Saturday, October 19, 2002

Christopher Hitchens writes on the Left in today's Washington Post:

There is, of course, a soggier periphery of more generally pacifist types, whose preferred method of argument about regime change is subject change. The same people, in other words, who don't think that Saddam has any weapons of mass destruction will argue the next moment that, if attacked, he will unleash them with devastating effect. Or they say that a Palestinian solution should come first, which would offer Saddam a very long lease, given the prospects of a final settlement with Israel (which, meantime, he would have the power and incentive to disrupt). Or they say we should try deterrence or containment -- the two terms most ridiculed by the Left during the Cold War. And what about the fact that "we" used to be Saddam's backers? And, finally, aren't there other bad guys in the region, and isn't this a double standard?


Instead of internationalism, we find among the Left now a sort of affectless, neutralist, smirking isolationism. In this moral universe, the views of the corrupt and conservative Jacques Chirac -- who built Saddam Hussein a nuclear reactor, knowing what he wanted it for -- carry more weight than those of persecuted Iraqi democrats. In this moral universe, the figure of Jimmy Carter -- who incited Saddam to attack Iran in 1980, without any U.N. or congressional consultation that I can remember -- is considered axiomatically more statesmanlike than Bush.

Remember all the derision over Bush's "Axis of Evil" comment? Well, I'd say North Korea's looking pretty evil right now. I guess Bush was right after all. As a friend of mine recently reminded me: don't forget, the Left are always wrong.

Friday, October 18, 2002

They've Killed Our Citizens, So We Should Forgive Them Their Debts


Great Moments in Idiotarianism, Part I

Adele Horin writes in today's Sydney Morning Herald:

How to make the world safe again - for Australian adventurers, stay-put New Yorkers, and everyone else - is hard to see in the wake of last Saturday's tragedy. But it is clear that George Bush's war on terrorism is a simplistic response. Killing and bombing, aggression and swagger may defeat enemy nations, but not terrorism. It is time for lateral thinking. The regime that needs changing is the world economic order.

You see: it's the economy, stupid.

The causes of terrorism can be found in the dispossession of the Palestinians, and in religious fanaticism. But jealousy and hatred of the West also grow in the squalor of Third World countries, and in the gross inequality between nations. Many of the world's poorest countries send back to the rich world more in debt repayments than they receive in aid. And 3 million poor people would be better off if they were cows living in Europe - the $2.20 a day subsidy for cows under the European common agricultural policy is higher than their income. The bomb-throwers may be middle-class but this is the kind of injustice that feeds their self-righteous anger towards the West.

Translation: tariffs and subsidies should be removed because they make people a bit upset, which causes mass murder. Even the fiercest economic rationalists among us would never raise that as an argument for free trade!

She continues:

If we are to feel safer in the world, Australia cannot afford to watch Indonesia's economic disintegration. Many of its people are suffering already. Under the current financial system, the only way Indonesia could avoid defaulting on its loans would be to borrow more to service its debts, and to spend less on health, education and social services. In other words, as Professor Ross Buckley, of the Tim Fischer Centre for Global Trade and Finance at Bond University says, "The debts of effectively bankrupt nations are repaid at the expense of the most basic human rights of their own citizens."

You see, Indonesian citizens all had human rights before the West loaned them money, but now that they have to pay it back, they no longer have human rights. But according to Horin, these murders of Australian citizens would stop if we created an "international bankruptcy court" that works as follows:

Jubilee 2000 has taken the US bankruptcy laws - the chapter that protects municipal governments from rapacious creditors - and wants it applied to poor countries. It wants an insolvency court, independent of the IMF, to assess a petitioner's debts and ascertain if they were contracted legitimately; it wants the court to decide what debts can be repaid without cost to the fundamental human rights of the people.

So the Horin scheme works like this:

1. We loan the corrupt Indonesian government money, which they use for goodness knows what.

2. They then decide to ignore international terrorists in their midst - terrorists who appear to enjoy blowing Australians to bits and burning their flesh.

3. When terrorism attacks on Australian citizens occur, we should interpret this to mean that "debts cannot be repaid without cost to the fundamental human rights". (To wit, namely our human rights.)

4. We agree not to enforce the original debt agreement.

5. Indonesia becomes a neo-liberal paradise.

She concludes:

This is the regime change Australia should contribute to - a better world economic order, and a fairer go for the world's indebted nations. Tackling terrorism requires more than cowboy tactics. Australia's support for a fair and effective international bankruptcy regime would be a positive step.

For the sake of its citizens, born to travel, and for Indonesia, so close and fragile, the Australian Government has a special responsibility to think laterally when it comes to making the world safe again.

Adele admits that the international bankruptcy court is a "whacky idea". Of course, I agree, but here is an equally "whacky" idea: if international borrowing has obviously been so disastrous for Indonesia, and if, as Horin seems to argue, "debt repayments cause terrorism", then why doesn't the Indonesian government simply default unilaterally on its debt? That way, it would probably never be able borrow again, and, according to Horin's logic, international terrorism would be purged from Indonesia forevermore.

Over at Catallaxy files, Jason Soon reports on a piece in the "estimable and principled" Reason magazine by associate editor Jesse Walker.

Today James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal posts his reply:

Reason, the libertarian policy magazine, used to be a relatively sober publication. For both better and worse, it's become a lot looser since Nick Gillespie replaced Virginia Postrel as editor awhile back. As we noted in February 2001 and again in April, for example, the magazine has gone beyond the usual libertarian arguments for drug legalization and actually championed the drug culture.

This month's issue features a stream-of-consciousness rant by associate editor Jesse Walker about "the injuries done to federalism" by antiterror efforts. "Rant," incidentally, is Reason's characterization of this piece, not ours; that's the header the magazine uses in its print edition, where the article appears in black type on a bizarre blood-orange background.

Walker's piece is mostly a mishmash of complaints about things that don't really have anything to do with federalism, unless you think that the federal government has no business in such matters as airport security, the detention of prisoners of war, and criminal investigations that cross state lines or involve terror-related offenses. The only proposal Walker raises that actually would enhance federal power at the expense of the states is for a national ID card.

Disclosure: Walker mentions us in his "rant," characterizing us, apropos of nothing, as an "Arab basher," even though we're actually of Turkish descent.

Geldof vs. Liddy
The Melbourne Age reports on comments on the Bali massacre by former Boomtown Rat Sir Bob Geldof, and G. Gordon Liddy, promoter of "Stacked n' Packed", at a local charity lunch:


"Let's wait, let's pursue these evil bastards, let's get 'em, but let's not extemporise this to an entire people," he said at a charity lunch in Melbourne.

"We have to think about why these things happen, it's out of pure evil and we'll get `em but meanwhile let's not extend out grief into a ... rage that encompasses more people."

Sounds reasonable enough.


"We ought to discharge our moral responsibilities and kill the sons of bitches"

The two apparently spoke at a "Here for Life" lunch which was raising money to prevent...youth suicide.

Thursday, October 17, 2002

The Pelting of Pell
This letter-writer in today's Sydney Morning Herald gives George Pell a good and proper fisking:

George Pell tells Miranda Devine (Herald, October 17): "One of the unusual Christian teachings is that you can draw good out of evil ... For someone with no religion, suffering is a brute fact you have to try to endure with dignity. For a Christian you can hope this suffering can be transmuted into something of benefit, if not for you but for others."

That's patronising bollocks. You don't need to adhere to some ancient apocalyptic mythology to recognise and admire the courage and nobility that events like the Bali outrage draw from some people - or equally to observe the racist thuggery it brings out in others.

The only difference in this respect between Dr Pell and me is that I don't go around telling sufferers to grin and bear it because someone will kiss it all better the minute they enter an imagined afterlife.

Jeremy Gilling, Rozelle, October 17.

To which I say: right on.

Get Carter
The Wall Street Journal notes a 1998 article in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists by one Leon Sigal:

Three and a half years ago, the United States very nearly blundered into war with North Korea. Neither the Bush nor the Clinton administrations wanted that outcome; but few senior officials were willing to take the domestic political risks to avoid it-by making a nuclear deal with North Korea. It took a former president, Jimmy Carter, to defuse the crisis. . . .

Carter . . . obtained Kim Il Sung's personal pledge to freeze North Korea's nuclear program, to allow the inspectors to remain in place and monitor compliance, and to discuss dismantlement of the reactors and the reprocessing plant in high-level talks with the United States.

The June 1994 crisis was a turning point in American nuclear diplomacy with North Korea. For three years the United States had tried to coerce North Korea into halting its nuclear arming, and failed. Then it tried cooperation and succeeded. It was a triumph of Track II diplomacy.

Maybe somebody should give Carter some kind of reward or even a prize for his efforts...

It's all Academic, Really
You may not have figured this out yet, but most academics aren't too bright, and often say really stupid things.

For example, consider this interview on the ABC's Lateline last night with the PhD-less Clive Williams, Director of Terrorism Studies at the ANU:

Looking at the bomb scene, the scale of damage was enormous and I can't conceive why they would want to cause that many casualties.

Well, gee, Clive I'm not the expert on terrorism that you claim to be, but I'm willing to make the wild conjecture that the thinking of the typical terrorist is: why kill one when you can kill many?

Then this beauty:

I would have thought they could have achieved their objective of causing a backlash and instability and driving away tourists by maybe killing 10 to 20 people, but killing 200 people is just really over the top.

So Clive thinks that the "objective" was to "cause a backlash", and that killing 10 to 20 people would merely "cause instability", whereas killing 200 people is "really over the top".

Clive, as an "expert" on terrorism, did you ever consider the completely nutty possibility that the terrorists' "objective" was to kill as many people as possible?

The interview continues:

Interviewer: But Clive Williams insists the bomb is not a typical Al Qaeda attack.

CLIVE WILLIAMS: From what I understand, the bomb contained elements of different items, which suggest it was a fairly amateurish operation and it sounds like they put together everything they had in the one vehicle perhaps or perhaps even two vehicles.

And they didn't appreciate what the damage would be to the kind of relatively flimsy structures in the area.

So they didn't fully appreciate the damage they would cause, huh Clive? You mean, kind of like this ?

Pure Evil
The Melbourne Age reports on the remarks of Abu Bakar Bashir, the man most likely to have organised the Bali slaughter:

Asked if there was anything he wanted to say to families who lost relatives in the bomb blast, he said: "My message to the families is please convert to Islam as soon as possible."

Mr Bashir offered no sympathy for those who died; just his belief that by converting to Islam, the survivors could ensure they would avoid the fate of those non-Muslims who died and went to hell.

And he also offered this not-so-thinly-veiled threat:

"The second message is for Australia because you suffered the most: please advise your government not to follow the US policy because it will bring tragedy for your country."

His theory on who is reponsible for the massacre? Of course, it's the J-E-W-S:

"I think the bomb was done by foreign intelligence, especially US intelligence. The indications are Americans and Jews did it to justify the claims that have been made so far that Indonesia is a terrorist haven. What they mean by terrorists is Muslims. So to prove their theory they created the incident in Bali."

On nightclubs more generally:

"Such places will be banned if we have Islamic government. Although it doesn't have to be destroyed, it must be prohibited because it corrupts the morals of society."

But every cloud has a silver lining:

Pushed on whether he believed it was good that a "sinful" place had been destroyed he said only: "The building can still be used for a mosque."

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

CNN reports on revelations about North Korea's nuclear weapons program:

This intelligence, the official said, indicated the program was launched in the late 1990s -- several years after North Korea signed an agreement with the United States, Japan and North Korea to end a plutonium-based nuclear weapons program.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports on PM John Howard's call for Australians to wear wattle on Sunday to remember the victims of the Bali massacre. I wonder what kind of asinine discussion this will initiate over in Margoidland? They already seem to have ruled out our flag as an "appropriate" national symbol. As one contributor wrote:

Let's not rally around an overtly Australian symbol as the Americans did when they flew the flag everywhere and on everything as a sign of solidarity with relatives and friends of the victims. To do so will deny non-Australians their need to share their grief, empathise with us and feel empathy in return.

... As I walked around Manhattan and my old neighbourhood in Brooklyn I should have been feeling empathy but instead I felt anger every time I saw a US flag. It was like I was being told that as a non-American my grief was of lesser importance.

Fancy that. People flying American flags in...the United States.

Factor of Idiocy
If you live in Canberra, be sure not to miss the piece of "artwork" entitled "Southern Cross" (scroll down on this link to view a small photo), a gigantic, disgusting eyesore in the middle of the ANU campus, made entirely of compacted automobile bodies - and which is destroying grass and wildlife as I blog.

Of course, it is all for a good cause - environmentalism.

Blair on Pilger
In today's Australian, Tim Blair addresses (among other things) one of my favourite topics - the logic of John Pilger:

John Pilger described Indonesia as "one of the world's most brutal regimes", that "invaded and illegally occupied a territory to which it had not the slightest claim". Talk about incitement. Did he worry that he might anger Indonesian groups, and that Australia would become a target? Now Pilger and other leftists decry Howard's support of the US and his rhetoric against Iraq for that very reason.

My Democracy is Better than Your Democracy, so There

CNN reports on Iraq's recent "election":

All 11,445,638 of the eligible voters cast ballots, said Izzat Ibrahim, vice chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council that is Iraq's key decision-making body.

"This is a unique manifestation of democracy which is superior to all other forms of democracies even in these countries which are besieging Iraq and trying to suffocate it," Ibrahim said at a news conference in Baghdad, apparently referring to the United States.

Nobel Laureate, Professor Vernon Smith of George Mason University writes on California's energy crisis in today's Wall Street Journal:

The regulation of electrical utilities began about 85 years ago as, one-by-one, the states moved to grant each local area an exclusive franchise monopoly to serve its local electricity customers. For most of that history the industry had neither the technology nor the competitive motivation to implement demand responsive pricing. This is not rocket science.

The irony of it all is that in California the "obligation to serve" at a fixed average price could not even be implemented at times of severe stress because the unresponsive demand exceeded energy supply, and the shortfall was met by rolling blackouts that stranded people in elevators.

When peak demand strains supplies, because the reservoirs are low and/or the temperature is high, the wholesale price paid by the distributors in California (and earlier in other states) substantially exceeded the fixed regulated price at which the power was resold to customers. During the week of June 26 the wholesale spot price in California leaped as high as $1.10 per kwh, but the power purchased was resold to customers at around $0.11-0.12 per kwh.

That's called buying high and selling low, and if it persists, bankruptcy is inevitable.

Ex-pat Clive James gives the Left a good fisking in - of all places - the Guardian:

But let us allow, for the moment, that the mass outcry against American hegemony is the voice of the true, the eternal and the compassionate left. Allowing that, we can put the best possible construction on its pervasiveness. Not just the majority of the intellectuals, academics and schoolteachers, but most of the face-workers in the media, share the view that international terrorism is to be explained by the vices of the liberal democracies. Or, at any rate, they shared it until a few days ago. It will be interesting, in the shattering light of an explosive event, to see if that easy view continues now to be quite so widespread, and how much room is made for the more awkward view that the true instigation for terrorism might not be the vices of the liberal democracies, but their virtues.

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

France, Germany, Italy, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Finland, Ecuador, Belgium and New Zealand. These countries lost citizens or had citizens injured in the Bali massacre. I guess each of these countries should immediately change their foreign policy positions on Iraq since - according to the Sydney Morning Herald - that seems to be the main factor behind these killings.

Monday, October 14, 2002

I would like to welcome Aaron Oakley to the blogosphere. Aaron will write on the use and abuse of science, and I highly recommend his blog, particularly his exchanges with Margoid.
Well, I have left one socialist isle (the UK) only to arrive back in another (Australia). I intend to report on the Mont Pelerin Society Meetings a little bit more at a future date, but at the moment I am too shocked and angry at the Bali massacre to think or write about anything else. The responses on the letters page of the Sydney Morning Herald and other papers to these murders have been completely predictable and utterly sickening at the same time.

For those who are interested and who want to take their minds off the atrocities, in today's Wall Street Journal, Editor Robert Bartley (who attended the MPS meetings) provides his view on the London conference.

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