Friday, November 28, 2003

New BlogInternists

I've been quietly expanding the BlogIntern over the past couple of weeks, as part of my insidious covert campaign to establish Potemkinist blogs throughout the blogosphere. There's no point trying to hide the new entries any longer, so here they are out in the open:

Chris Sheil, formerly of Troppo Armadillo finally got his Back Pages blog up and running, and I've finally made the linkt ot it official.

David at BARISTA has the good sense to write complimentary things about me on his blog occasionally, when he isn't blogging on Arts and Letters stuff and the working routinge of Japanese author Haruki Murakami.

Frequent commenter dj has had his own blog Even Dictators Have Friends for a while now.

And Tailor's Today got added (thanks to David of BARISTA for the link) because I like the writing.

You'd Better Watch Out ... (Redux)

I was Googling the news today, checking for op-ed pieces of the "Every kid has the right to a visit from Santa" variety. Apparently there's a push on to get this added to the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child. So far I haven't found anything, particularly not in Australia, but as the holiday season doesn't officially start here until the PM appears on talkback radio declaring his belief in Santa and castigating the slaves of political correctness who would deny children their Santa rights, I'm not alarmed about that, rather alert in a comfortable and relaxed way.

I did find a number of reports which led me to this guest column by Harvey Fierstein, in the New York Times. In it Fierstein announces that:

... tomorrow, to the delight of millions of little children (not to mention the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court), the Santa in New York's great parade will be half of a same-sex couple.

And guess who the other half will be? Me! Harvey Fierstein, nice Jewish boy from Bensonhurst, dressed in holiday finery portraying the one and only Mrs. Claus.

Macy's quickly moved to hose down Harvey's claim, pointing out that the official Mrs Santa Claus in their Thanksgiving Parade would be a real woman. World Net Daily, a site previously unknown to me, also covers this little kerfuffle, with a link to their on-line store where you can buy an old magazine exposing Harvey's secret agenda. There are some good stocking stuffers in their on-line Christmas Store too.

Whatever Harvey's secret agenda is, it doesn't appear to have caught the attention of too many of the kids in the crowd.

Update: The Australian has jumped the offical start of the holiday season with this report from Agence France-Presse on a partial Santa ban in the New Zealand "village" of Mosgiel.

Talkin' 'bout ...

With Don Edgar joining the "Don't blame us" chorus on the coming intergenerational conflict, perhaps it's time to look at what Ian MacFarlane actually said about baby-boomers in that infamous speech:

If we are not careful, there is a potential for conflict between generations. The young may resent the tax burden imposed on them to pay for pension and health expenditure on the old. This will particularly be the case if they see the old as owning most of the community's assets. Housing is the most obvious example, where people of my generation have benefited from 30 years of asset price inflation, while new entrants to the workforce struggle to buy their first home.

At the same time, people – retirees in particular – are likely to be feeling less secure as they may be disappointed with the rates of return they are receiving on their savings. It seems to me that the community has not yet come to terms with the fact that nominal rates of return on financial and real assets are likely to be much lower over the coming decade or so than over the previous two decades.
[my emphasis]

Afterword: the following post has nothing to do with this one.
... I feel that the balance between fiction and reality has changed significantly in the past decade. We live in a world ruled by fictions of every kind - mass-merchandizing, advertising, the instant translation of science and technology into popular imagery, the increasing blurring and intermingling of identies within the realm of consumer goods, the pre-empting of any free or original response to experience by the television screen. We live inside an enormous novel. For the writer in particular it is less and less necessary for him to invent the fictional content of his novel. The fiction is already there. The writer's task is to invent the reality.

J G Ballard, Introduction to the French Edition of Crash (1974)

Talkback Moments

The big talking point on ABC Melbourne Radio this morning was, of course, the ALP leadership and the future direction of the Australian Labor Party. There was a lot of support for Kevin Rudd as leader, with Julia Gillard as deputy leader. A few callers preferred the idea of a Carmen Lawrence/Julia Gillard leadership - even the mention of Carmen's convenient loss of memory in the Penny Easton affair wasn't enough to take the gloss off that idea.

One call was amusing enough to be worth reconstructing. I can't remember the name of the caller, so I'll call him Alf.

Alf: I just want to say that until the Labor does summat about its immigration Policy, I'm going to be keep for Australians Against Further Immigration. I don't need to say owt more than that.

Jon Faine: I'd like you to say more than that Alf. It's an interesting position and I'd like to know more about your thinking on this isssue.

Alf: Well I've always thought that Australia was overpopulated - it's got nowt to do with where you come from or who you pray to, we just don't need any more people coming into the country.

A later caller was inspired to some deep reflections on the world situation and national politics by these lyrics, which she quoted extensively in her call. I wasn't similarly inspired.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

MATSUYAMA -- A man who dressed up as a woman to infiltrate women's baths and stare at naked female bathers has been arrested, police said.


Police said Yamamoto dressed up as a woman and entered a bath in Matsuyama at about 10:40 p.m., and began staring at naked women as he soaked in the water.

However, other people in the bath became suspicious because of the way he walked, and alerted a worker. He was nabbed on the spot in the changing rooms of the bath.


From Mainichi Interactive. I used to be sceptical of that story about Japanese willies.

And, from the same source, here's another way to make money on the Internet.
There is no contradiction between Christianity and a piece of rubber.

And while we're on this subject, did you know that it's possible to catch herpes, gonorrhea, syphilis, hepatitis and AIDS on your PC? Really.

Objectively Pro-Saddam

Remember all those aid agencies, like Care Australia, who wouldn't get with the program of the Coalition of the Willing? Colostomy lugs shows, to his own satisfaction at least, that they're still too soft on terror:

THIS is easy for me to say, when no one is trying to bomb me.

But Care Australia's decision this week to pull its foreign staff out of Iraq after a grenade attack on its building is, it must be said, a victory for terrorists.

It follows the very script of al-Qaida's chief strategist, Ayman al Zawahiri.

Not that Care is the only aid group to show the terrorists and Saddam loyalists in Iraq that they win when they kill the innocent ...

Update: The Australian Government joins the list of organisations who have given Islamic terrorists reason to "take heart and gain strength".


Via The Road to Surfdom a good post from Arthur Silber.

Here's one philosopher on terrorism. Here's a better one (PDF format).

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Guns don't kill people, tomatoes kill people.

Oh Really?

Will Australia get a good deal on Agriculture?

Agriculture is a key part of this agreement for both sides. Australia has stressed to the US that we are seeking a good deal that includes sugar, beef and dairy, and we will be pressing for the earliest possible opening-up of access to the US market.

The exact details of how agriculture will be dealt with are still being negotiated, but it is worth noting that the US was able to cover agriculture comprehensively in its negotiations with Mexico under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and in its recently concluded FTA with Chile. While these agreements have transition periods of 5 to 10 years and even longer for eliminating tariffs and quotas for some products, Mexico is already benefiting from the removal of tariffs and quotas for most of its agricultural exports to the US.
[My emphasis]

DFAT, "Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement, Frequently Asked Questions"

Report Finds Few Benefits for Mexico in Nafta

As the North American Free Trade Agreement nears its 10th anniversary, a study from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace concludes that the pact failed to generate substantial job growth in Mexico, hurt hundreds of thousands of subsistence farmers there and had "minuscule" net effects on jobs in the United States.


The report seeks to debunk both the fears of American labor that Nafta would lure large numbers of jobs to low-wage Mexico, as well as the hopes of the trade deal's proponents that it would lead to rising wages, as well as declines in income inequality and illegal immigration.

Though sorting out the exact causes is complicated, trends are clear. Real wages in Mexico are lower now than they were when the agreement was adopted despite higher productivity, income inequality is greater there and immigration has continued to soar.

"On balance, Nafta's been rough for rural Mexicans," said John J. Audley, who edited the report. "For the country, it's probably a wash. It takes more than just trade liberalization to improve the quality of life for poor people around the world."

The Carnegie findings strike a much more pessimistic note than those of a World Bank team that concluded in a draft report this year that the trade accord "has brought significant economic and social benefits to the Mexican economy."


The Carnegie report argues that the growth in manufacturing resulting from the trade agreement was largely offset by lost employment among rural subsistence farmers, who were adversely affected by falling prices for their crops, especially corn — a problem intensified by the Mexican government's decision to lower tariff barriers to American-grown corn even more rapidly than the agreement required.

"This is a trade pact which opened the U.S. economy to Mexico very profoundly, including years when the United States experienced its best growth in decades," Ms. Polaski said. "Yet we can't see a clear net increase in jobs in Mexico. You'd expect strong growth. You wouldn't have expected to need a magnifying glass to find it."

The trade agreement also reinforced and magnified changes in Mexico's rural economy — brought on by a broad array of other policies — that are damaging the environment, according to Scott Vaughan, an economist who recently left Carnegie to head the environmental unit at the Organization of American States. For example, he contends that the agreement has accelerated the shift to large-scale, export-oriented farms that rely more heavily on water-polluting agro-chemicals and use more irrigated water compared with producers of similar crops for the Mexican market.

Celia Dugger, New York Times, 19 November

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is Australia buying the Lincoln Memorial from the United States?

Purchasing the Lincoln Memorial from the US will link Australia more closely with the world's largest and most dynamic economy and lead to higher economic growth, better living standards and better paid jobs for Australians.

Purchasing the Lincoln Memorial could also minimise any competitive disadvantage Australian tourist operators might face as a result of the sale of other great US monuments to other countries, for example the sale of the Statue of Liberty and other major New York Landmarks, which involves major Latin American tourist destinations.

Will Australia get a good deal on Tourism?

Tourism is a key part of this agreement for both sides. Australia has stressed to the US that we are seeking a good deal that includes day-trips, weekends away and package tours, and we will be pressing for the earliest possible shipment of the Memorial to its new home in Canberra.

The exact details of how the memorial will be shipped to Australia are still being negotiated, but it is worth noting that the US was able to negotiate acceptable leasing arrangements for the Washington Monument with Mexico and the recently concluded sale of Mount Rushmore to Chile. While these agreements have transition periods of 5 to 10 years and even longer for eventual shipment of the monuments to the new host countries, Mexico is already benefiting from admission charges to the Washington Monument.

Will the Government still be able to erect and maintain significant Australian monuments?

Yes. The purchase agreement has specific exemptions for the creation of new national monuments.

Will buying the Lincoln Memorial mean US tourists can sue our Government?

Public liability insurance is nothing new. Once erected in Canberra, the Lincoln Memorial will be subject to the same public liability laws as other major tourist attractions.

Will the final purchase be subject to Parliamentary scrutiny?

Under the Australian Constitution, the power to make purchases on behalf of the Commonwealth rests with the Executive rather than the Parliament.

Any legislative changes required by the Memorial purchase would have to be passed by the Parliament and put in place before the Government can take the necessary steps to bring the Memorial to Australia.


"It was always the Government's view that we ought to broaden the Government's view to enable the best and brightest from around Australia to be chosen," [Mr Hulls] said.

"Having done that, I can now say to the people of Victoria that from the broadest possible pool of candidates, Justice Marilyn Warren is the best person to leave our Supreme Court."

Victoria's Attorney-General Rob Hulls announces that Justice Marilyn Warren has been booted upstairs (as reported by ABC News Online).

Update: they fixed it.