Tuesday, January 28, 2003

My new Moveable Type weblog is up and running as of today.

Please come and visit public opinion's new home

Christopher Hitchens

This debate over war with Iraq may be academic after Hans Blix, the Chief UN weapons inspector, told the UN Security Council that Iraq has not accepted international demands that it disarm and Washington immediately said there was no sign Iraq wants to cooperate. Washington is going to war no matter what happens at the United Nations.

Then again, maybe its not academic as we are not at war yet. The article by Christopher Hitchens, 'Wake Up, Peaceniks!' has a more interesting angle than most as he maintains that the 'government and people of the United States are now at war with the forces of reaction.' The response by Steven Lukes, Sorry, Hitchens, this time it should be ‘no’ to war is critical of the way Hitchen's classifies the opponents of war as " ‘peaceniks’, ‘smart-ass critics and cynics’, who lack ‘self-criticism’, make ‘doom-laden predictions’ and exhibit ‘self-satisfied isolationism’. Our ‘past form’ is, apparently, one of opposing interventions in the Gulf, Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan."

Though I am against Australia's involvement in the US go it alone war I have no doubts that Saddam Hussein's regime is totalitarian, repressive and brutal. For an insight, see Torture stories. It is pretty strong.

Monday, January 27, 2003

NSW Election Website
Many do not dip into Margo Kingston's Webdiary because they think that no pearls of wisdom can be found buried in what they see as journalist dross. So they may have missed this.

It is a site called, NSW Election 2003, and you may still find it of interest, even though it is hosted by the liberal Sydney Morning Herald

There is good material there particularly on the way that the 'crime card' is being used by politicians as an election strategy. It involves responding to the public fear of crime by Scaring up the votes. The aim of the strategy is not to explore answers or solutions but to exploit anxiety for political advantage. The politicians then identify problems they promise to "fix" via sentencing changes, such as "truth in sentencing", "three strikes and you're in", hard-drug pushers would die in jail", "hoodlum patrols would reclaim the streets for our citizens and make them safe again".

And Paolo Totaro here asks, why, are there no properly evaluated studies to measure the efficacy of equally radical proposals such as mandatory sentencing, when the evidenced-based approach was the nom for a medically supervised heroin-injecting room put in place by the State Government? Paolo then makes a good observation:

"Our political leaders do not explain how they translated the public's often justifiable fears about personal safety or crime rates into a demand for expensive, untested policies that, to date, have done absolutely nothing to pre-empt or curb crime - and even less to rehabilitate or educate offenders before release. Rather, the law and order auction that began with Nick Greiner's 1988 "truth in sentencing" legislation and continues today with mandatory sentencing has simply added to our already bursting jails."

And in this piece Paolo refers to a group of international crime experts who have called for an end to the use of law and order as a "political shuttlecock", proposing reforms to safeguard the legal system from electioneering politicians.

These experts observe that the politicisation of law and order has had a "profound effect on the traditional separation of powers between the Parliament, the executive and the judiciary ... [that] hallmark of the Westminster system of government ... appeared to be breaking down at the close of the century in Australia."

And thats a good judgement.
Renovations almost Complete

Public opinion's new home at Moveable Type is up but not running yet. It can be viewed at Public Opinion. What do you think?

philosophy.com will move over to Moveable Type as an associated site whilst a heap of junk for code will stay with Blogger but will be slowly renovated.
Australia Day

There is a posting on Australia Day and nationalism at philosophy.com It is a defence of nationalism.

Sunday, January 26, 2003

Market Values to Live by

The 1980s heralded a revolution in Australia. it was a case of out with the old inward-looking, protectionist Australia and in with the new open, competitive and dynamic Australia that was full of get up and go. We had to change our old habits, embrace new ways of thinking, force new ways of doing things: in short we had reinvent ourselves to cope with an infinity of constant change.

The model of what we should become in the global world was the well-heeled and sassy entrepreneur, who was full of confidence as he wheeled and dealed, had panache in the board room and desired to make bucket loads of money. That image of corporate swagger with a just a touch of the bully boy is from the booming 1990s, but it was said to be just right for the times. The Zeitgeist was the invisible hand, which ensured that what evolved was benign.

Remember all that? The justification came from Hayek. This said that the entrepreneur, the one who took calculated risks, made full use of their unique knowledge and seized the opportunities that were open to them, was the ideal individual in the Great Society. They would acquire self -discipline by taking responsibility for themselves and would develop the necessary moral habits (ethos? virtues?comportment?) that were needed to sustain and facilitate the development of the Great [liberal] Society.

Remember that? All the unemployed were being asked to jump on their bikes and pedal into a glorious future by becoming independent self-employed producers liivng in a free market culture.Australia as a nation of entrepreneurs was a heady vision.

We were at the end of history, living in the eternal present of the global market, with our future written by the present. Remember that? Well, how times change.The 'can do step aside' style is now an out of date fashion. Now its all about corporate governance protocols, market regulation, corporate responsibility, compliance with tax.

What happened in between the fashions?

Wreckage. Lots and lots of corporate wreckage.

And the entrepreneurs? This ---- Martino on the rocks ----says it all.

What does that excess say about the social order of the Great Society based on the dynamism of the self-organizing market with its ethos of competition and entrepreneurship? Surely, the corporate wreckage is not due to the heavy hand of politics destroying the delicate institutional framework that facilitated the flowering of individual talent, energy and enterprise?
Internet slows down

Things were very slow over the weekend. Public Opinion barely functioned, it was difficult to access websites, traffic was way down and it was very very slow browsing. Was this the effect of the new worm called Sapphire?
New material on other weblogs

There is a post on Richard Rorty, the well known and influential US pragmatist philosopher, at philosophy.com for people interested in such high culture things. At a heap of junk for code there is a post on market icons----the example is the new MacIntosh Powerbook---called becoming fashionable.

My how the world has changed. It was not long ago that the Marxist academic left was launching critiques of consumer capitalism based on their elitist taste for "popular culture", consumer desires and hedonism; and for the way the culture industry sought to create passive disciplined consumers. Now we find our identity, soul and enjoyment in the marketplace and celebrate its carnivalesque qualities. We are now excluded from life if we are not able to play the consumer game with flair and success.
Chewing over Christopher Pearson

I wasn't able to read CP, my favourite neocon, this weekend. It was not until this morning over breakfast that I was able to read his pearls of wisdom in his weekly columnn in the The Weekend Australian. Whilst talking about regional haute cuisine Adelaide style (marinated kangaroo tail marinanted and served with oyster sauce and emu liver pate), CP says:

"For the bolshier of my friends, the kangaroo and emu as national emblems were just a joke (like nationalism itself)and eating was all they were fit for. These days all but the bolhiest of my friends have cahnged their tune about nationalism. The too often shambolic character of the UN is more transparent and diluting domestic sovereignty is a clear abrogation of reponsibility.The fantasy of world government looks every bit as anachronsitic as our federal coat of arms, but where one is sinister the other is harmless and hallowed by time."

The left anti-nationalist? Only one current---the internationalist one that celebrated a dynamic, thrusting revolutionary capitalism penetrating deep into the tissue of tradition and premodernity ( India, China & Australia)--was anti-nationalist.
The other strand was deeply nationalist and anti-American (hostile to the US as an empire) before it went postmodern.

CP is not a very reliable guide to our intellectual history. His narratives appear to based on a lot of forgetting.

But I do agree with CP that our national anthem needs some zip and passion. Its banal. Lets have one that we, as a confident people, are proud of rather than embarrassed about.
Israel

This is no secular liberal state. It has become a theocracy where the Orthodox rabbis are an arm of government, and settlers believe that God has ordered them to built in illegally occupied Palestinian lands and to keep that territory with force of arms if need be.

Here are a couple of weblogs that dealing with this area that I have come across. The first, Debkra file, says that it starts where the media stops. And the other is In context. The Australian media's reporting on the Middle East is a bit thin.
Says it all

The Australian Government has sent troops to the Middle East and is saying to its citizens does not mean a commitment to war. Troops have been sent even though the diplomatic efforts through the United Nations have not been exhausted, polls show that around two thirds of Australians oppose the nation joining in any US led attack on Iraq, and the Australian Parliament has not been consulted.

This line from Cameron Stewart,'World at War',Weekend Australian sums it up. Cameron says:

"...what is becoming increasingly plain---that if the US marches into Iraq, Australia will be marching along side it, regardless of what the rest of the world thinks."

The reason Australia is doing this?

It will allow Australian forces to properly prepare for any war and it will increase pressure of Iraq to surrender his suspected weapons of mass destruction. Thats the justification given by John Howard.

It's not even the pretence of a case. I presume that Howard's case for war will be made by President Bush's upcoming State of the Union address, where Bush is expected to lay out a case against Iraq. Meanwhile the Bush administration is engaged in a campaign to bolster public opinion at home and abroad whilst Europe remains sceptical. Whilst In Britain, War Concern Grows Into Resentment of U.S. Power .

Lets face it. Australia has all but abandoned the United Nations.

Over at Eye of the Beholder Scott Wickstein makes a good point about Australia's involvement. He says:

" The point is that Australia's contribution isn't going to make a scrap of difference to the military outcome. It's a purely political decision, and how this advances Australia's political standing, I've no idea."

I heartily agree. So do a lot of other Australians.
A bit of neo-con dash and splash

For those interested this lecture by Stanton Evans gives a good working account of conservatism. He says:

"I define conservatism pretty much in the way that most Ameri-cans would define it - as the practical political position identified with such spokesmen as Senator Barry Gold-water and former Governor Ronald Reagan. This is a view which stresses the primacy of individual freedom, the economic merits of free enterprise, the importance of limited government, the need for a strong national defense, and so on. In philosophical terms, this con-servatism is thought to rest on a respect for tradition and custom, affirmation of religious principle, the rule of law, and a belief in constitutional processes."

And then he adds:

"Within conservative ranks there are, and for many years have been, two over-arching philosophical tendencies. For want of better terms, these have been loosely defined as "libertarian" and "traditionalist." The first stresses the primacy of individual freedom and limitations on the power of the state. The second stresses shared com-munity values in general, religious principle and reliance on tradition."

The argument that I have been developing is that there is a tension, if not a contradiction, between these libertarian and traditionalist strands. These are less strands and more liberal and conservative traditions. They formed an alliance to fight socialism and communism in the 20th century. But with the fall of the Berlin wall in the 1980s, and communism defeated, the battles lines between conservatism and liberalism have, once again, become sharply defined, as they were in the 19th century.

This, more or less, is a reworking of the argument of Irving Kristol. See here for some of Kristol's'writings. This argument holds that the driving ethos of conservatism is in fundamental disagreement with, and antagonistic to, the key liberal idea (eg.a utilitarian neo-classical economics) that the individual is sovereign. Conservatives, on this account, uphold the authority of the state and the primacy of politics over economics.

Stanton Evans directly takes on my incompatibility thesis. He says it can be :

,...demonstrated that there is no inherent conflict between the libertarian and traditionalist emphases within the conservative com-munity. These two emphases, I would contend, are aspects of a coherent world-view-hemispheres which make a whole. I would, indeed, go further: to suggest that these emphases are "compatible," or that they can somehow be made to fit together, is to understate the degree of reciprocity between them.'

Its worth a read. it has a good account of the liberal philosophy of history that we all learned on daddy's knee.

Saturday, January 25, 2003

You call this journalism?

This would normally go into a a heap of junk for code filed under junk journalism. But its here because it is from the Washington Post, it is about the American left and is an example of the sorry state of journalism in the US.

The article is Michael Kelly's Marching With Stalinists,and he says:

"The left in America has for a long time now resembled not so much a political movement as a contest to see how many schismatics could dance on the head of a pin, a conversation that has gone from being national to factional to simply eccentric.

Then came Sept. 11, and the left found itself plunged into a debate on a subject of fundamental importance. And this was a debate in which to be of the left was to be, by definition, involved: In al Qaeda and in the Taliban and in Saddam Hussein's Iraq, liberal civilization faced an enemy that represented nearly every evil that liberalism has ever stood against.

What was the left going to do? A pretty straightforward call, you might say. America has its flaws. But war involves choosing sides, and the American side -- which was, after all, the side of liberalism, of progressivism, of democracy, of freedom, of not chucking gays off rooftops and not stoning adulterers and not whipping women in the town square, and not gassing minority populations and not torturing advocates of free speech -- was surely preferable to the side of the "Islamofascists," to borrow a word from the essayist and former man of the left, Christopher Hitchens.

.....The debate is over. The left has hardened itself around the core value of a furious, permanent, reactionary opposition to the devil-state America, which stands as the paramount evil of the world and the paramount threat to the world, and whose aims must be thwarted even at the cost of supporting fascists and tyrants.

....The left marches with the Stalinists. The left marches with those who would maintain in power the leading oppressors of humanity in the world. It marches with, stands with and cheers on people like the speaker at the Washington rally who declared that "the real terrorists have always been the United Snakes of America." It marches with people like the former Black Panther Charles Baron, who said in Washington, "if you're looking for an axis of evil then look in the belly of this beast."


This is black and white logic: if you are not with usyou are against us; you are commiting treason andyou side with the enemy. It is mediocre journalism that adopts a knee-jerk adversarial position toward those who are critical of the Bush administration &a sneering tone to the left which is dismissed as totalitarian. You can smell the "stench of contempt".

What has happened to the democratic left who do not support the unilateral action of the Bush administration? Or ordinary Americans who oppose the war with Iraq?

As Lisa English at Ruminate this notes:

"In the past 24 hours, I've noticed a trend in the broadcast, print and online media. The idea is this: extremist right wingers are now aiming to associate Democrats or Liberals or anyone opposed to war, with Marxism."

The pit bull reasoning is simple. There can be no "peace" movement. There can only be a movement that divides Americans and gives aid and comfort to our enemies. Why? Because America is at war.

Update

Scott Wickstein has criticised the above piece for being too one sided----ie narrowing in on the black and white thinking of of the right and ignoring that of the left. Fair enough. As it stands the post should have gone to a heap of junk for code cos it is about junk content.

What I was trying to do with this material on public opinion was to use the above example to talk about the media in the US --but I lost it completely. What I had in my mind was pulling my impressions from reading the US media into some sort of judgement. But I couldn't bring these impressions togther, nor could I connect them with themes and observations in Tim Porter's excellent First Draft in order to talk about gap between the objectivity/reporting the facts/getting at the truth ethos of US jorunalism and its partisan practice.

However, this piece, Bushwacked, by Matthew Engel in The Guardian says it a heck of a lot better than I ever could. Engel has the knowledge to be able to put his finger on what is happening to the media and to spell out the lap dog relationship to the executive governance of the Bush Administration. He says:

" In the American press, day after day, the White House controls the agenda. The supposedly liberal American press has become a dog that never bites, hardly barks but really loves rolling over and having its tummy tickled. Indeed, there is hardly any such thing as the liberal press."

I was then going to use the Washington Post to throw a bit of light on the Australian liberal media---but Engel says it for me. Let me highlight several points he makes that help to make sesne of what is happening to the Australian media. Engels says

"Outside these two bastions, the media landscape has changed entirely. Day after day, rightwing radio talk hosts dominate the airwaves, deriding opponents and cutting off callers who argue.
.....Unanimously, it is accepted that the Bush White House - helped by his popularity, the post-September 11 mood and the weakness of the Democratic opposition - has taken media control-freakery to unprecedented levels.There is a new game in town. It is not merely Bush's opponents who have failed to grasp the rules, but ordinary reporters who believe their sole job is to get at the truth.
.....Most Washington reports consist of stories emanating from inside the government: these may (rarely) be genuine leaks; they may come from officials anxious to brief against rival officials, but that too is rare in this disciplined and corporately-run administration. Most of these stories, which look like impressive scoops at first glimpse, actually come from officials using the press to perform on-message spin.

.... Newspapers have got kinda boring. The industry wrings its hands and asks what's wrong and beats itself up. What it never does is say: 'Well, we could make the paper a hell of a lot more interesting'. There is actually very little pressure to make the papers more interesting."


Thats what I should have said.

Friday, January 24, 2003

New Home for Public Opinion

I have been informed by Bailz, the ace OZ weblog designer thatpublic opinion will be up and running on Moveable Type next week some time. I saw a dummy of the new design yesterday-- it is very cool and swish. It is a minimalist with a white background and apricot colouring

I wil be glad to shift because various posts and comments keep dropping out, site meter is always on the blink, and posting well nigh impossible during parts of the day. Today, a very insightful post by Observa on the Holdfast Bay development in Glenelg evaporated. It was insightful because Observa was from Glenelg and had a good grasp of the public private relationship underpinning that development. Can you re-comment Observa?
Cathie Clement Guest Blogger Returns
Cathie returns with some insights into the cultural wars that bounces off the role of journalists. There is a widespread suspicion of Big Media in Australia, with people from all parts of the political spectrum charging the media with bias and prejudice. There is a fear that the ethos of informed public debate, which had once been supported and fostered by the quality broadsheets, is now giving away to tabloid attack journalism.

The newspaper article by David Shaw that Tim Porter, Tim Dunlop & Cathie refer to is called The more pernicious bias is less substance, more fluff. It's observations are very relevant to what is happening in the corporate media in Australia.


Battle for Australian minds continues

I read Gary's "The Cultural Wars and Australian History" (see below) with interest. I then saw Tim Dunlop's comments of the 23rd re Tim Porter's "Journalists biased? Yes, in the worst way". [20th January]Taking his advice to check out First Draft led me to another piece that meshes rather neatly.

On 20 January, Tim Porter offered a range of quotes from Los Angeles Times media writer David Shaw. One of them read: "Worst of all," Shaw says, "the growing sensationalism-cum-trivialization of the news.....leaves us little time or space to cover the truly important issues of the day."

That comment, I think, sums up what is happening in the debate about Aboriginal history. To my knowledge no journalist or newspaper editor has seen fit to look at the issue more than superficially. Some people, including historians, are remaining silent because their knowledge of the points that are being contested is insufficient to assess the credibility of the conflicting arguments. Others may fear either litigation or the risk of being seen to be participating in an unseemly academic squabble.

But the debate about Aboriginal history is much more than the academic squabble portrayed in newspapers. The current conservative pressure on the interpretation of Aboriginal history will impact on the teaching of Australia history, the content of museum displays, the use of Aboriginal oral history in court proceedings and the relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.

It matters little whether we are engaged in a culture war or whether the conservative pressure is seen as an attack on or a backlash against left-wing history. The important thing is that people become aware of what is happening. They will not do so if their reading is limited to the current newspaper coverage.

Australia is no longer portrayed as a place in which "brave white explorers" dodged the spears of "treacherous natives" as they "discovered" and "opened" the vast interior. Some historians, museum curators and art gallery curators are drawing attention to the fact that exploration and colonisation involved massacres. Instead of portraying explorers and "pioneers" as heroes, they are presenting material that includes both indigenous victims of colonisation the and "resistance fighters" who protected their country, and their women, from British "invaders".

This is strong stuff, and not what many people want to hear. It is not an issue that can be resolved by arguing about who is right and who is wrong. We need to look at what is being said, why it is being said, who is saying it, and whether each piece is credible. We also need to acknowledge that, when one group imposes its version of "civilisation" on another, it is impossible for a single version of history to record that process.

Today's Australians, whether they like it or not, consist of indigenous people, descendants of indigenous people, migrants and descendants of migrants. Accounts of their interlinking histories will naturally give rise to discomfort and controversy. The challenge is not only to handle those reactions in a mature way but also to benefit from the process.

posted Cathie Clement, 25 1 2003 10am.
A little skirmish
The guy over at WICKED THOUGHTS who speaks the politically unspeakable has fired a couple of shots. I don't know the fellow myself, but John Jay Ray at Dissecting Leftism does and he says that The Wicked one's post, 'SOUR GARY' gives Leftist blogger Gary Sauer-Thompson a very hard time .'

The Wicked one makes several points which deserve to be taken up because they do reflect on the way we debate and what is being said in the culture wars.The first point made is this:

Gary "despises Anne Coulter because she is as extreme and as unbalanced in her statements as many Leftists are. What’s sauce for the goose is obviously not sauce for the gander among Leftists." The short response is that both sides of the war are doing this. It is a war. The longer response is that though I am personally sour on the fiery Anne Coulter I think that the content of her texts is important because they open up, or provide an opening to the political unconscious of the Republican party and the neo-conservatives. So I will continue to read her, take her writing seriously and spend time deciphering her texts.

The Wicked one's second point was that my comments on ye old English dislike of Australia was based on limited reading:
"Our Gary is also offended by an Englishman making some mild criticisms of Australia -- quite overlooking that the said Englishman also describes his own country as the boot-faced, reinforced-concrete, charm-free dunghill that is England now. I guess Gary is another one who criticizes what he has not read".

My concern is with the old English colonial attitude to Australia of Simon Heffer; not England. I focused on the old cultural dominance has helped to produce an inferiority complex that Australia is second rate. As Ben at Australian Tory pointed it out this is an old lefty cliche that I have recycled. I have done that because this complex is a poison that makes us unhealthy, prevents Australians from acknowledging and celebrating what they achieved in the 20th century, and is an obstacle to finding new values to live by after the old ones lost their currency and hold with the embrace of the open global market in the 1980s.

The Wicked one's third point picks up on a post on Philosophy.com called, An insight into the neocons?
He states my words from that post:

"What the neoconservatives stand for is very relevant to Australia. They were part of the Reagan administration's strategy to force a right-wing economic and social agenda on the country by political means." and then comments,
"I doubt that the New York NeoCons ever gave Australia a thought. And as for “forcing” anything on us! The word “paranoia” does spring rather readily to mind. (And, yes, I know that paranoids DO sometimes have enemies)."

He is quite right. From my reading of David Brock's,Blinded by the Right Australia was not on their radar screen. But the NY neocons are relevent to Australia in their sense that the tactics and strategies they deployed in their war with the Clinton administration in the 1990s can be used to discern the tactics and the strategies of the Australian neocons in their current cultural war with the Keating left-liberals. And the 'forcing' charge? Well, the point of politics is get your hands on the levers of power so as to implement your political agenda. The side that loses ses implementation as imposing and uses the checks and balances to block and frustrate as much as they can because they don't agree with a lot of it.

And the paranoia charge? Well this is a war and paranoia is a complex at that arises from situation. But my focus is on the cultural war as a way of explaining what is currently taking place in Australia over the writing of Australian pioneer history, Indigeneous Land Rights, education and the security state.

As I said its a little skirmish in a cultural war.

But a wider point can be made from this skirmish. It is that we in Australia are deeply affected by what happens in America. What happens in the US touches our lives here in a myriad of ways and this requires us to engage with the US. Once it was the UK, now it is the US.

This point of the influence of the US on others has been made extremely well by Ian Jack at Granata, in an introduction to a back issue of the journal. In Granta 77: What We Think of America. Ian writes:

"America shapes the way non-Americans live and think. Before the Cold War ended, that had been true of half the world for several decades. Now, with the possible exceptions of North Korea and Burma, it is true of all of it. American cultural, economic and political influence is potent almost everywhere, in every life. What do we think of when we think of America? Fear, resentment, envy, anger, wonder, hope? And when did we start to think it?

....The pieces that follow are not about that day, nor are they excuses for it. They are about how America has entered non-American lives, and to what effect, for good and bad and both."


Have a dip into Granta 77: What We Think of America.There is some very interesting and accessible stuff there that Australians can relate to.
Living in the provinces

Those of us who live in the provinces of the global village fully understand that we cannot be the style setters or fashion leaders that set the pace for tomorrow. It is our lot to live amidst the discarded fashions and styles of yesterday. We just don't have the ooomph or street smarts. That only comes from living elsewhere---in those places that understand the importance of style.

I accept this state of affairs in the name of 'resignation to the Real'; and I do so with only a touch of resistance and dissent. I appreciate the need for humor and acceptance about these things, and I am taking lessons in learning how to rework from yobbo (NZ) instincts into civilized sensitivities.

Being who I am I took my cue from the Mayne man at crikey.com. I went around to my local coffee shop in Hutt Street to glance through the newspapers amidst the smell of coffee aroma, cigarettes and petrol fumes.

Hutt Street is developing an real cosmopolitan ambience these days. So said the real estate lady who wanted to sell my innercity 1890s cottage for big bucks; and without me doing any home improvements on it at all. She would do the sell. That was all that was required. (A word of advice from true experience in passing: if you are ever depressed call a real estate agent and ask then to say why they can sell it for a million bucks. They are very good at this sort of therapy.)

Hutt Street, for all your eastern conservatives, is rapidly, becoming a playground for Adelaide's chattering classes. I have been living here, waiting for it to happen for well over 12 years; now that is finally happening I'm moving into the CBD.

So there I was reading The Advertiser and trying to look cool in my designer painting gear. And I found something interesting. Buried away in the middle pages of The Advertiser (no link of course) was a little item about a coastal study of Adelaide's beaches. (Adelaide has a coastal strip of great beaches 20-40 minutes from the CBD).

The report did not say much. Just that the the last study had been done in the 1970s and that someone from Adelaide University had been contracted to do a new one ---an engineer I think.

Why an engineer? Well the sand is running out on the beaches: It is not being replenished by the natural processes of wind and tide. Why not? Because they have built lots of marinas and break waters for luxury apartments at Holdfast Bay near Glenelg in the name development and modernity.

You can have your seaside apartment, boat parked at the marina out the back and drive to work in 20 minutes. Its lifestyle plus capital gains. Trouble is the lovely keeps disappearing, just as the critics of this development said it would.

Since we cannot have the sand disappearing for those who appreciate style and the beautiful living --its the property values really--- sand is being trucked in from elsewhere---at public expense of course. The trouble is the authorities are running out of places to find the right kind of sand.

Now there is plenty of surplus sand being dumped on the beach down the coast a bit, as they are trying to keep the Murray Mouth open by dredging the inlet. Plenty of sand for the Adelaide beaches. But it is not going to be used.

Why not? This is the public purse remember. So it has to be done as cheaply as possible whilst officially saying that the sand is not suitable. So what is to be done, as Lenin would have put it?
Easy folks. You mine the sand from the another part of the coast----say a more working class suburb---and then truck it along to the beach to where the beach is is being eroded.

And what does that do to the beach being mined. Turns it into a big hole and destroys the dunes that have been replanted with volunteer labor funded by Coast Care and Natural Heritage money from the Commonwealth. And families wil just have to go to another beach if they don't want their children playing with trucks.

So what if all this good work is being undone ?Well someone has to carry the burden of keep up the appearances of development, don't they?

And where is that beach that is goiing to be mined. It is Semaphore, one of Adelaide's most popular northern beaches. Whose in charge here? Its the Coast Protection Board

Of course not all of the above was in the little story tucked away in the middle pages of The Advertiser. I have pulled it together from reading other little stories tucked away and talking to a few people who keep an eye on these things.

Oh I know, I have told the story with a touch of class analysis--northern coastal Adelaide=working class; southern and middle coastal Adelaide= middle class. And its crude, I admit. But is not the whole sorry episode one of development trying to achieve a touch of class?

Oh, I know that irony has gone out of fashion in NY after S11. But, remember, this is Adelaide. We won't being catch up with NY fashion for another couple of years. In the provinces we are still caught up in the old habits and traditions.

So that was my little coffee break yesterday. I just thought that I would share it.

Oh, by the way, do have a look at the Mayne man's crikey.com He has a great post on the other unmentionable --oil and war here by Gretel Green.

Thursday, January 23, 2003

The Cultural Wars and Australian History

There is an interesting post by Cathie Clement here which begins to place a cultural context around the historian wars. This context broadens the debate amongst professsional historians over scholarship, primary sources, and historical facts into a wide-ranging public debate within the politics of race.

Cathie says that:

'the tendency for some journalists to identify connections between current events and the conservative criticism of “politically correct” history is becoming more noticeable.' [However] The tendency of Australian newspapers to focus on footnotes and personal opinion is unfortunate because it conveys an impression of academic squabbling.

Cathie's account of the broader context is the use of Aboriginal history as an ideological football, exemplified by the dismissal of Aboriginal oral history as a form of knowledge and accusing some historians of fabricating their history, thereby knowingly generating a bitter public debate.

I want to develop this account by giving a name to this bitter public--the culture wars. The whole point of the culture wars is about attacking and defeating the enemy. History is a weapon to do this.

As Cathie suggests the professional historians, should and will, go back to doing their extensive research to construct their good empirical histories, which give us the 'detailed and dispassionate accounts of day to day life in the numerous localities in which it occurred'. But that still leaves us with the highly polarized debates of the culture wars over race, education, postmodernism, the republic, stem cell research, euthanasia between two sides of politics that see one another as enemies.

You may deplore what is happening, stand on the sidelines, or say that you are sick of all the fighting. So be it. But that doesn't make the cultural wars go away. They continue to rage all around us and the skirmishes are happening across many fields. There has been skirmishes off and on since the 1960s.

What has happened since them, according to the neocon Quadrant account, is that the 1960s left vacated the streets , took the long march through the institutions, retrenched in the liberal university, then set up shop as the postmodern academic left. And there it sat for a decade or so endangering not student minds, undermining Australian economic competitiveness and the very soul of the nation. (Basically the narrative is a recycling of Allan Bloom's, The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today's Students.

We know the battlefields of culture war:-- political correctness, multiculturalism, deconstruction, cultural and moral relativism, feminism, rock & roll, television, the legacy of the sixties, and the infamous "tenured radicals." The skirmishes of the culture wars have now flared up again with the conflicts over the writing of Aboriginal/settler frontier history.

What are the culture wars about?

What the neocons are saying is that Australian culture is sick---nihilistic to us Nietzsche's term----and it needs to be made well, or restored to health. This can only be done if Australian culture is put on the operating table and the gangerous bits (eg., postmodernism, radical accounts of Australian pioneer history, feminism) cut off the cultural body with a surgeon's knife.

So what is happening is important since we do not fight wars over nothing much. Culture is where Australian social and moral values get hashed out. The cultural positions and poses we adopt or invent are crucial significations of the way we think the world is -- and the way we think it ought to be. The cultural texts that we produce, read, or take in as consumers, and the judgments we make about these texts say a lot about what we think and believe in terms of understanding Australia. We go to war because we are in big conflict over our different understandings of Australia.

These understanding matter deeply to us.They touch the core of our being.

History matters because it helps to define who we are, and the sort of Australia that we made and are in the process of making. The politics of race is an integral part of that history. That is why the "academic squabbles" have taken on the reasonance of what Cathie Clement calls ideological footballs.

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Australia Day Address: Caring for Country

Rick Farley, a former executive director of the National Farmers' Federation, who helped create the national Landcare program and the Native Title Act, will deliver the 2003 national Australia Day address.

The address is concerned with the formation of public opinion through ensuring an 'informed and inclusive national debate', or a 'civil conversation about the things that are important to us.' So what are the things that matter to us? Farley addresses two in detail.

Farley develops the argument put forward in this weblog about the need to care for country. He argues that natural resources were not being properly cared for; farming practices must change; that Australia faces a limited future unless land clearing practices change; and that the federal political system (COAG) is gridlocked by the scale of the problem and what is required to repair the damage to the country.

Farley calls for the introduction of a new environment tax and the creation of an independent body to manage the funds: a move supported by farmers, environmentalists and this weblog here.

Mr Farley also expressed regret at the treatment of Indigenous Australians, saying they had been dudded by the Native Title Act and not treated equitably. He says that:

'...the Indigenous agenda is not going to go away. The real issues are how best to accommodate Indigenous aspirations, how long it takes, and what damage we inflict on ourselves along the way.

In my experience, the overwhelming priorities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are to achieve greater economic independence and protect their culture and identity. The two go together. It’s hard to maintain your own culture when you are dependent on a dominant culture’s welfare.

....Native title now is confined basically to land where no-one else has a permanent interest; where the traditional owners have never been forced to leave their country; and where they can prove to the satisfaction of a whitefella court that they have practiced their laws and customs on a continuous basis since settlement.'


Farley connects the need to address and debate the things that matter to us to the economic reforms of the 1980s, that floated the dollar, opened up financial markets and reduced protection and integrated Australia into the global marketplace. He argues that Australian governments did not manage the transition from a closed to an open economy very well, since the weight of adjustment was not shared equally and the gap between poor and rich has continued to increase. He then says:

'My sense is that Australia still is casting around for values to replace the relative certainties that existed pre-eighties. We are a small nation in a big new game and we’re not quite sure yet of our place in the evolving order of things. The elements which cemented Federation after 1901 all are gone – industry protection, centralised wage fixing and the White Australia policy. Where they used to be, there is only the promise of more change and greater competition. The pace of change, the pace of our lives, keeps on accelerating, and brings its own anxiety.'

He adds that the constellation of issues--the likelihood of war, continuing international economcic and political certainity, the drought and ongoing political and economic uncertainity----has created 'considerable insecurity and nervousness. Australia has a severe 'bout of the jitters, in Geoffrey Blainey's words. Farley adds:

'So I perceive my country now to be a bit lost; still not managing change equitably; searching for its place in the world; looking sometimes for simple truths and solutions which no longer exist - in the middle of a cultural vortex and not quite sure of the exit point.

In that situation, it seems sensible to me to look to the bedrock of our nation, the points that can ground us and give us stability. In my view, these distil down to our country – our land and waters – and the nature of our relationships with each other.

To me, these are the defining features of Australian culture and identity. Together, they can unite our communities, build resilience, and create a firm foundation from which to meet the ever-increasing challenges we face.'


I have outlined Farley's Australia Day Address because it raises issues and themes central to this weblog. We may not agree on his interpretation of the bedrock of the nation that grounds us, gives us stability and signposts our future path. But we would probably agree that we are a bit lost; that we are searching for our place in the world as a nation; that we are in a cultural vortex; and that we are casting around for new values to replace the old certainities.

These things are too important to be left to the politicians to decide for us. They are not much good at debating this cultural stuff anyhow---not as good as us citizens. So we should take them back for ourselves and make them our own.
We're headed for war with Iraq

The news this morning is that We're headed for war with Iraq.The Howard Government confirmed yesterday that Australia would send troops and equipment to the Middle East in preparation for a war with Iraq. Special forces will be on the ground in the Middle East within days under a high-risk strategy that commits the country to a US-led war against Iraq.

This action has been taken in spite of growing public opposition to military conflict, most notably, anti-demonstrations in the US over the weekend, and growing disquiet and consternation.
The Howard Government has sent troops off to war with Iraq before the UN January deadline for weapons inspection; and without Parliament being called and considering whether Australia should go to war.

For the US warblogger's reaction to the antiwar demonstrations in the US, see Instapundant.com; for the case against war see Junis". There Chris Bertram argues:

'that the pro-war case revolved around two notions: roughly pre-emptive self-defence and humanitarian and/or democratizating intervention. I suggested that the first of these was a dangerous doctrine to generalize and that the second, which in principle respectable, was not plausible as an interpretation of the purpose of any likely war given the records of some of the main protagonists (Dick Cheney, for example). I also looked briefly at the "national interest" case for war and suggested that again, we wouldn't want the underlying doctrine to be generalized.'

Unlike Australia the Europeans--especially France and Germany---are not convinced by the American case for war now, as they prefer to work within the United Nations. Other members of the UN Security Council-- China and Russia, who hold veto powers to stop any resolution to go to war, oppose unilateral action against Iraq by a US-led coalition.

An American response to what is seen as European anti-Americanism, can be found at Kevin Drum's recent post at Calpundit
President Bush has said that Iraq has been given "ample time" to disarm, adding: "This looks like a rerun of a bad movie and I'm not interested in watching it."

Another way of looking at this is that Bush's rerun of a "bad movie" is more a disruption of normal life. It recalls the past traces of previous anti-demonstrations, whilst the current anti-war demonstrations recall the past failures to respond to an ethical opportunity to respond to the suffering of the Iraqi people and the missed opportunties to ensure some sort of justiceand democracy in the Middle East.