Thursday, March 31, 2005

The US threat to Australia

To his credit, Tim Dunlop disagrees with John Quiggin's notion that the US is as big a threat to Australia as is al Qaeda:
I don't see the comparison at all. While the Bush administration (as opposed to "America") is a menance in many ways, they have no intention of randomly nuking Australian cities. Al Qaeda and co. would be happy to.
John Quiggin has had second thoughts and has modified his position slightly:
In the comments thread at Crooked Timber, Katherine observes, correctly I think, that arguments about moral equivalence are counterproductive. As she says ’“Are we better or worse than Zarqawi and Bin Laden” is the debate people like James Inhofe and George W. Bush want us to have. ” So, I shouldn’t have said “equally awful” above. But what is being done is awful, and such things are contributing greatly to the fear of US foreign policy I referred to.
So, it seems common sense has prevailed. Wrong. Here's Aussie Bob in comments at Tim Dunlop's:
Australians have an uneasy feeling about Americans. They see them as generally loud-mouthed, club-footed drongos with more money than sense. It is like this, and has always been.

Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Bolton, the Abu Graib torturers, the conniving pharmaceutical companies twisting our arm, the arms peddlars, the hypocritical religious wackos, the gun-happy maniacs murdering each other at ten times the rate of anywhere else in the civilized world, the polluters, the executioners, the manifest destiniers with their hands on their hearts, the whole lot of them barging around the world as if they own it, lock, stock and barrel can not, and will not be allowed to continue their march to glory (their own glory) for much longer by the long-suffering, relatively civilized rest of us.

At last Australia has woken up: Al Qaeda will never be able to wipe us all off the face of the planet.

It's the maniacs in Washington we really need to worry about.
If Aussie Bob lived in my neighbourhood, I'd be too worried about the stuff swirling around in his head to give al Qaeda or the US a thought. Hell, it's plenty worrying just being in the same country with him.

Stryker armoured vehicle allegedly faulty

The Washington Post reports that Stryker light armoured vehicles have numerous faults, including vulnerability to grenade attack. Such allegations are not new. Readers should bear in mind that the Stryker was conceived as a light weight (19 tons), high speed troop carrier. Many traditionalists opposed its procurement and deployment, and have an anti-Stryker agenda.

For more Stryker information, with lots of links, go here.

Report: UN elections office mismanaged

The UN might turn out to be even more screwed up than thought:
The U.N.'s top elections official, Carina Perelli, presided over a department whose leadership tolerated sexual harassment, misused office funds and engaged in favoritism, a confidential management review of the electoral assistance division says.

The 22-page report, based on interviews with 29 current and former employees, said Perelli was "admired for her personal courage, for her knowledge of the issues and her willingness to share that knowledge."

But it charges that she contributed to creating an "offensive" work environment in which staffers are subject to unwanted sexual advances and a "constant sexual innuendo is part of the fabric" of the unit's daily life.

The review's authors concluded that the division's problems were "much more serious" than anticipated.
What an unusual atmosphere in an office run by a woman. What's that old saying about power corrupting?

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Pity the uninsured druggie

The treatment these people are subjected to makes me want to cry:
At a conference on the scourge of methamphetamine, one item on the agenda was a tour of a seemingly unlikely place: a burn unit.

Legislators, doctors, social workers and law officials - including the federal government's second highest-ranking drug czar - walked the halls of Vanderbilt University Medical Center regional burn center, where seven of the 20 patients were injured by fires and explosions in clandestine meth labs.

Vanderbilt doctors told Joseph Keefe, deputy director of the Office on National Drug Control Policy, and the other participants that meth cases are increasingly common and are driving up state medical expenditures. The costs of treating critically injured burn victims typically exceed $10,000 a day each - and most meth patients don't have health insurance.
Yeah, cry, that precious resources are wasted on these predatory fools.

Australian academic: US as big a threat as al Qaeda

I'd like to think John Quiggin was having a "hey everybody, look at me" moment when he wrote the following, but I have my doubts:
There are various ways of assessing threats, and most Australians rightly regard terrorism as an overstated danger. But, as far as terrorism is concerned, there can be few instances more horrible and terrifying than the kidnappings and televised beheadings we’ve seen in Iraq. There are, however, equally awful things going on that are not televised, and that are carried out by the United States government.

An unknown number of people have been kidnapped, then shipped to torture chambers in unknown locations.

As with quite a few of the worst policies of the Bush administration, the practice of extraordinary rendition apparently began under Clinton, but has been greatly expanded by Bush1.

As far as I’ve seen so far, all of the victims in this cases have been Muslims. If that comforts you, perhaps you ought to read Martin Niemoller

As long as extraordinary renditions and similar practices continue, Australians are right to regard at least some aspects of US foreign policy as a threat comparable to that of Al Qaeda.
Luckily, I'm not a Muslim so I'm not in danger.

Rather than compose a long rebuttal to professor Quiggin's fear-mongering, I'd like him, and his like minded liberal friends, to consider the following scenario. Imagine one of your siblings has been captured by al Qaeda and another by US forces. The whereabouts of both are unknown. Would you be equally worried about their chances of being killed while in captivity? Do they have an equal likelihood of eventual release? How is rendition a threat to the Australian nation?

Maybe the professor actually thinks rendition is as bad as beheading kidnap victims. One thing I do know, I wouldn't want this guy teaching such nonsense to my children.

Study: Academics overwhelmingly liberal

This isn't going to surprise any right-wingers who have attended university in recent years, or anyone with their eyes open, for that matter:
College faculties, long assumed to be a liberal bastion, lean further to the left than even the most conspiratorial conservatives might have imagined, a new study says.

By their own description, 72 percent of those teaching at American universities and colleges are liberal and 15 percent are conservative, says the study being published this week. The imbalance is almost as striking in partisan terms, with 50 percent of the faculty members surveyed identifying themselves as Democrats and 11 percent as Republicans.

The disparity is even more pronounced at the most elite schools, where, according to the study, 87 percent of faculty are liberal and 13 percent are conservative.

The liberal label that a majority of the faculty members attached to themselves is reflected on a variety of issues. The professors and instructors surveyed are, strongly or somewhat, in favor of abortion rights (84 percent); believe homosexuality is acceptable (67 percent); and want more environmental protection "even if it raises prices or costs jobs" (88 percent). What's more, the study found, 65 percent want the government to ensure full employment, a stance to the left of the Democratic Party.
I suppose it could – and will – be argued that really intelligent types naturally lean left. Maybe, but I'd like to think many very smart individuals aren't satisfied in an academic setting and would rather put their intelliegnce to the test by competing in the marketplace. Thus, the right-wing brains mostly end up in business, where they must do more than just talk about how smart they are.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Not such a g'day mates

If the bank robbery allegations prove correct, these two guys deserve to go to jail for 25 years, for stupidity:
Carroll and Prince pleaded not guilty to robbing a bank in the ski village of Vail of approximately $170,000.

They are accused of using BB pellet guns to threaten two female bank employees at Vail's Weststar Bank on March 21.

The bank attendants noted the robbers had accents, possibly Australian, and wore name tags similar to tags used by employees at the sports store Prince and Carroll worked at in Vail.

Police knew of Prince and Carroll after they were arrested in Vail in January for allegedly shooting at windows with BB guns.

When Police and the FBI matched the descriptions and accents of the January incident with the bank robbery, they circulated mug shots of Prince and Carroll.

An alert officer at Denver airport, who had earlier looked at the mug shots, identified Prince and Carroll at a security checkpoint and then, after noting the pair had accents, arrested them.

US doomed to watery destruction

It seems Allah is just biding his time:
A thorough analysis of the Koran reveals that the US will cease to exist in the year 2007, according to research published by Palestinian scholar Ziad Silwadi.

The study, which has caught the attention of millions of Muslims worldwide, is based on in-depth interpretations of various verses in the Koran. It predicts that the US will be hit by a tsunami larger than that which recently struck southeast Asia.

"The tsunami waves are a minor rehearsal in comparison with what awaits the US in 2007," the researcher concluded in his study. "The Holy Koran warns against the Omnipotent Allah's force. A great sin will cause a huge flood in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans."

Silwadi, who is from the village of Silwad near Ramallah – the home of Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal – is not a world-renowned scholar. He said he decided to publish the findings of his research "out of a sense of responsibility because what is about to happen is extremely shocking and frightening."

His fear, he said, is that the world economy, which relies heavily on the US dollar, would be deeply affected by the collapse of the US.

Silwadi said his study of the Koran showed that the US would perish mainly because of its great sins against mankind, including the Native Americans and blacks."
Silwadi probably got the idea from speculation about the tsunami threat posed by the unstable geology of the Cumbre Vieja volcano on La Palma in the Canaries. The idea has been around for years.

Oh well, if a mega-tsunami destroys the US at least we won't have to listen to the endless I-told-you-sos of loony lefties if the US was to be destroyed by a Global Warming induced event. Thank Allah.

Pickled art

British artist Damien Hirst admits some of his creations are a bit silly but he has a right to be pleased with his pickled shark:
He stands by his most famous work, a shark preserved in formaldehyde and titled The Physical Impossibility of Death In The Mind Of Someone Living.

The 1991 work was recently sold by British collector Charles Saatchi to an American buyer for $US13 million.
Hey, if Michael Schiavo could find a big enough jar ...

Terri Schiavo just doesn't matter

Why doesn't she matter? Because right-wing politicians say she does. At least that's part of what Tim Dunlop seems to be saying:
Funny how many of those in Australia who are so purportedly concerned about the fate of the (put simply) brain-dead Terri Schiavo couldn't give a shit about the fully functioning kids locked in our own detention centres.

No mystery really when you remember a simple fact: for such people, issues are decided on the basis of political affiliation rather than the facts of the matter. Terri Schiavo matters, therefore, because rightwing politicians say she does. Kids in detention don't because locking them up indefinitely is part of Howard government policy.
Is it just me, or is Dunlop making less and less sense? First, it's drag in the Delay family tragedy. Hell, why not drag in the children in detention? What next, Global Warming? Obviously Dunlop doesn't give a shit about Terri Schiavo, he's trying to score some points.

Anyway, it's good to see liberals have kept an open mind on Schiavo, unlike the group thinkers on the right.

Puerto Ricans, world's happiest people

According to the Sweden-based World Values Survey, Puerto Ricans are the world's happiest people. For Puerto Rican Enrique Rodriguez, the reason is simple:
"We have our problems like everyone, but they're nothing like in Cuba ..."
Good point.

Cuba isn't included in the subjective well-being rankings, presumably because Castro didn't want Cubans' happiness surveyed. Peoples' paradise? Yeah, right.

Update: It is a bit difficult to get to the subjective well-being rankings of 82 societies so here's the summary (edited for clarity):
All 28 high-income countries rank high or medium-high on subjective well-being; and all 10 Latin American countries except Peru also rank high or medium-high. All 25 ex-communist countries except Vietnam, Slovenia and Czech Republic are low or medium-low (the median ex-communist country has a negative score); and all ten ex-Soviet countries are Low (eight of the ten have negative scores).
So, it looks like Cuba probably wouldn't have done all that well anyway.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Religious leaders accuse US of contaminating vaccines

If Bob Herbert thinks the US isn't far from the Middle Ages in its treatment of prisoners – see post below – where in time would he place these goings on?
Accusations by Islamic preachers that vaccines are part of an American anti-Islamic plot are threatening efforts to combat a measles epidemic that has killed hundreds of Nigerian children, health workers say.

Government officials play down the anti-vaccine sentiment, but all the measles deaths have been in Nigeria's north, where authorities had to suspend polio immunizations last year after hard-line clerics fanned similar fears of that vaccine.
I reckon only Karl Rove is clever enough to dream up a scheme like this. Start a rumour in a Muslim area that vaccines are contaminated, which, of course, they aren't. The locals get all excited and refuse to have their children vaccinated. Many will fall ill, some will die. Every death is one fewer potential al Qaeda recruit. Is Rove an evil genius, or what? (Just thought I'd beat the loony lefties to the conspiracy theory on this one.)

Torture time machine

New York Times Op-Ed columnist Bob Herbert makes some reasonable observations on the treatment supposedly inflicted on large numbers of detainees by US Forces. He does get a bit carried away, though:
If you pay close attention to what is already known about the sadistic and barbaric treatment of prisoners by the U.S., you can begin to wonder how far we've come from the Middle Ages. The alleged heretics hauled before the Inquisition were not permitted to face their accusers or mount a defense. Innocence was irrelevant. Torture was the preferred method of obtaining confessions.
Yeah, Bob it's the Middle Ages all over again. When's the next drawing and quartering or burning at the stake? Some liberals just can't keep it on an even keel, can they?

Science movie censorship

Here's a modest suggestion for those in the United States who are apparently complaining about museums showing movies that contain references to evolution: shut the fuck up. I feel better now. (Just because I'm a Right Wing Death Beast doesn't mean I'm totally stupid.)

Emotional reaction

While we're on the subject of severed body parts – see post below – there's also this:
A diner at a Wendy's fast food restaurant in San Jose, California, found a human finger in a bowl of chili prepared by the chain, local officials said on Wednesday.

"This individualidual apparently did take a spoonful, did have a finger in their mouth and then, you know, spit it out and recognized it," said Ben Gale, director of the department of environmental health for Santa Clara County. "Then they had some kind of emotional reaction and vomited."
Emotional reaction? Vomit? I probably would have vomited and then fainted, not necessarily in that order. That finger could have been anywhere, doing God knows what. Hopefully it was cooked and not merely a garnish.

West Australian boy's limbs reattached

A Perth boy suffered devastating injuries doing the sort of thing boys do every day:
Brave schoolboy Terry Vo will awake today to find surgeons have reattached his hands and a foot which were severed in a horrific basketball accident in Perth.

The Koondoola boy was playing at a friend's home in Alexander Drive, Dianella, when a wall holding a basketball hoop collapsed as he performed a slam dunk at 6.45pm on Saturday.

Gutters sliced through both hands at the forearm and tore off his left leg at mid calf, crushing bones, arteries, nerves and tendons.

The boy was in agonising pain and losing blood but remained conscious throughout the ordeal as school friends collected the severed body parts and called an ambulance.

Princess Margaret Hospital scrambled three medical teams, more than 25 people, for a remarkable procedure involving eight surgeons. Each team worked separately on one of the limbs.

Team leader and plastic surgeon Robert Love said Terry had a 90 per cent chance of regaining full use of his arms and leg, though each limb would be 3cm to 4cm shorter.
There's a photo of Terry with the article: he doesn't look all that tough but looks are obviously deceiving. Hope the little fella comes out of this Okay. Also, congratulations to the Princess Margaret medical staff on a job well done.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Churchill chums committee con

The University of Colorado won't fire Ward Churchill for making outrageous comments because his freedom to speak must be protected. He is to be investigated further, however, on charges that he passed off the work of others as his own and misrepresented himself as a Native American when he isn't. Not everyone is happy about the makeup of the committee that will do the investigating:
But state Rep. Ted Harvey, a Highlands Ranch Republican who has been critical of CU's handling of the Churchill case, said the professors' previous statements or support show a major flaw in the process.

"The patients are in charge of the asylum," Harvey said. "The people who hired him with tenure and gave him his chairmanship will decide if he should be fired for a lack of performance."

On Thursday, university administrators released a report saying there was enough evidence to merit investigation ... The case was turned over to the Standing Committee on Research Misconduct to determine whether Churchill should be disciplined or fired.

Records and news stories show at least three of the 12 members of the committee have come out publicly supporting Churchill's rights or questioning the university's ability to discipline him after he made statements likening 9/11 victims to a top Nazi and calling for other attacks on the United States.
The liberal plan seems to be to tie up this investigation in committe until the public forgets about it, then give Churchill a slap on the wrist but let him keep his job. Good, Churchill's too stupid to shut-up – his stupid statements are his only claim to fame – so this problem isn't going away.

Something Extraordinary

BHP Billiton, in the words of a New York Times editorial, "did something extraordinary". What did BHP Billiton do? Orchestrate the overthrow of an unfriendly government? Doom hundreds of workers to an untimely death due to known but unrevealed work-place hazards? Secretly dump radioactive waste disguised as glow-in-the-dark children's novelties? Okay, they've probably done all of those things and more, but they're also participating in a very effective anti-malaria project in Africa:
In 1998, the Australia-based mining company BHP Billiton began building a huge aluminum smelter outside Maputo, the capital of Mozambique. The company knew that malaria plagued the region. It gave all its workers mosquito nets and free medicine, and sprayed the construction site and workers' houses with insecticide. Nevertheless, during the first two years of construction there were 6,000 cases of malaria, and at least 13 contractors died.

To deal with the problem, the company did something extraordinary. It joined an effort by South Africa, Mozambique and Swaziland to eradicate malaria in a swath of the three countries measuring more than 40,000 square miles. The project is called the Lubombo Spatial Development Initiative, after the mountains that define the region. In the three years since house-to-house insecticide spraying, surveillance and state-of-the-art treatment began, malaria incidence dropped in one South African province by 96 percent. In the area around the aluminum smelter, 76 percent fewer children now carry the malaria parasite. The Lubombo initiative is probably the best antimalaria program in the world, an example for other countries that rolling back malaria is possible and cost-effective.
Funny, the United Nations doesn't get a mention in an editorial on "probably the best antimalaria program in the world". Wonder why?

Update: A Medical Research Council of South Africa press release on the project is here. The Lubombo Spatial Development Initiative Malaria Control Programme homepage is here.

Cars too dangerous

Deputy Prime Minister and Transport Minister John Anderson proposes a sensible approach to car safety:
He told The Sunday Age he believed the use of new technology in cars could account for 12 percentage points of the goal to cut the road toll by 40 per cent.

"My approach to this is to try and find a light-handed regulatory approach that encourages the uptake of innovation and sensible harmonisation rather than attempts to dictate," he said.
Australasian College of Road Safety president Raphael Grzebieta is unimpressed – I'd be impressed if anyone can pronounce his surname without spraining his tongue:
"There are no design rules for rollover protection systems or electronic stability controls to prevent rollovers," he said.

He challenged Mr Anderson on the issue of seatbelts, saying they were not being worn in 10 to 15 per cent of road deaths. "Vehicles can now be manufactured so they will not start if a seatbelt is not worn," he said.

Cars should be fitted with a breathalyser that immobilises the engine if it detects a driver with a blood alcohol reading in excess of 0.05, and speedometers changed so they could measure speeds only up to 120 km/h.

A six-airbag system to protect against front, side and rollover crashes should also be mandatory, he said.
Jeez, this guy would have us all riding around in 20 horsepower motorized marshallows while wearing inflatable sumo-suits and crash helmets. If the government wanted to do something it could start by taking the licenses off some of the dickheads who continually hoon around my neighbourhood.

Almost a Hannibal Lecter moment

Mostly I've always thought British journalists suck. Now it turns out they bite.

Ultra-rich tax avoiders

Why do the ultra-rich avoid paying tax? It's simple:
'This is one of the defining crises of our times,' said John Christensen, co-ordinator of the Tax Justice Network and a former economic adviser to the Jersey government. 'One of the most fundamental changes in our society in recent years is how money and the rich have become more mobile. This has resulted in the wealthy becoming less inclined to associate with normal society and feeling no obligation to pay taxes.'
It's a crisis alright. Those who can afford the necessary expert advice can legally avoid paying taxes while schmucks like me get stuck paying through the nose. Maybe the ultra-rich would willing pay more in taxes if they thought governments spent the money wisely. I know I would.

Tom Delay "murdered" father

Tom Delay's father, Charles, suffered multiple injuries when he was accidentally catapulted into a tree in 1988. The elder Delay's condition deteriorated, with multiple organ failure rapidly ensuing. No matter what steps doctors took, he was going to die, soon. Bearing this in mind, the family decided the Delay patriarch's life should not be prolonged. He was allowed to die.

Compassionate, lefty, academic blogger Tim Dunlop posts:
To paraphrase what Tom DeLay has been saying about Terri Schiavo's husband all week, Tom DeLay helped "murder" his own father. Of course, the circumstances were completely different. Right.

This has been a dirty political game right from the start and Tom DeLay has been at the forefront of it. Funny he didn't mention his Father when he was spouting off about the "culture of life" and smearing everyone in sight.

Pity he hasn't extended the same understanding and rights to privacy to Michael Schiavo as he will no doubt now claim for himself. What a creep.
I assume TD posts such crap to generate controversy – he does credit Atrios with the link to the LA Times article – in an effort to increase his readership. Perhaps this is what TD really thinks. No matter, the Delay and Schiavo situations have passing similarity but are not comparable.

Charles Delay was going to die soon, no matter what; Terri Schiavo could live on indefinitely.

Delay was being kept alive by mechanical means, with constant, intensive medical support; Schiavo was fed by a tube and requires only basic, hospice level care.

The Delay family made an apparently unanimous decision to allow the family patriarch to die; Michael Schiavo decided, against the wishes of Terri's blood relations, to hasten her death.

The Delay family did not draw attention to their decision, there was no need; the Schindlers went public in an effort to save their daughter.

Tom Delay may well be a creep but it's not because he's violated anyone's right to privacy: the case went public long before he got involved. Rather, it's Tim Dunlop who's the creep: he's the one trying to drag the very private – not to mention irrelevant – Delay family tragedy into the Schiavo debate.

Liberals know no shame when it comes to playing the dirty political game.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Quality versus quantity

Micheal Duffy thinks there are not nearly enough Australian forces in Iraq doing not nearly enough:
At the peak of their commitments to Iraq, Britain had 45,000 people there and the US about 150,000. Relative to population sizes, to match this Australia should have had between 10,000 and 15,000 people in the Middle East at some point. In fact we peaked at just 2000. There are now fewer than 600 Australians serving there, to be joined next month by another 450.

Some of these figures are approximate, as countries use different definitions to reach them. But I doubt this would affect the conclusion that Australia has relatively contributed about one-fifth of the effort that was put into freeing Iraq by Britain and America. Says Aldo Borgu, military analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, "There's no doubt our action on the ground doesn't match the Government's rhetoric."

It's an imbalance I've never seen referred to, but it ought to concern both the Government's supporters and its opponents. One would expect conservatives to be worried about the questions of honour and integrity raised by fighting war on the cheap. And those opposed to the war might ask themselves whether John Howard would have gone in if he'd had to pay the full price, not just in numbers but in putting Australian forces into situations of danger, which ... we have generally avoided so far.
I'm not privy to Australia's operational plans so I'm not about to comment. Lack of knowledge doesn't stop Duffy, however:
On May 19, 2004 at the CD Kemp Dinner in Melbourne, Mr Howard repeated his belief that "we should not leave it to the United States to do all the heavy lifting" and said: "To view the ADF presence as symbolic is not only factually inaccurate - it is plainly insulting." On February 22 this year he assured Lateline we are doing our fair share in a great cause.

But the figures given earlier suggest Australia has indeed allowed the Americans and British to do the heavy lifting. Michael O'Connor, former executive director of the Australian Defence Association, agrees: "To consider ours a militarily significant commitment is just ludicrous. We're not pulling our weight."
Jeez, for all Duffy knows, Australian forces are in the thick of things. They are meant to be very well trained. Duffy trudges on:
America's acceptance of the gap between Australian rhetoric and participation is interesting. It's as if there was a deal, whereby President George Bush had accepted token military effort as long as it was preceded by prompt and unstinted diplomatic support.

When Bush called Howard a "man of steel" who was "steady under fire" you wonder if it was the experience of cutting such a deal he was recalling. Or maybe the deal was never spelt out, and the President, who has a well-developed sense of honour, was simply being ironic about Australia's martial valour.
Token effort? Will it still be a token effort if a plane load of Diggers crashes somewhere in Iraq, shot down or not? Arsehole.

Australia's concentration camps

Mike Carlton obviously sees parallels between Nazis and the Howard government but resists the urge to state them, sort of:
The media straighteners and punishers who push the Howard Government's appalling refugee policies tend to foam at the mouth when you call the Baxter immigration detention centre a concentration camp.

But this is precisely what it is, as any dictionary will confirm. The Macquarie Dictionary: "Concentration camp, n, a guarded enclosure for the detention or imprisonment of political prisoners, racial minority groups, refugees, etc ..."

That is Baxter to the letter. The Macquarie goes on to give the example of the Nazi camps, but I have no intention of playing that card. It is enough to say, this Easter, that Baxter, in all its inhumanity, is a black stain upon a supposedly civilised society.
If he didn't want to play the Nazi card he wouldn't have brought it up. Pretty tricky guy, Carlton.

Military AIDS

According to Strategy Page:
AIDS in Africa is devastating the armed forces of many countries there. Probably the worst case is Malawi. Although the country has a population of eleven million, it cannot find enough volunteers free of AIDs to keep their 5,000 man armed forces up to strength. Currently, over 40 percent of those in the armed forces are HIV positive. This problem goes beyond the borders of the nations affected. The UN is trying to get more African nations involved in peacekeeping operations. Most of these operations are currently in Africa, and African peacekeepers are, naturally, better suited for peacekeeping in their own backyard. Although the UN pays the peacekeepers far more than the troops usually make, the UN also insists that all peacekeepers be HIV free. This severely limits how many of their troops most African nations can send. Also, despite efforts to get the troops to use condoms, or be careful where they stick it, HIV rates in the military continue to climb.
If Africans in a highly structured military environment can't be persuaded to adopt safe sex practices, what hope is there for the rest of Africa? Probably not much.

To serve and protect

A report damning the shameful behaviour of UN peace-keepers has been produced by the Jordanian ambassador to the UN. Jordanian peace-keepers do not rate a mention. (See original report here.) Perhaps Jordanian peace-keepers were not included because they should be investigated separately:
It caused outrage among East Timorese and Australian troops sent to protect them, raised tensions among UN peacekeepers to a deadly new level and caused senior UN staff to resign in disgust.

The deployment of Jordanian peacekeepers to East Timor was probably one of the most contentious UN decisions to follow the bloody independence ballot. It was eclipsed only by the cover-up and inaction that followed when the world body learned of their involvement in a series of horrific sex crimes involving children living in the war-battered Oecussi enclave.

Children were not the only victims - in early 2001, two Jordanians were evacuated home with injured penises after attempting sexual intercourse with goats.

The UN mission in East Timor led by Sergio Vieira de Mello (who was later killed in Baghdad) did its best to keep the matter hushed up. The UN military command at the time was only too happy to oblige.

Today the cry for justice from the child victims continues to go unheard.
A new broom is probably the only way to purge the entrenched thugs and conmen running the UN but, who would wield it?

Bunny stew

How's this for a money making idea? Take one cute little bunny named Toby and threaten to turn him into bunny stew unless people send in donations totaling $50,000. Of course, since the person making the demand for cash is doing so online, there's no guarantee Toby even exists. Clever but sick. Why don't I come up with ideas like this.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Native Americans on warpath

Native Americans, naturally upset at the murder of nine of their own by one of their own, are lashing out at President Bush:
Three days after 16-year-old Jeff Weise killed nine members of his Red Lake tribe before taking his own life, grief-stricken American Indians complained that the White House has offered little in the way of sympathy for the tribe situated in the uppermost region of Minnesota.
Native Americans are also upset at the undue consideration given to one non-native American, Terri Schiavo:
The reaction to Bush's silence was particularly bitter given his high-profile, late-night intervention on behalf of Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida woman caught in a legal battle over whether her feeding tube should be reinserted.

"The fact that Bush preempted his vacation to say something about Ms. Schiavo and here you have 10 native people gunned down and he can't take time to speak is very telling," said David Wilkins, interim chairman of the Department of American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota and a member of the North Carolina-based Lumbee tribe.
It's understandable Native Americans have been traumatized by the Jeffrey Weise murders but it isn't fair to compare their situation to that of Terri Schiavo. Bush and Congress became involved in an attempt to save Schiavo's life. They acted because it was felt – rightly it appears – that if they didn't act no-one would. On the other hand, there is nothing anyone can say or do to undo what Jeffrey Weise has done. Sure, it would mean something to Native Americans if Bush expressed his condolences but, any condolsences he might send would never mean as much to them as the condolences he didn't send.

One more thing, what's with the notion that a crime has been committed against Native Americans? I don't really understand the idea that a crime has been committed against Native Americans when a Native American committed the crime. There seems to be something vaguely reminiscent of Weise's racial raving at work in there somewhere.

Update: In a companion piece to the one above, it is revealed that Weise didn't enjoy life on the reservation and might not have cared all that much for things Native American:
He did not like being on the reservation, said his friend Grant, who had Weise at his home for sleepovers nearly once a week for seven years. He refused to participate in powwows and avoided all traditional Indian activities, Grant said.
If you want a better – but far from complete – understanding of the forces at work in the Weise school shootings, read the whole thing.

Nader panders to fundamentalist fruitcakes

Ralph Nader's blunt statement – made jointly with author Wesley J. Smith – throws a spanner in the works of those arguing it's a fringe bunch of fundamentalists who want Terri Schiavo's feeding tube reconnected. Here's the entire statement:
"A profound injustice is being inflicted on Terri Schiavo," Nader and Smith asserted today. "Worse, this slow death by dehydration is being imposed upon her under the color of law, in proceedings in which every benefit of the doubt-and there are many doubts in this case-has been given to her death, rather than her continued life."

Among the many injustices in this case, Nader and Smith point to the following:

The courts not only are refusing her tube feeding, but have ordered that no attempts be made to provide her water or food by mouth. Terri swallows her own saliva. Spoon feeding is not medical treatment. "This outrageous order proves that the courts are not merely permitting medical treatment to be withheld, it has ordered her to be made dead," Nader and Smith assert.

The medical and rehabilitation experts are split on whether Terri is in a persistent vegetative state or whether Terri can be improved with therapy. There is only one way to know for sure- permit the therapy. That is the only way to resolve all doubts.

The court is imposing process over justice. After the first trial in this case, much evidence has been produced that should allow for a new trial-which was the point of the hasty federal legislation. If this were a death penalty case, this evidence would demand reconsideration. Yet, an innocent disabled woman is receiving less justice.

The federal and state governments are spending billions on what we are told will become miracle medical cures for people with all sorts of degenerative conditions, including brain damage. If this is so, why not permit Terri's parents and siblings who want to care for her do so in the hope that such cures are discovered?

Benefits of doubts should be given to life, not hastened death. This case is rife with doubt. Justice demands that Terri be permitted to live.
Anyone want to accuse Nader of pandering to the right for political gain?

Update: Liberal blogger Steve Gilliard carefully considers Nader's statement and finds it wanting:
Defend this. I want someone to defend Nader's stand in this. For two years, we told you about his alliances, and you kept talking about working with him, how right he was. Now this is staring you right in the fucking face. Nader is aligned with the most extreme ultras of the radical right, people who would endorse kidnapping. Now, explain this away, explain why he would do this? The cheating of workers, taking help from the GOP, it wasn't enough.

But please explain this stand away. Please explain why he has rejected the rule of law. What excuse will you use now?

You are staring unvarnished evil in the face. Let's see you justify this.

Any progressive who defends him now is merely an idol-worshiping fool.
The comments that go with this post are of an equally high standard, with much boo-hoo-hooing about Nader costing Gore the presidency in 2000. But, precious little is said about the woman being dehydrated to death. With liberals it's always me, me, me.

It won't be long before lefties like this have so marginalized themselves they'll be advocating violence in the streets.

Dead duck a good fuck?

Which of the following is most noteworthy?

1. Some mallards are homosexual.

2. A mallard was recently, for the first time ever, observed to copulate with a dead mallard.

3. A Dutch researcher observed this act of duck necrophilia for some 75 minutes.

4. An article recounting the duck necrophilia is the most emailed Guardian article.

5. Ducks can fuck for 75 minutes.

Hitler, Hun happifier

In his recently released book Hitler's People's State: Robbery, Racial War and National Socialism, German historian Goetz Aly makes the case that Germans liked the Nazis because they not only came across all warm and cuddly like, they delivered:
Why did average Germans so heartily support the Nazis and Third Reich? Hitler, says Goetz Aly, was a "feel good dictator," a leader who not only made Germans feel important, but also made sure they were well cared-for by the state.

To do so, he gave them huge tax breaks and introduced social benefits that even today anchor the society. He also ensured that even in the last days of the war not a single German went hungry. Despite near-constant warfare, never once during his 12 years in power did Hitler raise taxes for working class people. He also -- in great contrast to World War I -- particularly pampered soldiers and their families, offering them more than double the salaries and benefits that American and British families received. As such, most Germans saw Nazism as a "warm-hearted" protector.
So. this is where Bush got the idea for his tax cuts ... wait a minute, Bush's tax cuts only help the rich. Hmm, what else does Aly's book have to say?
Financing such home front "happiness" was not simple and Hitler essentially achieved it by robbing and murdering others, Aly claims. Jews. Slave laborers. Conquered lands. All offered tremendous opportunities for plunder, and the Nazis exploited it fully, he says.

Once the robberies had begun, a sort of "snowball effect" ensued and in order to stay afloat, he says Germany had to conquer and pilfer from more territory and victims. "That's why Hitler couldn't stop and glory comfortably in his role as victor after France's 1940 surrender." Peace would have meant the end of his predatory practices and would have spelled "certain bankruptcy for the Reich."

Instead, Hitler continued on the easy path of self deception, spurring the war greedily forward. And the German people -- fat with bounty -- kept quiet about where all the wealth originated, he says. Was it a deplorable weakness of human nature or insatiable German avarice? It's hard to say, but imagine if today's beleaguered government of German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder could offer jobs and higher benefits to the masses. "No one would ask where the money came from and they would directly win the next election," Aly says.

Likewise, in the 1940s, soldiers on the front were instructed to ravage conquered lands for raw materials, industrial goods and food for Germans. Aly cites secret Nazi files showing that from 1941-1943 Germans robbed enough food and supplies from the Soviet Union to care for 21 million people. Meanwhile, he insists, Soviet war prisoners were systematically starved. German soldiers were also encouraged to send care packages home to their families to boost the morale of their wives and children. In the first three months of 1943, German soldiers on the Leningrad front sent more than 3 million packages stuffed with artifacts, art, valuables and food home, Aly says.
Naturally, since this book makes the German people appear, well, parasitic, it's causing something of a stir. Hitler gave the German people what they wanted. Ultimately, they got what they deserved.

Via: Arts & Letters Daily

News flash: Teachers nuts

This report from the UK doesn't surprise:
Nearly half of the country's secondary school teachers have suffered mental health problems due to worsening pupil behaviour, a survey has revealed.

The research, by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, on 300 secondary school teachers, showed that abuse at the hands of pupils had left 46 per cent taking antidepressants or facing long lay-offs from school through stress.
Many teachers do nothing more than baby-sit unruly brats. This can be truly difficult when the brats are nearly adult in size. The surprising thing is that no teacher has snapped and done a Jeffrey Weise.

Those goofy Germans

Ray at Davids Medienkritik has posted a very funny yet insightful look at a Stern magazine photo gallery. Blogger Lou Minatti responds to Stern's steroetypical photos of Americans with photos of typical Germans. Go take a look. Enjoy.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Qaddafi refuses to free Bulgarian nurses

Libya has imprisoned, and plans to execute, a group of Bulgarian nurses convicted of purposely infecting children with HIV:
Five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor were sentenced to death last year after being found guilty of deliberately infecting hundreds of Libyan children with the deadly HIV virus that causes AIDS. The verdicts were based on confessions that the nurses — who remain jailed — say were extracted under torture.

“The 47 children are dead and the others are still on the death bed,” Qaddafi said. “The Bulgarian nurses and a physician said to be Palestinian injected ... children in the children’s hospital in Benghazi with the AIDS virus.”

The nurses, who have been imprisoned since 1999, say they are being used as scapegoats to prevent a backlash against medical authorities at the Benghazi hospital where they worked. Late last year, Tripoli suggested it would release the nurses in exchange for financial compensation. Bulgaria has refused, saying any payout would be an admission of guilt.

The AIDS epidemic killed at least 40 of the 426 infected children and caused outrage in Libya. AIDS experts have testified the epidemic began before the medics arrived at the hospital, possibly due to the unhygienic handling of needles and blood products.
Contaminated medical gear and rigged courts, more good reasons to avoid this particular little corner of the world.

Crimes against chess

Bobby Fischer has been released from a Japanese jail and is apparently headed to Iceland. He is happy to be free but unhappy with Bush and Koizumi:
"I won't be free until I get out of Japan," he told a crowd of reporters at the airport here before boarding his flight to Copenhagen en route to Reykjavik. "This was not an arrest. It was a kidnapping cooked up by Bush and Koizumi," he said, referring to President Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

"They are war criminals and should be hung," he said.

Fischer, 62, was in high spirits and characteristically defiant as he arrived at the airport.

As he walked toward the airport entrance, he turned, unzipped his pants and acted like he was going to urinate on the wall. He called Japan's ruling party "gangsters," and said he was being hounded by the United States because it is "Jew-controlled."

Fischer claims his U.S. passport was revoked illegally and sued to block a deportation order to the United States, where he is wanted for violating sanctions imposed on the former Yugoslavia by playing an exhibition match against Russian Boris Spassky in 1992.
Do all chess-player superstars carry on like this? (Go here for a post-release photo of the weirdo.)

Update: It's easy to see why he's widely regarded as a paranoid anti-Semite:
“The United States is an illegitimate country . . . just like the bandit state of Israel — the Jews have no right to be there, it belongs to the Palestinians,” he told an interviewer aboard the flight. “It’s actually a shame to be a so-called American because everybody living there is . . . an invader.”
So good at chess, so fucking stupid ...

Caribbean red-necks

Government officals on the semi-autonomous island of Nevis have barred a gay, nudist cruise's docking:
A gay and nudist cruise was barred from stopping at the tiny Caribbean island of Nevis on Wednesday after authorities said the group would offend local customs.

A police patrol boat stopped a Windjammer Barefoot Cruises ship carrying 110 passengers on a six-day cruise as it was approaching Charlestown, Nevis, the ship's captain Cornelius Plantefaber said.

Plantefaber said three officers boarded the ship and demanded he accompany them to a meeting onshore that lasted an hour with port authority, police, customs and immigration officials.

"We don't want it to be a part of our culture," said acting general manager of the Nevis port authority, Oral Brandy. "It's not a practice society likes here."
Talk about politically incorrect. Oh well, it's their country.

I'm betting Mark Morford is going to have something to say about this.

Lobster Catch-22

Remember Bubba, the 22 pound lobster that drew so much sympathy from potential buyers that he was eventually sent to a zoo where he died? A similar situation has developed for seafood store owner Jeff Grolig, who recently ordered a "large lobster" for the tank of his Potomac store. Instead of a large lobster he got a 15 pound monster that elicited much sympathy from customers, one of whom has bought the lobster so it can be set free. There is, however, a catch, or two:
But sometimes even the best of intentions backfire. From the business perspective, returning lobsters to the wild could help spur demand for them, said Joe Stofer, seafood manager for Whole Foods Market Inc. in the mid-Atlantic region.

"If a store keeps selling these big lobsters to people who take them out and let them go, the merchants simply think they're selling a lot of lobsters," Stofer said. "So they buy more."

And the rescues do not always work ... Bubba ended up in a quarantined tank at the zoo on March 1. But he died less than 24 hours later, presumably from the stress of being moved many times.

"Trying to save these really large lobsters that way is kind of a misguided thing to do because so many of them die anyway," said Diane Cowan, a senior scientist at the Lobster Conservancy, a nonprofit group in Maine that studies lobster fisheries. "If you really want to protect these animals, you should not harvest them in the first place."
Catch 'em and eat 'em, and there is no lobster Catch-22. Pass the butter.

Kyoto compliance impossible

South Korea's Environment Minister Kwak Kyul-ho announced, at a five-day environment conference being hosted in Seoul, that the emerging industrial powers will never be able to reach carbon dioxide emissions targets:
"No matter what the cut required would be, it is impossible to follow the Kyoto Protocol measures that are based on the 1990 levels even if those countries wanted to," Kwak told Reuters in an interview, listing South Korea, China, India and Brazil.
Kyoto can't be happy that it has lent its name to a joke.

Why did the Kyoto Protocol cross the road?

The real question is, what was it doing out of the UN?

Not all Schiavo demonstrators are fundamentalists

Wheelchair-bound liberal Elaine Smith thinks Terri Schiavo should be reconnected to her feeding tube:
"What drew me here is the horror of the idea of starving someone to death who's vulnerable and who has not asked that to happen," Smith said.

She said she thought that people who left written instructions to withhold medical treatment should have those wishes honored but that withholding water and nutrition from Terri Schiavo, who left no such written instructions, was tantamount to murder.

"At this point I would rather have a right-wing Christian decide my fate than an ACLU member," Smith said.
Point made.

Rebranding the United Nations

In a recent opinion piece in the Guardian, Naomi Klein argued that the Bush administration was using modern advertising techniques to rebrand itself as "new and improved":
Last Tuesday, George Bush delivered a major address on his plan to fight terrorism with democracy in the Arab world. On the same day, McDonald's launched a massive advertising campaign urging Americans to fight obesity by eating healthily and exercising. Any similarities between McDonald's "Go Active! American Challenge" and Bush's "Go Democratic! Arabian Challenge" are purely coincidental.

Sure, there is a certain irony in being urged to get off the couch by the company that popularised the "drive-thru", helpfully allowing customers to consume a bagged heart attack without having to get out of the car and walk to the counter. And there is a similar irony to Bush urging the people of the Middle East to remove "the mask of fear" because "fear is the foundation of every dictatorial regime", when that fear is the direct result of US decisions to install and arm the regimes that have systematically terrorised for decades. But since both campaigns are exercises in rebranding, that means facts are besides the point.
Bush's nominations of Bolton and Wolfowitz seem to have proven Klein wrong. That is, for the Bush administration it's business as usual.

Claudia Rosett, in an opinion piece in Opinion Journal, argues that Kofi Annan's proposed UN reforms are also an attempt to rebrand:
To be fair to Mr. Annan, there are the germs of a few good ideas in this report. These include recognizing terrorism as such in all cases, rather than excusing select terrorists (i.e., as a U.N. rule of thumb, those attacking Israel) as "freedom fighters." It's also worth reshaping the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, which two years ago embarrassed even the U.N. by choosing as its chairman the ambassador of Libyan tyrant Moammar Gadhafi. And there's no question the Security Council needs reform, though given that the council's basic failing has been lack of integrity, it's not clear why Mr. Annan thinks the answer is to make it bigger.

From there, Mr. Annan forges on to propose nothing less than reforming the entire known universe, via the U.N., while he bangs the drum for a budget to match. He wants to expand his own staff, change the world's climate, end organized crime, eliminate all private weapons, and double U.N.-directed development aid to the tune of at least $100 billion a year, "front-loaded," for his detailed plan to end world poverty. This comes from a U.N. that only three months ago was finally strong-armed by Congress into coughing up the secret internal Oil for Food audits confirming that under Mr. Annan's stewardship the U.N. was not even adequately auditing its own staff operations.

The grand failure of the U.N. is that its system, its officials and most visibly its current secretary-general are still stuck in the central-planning mindset that was the hallmark of dictators and failed utopian dreams of the previous century. Mr. Annan's plan takes little practical account of a modern world in which competition, private enterprise and individual freedom are the principles of progress. He has his own agenda, which he would like the rest of us to follow and fund. The words sound lofty: "development, security, and human rights for all." The devil is in the details, and because this is a blueprint for the future of the entire earth, that means a lot of room for big trouble. This report is not a benign document.
It will be interesting to see if the vast UN bureaucratic apparatus, and the members of the General Assembly and Security Council, actively promote real reforms or whether we're going to be sold the same old shit in a box labeled "new and improved". If I were a betting man, my money would be on the same old shit.

From the frying pan ...

In the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof recounts depressing stories of life under Mugabe. Here's Kristof on the most depressing aspect of these tales of woe:
The hungry children and the families dying of AIDS here are gut-wrenching, but somehow what I find even more depressing is this: Many, many ordinary black Zimbabweans wish that they could get back the white racist government that oppressed them in the 1970's.

"If we had the chance to go back to white rule, we'd do it," said Solomon Dube, a peasant whose child was crying with hunger when I arrived in his village. "Life was easier then, and at least you could get food and a job."

Mr. Dube acknowledged that the white regime of Ian Smith was awful. But now he worries that his 3-year-old son will die of starvation, and he would rather put up with any indignity than witness that.
Why is Kristof so saddened that Zimbabweans prefer bad to starving to death? It must have something to do with incorrect ideology.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Civil liberties eroded

Julian Burnside thinks Australians should reflect on the erosion of civil liberties in 1930s Nazi Germany to see where Australia is headed:
Civil liberties in Australia today are being significantly eroded. The erosion has been justified on pragmatic grounds: executive detention to deter asylum seekers; increased wire-tapping to combat crime; incommunicado detention and interrogation of people not suspected of any offence, but thought to have information about others. The erosion is accepted by the majority of citizens for a variety of reasons.

One is that these things get much less coverage in the media than their significance demands and, when they are covered in the media, they are tacitly approved (or only faintly disapproved) by most commentators. Those more vocal in their criticism of these things (such as me) find it difficult to have their dissenting views published; and when they are published they are likely to be distorted and disparaged.
So, not only are we sliding down the slippery slope, we don't want to be told. Perhaps if Burnside didn't start off with crap like, "I'm not saying Howard is Hitler but ...", I'd be prepared to listen.

Dismal "science"

Economics is sometimes referred to as the "dismal science". The science part is debatable but Professor Bob Cummins of the Australian Centre on Quality of Life is certainly dismal:
"Most people think that there is a simple relationship between quality of living and quality of life. In fact that is very far from the truth. This error underpins the whole discipline of economics, which makes the assumption that wealth is a proxy for happiness."

This mistake has led economists to perpetuate the idea that if you make countries richer you make people happier. "It just ain't so," says Cummins.
Making people richer makes them healthier. That alone should go a long way to making them happier.

It would be nice if Julian L. Simon was still around to counter the doom and gloom specialists.

McDonalds, the apple of your die

The Guardian's Gary Younge is able to find doom and gloom everywhere he looks. Today's article raves about McDonalds' calorific foods only in passing, focusing instead on the restaurant chain's probable, eventual destruction of apple cultivation in America. Embedded deep in the article is the following mish-mash:
"Childhood obesity is like a massive tsunami headed toward the United States," says paediatric endocrinologist David Ludwig, director of the obesity program at Children's Hospital in Boston and one of the study's authors. "We're in the quiet before the storm. It's like what happens if suddenly a massive number of young children started chain-smoking. At first you wouldn't see much public health impact. But years later it would translate into emphysema, heart disease and cancer." This is exactly the kind of comparison that makes companies such as McDonald's shudder. Those who sued cigarette companies, after all, were also once ridiculed as opportunists. (Despite several calls over five days, McDonald's failed to provide comment.)
McDonalds didn't want to respond to this twit? Gee, I wonder why?

I'll bet McDonalds gives John Quiggin a fright.

Baghdad civilians fight back

It would be great to see the security camera footage of this:
Shopkeepers and residents on one of Baghdad's main streets pulled out their own guns Tuesday and killed three insurgents when hooded men began shooting at passers-by, giving a rare victory to civilians increasingly frustrated by the violence bleeding Iraq (news - web sites).
Isn't it nice to see insurgents become statistics at the hands of civilians for a change?

Via: Clear and Present

World Water Day 2005

Are you aware that March 22 was World Water Day, marking the start of the Water For Life Decade? If not, you're probably also unaware of Water, Gender and Poverty Alleviation advocacy:
Everybody, men, women and children must help manage and share water fairly. Conflicts over ‘troubled waters’ - sometimes too much, too little or too polluted - must be avoided. They harm people, food production, nature, the environment, and sustainable development in general.

Research and practical experience from the Gender and Water Alliance (GWA) have demonstrated that effective, efficient and equitable management of the available water is only achieved when both women and men are involved in making decisions on how to best share, supply and protect water.

A gender sensitive approach shows that women and men have distinctive roles and responsibilities in water. Striking a gender balance ensures that:
• old and new roles and responsibilities of all women and men are mobilised to best effect for the well-being of all;
• the creativity, energy and knowledge of both sexes contribute to making water schemes and eco-systems work better; and
• the benefits and costs of water use accrue equitably to all groups.
Meaningless bureaucratic waffle like this gets written because someone gets paid to write it. Who with any sense would take any notice of it, other than to poke fun at it?

In honour of World Water Day the WHO could at least have insisted Terri Schiavo be given a sip.

Update: Here's hoping more gets accomplished over the Water For Life Decade than UNICEF managed over the last 10 years.

Update II: The Currency Lad takes note of Florida's emerging water terrorism problem.

Iraqis claim 80 insurgents killed

Iraqi police commandos supported by US forces have attacked and seized a suspected insurgent training camp north of Baghdad. Major Richard Goldenberg of the 42nd Infantry Division refused to comment on casualty figues but did say that a number of foreign passports were found at the camp. An Iraqi military spokesman confirmed that Algerian, Saudi and Syrian were amongst the fighters at the camp.

80 insurgents down, lots to go. Hopefully the pace will pick up.

80,000 march in Brussels

Protesting against the evil invasion of Iraq? Nope, protesting against the evil European Council's moves to open up the services' market. The left is upset that measures meant to improve competition in the services markey might lead to lower pay and longer working hours. Such is the furore in France, it now looks like the upcoming EU constition might actually be rejected by voters. Euobserver summarises:
Ostensibly meeting to discuss the relaunch of the so-called Lisbon Strategy – the EU’s economic reform agenda – it was clear that the services directive had dominated the discussions.

Secretary-General of the European Trade Unions Confederation (ETUC), John Monks, set the tone at the post-meeting press conference when he stated, "we would like the Commission to reconsider and redraw the services directive and preferably start again".

Pointing out that over 80,000 people had marched against the directive in Brussels at the weekend, he nevertheless stressed that the services directive and the Constitution were different issues.

Breaking into French – an ironic gesture to the French referendum campaign which has linked the two issues – the British Secretary-General said, "ils ne sont pas la meme chose" (they are not the same thing).
The article also discusses the bureaucratic maneuvering and desperate attempts to save face. Europeans are certainly an inscrutable bunch.

Mad about MAD

During the so called "Cold War" – the war you're in when you're not in a hot war – the US and the Soviet Union maintained a "balance of terror", in which a nuclear attack by either would result in a devastating retaliatory attack. In short, a nuclear attack by one would result in the total destruction of both. This situation was sometimes referred to simply as MAD: Mutually Assured Destruction. MAD is thought to have prevented the Cold War going hot because the leaders of both the US and USSR were rational thinkers.

Columbia University's Kenneth N. Waltz thinks the rational thinking that prevented the US and USSR using nuclear weapons during the Cold War will also prevent nuclear wanna-bes like North Korea and Iran using nuclear weapons should they acquire them. Thus, Waltz is actually "for" such nations obtaining nuclear weapons:
But the eventual acquisition of nuclear weapons by those few countries that see fit to pursue them, that he's for. As he sees it, nuclear weapons prevent wars.

''The only thing a country can do with nuclear weapons is use them for a deterrent,'' Waltz told me. ''And that makes for internal stability, that makes for peace, and that makes for cautious behavior.''

Especially in a unipolar world, argues Waltz, the possession of nuclear deterrents by smaller nations can check the disruptive ambitions of a reckless superpower. As a result, in words Waltz wrote 10 years ago and has been reiterating ever since, ''The gradual spread of nuclear weapons is more to be welcomed than feared.''
Interesting theory. Kim and the mullahs haven't yet shown that they're irrational but I think it's a really bad idea to trust that they will always act rationally, especially if they back themselves into a corner. There's also the little matter of a nuclear state passing nuclear technology to another state or even to a non-state entity like al Qaeda.

All things considered, it's not a good idea for any new nations to be added to the nuclear club. Hell, the French are already enough of a worry.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Unprovoked provocation

Commies sure know how to use language to their advantage. Take this example from Cuba:
On Sunday, 200 female backers of President Fidel Castro intercepted a peaceful march by 30 wives of jailed dissidents in a bid to intimidate them and shout them off the streets with chants of "Fidel, Fidel" and "Down with the worms".

"If some annoying person provokes his neighbours he should know that they will lose patience," Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque said at a news conference.

"In Cuba, the streets belong to the people. It is legitimate for them to defend their streets and oppose those who work for the Government of the United States."
We own the street; you can't use them. Welcome to Cuba, "land of rights".

Wishful thinking

The Abbott paternity saga is nothing if not interesting:
The former girlfriend of Health Minister Tony Abbott today denied misleading him for 27 years over the son he thought he had fathered.

"No, no, not at all," Kathy Donnelly told A Current Affair when asked if she had misled Mr Abbott over the paternity of Daniel O'Connor, the son they thought they shared.

Ms Donnelly said Mr O'Connor's father was a man named Bill, who had been a fellow art student 27 years ago.

She said the pair shared a flat with other art students and had a one-night stand, but they used contraception.

"... we were intimate and the next morning we both got up and said, 'Oh God'. We were good friends, flatmates and realised that was just not something to be repeated and it never was," she said.
I'm not privy to all of the details so I'm not about to condemn the mother. But, if Kathy Donnelly wanted a father with a future she wasn't going to pick a fellow art student, was she?

Bolton right man, Bolton wrong man

Peter Beinart leads off with the anti-Bolton view:
America's challenge at the United Nations is to forge a new ideological majority and harness it for cooperative efforts against terrorism, nuclear proliferation, poverty and AIDS. Bolton -- who specializes in alienating America's democratic allies -- is uniquely ill-suited to that task. By choosing him, the Bushies are signaling one of two things: Either they think America is still isolated in the world or, worse, they want it to be.
Fred Barnes with the pro-Bolton (and Wolfowitz) view:
Anyone shocked by the nominations of Messrs. Wolfowitz and Bolton doesn't understand the president's approach to multilateral organizations. The conventional idea is that these organizations are wonderful, though perhaps flawed and infused with too much anti-American sentiment. And the chief task of U.S. representatives is to get along amicably, not buck the system and cause problems. This idea is popular in the press, the State Department bureaucracy and diplomatic circles, and with foreign-policy "experts." But not with Mr. Bush.

The president's idea is simple: No more Mr. Nice Guy. He believes international organizations have failed largely and must be challenged and reformed. He was miffed when outgoing U.N. Ambassador John Danforth rushed to the defense of Kofi Annan in the midst of the Oil for Food scandal. Mr. Annan opposed the war in Iraq and even declared it illegal. More important, he's viewed by Mr. Bush as part of the problem at the U.N.
Now is not the time for passive leadership. Go Bolton! Go Wolfowitz!

Librarian too sexy for the job

This case will probably settle:
A Harvard University librarian claims in a lawsuit that she has been rejected repeatedly for promotion because she is black and is perceived as just a "pretty girl" whose attire was too "sexy."

She said she was shocked when, in late 2001, her supervisor told her she would never be promoted at Harvard. In court documents, Goodwin said her supervisor told her she was "a joke" at the university's main library, where she "was seen merely as a pretty girl who wore sexy outfits, low cut blouses, and tight pants."

She said after the conversation with her supervisor, she modified her appearance and wore more conservative clothing, but she continued to be turned down when she applied for better positions.
Beauty doesn't necessarily make life easier. Wonder if her supervisor was a woman?

Not the "BBC's bitch"

Ricky Gervais, creator of the hit series The Office has turned down a lucrative BBC offer:
Ricky Gervais has revealed that he turned down a £5m deal with the BBC - because he didn't want to be "the BBC's bitch".

The creator of hit comedy The Office said he rebuffed the offer of an exclusive "golden handcuffs" deal because the thought of being tied to the corporation was "stifling".
Nicely said Ricky, the BBC can be pretty bitchy ... the news division anyway.

Naw Roz Kite Festival 1384

Bet you didn't know Afghans just welcomed the New Year. It looks like a good time was had by all. The guys at Arman FM are great self-promoters but also deserve credit for promoting modernization.

Go Arman FM! (Check out the top 40 while you're there.)

Count Every Vote Act of 2005

The bill should rightly be called the Let Anybody Vote Act of 2005:
Let’s say it’s Election Day 2008. You really, really, really want to vote for the Democratic nominee for president, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), but you’re not registered to vote. You also don’t have a driver’s license or any sort of official photo identification that would tell the people down at the polling place who you are.

You don’t even have anything to show that you’re an American citizen.

But it’s Election Day, and you still want to vote for Clinton. What do you do?

Well, you go right down to that polling place, tell them you want to register, on the spot, and vote. And if anybody questions you, tell them you don’t need a prior registration, or a photo ID, proof of citizenship or anything else.
And who authored this bill? C'mon, you knew it was Hillary.

Attention seeking

Some people will do anything to stand out:
A Sydney man charged with planning a terrorist attack on a Commonwealth building was a "young dreamer" seeking media attention, his lawyer says.

[Zeky Mallah] is alleged to have been planning to kill officials from spy agency ASIO or the Department of Foreign Affairs during a suicide attack on a Sydney building.
A tattoo and a few piercings would be too commonplace. Then there's this guy:
Thirty-one-year-old Joseph Terrence Thomas of Werribee, south-west of Melbourne, is facing three charges, including providing support to and receiving funds from the Al Qaeda terrorist network in 2001.
Not to worry, he's actually a nice guy:
A Melbourne court has been told a man accused of working for Al Qaeda did not agree with the terrorist group's methods.
He was hanging out with al Qaeda only because they're a fun bunch. Yeah, right.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Pro-nuclear jazz man

Stanley Crouch is not your typical artsy type; he's writing a biography of Charlie Parker and he's a nuclear power proponent:
It is time to recognize what even France understands, which is that nuclear energy is the cleanest, safest and least expensive way to get beyond oil dependency. In our case, we also have hazardous things that happen to economically disadvantaged people through the emissions of coal burning.

We are due for a major reconstruction of our thinking about nuclear power. I do not mean that everyone is supposed to lie down and go to sleep, forgetting about everything on the basis of what some energy company says. But I expect our nation to grow up and move free of an irrational fear of technology. While we gobble up every new gadget, those fears take a rest, but we are quick to pick up those fears again whenever nuclear energy is brought up.
Clean, green, inexhaustible and it glows in the dark, what more could you expect from a power source?

Worthless UN girls

While everyone has problems, the UN girls of the Congo have PROBLEMS:
When Yvette was 10, a militiaman raped her, leaving her without clothes, she recalled. She cried a lot, wrapped her body in rags and then got up. She sought counseling at a women's organization, where she was told that she had done nothing wrong but that the theft of her virginity made her worthless as a bride. She should understand, the counselors said, that now no man would marry her.

"From time to time, I still do it. I am obligated," Yvette said. She and the other teenage girls interviewed for this article agreed to be identified provided only their first names were used. "Sometimes it happens in U.N. cars, other times at the camp. But at least they paid us. I was worthless anyhow. My honor was lost."
At least the UN men pay them. What kind of world do these girls live in where the evil are their benefactors?

Clueless, planless, spineless

As if it's not obvious liberals are making things up as they go along, we get this from USA Today:
Democrats need to counter the perception that they are a party without ideas. A recent poll by Democrats James Carville and Stanley Greenberg found that just 44% — scarcely anyone beyond diehard Democrats — think the party has any ideas for addressing the nation's problems.
It's gotta be pretty damned hard to come up with pitchable ideas when you're consumed by hate. (See post below.)

Liberals are also struggling to counter the perception they lack a fighting spirit:
You don't win, in other words, by saying that Osama bin Laden isn't all that different from Thomas Paine, or that America's ambitions in the world aren't so dissimilar from the goals of yesterday's Nazis or today's jihadists, or that maybe Pol Pot and Che had a point.

Similarly, Columbia University history professor Alan Brinkley wrote recently in The American Prospect, a liberal monthly, that Democrats haven't been able to produce a plausible military leader since John F. Kennedy:

"Unspoken but clearly felt in the comparisons between Democrats and Republicans in recent decades has been a particular conception of masculinity and patriotism. Kerry's impressive war record wilted quickly in the face of withering attacks from the Swift-boat avengers, but also in the face of the self-confident, masculine swagger that seems to be a natural part of the president's demeanor."
It was also hard to see Kerry as the manly type after watching him try catch a football with his eyes tightly closed all girly-like.

Bitter and twisted liberals

There's no getting around the vile nature of the hate commentary coming out of the left. Here's Gary Younge at the top of his form:
We are supposed to remember Saddam Hussein's gassing of the Kurds 17 years ago in graphic detail and forget everything that happened in Abu Ghraib 16 months ago.

"If our guys want to poke somebody in the chest to get the name of a bomb maker so they can save the lives of Americans, I'm for it," said Republican senator Jim Talent at a recent hearing on torture. How about ramming someone who does not have the name of a bomb maker in the anus with a truncheon, Mr Talent. Are you for that too?
Read the whole article – there's plenty more in every paragraph – to remind yourself that the left has nothing, absolutely nothing, to offer. Moral high ground my arse.

Hard to understand

Just in case you blinked and missed it, John Quiggin and I have been having a little stoush over the past few days. It goes back to a post at his site I thought a bit silly. When his site stopped accepting my comments, I became annoyed and posted about it here and here.

John Quiggin has now deigned to comment:
This is what I sent JF Beck on about the third try to get through to him,
I think the professor is trying to say I'm thick but his meaning isn't clear. He could be trying to say that, because of his email problems, he's had trouble getting an email through to me. Either he's imprecise or I'm a pedant. He's an academic, I'm not.

His comment then quotes from an email he sent me a day or so back:
I did not block any of your comments. I've been travelling and had intermittent email access which has increased my difficulties in dealing with spam and false positives. If you choose not to believe me that's your problem.
That's an odd answer to this question:
Do you stand by your contention – stated in behind-the-scenes emails – that it was your spam-filtering software, acting without input from you, that blocked my comments, removed a number of my comments and later replaced one of my comments?
In fact, the disappearing and reappearing comments were by now the issue, not blocked comments. It seems to me he's still dodging the issue. And, you need to bear in mind that in his emails he never explicity blames his anti-spam software for removing and replacing comments. He continues:
This seems too have been too hard to understand. Beck now says " All he had to do was go to my site and type Y-E-S and that's where that matter would have ended." OK, I didn't realise that was the magic word, and that I had to get a Blogger ID instead of emailing him. But now we're all set. Here goes!


Satisfied now?

Which requires more effort, getting a blogger ID or sending four emails? Why not just come here and answer the question in the first place?

Yes isn't a magic word, it's an adequate answer to a "yes" or "no" question. Sarcasm apparently isn't his thing either.

To be satisfied with Quiggin's answer I'll specify that the Y-E-S answer he gave confirms that it was his anti-spam software that removed some of my comments and later replaced one of them. He might want to consider replacing some of the software in his HAL 9000.

There is also the matter of my second, as yet unanswered question:
Do you stand by your contention that the article Tim Blair linked to, which is based on a Eurochambers study deriving from the research of Pavle Sicherl, Professor of Economics at the Lubljana University and Founder of SICENTER, was intended to scare?
I'm not expecting an answer to this one, it looks pretty hard. Stay tuned.

Update: Quiggin comments:
"Do you stand by your contention ..."

I've already answered this one several times as well, but to spell it out as requested:


Is that clear enough for you?
No, he hasn't answered the question several times. Here's the full text of his last email, which he claims clarified all:
1. I did not block any of your comments. I've been travelling and had intermittent email access which has increased my difficulties in dealing with spam and false positives. If you choose not to believe me that's your problem.

2. If I make a statement, and don't retract it, you can assume I stand by it.

3. I'm not obliged to respond to anything, and it is not a matter of common courtesy to demand answers (to your own satisfaction!) to rhetorical questions - very much the opposite. Despite this, I have responded several times to to you.

4. If in the light of this email, you decide to post a retraction, I would appreciate it. Otherwise, I don't intend to pursue this discussion any further.


John Quiggin
As previously noted, Quiggin doesn't specifically address the disappearing and reappearing comments. He also fails to specifically address whether or not the article was meant to "scare". It had become obvious as this situation developed that he had not read the report the article referred to. In posing my question about the alleged scare qualities of the article, I specifically pointed out that the report referred to in the article was based on the work of a reputable economist, Dr Pavle Sicherl.

Quiggin was thus placed in the unenviable position of having to choose one of two damning options. In answering "Yes", he would be, in effect, accusing a high-profile economist colleague of scare-mongering. In answering 'No', he would be admitting that his scare-mongering accusation was wrong. This is probably why he avoided answering for as long as he could.

Regardless, Quiggin has now gone on record claiming that the article entitled EU economy 'at least 20 years' behind US was meant to scare. It follows that Quiggin thinks the Eurochambers report, US economy ahead of EU by at least 20 years! and Pavle Sicherl's Time for a fresh start But time is not on our side are meant to scare; all have essentially the same tone and content.

Exactly how scary is the subject matter? Here's the introduction to the Eurochambers report, you be the judge:
A Comparison of European and US Economies Based on Time Distances

While it is advisable to put behind us the hubris of the initial Lisbon targets – “to become the most dynamic, most competitive economy by 2010 etc...”, it remains prudent to continue to compare the development of the European economy with the most vibrant economy in the world. At present, that means the US. In economic terms, there is no better international benchmark for the European Union.

This document compares the EU to the US in terms of GDP, R&D, productivity and employment figures, but does so in terms of the time distances between the two regions. It addresses questions such as “When, in its development, did the US already achieve the current EU levels?” and “When, given recent trends, could the EU catch up with the US, and under what conditions of growth?” The results provide food for thought to all those concerned with European growth and employment.
Informative? Yes.

Scary? No.

If Dr Sicherl wants to be scary he needs to try a bit harder.

On the other hand, if Quiggin wants to point out the scare-mongering in the article or reports ...

Aussies invade Austin

A record number of Australians performed at this years SXSW festival in Austin, Texas:
Celebrating its 18th years, the SXSW festival says it had more Antipodean artists and music professionals in North America in one town over one week than have ever been in the US and Canada at one time in history.

The annual SXSW conference gives relatively obscure artists from around the world a chance to showcase their skills before an international audience during a week of concerts, forums, speeches and parties.

Australian artists and attendees were supported by Austrade who invested in a major 36-square-metre stand.

Austrade also sponsored a private barbecue and concert on March 18 featuring eight of the Australian artists.

The line-up included the John Butler Trio, Missy Higgins, Little Birdy and The Morning After Girls.
Sounds great but, if any of the acts hit it big, will they pay back Austrade?

Don't call me dad

The Tony Abbott meets his son after abandoning him all those years ago saga has taken a twist:
DNA tests have shown the man thought to be Tony Abbott's son was fathered by another man, a spokeswoman for the Federal Health Minister has said.

In December, 27-year-old Daniel O'Connor phoned Mrs Donnelly and then had a emotional meeting with Mr Abbott.

Mr Abbott says he is very disappointed that Daniel is not his son.
Maury Povich might be interested in having Mr Abbott on his TV show.

Seriously, Mr Abbott must be relieved yet sad.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Conservative crack up

No, this isn't about Donald Rumsfeld flying a plane upside down, it's Andrew Sullivan commenting on the grim future for Republicans. His conclusion's a bit hyperbolic but makes its point:
In my view if a Democratic president had Bush’s record, the Republican party would have come close to impeaching him for his adventures in big government, fiscal insanity and foreign policy liberalism. But it swallowed its principles and covered up its differences to keep him (and itself) in power. The consequences are slowly becoming clear.

The race to succeed Bush will become, in part, a battle for the future of American conservatism. I have no idea how it will turn out. But I do have one clear prediction: the Republican internal battle in the next four years is going to be bloody. After the mid-term elections in 2006 it will be.
You really should read the whole article, you know, so you can say you've read it. Your liberal friends will be impressed.

We are the problem

The ABC devotes way too much space – over 700 words by my count – to the feeble anti-war protests across Australia. Much of this taken up by quotes from protestors, including Mamdouh Habib. Mostly, the protestor quotes are inane:
"We must never cease saying that the unprovoked invasion of one sovereign nation by others is simply wrong."

"Our security is threatened because one of its foundations has been severely cracked."

"This wasn't a war about weapons of mass destruction or to liberate Iraq, it's a war for profit for corporations."
A fomer human shield also features:
The group, which was led by former human shield Ruth Russell, read out the names of Iraqis who have been killed in the conflict.

Ms Russell says it is time for the Iraqis to manage their future on their own.

"The best thing that could happen now is that the Australians withdraw, the Americans withdraw," she said.

"The Iraqis are educated, intelligent people and they want to now take real control of their own lives, they do not need us there to help them.

"We are the problem not the answer."
Don't be so hard on yourself Ruth, you guys are more of an annoyance than a problem.

Channeling Dan Rather

In an article in The Seattle Times Leonard Pitts Jr recounts Jumah al Dossari's tale of an alleged encounter with a military policeman at GTMO and then makes this astonishing observation:
Yeah, I know. Dossari's probably no Boy Scout. Maybe had his hand in some major nastiness. Maybe isn't even telling the truth.

But his character is beside the point. And as for truth, well, this account sure jibes with those of other Muslim detainees who described brute force attempts to make Christians out of them.
Didn't Rather end up resigning after making stupid comments like that?