Archive for June, 2008

Let the referendum begin

Apparently, the rest of the country doesn’t need to vote during the next two and a half years – Gippsland is doing the job for us.

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Pathetic little boys

playing silly little games – yet they think they are so very clever. The weasels who have thumbed their noses at the US Constitution, the Geneva Conventions, and fundamental moral decency are not the slightest bit concerned about screwing around with Congress.

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A question I would like Andrew Bolt to answer – what happens next?

Gerard Baker surveys the state of the war of terror:

We are prevailing in this struggle. We know it. And everywhere: in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and among Muslims around the world, the enemy knows it too.

For a moment, let’s do what Andrew does and overlook all of the mayhem that still exists in Iraq. Let’s overlook the precarious security situation facing officers of the court. Let’s chant the mantra that the surge is working, while overlooking the fact that it is no longer a surge and is in fact a sustained elevation of troop levels that appears to be necessary to hold onto any improvements in stability.

So,we assume (as Andrew does) that our military might and steely resolve has driven back the terrorist threat. Al Qaeda is impotent, the Iraq insurgency is failing. Where do we go from here?

Combating terrorism and bringing liberty to the Middle East involves considerably more than smashing infidels and taking names. Taking military control of a nation such as Iraq might produce a short-term reduction in the violence, but it will also fuel the resentment that underlies insurgent and terrorist movements. The Senlis Council’s research projects have documented this discontent in Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia. Their latest report, “Iraq – Angry Hearts and Angry Minds” proposes a reformulation of Iraq policy that recognises the importance of social and economic initiatives alongside military and security interventions:

The international community must be seen to contribute to improving everyday life, most urgently through the provision of humanitarian aid and the repatriation millions of refugees. Should it not be possible for NGOs to deliver aid, then the military must be empowered to meet that critical human need. International involvement must cease to be associated with aggressive military tactics or oil exploitation but instead with positive action as defined by the Iraqis themselves.

Disenfranchised population groups (e.g. young men) need to be given an outlet to voice their frustrations, and a firm prospect of employment. The need for a ‘job surge’ and capital is fundamental to Iraq’s capacity to build a successful future. Foreign investment should be viewed as a security tool. A ‘job surge’ of sustainable, well-paid jobs, ideally backed by ‘micro-credit’ disbursed by local small to medium enterprises, is a realistic way of kick-starting employment opportunities in the country. The population’s immediate postconflict needs must be met.

Quick Impact Projects should be beneficial and seen to come from the local/national governance structures rather than Private Military Companies or local militias. ‘Microsecurity’ initiatives should be established whereby the macro-level goals of development and employment are applied to both individuals and their communities. Boosting employment through the creation of localised, Iraq-branded ventures will enhance security at both the micro and macro levels.

It’s probably too much for Andrew to read, since he seems to prefer a catchy slogan, but it is what a legitimate examination of a serious global problem requires.

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Welcome to last week

The OO kicks off the weekend by repeating last weekend’s scandalous revelations. Chris Pearson has the scoop. Did you know that Kevin Rudd works hard? And he employs young people? It’s a shambles – what will happen when the terrorists attack?

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Honeymoon over

Morgan’s latest shows the 2PP at 61-39. Discussion at The Poll Bludger, where BillBowe also has a breakdown of the results in a poll by Essential Research (59-41).

Brendan – it’s time.

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Influential right-wing bloggers Timmy Blair and Andrew Bolt pick up the scent of a new scandal with a link to an old target. Says Bolt:

Was Lara Logan, a former swimsuit model, just training for her new job?

Tim Blair notes the involvement of our dubious friend, Michael Ware, the terrorists’ favorite conduit.

The story relates to reports of a “love triangle” in Iraq, which originated in another of Rupert Murdoch’s tabloids, the New York Post. During the same week that the story about her personal life has been widely reported, it was also announced that she would be returning from the Middle East to become the Washington-based “chief foreign affairs correspondent.” Bolt and Blair don’t bother saying anything sensible – just a few quick sniggers about how an unqualified swimsuit model has managed to get herself a Washington post after being caught up in a “sex scandal” with a “terrorist conduit”.

Here are the parts of the story they neglect to mention:

  • Logan’s CV includes considerably more than swimsuit modelling – in fact, she has quickly built a reputation as a respected Middle East correspondent.
  • Logan has been a vocal critic of the claims that the American media is slanted toward portraying Iraq is being in a worse state than it really is. In fact, Logan has argued the opposite, most recently on The Daily Show last week.

So, a highly respected Iraq correspondent appears on US television arguing that the situation in that country is considerably worse than what Americans see in their media. Within days, details of her personal life, some of which are subject to conflicting reports by other sources, are picked up out of the conservative Internets community and published in the Murdoch press at the same time that the correspondent is “promoted” by CBS to a senior post in Washington. Australian Murdoch pundits then use these claims, capitalising on a link to someone they have previously labelled as a terrorist liaison, in an attempt to undermine the journalist’s credibility – and, along with it, the credibility of her arguments about Iraq and war reporting. Digby sees the same pattern in the way this is being used across the Pacific.

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There’s a difference between giving a non-committal answer because you don’t want to tell people where you stand and giving a non-committal answer because you haven’t made your mind up. But as dumb as Andrew Bolt is, he is also manipulative enough to ignore that distinction and play, “What is Kevin hiding from us now?

A reading of the complete interview on AM shows that Rudd appears to be approaching a complex problem the way he should – get a thorough investigation and expert advice on the issues, then develop a plan and seek feedback. Constructing policy takes time – playing politics doesn’t.

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by Andrew Bolt.

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Greg Sheridan, Serious Foreign Policy Expert:

I ran into Beazley at this year’s Australian American Leadership Dialogue in Washington, DC. The dialogue, founded by Melbourne businessman, Phil Scanlan, is the most important initiative in private diplomacy in Australian history.

As well as reminding us of the important circles in which he moves, Greg pulls out some of his greatest hits:

The Bush administration, for all its sins, real and imagined, has given life to the doctrine that the US should spend a lot of time cultivating allies. Certainly this has been particularly the case with Australia, Japan and South Korea.

So long as those allies are entirely dependent on and in agreement with the United States. Anyone who isn’t can fuck off. Foreign policy under Bush has resulted in the United States having an increasingly small circle of obedient friends.

Obama is likely to be less instinctively committed to these alliances but, to look at it from the opposite point of view, will be less shackled by Cold War-style thinking, which can have its limitations.

Two obvious alternatives beckon. Either Obama’s foreign policy is a Jimmy Carter-style disaster because he never comprehends the essential workings of global power.

Or alternatively Obama could produce a brilliant foreign policy, which comprehends the essentials from the past, but is unhesitatingly in touch with all the contemporary issues, from climate change to energy costs to global pandemics and all the rest of the new agenda issues.

Sheridan demonstrates his ability to intuit precisely what Barack Obama is thinking and yet make diametrically opposed predictions about the possible outcomes.

McCain of course is profoundly steeped in all the verities of the Cold War.

Either man will represent a break from the Bush years.

QED. Seriously, Sheridan barely mentions McCain in this entire article, but he has proven that he won’t be Bush Mk III. How? Because Greg Sheridan said so.

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Not surprisingly, the OO’s theme du jour is that energy policy will be the bane of the Rudd Government’s brief existence. Of course, the OO also stakes out its own position, which is that the future must be radioactive. We were all just too stupid to listen to John Howard.

The Editor-at-Large exemplifies the Oz’s current horoscope prophecy forecast for Kevin Rudd:

AUSTRALIA’S energy policy debate is about to erupt. The emissions trading system pledged by Kevin Rudd looms as a policy nightmare that means higher energy and transport prices.

And now an old demon has re-emerged, with demands Australia should go nuclear.

It is as though Australia is sleepwalking into the biggest restructuring of its economy for a generation, with a popular culture that thinks climate change solutions are about light bulbs and carbon-free concerts.

The community is utterly unprepared for the harsh application of climate change mitigation – if the Rudd Government has the will to impose it. The question is whether a political constituency can be mobilised for a rigorous emissions trading system that will make Australia, outside Europe, one of the few nations to enter such carbon pricing arrangements.

Yes, the other hallmark of our elite punditocracy – the unshakeable belief that the Australian populace is stupid. They know exactly what, and how little, we think.

The only OO opinionata to bother noting that another leader in our Parliament may be facing a similar quandary, not to mention the real possibility of being toppled from his job in the near future, was Lenore Taylor:

Behind the scenes, there are clear divisions within the Coalition about how to balance short-term realpolitik with long-term responsibility in the position it takes on emissions trading.

But if Nelson gives in to those advocating that he abandons the bipartisanship that existed around the fundamentals of this debate at the time of the last election, it will make sensible policy formulation even harder. Not to mention endangering the Coalition’s hard-won reputation for economic credibility.

Despite the typical OO slant towards spelling doom for Labor, they actually have hit the fundamental point on the head (for once). Emissions trading and the other elements of energy policy should be the most important issue that determines the success and/or failure of both major parties over this Parliamentary term. The challenge for both the Government and the Opposition is to formulate a coherent and effective policy. The rising voice of the Greens in the Senate will ensure that there is legitimate criticism and analysis of their positions.

But the temptation that both major parties need to resist is to believe that the voters are dimwits who don’t understand the stakes and the costs, whose votes can be bought through cheap stunts that relieve our short-term pain without addressing the challenges of the future. They need to recognise that we are more sophisticated than Paul Kelly gives us credit for.

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