I thought I would give a shout out to some of the newer or lower-profile blogs on the Australian blogosphere. Mine isn't particularly high-profile either, but any publicity is better than none.
Madd McColl has written an excellent piece on the conservative commentariat's obsession with maligned LaTrobe historian, Robert Manne. McColl asks why Manne draws such derision from 'the right'. I suspect the answer may have something to do with the fact that Manne is actually 'one of them'. Manne, of course, is no unwashed leftie, and the fact that he manages to be reasonably conservative and demonstrate a concern for human rights, logic, and opposition to being a pro-Howard shill, must get up the nose of Pearson, Bolt, and the rest of the culture warriors.
Speaking of Bolt, the latter has eulogised the great director Bergman today. As we would expect, he takes the opportunity to have a swipe at Australia's culture industry, asking why Australia has no Bergman of its own. Again, the answer may have something to do with clowns like Bolt denouncing almost every artistic or intellectual endeavour as the work of sneering 'elites'. Australia does have 'great' artists - Patrick White is the foremost example in my mind - but these people do not enter the annals of right-wing history, for the obvious reasons.
Ales has a provocative post challenging some common assumptions about violence against women. Such violence remains a major issue in Australia - any police officer you speak to will have numerous anecdotes about the 'domestics' to which they frequently respond. Such anecdotes do not account for the unknown number of unreported incidents, to which there is no response. I encourage everybody to have a look.
The Bureau of Counterpropaganda is back, and remains an excellent read. The thoroughly internationalist perspective it offers is a good antidote to the insularity that often pervades the Australian blogosphere.
I've added Hallwatch to my blog roll, something that will no doubt anger the subject of the said blog, Iain Hall. Iain has a history of dubious online behaviour (which, in fairness, appears to have improved somewhat of late), and Hallwatch functions as a kind of psychoanalytic 'return of the repressed', making public all the stuff the Iain disavows. Iain has often attempted to 'fisk', as he puts it, the present writer, though his critiques don't go beyond cliches, slogans, and patronising ad hominem attacks about my presumed age and political beliefs. All of this is something I take with good humour. Perhaps Iain is even correct in believing his right-wing mediocrity is a virtue; after all, it appears to be practiced in company. And this company is the primary reason for my adding Hallwatch to my blogroll. For as long as Iain gives support and links to those who agitate for genocide and fascism, it is essential that his online 'conscience' be given a voice on cyberspace.
Finally, just to show that I have a sense of humour, I feel obliged to share one of the most bizarre, wrong, yet oddly compelling blogs I have come across recently. Purportedly written by a young person who is a self-proclaimed 'Stalinist', this guy shares his attempts to bring 'revolution' to his school. I have no idea whether it is a piss-take, but at least one reader appears to have taken it seriously.
More substantial posts will appear soon, and I thank those who have the patience to keep returning to this site, in spite of my sporadic posting.
Tuesday, 31 July 2007
I thought I would give a shout out to some of the newer or lower-profile blogs on the Australian blogosphere. Mine isn't particularly high-profile either, but any publicity is better than none.
Wednesday, 25 July 2007
Division over the so-called 'War on Terror' has led to the emergence of a new species of second-rate, 'third way' spivs and turncoats, who theoretically consider themselves the True 'liberal left', whilst aligning their sympathies with US neoconservatism. Christopher Hitchens is probably the most famous example, a close second being Nick Cohen, whoring out his services to the cluster bomb cause. For the most part, neither writer has much to say, other than a few snide remarks on the perceived failings of the left, and some assertions on the wonderful character of World Bank grande fromage, Paul Wolfowitz. For this reason, this particular breed of 'liberal' is particular popular with hard-right commenters, who excitedly think they've found a new stick with which to beat the left.
With that in mind, it's worth noting this review of Cohen's recent book, What's Left?, the 'most substantial work of a pro-war left intellectual' (found courtesy of Crooked Timber). Reviewer Johann Hari (once a pro-war bedfellow of Cohen's) mounts a systematic and scathing rebuttal of some of Cohen's most flawed arguments. The review is relatively lengthy, and I won't enter into all of it here, but a few points are worth noting:
It's painfully conspicuous that Cohen's statements about neoconservatism consist
solely of assertions, primarily about the personal niceness of Paul Wolfowitz.
The overwhelming contrary evidence is simply ignored. A policy of systematic
torture? The immediate imposition of mass privatisations, causing mass
unemployment and sectarian unrest? The barricading of civilian men aged between
18 and 60 in Fallujah, a city the size of Baltimore, before attacking it with
chemical weapons? Cohen does not say how these neoconservative tactics have been
"fighting the Left's battles for them".
Hari also lays into Cohen's 'Enlightenment' pretensions, exposing the Realpolitik beneath the increasingly tarnished veneer:
It is increasingly clear that the invasion of Iraq was motivated not by
Enlightenment values, but by a desire to achieve US control over the Middle
East's oil supplies. After September 11th, especially since it was now plain
that the House of Saud's vast oil fields were vulnerable to an Iran-style
internal Islamist revolution - and Iraq's were the most appealing alternative.
As long ago as 1991 - back when the only thing George W Bush tortured was the
English language - Dick Cheney said about Iraq,: "We're there because the fact
of the matter is that part of the world controls the world supply of oil." Yet
the only times Cohen mentions oil is to mock the madness of the left for
bringing it up. Is his explanation - that Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney were
suddenly gripped by Wilsonian idealism - more plausible?
Hari seizes on Cohen's imbecility in asserting that those who choose neither Saddam, nor Bush, are 'the greatest villains of all':
This injuction to "pick a side" is Cohen's way of ironing out the cognitive
dissonance that comes from being aware of crimes by the Bush adminstration, but
supporting them anyway. As for the idea that people who do not pick one of two
forces are "the biggest villains of all", using this logic, the greatest
villains in the Cold War were India - a rather eccentric judgement.
All in all, Hari is a little too charitable for my liking, considering the foolishness that Cohen has wrought upon the Anglophone world's op-ed pages. He also, inexplicably, fires a (wayward) salvo at Lenin (the blogger, not the Russian), which gets the requisite treatment here.
Complaints notwithstanding, the review serves as a creditable attempt by a pro-war intellectual to rethink his position, and to make evident the intellectual vacuity, and mercenary morality of the cruise missile 'liberals'. Cohen deserves nothing less than contempt; one of his latest opinion pieces is an idiotic attempt to argue that we need more Islamic villains on film and television, lest we 'liberals' be seen as trying to 'appease and deny' terrorism.
Whilst it is unfair to take the most contemptible elements of the pro-war right, and hold them as exemplars, it may nonetheless be worth illustrating for Cohen (and friends) precisely the sort of ideological company he is keeping. Perhaps considerations of 'fairness' ought to be jettisoned, when Cohen himself accuses anybody who refuses to endorse the war of having terrorist sympathies. We can find the same 'logic' on any number of pro-war right websites.
I despise linking to such sites, but here is an example of a pro-war rightist waxing lyrical, pondering a possible Muslim Holocaust:
"Muslims are being put on trains and sent to concentration camps, gassed
and buried in mass graves I suppose." We can only dream. (source).
Notably, the comment goes unchallenged. Another example can be found in this botched creature, who relishes the 'war on terror' as a suitable outlet for his violent racism:
Waging war militarily on the islamists certainly radicalises more
muslims.So what are we supposed to do, tolerate their murderous ways and hope
they go away? They won’t.
And here’s why the screams of outrage begin: The
more muslims it radicalises the better, because sooner or later they’ll detonate
a nuke or a dirty bomb, which will cause a devastating response from the
West...Ryadh and Mecca will do for a start. (source).
This, in a post entitled 'Affirming reality'. 'Tis a pity the warmongers have so little appreciation of irony.
The message is clear - Cohen wants us to hold our noses, disbelieve our senses, dull our intellects, and sacrifice the last of our principles for the sake of Bush's wars. We see the motivations of some of the war's supporters. Such 'humanitarian interventionism'. Such commitment to freedom. Such Enlightenment principles on display.
So to all of the cruise missile liberals, please take a closer look at your Faustian pact. These are the scum that Cohen and his ilk have chosen as bedfellows. These are the violent, bigoted cretins with whom he lies.
Tuesday, 24 July 2007
It seems that even Melbourne's Herald Sun may be beginning to turn against the Liberals. In today's opinion section, Bernard Salt has a go at Howard for his alleged bias toward Sydney (as opposed to Melbourne). Whilst not groundbreaking stuff, such complaints are somewhat symbolic, given that Howard's rival, Costello, holds a 'blue-ribbon' Liberal seat in Melbourne. Ian McPhedran also criticises the Government's handling of Doctor Haneef.
The Herald Sun is not the most conservative of the Murdoch tabloids, and, to be sure, a couple of anti-Government articles do not count for much in the bigger scheme of things. Nonetheless, the context of these articles paints a different picture, when we consider that the polls once again point to a significant Labor victory, and even the bookmakers are concurring.
Once again, the question of the Liberals' leadership emerges. We might speculate that the polls would be more favourable for the Government had the leadership changed some time ago, but any change now, by an incumbent Government just months from an election, would be tantamount to conceding defeat.
People will no doubt engage in a few 'psychologisms', and aver that Howard has merely clung onto power for the sake of his own 'legacy'. As influenced by psychoanalysis as I am, I think we ought to resist any analysis of current events that boils things down to matters of individual psychology, and instead, rigorously pursue a political interpretation. In any case, as I have said elsewhere, Howard's Liberal Party colleagues give a much better assessment of his 'character' than I ever could.
So what is the political 'legacy' of Howard, as opposed to the speculative psychodrama? This is an enormous question, so I will just touch on a few points.
Howard rose to power in 1996. Whilst Culture War revisionists like to paint his predecessor, Keating, as some kind of arch-leftist, this was not the case. Keating was one of the most conservative Federal Labor leaders that the country had seen, though was portrayed by the media as indulging a range of 'minority groups', such as Asians, Aboriginals, artists, and environmentalists. It is no coincidence that the period of his demise saw the rise of Pauline Hanson's ironically-titled 'One Nation' party, built on a platform of Asian immigration, and also saw a relatively 'moderate' Liberal party move increasingly toward the politics of dog-whistling, and race-baiting. These latter phenomena are part of Howard's legacy as much as anything else, and are now incorporated into the standard political vocabulary of both major parties.
Howard is no 'statesman', even in comparison to Australia's previous Prime Ministers, on both sides of politics. He has ushered in the era whereby oratory is little more than a jingoistic soundbite, though, in fairness, he has been assisted in his cause by a compliant media. To return to what Slavoj Žižek said about Bill Gates (in The Ticklish Subject), Howard attempts to be seen as neither a 'patriarchal Father-Master', nor a 'corporate Big Brother', but rather, as a kind of 'little brother', a clumsy, bespectacled, tinpot 'patriot', whose ideological agenda is belied by his supposed 'ordinariness', and apparent opportunism.
Much is made of Howard's 'economic credentials', though the recent biography of Howard seems to further undermine this piece of mythology, given Howard's poor record as Treasurer. The best that can be said of Howard's fiscal abilities is that he has 'managed' the economy well, particularly for those who were already wealthy from the beginning. At the same time, a significant underclass of the chronically poor has been firmly sedimented in both rural and metropolitan regions during the Howard years, and the Government has shown no indication that it intends to change this state of affairs (other than by punishing 'bad' parents). Housing prices are, of course, a disaster, particularly for young people hoping to buy their first home, and interest rates are high by the standards of the rest of the developed world. At least investors would appear to benefit.
Then there is the Orwellian state of perpetual war to which Howard has enlisted Australia, a country little more than a US colony in economic and military matters. Howard, supposedly 'in touch' with the battlers, completely ignored the many thousands of ordinary Australians, from churchgoers, to unionists, who protested the so-called 'War on Terror'. I don't recall quite the same numbers of Australians protesting for the war.
In matters of foreign policy, Australia tends to take America's lead. Domestically, Howard encourages all immigrants to 'assimilate' to his version of white, middle-class, conservative Australia, and appeared to have a sanguine view of both the Cronulla riots, and Alan Jones' role in agitating for them. For this reason, Australia has been seen as racism in Europe and Asia for the past few years. Our Government is quick to condemn regimes run by friendless tyrants, such as Mugabe, but falls silent on human rights abusers whose allies carry a bit of international clout.
Political discourse has been reduced to the lowest common denominator. Whilst dissent is tolerated by the regime, it is quickly isolated by the acquiescent media, and repackaged as 'hatred', or some other pathology. A sane person cannot, apparently, be critical of the Government. When, for instance, Howard cobbles together a hastily-conceived 'intervention' into Aboriginal communities, anybody who forwards an alternative proposal is quickly denounced as an endorser of child abuse. The laughable standard of 'debate' in the mainstream media is echoed in Parliament, where 'Mr Speaker' ensures that Opposition questions go routinely unanswered, and Liberal abuse passes for political comment.
Surprisingly, for a 'conservative' Government, Howard has overseen significant growth in the Federal public sector. Part of his legacy has been to ensure that this sector is also heavily-politicised, from the cowboys running DIMIA, to stacking the ABC board full of hard-right cultural warriors. Perhaps public sector growth is necessary, as it is inversely proportional to political responsibility. Public servants make for suitable, and relatively anonymous 'fall guys' when faced with scandals such as AWB, or children overboard, none of which our Government considers as part of its jurisdiction.
Howard has nominally moved toward some recognition of 'climate change', but then, even that exemplar of the 'loony left', Rupert Murdoch, has publicly acknowledged that this issue is important. At this point, the climate change denialists should be pleased that Howard's commitment to this issue remains strictly rhetorical.
The Culture Wars and History Wars have continued throughout Howard's reign, despite the fact that the 'conservatives' are given air-time for increasingly vacuous and intellectually bankrupt views. Moderate commentators and academics such as Robert Manne are denounced for being left-wing extremist 'elites' - apparently, social class is now conceived along educational lines. Part of these 'wars' has seen a refusal to acknowledge one iota of Aboriginal suffering, and, when travelling abroad, it is not difficult to find foreigners who no more about the plight of Aboriginals than does the average Australian. Howard despises 'symbolic' gestures, such as an apology would be. An elementary grasp of any trauma theory would inform us that symbols are intrinsic to the 'working through' of any trauma, though symbols do not, of course, reverse trauma. It is for this reason that Vietnam Vets, suffering from their war-time experiences, campaigned vigourously for a 'symbolic' recognition of their status as 'traumatised', eventually succeeding in having PTSD made into an 'official' medical/psychiatric diagnosis. For Australia's Aborigines, it is not even worth considering additional services or resources - even as regards mere 'symbolic gestures', for Howard, such people, (and their subjectivity) are beneath recognition. New 'conservatism' is 'big-government' and authoritarian, and, naturally, being conservative means never having to say you're sorry.
Howard's IR laws are probably not worth mentioning, given the ink that has already been spilt on them. Among other things, these laws are intended as a bit of union-busting, partly as a result of Howard's ideological leanings, and partly because the unions constitute Labor's support base. The 'user pays' mentality has crept into a range of other areas, such as VSU, Telstra, and the increasing privatisation of the health and education sectors. Australia's great tradition of socialised public services, many of which were world class, appears to be drawing to a close. Perhaps we can look forward to the privatisation of roads and the like.
Howard quietly managed to change electoral laws, so that voting is now more difficult for the young, the transient, and the imprisoned. This will not be of concern to Liberals, given that these demographics probably would not vote Tory in any case.
Civil liberties have been eroded under Howard. The anti-terror legislation sits dubiously in relation to presuppositions of 'innocence until guilt is proven'. The re-introduction of sedition laws are of particular concern, given that such laws have been used (historically) to criminalise peaceful and democratic dissent. It seems to be a case of 'One more sacrifice, Australians, and we shall "win" this war on terror'.
Howard has cultivated the myth of his 'battlers'. Fortunately, for Melbourne, at least, this remains only a myth, as most of the working class reside in safe Labor seats. I cannot speak for the rest of Australia at the present time, but it is obvious that, if a working class person votes Liberal, they are not only being bent over a barrel, they are providing Howard with the lubricant. The backlash against IR laws may yet shatter this myth, as it is not only the 'elites' who are nauseated by Howard's relentless propaganda, with happy, AWA'd workers invading our television screens. In this era of the decline of Marx, 'Workchoices' should at least serve to drive home a few naked truths about capitalism, namely, that workers are merely commodities, cogs in a machine, means to (somebody else's) ends.
The only principled and courageous policy direction that Howard has taken is his stance on gun control. This is the only instance of him being prepared to finally challenge the whims of a minority, for the benefit of society as a whole. To be sure, underworld figures still have guns, but, more importantly, guns are more difficult to obtain for lone psychopaths (such as Martin Bryant, or Julian Knight), and feature less prominently in 'domestics'.
Many of the issues above are beyond any simplistic left-right distinction. Many Australians, of all political stripes, are concerned with such topics. That such ideology, of limited appeal, should have been relentlessly pushed by Howard only serves as a testament to how unrepresentative our 'representatives' in the political class have been.
Clearly, Howard has left a 'legacy' for all to see. Most likely, his decision to remain as leader was not prompted by history's memory of his deeds, but rather, was a cold political decision, based on raw numbers in Caucus, as well as in polls. Howard has won several elections (albeit, very narrowly, in 1998 and 2001), and there is no reason to believe that he will be replaced prior to the next election.
Whatever happens at the election, Howard will be gone in the near future. As we have seen, the Australia that he leaves behind is diminished in virtually every respect, other than in its preponderance of imported plasma televisions.
Thursday, 19 July 2007
We often hear, from apologists of the invasion and ongoing occupation of Iraq, that the insurgents are largely freedom-hating Al Qaeda types, or stooges sent from mischievious Iran. Both myths have taken a fall recently, and are helped on their way by an article in today's Guardian. As it turns out, all of the main Sunni insurgents, (excluding Al Qaeda and the Ba'athists), are actually fighting against the occupation, and the Vichy-like regime that has been instituted as a consequence. The Sunni groups are planning to form a united political front after the occupation ends:
Leaders of the three groups, who did not use their real names in the
interview, said the new front, which brings together the main Sunni-based armed
organisations except al-Qaida and the Ba'athists, had agreed the main planks of
a joint political programme, including a commitment to free Iraq from foreign
troops, rejection of cooperation with parties involved in political institutions
set up under the occupation and a declaration that decisions and agreements made
by the US occupation and Iraqi government are null and void.
The aim of the
alliance - which includes a range of Islamist and nationalist-leaning groups and
is planned to be called the Political Office for the Iraqi Resistance - is to
link up with other anti-occupation groups in Iraq to negotiate with the
Americans in anticipation of an early US withdrawal. The programme envisages a
temporary technocratic government to run the country during a transition period
until free elections can be held.
Whether the Sunnis are to be believed is another question. Nonetheless, the nominal commitment to free elections, and the nationalist (rather than Islamist, or 'foreign') character of the insurgents aims and origins demolishes the standard propaganda lines that we hear about Iraq being centre-stage for the so-called 'War on Terror'. Furthermore, there is no evidence whatsoever that these insurgents are interested in terrorising 'the West' in any respect, except insofar as this latter entity seeks to impose its military domination upon Iraq.
The Coalition declared 'mission accomplished' four years ago, yet still harp on about the need for 'victory' in Iraq. What would a Coalition 'victory' look like? Would it involve the maintenance of a sympathetic puppet regime? The destruction of all nationalist or political movements? The continuation of a 'democracy' that presides over an ungovernable country, wherein politicians hold Parliament in the Green Zone, when they attend at all? One suspects that many Iraqis have had their fill of such 'victories', and, promisingly, many Australians, British, and Americans appear to be in agreement.
There is also an interview with the Iraqi resistance groups.
Friday, 13 July 2007
Pathetic Terrorgraph hack, anti-Muslim blogger, and botched abortion of a 'journalist', Tim Blair, has often justified his extremist views under the aegis of 'freedom of speech'.
For instance, the controversial cartoons of the prophet Mohammad that sparked riots in Muslim countries, were published on Blair's site. Blair fixated on the issue for months, and newspapers that refused to publish the cartoons were treated with scorn. As the ABC's Media Watch pointed out not long ago, Blair's anti-Islamic posts are well-received by his clique of psychopath sycophants, who typically respond to the topic of 'Islamofascism' by agitating for anti-Muslim pogroms. Being fairly thick-headed characters, one suspects the irony is lost on them. One can only suppose that these champions of freedom would also have cheered the anti-Semitic cartoons of 1930's Germany and Austria.
In addition, as one would expect from a two-bit hack known mainly for spouting right-wing catchphrases, Blair has been a vocal critic of climate change activists, and has supported the ABC's screening of The Great Global Warming Swindle (aired last night). All in the name of 'free speech', and 'fair and balanced' reporting, you see.
It is rather amusing then, that this courageous advocate for 'free speech' (and moreover, of the 'free' market) should criticise the 'revisionist' pay TV's History Channel for airing a conspiracy-laden documentary entitled Loose Change. This latter 'documentary' purports to prove that 9/11 was an 'inside job' by the US Government. In his characteristic style, our champion of free speech and free markets doesn't actually argue against either the documentary, or the History Channel, preferring instead to merely 'dog whistle', and let his degenerate audience do the barking.
I suspect many readers will be familiar with the conspiracy theories surrounding the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. I see no reason to consider them true, and think they ought to be consigned to the category of 'pseudo-science', along with the Swindle. There may well be holes in the 'official' narrative of 9/11 (to say nothing of suppressed elements), but there are 'holes' in virtually all of the US Government's narratives, whether these relate to Iraq or Afghanistan, to false reports of Saddam's WMD's, or to refusal to sign the Kyoto Protocol. To be sure, the Bush Administration has used the terrorist attacks as a pretext for launching to ongoing wars. Nonetheless, we know from America's modern history that its Governments do not need to go to the lengths of 9/11 to fabricate a pretext for a 'pre-emptive strike'.
How comical then, that this clown, who supports the publication of inflammatory anti-Muslim material, and who supports a crackpot 'documentary' backed by frothing-at-the-mouth LaRouchites being screened as propaganda on 'our' ABC, all in the name of 'free speech', is opposed to a 'free market' pay TV station airing a similarly loopy film that opposes his views.
It will come as a surprise to nobody, but Tim Bleh can now confidently add the title of 'hypocrite' to his illustrious resume.
Monday, 9 July 2007
It is customary for leftist solutions to concrete problems to be dismissed as little more than the dew-eyed ramblings of cloistered academics. In particular, unions are dismissed as 'irrelevant', the by-product of a long-dead industrial reality, and socialism is dismissed as self-evidently absurd. Faith in the 'market' as an all-purpose 'solution' is one of the few dogmas that brings a whole range of anti-leftists together.
With this in mind, I was struck by two recent articles illustrating the costs of the supposedly 'free' market.
China is in the process of 'freeing' up its markets for the exploitative labour of migrant workers. We have seen recent reports of slave labour literally occurring at the hands of indifferent, budding capitalists. In addition, last week a strike-busting squad, armed with shovels and other weapons, lead a vicious attack on workers. The workers were protesting the fact that they had not been paid in four months.
One of the victims of the assault is currently brain-dead, but is being kept artificially alive, lest his assailants face murder charges:
Of course, the employers had their reasons for withholding workers' wages:
Mr Xiang says most of the six seriously injured were, like him, singled out
by the Fuyuan thugs because they were team leaders. His dead colleague, Mr Lei,
was a safety monitor for Qiutian Construction, the subcontractor that brought in
Qiutian says it has been unable to pay workers because Fuyuan
has refused to compensate it for losses suffered last summer when the site
flooded. Qiutian says that legally the developer is responsible for losses
caused by acts of nature.
This is, apparently, 'capitalism with Chinese characteristics'. Such things were not uncommon in Western capitalist countries not so long ago. Today, union-busting in Australia takes place via legislation, and is held by the Government to be in everybody's best interests, other than self-serving 'union bosses'.
Courtesy of our American friends at Crooks and Liars, I noticed this article (also being featured at Larvatus Prodeo). In contrast to the allegedly destructive Bolivarian socialism of Venezuela, free-market utopia Colombia has made the news once again for its treatment of union members:
The bus had just left Drummond Co. Inc.'s coal mine carrying about 50
workers when gunmen halted it and forced two union leaders off. They shot one on
the spot, pumping four bullets into his head, and dragged the other one off to
be tortured and killed.
In a civil trial set to begin Monday before a
federal jury in Birmingham, Ala., union lawyers have presented affidavits from
two people who allege that Drummond ordered those killings, a charge the company
Multinationals operating in Colombia have admitted paying right-wing
militias known as paramilitaries to protect their operations. But human rights
activists claim the companies went further, using the fighters to violently keep
their labor costs down.
Colombia is being treated as a mere colony for US Corporations, as are some of its northern neighbours. Yet pointing out the fact that corporations do not always act in humanity's best interests is virtually anathema in the mainstream press, and likely to result in accusations of 'anti-Americanism', or, still better, 'socialism'.
The existence of Stalin and Mao appears to be enough for some to dismiss any leftist doctrine - critics simply cite a figure of those killed under the relevant dictators, and consider the matter finished. When will the same critics turn their attention to the failed doctrine of capitalism, starving millions for the profits of a few, and crushing the resistance of those who stand in the way?
It is not that capitalism is inherently 'evil', (even if moralising had anything to do with it). The raison d'etre of capitalism is simply to generate capital. The inevitable by-product of this generation is that more or less people will be exploited, starved, and, in the cases we see above, killed.
But at least our plasma screens are relatively cheap.
Saturday, 7 July 2007
With all this talk about swarthy, bearded doctors wanting to kill us all, one might be mistaken for thinking that nationalist fascist imbecility wasn't on the rise. Not so, it seems.
It is reasonably well-known that in Russia, and the former USSR states, anti-ethnic, anti-gay, and anti-everything nationalists have been on the rise. So too, in the US, proto-fascists and 'militias' still exist, though they are purportedly 'in a down cycle'. A recent article, written by a Hungarian member of Parliament, (ignored by our patriotic crusaders against terror around the world), pointed to the rise of ugly right-wing nationalism in Central and Eastern Europe.
It is still unseemly to mention such things. Though fascist movements wreaked more death and destruction within a short time-frame than any other ideology, one is apparently a 'moral relativist' to attribute evil to any political movement other than the left or radical Islam. According to our contemporary post-modern, right-wing ethicists, fascism is not nearly the same danger as Robert Manne, or the menacing hijab.
Nonetheless, the excellent Lenin's Tomb pointed me to this article about some would-be bombers recently, forgotten amidst the kerfuffle of the doctors-cum-terrorists:
Robert Cottage, 49, a member of the British National Party, is standing
trial in Manchester for amassing material for chemical bombs – and instructions
for making them -- in his home. The prosecution said Cottage was acting on the
instructions of a fellow BNP cadre, David Jackson, a respectable 62-year-old
dentist from Lancashire. Cottage's 29-year-old wife testified against him,
having originally reported his alleged plans to test chemical bombs to a social
worker – the tip that led to the men's arrest.
The BNP are the UK equivalent to fascism, and they believe that native Britons are being oppressed by a 'quasi-Marxist multi-racial experiment'. The article discusses the plans of the two co-conspirators:
The two allegedly planned the chemical bomb attacks as part of a "war between
the Asian culture and the White culture," Mrs. Cottage testified. In the UK,
"Asian" is used to denote those of Pakistani origin – overwhelmingly Muslim –
and by extension most other Muslims of less-than-alabaster hue.
The BNP members apparently believed that their party was but 'one crisis away from power', and were hoping to foment a race war. Not merely isolated terrorists aiming at a bit of random carnage, theirs is a plot to gain power in Britain through legitimate processes in addition to violence. One might wonder why the Australian or US media did not remark upon such a thing, in this era of terror:
Now here we have a duly accredited political party -- its members sitting
in local governments, its leader a Holocaust denier far more vehement and total
than, say, the president of Iran -- with its activists on trial for allegedly
conspiring to use chemical bombs as part of a "culture war" to plunge society
into crisis and take power. As such plots go, this one is far more credible than
the "liquid explosive" scare last year that threw the entire global air travel
system into panic and disarray. You'd think it might rate at least a mention
somewhere in the terror-haunted house of horrors that is the American media. But
it raised nary a blip.
In the Australia of 2007, to remark upon the rise of white fascism is to be truly 'politically incorrect'. Only Islamic terror 'counts' as terror. State terror is always legitimised, and proto-fascist organising does not rate a mention at all. No doubt, any attempt to even raise the issue of nationalist violence will be met with cries of 'moral relativism' coming from the conservatives, despite the fact the fascism is a far more dangerous threat than Islam ever has been, or ever could be. 'Evil' is only evil when committed by bearded zealots - these good patriots amassing chemicals, or organising riots in Cronulla are merely exhibiting a 'natural' response to a perceived threat.
So please, when you next hear or read about the 'ideological sleeper cells' apparently in our midst, please remember that when true fascism comes to Australia, it will be neither with a Koran, or a Swastika; it will be draped in an Australian flag, it will praise the Anglo-Saxon kinship of the USA and the UK, and it will espouse the virtues of 'Enlightenment principals', or at least the Right's version of these principles, which somehow do not preclude those of Evangelical Christianity. In short, fascism in Australia will be something that will probably go unrecognised, or, perhaps, if recognised by Australian, it will be as a friend, at least to many.
I shall write a lengthier post on the topic of 'terror' in the near-future. In the meantime, the anarchist slackbastard has plenty to say on the topic of home-grown, 'dinky-di' fascists, hoping to find new converts in Australia.
I probably shouldn't bother with digging up NewsCorpse material: there are a number of blogs in my sidebar who do quite a good job of debunking the latest nonsense emanating from Murdoch's stable.
But who could resist today's offerings, where pro-Howard leftist bashing is in full swing:
Thinking man's chickenhawk, Greg Sheridan, opines about the 'defence of our realm', and takes a swipe at Rudd's plan for staged withdrawal of troops in Iraq, should Labor win Government at the election:
This all speaks well of Rudd's essential centrism and conservatism in
security policy, but it demolishes his argument about the increased terrorist
threat to Australia. Can you just imagine Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri
in their cave at al-Qa'ida central, just inside or just outside Afghanistan,
saying to each other: well, we did have those infidel kangaroos high on our
terror target list when they were in Iraq but now that they're only fighting us
in Afghanistan, where we are, and supporting our enemies throughout the Persian
Gulf, we'll give them a free pass and not send any more terrorists after them.
Sheridan doesn't really address the question of what the hell Australian troops are doing in the Middle East in the first place, fighting dubious (I'm being extremely charitable) wars on behalf of the US and Britain.
Next, we have Noel Pearson, about whom I had occasion to touch on recently. Pearson still wants bipartisan support for Howard's unilateral intervention into Central Australian communities. He concludes:
The principal psychological problem of indigenous leaders is they are
bitter about the Howard Government and its history over the past decade. Our
progressive non-indigenous supporters can afford to devote all of their energies
to willing the New Jerusalem - after all, even a conservative government looks
after them, notwithstanding their contempt - but our people cannot afford this
For a bipartisan guy, he seems to spend a lot of time kicking one side of politics, whilst issuing apologias for the other. I guess that, by now, the 'progressive non-indigenous supporters', and, basically, all Aboriginals who disagree with the Pearson-Howard authoritarian approach should have realised that their reasoned critiques and alternative proposals are tantamount to a mystical enterprise - 'willing the New Jerusalem'. And after all, who can seriously question Howard's exemplary tack record on helping Aboriginals, notwithstanding his contempt.
After Noel, we get Christopher, the more repulsive of the Pearsons, pontificating about how wonderfully the Church has dealt with modernity, 'unlike fundamentalist Islam'. It's possibly easier to deal with post-modernity when Western powers aren't bombing the shit out of you, but Pearson does not include this in his theological musings. One paragraph in particular caught my eye:
Both Benedict and his predecessor, John Paul II, have been formidable
philosophers. They shared the view that the trajectory of modernity, considered
as a project, was along the nihilist lines laid out by Nietzsche in Beyond Good
and Evil. In the communist bloc it culminated in the gulag. In the capitalist
world they see people commodified as units of production and consumers in a
largely amoral, global marketplace.
I don't care to speculate on the philosophical abilities of Popes past and present. Nonetheless, Pearson obviously hasn't actually read the Nietzsche book he cites, or he might have noted that Nietzsche explicitly rails against 'nihilism' (or at least, a particular version of it), and could be expected to have virulently opposed both communism and consumerism. The irony of the likes of Pearson eulogising the world, whose innocence has been lost at the market-place should not be lost on anyone, excluding loyal readers of The Australian. It is appropriate that he concludes his jeremiad with a parting shot at the 'moralising' of Robert Manne, again caught out suggesting that Aboriginals might have suffered injustice in Australia's past.
Economics editor, Alan Wood, kindly assures us that, contrary to all of the evidence that adult Australians would encounter on a daily basis, there actually isn't a housing crisis. Sure, housing is frightfully expensive, but, Wood tells us, that's why the Howard Government has cut back on income tax. Moreover, he avers, the real 'wealth distribution' answer to any housing 'crisis' that may exist is to get grandparents and parents to fund homes for their less wealthy offspring. A perfect solution, one feels, as long as one has wealthy parents.
Not content to leave it there, today's Pravda also features a column by ABC board member, and the Hungarian answer to Piers Akerman, Imre Salusinszky. But, small mercies, he is merely extolling the virtues of Dickens, rather than righteously crusading against the madness of the left.
It is ironic that possibly the most intelligent article among this gaggle comes from Melbourne's tabloid, the Herald Sun. It's more propaganda from Hitchens, of course, but he at least is one member of the Politburo who appears to be trying.
No wonder 'the West' is losing every struggle, what with that 'liberal' (or Liberal) media.
Friday, 6 July 2007
At Australia's very own Department for Historical Truth and Ideological Purity, one Michael Costello has responded to Brendan Nelson's gaffe about oil by blithely asserting that the invasion of Iraq had nothing to do with oil:
If control of vital oil supplies were to end up in the hands of our enemies, who
choose to use it to blackmail us and our friends and allies, or to further
causes hostile to us, that would be a disaster for us and many others.
is weird, however, is the ludicrous leap of illogic that says that to state this
self-evident proposition is to automatically imply that the real reason we went
to war with Saddam Hussein's regime in March 2003 was oil.
If oil were our
dominant interest, we would have done exactly the opposite. We would have done a
deal with Saddam that accepted the continuation of his brutal regime and we
would have turned a blind eye to his return, with renewed vigour, to the pursuit
of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.
Recall that while no evidence
of such weapons was found by inspectors after the 2003 attacks, evidence was
found of Saddam's determination to resume those programs as soon as he could
complete the undermining of UN sanctions and remove the UN inspection regime.
What would the US have got in return for accommodating Saddam in this way?
Oil, as much as it wanted, at discount prices.
Costello also cites Bob Hawke, out of context, in defense of the Coalition of the Drilling. In response, I posted a reply to this latest piece of asshattery. I provide it here, in full, should it fail to see the light of day on the News Limited website:
This is an extraordinarily disingenuous article, even by The Australian's standards.
Firstly, Hawke's comments were in a rather different context to the present day, or 2003, for that matter. The invasion of 2003 occurred after years of sanctions, against a country with a heavily-depleted military, surrounded by no-fly zones, and who, in contrast to 1991, had not issued any violent provocation.
Secondly, Saddam was planning to trade oil in Euros, not the greenback, which could have been expected to have had significant ramifications for the US economy.
Thirdly, unlike the other despots with whom the US coquettes, US interests were not in a position to simply make a deal and receive 'discount oil'. The oil was already contracted to a number of nations who opposed the US invasion, such as France, China, and Russia.
Clearly, oil was not the sole motivating factor for Iraq's liberation - other factors include geo-political strategy, the neoconservative ideology of 'failed states' and 'democracy building', and US domestic politics. Nonetheless, to suggest that Iraq's invasion had nothing to do with oil, that it would have been of 'interest' if its chief export were bottle tops, is a monstrous piece of revisionist fiction, the likes of which would make even Stalin blush with shame.
It is not for nothing that Howard, Bush and Blair have all been subject to widespread public cynicism. Irrespective of Howard's frantic back-pedalling, the gaffe-prone Nelson was only confirming what many Australians take as self-evident.
We shall see if it appears.
Tuesday, 3 July 2007
The amber light came on. Two of the cars ahead accelerated before the red light appeared. At the pedestrian crossing the sign of a green man lit up. The people who were waiting began to cross the road, stepping on the white stripes painted on the black surface of the asphalt, there is nothing less like a zebra, however, that is what it is called. The motorists kept an impatient foot on the clutch, leaving their cars at the ready, advancing, retreating like nervous horses that can sense the whiplash about to be inflicted. The pedestrians have just finished crossing but the sign allowing the cars to go will be delayed for some seconds, some people maintain that this delay, while apparently so insignificant, has only to be multiplied by the thousands of traffic lights that exist in the city and by the successive changes of their three colours to produce one of the most serious causes of traffic jams or bottlenecks, to use the more current term.
The green light came on at last, the cars moved off briskly, but then it became clear that not all of them were equally quick off the mark. The car at the head of the middle lane has stopped, there must be some mechanical fault, a loose accelerator pedal, the gear lever that has stuck, a problem with the suspension, jammed brakes, a breakdown in the electric circuit, unless he has simply run out of petrol, it would not be the first time such a thing has happened. The next group of pedestrians to gather at the crossing see the driver of the stationary car wave his arms behind the windscreen, while the cars behind him frantically sound their horns. Some drivers have already got out of their cars, prepared to push the stranded vehicle to a spot where it will not hold up the traffic, they beat furiously on the closed windows, the man inside turns his head in their direction, first to one side then to the other, he is clearly shouting something, to judge by the movements of his mouth he appears to be repeating some words, not one word but three, as turns out to be the case when someone manages to open the door, I am blind.
Excerpt from Blindness, by Portuguese Nobel Laureate, José Saramago - and perhaps the best opening lines of what is perhaps his best novel.
Monday, 2 July 2007
Moth to the flame that I am, every once in a while I cannot resist browsing through the English version of Pravda, former state propaganda organ-turned-trashy tabloid. Perhaps such things serve as a restorative after the depressing task of sifting through the Australian Government's own propaganda organ. Anyway, here is a Sunday night sampler:
Thousands forced into sex slavery to satisfy perverted fantasies of the rich
An organized criminal group specialized in human trafficking has been arrested in the city of Taganrog, Southern Russia, by a regional directorate for combating organized crime. The group comprised 2 men and a woman. Alexander Sviridov, 30, was the group’s leader. The man previously served a prison term for larceny. Svetlana Prokhorova, the 42-year-old mother of four, was Svidorov’s right hand and sidekick. Not unlike her boss, woman is no stranger to breaking the law either.
Love that translation - you can almost hear the authorial accent coming through: 'woman is no stranger to breaking the law either'.
Women going on sex tours look for big bamboos and Marlboro men
While men choose Asia for their sex tourism, women go to Southern Europe (Italy, Greece, Turkey, Croatia and Spain), to the Caribbean Basin (Jamaica, Barbados and the Dominican Republic), Genoa and Kenya in Africa, Bali, Indonesia and Phuket in Thailand to enjoy sex tourism. Nepal, Morocco, Fiji, Ecuador and Costa-Rica are less popular. Thailand, the Dominican Republic and Cuba are the countries that suit for sex tourism of both sexes, male and female.
Some rich men can pay up to 500 dollars for sex with disfigured prostitutes
Sex with scary prostitutes is becoming a popular pastime for Japanese men. There are a number of brothels staffed with inmates whose faces and heads were badly marred by burns, bruises or congenital malformations like hydrocephalus (accumulation of serous fluid in the cranium, often leading to great enlargement of the head). “I’ve learned to see my disadvantages as advantages,” reads one of the messages posted by the 22-year-old Mimiko on a web forum frequented by local prostitutes. Mimiko was born with cleft palate or a fissure at the roof of the mouth due to failure of the two sides to fuse in embryonic development. “In the past, I couldn’t even imagine having any sort of full-blown sex life. Nowadays men wait in line to get my favors. More importantly, I’ve already saved up enough money to pay for surgery!” Mimiko writes in her message.
Males offer their own reasons to explain a penchant for such a quirky kind of sensual pleasure.
“I’m just fed up with those shapely ladies. They have sex with you as if they’re doing some kind of job. On the contrary, girls who have been out of luck in terms of sex can attend each customer in the best way possible, they never fake it, they make love with total candor and passion,” said Andrei. A diversity of cultural and ethnical characteristics adds color to the Russian market of weird sex. For instance, some women from southern republics of the former Soviet Union are in demand. Their sex appeal has nothing to do their attractive curves or impulsive temperament. Those women look somewhat hairy; they have excess bodily hair – a condition caused by increased levels of male sex hormones in the female body.
Always making fun of the Uzbeks. And their 'inmates'.
I won't even bother with the 'photo-journalism' piece about the soccer lines-woman's nude photo-shoot (in the 'sport' section), the graphic piece on anorexics, several articles on Chavez, or the lake monster terrorising villagers in the Ukraine.
Sunday, 1 July 2007
Erstwhile tosser and friend of imbecility, Michael Duffy from the Sydney Morning Herald, gave his $0.02 on the topic of Australia's 'crisis' in relation to Aboriginal child protection. This is a topic I discussed last week, stating my views here, and providing rebuttal to the claims of a moron here.
It seems that I am not the only one to have made a connection between the 'interventions' of Iraq and Central Australia. Duffy's article asks us to -
Consider this in conjunction with the regrettable absence of any new
foreign wars or upsets in this election year, and you can see why Coalition HQ
selected the Territory as this year's failed state requiring intervention. The
Government gets another khaki election without having to leave home.
view is true, does it matter? I think it does, because while there is a national
emergency, this solution is woefully inadequate and might fail. I think
conservative and liberal theory tell us this. So it's curious that no one on the
intellectual right has stepped forward to say so, or even to reflect on the
obvious similarities between what's happening now and the invasion of
There's an 'intellectual' right now? (Cue accusations of latte-related 'elitism').
The problem with much that has been said on this issue in the past week is that
the definition of the problem has been so entangled in Howard's solution that
the latter has dominated discussion. For 11 years this Government largely
ignored the horrific plight of so many Aboriginal Australians. (It says it's
acting now because of a recent report on child sex abuse. Many reports have said
the same things over the past decade.)
The Government's welcome realisation
that the situation constitutes a national emergency is therefore a dramatic
jump, one that could have led to serious national debate while the Government
worked on a wide-ranging solution. But the announcement of this crisis came in
the same breath as the proposed neo-military solution, leaving no space for such
discussion and focusing most attention on law and order.
I hope that in five
years these comments will appear misjudged, and that the Government will come up with a comprehensive plan and the billions of dollars needed to fund it. But at
the moment, it appears the right has learnt little from its conceptual and
military failures in Iraq.
Michael Duffy, former Government shill, has clearly joined the ranks of those 'willing failure', in Australia and abroad. Apparent appeaser of terrorism, and apologist for child abuse, may he repent by clapping his hands for Howard a little bit louder, that he may be able to 'will' success. Not that 'success' for the Government means 'success' for anybody else.
Maybe if one member of the right can discuss the issue non-hysterically, perhaps others can too. Nonetheless, I won't be holding my breath.
Red is the colour I prefer my wines, and also the colour I prefer my blogs. For the time being, however, I'm experimenting with a somewhat gentrified red in the page background, to see if this makes it any easier to read. The downside is that it makes the blog header look a bit like patchwork, as I can't really be bothered re-building the page design from scratch.
In any case, the blog background may change back, depending on feedback, and the vicissitudes of my caprice. Depending on this year's Federal Election outcome, you may well see the blog regain its red design, replete with a soundtrack from the Red Army Choir, instructions for the making of Molotov cocktails, and directions to Parliament House. In the meantime, enjoy.
Only the fanatics and die-hard ideologues persist in apologetics for the Iraq War any longer. Not so in the case of Afghanistan, whom many, including the 'cruise missile liberals', believe is a 'just war', a legitimate response to the events of 11/9. Americans were justifiably upset; unfortunately, the wounds of the terrorist attack quickly festered until somebody, somewhere, hat to be hit. The War on Terror would commence, but to kick it off, some brute vengeance was needed. Afghanistan served as the piñata.
After the crime of September 11, the Taliban, presumed to be hiding Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, were given a series of ultimatums by Bush (20/9/2001):
By aiding and abetting murder, the Taliban regime is committing murder. And
tonight the United States of America makes the following demands on the Taliban:
-- Deliver to United States authorities all of the leaders of Al Qaeda who
hide in your land.
-- Release all foreign nationals, including American
citizens you have unjustly imprisoned.
-- Protect foreign journalists,
diplomats and aid workers in your country.
-- Close immediately and
permanently every terrorist training camp in Afghanistan. And hand over every
terrorist and every person and their support structure to appropriate
-- Give the United States full access to terrorist training
camps, so we can make sure they are no longer operating.
These demands are
not open to negotiation or discussion.
Understandably, the Taliban requested some proof of bin Laden's involvement in the crime, prior to opening their borders to foreign troops. This supposed recalcitrance on the part of the Taliban, and the alleged lack of a non-violent means of securing bin Laden, served as the pretext for war. It is now clear that the Taliban were, in fact, prepared to extradite bin Laden to Pakistan for prosecution, a fact usually lost on the Eustonites, and other apologists for murder. The Taliban even offered to try bin Laden under Afghanistan's (Islamic) laws, as the US would no doubt seek to do with its war criminals.
By October 7, 2001, Afghanistan was being bombed. The Taliban again attempted to negotiate with the US, offering to hand over bin Laden should American bombing cease. Bush preferred to keep bombing than to have bin Laden, and added, in relation to the Taliban's request for proof of bin Laden's guilt:'There's no need to discuss innocence or guilt. We know he's guilty'.
So the war continued, and has to this day, with thousands of civilians killed, and no signs of the imminent capture of bin Laden. Even Al-Jazeera's Kabul offices were destroyed; this is more or less the equivalent of bombing the Fox News Network of the Arab world, assuming that Fox had actual journalists.
Yet what a history lessons when a war is 'just', particularly a good, democratising, humanitarian war? With shades of Noel Pearson's comments last week, namely, that critics of the Iraq war were 'willing failure', so too did Christopher Hitchens aver that America's Democratic Party, and other critics of the present wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, are apparently 'defeatists' who are 'rooting for bad news'.
It is in that light, then, that the past few days have brought more bad news, and certainly more 'rooting'. US and NATO forces have even killed more Afghan civilians this year than the insurgency:
Maj. John Thomas, a spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance
Force, blamed the insurgents for hiding in areas populated by civilians, who are
then killed during attacks against militants, but he said "that does not absolve
ISAF of the responsibility of doing all it can to minimize civilian
On Saturday, [Afghan President] Karzai accused NATO and U.S.-led
troops of carelessly killing scores of Afghan civilians and warned that the
fight against resurgent Taliban militants could fail unless foreign forces show
"Afghan life is not cheap and it should not be treated as
such," Karzai said angrily.
The mounting toll is sapping the authority of the
Western-backed Afghan president, who has pleaded repeatedly with U.S. and NATO commanders to consult Afghan authorities during operations and show more
Karzai also denounced the Taliban for killing civilians, but
directed most of his anger at foreign forces. (source).
More humanitarian intervention was evidenced during recent air bombardments in the southern province of Helmand, where it is estimated that over 50 civilians died. Meanwhile, the CIA continues to dole out millions in cash and arms to Afghan warlords, and the decidedly undemocratic Pakistani government, and Australia's Foreign Affairs Minister, Alexander Downer, pledged that Australia's involvement in the region would be for 'as long as necessary'. He noted (and dismissed) the recent spate of civilian casualties:
It is very, very foolish for any person of goodwill to try to create some
sort of moral equivalence between NATO and what the Taliban does. (source).
Naturally, the equivalence is not to be found: the Taliban are a brutal regime who do their killing via bombs, and hand-to-hand fighting; whilst the US and NATO do it 'surgically', with tanks and planes. Moral outrage at 'Western' brutality, is therefore quite out of the question, especially as regards this, the most 'just' and 'necessary' of humanitarian interventions.
It is apt that the chicken hawks who condemn any anti-war Westerner invoke pre-World War II analogies, by referring to their ideological opponents as appeasers. Putting aside the fact that the Nazi war machine was nothing remotely like the Taliban, or Al Qaeda, perhaps we who oppose these wars could accurately term the chickenhawks as 'collaborators', propagandising invasion and ongoing invasion, in the manner of the most contemptible Vichy stooge.
Leaving Afghanistan for the moment, and turning to Iraq, two US soldiers have been charged for these charming little incidents:
Staff Sergeant Michael Hensley was charged with three counts of
premeditated murder, obstruction of justice and of wrongfully placing weapons
beside the dead bodies in an apparent attempt to cover up the crimes.
Specialist Jorge Sandoval was charged with one count of premeditated murder
and with putting a weapon by the body. (source).
But hey, who said democracy was meant to be easy? Perhaps, with a view to avoiding charges of 'moral equivalence', the US might consider having the said soldiers tried by the Iraqis themselves. But this would imply a degree of moral reciprocity, and for a Coalition that assumes its exceptionalism is self-evident and axiomatic, such things simply won't do.
Afghanistan remains on the brink of being a 'failed state', even according to the Americans, and bin Laden and the Taliban are still at large. At least the US thirst for post 11/9 vengeance was sated, albeit temporarily, and 'power' implied in the name of the world's last 'superpower' finally had an opportunity to vaunt itself.
UPDATE: The Age has a few things to say about Afghanistan and civilian casualties.
We hear a lot about the Liberal Party's economic credentials - arguably, it is these, in addition to a perceived superiority in matters of 'national security' and the all-important (for the blue-rinse set) 'border protection' that constitute the Party's strengths. Matters such as IR, health, education, and the environment tend to be seen as the Labor Party's traditional strengths, relatively speaking.
News Ltd economics hack Terry McCrann was busy extolling the virtues of the Australian economy the other day, in spite of a slump:
The economic numbers looked fantastic. The overall economy was zipping
along and the jobless rate was heading towards and potentially below 4 per
Yet the sharemarket trembled and then plunged $20 billion on Friday.
Does it makes sense? Short answer: Yes. Is the market telling us something -
challenging, if not unpleasant - about the future? Short answer: No.
McCrann explains that the economy is being kept in check by the fact of workers' wages generally not increasing. Why is this a problem?
The strong economy and especially the big jump in jobs raised fears of
further interest rate rises, something that is generally not a positive for
share prices. If there is one thing that is going to cause the Reserve Bank to
sit up and take notice, to move from being alert to alarmed, is if it sees any
sign of a worker-shortage starting to push up wages generally.
In short, interest rates will rise if working Australia, supposedly in conditions of nearly full employment, receives a pay rise. Ignoring the colossal piece of ideology that this implies, when we can reasonably expect that working Australia couldn't give a flying about the Dow Jones, I was struck by yesterday's article in the SMH, portraying the flipside of the 'economic boom':
Hundreds of families have been forced to sell their homes, or lenders have repossessed and auctioned them, in Sydney's west and south-west in the past year, property experts say.
Mr McNamara and Mr Dhillon estimate that hundreds of families in western
and south-western Sydney had been forced to sell their homes, or had had homes
repossessed and auctioned by lenders, over the past year.
total debt burden on Australian households topped $1 trillion for the first time
last month, Reserve Bank figures published yesterday showed.
Debt on housing
accounts for about 86 per cent of household debt, with the remainder personal
debts like credit cards and personal loans. The ratio of household debt to
household income has reached 160 per cent, one of the highest in the world.
Interest payments now soak up a record 11.9 per cent of household income, nearly
three percentage points more than in 1989 when mortgage rates were 17 per
Obviously, one of the explicit aims of the Workchoices legislation was to keep wages low, one effect of this being that interest rates are supposedly kept under control. So on the one hand, we have an increased emphasis on individualism in industrial relations, a divide-and-conquer approach whereby corporate profit is relatively unaffected by workers getting pay increases. On the other hand, we have debt-driven consumerism, to the point that, rather cruelly, people are in hock to their eyeballs, and cannot withstand even minor increases in interest rates. Paradoxically, workers under the Howard/Costello doctrine need to keep their wages low (overall), or face repossession when interest rates rise, and mortgage payments can't be made. And this delightful situation is what we see when we are in the midst of a 'boom'.
Hopefully, some people out there in voterland assess the Liberal Party's economic credentials by the state of their own wallets, rather than just swallowing Costello's rhetoric wholesale. And it is unlikely that the above SMH article will figure prominently in the Liberal Party's thinking: after all, those who lose their homes have only themselves to blame for over-extending (to some extent); rampant consumerism is a good thing, (if not The Good Thing) in and of itself; and those whose homes were lost were mostly 'Westies', and were not likely to vote Liberal in any case.
With any luck, perhaps some readers will cite the above article when confronted with the typical free-market magical thinking of the neo-liberals and the libertarians. Clearly, the worst is yet to come for Australia's workers. The twin Right-Thinking virtues, of individualism and consumerism, may yet expose their ugly side. If the Federal Liberal Party is re-elected, we can expect yet more of this fundamentalism masquerading as economic theory, for as Costello himself recently said:
And I cannot stress enough, any movement away from Australian Workplace
Agreements; back to collectively bargained outcomes with unions moving wage
claims across the whole economy could undermine everything.
Work longer for less, Australia, and spend, spend, spend. Think of yourself, not your comrades. Sure, some poor folk will be found hanging in their outer-suburban McMansions. But what are a few lives worth, compared to the miracle of economic growth?
After all, Costello needs you.