Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Climate doing what the experts predicted it would

"Ding, dong, the witch is dead! Global warming is no more! The Earth is cooling!"

Expect this claim to reverberate around the bloglands, and perhaps even weasel its way into the speeches and pronouncements of some politicians and special interest groups. For, verily, the Earth is cooling, according to a report (1) on the (anti-AGW) Daily Tech blog.

The anti-AGW crowd would do well to remember that this was predicted last year, by the Hadley Centre, when they issued a ten year forecast:

... at least half of the years between 2009 and 2014 are likely to exceed existing records.

However, the Hadley Centre researchers said that the influence of natural climatic variations were likely to dampen the effects of emissions from human activities between now and 2009.

But over the decade as a whole, they project the global average temperature in 2014 to be 0.3C warmer than 2004. (2)
I predicted (3) at the time that a dip in temperature would be seized on by the anti-AGW crowd as proof that global warming was a hoax. That doesn't make me Nostradamus - it does, however, show how obvious their tactics are.

I'm not suggesting that the 'natural climactic variations' described by the Haldey Centre account for 100% of the drop. The truth is probably complex anmd messy. Natural climate variotions, such as the mitigation of El Nino may play a part. A tail off in solar (YES) activity might contribute. ANd the predicted volatility of global weather will also have had an impact. All this is lost on the AGW-deniers, of course.

Never mind that the experts predicted warming, and it happened. Never mind that the experts predicted cooling, and, right on cue, it is happening. Never mind what the experts say, a bunch of Moomins armed with keyboards have decided climate change is a hoax. So it must be.

"Ding dong, the witch is dead ..." Repeat as necessary, as loud as possible to drown out any dissent.
1 - "Temperature Monitors Report Widescale Global Cooling," posted by Michael Asher on Daily Tech, 26th of February, 2008. (http://www.dailytech.com/Temperature+Monitors+Report+Widescale+Global+Cooling/article10866.htm)
2 - "Ten-year climate model unveiled," unattributed BBC article, 9th of August, 2007. (
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/6939347.stm)
3 - as described previously on lefthandpalm:
http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2007/08/another-of-durkinism-crumbles-into-dust.html

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

New Zealand secures infamous first FTA with bastards of Beijing

I just can't get my head around the idea that people who instinctively knew that opposing the Springbok tour in the 80s was the right thing to do, who supported further sanctions against South Africa during Apartheid, and who, as recently as 2005, were willing to make gestures (1) of opposition to the sick regime in Zimbabwe, would not only agree to a free trade deal with one of the most hateful regimes on the planet, but would make a blind dash to be first (2).

I can understand why a party of unscrupulous money grubbers the National Party would pursue a FTA with the bastards of Beijing. But Phil Goff smugly smirking (3) that the deal "does not cover any issues other than the removal of tariff and trade barriers and issues of market access." Dollars over human rights. That's the National way. It disgusts me that these words were spoken by a Labour minister.

Which puts me in a quandry. I've always assumed that Labour could be confident of my vote, if not directly, at least by proxy through the Greens. But I'm so bitter about the deal with Beijing that I'm not sure I could vote for Labour, or for a party that will help them cling onto power. Up unti now, my reasoning has been that Labour is the lesser of two evils - a Labour government will mean less damage to the country than a National government. I've always found this phlegmatic-pragmatism very useful, and never entertained the slightest doubt about who to vote for, either here or in Britain. Always, the least right party that most likely to win. Recently, I was scratching my head at Maia's decision (4) to squander her vote. Didn't she realise that letting National wouldn't be worth the little squirt of satisfaction of voting against Labour? Labour bad, maybe, but National worse. End of story.

But now it isn't the end, because Labour are going to pursue goals so antipathetic to my values that I'm not sure I can support them, even indirectly. The logic of voting for the least bad doesn't hold when the least bad is going to sign a FTA with communist China. Perhaps, in the longer view, a National victory in 2008 would be better for Labour, because it will allow them to sort out whether they want to be Right-lite and Goffite, or a proper party that I could vote for. As it is, I'm not sure I can bring myself to do that. But I don't imagine a party that will cosy up to the bastard junta in Beijing cares particularly what I think. And therein lies the problem.
1 - 'Kiwis ignore tour pull-out motion,' unattributed BBC article, 26th of July, 2005. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/cricket/4713507.stm)
2 -'NZ to Sign China Free Trade Deal April,' by Ray Lilley, AP article, 26th of February, 2008. (http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5hRUoNpG_YSviOtALdd7rRxl9VgWgD8V1R9VO0)
3 - 'NZ pushes free trade with China forward,' by Sarah Matheson in the Epoch Times, 17th of September, 2007. (http://en.epochtimes.com/news/7-9-17/59871.html)
4 - 'Friday Electoral Politics - Winston Peters Hatred Edition,' postedf by Maia on Capitalism bad; tree pretty, 14th of February, 2008. (http://capitalismbad.blogspot.com/2008/02/friday-electoral-politics-winston.html)

Monday, 25 February 2008

Virgin screws the planet

No .. not that sort of virgin. And not that sort of screwing. Virgin as in Richard Branson. And screwing the planet as in promoting our aeroplane addiction with a thin green veneer (1) applied:

The world's first commercial aircraft powered partly by biofuel took off from Heathrow yesterday to a storm of criticism from climate change experts, who insisted it was nothing more than Sir Richard Branson's latest "nonsensical" publicity stunt.

...

The Virgin Atlantic 747 flew from London to Amsterdam using a 20 per cent biofuel mix of coconut and babassu oil in one of its four main fuel tanks.

Sir Richard said the "historic" flight was the first step towards using biofuels on commercial flights. But campaigners said that carbon savings from bio-fuels, often made from organic materials such as wheat, sugarcane and palm oil, were "negligible".

Kenneth Richter, Friends of the Earth aviation campaigner, said: "Biofuels are a major distraction in the fight against climate change.

"There is mounting evidence that the carbon savings from biofuels are negligible. If Virgin was really serious about reducing the aviation industry's impact on the environment, it would support calls for aircraft emissions to be included in the Climate Change Bill." (2)

So now Damon and Perdita can fly off to Mozambique to eat barbeque lion penises (3) and gawp at the "quaint" locals and come back with some ethnic knick-knacks that were made in China, with a clear conscience, because 20% of the fuel used to get them there might actually have been worse for the environment than the stuff that glugs out of the sand.

Some bio-fuels might have some use in reducing Co2, but flying doesn't. Branson's use of bio-fuels to justify and promote more air travel suggests either jaw-dropping stupidity, or grasping selfish hypocrisy.

Which could it be?

1 - 'First biofuel flight dismissed as Virgin stunt,' by Eoghan Williams in The Independent, 25th of February, 2008. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/first-biofuel-flight-dismissed-as-virgin-stunt-786847.html)
2 - ibid.
3 - I don''t know, off hand, if you get lions in Mozambique. If not, the lion penises were probably imported, just to compound the wickedness of it all.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Happy birthday, Mr President

Mugabe (1).

Look, you evil, racist, repressive, murdering, tyrannical troll, I wanted you out of power by the end of the week (2). Instead, you decide to carry on (3). Fine. On your head be it. I really hope you lose the election, end up on trial for your crimes and die in jail. That would be the best out come for you. More likely, your pig-headed clutching at power will probably lead to you sharing Mussolini's fate - which is wrong, but, if it happens, couldn't happen to a more deserving scumbag.

P.S. Rot in Hell.
1 - 'Birthday boy Mugabe to launch campaign for sixth term' unattributed AFP article, 24th of February, 2008. (http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5i3ld9hsSPWjBX9uZ_rOPkcTQ6vXA)
2 - As described previosuly on lefthandpalm:
http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2008/02/pakistanis-oust-musharaff.html
3 - As per #1, above.

You learn something new every day, part 2

Inspired by my discovery (1) that the phrase 'useful idiots,' usually attributed to Lenin, is of unknown origin, I decided to have a quick look at the origins of another phraseused to discredit liberal ideas and make them instantly laughable - the dread phrase 'politcally correct.'

How many times has a perfectly good idea been described as 'politically correct,' which seems to immediately close any discussion on it? As Marcus Lush pointed out, calling something politcally correct is a lzy way of dismissing it, without having to think about the idea, or the issues behind it. Targetted funding for Maori is 'politcally correct,' so it's wrong, so it has to go. Never mind that it is an attempt to address very real problems in New Zealand society, whcih make Don Brashes 'mainstream New Zealanders' uncomfortable. Or Civil Unions. Political correctness gone mad! Lets forget that it is insane and wrong that heterosexuals can have special rights and privileges that are denied to other adults who just happen to be homosexual. Its politically correct. Case dismissed.

Another silly, leftwing, politically correct idea. Only, to my eternal delight, the phrase seems to originate (2) in 18th Century AMERICA, not (as previously has been put about) the Soviet Union, or college campuses in thrall to Marxism. Wikipedia advises that
[t]he earliest citation is not politically correct, in the U.S. Supreme Court decision Chisholm Vs Georgia (1793), denoting the statement to which it refers is literally incorrect, owing to the U.S.'s political status as then understood. (3)
While it may have been adopted by Marxist-Leninists and come of age in the increasingly bizarre world of college campuses from the 1960s onwards, the phrase and the concept it embodies is a true exemplar of the American Way.

1 - As described previosuly on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2008/02/you-learn-something-every-day.html
2 - 'Political correctness: history in the United States,' Wikipedia article, retreived 4th of February, 2008. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_correctness#History)
3 - ibid.

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Dog Whistling Dave II

The important thing about dog whistles is that they are deniable. The whistler should be able to adopt a look of wounded innocence and declare, "I never meant it to be taken like that." So it should surprise no-one that David Cameron and the Tories are now denying he suggested that state funded trips to Auschwitz were a 'gimmick.' (1)

The line (2) being spun is that the 'gimmick' aspect referred to the Government's filure to fully fund the initiative, requiring schools to contribute part of the cost:


Their remarks came after Cameron criticised Brown during a speech in Bolton for being "obsessed with short term gimmicks". In a briefing note to explain the speech the Conservative press office listed 26 "gimmicks". Fourth on the list was trips to Auschwitz.

...

The Conservative leader believes the government announced a "gimmick" when it said it would provide £4.65m for the Holocaust Educational Trust's Lessons from Auschwitz programme. The Tories believe this has not lived up to its billing because schools are asked to contribute £100 towards the £350 cost of taking each pupil.

A Tory spokesman said: "School trips to Auschwitz are a brilliant idea. However, by announcing these trips without providing the necessary funding the government has - in classic fashion - hidden the detail in the small print.

"Under a Conservative government these trips would be funded in full and schools would not have to find £100 per pupil from their budgets." (3)

Where does this leave us? Good question. It could be as the Tories are suggesting. Or it might not be. The original briefing (4) makes it clear that it is the funding that is the gimmick, not the trips themselves:


4. Trips to Auschwitz

• What was announced: ‘Two pupils from every sixth form and college in the country will be able to visit Auschwitz and learn about the Holocaust thanks to £4.65 million of funding’ (DCSF press release, 4 February 2008)
• In fact schools would have to find £100 to fund every sixth-former’s trip (Times, 4 February 2008) (5)
That doesn't clear it from being a dog whistle, though it is in Cameron's favour. It is the effect of the message on the target audience that is important. We'll have to see how that develops in the nastier reaches of the internet, where sublties don't matter.

One interesting point is that the way clumsy reporting of the story may have, in effect, turned it into what it was originally described as - the original point los tunder the gibbering claims (I bow my head in shame for having contribute in my own small way) that Cameron was playing politics with the Holocaust. Trying to Brand Cameron as racist, anti-Semitic or ruthlessly power-hungry would be very desirable the more ammoral in Labour, and they might not be above fomenting a little racism in putting the idea out there. Shame on them if it is so.

1 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2008/02/tory-dog-whistling-on-holocaust.html
2 - 'Cameron under fire for Holocaust 'gimmick' remark,' by Nicholas Watt in the Guardian, 23rd of February, 2008. (
http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2008/feb/23/davidcameron.secondworldwar)
3 - ibid.

4 - 'Brown's governemnt by gimmick,' briefing notes released by the Conservative Party, 22nd of February, 2008. (http://www.conservatives.com/getfile.cfm?file=documet-govbygimmick-2008&ref=GENERALFILE/3585&type=pdf)
5 - ibid.

Tory dog whistling on the Holocaust

David Cameron, of whom I have said some nice things (1), has blown it all by indulging in a bit of clumsy dog whistling:

Cameron told a Conservative "North West Conference" in Bolton that Gordon Brown's government was obsessed with gimmicks that "grabbed the headlines but
amounted to nothing".

Number four on the list of 26 government gimmicks he cited was "trips to Auschwitz"

...

Earlier this month, the government announced a £4.65m payment of funds to the Holocaust Educational Trust to extend their programme of sending two sixth-formers from every school and college in the country to Auschwitz to learn about the Holocaust. (2)

Cameron's message wouldn't have been harmed if he'd ommitted that point - he had twenty five more, and some of them might even have had sme merit. It was planned - this wasn't an off-the-cuff remark or a trap set by an interviewer. He said what he intended to say.

Question is, who was he dog whistling to? There's the traditional Tory tight lipped crowd, who disapprove of anything that strikes them as political correctness. It says a lot about them that Cameron thinks they would regard visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau as a gimmick. But the comments might have been intended for a wider audience: Bolton has a large immigrant population, mainly Muslim. There is a lot of tension betweeen the immigrants and the rest of the town. The BNP have some support there. Cameron could well be whistling to them, trying to attract them back to the Conservatives by hinting that he's in tune with them. He might be trying to appeal to radical Muslims, who imbibe a lot of stupid anti-Jewery. These are the sort of people who need to learn more about the Holocaust. Cameron shouldnn't be pandering to their nasty prejudices.

Like I said, I'd previously praised him for putting forward progressive ideas. But he's exposed himself here as just another nasty little Tory runt, whole'll do anything to grab power. I don't know if he really regards sendoing students to Auschwitz as an empty gimmick or not. If he does, he's a creep. If he doesn't, he's a creep. Go a way, little man.

1 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2008/02/david-cameron-in-good-progressive.html
2 - 'Cameron branded 'sick and ignorant' in Auschwitz row,' by Helene Mulholland and Deborah Summers, in The Guardian, 22nd of February, 2008.
(
http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2008/feb/22/conservatives.secondworldwar)

Friday, 22 February 2008

You learn something every day ...

Like most people familiar with the phrase 'useful idiots,' I've always accepted that it originated from Lenin, used to describe foreigners with sympathy for the USSR and communism. So I was surprised to learn - and delighted, for new stuff should always be welcomed - to learn that the origins of the phrase are obscure (1), and it occurs nowhere in the works of Lenin.

Now, this isn't definitive - it could have originated from something Lenin said, rather than something he wrote. And, of course, Lenin spoke, wrote and thought in Russian. "Useful idiots" could be a colloquial rendering of some similar Russian phrase. But no-one has been able to pin it, definately, on Lenin.

Which raises another possibility - perhaps he never said it, or wrote it. Perhaps it originated, not amongst the revolutionaries of 1917, but amongst their enemies in other countries. What better way to make supporters of the USSR doubt their sympathy, and make them appear suspicious and untrustworthy in the eyes of everyone else, than by hinting they are dupes of a cunning revolutionary? Creating an arresting phrase, and falsely attributing it to Lenin would create this doubt far more effectively than lecturing.

So is "useful idiots" another rightwing trick to split the left, and discredit it in the eyes of its natural constituency. It's impossible to tell. But recalling other frauds used by the right to undermine the credibility of the left, such as the Zinoviev Letter (2), or (more parochially) the lying Iwi/Kiwi billboards deployed by National (3), it is typical.
1 - 'Useful idiot,' wikipedia article, viewed 22nd of February, 2008. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Useful_idiot#Origins_unknown)
2 - 'Zinoviev Letter,' wikipedia article, viewed 22nd of February, 2008. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zinoviev_Letter)
3 - 'Green lays complaint over Nats’ ‘Iwi / Kiwi’ billboard,' press release by Nandor Tanczos, dated 1st of July, 2005. (http://www.greens.org.nz/searchdocs/PR8915.html)

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Labour continue 2007's slow motion self-mutilation

This is just what we didn't need. I thought we'd got all that crap out the way - Benson Pope sacked, Mallard socking Henare and pleading guilty to a lesser charge, all out of the way for the new year, so Labour would be able to roll out some policies and (since National still don't seem to think they might need a policy, going into an election) regain the initiative.

So now, with the rats swallowed, it should be time to set about the initiative regaining part of the equation. Instead, Labour is immediately snarled up in another ugly PR car crash, with party big-wigs offerring to resign (1) and Clarke (with the grimness turned up to eleven) refusing to accept it.

It's a bad look - whether or not any wrong was actually done isn't important. The government looks bad. National are on the attack again. This cack-handedness needs to stop.

Labour need to realise they aren't going to get any breaks from the media. The media don't like them very much and much prefer nice, photogenic John Key, weho might say nothing but does it so pleasantly. And it is more fun to bash Labour than National, partly because National are still portrayed as an underdog, and no-one likes to give the underdog a kick, partly (and paradoxically) because everyone likes to be a bully, and the press are ganging up to sock it to Labour.

Mainly, however, it is because Labour are giving the media such bloody great headlines. Yes, the journos should be looking into National's activities, instead of simply following National's lead. Yes, they should be comparing National's record in office to Labour's to see if the current mess is uniquely venal or just business as usual. But they aren't, and Labour shouldn't be expecting them to either. The press isn't going to be their friend - perhaps because the press barons resent the resriction on their income resulting from the Electoral Finance Act. Hell, if anonymous donors can't pay hundreds of thousands for adverts, it's a whole lot less swill in the treough for the pigs.

Labour can't afford to keep on slipping up like this. It looks inept and sleazy - and the former is serious. If they look inept long enough, they probably are inept. In which case, they'll deserve to lose.

Get it sorted, you pricks, or look forward to appreciating the view from the opposition benches!
1 - 'Labour president offers to resign,' unattributed One News/NewstalkZB article, 21st of February, 2008. (http://tvnz.co.nz/view/page/536641/1594236)

Pakistanis oust Musharaff

It's been quite a week. Tyrants are falling like dictatorial dominos. First Castro, now Musharraf. What odds Mugabe toppling before the end of the week? It would be nice.

Asif Ali Zardai, a.k.a. Mr Benazir Bhutto, on the restoration of democracy to Pakistan:
Despite massive pre-election and election-day rigging, the people of Pakistan voted their confidence in democracy and rejected the forces of dictatorship. The Pakistan People's Party won a convincing victory, along with the democratic Pakistan Muslim League led by my friend, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The party cobbled together a few years ago by the security services of President Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistan Muslim League-Q Party, often dubbed the King's Party by Pakistanis, was so decimated that their party president and several ministers in Musharraf's government lost their seats in parliament. Monday's election was a clear vote of no-confidence in Musharraf's regime, and a vote of hope for Pakistan's democratic and terror-free future. (1)
It takes courage to vote in acountry where fundamentalist crackpots on one side might immolate you, and where the authorities aren't adverse to ignoring democracy when it gets in their way. Zardai again:

My wife, Benazir Bhutto, came back to Pakistan in October last year to lead this fight for freedom, and she gave her life for democracy. We fought this battle empowered by her spirit and we achieved her goal.

We were terribly troubled by the level of rigging and violence. Indeed, 29 of our party officials and activists were killed, more than 200 were injured and 150 of our polling agents were kidnapped ... (2)

Obviously, the new government - whatever form it takes - is going to face huge challenges. They might even turn out to be worse than Musharaff and his military cronies. But, as idiot/savant pointed out, "while Pakistan’s new elected rulers may be corrupt and incompetent, they are at least elected" (3).

In his inaugural address, Kennedy - martyred like Bhutto - opened his inaugural address of 1961 with words that are perhaps more true of Pakistan in 2008. He said "we observe today not a victory of party, but a celebration of freedom" (4). Any result in a democratic election is better than a dictatorship, and should be celebrated most where its hold is precarious.
1 - 'Pakistan election dictates a new day' by Asif Ali Zardari, in the Chicago Tribune, 20th of February, 2008. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chi-oped0220pakistanfeb20,1,5028149.story)
2 - ibid.
3 - 'Musharraf loses,' posted by Idiot/ Savant on No Right Turn, 20th of February, 2008. (http://norightturn.blogspot.com/2008/02/musharraf-loses.html)
4 - 'John F. Kennedy: Inaugural Address,' by John F. Kennedy, 20th of January, 1961. (http://www.bartleby.com/124/pres56.html)

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Galvanic twitches

It would be nice if the different ethnic groups in Kosovo could all get along and focus on creating a new nation which everyone can feel at home in - but there are signs this may not happen easily (1).

It would be a disaster if the new country became an Albanian Muslim only country. Both groups have spilled plenty of blood down the centuries and should recognise that the name Kosovo belongs to both Serb and Muslim. A shared history - even an antagonistic one - can be the start of a new understanding and respect.

It takes a humanitarian (in the broadest sense) and socialistic view point to look beyond national, religious and ethnic prejudices. It took the people of Europe hundreds of years to come to the realisation that killing each other in the name of their monarchs, Gods and what-have-you was a stupid idea.

I desperately hope the Kosovars - of whatever ethnic stripe - sort it out. To borrow from William Golding again,

If humanity has a future on this planet of a hundred million years, it is unthinkable that it should spend these aeons in a ferment of national self-satisfaction and chauvanistic idiocies. (2)

Until the Kosovars can work out a way to live in peace together, we're all trapped in their miserable history of revenge and chauvanistic idiocy. To paraphraseJFK, "Ich bin ein Kosovar."
1 - 'Serbs attack Kosovo border crossings as tensions mount,' unattributed Agence France-Presse article, 20th of February, 2008. (http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/storypage.aspx?StoryId=109667)
2 - Golding, discussing Lord of The Flies, in an essay called 'Fable,' contained in the collection The Hot Gates.

Castro gone

It is hard not to feel ambivalent about Castro (1)- he was undoubtedly an unlikeable tyrant, but there were and are far worse regimes (some of them are our valued trading partners and proud Olympic hosts). The propoganda of both sides should be discarded - Cuba was neither a socialist paradise, nor Hell on Earth. It was probably better in many ways than it was when Castro seized power, but his refusal to give up that power, and the abuses of it marred his legacy.

The Maimi Cubans must be gutted that he didn't die on the job. Resigning in favour of his brother means the regime survives, even if (as I suspect) Fidel is on his last legs. Any celebrations will be rather empty - the Cuban exiles aren't going anywhere fast, and haven't really got anything to cheer about.
1 - 'Castro Legacy Holds Despite Resignation,' by John Rice, published by the Associated Press, 20th February, 2008. (http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5hASp3fdaeN4JMV2fOR1FnodIWA0QD8UTO03O0)

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Draft 'Dodgy dossier' online

An early draft of the infamous 'Dodgy dossier' is now online (1). A quick skim shows it contains NO reference WHAT-SO-EVER to the infamous claim that Hussien had chemical weapons he could deploy in 45 minutes, which was foregrounded in the introduction of the final version - and which Tony Blair mentioned again in the House of Commons (2).

For the record, the original dossier is available here (3). The '45 minute' claim occurs three times.

In his introduction to the dossier, Blair wrote:

Saddam has used chemical weapons, not only against an enemy state, but against his own people. Intelligence reports make clear that he sees the building up of his WMD capability, and the belief overseas that he would use these weapons, as vital to his strategic interests, and in particular his goal of regional domination. And the document discloses that his military planning allows for some of the WMD to be ready within 45 minutes of an order to use them. (4)

Further on in the dossier proper, the claim was made as follows:

Iraq's military forces are able to use chemical and biological weapons, with command, control and logistical arrangements in place. The Iraqi military are able to deploy these weapons within forty five minutes of a decision to do so. (5)

That is from the summary at the start of the chapter. Further on, it is admitted that infact the claim relies on 'intelligence':

Saddam's willingness to use chemical and biological weapons: intelligence indicates that as part of Iraq's military planning, Saddam is willing to use chemical and biological weapons, including against an internal uprising by the Shia population. Intelligence indicates that the Iraqi military are able to deploy chemical or biological weapons within forty five minutes of an order to do so. (6)

I'm sure the Iraqi army could deploy chemical and biological WMD against the hapless people of Iraq within 45 minutes. They had enjoyed plenty of practise, after all. The tabloid campaign that followed created the impression that Britain itself wmight be menaced within 45 minutes. It was a false lie, tacitly supported by Blair, who never bestirred himslef to say, "Look, about that 45 minute thing, think people have rather the wrong idea. Just to clear it up ..."

But that would have undermined the whole purpose of including it in the first place. And the second place. And third. And the mention in parliament. Not sexed up? I'd laugh if it was so bloody sick-inducing.

1 - The draft is very rough indeed, with scribbeld comments and bracketed asides and a plaintive request for information about the Halbja massacre. Is it not a concern that the draft was prepared by someone wwho seemed to have n o familiarity with the regime he was describing? (http://www.fco.gov.uk/Files/kfile/wmd_jul_2002.pdf)
2 - 'Prime Minister's Iraq Statement to Parliament,' by Tony Blair, 24th of September, 2002. (http://www.number-10.gov.uk/output/Page1727.asp)
3 - 'Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction - The assessment of the British Government,' by various scurrilous liars and wonks. (http://www.number-10.gov.uk/output/Page271.asp)
4 - 'Prime Minister's foreword to the Iraq dossier,' by Tony Blair, scurrilous-liar-in-chief. (
http://www.number-10.gov.uk/output/Page284.asp)
5 - 'Chapter 3: the current position 1998-2002,' by various scurrilous liars and wonks. (
http://www.number-10.gov.uk/output/Page275.asp)
6 - ibid.

Selwyn vs Kosovo

It seems most New Zealish bloggers have followed lefthandpalm's lead in welcoming the independence of Kosovo. Many even followed my lead premptively, by welcoming it before me. But my endorsement is the one that matters.

One of the few voices of dissent has been Tim Selwyn over on Tumeke! (1) who sees it as setting a precedent for dissatisfied minorities to sucede, and rewarding terrorism:

What precedent does it set for other countries with ethnic minorities who dominate certain areas? Start a terrorist group, wage war, hope for a NATO intervention when the central government launches a crack-down/suppression and hey-presto - nationhood! In some instances it would probably be desirable and right, but in others unnecessary and wrong. Very messy. (2)
This is curious stuff. Selwyn seems to have forgotten the whole history of the Balkans, and indeed of the entire world.

That is, unfortunately, a history of conquest, colonisation and liberation. States are created, states fall apart. Viewed against on this scale, the independence of Kosovo isn't an act of churlish political spite by a grumpy minority group, but part of a process that has been ongoing since the Battle_of_Kosovo in the 14th century (3) - or longer, if you care to look further back. Since then, empires and nations have come and gone. The creation of Kosovo is just the latest in a long history of ethnic and national positioning and repositioning.

Supressed nationalism - Serb in this case - sparked WW1, when Princp assassinated Franz Ferdinand in 1914. Serbia, at the time, was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. That was an act of terrorism that lead to independence. After WW1, the allied powers created Yugoslavia, and like most of the ideas of the allied powers after WW1, it was a disaster. With several major ethnic groups contained within its artificial borders, nothing to bind them together culturally, and no history except for animosity stretching back a thousand years, it was always doomed.

Selwyn's greatest error, however, is his claim that the independence of Kosovo can be attributed to the activities of terrorist nationalist organisations like the KLA. It isn't. It is a reflection of the will of a mass of people seeking self-determination. The activities of the KLA, Milosevic and the other men of violence weren't relevant to this - infact, the KLA and Milosevic were opposed to the inhabitants of Kosovo, who wanted neither Yugoslavia or Greater Albania. Terrorism, 'ethnic cleansing' and violence are means by which those who lack popular support impose their will on others.

By accepting the idea that Kosovar independence followed from the terrorism of the KLA is to buy into the myths of both the KLA, who claimed they were the only true champions of Kosovo, and the Serbian nationalists who opposed them, and who conflated Kosovar nationalism with terrorism. The same thing happens with Islam - bigots who hate Islam and Muslims conflate all Muslims with Al Queada, and the adherents of AL Queada and other primitivists do the same. In all cases, the prupose is to create the idea that the extremists speak for a larger constituency than is really the case.

Claiming Hashim Thaci was once in command of "one of the most bloodthirsty monsters ever to have disgraced the Balkans" (4) is propoganda. If it is true, he can be made to account for his past crimes. Like Gerry Adams and Martain McGuiness in Northern Ireland, he may once have been an advocate of violence. Now he is a democratically elected leader, seeking to achieve his ends through peaceful means. It is through peaceful means that nationhood has been achieved.

I'm inherenty anti-nationalist. Like Orwell, I escribe myself as a democratic socialist, in that order. You don't achieve anything by trying to impose your ideas on people against their will. The Austro-Hungarian empire, Yugoslavia in its various forms, failed because they lacked any sort of popular support, The KLA's dream of 'greater Albania' will also fail because the people of Kosovo don't want it. The Kosovars need time to work out who they are and what sort of country they want to live in, rather than having one imposed on them by allsorted outsiders. It would be disasterous if they went down the route of ethnic facism and make life intolerable for the Serb minority - that would just be another miserable echo of history, what William Golding described as

... a dead thing handed on, but dead though it is, it will not lie down. It is a monstrous creature descending to us from our ancestors, producing nothing but disunity, chaos. Disorder and war prolong in it the ghastly and ironic semblance of life. All the marching and counter marching, the flags, the heroism and cruelty, are mere galvanic twitches induced in its slaves and subjects by that hideous parody thing. (5)
The Balkans have been in the grip of the dead forces of nationalism, ethnic chauvanism and facism for hundreds of years. Ironically, the independence of Kosovo - a backwards step viewed from the lofty heights of a secure, spohisticated (sic) European up-bringing, is actually a step forward. Too much nationalism is a bad thing. Being denied national self-determination, is worse, as history has shown.

1 - '' poosted by Tim Selwyn on Tumeke!, 18th of February, 2008. (http://tumeke.blogspot.com/2008/02/kosovo-independence-russia-livideu-us.html)
2 - ibid.
3 - 'Battle of Kosovo,' Wikipedia article, viewed on the 19th of February, 2008. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Kosovo)
4 - Selwyn is quoting from Pravda here. I can't decide if he is being ironic or not. Selwyn's comments on it are avaialble on Tumeke, see note #1, above. The original article, 'Outlaws,' by Timothy Bancroft-Hincley, was published in Pravda on the 18th of February, 2008. (http://english.pravda.ru/hotspots/terror/17-02-2008/104088-outlawskosovo-0)
5 - Golding, discussing the Lord of The Flies, in an essay called 'Fable,' contained in the collection The Hot
Gates
.

Monday, 18 February 2008

Lefthandpalm welcomes Kosovo

Kosovo has declared independence from Serbia, in a move that completes the break up of Yugoslavia (1).

The collapse of Yugoslavia was an inevitablity, and it has been very bloody. This final act of partition is not a bad thing, as long as Kosovo maintains its mutlicultural heritage. Kosovo should be a state that both Serbs and Albanian Muslims can call home. It would be a tragedy if it were to attempt to create an ethnic homeland in Kosovo - the concept of an ethnic homeland so 19th century. But the Albanian Muslims are familiar with the concept of 'ethnic cleansing,' having been on the receiving end of it themselves. My native optimism leads me to hope they'll recognise and respect the rights of the Serb minority, and the Serbs in Kosovo will recognise their futture lies in the world's newest state.
1 - 'Kosovo Declares Independence From Serbia,' by William Kole and Nebi Qena, for the Associated Press, 18th of February, 2008. (http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5g1zMRGritCtusBjGtSPaGxk1ef-wD8USH47G4)

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Truth will out

In Britain, a government policy wonk has admitted the infamous 'dodgy dossier,' used to bolster the case for was with Iraq, was wrong:

John Williams, a former Foreign Office aide, said last night that publication of his document would expose how members of Tony Blair's team were locked in a mindset that made military action inevitable.

On Wednesday, ministers will hit a deadline for publishing the 2002 document, after years of resistance.

The Williams draft was written in September 2002, only days after Mr Blair, then Prime Minister, announced that the Government would publish a dossier of intelligence showing that Saddam Hussein threatened the world with his weapons. (2)
One of my very first posts on lefthandpalm was a piece I wrote round about the time of the Hutton enquiry. At the time, I wrote:
On the 24th September Tony Blair stood up in the House of Commons and announced that “[Saddam] has existing and active military plans for the use of
chemical and biological weapons, which could be activated within 45 minutes”.

He described the report as “Extensive, detailed and authoritative.”He was speaking not to the house but to the nation watching at home, who were skeptical of the reasons being advanced for war. He didn’t give any detail. He didn’t explain that the weapons referred to, if they existed, were minor battlefield munitions, not SCUD missiles crammed with Anthrax or mustard gas.

At best we have a prime minister who doesn’t know what he is talking about; more likely, one who misled the British people as to the nature of the threat Saddam Hussein posed. (2)
Nothing has emerged to make me resile from that. With Blair sniffing about after the EU presidency, it is time to re-examine his duplicity n the run up to the invasion of Iraq.

1 - ''Dodgy dossier' was 'wrong', its author says,' by Ian Griggs and Brian
Brady, in The Independent, 17th of February, 2008. (
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/dodgy-dossier-was-wrong-its-author-says-783374.html)
2 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2007/02/stale-thoughts-on-iraq-war.html

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Patrick Cockburn on the surge

Independent journalist Patrick Cockburn has penned a long article on the situation on Baghdad, including both human stories and analysis (1).

He describes the plight of his Iraqi driver, Bassim, with whom he shared what must have been a truly bonding experience as they awaited execution at the hands of the Shia Medhi army. Bassim's story of increasing fear and struggle and attempts to escape, echoes that of Riverbend (2). She managed to escape as far as Syria, at least, whereas Bassim gambled everything on a hopless attempt to reach Sweden, only to end up in Baghdad. As Cockburn points out, there are a staggerring 3.2 million refugees in Syria, Jordan and inside Iraq (3). That's the overwhelming majority of the population of New Zealand - and that figure doesn't include those refugees in other territories.

Looking at the bigger picture, Cockburn suggests that

The "surge" – the 30,000 extra US troops implementing a new security plan in Baghdad – has helped to make Baghdad safer. In effect, they have frozen into place the Shia victory of 2006. The city is broken up into enclaves sealed off by concrete walls with only one entrance and exit. (4)
Does this sound familiar?

The surge - effectively garrisoning Baghdad with a sensible number of troops instead of the risible initial force - has stabalised an intolerable situation, but it isn't making things better. The Bushg administration hasn't any ideas to - and I suspect isn't interested in - resolving the underlying problems. They want a quick fix that they can call soem sort of a victory so they can cut and run. When they go, they'll leave the Sunni enclaves surrounded by hostile populations of Shias.

It isn't pessimistic to predict what will happen when troops are pulled out - the forces barely contained at the moment will erupt, and the result will be atrocities on an unimaginable scale.

For the record, Iraq Body Counts states the number of confirmed Iraqi deaths at between 81,268 – 88,719 as of today, the 16th of February, 2008 (5).

1 - 'Is the US really bringing stability to Baghdad?' by Patrick Cockburn, published in The Independent, 15th of February,
2008. (
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/is-the-us-really-bringing-stability-to-baghdad-782425.html)
2 - Baghdad Burning, http://riverbendblog.blogspot.com/, has been silent since 22nd of October, 2007.
3 - Cockburn, Op. Cit.
4 - Ibid.
5 - As per Iraq Body Count, viewed 16th of February, 2008. (http://www.iraqbodycount.org/database/)

Fool

New Zealand Olympian swimmer Dean Kent thinks (1) showing how quickly he can splash about in the water is more important than opposing child labour, capital punishment, forced labour, environmental degradation, supression of free speech, religious oppression, political oppression and aquiring territory through conquest:
"There are a hundred countries with different problems within them. Zimbabwe has terrible racism and we've got people in our own country bashing each other with baseball bats.

"So I think we need to get a little perspective and fix our own problems before trying to get athletes in the middle of things to solve the world's problems." (1)
Obviously, he also thinks state terror and brutality is on a par with minor criminal activity, and that flattering his own ego by reaching his third Olympic games is more important than the human rights of the Chinese.

He should forget China and focus on fixing our problems. Instead, he's effectively saying "None of that matters, do what the Hell you want, it's all about you."

What a fool.

1 - 'Olympian: Forget China, focus on NZ' by James Ihaka, 16th of February, 2008. (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10492788)
2 - ibid.

US election decided

Obama.

I've never supported Clinton because she strikes me as a self-promoting lightweight who's bottled out of every major challenge she's faced, blubs for votes and allowed her husband to humiliate her - and blow (geddit?) the best chance for change in the the USA since the 60s - rather than jeopardise her own access to power.

John McCain, as I've said before (1), could break the hold of the neo-cons and the fundies on the Republican Party. He has many admirable qualities which made me wonder - to my own consternation - if a McCain administration might not be the best option for the USA and the rest of the world. But there are some things you just don't do (2).

It doesn't matter how token it is - Bush will veto the resolution because he thinks violating the consitution is somehow protecting the constitution (2) - or how many other goods you can do. You can't make up for a bad like that.

(Hat tip: no right turn)

1 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2008/02/why-republicans-hate-mccain.html and http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2008/02/far-right-out-for-mccain.html
2 - 'Senate Passes Interrogation Ban,' by David M Herzenhorn in the New York Times, 13trh of February, 2008. (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/13/washington/13cnd-cong.html?_r=2&hp=&adxnnl=1&oref=slogin&adxnnlx=1203103302-u5ZWIKfaD8KPtaFnona9QA)
2 - ibid.

Failing to feel sympathy for gagged atheletes

The New Zealand Olympic Committee denies ordering Kiwi atheletes to refrain from criticising their gracious hosts in Beijing. The committee claims

NZOC communications manager Ashley Abbott said the report was misleading and that a clause in an agreement covering athletes was a standard one for all previous Olympic Games.

A clause in the New Zealand agreement required Olympic participants to not make statements, demonstrate (whether verbally, or by any act or omission) regarding political, religious or racial matters, "as such matters are contrary to the objects and purposes of the NZOC". (1)
Might be true, might not be. Newspaper exaggerates story versus big organisation lies through its teeth. Can't say I really care.

Atheletes should have the right to speak out on matters of conscience. But if their conscience is agitated to the extent they have to speak out, they should really be awsking themselves bigger, more difficult questions, like "why am I in Beijing at all?"

If atheletes go to the Beijing olympics, and then comment about the nature of regimes, then they are hypocrites. If they feel strongly enough to speak out, then they shouldn't be there in the first place. Going, and speaking out about it is a sop to conscience.

This is different from the Munich Games, which it is frequently (and tiresomely) compared to, because the nature of the regime in China is well known, whereas the Nazi regime hadn't given much evidence of its true nature by that stage.

No-one - not even the most politically indifferent athelete - can claim that they "just don't know." We all do, and we choose to ignore it. We shove it to the back of our minds, carry on buying the cheap trinkets and goods that are belched out by the vast ndustrial machine - a machine that runs on slave labour, indentured labour and child labour. All things we've banned in the west for the perfectly good reason that they are barbaric and wrong. All things we know are going on, but which we try to forget.

We need people to take public stands against evil. Our leaders won't do it - they are busy trying to sell us the idea that a free trade deal with China, that includes no reference to human rights - is a good thing. That the way a regime treats people doesn't underpin every aspect of our relationship with it. Since our elected representatives have capitulated, it is up to individuals to follow their conscience. That's never easy, of course.

Sport and Hypocrisy have always gone hand-in-hand, perhaps particualrly in New Zealand where it is so important - the Springoks tour in the 80s, the Black Caps touring Zimbabwe in 2005. There is a conflict between wanting to find out who is the best and conscience, when the best beare part of a hateful repgime. I understand that. But when sport -SPORT - is put ahead of human rights, it is a travesty.

Sports people and atheletes are viewed as role-models by New Zealands. By going to Beijing, atheletes are indicating that demonstrating their prowess - celebrating individual achievement - is more important that collective good. The Beijing government can brutalise and exploit its people (on our behalf: never forget that), but that isn't as important as determining who is the fastest, strongest most Ayran, of them all. It's showing that, again, there are things more important than human rights.

Asking an athelete to boycott the Olympic games is a huge ask. It isn't something that even the best atheletes can hope for more than on shot at. But if reaching that pinnacle means knowing conivance with an evil regime, is it worth it? If the answer is yes, then any protestations are hollow.
1 - 'Olympics chiefs deny gagging NZ athletes,' by Lincoln Tan in the New Zealand Herald, 13th of February, 2008. (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/4/story.cfm?c_id=4&objectid=10491934)

Friday, 15 February 2008

Live by the sword, die by the sword.

The assasination of Mughniyeh by Mossad persons unknown serves as a fitting end to an evil life (1). Live by the sword, die by the sword.

Committing, assisting, sanctioning or even applauding (2) terrorist acts means you can't object when the same tactics are used against you. No matter how evil the target and no matter how virtuous (hah!) those commiting it think they are, tertorism and murder are always wrong. Mughniyeh embodied evil to the US government and the Israeli government. There are people who hate them just as vehemently. If assasinating Mughniyeh was okay, then terrorist action aimed at Americans or Israelis is okay. Live by the sword, die by the sword. Tragically, the sword smites more of the innocent than the guilty.

It would have been better to see him punished for his crimes, rather than blissfully annihilated in a micro-second. But it is undeniable that "the world is a better place without this man in it" (3). As will also be the case when someone finally turns off Ariel Sharon's life support machine.
1 - "U.S. Official: World 'Better Place' With Death of Hezbollah Figure," unattributed AP article, 13th of February, 2008.
Reproduced on Fox.news. (
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,330525,00.html)
2 - ibid.
3 - ibid.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Spielberg quits Olympic post

Steven Spielberg has walked out of his post as 'artistic advisor' for the Beijing Olympics, because the government of the PRC supplies arms and oil to the government forces in Darfur (1). It is a principled thing to do, but he's doing it far too late. He should never have been involved in the Beijing Olympics in the first place.

That Durfur has been a tipping point is surprising - the Beijing regime has committed, and commits, for worse atrocities in its own territory. Any action that draws attention to the wickedness of the bastards of Beijing is good, but at the same time I can't get my head around Spielberg's myopia. Didn't he know that the Chinese government is one of the most hateful and despicable on the planet? If yes, why did he ever take up a post with them. If not, where on Earth has he been all this time?

The suggestion that working with the Beijing regime will somehow make things better, by promoting 'international contacts through which awareness of human rights in China can be increased' is outlandishly niave, particularly since it comes from a spokesperson of a human rights organisation (2). Anyone unaware of the nature of the regime in Beijing is either stupid or wilfully ignorant and neither condition will be resolved by holding the Olympic games there. I don't think Spielberg is either of these things. Which leaves us with a third option, complicity in evil. He's not alone in that, of course. We all are, to a greater or lesser extent.

Of course, our glorious leaders, having allowed our industrial base to relocate to the PRC, where practices such as slavery, indentured service and child labour are still permitted by a government that hates free speech and any criticism of its evil policies, don't really give a damn (3). They are more interested in maintaining their own hold on power, and the politician who tries to stem the flow of cheap goods is going to find himself very unpopular with his or her electorate, and (consequent to this) maintaining good relations with Beijing, who have control on that flow.
1 - 'No 'genocide games' for Spielberg,' by Perro De Jong, news report by Radio Netherlands Worldwide, 13th of February, 2008. (http://www.radionetherlands.nl/currentaffairs/080213-spielberg-olympics-mc)
2 - ibid.
3 - As described presviously on lefthandpalm: (http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2008/02/beijing-arrests-hu-jia.html)

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Good on Aussie

Kevin Rudd's apology (1) and talk about 'closing the gap' beleween white and black Australia is good start. Rudd's done what the Liberals didn't manage to do in over a decade - apologise for a greivous wrong.

Where it goes from here will need a lot of hard work, but for the moment, good on you, Australia.
1 - 'Cheers, tears, as Rudd says "Sorry",' unattributed article on ABC News, 13th of February, 2008. (http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/02/13/2161309.htm)

Katherine Rich resigns

Katherine Rich has resigned (1) and will not stand for election.

This is a BAD THING because Rich was a significant figure on the right-lite side of the National Party - the wing of the party that isn't insane, in thrall to free market ideology. The wing which actually represents a significant constituency in New Zealand, but which has struggled to be heard in the National Party of late. Rich was never a good fit in the National Party under Brash. Key rehabilitated her, to show that there were no hard feelings and he wasn't at all like his predeceessor, but since he hasn't rejected the freemarket extremism of Brash et al, and seems to be biding his time before implementing it, her survival in government was doubtful.

It is also interesting that National will certainly be looking to coalesce with ACT, if they don't have the numbers to go it alone. ACT voted against the repeal of section 59, whereas Rich supported Bradford's bill from the start (2). ACT are making a lot of noise about a referendum on the repeal (3). If National need them, it would be something they would push for - an opportunity to grandstand and claim that their absurd little libertarian party is in tune with mainstream New Zealand, instead of the muddy little creek it actual is. Might Rich have see this, and realised that she - unlike her party leader - didn't want to swallow that particular rat?

1 - 'Rich drops resignation bombshell,' by Colin Espiner in The Press, 13th of February, 2008. Reproduced on stuff.co.nz. (http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/4399450a10.html)
2 - 'ACT pushes anti-smacking referendum,' press release by the ACT party, 2nd of February, 2008. (
http://www.act.org.nz/act_pushes_anti-smacking_referendum)
3- Espiner, op. cit.

Monday, 11 February 2008

Dallas, 1963: a warning?

According to Doris Lessing (1), Barak Obama would be assasinated if he were elected president.

This is the sort of comment I'd usually ignore, because it stinks of a novelist trying to attract attention by being slightly outrageous. But I'm not sure she's wrong.

At the moment, I'm reading The Death of A President, William Manchester's account of the assasination of JFK. While he dismisses conspiracy theories abruptly, Manchester does touch on the poisonous atmosphere in Dallas prior to the shooting, and points to it as a contributing factor - something that shaped and directed Oswald's rage at his own impotence and unimportance. In the opening pages, he describes how
... a kind of fever lay over Dallas County. Mad things happened. Huge billboards screamed 'Impeach Earl Warren.' Jewish stroes were smeared with crude swastikas. Fanatical young matrons swayed in public to the chant, 'Stevenson's going to die - his heart will stop, stop, stop, and he will burn, burn, burn!' Radical right polemics were distributed in public schools; Kennedy's name was booed in classrooms; junior executives were required to attend radical seminars. Dallas had become the Mecca for medicine-show evangelists of the National Indignation convention, the Christian Crusaders, the Minutemen, the John Birch and Patrick Henry societies ... This was more than partizan zeal. It was a chiaroscuro that existed outside the two parties, a virulence which had infected members of both. (2)
In 1963, paranoia anti-communism, segregation and a hatred of the Kennedy clan came together to direct Oswald's desire to make himself matter. In 2008 it is issues like abortion, the war on terror, xenophobia and racism. Add to that a parlous economy that has reduced a lot of people to desperation and apocalyptic religious beliefs. Its all there.

If the 2008 presidential campaign becomes as vicious as it bodes to be, the same sort of partisan hate-spewing as seen in 1963 might trigger another lonely psycho into trying to win a little bit of infamy. In fact, none of the three contenders is safe, because all three might find themselves the target of the rightwing hate machine. Clinton because she's Clinton. Obama because he's black. McCain because he's being demonised as a turncoat who sells out his party.

Stanley Balwin said the press enjoyed "power without responsibility" - they could influence public affairs, but never had to bear the brunt of their mis-steps or advocacy. Thuis was evident in Dallas in 1963, where the press - controlled by rightwing moguls, then as now - immediately absolved themselves, claiming there was no link between Oswald's homocidal act and the hatred and bile they had aimed at Kennedy before the killing. Manchester describes how
Some people, and some cities, were searching their own souls. The editor of the Austin American was writing: "Hatred and fanaticism, the flabby spirit of complacency that has permitted the preachers of fanatical hatred to appear respectable, and the self-righteousness that labels al who disagree with us as traitors or dolts , provided the way for the vile deed that snuffed out John Kennedy's life.' That sort of self-criticism found no echo in the Dallas establishment. (3)
The voices of extremist commentators - predomiantly, but not exclusively on the right - are propogating hatred and fanatcisism. The media environment, polarised and innured to shocking statements and rabid frothing palmed off in place of rational arguement, is flabby and complacent - complicit, in fact. The repugnat has become respectable. It waits to be seen if the parallels will continue towards the tragic climax.
1 - 'Obama: "would be killed,' unattributed article in The Independent, 11th of February, 2008. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/obama-would-be-killed-780703.html)
2 - The Death of A president by William Manchester, published by Pan Books Ltd, London, 1968. Page 81. Immediately prior to the section quoted, Manchester recounts an encounter between Abraham Zapruder and Dallas man who hints at the desirability of killing Kennedy.
3 - ibid, page 463.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Pre-emptive birthday celebration

As of the 15th of February, lefthandpalm will have been setting the world to rights for a year. That there still is a world to be set right (or should that be set left?) is largely, I think, due to my efforts. Without the 179 posts contributed prior to this one, the last 12 months would have been much worse for everyone.

Though much is done, much remains to do. In the next 12 months, lefthandpalm will drive President Bush from office, will trigger a general election in New Zealand, resulting in a Labour-Green-Progressive coalition. My diligent work wil continue to see the standard of living of those who need it most gradually improving. I will also cause a general election in Britain, though I can't guarantee the results. I'd hope the Labour party return to power, but I suspect they may come a cropper.

I will continue to exert upwards pressure on house prices, and I will maintain interest rates at their current level throughout the year. I might even raise them in the last quarter, if it pleases me to do so.

Unfortunately, I won't be causing any effective action on climate change - the countervailling forces of business and oil grubbing are too strong, even for me. But there will be a steady increase in support, and more citizens initiatives taking action in the face of governmental reluctance. Hopefully.

Sadly, it is unlikely my blogging will be able to keep Gore Vidal alive for another 12 months. The grim reaper may also tap the great Jean Luc Godard on the shoulder, since he made off with Bergman and Antonioni last year.

I promise you all I will ensure Ian McCewan does not win the MAN Booker Prize. The possibility of a printout of this blog's posting being considered entertains me.

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Why McCain Matters

The other day, Idiot/Savant commented that he (or she?) didn't give a damn about who became the Republican candidate for this year's election (1).

I assume this attitude stems from the belief that whoever wins the nomination is irrelevant, as all Republicans are, at heart, fiendish beasts of the far right and to be shunned. This is perfectly true. Unfortunately, it is also true that the American political landscape is skewed so far to the right that even a McCain - who would count as an extremist in any sane coutry - matters.

The Republican Party was not always the monster it is today. It was the party of Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. It was also the party of Dwight Eisenhower, who opposed segregation, expanded social security, espoused "Dynamic Conservatism," condemned the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and warned of the encroaching power of the "military-industrial complex" (2). It was, in fact, once a party of principle.

Somewhere along the line, of course, it became snarled up into an ugly mess. The Christian morality that underlay it became twisted into fundamentalism, and the party embraced the foaming madness of the anti-abortion lunatics. Inherent suspicion of government became perverted into the carpet-bagging of Reaganism and neo-conservatism. Forget keeping a wary eye on the possible excesses of the state - simply privatise, sell off, cut.

The weird alliance of the neo-cons and the religious right has maintained its control over the party since the late 70s. It has excluded the rump of the Republican party - people who believe in small governemnt, low taxes, values and morality, but are not comfortable in the extreme positions of the ideologues who have colonised their party.

We've seen these ideologues turning on McCain (4). This is because they fear he will challenge their control of the party. They might even be willing to lose an election to stop him and to crush the caucus he represents.

He isn't - by any sane definition - a liberal. Rank and file Republicans recognise this, not matter what the likes of Coulter and Limbaugh may say. But he is a maverick who likes to challenge authority. One you get to be President of the United States, of course, there isn't much authority left to challenge, except the power of the groups who control the Republican Party. He might do it just for the Hell of it. He might do it because he feels an obligation to reclaim the party for the moderate rump of the party. He might, of course, do nothing at all.

Because the USA operates a de facto two party system and politics in the USA seems to be entirely an exercise in propganda, not fact, the Republicans and the Democrats are linked. The lurch to the right by the Republicans dragged the Democrats along with it - the party of Clinton (Mark I or II) isn't the party of Roosevelt or Kennedy. But if McCain can weaken the grip of the religious and economic extremists, then might allow the Democrats room to re-position as well. An America where the choice is between moderately sane and moderately insane is an improvement on an America where the choice is between the moderately insane and the utterly moonstruck.

It's tempting to write off any Republican candidate as just apuppet of those forces, but that's simplistic. The party is as prone to schisms, civil wars and calamity as any other human organisation. McCain's popularity is a symptom of the struggle between the people who control the Republican Party, and the people who actually vote for it.
1 - 'A Draw,' posted by Idiot/Savant on Nor Right Trun, 7th of February, 2008. (http://norightturn.blogspot.com/2008/02/draw.html)
2 - Opposition to segregation, expansion of social security, espousal of "Dynamic Conservatism" as per his autobiography on Wikipedia, as viewed on the 10th of February, 2008: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eisenhower). His opposition to the use of the atomic bomb as per wikipedia, same date (http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Dwight_D._Eisenhower#Post-Presidency). His farewell address contains his comments on the military-industrial complex: (http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/dwightdeisenhowerfarewell.html).
Condemnation of the use of the atomic bomb in
3 - McCain's a Baptist, but only nominally. He was raised as an Episcopalian. As per his Wiki biography, viewed 10th of February, 2008. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_McCain#U.S._Congressman_and_more_children)
4 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2008/02/why-republicans-hate-mccain.html and http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2008/02/far-right-out-for-mccain.html.

Friday, 8 February 2008

Trotter vs Maori

Trotter's latest column (1) is a strange beast. There's the germ of a good argument in it, but the tone is erratic and blethering. I don't agree with Idiot/Savant's assertion that it's "outright racial fear-mongering" (2), but it's a blundering, ill thought, pig of a column.

First of all, the good bit. Key's cosying up to Tame Iti may be a significant misstep. If there is any substance to the terrorism charges, the image of Key pressing noses with a man who facilitated his would-be assasins will become a stark symbol of his naivetey. He can't realistically argue that he was taken by surprise and reacted without thinking, because, first of all, whose instinct is to share a hongi with someone you think may have sought to kill you? And second, if Key is flat-footed enough to be out manouvered by Tame Iti and TVNZ, how will he cope if he's asked to deal with big issues affecting our interests?

Unfortunately, Trotter only spends a few words analysing the possible repucussions of Key's cinch with Iti. Instead, he launches into a tirade about the possibility of National repealing the Foreshore and Seabed act. I really, truly, think this is far-fetched. First of all, because it will expose them to massive political damage - Labour will remind people of the Iwi/Kiwi ads that National ran against them in 2005.

People have just about accepted that the Foreshore & Seabed act didn't empower the local iwi to make off with the sand and shells, inspite of what National's lying campaign suggested. Conservative, white New Zealanders will baulk at an attempt by National to change things back to the way they were, especially if it smells of a seedy deal to grab power. Perhaps the F & S legislation should be repealed, and a better alternative found. But shabby political necessiy will prevent National from doing so.

Even if they were seeking to cobble together some preposterous alliance with the Maori Party and offered up the repeal of the F & S legislation, the deal will surely become unstuck over the issue of the Maori seats. True, National have declared they won't seek to abolish them before treaty claims are settled, and have given a putative date of 2014 - handily, a date likely to fall at the end of National's second term, where they'd hope to be free of any obligation to the Maori Party in coalition and will be able to exploit it as a red-hot election issue (3). But the Maori Party probably wouldn't be impressed by these enticements. National would need to guarantee the Maori seats, because without them the Maori Party risk annihilation. Since National won't do that, I can't see a deal being reached.

Which is why Trotter's column is so disappointing - it has nothing to do with the real world. It explores an eventuality so remote as to belong in some strange fantasyland. A bit like the image of John Key sharinging a hongi with Tame Iti, in fact.
1 - 'Seabed makes odd bedmates,' by Chris Trotter in the Dominion Post, 8th of February, 2008. Reproduced on stuff.co.nz. (http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominionpost/4392654a26342.html)
2 - 'Trotter plays the race card,' posted by Idiot / Savant on No Right Turn, 8th of February, 2008. (
http://norightturn.blogspot.com/2008/02/trotter-plays-race-card.html)
3 - As described previously on lefthandpalm:
http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2008/02/maori-partys-dilemna.html

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Business Roundtable vs the planet, part 2

Listening to radio reports of the drought (1) conditions in the Waikato, which are so extreme that farmers are shooting stock, I was struck by another flaw in the report (2) trumpeted by the Business Roundtable, suppsoedly showing how a meaningful carbon mitigation policy will harm the economy without dealing with the issue of carbon emmissions.

It constructs a 'business as usual' scenario, based upon New Zealand not adopting any measures to deal with CO2 emmissions. I appreciate this is only for comparative purposes - to show how the difference between taking no action and taking action. But neither scenario, as far as I can see, takes into account the impact of the phenomenum creating all this fuss - climate change.

Without the impact of climate change being taken into account, the report is meaningless - just some figures that show that if New Zealand decides to unnecessarily burden its economy, its economy will be burdened. No shit, Sherlock. I could have told you that. But positing a 'business as usual' scenario that doesn't bear any resembleance to the putative reality of 2025 is not making a useful contribution to the debate.

A major distorting factor in the analysis was the assumption that major competitors would not undertake any carbon emmission regime. The reality is that once the economic impact of climate change is grasped, measures will be taken - because the the consequences of taking no action will be more grave than the consequences of taking action.

It will be argued, I suppose, that the report is intended to show the costs of carbon mitigation to the economy, and the incompatibility of high growth. But even then, it is a meaningless exercise because it is as far removed from reality as the further excesses of artisitc criticism. It shows what could happen is a situation that does not and can not exist. So it is irrelevant.

I can't avoid a sneaking suspicion that it was set up, by the Business Roundtable, to produce this result: "Adolf? Roger here. Can you analyse the economic impact of carbon mitigation? No, don't take the effects of climate change into account. Yes, I understand that if we assume climate change isn't ahppening then the idea of a carbon mitigation scheme is ludicrous. Just assume everything continues as it is for the next fifteen years. The report's ready? Lets have a look. Oh, see - if we lumber ourselves with said carbon mitigation scheme, the economy suffers. If we don't, everything is fantastic."

To make the report meaningful, it would also have to provide scenarions outlining the likely effects of a global carbon mitigation process - all economies taking hits. It would also have to look into the economic consequences of climate change. Excluding these essentials, it is worthless, except as propoganda.

The NZBRwaves a fig leaf about, claiming they aren't really opposed to the idea of carbon mitigation, just bad carbon mitigation: "The business community takes the threat of global warming seriously and is not generally opposed to action to put a low initial price on carbon" (3). Which, in translation, means they'll happily rearrange the deckchairs on the Titanic or, (more appropriately) fiddle while Rome burns - or any other cliche describing lack of effective action you can think of.

It is classic greenwash. They want to have a scheme which they can point to and say, "Look, we're doing our bit for the environment! Don't say we're onl interested in the money." Though part of me wonders if some sage heads at the NZBR have realised there potential to make money out of carbon mitigation and trading schemes - as long the schemes aren't robust enough to actually affect the greedy capitalist bastard's horded millions the economy.

1 - 'Waikato declared a drought zone,' unattributed One News report, 7th of February, 2008.(http://tvnz.co.nz/view/page/536641/1573620)
2 - 'Carbon Mitigation Scenarios,' a report by Adolf Stroombergen of Infometrics, 5th of February, 2008. Available through the NZBR website. (http://www.nzbr.org.nz/documents/features/NZBR%20PEPANZ%20Carbon%20Mitigation%20Scenarios.pdf). For my earlier comments, see the post 'Business Roundtable oppose saving the planet,'(http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2008/02/business-roundtable-oppose-saving.html)
3 - 'Carbon Neutrality Goals Costly and Unattainable,' NZBR press release, available on their website, 5th of February, 2008. (
http://www.nzbr.org.nz/documents/releases/0204CarbonNeutralityMR.pdf)

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Business roundtable oppose saving the planet

... no bloody surprise there. After all, the Business Roundtable consists entirely of very old rich men (even the ones who might be young, and/or female) and so they don't give a damn about saving the planet. In fact, they probably want to destroy it out of vicious spiute, the same bitterness that drives all capitalists, and stems from the time when some kid snatched their toy away in kindergarten and they vowed that they would not rest until they owned all the toys in the world.

I feel better now that I have got that off my chest. Blame Roger Kerr, the executive director of the Business Roundtable. His comments (1) on a recent report (2) have annoyed me. Indeed, on refering to the report, it also annoyed me. While I may not have the necessary expertise, some things struck me as odd.

The assumption that seemed most strange to me is the idea that New Zealand will go it alone, and major competitors won't institute carbon mitigation schemes:

Countries with which we compete internationally, either with respect to exporting or import substitution, do not have significant emissions mitigation policies. (This likely to be the case at least for China and India, and possibly for the United States.) (3)
That is a huge assumption. Economies seeking to reduce carbon emmissions are likely to trade with each other, and restrict trade with non-compliant countries. There will be an incentive for non-compliant economies to 'join the club.' So the failure to investigate a model with a global or near-global level playing field seems to undermine the report. This is acknowledged in the caveats at the end of the document:

Countries with which we compete internationally, either in exporting or import substitution, do not have significant emissions mitigation policies. Thus the effect of New Zealand’s policies on the international competitiveness of New Zealand’s industries could be overstated ... (4)
Kerr, of course, forgets to mention this part.

Another part I queried was the statement that "In this study sinks are ignored because in the long run forests are carbon neutral" (5). This seems odd in a report covering just 18 years (to 2025). That is not long term, by any stretch of the imagination, unless you're a goldfish, or perhaps a particularly ancient member of the Business Roundtable, to whom 2025 is an impossibly distant horizon. Planting forests now might mean the carbon they squester is released in a hundred years - but that release is beyond the scale of the report. Their potential absorption is not, however - plant trees and they start growing, absorbing carbon. So the potential contribution of reforestation should have been included.

(And in any case, the solution to carbon release from dying trees is simply to plant more trees, re-capturing the carbon. The suggestion they are carbon neutral and hence irrelevant is misleading.)

The report relies on the assumption that nothing much will change over then next 15 years - no new technologies will be developed, there will be no changes in behaviour that affect the situation and, most questionable, the situation vis a vis other economies will remain static, apart from New Zealand electing to impose a punative emmissions policy. Kiwis are known for being a bit batty, but it is far-fetched to suggest that New Zealand will lumber itself with an emmissions policy and maintain it for a decade and a half without anyone else joining in.

And there will be new technologys. Compare the world of 2007 with the world of 1997 or 1987. We've demonstrated a considerable ability to create nasty, polluting stuff, and ingenious means to kill each other. It would be nice if that versatility could be used to save the planet. To ignore it completely, as Kerr does, to strengthen an ideological position is disingenuous.
1 - 'Carbon aims 'too ambitious',' by Nick Churchouse, in the Dominion Post, 6th of February, 2007. Reeproduced on stuff.co.nz. (http://www.stuff.co.nz/4388818a13.html). See also the NZBR press release that accompanied the report, available on their website, released on the 5th of February, 2008. (http://www.nzbr.org.nz/documents/releases/0204CarbonNeutralityMR.pdf)
2 - 'Carbon Mitigation Scenarios,' a report by Adolf Stroombergen of Infometrics, 5th of February, 2008. Available through the NZBR website. (
http://www.nzbr.org.nz/documents/features/NZBR%20PEPANZ%20Carbon%20Mitigation%20Scenarios.pdf)
3 - ibid.
4 - ibid.
5 - ibid.

Theresa May: Going, Going ...

So, Theresa May is in a bit of trouble.  Tories are scheming and plotting - which they do on any day that ends in a 'Y' - and rumour...