Blair/Bolt/Fox bile have come to my attention. For instance, Richard Gott of The Guardian provides some facts of the case not available in Australia's media (or even blogosphere):

The debate in Venezuela has less to do with the alleged absence of freedom
of expression than with a perennially tricky issue locally referred to as
"exclusion", a shorthand term for "race" and "racism". RCTV was not just a
politically reactionary organisation which supported the 2002 coup attempt
against a democratically elected government - it was also a white supremacist
channel. Its staff and presenters, in a country largely of black and indigenous
descent, were uniformly white, as were the protagonists of its soap operas and
the advertisements it carried. It was "colonial" television, reflecting the
desires and ambitions of an external power.

The coup of 2002, the content of RCTV's programming, and the interests thereby served, are typically excluded from the facile gibberings of groupthink hacks such as BlairBolt. Gregory Wilpert described Venezuala's situation, in terms of the media, eloquently:

As far as world public opinion is concerned, as reflected in the
international media, the pronouncements of freedom of expression groups, and of
miscellaneous governments, Venezuela has finally taken the ultimate step to
prove its opposition right: that Venezuela is heading towards a dictatorship.
Judging by these pronouncements, freedom of speech is becoming ever more
restricted in Venezuela as a result of the non-renewal of the broadcast license
of the oppositional TV network RCTV. With RCTV going off the air at midnight of
May 27th, the country’s most powerful opposition voice has supposedly been

It is generally taken for granted that any silencing of opposition
voices is anti-freedom of speech. But is an opposition voice really being
silenced? Is this the correct metaphor? Is the director of RCTV, Marcel Granier,
actually being silenced? No, a better metaphor is that the megaphone that
Granier (and others) used for the exercise of his free speech is being returned
to its actual owners – a megaphone that he had borrowed, but never owned. Not
only that, he is still allowed to use a smaller megaphone (cable &

Whilst protests are floridly depicted on Fox, (and never degraded with 'rent-a-crowd' accusations as they are here), nobody bothers to report that a number of signatories from across Latin America actually support the Venezualan government's decision in the name of democracy, not against it. Even Australia's Guy Rundle, in Crikey, was able to temper the prevailing histrionic, hypocritical imbecility with a few oft-forgotten facts:

Both Matthew Weston and David Lodge (yesterday, comments), in criticising
Jenny Haines for defending the record of Hugo Chavez, argue that Chavez has more
or less abolished free media. This is utterly incorrect. 85% of Venezuelan media
remains in private hands -- a higher proportion than the UK, France or
Australian broadcast TV for that matter. Chavez may be doing a lot from the
executive, but that is what presidential government is about -- and the process
is backed by a solid parliamentary majority. Comparisons to Stalin and Hitler
are hysterical -- Venezuela is a social-democratic, mixed economy (with less
public ownership than Scandinavia), a fair electoral system and a free

This is a country whose elections were subject to international scrutiny, and found to be fair. There are no evidence of human rights abuses in Venezuala, and all of the world's superpowers (and many of their proxies) have demonstrated far more sustained and egregious contempt for human life. Still, as BlairBolt will tell you, better some dead unionists than a democratically-elected 'leftist'. Think of the television.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Distracted from class warfare, and instead waging the war against sleep, the Very Busy and Rather Tired Revolutionary has been occupied recently with gainful employment, scholarly pursuits, and attending to an ailing Ms Revolutionary.

In lieu of a substantive post, here are some snippets from the wonderful world of the Internet:

The Good

I was going to post on this delightful picture, taken from the latest Liberal Party love-in:

but Ms Fits beat me to it. Still, captions are welcome.

Omni Brain has an intriguing clip from You Tube, morphing the face of Woman from 500 years worth of paintings. Should be of interest to art fans, and also, possibly, to the psychologically inclined. Gaze and beauty and all that.

Still on the topic of women, a rather amusing study has been conducted, courtesy of the, err, soft sciences.

The Bad

The News Ltd media are still assuring us that, if Labor wins the next election, then the unions are coming to eat your babies.
Evolutionary science tells us that, between the Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon man came the rightard. Those rightards who have adapted to the 21st Century and mastered the use of opposable digits seem to think that arming 11-year olds will help reduce crime. God bless. I'm sure they'd feel the same way about armed and 'educated' children in Africa and the Middle East.

The Ugly

The Russians, or at least their authoritarian leaders, are making mischief once again, this time, in response to purported US mischief. This has been highly publicised in the Australian media of late, with a surprisingly measured and non-hysterical response, for now, at least. The same cannot necessarily be said of our Northern friends. The backdrop to this latest missile crisis is, in short, characterised by Russian tension with the former Eastern Bloc countries, flagging negotiations between Russia and the EU/Germany, and attempts by Britain to extradite and prosecute a suspected murderer. We shall see what happens.
In the US, pornographer Larry Flynt is offering $1 million to anyone who can provide substantiated evidence of a sex-scandal involving high-ranking politicians. Let's hope a similarly community-minded scheme is introduced here - the likes of Pru Goward can 'clear the air', and we might finally be able to rid ourselves of an unflushable turd of a PM.
Finally, even a stopped clock can be right twice a day. It seems that The Australian is finally having a moment of (accidental) substance in one of its op-eds/blogs. Gary Hughes has invited discussion on the topic of a number of serial killings from Perth a few years back. If you have the time, follow the links; the discussion is frankly, at times, disturbing. Everything from Freemason plots, psychics, and alien abduction have been mentioned in connection with these killings, and a number of amateur sleuths have popped up offering theories. Some of these characters seem to have take a rather unhealthy interest in the matter. Still, it makes me wonder if there are any similar vigilantes/detectives in the People's Republic of Melbourne who are trying to solve cold cases.