Friday, September 27, 2002

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CLOSE TO THE EDGE

New blogger, Jozef Imrich, has a quote from Kurt Vonnegut epigrammatically placed on his site:

''I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can't see from the center.'' - Kurt Vonnegut

I don't really know if Kurt is left or right, but I would say that the line of thought expressed in this quote is precisely what has kept the left irrelevant for the last thirty years. Yes, you can see things from the edge that you can't see from the centre, but the reverse is also true. Too many on the left have spent all their time shunning the mainstream and they've lost sight of what is important to most people. In other words, they have gone over the edge.

The fatal conceit of the leftist intellectual is that the "outside" view is always clearer. It ain't true.
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HOME AND AWAY

Nothing like the prospect of missing live coverage of the AFL Grand Final to make a bloke feel homesick. Ah well. I'll console myself with the fact that I don't even like either of the teams playing. Still, even at this distance I suspect I'll be able to experience the thrill that can only come from knowing that Collingwood has lost yet another Grand Final.

BTW: When America does officially take over the world, if they even remotely try and replace Aussie Rules with that padded-up, stop-start, run-by-committee, camel-of-an-attempt at a game of football that they play here, I will personally lead the counter-revolution.
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FORCE OF ARGUMENT

Today there has been an anti-World Bank/IMF rally not far from where I live. They have been getting truly awful press all week on the local radio stations, though one journo I heard this morning sounded a lot more sympathetic as she had had her arm twisted behind her back and had been frogged marched away by one of the 300+ cops on the street. Reports I heard this morning said there were only about 600 demonstrators and about 300 police. They also said around 300 demonstrators had been arrested, suggesting the police had implememted something like the Powell Doctrine around Dupont Circle.

Anyway, those two excellent bloggers, Max Sawicky and John Irons have some thoughts on the subject.
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GAZING THE NAVEL

For those who enjoy endless introspection about the practice of blogging itself, go read this piece that reports at some length on a University of California seminar that looked at the line between journalism and blogging.

I said something on the topic here.

I think there are definitely issues to do with accuracy, ethics and quality, but methinks some of these journos are getting way too precious about the standards within journalism itself, and maybe even somewhat threatened by the whole blogging thing.

That said, bloggers should remember that blogging needs traditional journalism a hell of a lot more than journalism needs blogging.
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MAYBE THEY DO; MAYBE THEY DON'T

Further to the post two-down about the utter nonsense the Bush Administration is currently pedaling about an Iraq/al Qaeda link, I have two quick follow-ups. The first is to note that Daniel Davies has also weighed in with an excellent post on the subject (and yes, it is objectively excellent, not just excellent because he agrees with me).

Second is that Donny Rumsfeld has come out with yet another howler on the topic. Having already used the expressions "solid evidence", "reliable reporting" and "credible information" to support his argument, he has also now been quoted as saying that the information is from sources of ``varying degrees of reliability.''

In the same report he also emits this comment, apparently from both ends of his body simultaneously: That, he said, ``happens to be a piece of intelligence that either we don't have or we don't want to talk about.''

If Rumsfeld ever starts a blog, I hope his links are more reliable than the ones he's provided so far on this topic.

It is also worth reading this, this and this just to get a sense of how the story is being spun and how transparent the spinning is. Does anyone believe a word these people say?
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WELCOME, EAST TIMOR

Having recently proven that the concept of the nation-state is far from dead, and that there are people still willing to struggle and die of behalf of such a commitment, East Timor today also becomes the 191st member of the United Nations.

Thursday, September 26, 2002

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OH, FOR GOD'S SAKE

You know, I can kinda handle the fact that a government is not always in a position to provide every last bit of evidence that it has about security matters, that some information is sensitive and that it needs to be used with discretion. Of course, most governments these days work on the basis that something is considered secret until someone wants to see it, placing the presumption on secrecy rather than openness. This is especially true of the Bush Administration which is as committed to transparent government as I am to wallpapering my bedroom with Rush Limbaugh centrefolds.

I'm even willing to allow that governments will sometimes act on the basis of information not generally available, as long as they can make a compelling case afterwards. For this to work, however--for a citizen to cut a government slack in these regards--the government in question has to have some sort of credibility, to have established its bone fides with a general record of good-faith dealings with whatever information it can make available and in its general dealings with the public.

What really gets up my nose, though, is the fact that what generally happens is that there is no good faith, we are spoken to as if we were idiots or children, and that we are strung along on partial and unsubstantiated information that changes as the needs of the government in question changes. In other words, we are routinely lied to and the business of government is not about doing the right thing for the country or the world (as is always piously claimed) but in managing information for maximum political advantage.

Take the much-mentioned case of al Qaeda links to Iraq.

In the wake of 911, the hint was consistently made that there was a link. Rumsfeld even had plans for an invasion of Iraq drawn up within hours of the WTC coming down.

Once pushed on the question of this link, however, the Administration was unable to provide anything like, well, proof.

They tried for a few months to assert that there was a link, but then we were told that there actually was no link, though there still might be. The Administration then went off and made its case for an attack of Iraq based on other grounds (just because being the main argument, pardon my sarcasm).

Strangely, this hasn't been all that compelling to the rest of the world (you know, the ones who will also finance and do the fighting, even if the bulk of the burden falls to the US). So once again they, Bush and par'dners, have had to come up with yet other reasons to justify the attack that they are already gearing up for despite saying they weren't.

So up pops Tony Blair with a "secret dossier" on Iraq's WMD capabilities. Surprise! As other's have pointed out, there was nothing new in the Blair document. It was the timing of its release that has given it centrality in the debate, which was the whole idea. A similar summary of Saddam's weapon stockpile can be found in an earlier report released by the International Institute of Strategic Studies (not online but a pretty comprehensive summary is available).

But even that didn't win over too many converts, especially with Blair's own party.

So now we are told once again that there IS a link between al Qaeda and Iraq, that they have the proof though, of course, they can't release it, and we are left to conclude that, doggawn it gosh, we just haveta go get that guy. In the last couple of days, Donald Rumsfeld, Condaleeza Rice and Bush himself have been telling us the gig is up, the fix is in and Saddam has been wet-nursing al Qaeda terrorists. As I say, I can handle that the "proof" is not available publicly. But consider the hopeless bullshit and outright contradictions that accompany this latest announcement and see if you can't tell why I don't think they've established the necessary credibility to be trusted on this latest "revelation".

First up there is the juvenile, infantilising way in which GW couches his information:

President Bush asserted a link yesterday between Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and the al Qaeda terrorist network, saying he fears they will join forces and are already virtually indistinguishable.

"The danger is, is that they work in concert," Bush said. "The danger is, is that al Qaeda becomes an extension of Saddam's madness and his hatred and his capacity to extend weapons of mass destruction around the world."


Forget the childish tone (if you can) and consider the content. Saddam and al Qaeda "virtually indistinguishable?" Well I guess all those towel-heads do tend to look the same. The fact that the religious fanatics of AQ have always been hatefully and unabashedly unimpressed with the rather less religiously inclined Mr Hussein doesn't come into it apparently. No: one baddy is as bad another.

Then there is the nature of the charge. Note Bush's words: "The danger is..." used twice followed by scary scenarios of one baddy morphing into another and coming to git us in our beds. Boo! Or at least they might do that, which is what "the danger is" really means.

Also note the contradictory nature of the claim: he is telling us that "Saddam's madness", morphing into AQ, has some sort of capacity to "extend weapons of mass destruction around the world". But this is a lie. How do we know? Because the Blair dossier, and other assessments, say he doesn't have that capacity. His ability to deliver any WMD he has is limited, as IISS reported:

In the wake of the Gulf War, much of Iraq’s missile infrastructure lay in ruins. (The US and UK, during Operation Desert Fox in December 1998, attacked a number of missile related facilities). During the inspections period Iraq continued to conduct small scale covert research and development on proscribed missiles. In addition, Iraq continued missile related procurement efforts. Despite international sanctions, Iraq covertly negotiated transactions with more than 500 companies. Its interests included liquid propellant engine parts, solid propulsion technology, guidance and control equipment, and many other items. In one case complete gyroscopes recovered from Russian long range ballistic missiles were even smuggled into Iraq and later recovered by UNSCOM in December 1995.

....Our net assessment of the current situation is that:

+Iraq has probably retained a small force of about a dozen 650km range al-Hussein missiles. These could strike Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran and Kuwait. Could be armed with CBW warheads.
+Iraq does not possess facilities to produce long range missiles and it would require several years and extensive foreign assistance to construct such facilities.
+Iraq may, in addition, have a small number of al Samoud missiles with ranges of up to 200km able to strike Kuwait but only if deployed within the southern no fly zone
+It is capable of manufacturing rudimentary CBW warheads; its development of more advanced designs is unknown
+Iraq can convert civilian vehicles to provide mobile launchers for its ballistic missiles


This statement by Bush is so ridiculous that even his partners in disinformation couldn't take it seriously:

White House press secretary Ari Fleischer tried to play down the specificity of Bush's charge, saying the president was talking about what he feared could occur.

Just like I said.

But of course, this didn't stop Fleischer from then immediately endorsing what he had just sought to play down:

Fleischer repeated the administration position that it would be a mistake to wait for a smoking gun. "Clearly, al Qaeda is operating inside Iraq," he said. "In the shadowy world of terrorism, sometimes there is no precise way to have definitive information until it is too late."

So what is it? Are we denying it or endorsing it? And is it clear that they are operating within Iraq or is there "no precise way" to know?

Then there was this drivel:

Bush was in the Oval Office with President Alvaro Uribe of Colombia when he was asked whether Hussein was a bigger threat to the United States than al Qaeda. "That is an interesting question," Bush began. "I'm trying to think of something humorous to say."

And then he thought better of it apparently:

"But I can't when I think about al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein," the president continued. "They're both risks. They're both dangerous. The difference, of course, is that al Qaeda likes to hijack governments. Saddam Hussein is a dictator of a government."

(Lucky this wasn't meant to be funny, because if it was, somebody should tell him the difference between humour and a complete fucking joke.)

Remember, what we are looking at here is an Administration that has consciously decided, via three of its most senior personnel, including the Prez, to reintroduce the notion of a link between AQ and Iraq. And look at how they are doing it. Apart from the Bush stuff just quoted we have this from Rumsfeld:

A few hours before Bush's remarks, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was asked by reporters traveling with him in Warsaw if there are linkages between al Qaeda and Iraq. "I have no desire to go beyond saying the answer is yes," he replied.

The only thing he has "no desire" for is to be caught out in a complete bare-faced lie, so instead he is dropping hints that have a high degree of deniability, as they say in the movies. We are being lied to systematically here.

As the Finacial Times reports, the evidence Rumsfeld and CIA deputy head provided to NATO members received a mixed reception:

Mr Rumsfeld said dossiers presented to Nato ministers - one on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capabilities, drawn up by Britain's intelligence services, the other from the CIA on the alleged links between al-Qaeda and Iraq - showed the nature of the threats.

John McLaughlin, deputy head of the CIA, presented a 20-minute slideshow. For some ministers, it provided sufficient evidence of a link between al-Qaeda and Iraq. For others, there was little new in the slideshow, indicating the emerging splits in the 19-member strong military over how to respond to any US attack on Iraq....

...However, European defence ministers who were shown the evidence were divided over whether it proved a link.


Even Rumsfeld wasn't all that impressed really: "For Mr Rumsfeld the dossiers spoke for themselves," the FT reports. But then it quotes him as speaking on behalf of the dossiers he said spoke for themselves: "Everyone is on notice. Everyone has a clear understanding of the threats that are posed [by Iraq]. Our job is not to connect the dots after something has happened but to come to the conclusion to protect wives, innocent men and children."

So what was it? Do the documents speak for themselves--that is, join the dots--or was it simply not necessary to join the dots? The key sentence seems to be "Everyone is on notice." Go that?

Please don't forget that it was only a few weeks ago (Sept 10) that the Administration let it be known that the CIA had been unable to find a link between AQ and Iraq:

Although administration officials say they are still trying to develop a strong case tying Hussein to global terrorism, the CIA has yet to find convincing evidence despite having combed its files and redoubled its efforts to collect and analyze information related to Iraq, according to senior intelligence officials and outside experts with knowledge of discussions within the U.S. government. (My emphasis.)

What waits in breathless anticipation for what the next fortnight will bring.

It gets worse. Two days ago, Miss Information herself, Condaleezza Rice, said this, as is reported here:

In an interview with PBS' The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Condoleezza Rice said the U.S. government clearly knows senior members of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's government have met and co-operated with al Qaeda operatives "for quite a long time."

"We know, too, that several of the detainees, in particular some high-ranking detainees, have said that Iraq provided some training to al Qaeda in chemical weapons development," Rice said.

"So, yes, there are contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda. We know that Saddam Hussein has a long history with terrorism in general. And there are some al Qaeda personnel who found refuge in Baghdad," she said, noting that the alleged contacts are documented.


Hang on....didn't she say they've known of a link for a long time? But didn't the other information they released on Sept 10 say that the CIA had found no links? Yes she did. Yes it did. Can't have it both ways, I'm afraid. Again, more fudging and hinting, and once again the bare-faced lie.

So they lie, they bluff, they fudge, they shift and they shuffle. Anybody who thinks they know what is going on based on this stuff is either clairvoyant, stupid, or an ideologue.

What it all boils down to, and why such analysis as I've offered here doesn't make a blind bit of difference, is best left to the President to explain:

"The war on terror, you can't distinguish between al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror," he said. "They're both equally as bad, and equally as evil, and equally as destructive."

Goodies and baddies. That's all the justification they need. So they'll go off half-cocked, there will be a terrorist response, all the righties will whine "why do they hate us," and then they'll turn on anyone who dares to offer an answer. And we'll start all over again.
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ANOTHER YEAR

Excuse me while I wish my son, Noah, happy birthday. He turns 6 today, and shares his birthday with Serena Williams, TS Eliot and George Gershwin and he is more wonderful and talented than any of them (except maybe at tennis, poetry and writing music). He said his first word (car) at 7 months and hasn't stopped talking since. He is the world under-7 expert on Greek mythology, a fine dancer (no whiteman's overbite for this little rug-cutter), and still wakes up way too early. He will undoubtedly rule the world one day, as he rules our family, but rest assured it is a benign dictatorship as long as you comply with his every wish.

There is nothing like a child to bring you up against your own inadequacies (you haven't been fisked until you've been fisked by your own child) but raising him has been a total joy and I wouldn't have missed a minute of it. Happy birthday, Noah. Love Dad.

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

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MORE PROFILING

In support of my contention (previous post) that issues may be 'left' and 'right' but that it is a less than useful label for people, may I submit Congressman Dick Armey.

He's the Republican House Majority Leader and he recently came out--against type, you understand--as being opposed to an invasion of Iraq, a position we would tend to call left. So we had an ostensible rightie taking an arguably leftist position.

Yesterday you might say he reverted to type, if you accept the typology in the first place. Regardless, it is worth considering how stupid his comments are no matter what label you want to put on them or him:

House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) yesterday stood by comments made in Florida last week characterizing liberal Jewish-Americans as being of "shallow, superficial intellect."

No doubt to avoid the label of anti-Semite, Armey tried to parlay these dumb comments about Jews into a general attack on 'liberals', the American word for 'left': As the report says, he 'took the occasion to attack liberals in general, saying they are "just not bright people. They don't think deeply, they don't comprehend."'

Unlike the deep thinking Dick, of course, as evidenced by other stuff he said:

"I always see two Jewish communities in America. One of deep intellect and one of shallow, superficial intellect.

"Conservatives have a deeper intellect and tend to have 'occupations of the brain' in fields like engineering, science and economics. Liberals, on the other hand, tend to flock to 'occupations of the heart,'" which Armey defined as people with jobs in the arts.


Given all this, why bother with the labels 'left' or 'right' when the much more apt term 'fuckwit' exists? (Newsweek article via MaxSpeak)
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IDEOLOGICAL PROFILING

There has been a lot of talk over the last ten years about the irrelevance of the labels 'left' and 'right'. Whatever the virtues of such arguments, it seems clear that the terms themselves have been given a new lease of life with the rise and rise of blogging. Is it just the nature of the medium--the quick exchange of written information--that causes people to resurrect these labels in the absence of other distinguishing cues? Do we just have an insatiable appetite for categorisation and, given the political nature of the blogs involved and the habits of 50 years of political debate, left and right is just the most obvious way of categorising?

Although I indulge in the practice myself, I must admit I find all the labelling--and the knee-jerk pidgeon-holing that tends to go with it--tedious. When the put-down becomes an end in itself, it ceases to have much value.

Even more tedious are the other labels Jason Soon lists--peacenik, warblogger, chickenhawk--to which I would definitely add anti-American, unAustralian and the like. Although some embrace these labels, on the whole they tend to be put-downs used in the place of arguments, as is any sort of prejudicial label.

By and large, I try (try) to respond on the basis of content rather than ideological perception. I'm on record all over the place blasting stupid things 'the left' says as well as trying to pick holes in what are generally understood to be 'right' positions.

For all that, I understand that I'm considered left and I'd even consider myself to be on the left and I'm not offended by the label. When I fill out that rather dubious quiz that purports to find your "political compass", I come out extremely "libertarian left" which at least has the advantage of being a more nuanced label than merely 'left'. For me, the distinguishing features of such a view are a belief in individual freedom that arises from having, not just the rule of law, but a society where there is equality of opportunity along with some equality of outcome. I don't think you can have the sort of individual freedom libertarians claim to seek without strong collective institutions. I therefore believe in ways and means of controlling the excesses of a market economy, and would even suggest that an unbridled "free market" is a danger to individual freedom. Along with that, I'd put myself more in the deliberative or republican democratic camp than a in a conventional liberal camp, but regardless, consider transparent democracy as the best form of government.

Given all that, it is unlikely that the label 'left' is really going to be adequate on an issue by issue basis.

Gore Vidal once said there were no homosexual people only homosexual acts and I wonder if some variation of this isn't true of ideological matters. Although we can basically divide up "positions" and "issues" according to the labels left and right, any given individual at any given time on any give issue might adopt a position that is left or right. To then classify that person as left or right--on the basis of a current position on a particular issue--seems a not very helpful thing to do. Unfortunately, there are way too many bloggers who aren't capable of, or interested in, such shades of grey, so I think we will continue to see the type of mindless ideological profiling from the 'left' and the 'right' that we are all familiar with.

So maybe John Quiggin is onto something in using 'left-brain' and 'right-brain' as the pertinent distinction:

The blogs I think of as left-brain are analytical, rational and linguistically complex. Right-brain blogs are mostly emotive, irrational or anti-rational, and based on sharp putdowns (Fisking) rather than logical critiques.

Which also probably goes some way to answering Ken Parish's question as to why there are more of right-brain than the left-brain blogs: the answer is a right-brain response is easier, quicker and tends to give more immediate gratification. Not always bad things in themselves, but I'm glad not all blogs are given over to that logic.
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TIME and CHANCE HAPPENETH to THEM ALL

A few bloggers picked up yesterday on new figures on the rising level of poverty in the US, and today the story is on the front page of the NYTimes:

The proportion of Americans living in poverty rose significantly last year, increasing for the first time in eight years, the Census Bureau reported today. At the same time, the bureau said that the income of middle-class households fell for the first time since the last recession ended, in 1991....The Census Bureau's annual report on income and poverty provided stark evidence that the weakening economy had begun to affect large segments of the population, regardless of race, region or class. Daniel H. Weinberg, chief of income and poverty statistics at the Census Bureau, said the recession that began in March 2001 had reduced the earnings of millions of Americans.

Nowhere was this dilemma more obvious than in the discovery that Bill Gates' earnings had also plummeted to dangerously low levels:

Microsoft mogul Bill Gates has lost $US42 billion (A$78 billion) over three years and $US11 billion in the past year alone....However, neither calamity is enough to knock him from the peak of Forbes magazine's annual list of the 400 richest Americans....The 46-year-old whiz kid has been top every year since 1994 when he overtook investment genius Warren Buffett, but the collapse of the technology boom forced his fortune down to $US43 billion.

There goes that second galaxy he was going to buy.

Tuesday, September 24, 2002

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A SLIGHT OVER-REACTION under the CIRCUMSTANCES

It's funny the things that get rightwing bloggers upset. James Morrow correctly points out my error in a post below about the number of people involved in protesting against a ban on hunting in Britain, a post that even I would describe as filler. But poor James is very cross:

GET YOUR FACTS RIGHT, DUNNY-BOY! Ex-pat OzBlogger Tim Dunlop attempts to have a little fun at the expense of fox-hunters and other Britons who marched in London this weekend to show how royally pissed off they are at the way the Blair government has destroyed rural life in their country. Problem is, Dunlop can't even get his facts right. Not only does he use a phony quote from Prince Charles to back his point, but he even mis-states the number of demonstrators, low-balling it at 250,000. Even Reuters and the New York Times say the true number was 400,000.

And I thought suburban lefties like Dunlop were supposed to be supportive of big, colorful marches by people who subscribe to alternative lifestyles.


Gosh.

As I explained in an email to James:

Hi James,

I did make a mistake with the number, though the original article I used actually says 350,000 not the 400,000 you quote from a later article. At the time I posted, the figure of 400,000 wasn't being quoted by the NYTimes. In fact, I didn't see the later article until this afternoon and posted an update.

The quote I used from Prince Charles is not something I made up as you seem to imply. Note that I introduce it as a "supposed" quote for a start. Other than that I was simply quoting the article I linked to, as is clear in the post.

Sorry if you were confused.

Cheers - Tim


On the subject of James and errors, I noticed the other day that John Quiggin pointed out a rather silly error James made, an error that was also picked up by Catallaxy.

By any measure, a much worse mistake than the one of mine that prompted James' ire.

But I don't think anyone has noticed another of James's minor errors (and when I say minor I mean it in the sense of complete fuck up) in regard to this post:

SO WHAT? I'll probably be derided as a dumb, simplistic American here, but when I read reports full of worry that if Israel is attacked, it might actually retaliate, I can't see what the big deal is. What are the worriers worried about? That the Arab world might become more virulently anti-Semitic if Israel strikes back? That's probably not possible. Or that the Arab world, a long-time darling of the Left despite - or rather because of - its hatred of Western values, will once again get its collective clock cleaned, causing more "humiliation" for a culture that, as others have already pointed out needs to wake up and smell the 21st Century?

Or perhaps its simpler: the not-so-secret wish in the minds of all those who call for Israeli restraint that the only democracy in the Middle East would just lay down, play dead, and go away.


The thing to pay attention to here is his claim that "all those" urging "Israeli restraint" are actually involved in a thinly-veiled ("not-so-secret") desire to see Israel cease to exist ("go away"). It's a big call, attributing as it does to the Arab world and to the Left in general, the desire to see Israel annihilated. You would think that someone making such an inference, and who is fond of pointing out in loud, demanding tones that others "check their facts" would be well sure of their own facts on such a serious matter.

How then do we account for the problems that arise from James's accusation? Maybe his own explanation is right (dumb, simplistic American), I don't know. But he certainly should have been aware that amongst "all those who call for Israeli restraint" are key members of the Bush Administration, including Donald Rumsfeld and the Pentagon, as this article indicates.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told Congress on Thursday that it would be in Israel's "overwhelming best interests" not to intervene if the United States went to war with Iraq.

The Pentagon is also planning military steps to reduce the Iraqi threat to Israel and obviate the need for an Israeli retaliatory strike. Israeli officials say they have been told by their American counterparts that the United States will mount an intensive campaign to destroy Iraqi missile launchers in western Iraq, an operation that would almost certainly require the use of American commandos in addition to airstrikes.


Sure sounds like "urging restraint" to me.

And as this article also points out, Dick Cheney has been another trying to stop or limit Israeli involvement in a US-Iraq conflict:

The priorities focus on protecting Israel from an Iraqi nonconventional missile attack. The sources said the administration has pledged to provide early-warning alert for any Iraqi missile attack and focus its war effort on destroying Iraqi missile launchers near the Jordanian border. The sources said the understandings were reached during Cheney's visit this week.

"I had extensive discussions with Prime Minister Sharon on these issues," Cheney said. "We discussed them before, and obviously we would expect to stay in very close consultation and are looking forward with this respect with how we might best deal with this threat."

The understandings also include an Israeli commitment to exhibit restraint during any U.S.-led war against Iraq. The sources said the commitment regards a series of scenarios raised by Washington....The administration has also recommended that Israel show restraint in case Iraq's allies fire missiles at the Jewish state. The most likely scenario is that Hizbullah launches a rocket barrage from northern Israel....Senior U.S. officials have sought agreement from Israel that any retaliation to a Hizbullah attack would be tactical and limited to southern Lebanon.


There it is again, the US trying to get Israel to "exhibit restraint", "show restraint". As this quote from the same article makes even clearer:

"The U.S. discussions are meant to coordinate with Israel any response to such scenarios," a diplomatic source said. "The Bush administration wants to prevent a massive Israeli retaliation that could derail any U.S. military effort against [Iraqi President] Saddam Hussein. A key understanding by Israel is that the war against Iraq essentially takes precedence over anything else."

So we can add "the Bush Administration" to those "urging restraint".

James should have also been aware that during the Gulf War, Israel itself not only urged restraint if there was an attack by Iraq, it actually practiced it, even when they were attacked, which again puts rather a hole in James's "insight". The urging of restraint, rather than being part of the vast leftwing "not-so-secret wish" to get rid of Israel is actually something formerly preached and practiced by Israel itself.

Last time I checked, I don't think these guys--Rumsfeld, Cheney, the Pentagon, the State of Israel, the Bush Administration and the former Bush Administration--could be characterised as those who wish Israel "would just lay down, play dead, and go away."

Trouble is, they have to be included because James very clearly speaks of "the not-so-secret wish in the minds of all those who call for Israeli restraint that the only democracy in the Middle East would just lay down, play dead, and go away." As my emphasis indicates, James is saying that "all those" who urge restraint fit his category. Unfortunately, his failure to check who had actually urged restraint, his lack of knowledge or memory of what happened during the Gulf War, and his own absolutist language leaves James in rather an awkward situation. Either he is completely wrong to indicate that urging restraint on Israel indicates a leftist/Arab desire to see the annihilation of the State of Israel or he has to include Rumsfeld, Cheney, the Pentagon and two Bush Administrations in the category of such leftwing/Arab conspirators.

Still, maybe James can gain some consolation from the fact that Israel seems very unlikely to again practice restraint: but that has no bearing on the foot-in-mouth error he made in his post.

Unfortunately, it all amounts to an embarrassing and fundamental gaffe. Perhaps even more so for Paul Wright who quotes Morrow with collegial, knee-jerk approval.

Anyway, I'm sure James will take the opportunity to correct his blog and admit his error.
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IF YOU CAN READ THIS

In an interesting marketing move, every time I click on any link to any blogger-hosted blog, I get the site called Evhead. As it says on the site:

This is the personal web site of Evan Williams, president/CEO of Pyra Labs, the creators and operators of Blogger, a web application used to publish, among other things, sites like this (so, you see, this is work!). Here, I write about the Internet, business, blogs, San Francisco, my life, and various other things as they occur to me. (Also: There are pictures.)

That's one way to get hits, I guess. Thanks blogspot.

Monday, September 23, 2002

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MIRROR, MIRROR ON THE WALL, WHO HAS THE FAIREST TRADE OF ALL

Australia's central bank, the Reserve Bank, has just held an international conference on the pros and cons of so-called globalisation. Tim Colebatch, writing in The Age, offers the following summary:

1. The rules of world trade are tilted against the countries that most need help. The Doha round of trade negotiations must focus on redressing the balance, by bringing protection of agriculture and textiles into line with those of other traded goods. Like soccer, trade needs fair rules.

2. We know better than ever how to make foreign aid work, yet the West (including Australia) has reduced its aid effort rather than increased it. Its leaders should put substance into their noble sentiments: open their markets, and put more money into transforming the lives of the world's poor.


Even based on Colebatch's own account of the papers given at the conference, this sounds like an inadequate summary. Clearly one of the biggest factors in even assessing the arguments remains the impossibility of finding a consistent account of what it is that globalisation is actually meant to be improving or damaging (depending on your pov). The endless arguments over poverty and inequality are a good case in point. As Colebatch suggests, one side continues to argue improvements; the other denies it.

For mine, one thing that should be abandoned forthwith is the term "free trade". This is a propaganda label, nothing more. All successful economies are highly managed but this label implicitly places emphasis on an ideological desire to minimise any interventions, even useful and necessary ones such as labour standards and environmental controls, rather than on good outcomes. Why can't we just talk about "trade" or even "international trade"? Then maybe we could assess various agreements on their merits (that is, on how they benefit participants) rather than on how they conform to a pre-designed set of prescriptions.
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NAMING RITES

I notice that Jeff Cooper over at Cooped Up has a boy called Noah. Me too. We (my wife and I) chose it (1) because we like it, (2) it is not very common (3) it is nonetheless well known (4) it is easy to spell (5) it is hard to abbreviate into anything too awful and (6) because we like it.

One of the things you notice about living in a new country is that, despite a language in common, people use different names. I have met at least one and sometimes more people with the following first names which I believe aren't all that uncommon in the US: Mary-Lou, Gray, Harris, Betsy, Nate and Tucker.

I'm pretty sure you could go your whole life in Australia and never meet anyone with these names. Or am I wrong?

(PS: I notice today that the The Boston Globe has a columnist called Hiawatha Bray.

Sunday, September 22, 2002

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A HUNTING WE WILL GO

Two hundred and fifty thousand unspeakables who wish to pursue uneatables marched into London today. The seriousness of their protest--against proposed bans to fox hunting--is underlined by what is supposedly a comment made by the aurally well-endowed Prince Charles:

``If the Labor government ever gets round to banning fox hunting, I might as well leave this country and spend the rest of my life skiing,'' the Mail Sunday newspaper quoted Charles as having told a senior politician.

Gosh one's life is hard.

UPDATE: The NYTimes is now quoting the number of protesters as 400,000. The original article actually said 350,000, which I misquoted. A participant in the comments section suggests that this later figure is based on organisers estimates, not police estimates. The London Telegraph puts the figure at a rather precise 407, 791 or 815, 582 sensible shoes. The FT says "more than 407,000." The Times says 400,000.