Saturday, 30 August 2008

I/S is most unfair

Lefthandpalm Idiot/Savantwatch feels that the good I/S wrong in his/her comments on the recent ASEAN free trade agreement. He/she suggests that the government is guilty of inconsistency in pursuing a FTA with a group of nations that ingludes the violent thug tryanny of Burma:
The government signed an FTA with ASEAN, which includes Burma. So, we rightly isolate Fiji for being a dictatorship, while we sign up to trade with an even worse dictatorship, murderous regime which massacres its own people (to the extent that they use chemical weapons against rebels). So much for consistent (let alone moral) foreign policy. (1)
This can not be allowed to go unanswered.

The government has been very consistent here. Having already concluded free trade agreements with the violent thug government of Beijing, there is nothing at all inconsistent about reaching out a slimy tendril of hypocrisy to Burma's junta. Despicable, contemptable, hypocritical and wrong, perhaps, but not inconsistent.

The Honourable Phil Goff, in his role as Trade Minister Quartermaster for the Most Evil Regimes on the Planet, has made it quite clear why Fiji has been excluded:
"The ASEAN economies represent a market of more than 575 million people and are an increasingly important destination for New Zealand goods, service suppliers and outward investment.

"When you consider that the ASEAN market for New Zealand merchandise has grown at 24 per cent per year over the past three years you appreciate the scale of opportunity this FTA represents for us.

"Last year ASEAN was New Zealand’s third largest merchandise export market worth NZ$4.6 billion." (2)
Bottom line (literally): Fiji isn't valuable enough for our government to ignore the fact it is ruled by a military dictator. We can afford to take offense at its crimes.

Soon, perhaps, Mugabe will be offered the tendril of an FTA.

[Hat tip: No Right Turn (3)]

1 - "Escaping the Winston Bubble," posted by Idiot/Savant on No Right Turn, 30th of August, 2008. (http://norightturn.blogspot.com/2008/08/escaping-winston-bubble.html)
2 - "Conclusion of ASEAN FTA negotiations," press release by the New Zealand Government, 29th of August, 2008. Reprodced on Scoop.co.nz. (
http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA0808/S00500.htm)
3 - "Escaping the Winston Bubble," posted by Idiot/Savant on No Right Turn,
30th of August, 2008. (
http://norightturn.blogspot.com/2008/08/escaping-winston-bubble.html)

Friday, 29 August 2008

I thought we were beyond this sort of stuff

The Winston Peters fiasco seems to be bringing out the hysterical inner child in some bloggers who generally like us to think that They Know Better.

Idiot/Savant has been calling (1) for Peters to sacked be since Wednesday, prior to the SFO decision to investigate him. Peters' resignation was highly desireable, for many reasons, but at that stage it was premature to say that Peters is "lying, corrupt" (2) simply on the strength of one person's (disputed) word, and should be sacked on that is a slip in judgement by a blogger who is usually measured in his/her opinions.

Much more predictable was the reaction of DFP on Kiwiblog. Attempts at impartiality were soon forgotten in a blitz of posts potraying Clark's failure to dismiss Peters in February as proof of her corrupt power crazed megalomania. This in spite of John Armstrong pointing out, on National Radio, that it is usual practice to accept a member's word.

He even made frequent reference to 'the Empire'and 'Helengrad' (3), which is silly stuff I thought serious bloggers had grown out of. 'Helengrad' is not only childish, but casts the right in a rather unflattering light. After all, if Clark's government are the Soviets defending Stalingrad, who does that make National and the right?
1 - "Peters Must be Sacked," posted by Idiot/Savant on No Right Turn, 27th of August, 2008.(http://norightturn.blogspot.com/2008/08/peters-must-be-sacked.html)
2 - ibid.
3 - "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Helengrad's End," posted by David Farrar on kiwiblog, 29th of August, 2008. One silly post in a day might be excused as excitement, but twice is decidedly childish. (
http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2008/08/the_empire_strikes_back-2.html
and
http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2008/08/helengrads_end.html)

Monday, 25 August 2008

Trotter vs. Idiot/Savant

Ah, I knew that athe arrival of Chris Trotter on the blogosphere would cause distress. Barely a week in, and Chris 'Naomi Campbell' Trotter has decided to take Idiot "Claudia Schiffer" Savant to task for being too pretty naive in condemning militarism (1) and anti-democratic tendencies in Fiji. I/S, apparently, is "operating in a totally mechanistic ethical universe" (2) and that just isn't good enough. This is the real world we're talking about, not the blogosphere.

Trotter, an old hand at dealing with the real world - he's been on TV and the radio, after all - explains that Bainimarama was actually being democratic in overthrowing a democratically elected government and refusing to hold elections. You can tell Trotter is serious because he uses fancy words like 'insouciant' and Latin tags like ipso facto (3). One can almost sense his moustache bristling like a porqpine's quills.

Idiot/Savant, on the other hand, complains that Trotter is arrogant and anti-democratic (4). You can tell I/S is serious because he uses fancy words like 'predicated' and Latin tags like mutatis mutandis (5).

At this point, both these screaming queens should be sent to their trailers and forced to read Orwell's Politics and the English Language (6). Twice. And then the opening pages of the Fowlers' The King's English (7).

The main bone of contention is the Fiji coup (Trotter scores bonus points for referring to it as a coup d’etat, and doubles his bonus for following this foreign term with a quick ergo). Trotter argues Bainimarama was justified in overthrowing the government because Fijian democracy was stagnant and corrupt (8). I/S counters by pointing out that just because men with guns don't like a democratically elected government, they don't have the right to boot it out (9). Hair pulling, name calling and handbag action worthy of Tana Umuga ensued.

All of which silly supermodel antics doesn't alter the fact that there is an important point under all this squealing - when is it right to take up arms against a government? It might be useful to look back on the stance taken by both last year following the Urewera raids. Trotter was strongly supportive of the government, I/S generally supportive of those arrested.

Trotter has some explaining to do here. In his (inevitably orotund) Open Letter to John Minto, he stated:

But I have not heard one word from you about the right of a democratic society, such as ours, to be protected from people who think it's OK to run around the bush with semi-automatics and Molotov cocktails.

People who think it's OK to train young Maori men to be bodyguards for the Americans in Baghdad.

People who think it's OK to reach a level of preparation for organised political violence so alarming that New Zealand's most liberal police commissioner, ever, felt he had no choice but to launch "Operation Eight".

Because its NOT OK, John.

Political violence in a functioning democracy is NEVER OK. (10)

Now, I imagine he would point out the adjective, 'functioning,' and remind me (with several Latin tags and perhaps even refering to my comment as 'infelicitous') that Fijian 'democracy' was encumbered with "a corrupt government, plus a constitution that makes it virtually impossible to deal effectively with government corruption". Well, maybe. But by what standard is that judged? You don' get to make that call, Chris. The Tuhoe activists and environmental anarchists arrested last year probably felt the same about the New Zealand government - almost every post on IMC Aotearoa (11) contained the words 'oligarchy,' 'fascist reactionaries' or 'money power.' The Urewera rabble sought to use the same means as Bainimarama, though for different ideological ends. But if it is wrong in one case, why not in another.

I/S, on the otherhand, consistently supported the Urewera 17, albeit with a few early reservations (12). He/she referred to them, consistently, as "Maori, greens, and peace activists" (13) and similar, and railed against the possibility that the police might have had reason to take some sort of action. In this there, seems to be a trace of a double standard, similar to the one as he/she accuses Trotter of. When it is a bunch of leftie clowns running about entertaining Che Guevara fantasies, the the state should let them get on with it. When the Fijian military decides to play Pinochet, on the otherhand, he is to be condemned. As I said a few moments ago, it is the means that are the real problem, and the sought means in both cases were similar.

Which brings us to the nub of the problem. Contrarian Chris, I suspect, is still mad at I/S over the Labour's Trotter' comments (14) made on No Right Turn during the raids fiasco. This current outbreak of queenish behaviour is (here I go!) Trotter's quid pro quo.
1 - "The Multiple Personalities of Idiot Savant," posted by Chris Trotter on The Chris Trotter Blog, 25th of August, 2008. (http://www.policy.net.nz/blog/?p=61)
2 - ibid.
3 - ibid.
4 - "Trotter vs. Democracy," posted by Idiot/Savant on No Right Turn, 25th of August, 2008. (http://norightturn.blogspot.com/2008/08/trotter-versus-democracy.html)
5 - ibid.
6 - 'Politics and the English Language,' by George Orwell, published in 1946. Available online (http://orwell.ru/library/essays/politics/english/e_polit).
7 - While The King's English by H.W. and F.G. Fowler, first published in 1906, doesn't appear to be online, Trotter or I/S can swing by their local Whitcoulls, which usually has it in a bargain priced multi-pack with other good stuff, such as Cobbett's Grammar of the English Language.
8 - Trotter, op. cit.
9 - Idiot/Savant, op. cit.
10 - 'An open letter to John Minto,' by Chris Trotter, in the Sunday Star Times, 11th of November, 2007. Reproduced on stuff.co.nz (http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/4269648a1861.html)
11 - A fairly typical thread from IMC Aotearoa is available here: http://indymedia.org.nz/feature/display/71721/index.php. Note how quickly references to the Gestapo, dictatorship and the 'unjust global order' creep into the rhetoric. Note also the measured and thoughtful comments by a poster designated lurgee.
12 - "Raids II," posted by Idiot/Savant on No Right Turn, 15th of October, 2007. The reservation expressed related to the possible involvement of criminals in the alleged organisation: "Some of those involved were reportedly planning serious crimes, and others had illegal firearms. This is bad stuff, and the sort of thing people should be prosecuted for."
(
http://norightturn.blogspot.com/2007/10/raids-ii.html)
13 - "Labour's Trotter," posted by Idiot/Savant on No Right Turn, 2nd of November, 2007. (http://norightturn.blogspot.com/2007/11/labours-trotter.html)
14 - ibid.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Another poll

A 3 News (1) confirms what was suggested by last week's Morgan poll - National are steady, but just under the 50% mark. Labour are pulling back support, climbing into the mid-30s. Minor parties are all over the place. In this poll, NZ First are out, Greens are in. The Morgan poll had it the other way around.

One truly bemusing prospect is that ACT's 'surge' to 2% might bump Roger Douglas back into parliament. Since I don't think he actually wants to be there - too much like hard work - I suspect he's watching the polls with even more trepidation than Helen Clark and John Key.
1 - "Labour clawing back National's lead in latest poll," unattributed 3
News article, 24th of August, 2008. (
http://www.3news.co.nz/News/LabourclawingbackNationalsleadinlatestpoll/tabid/209/articleID/68344/cat/87/Default.aspx)
2 - As described previously on lefthandpalm:
http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2008/08/what-is-wrong-with-journalists-in-this.html

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Why we will never win the War on Terror

Yet another horror story from Afghanistan, where coalition airstrikes killed 76 people - most of them children - in the province of Herat:
US-led coalition forces killed 76 Afghan civilians in western Afghanistan yesterday, most of them children, the country's Interior Ministry said.

The coalition denied killing civilians. Civilian deaths in military operations have become an emotive issue among Afghans, many of whom feel international forces take too little care when launching air strikes, undermining support for their presence.

"Seventy-six civilians, most of them women and children, were martyred today in a coalition forces operation in Herat province," the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

Coalition forces bombarded the Azizabad area of Shindand district in Herat province on Friday afternoon, the ministry said. Nineteen of the victims were women, seven of them men and the rest children under the age of 15, it said. (1)
Years after Robert Fisk described his first hand experience (2) of the hatred and violence that the coalitions shoot-first-deny-everything-afterwards attitude had created we still have not learned anything. Remarkably, the tolerant - or perhaps innured - population of Afghanistan still have not turned on us. Pwerhaps their fear of a return to all out civil war compels them to practice restraint in the face of the coalitions bloody antics.

Every dead civilian in Afghanistan will come back to haunt us, one way or another. They will become the faces that rally young muslims to the terrorist cause - not becuase the young men or women support the terrorists ends, but because they will be convinced that the West either does not care if it obliterates innocent Muslim lives - the best interpretation - or is actively seeking to do so.

This naive view was espoused by Muhammed Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer, who blew themselves - and 52 innocent people - to pieces in the London bombings on the 7th of July, 2005. Tanweer cited the sufferring of "our mothers, children, brothers and sisters in Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq and Chechnya" and Khan made a direct link between the the actions of Western governemnets and the culpability of the British people (3). Every story like this one - whether or not is is finally verified - or an Abu Grahib, or any act of stinking hypocrisy carried out by the governments we vote in and suffer to act in our name - adds to the culpability of the West as a whole and the price that may one day be exacted.

This is not to say we shouldn't stand up to terrorism. But we should be alert to when it is being committed in our name by our leaders, because - ultimately - it isn't our leaders who suffer the consequences. George Bush wasn't incinerated in the World Trade Centre on September the 11th. TOny Blair was not killed in the London underground. We have to stop taking what our imbecillic leaders say on trust, just as the deluded fools like Khan and Tanweer have to stop listening to the poison being spewed by their leaders. And we have to find ways to combat terrorism that will not spread more hatred and rage against us, or there will be more Khans and Tanweers.
1 - "Afghanistan: 76 civilians die in airstrike, ministry claims," by Sharafuddin Sharafyar, published in The Guardian, 23rd of August, 2008. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/aug/22/afghanistan.usa)
2 - "My beating by refugees is a symbol of the hatred and fury of this filthy war," by Robert Fisk, published in The Independent, 10th of December, 2001. Reproduced on findarticles.com. (
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4158/is_20011210/ai_n14426800)
3 - "Video of London suicide bomber released," by Adam Fresco, Daniel McGrory and Andrew Norfolk, published in The Times, 6th of July, 2006. (
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article683824.ece)

Barmy

From the preamble to ACT's 20 Point Plan to make us all rich beyond our wildest dreams:

And that's to make sure the ACT Party gets enough votes to hold the balance of power and demand that Sir Roger Douglas gets back his old job of Minister of Finance. (1)
To have Roger Douglas as a prospective MP is bad enough. To brag about it is worse - really, it is the sort of perversion best indulged in private as most of us find it rather off putting.

But to actually believe that it might be something that will encourage people to vote for you is so absolutely bonkers that I honestly can't think of anything more to say about it.

Incidentally, in the actual 20 point plan, Russia is cited as an economic model New Zealand should imiate. I kid you not. As is a country previously unknown to me called 'UK Conservative Policy' (2).

[Hat tip: 08 Wire (3)]

1 - Preamble to "ACT’s plan to get you an extra $500 a week, beat Australia, and bring our children home," published by persons unknown, though Roger and Rodney at least are old enough to know better. (http://www.act.org.nz/20pointplan).
2 - "ACT’s plan to get you an extra $500 a week, beat Australia, and bring our children home," published by persons unknown who should perhaps not be allowed out without supervision.(
http://www.act.org.nz/files/pledge/20pointplan.pdf)
3 - "ACT unilaterally decriminalises marijuana," posted on 08 WIre, 21st of August, 2008. (http://08wire.org/2008/08/21/act-unilaterally-decriminalises-marijuana/)

Friday, 22 August 2008

This is why we are hated and this is why we deserve to be hated

From The Guardian:

MI5 participated in the unlawful interrogation of a British resident now held in Guantánamo Bay, the high court found yesterday in a judgment raising serious questions about the conduct of Britain's security and intelligence agencies.
...
One MI5 officer was so concerned about incriminating himself that he initially declined to answer questions from the judges even in private, the judgment reveals. Though the judges say "no adverse conclusions" should be drawn by the MI5 officer's plea against self-incrimination, they disclose that the officer, Witness B, was questioned about alleged war crimes under the international criminal court act, including torture. (1)
Binyam Mohamed was kidnapped and tortured - his genitals allegedly mutilated with a razor blade - and then he was transferred to Guantanamo in 2004, where he still is (2).

Having being tortured into confessing, he is now to stand trial based on that confession, a document no genuine court would accept. He faces the death penalty if convicted by the show trial military commision and can not defend himself because the evicence that would show his confessions were extracted under torture is held by the British government and is not available to him. (3)

This has all been done in the name of defending our civilisation against barbarism.

Britain has been complicit in the wickedness of the so-called War on Terror which has only suceeded in creating more hatred and contempt for the West. Unlike the people in Afghanistan under the Taliban and Saddam Hussein's Iraq, we get to choose our leaders, and don't have to worry about being shot for not approving of their actions. So we can be held culpable for the deeds carried out by our leaders and their minions.

At best, we can only plead ingorance, confusion or apathy in our defence. At worst, we are licensing these acts. So how can we complain when wicked things are done to us in return?

1 - "MI5 criticised for role in case of torture, rendition and secrecy," by Richard Norton-Taylor, in The Guardian, 22nd of August, 2008. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/aug/22/uksecurity.guantanamo)
2 - ibid.
3 - ibid.

The blogosphere just got a bit more Pompous

Hurrah! Pompous Chris has a blog (1), where he can pontificate without being beholden to such minor nuisances as editors.

Since his declared intention in launching the blog is to "smarten us up" (us being you and me and everyone except, perhaps Chris Trotter) (2). we can assume that Chris hasn't become any more humble of late, or less prone to stroking his moustache while gazing dmiringly at his reflection in every other shop window, smiling slightly as if thinking, "My, what a handsome devil I am."

Expect it to be at least half rather clunkly biblical parallels, and the other half self justification as to why he is right, and everyone else, particularly John Minto and Michael Moore, is wrong.

I wonder if he'll have an avatar with a moustache, and if there is an emoticon that indicates smugness?

Just teasing, Chris. Welcome to the neighbourhood.

1 - It can be found at www.pompouschris.net.nz. Real web address: http://www.policy.net.nz/blog/.
2 - ibid.

Referendum on child thumping

It looks like the troglodytes (1) have managed to to scrape together enough signatures to call for a referendum - though as idiot/savant (2) points out, the referendum question doesn't actually address the issue at all, being couched in terms so vague as to make it irrelevant. Even with Section 59 deleted from the criminal code, the idea that a "a smack as part of good parental correction [would] be a criminal offence in New Zealand" is ludicrous - it is a tautological statement designed to elicit the desired response.

Even without Johnnie Flip-Flop's last minute intervention in the repeal debate, there would have been no likelihood of "good parents" being charged with a crime for giving their child a "smack," because public interest has always been an implicit element of any investigation, ad the police have always been entitled to use discretion. Key's clause just makes this explicit, and gae him the excuse to vote for the bill without appearing to support it in its original form - allowing him to make political capital out of it. Not very admirable, or principled.

It will be interesting to see which way Flip-Flop jumps if there is a strong vote in favour of the referendum. Tough by phrasing the question so vaguely, the supporters of child beating may have shot themselves in the foot. A vote in favour of the question is not a demmand for the return of Section 59, but an affirmation of support for the status quo. A smack adminsitered by good parents is not a criminal offence in New Zealand. On the other hand, those who abuse or brutalise their children can't hide behind a defence of "reasonable force," which is obviously a good thing (3).
1 - "Smacking bill referendum to be held," unattributed NZPA article, 22nd of August, 2008. (http://www.nbr.co.nz/article/smacking-bill-referendum-be-held-34307)
2 - "A referendum on smacking," posted by idiot/savant on No Right Turn, 22nd of August, 2008. (http://norightturn.blogspot.com/2008/08/referendum-on-smacking.html)
3 - My previous ramblings on Section 59 can be read here: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2007/04/just-repeal-section-59-please.html

The dreaded lurgee, hoist by his own petard

Bugger. Mrs lurgee and both children are smitten with sicknesses, so I will not be attending Drinking Liberally in Palmy tonight. Which is a shame because i was looking forward to cracking jokes about which phone box the next meet would be held in ...

Sunday, 17 August 2008

New poll

From One News, repeating the picture of the Morgan poll - Labour support creeping upwards to a healthier 37%, and National steady with "the support of more than half of all voters," (um, don't we get a number for that?). Clark seems starting to win back some ground in the preferred PM stakes, now at 33% to Key's 36% (1).

Interesting that this is the second of three recent polls to put the minor parties out of parliament without electorate wins (2). This seems unlikely - they will pick up support during the campaign, unless there is something unusual about this campaign.

Both Labour and the Nats will take comfort from this, publically. I'd suspect that Labour will be the more genuinely happy, as they are finally starting to see some progress. Of course, National can't really go any higher than the low 50s, so they can also be content - but realistically, they can expect some fallout from the secret taping and the 'Hidden agenda' campaign. That won't show up in this poll, but will probably knock them below 50% next month in most polls - assuming Labour keeps up some sort of pressure and doesn't cock up spectacularly - and under 45% in the Morgan polls which seem to predict a lower - probably more accurate - level of support).

Of course, having stuck my neck out like this, it's a certainty that Labour will probably drop down to the mid-20s and National will soar into the mid 60s ...
1 - "National on track for election gold," unattributed ONE News story, published on the ONE News website, 17th of August, 2008. (http://tvnz.co.nz/view/page/576182/2010633)
2 - The other was a Fairfax Media-Neilsen poll, detailed in the Dominion Post: "Nats romping ahead," unattributed article in the Dominion Post, 16th of August, 2008. Reproduced on stuff.co.nz. (http://www.stuff.co.nz/4657649a11.html).
See also my comments on this story, described previosuly on lefthandpalm:
http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2008/08/what-is-wrong-with-journalists-in-this.html

Conservatives court Beijing

In an interesting column in the Telegraph (1), journalist Anne Applebaum let slip a lot about the newspaper's - and by implication the conservative movement's - attitude towards the PRC.

Discussing the semi-mythical catalogue of Maoist atrocities, Tombstone, compiled by a communist party apparatchik, Yang Jisheng. Commenting on the changing face of the regime, Applebaum opines that:
Because China is no longer a totalitarian country, merely an authoritarian one, a journalist like Yang could spend 10 years working on the history of the famine, openly soliciting interviews and documents" (2).
This is remarkable. First of all, because it ignores what Yang himself saids in the book - and what applebaum quoted herself a few lines earlier:
It is a tombstone for my father who died of hunger in 1959, for the 36 million Chinese who also died of hunger, for the system that caused their death, and perhaps for myself for writing this book (3).
It requires considerable prowess in doublethink to quote a writer declaring his work may be his death warrant, and then announce that the regime that may kill him is "merely authoritarian," or merely anything. The correct term for such a regime is utterly reprehensible.

More interesting, however, is the rehabilitation of the diningenuous totalitarian/authoritarian distinction. This was a very popular dichotomy in the Reagan years, promoted by Jeanne Kirkpatrick. It was used to justify giving aid to all sorts of savage and despicable regimes, from Pinochet's Chile, to Galtieri's Argentina (Kirkpatrick even wanted the Whitehouse to side with the Argentinian junta against Britain in the Falklands conflict) and, of course, Saddam Hussein.

The basic principle was that any regime that the US government wished to do business with ('doing business' usually entailed selling them guns to supress democratic movements that had reddish tinge) was, by some mysterious diplomatic process, deemed authoritarian. This no matter how cruel, repressive, anti-democratic and evil it was. They might drop the odd person out of a helicopter over the ocean, or fill football stadia with corpses of their political foes, but they were "authoritarian.' Sorry, make that "merely authoritarian."

It was, naturally, a false distinction, a cynical manouver designed to allow the USA to further its own foreign policy objectives, which at the time consisted largely of thwarting the hobgoblin of communism, which was imagined to be everywhere. In the process, the USA made a lot of enemies, encouraged and strengthened a lot of evil people (some of whom we have been busy deposing, using equally false and dishonest pretexts). It is interesting to speculate what the Ragan adminsistration, transplanted to the 1930s, would have made of Nazi Germany (4).

Dusting off the authoritarian/totalitarian distinction indicates that the Telegraph - and the British strain of conservativism for which it speaks - has decided to embrace Beijing - human rights violations, anti-democratic tendency, genocide in Tibet and angaist the Uighurs in Xinjiang, environmental-catastrophe-in-the-making, deisre to invade Taiwan and all.

This, I suppose, is not surprising. The Bastards of Beijing are not strange bedfellows to the oligarchs in the west. They have, after all, exported most of our manufacturing to their hellhole industrial cities precisely so they can enjoy the advantages of manufacturing without having to worry about worker's right, environmental standards, trade unions or those other pesky considerations that made the west so damn ... unprofitable.

(And we, of course, the consumers in the west, have to own up that we have been happy to enjoy the benefits of this transfer of iindustry to China and other places, blithely swapping our own livelihoods for the chimera of cheaper goods).

So it isn't surpising that the PRC is now "merely authoritarian." The Captains of Industry in the West must be looking towards the orient, seeing the free hand that capitalist robber barons there have, and be thinking, "you lucky, lucky bastards."

Because, in the final analysis, it isn't about human rights or democracy or any of that stuff, but money. Money is to be made in Cina, so China must be made to appear acceptable to our refined Western sensibilities. Applebaum remarks that the current Chinese regime can't face up to its bloody, incompetent past, because to do so would raise too many questions about the current Communist Party, and as "there are no good answers to those questions, it's in the Chinese leadership's interest to ensure they are not asked" (5).

She neglects to mention that it is very much in our interests not to ask too many questions of the current regime in Beijing.
1 - "A Tombstone on China's History," by ANna APplebaum, published in The Telegraph, 17th of August, 2008. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2008/08/17/do1705.xml)
2 - ibid.
3 - ibid.
4 - I am aware of Godwin's Law and do not make the reference lightly. Given the Raegan regime's tendency to cosy up to dictators with a fondness for shooting communists and crushing democracy, I can see the Nazis being very popular with the Whitehouse, until the invasion of Poland, at any rate. Consider the adminsitration's attitude towards Iraq.
5 - Applebaum, op. cit.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Fisk on war with Iran

Fisk pondering, in passing, the likelihood of military action against Iran:
Yet still the Middle East debates whether Israel or the US will bomb Iran. Personally, I don't believe this will happen – but then again, that's what I told my friend Seymour Hersh before the Iraqi catastrophe, when he said we would invade and I said we wouldn't. Currently, he thinks an Iran attack is still on the cards. So, apparently, does the Emir of Qatar. He's generously handed the Americans yet more desert for their massive air base outside Doha, land that stretches away on the further side of the military installation. He's asked for the return of the side of the base closest to the capital. The reason? Well, if America bombs Iran, the Islamic republic's missiles are likely to come hissing towards US forces in Qatar. The Emir wants them exploding as far from Doha as possible.

And we'll have to finish in America. I received a letter last week from an old friend whose son has just returned from military duties in Iraq. And he's been wandering the Pisgah mountains in the US with a group of schoolkids in an area where he noticed a lot of military training going on a year ago, and ... Well, I'll let him tell you the story. "I had seen nothing more up there until this past week, when C-130s and C-17s suddenly were making low runs through the high mountain valleys. There were also military helicopters around. It may mean nothing, but it may indicate something for the future. I am enclosing some photos of the area to give you an idea of what it is like. Perhaps it reminds you of somewhere."

And I looked carefully through my friend's snapshots of rocky mountainsides and thick forests. And, darn me if they didn't remind me of the Elborz mountain chain just outside Tehran. (1)
One for the scrapbook, given the likely desire in US circles that retribution be meted out to someone, because Russia had the audacity to make the USA look foolish. Russia itself is too big a challenge, even the peanut-brained ideologues in the Pentagon and Whitehouse realise that, but someone, somewhere has to be made to suffer in the name of America's military prestige.
1 - "Robert Fisk's World: A region boiling with tales of kings, gangs and war," by Robert Fisk in The Independent, 16th of August, 2008. (http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/fisk/robert-fisks-world-a-region-boiling-with-tales-of-kings-gangs-and-war-899000.html)

What the #%&@! is wrong with journalists in this country?

According to an unattributed article (1) in the Dom Post, National are "romping ahead" and, both the Morgan and Fairfax Media-Neilsen polls "have National steaming ahead and well on course to govern alone."

This, even though the Morgan poll puts National on 48% - which, last time I checked, was somewhat less than 50%.

Even assuming the Rodney Hyde Vanity Party ACT creep back into parliament via Epsom, ACT can only cough up 1.5% of the vote, leaving the possibility of being able to form a majority dependent on electoral overhang. Sorry, but that isn't "well on course to govern alone."

Further, the Dom Post article neglected to mention some of the other findings of the Morgan poll:
  • The Roy Morgan Government Confidence Rating has risen for the second New Zealand Morgan Poll in a row, rising strongly to 103.5 (up 12pts). It is now at its highest level since being at 104.5 in early May. Now more New Zealanders 44.5% (up 6%) say the country is “heading in the right direction” compared to 41% (down 6%) that say the country is “heading in the wrong direction.”
  • There has been a similar rise in the Roy Morgan New Zealand Consumer Confidence Rating which has also strengthened, up 7.1 points to 94.9, and up 12.9 points since early July.
  • Morgan also supply a handy graph of polling history which shows that the 0.5% increase in support for National recorded in this poll appears to be a blip ona longer term slide, from a high of over 50%, while Labour has been consistently picking up support (2).

None of this is mentioned in the Dom Post article, which instead takes time to detail the results of the Fairfax Media-Neilsen poll, which seems an outlandish and questionable survey, as it claims all the minor parties will be banished from Parliament. No consideration is given to the make up of parliament based on the Morgan poll, or the possible significance of the other areas Morgan researched.

No wonder author of the piece was too embarrassed to put a name to it.

1 - "Nats romping ahead," unattributed article in the Dominion Post, 16th of August, 2008. Reproduced on stuff.co.nz. (http://www.stuff.co.nz/4657649a11.html)
2 - "New Zealand National Party (48%) hold strong lead over Labour (34%)," poll results published by Roy Morgan Research, 15th of August, 2008. (
http://www.roymorgan.com/news/polls/2008/4314/)

Has the Georgian fiasco sealed Iran's fate?

I do wonder if Russia's triumph in Georgia and the consequent humiliation by proxy (1) of the USA means that military action is more likely against Iran.

I don't know if the US government has such a thing as a National Prestige Advisor, but the 'ghost of Veitnam' obssessed the nation for decades. (Remember, the 'ghost' that was supposed to be 'exorcised' by the venture in Iraq?).

Whether or not the nation at large would still be angsting over it if they weren't constantly being reminded of it and told that they should feel angst is another matter. And whether or not they are reminded of it so often to encourage people to think they need to redeem themselves through some new display of geo-political machismo, another again.

The idea that the CORMMUNISTS (sic) have managed to dole out a successful cuffing to an irritant nation, while the USA continues to wallow ineffectually in Afghanistan and Iraq is likely to inflame bellicose sentiment - which will be encouraged by Faux News propoganda machine and the nonsense spewed by rightwing 'think-tanks,' just like before the invasion of Iraq.

So bombs may rain down on Tehran and obliterate innocent Iranians in the name of world peace and - doubtless - the whole shoddy act of mass murder will be proclaimed as a new front in the 'War on Terror.' That it will only make people hate us all the more will be conveniently ignored, as will the failure of bomb wrecked Iran to produce any credible evidence of a nuclear weapons programme. And the guilty will go unpunished, as they did after the invasion of Iraq (2).

And the US public, convinced that they have endured an insufferable - though ill defined - humiliation, may allow themselves to be fooled once again.
1 - 'Little to do, lots to learn for impotent US,' by Rupert Cornwell, published in The Independent, 15th of August, 2008.
(
http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/rupert-cornwell/rupert-cornwell-little-to-do-lots-to-learn-for-impotent-us-897560.html)
2 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2008/08/why-are-they-still-free-why-are-they.html

Monday, 11 August 2008

National unveil a truly conservative policy

Because a great part of the people ... will not serve unless they may receive excessive wages, and some rather willing to beg in idleness, than by labor to get their living; we, considering ... have upon deliberation and treaty with the prelates and the nobles, and learned men assisting us, of their mutual counsel ordained ... (1)

This is not the preamble to National's freshly announced welfare policy, but it might as well be. It is, infact, the Ordinance of Labourers passed into English Law in 1349, to compel the truculent peasantry to do their divinely ordained duty and labour for the benefit of their lords. Such as it was under the reign of Edward III of England in the 14th century. So, it seems, it will be in the reign of John I of New Zealand.

With truly immaculate comic timing, National have released details of their welfare policy at the same time as Jeremy Seabrook penned a glum commentary (2) in the Guardian. He describes how conservative parties seem to echo complaints from the medieval period onwards about how the peasants are too pampered and soft and unwilling to work, and - if they can be cajoled to work at all - will only do so for unreasonable wages. This morning, I read his article and wrote a breid entry on this blog. A few minutes later, on Morning Report, I heard that National were announcing policy that might have derived from the 14th century.

(While I can't confirm that National's policy was composed by a committee of prelates, nobles and 'learned men,' I suspect the composition of the ruling class hasn't changed greatly in 700 hundred years.)

National's policy is aimed at targeting the long term unemployed and (you can almost hear the pantomime hisses from stage right) single mothers:

National leader John Key said today a government formed by him would have "an unrelenting focus" on getting beneficiaries into work.

Announcing core elements of National's welfare policy, he pledged there would be no cuts to benefits and National would not introduce a work-for-the-dole or a community wage scheme.

"Instead we will be going one better and will focus on long-term unemployed by requiring them to get paid work and get off the benefit," he said.

"Within 12 months of taking office, National will require everyone who has been on the dole for more than a year to re-apply for their benefit and undergo a comprehensive work assessment."

Under the benefit policy, solo parents will have to seek part-time work once their youngest child is six. (3)

And this is from NICE National, remember. It begs the question, what will they be like when they don't feel the need to whisper sweet nothings in our ears any more?

Seabrook traces this tendency from the 1300s to the present, not only citing the various acts and statutes by which the rich and powerful have used their privilege to calumnate the poor and powerless, but identifying the cause of this - apparently incurable tendency to bemoan the bloodyminded laziness of the serfs and proles:
This debate continues to deny the agency of economic, technological and social determinants in producing able-bodied poor, idlers and spongers, welfare cheats, the drug destroyed and the outcast; but sees the individual as responsible for his or her particular form of dereliction. That the cyclical expansion and contraction of the economy influence levels of poverty or worklessness is played down: whenever there is an economic "downturn", the first reaction is to turn vengefully upon its victims. (3)

When times are good, the credit belongs to the Kking, the priesthood, politicians and captains of industry. When things turn rotten, it is due to the scurrilous serfs and pushy proles demanding more than was due to them. And the idea that the mechanics of industrialised society might actually produce the perenial hobgoblin of the 'idle poor' can not of course, be entertained. Paupers are paupers because they they are incurably, wickedly indolent. The rich and powerful are rich and powerful because they are honest, hardworking and willing to seize every opportunity.

That they usually have benefited from some massive social advantage, and the opportunities seized are generally only available to the few blessed with the afore-said massive social advantage, is once again, inadmissable. We just don't say such things in polite society.

SO the 'long term unemployed' must be put to work. Nevermind that they are, by and large, already looking for work. Never mind that for many the issue isn't lack of motivation, or even lack of jobs, but lack of essentials such as adequate child care. Heaven forbid, that some luckless ingle mother fulfill National's latest stricture by taking up a job that means her child becomes a latchkey kid - appart from the risks to the child, suddenly the hapless mother is transformed intot hat other rightwing hobgoblin, the Neglectful Mother, source of almost all social ills from violence, drug use and teenage pregnancy.

When that happens, of course, it will be considered extremely impolite to mention that the mother was forced to take up a job because of National's 'Tough-on-poverty, tough-on-those-too-feckless-and-stupid-to-be-in-poverty' rhetoric.

(One has to wonder how National can square the circle of being pro-family and at the same time anti-family, by threatening families - often the most vulnerable - with loss of benefits if they don't get out there and accept a minimum wage job at the chicken disembowelling factory, even though the recipient is a pharmacist).

And also, it will be very, very impolite to mention that for the tiny minority of genuinely dishonest spongers, the truly workshy and feckless, slashing benefits will make little difference. They will find away around it - the only people who will be affected will be those trying to get back into the workforce, who will end up being pushed into whatever jobs are available.

1 - From the Ordinance of Labourers 1349. (http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/seth/ordinance-labourers.html)
2 - 'The Poor: A Future Foretold' by Jeremy Seabrook, published in The Guardian, 10th of August, 2008. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/aug/10/labour.socialcare)
3 - "National's welfare policy a return to the 90s says Govt," unattributed NZPA article, published in The National Business Review, 11th of AUgust, 2008. (http://www.nbr.co.nz/article/nationals-welfare-policy-a-return-90s-says-govt-33891)
4 - Seabrook, op. cit.

Fiske on cliche

Robert Fiske gets a second gold star in a fortnight for his latest article, about cliches and dead language - and the truth they are used to disguise - in the Indie:
Why do we use these dead words? There is a dictionary of clichés on my desktop in Beirut and I heartily recommend Watson's Dictionary of Weasel Words by the Australian Don Watson.It contains one of my most hated clichés: core. As in "core issues", "core business" or "core learning outcomes". Rather like "key speakers" – of which I always refuse to be a member – these clichés attempt to smother idiocy with deep learning (or "core" learning, perhaps). What is this fascination with stale language? Let me rage. I hate all reports about wars where "the guns fall silent"; the retirement period for artillery being rather short, it's only a matter of time before the "clouds of war" begin to gather once more, when opponents are "pitted" against each other, when guns "soften up" their targets, and national governments complain about "terrorists" crossing (ergo: Iraq, Syria, Iran, Afghanistan) "porous borders". In Iraq, we may experience a "spike" of violence, followed – of course – by a successful surge". (1)
And from the final paragraph:
On balance, I think we use clichés not because they are easy, but because they are a kind of addiction. We find it very difficult to give them up because they make life easier, less responsible, more synthetic, less real. (2)
Here he is talking about the comfort journalists find in them, but I think he can go further. THe are comfortng for readers, also. They aren't just an addiction, but an abdication of responsibility. Rather than facing up to the nasty reality of the world, we prefer to subside into cliches, preferring to believe in worlds where the guns can "fall silent" or where rhetoric about change is enough to decide an election.

I would ping Fisk, however, for his use of the term "wordsmiths" in the final paragraph. This is the sort of term only self-important duffers give themself. Fisk, as I've said before, dithers between being someone very important, and embracing dufferhood. He almost managed to keep the latter tendency under control for the whole column. But "wordsmith"? Come on!
1 - "Robert Fisk: Avoid cliché like the plague? Never," by Robert Fisk, published in The Independent, 9th of August, 2008. (http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/fisk/robert-fisk-avoid-clich-like-the-plague-never-889296.html)
2 - ibid.

The poor: a future foretold

Interesting article (1) by Jeremy Seabrook in The Guardian. It seems nothing really changes much - or, at any rate, when there are changes, there is a countervailling force trying to cange them back again.
1 - 'The Poor: A Future Foretold' by Jeremy Seabrook, published in The Guardian, 10th of August, 2008. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/aug/10/labour.socialcare)

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Birth Defects - the real surge in Iraq

One picture that tells us everything about the barbarity of depleted uranium munitions and our shameful complicity in allowing their use.

This is what is being done to Iraq children - before they are even born - in our name:




















This picture was taken from the Seattle Post Intelligencer. The caption that accompanied it read: "This picture is from one of four albums shown by Dr. Jawad Al-Ali that are filled with photos of deformed infants - examples, he says, of the surge in birth defects in southern Iraq that he blames on depleted uranium."
1 - "Iraqi cancers, birth defects blamed on U.S. depleted uranium," by Larry Johnson in the Seattle Post Intelligencer, 12th of November, 2002. (http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/national/95178_du12.shtml)

Pilger on Hiroshima

Just as I am ambivalent to towards RObert Fisk, I have mised feelings towards John Pilger. Yes, he has done some great work, probing dirty little secrets and nasty little brutalities carried out to further Western imperialism and the advancement of capitalism. But he's also overly shrill and gets caught up in his own rhetoric, occasionally disappearing up his own metaphor.

Writing about Hiroshima, he shows his best and worst qualities, but the crime he's writing about, and the lies that have coalesced around it, are important enough to overlook his occasional loss of restraint:
In the immediate aftermath of the bomb, the allied occupation authorities banned all mention of radiation poisoning and insisted that people had been killed or injured only by the bomb's blast. It was the first big lie. "No radioactivity in Hiroshima ruin" said the front page of the New York Times, a classic of disinformation and journalistic abdication, which the Australian reporter Wilfred Burchett put right with his scoop of the century. "I write this as a warning to the world," reported Burchett in the Daily Express, having reached Hiroshima after a perilous journey, the first correspondent to dare. He described hospital wards filled with people with no visible injuries but who were dying from what he called "an atomic plague". For telling this truth, his press accreditation was withdrawn, he was pilloried and smeared - and vindicated. (1)
The same cycle of lies, disinformation and bullying is happening again, of course, whenever someone pokes a camera into a children's ward in Iraq to film or reports on the sick children and mutant babies (2) resulting from our use of depleted uranium munitions.

His final lines, delivered apropos of possible nuclear action against Iran, can be applied to myriad crimes being conducted in our name by our leaders, around the world - in Iraq, Afghanistan, by complicity in China, Africa, in the Caucases, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan:
The question begs: are the rest of us to be mere bystanders, claiming, as good Germans did, that "we did not know"? Do we hide ever more behind what Richard
Falk has called "a self-righteous, one-way, legal/moral screen [with] positive images of western values and innocence portrayed as threatened, validating a campaign of unrestricted violence"?
We know what is going on, or we have the means to know and we don't try to find out. This makes us culpable. Every medal hung around a proud athelete's neck in Beijing is tainted by the brutality of the Beijing regime and supports tryanny and violence in Darfur and Zimbabwe. Every Hollywood film watched, every CD sold, is an acknowledgement that Iraq and Guantanamo don't matter all that much. We can't plead ignorance.
1 - "The lies of Hiroshima live on, props in the war crimes of the 20th century," by John Pilger in The Guardian, 6th of August, 2008. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/aug/06/secondworldwar.warcrimes)
2 - "Iraqi cancers, birth defects blamed on U.S. depleted uranium," by Larry Johnson in the Seattle Post Intelligencer, 12th of November, 2002. (http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/national/95178_du12.shtml)
3 - Pilger, op. cit.

Olympic Cartoon

From the Independent:


















1 - Daily Cartoon from The Independent, 8th of August, 2008. (http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/the-daily-cartoon-760940.html)

Monday, 4 August 2008

Why (British) Labour are insufferably hateful

[Hat tip: No Right Turn (1)]

From the final chapter of Animal Farm:

Napoleon makes a speech in return, expressing his happiness that the mistrust between Animal Farm and the others is now at an end. He furthermore announces that the animals will cease to address each other as “Comrade,” and that “Animal Farm” will now revert to being called “Manor Farm.” As Napoleon finishes his speech to great applause, the animals outside seem to notice something changing in the features of the pigs, but what?

As the applause dies down and the card game is resumed, the animals creep away from the window. However, they hurry back when they hear a furious argument break out. The argument is because Mr. Pilkington and Napoleon have both played an Ace of Spades at the same time. But as the animals look from Napoleon to Pilkington, from man to pig and from pig back to man, they find that they are
unable to tell the difference. (2)

The Guardian carries an extract from columinst Polly Toynee's latest book. It includes some statistics that - given Labour has enjoyed complete power in Britain for over a decade now - are stomach churning:

The top 10% of income earners get 27.3% of the cake, while the bottom 10% get just 2.6%. Twenty years ago the average chief executive of a FTSE 100 company earned 17 times the average employee's pay; now it is more than 75 times. Since Labour came to power in 1997 the proportion of personal wealth held by the top 10% has swelled from 47% to 54%. Labour did try to tug in the opposite direction, but after Gordon Brown's last budget as chancellor axed the 10p tax rate, many of the lowest paid were left bearing a heavier burden.

Those who make the most money, meanwhile, seem less willing than ever to see it redistributed. Tax consultants Grant Thornton estimated that in 2006 at least 32 of the UK's 54 billionaires paid no income tax at all. (3)
Now, maybe I'm just not getting the Big Picture, here, Gordo, but isn't Labour meant to do something other than make rich people richer, and allow thew very richest to to enjoy their wealth without paying any income tax?

Oliver Wendell Holmes, an arch-conservative with many repulsive characteristics, but at least endowed with a grasp of brass tacks, famously remarked, "Tax is the price we pay for a civilised society" (4). Presumably, the opposite holds true and this last obscene revelation is a loud and clear 'fuck you' by the very richest to the rest of us, and the ideas and values that make up our civil - and civilised - society.

And all this time, the so-called 'people's party' has been in power, now lead by a man who has occasionally been know to mouth words like 'socialism' and 'redistribution.'

New Labour haven't just become the Old Tories. They've become worse.

1 - "The mythology of the rich," posted by Idiot / Savant on No Right Turn, 4th of August, 2008. (http://norightturn.blogspot.com/2008/08/mythology-of-rich.html)
2 - Animal Farm, by George Orwell. Published 1945. The quote cited is from Chapter 10. (http://www.online-literature.com/orwell/animalfarm/10/)
3 - "Meet the rich," by Polly Toynbee and David Walker, published in The Guardian, 4th of August, 2008. (
http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2008/aug/04/workandcareers.executivesalaries)
43 - As described on wikiquote, as of the 4th of August, 2008. (
http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Tax)

Sunday, 3 August 2008

USA's HIV figures all wrong

A new study, to be published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, suggests the USA's estimated rate of HIV infection has been far too low. According to the Centre for Disease Control:
New technology and methodology developed by CDC show that the incidence of
HIV in the United States is higher than was previously known. However, the incidence has been stable at that higher level for most of this decade. HIV incidence is the number of new HIV infections occurring during a certain time period, in this case, the year 2006.

These findings, published by in a special HIV/AIDS issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) that was released August 3, 2008, show
that in 2006, an estimated 56,300 new HIV infections occurred – a number that is
substantially higher than the previous estimate of 40,000 annual new infections. It should be noted that the new incidence estimate does not represent an actual increase in the numbers of HIV infections. Rather, a separate CDC historical
trend analysis published as part of this study suggests that the annual number of new infections was never as low as 40,000 and that it has been roughly stable since the late 1990s (with estimates ranging between 55,000 and 58,500 during the three most recent time periods analyzed).

The new estimates show that gay and bisexual men of all races and ethnicities and African American men and women are the groups most affected by HIV. Fifty three percent of all new infections in 2006 occurred in gay and bisexual men. African Americans, while comprising 13% of the US population, accounted for 45% of the new HIV infections in 2006. (1)
According to the details of the study,
In 2006, the rate of new infections among non-Hispanic blacks was 7 times the rate among whites (83.7 versus 11.5 new infections per 100,000 population). Blacks also accounted for the largest share of new infections (45%, or 24,900). Historical trend data show that the number of new infections among blacks peaked in the late 1980s and has exceeded the number of infections in whites since that time. (2)
This annoys me, because I see race as a useless category for definitions like this. What does 'black' mean? It is such a muddled way of categorising subjects as to be almost useless. All it tells us is that some people - with a slightly raised level of Melanin compared to the Caucasian 'norm,' are over represented. That's usless, as the category covers a huge range. Does it mean only people with 100% African heritage? 50%, like that nice Mr Obama or the ever delightful Ms Berry? 25%? 12.5%, which was the old definition of an 'Octroon,' and enough to get the unlucky bearer of enhanced Melanin sold as a slave? Or what?

The study's authors admit as much, pointing out:
Although race itself is not a risk factor for HIV infection, a range of issues contribute to the disproportionate HIV risk for blacks in the United States, including poverty, stigma, higher rates of other STDs, and drug use. (3)

Then why aren't the figues broken down by these factors instead? Why use a category which the study's authors admit is misleading?

The authors might argue that they are simply trying to highlight the over-representation of a social group in the statistics, but this is misleading. It isn't there place, as scientists, to attempt such sociological prestidigitation, but just to report the FACTS.

It is the usual American fixation on race, probably reflecting some weird hang up about 'black' sexuality, and also the desperate need to talk about anything other than social class. Heaven forbid if it were admitted that it was poverty, lack of education and lack of opportunity that defined your chances in life. Because these are all things that society can change, it it is minded to. Where as if it is down to race (can any one else see a "lazy negro" stereotype lutrking in the background here?") then there isn't much that nice, "white," mainstream society can do about it.

God's will, in other words.

1 - "HIV Incidence," unattributed article on the website of the Centre for Disease Control, 3rd of August, 2008. (http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/topics/surveillance/incidence.htm)
2 - "Estimates of New HIV Infections in the United States," by Hall HI, Song R, Rhodes P, Prejean J, An Q, Lee LM, Karon J, Brookmeyer R, Kaplan EH, McKenna MT, Janssen RS for the HIV Incidence Surveillance Group. Published in JAMA, 6th of AUgust, 2008. Reproduced on the Centre for Disease Control website. (
http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/topics/surveillance/resources/factsheets/incidence.htm)
3 - ibid.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Borrowing for infrastructure while cutting taxes - transparently stupid

National will borrow money to fund infrastructure development, while cutting taxes at the same time:
National will fast track a second round of tax cuts and is likely to increase borrowing to pay for some of its spending promises, the party's leader John Key says.

But Mr Key said the borrowing would be for new infrastructure projects rather than National's quicker and larger tax cuts which would be "hermetically sealed" from the debt programme.

In opening remarks to the party's annual conference in Wellington today Mr Key said National would incorporate Labour's October 1 tax cuts, bring forward a second round to April 2009 - a year earlier than Labour - and a third round to April 2010.

Labour's planned third round would not take effect until April 2011.

National is yet to explain how it will pay for the promised larger cuts. (1)
National are trying to argue that this isn't the same as borrowing for tax cuts

I suspect a lot of people won't see it that way, and National's economic credibility will take a hammering as people join the (rather large and obvious) dots.

Borrowing money to fund tax cuts - whether or not it goes directly to the tax cuts, or to other projects (like, for example, infrastructure) - is still borrowing money to fund tax cuts.

The whole thing sounds like a Tui ad.
1 - "Nats to borrow for other spending - but not tax cuts," unattributed NZPA story, published in the New Zealand Herald, 2nd of August, 2008. (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10524905)

Fisk on Obama

Generally, I can take Robert Fisk or I can leave him. I know he's a Good Thing, but at the same time I often think he is too much aware of this. Take The Great War for Civilisation, for example - five hundred pages would have been sufficient to illustrate his thesis, with as many detailed examples as he desired. Fisk took a thousand, though thankfully there are no rumours of a sequel in the works.

His latest column (1) is Good Fisk, however - direct and too the point and focused on important stuff, rather than trying to underline the (already accepted) point that the world would be a Worse Place wthout Robert Fisk in it.

It focuses on Obama, and the likely lack-of-impact an Obama victory will have on the US attitude towards Israel, and US policy towards the Middle East. Essentially, nothing will change:
Yes, I know the old saw. Every US presidential candidate has to make the pilgrimage to the Wailing Wall, to Yad Vashem, to some Israeli town or village that has taken casualties (albeit minuscule in comparison to those visited upon the Palestinians), to talk about Israel's security, etc. That doesn't mean, we are always told, that Israel is going to have it easy once the US president is elected. Wrong. Israel is going to have it easy. Because no sooner is he elected than he will be enmeshed in the Middle East tragedy and be forced to take sides – Israel's, of course – and then it will be time for the next election, so the president's hands will be tied again and he'll be talking about Israel's security (rather than Palestinian security) and we'll be back on the same old
itinerary. (2)
It doesn't end with Israel, of course. Obamamania is as solid as moonshine. Sure, he's a nice bloke. He might even rein in some of the more egregious offenses of the Bush and Clinton years. If he can do that, resist the urge to attack any countries, and not make too much of a bollocks of things on the domestic front, he'll qualify as the best president since Eisenhower by virtue of being the only one who hasn't Made Things Worse. But he won't change the overall narrative. American politics - Republican or Democrat - will still be beholden to the monied interests, the 'military-industrial complex' Eisenhower warned of, the conservative impulses and blinkered world view that distorts it now.
1 - "New actor on the same old stage," by Robert Fisk, in The Independent,
2nd of August, 2008. (
http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/fisk/robert-fisk-new-actor-on-the-same-old-stage-883270.html)
2 - ibid.

Has the Iron Heel crushed No Right Turn?

No Right Turn (1) seems to be unavailable. Clearly (in the spirit of my boo-boo of the other day (2)) this can't just be a technical problem, but must be evidence of the Iron Heel of the Imperialist Oligarchs smashing another dissenting voice.

Who is next? And how far down the list am I?

Unsurprisingly, Kiwiblog (3) is still there, evidence (as if any more were required) that it is a front for the Reactionary Capitalist Lickspittels of the right.
1 - http://norightturn.blogspot.com/. As of 1/8/2008, the page will not load and a very sinister looking box pops up
declaring the operation is 'aborted.'
2 - As described previosuly on lefthandpalm:
http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2008/08/why-are-they-still-free-why-are-they.html
3 - http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/.

Why are they still free? Why are they still in power?

Perusing the Independent website before going to work the other day, I was excited by a story relating to information that had just been made public, concerning the invasion of Iraq. The story described how the tesimony of a diplomat, Carne Ross, to the Butler Inquiry Whitewash had been supressed, with the Foreign Office threatening him with the Official Sectrets Act if he made what he knew public. Now, it seemed, he had decided to speak out, regardless.

I didn't have time to follow it up then. All day at work, I was angry about it - HOW DARE THEY? - and imagine my shock when I returned home and discovered the article had vanished. Clearly, the Foreign Office had acted. This, unsurprisingly, made me even angrier. HOW DARE THEY? multiplied by HOW COULD WE LET THEM GET AWAY WITH IT?

I checked other newspapers, but none were carrying the story. Clearly, it had been crushed by the Powers That Be and all copies of the Indepenedent, and any other newspaper imprudent enough to tell the truth to power in Brown's Britain were currently being shoved down the Memory Hole as quickly as possible.

I started googling key words to see if I could find it online. SUCCESS!! (1) The Iron Heel of the Oligarchs might have crushed the brave beetle of truth in Britain, but here in New Zealand, a little ant was willing to make sure the story wasn't lost. I swung into action. It was easy - I'd been rehearsing my post all day. Now that I'd discovered the article had been suppressed as well, I was even angrier.

It was a good post - a livid dennunciation of the abuse of power against the right of the citizens of a country to subject their leaders to necessary scrutiny. It might not have brought the British government down, but it was strong, heartfelt stuff. After all, Britain is my country.

Pedantry and passion vie for control of my soul. Having laid down my Hellfire tract, I had to list my sources diligently. This is what saved me. I always put footnotes at the end of my posts. This is partly because someone once told me that some browzers can't use embedded links, but is mostly because I think it it makes my posts look nice and authoritative. They are, probably, completely unnecessary, but this time they saved me from an embarrassing blunder.

Typing up the footnote for the Independent article that had caused all this furore, I spotted what I had missed before - the date on the article: 15th of December, 2006. I blinked. Looked again. Searched elsewhere. Found confirmation. It was all true. Some gremlin in the Independent website had caused an archived article to appear on the front page. Suddenly, the disappearance of the story was explained. I cursed the cruelty of fate, for playing this trick on me, wasting my eleoquence and anger. I deleted my post, and went back to reading Don Quixote - perhaps approopriate, given my own confusion of reality and fantasy.

Then today I realsied that even though the story was old, the anger I had felt wasn't misplaced at all. For the bastards who engineered the Iraq war are still there. Bush is still President for months. Brown, who could have halted everything with a quiet word in Tony's ear, connived with it all and is now Prime Minister. Blair himself is still at large, flattering his ego with the delusion he might manage to sort out the problems of the Middle East. If he is as successful with that mission, as he was with dealing with Britain's far less daunting problems, then the region won't know peace for five hundred years.

Each one, and many more, should have to account for what they did to Iraq, in the name of their countries and the people they (mis) lead. They should be extradited and forced to stand trial at the International Criminal Tribunal at the Hague, alongside this vermin (2), who is their model in many ways.
1 - "Diplomat's suppressed document lays bare the lies behind Iraq war," by Colin Brown and Andy McSmith in the Independent, 15th of December, 2006. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/diplomats-suppressed-document-lays-bare-the-lies-behind-iraq-war-428545.html). The transcript of his testimony is available here: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/the-full-transcript-of-evidence-given-to-the-butler-inquiry-428550.html
2 - "Radovan Karadzic arrives in The Hague after extradition from Serbia," by Alex Todorovic in the Daily Telegraph, 30th of July, 2008. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/serbia/2472876/Radovan-Karadzic-arrives-in-The-Hague-after-extradition-from-Serbia.html)

Friday, 1 August 2008

Charities: Afghanistan is a nightmare

According to ACBAR, an umbrella organisation representing several charities operating in Afghanistan, the situation there is deteriorating, with attacks up and casualties soaring, particularly among civilians. What's particularly sickening is that many othe casualties are so-called 'collateral-damage' resulting from Western action:
The report blames the Taliban insurgents for roughly two-thirds of the civilian casualties, but adds: "The increased number of air strikes by international military forces, which are up by approximately 40 per cent on last year, has also contributed to the rising civilian death toll."

Afghanistan's President, Hamid Karzai, has repeatedly warned international troops that killing innocent civilians risks eroding their fragile popular mandate. Last summer he branded the number of civilian casualties and arbitrary house searches "unacceptable". Last month he ordered an investigation after reports that 15 civilians died in a US airstrike.

Claims have since surfaced of 23 wedding guests dying under American bombs. This week, two children were shot dead when their car got too close to a military convoy. (1)
We havent' captured Osama Bin Laden. We haven't defeated the Taliban. We haven't made Afghanistan safe for Afghans. But we have killed a lot of them, disappeared some into mysterious and sinister interrogation centres run by savages who delight in torture and made such a hash of things even the puppet president of Afghanistan is desperately trying to disassociate himself from us.
1 - "Afghanistan spiralling back to days of Taliban, say charities," by Jerome Starkey in The Independent, 1st of August, 2008. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/afghanistan-spiralling-back-to-days-of-taliban-say-charities-882626.html)

Hopey-changey stuff

First of all, people are talking about a 'vote for change' based on the combination of Labour, Greens and New Zealand First. ‘Chan...