Saturday, December 28, 2002

Confession time

Xmas often brings people out of their shells. For a confession of the 'why I am no longer a leftie' see the post by Bernard Slattery at Brain Gaze called DIFFERENT DRUMS. Bernard believes in science and truth. His philosophy of science is postivism. His politics sit on top of that foundation. In changing his views since the good ole leftie days of the 1970s Bernard changes his politics --eg., he shifts from leftwing to rightwing---but he leaves the positivist foundation untouched. What is a building without a foundation?.

And now, after the political change? Well Bernard is a rightie who loves having a go at lefties. He enjoys nothing more than pointing out their foibles. So how does this conservative see things? It is all pretty simple really. Bernard says:

"I don't know how anyone who values logic can tolerate any left movement that has been polluted by moral equivalence. To speak of ''different truths'', as that stupid, disgraced historian Ryan did, is bunkum. There are facts and lies. In ignoring facts, Ryan and her apologists from the academic left are prepared to accept lies as truth."

This is simple positivism----truth =correspondence to fact----and anything else is lies. Pretty cut and dried. The left has gone postmodernist and so given up on positivism and history as a positivist science. True. This change is part of the big movement away from the postivist social sciences ---it is the neo-classical economists who continue to defend this ground.

But it is all too quick. It is what is left out by Bernard's dualism of truth and lies that is important.

What about interpretation old son? We approach facts in history ----eg., the destruction of aboriginal society---through concepts, and we use these concepts to interpret what has happened in history---its meaning for us.

You are not going to tell me that journalism is just about facts? Even journalists in the conservative media comment on what has happened in politics. Does not commentary about the meaning of a text---a press release---or an action---x resigns from being the Head of the Prime Minister's staff and takes up a senior corporate position---involve reading texts and interpreting them? Do we not interpret political actions?

Does not this interpretation of the meaning of a text or a political action involve values, power and political bias? Is this not what conservatives consistently accuse the liberal media----eg. the ABC, the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age---of doing. Commentary is not lies, nor lies appearing as truth: it is interpretation, and some of these are far more plausible than others.

None of this emphasis on meaning and interpretation does away with the truth content of a text---eg, the realms of overlapping commentary over the Tampa and the children overboard affair. We are concerned with the truth content. Is not interpretation and understanding here deeply problematic?--it is not a case of seeing things directly---self-evidently---without the need for explicit hermeneutical procedures or methods. What we have here is retrospective understanding of historical meaning in which the meanings of certain events---refugees on leaky Indonesian boats---are linked to other events---eg., the power plays of the bureaucracy, and the tensions betwen the Minister's Office and the Defence Department.

What happens in lived history is that a narrative structure is imposed on these events from a position subsequent to them--eg., the Senate Inquiry into the Tampa affair has a particular historical prespective. So our understanding of history is contingent on the vantage point from which these historical events are interpreted; and so our historical understanding is necessarily perspectival and partial and practically embedded in the projects of historical agents---eg., the Liberal Party defending the Government at all costs and the Labor Party trying to score hits in the Senate Inquiry in the Children Overboard affair.

The God-like stance of a complete knowledge of this history is impossible. We then accept that the historical situatedness of understanding, its practical connection to our projects and the way in which historical meaning surpasses the intentions of historical agents.

Quite a lot exists in the middle between truth and lies. It is positivism that should be tossed overboard since it blinds us to what lies in the middle.

Friday, December 27, 2002

Spot-the-terrorist campaign

I see from The Australian that we citizens are being asked/urged by the Howard Government to help prevent terrorist attacks by reporting suspicious behaviour to a telephone hotline staffed by call centre operators, who will then pass on the relevant information to the police and the other government authorities.

What is suspicious behaviour? I was sitting out the front of my electronic inner city cottage this morning having breakfast and reading the newspaper. It was just after 9.30 am. We had been to the Central Market for our fruit and vege and I was having up a moment catching on world news before going to do some serious shopping. The two standard poodles were sitting by the gate looking out on the street. Someone drives up in one of those big white government cars, stops by the gate, and says hello to the poodles.

This is not right I thought. People do not stop their cars in the middle of the road outside my gate for no good reason. It must have something to do with the police or, heavens forbid, national security. So I got up and wandered over to the gate expecting to see the face of authority. Did the dogs shit in the parklands?

It was a woman. I was taken back. I smiled. She seemed friendly enough.

'I see we have lots of different coloured poodles', she said, then added,'a brown one, a grey one and an apricot one.'
'I don't have a brown one'. I replied.
'Aah but I have one', she said.
She smiled, said goodbye to the dogs and drive off with a wave of her hand.

Definitely suspicious I thought. People do not stop in the street in the inner city and say hello to dogs these days. And she was too friendly. Obviously she did not want to draw attention to herself. The comportment of friendliness was what made the behaviour suspicious.

So what do I do?Dob her in? I had failed to note the car's number plate. Then maybe she just loved dogs. I decided to wait for the adverts on television and for the information booklet to come in the mail with its practical advice about what to do in event of a terrorist attack. These would define suspicious behaviour for me.

These days you cannot be too careful. We citizens have to keep a lookout, now that the war with Iraq is another step closer. If national security demanded that the defence of our peaceful and democratic way of life required us to dob in our neigbhours, or those who are not in accord with the shared beliefs, customs and values of the local community, then so be it.

So I went back to reading a back issue of The Australian on the security implications possibility of war with North Korea. The op-ed piece by Robyn Lim, Feckless, reckless, informed me that National Security just can't be taken for granted these days. It said that the impending crisis on the Korean peninsula should act to remind us citizens that developments in North Asia can be even more important for our national security than what happens just offshore. Appeasement is no longer an option.

These secuirty people see us Australians fighting wars in the South East Asia, North Asia and the Middle East. No doubt the 'how-to-survive terrorism attack' kits will be made available to us next year.

Sitting in my electronic cottage drinkign a cup of coffee and reading the newspapers I felt secure and relaxed even though I am now more vigilant. The Commonwealth Government's national security agencies have given the Government credible information of a possible terrorist attack in Australia at some time over the next couple of months. The information is generalised and non-specific as to possible targets and precise timing. However, security and intelligence agencies are monitoring available information and the Government and continue to liaise with all agencies and keep members of the public informed.

And the serious shopping? I bought a new gas stove for the innercity electronic cottage. Alas I got so carried away with being a proper consumer that I forgot all about my new citizen role of spotting a terrorist. I had even forgotten to take my mobile to ring the emergency number about suspicious behavour in the upmarket department store David Jones---eg., women not wearing makeup. But then the Commonwealth Government's national security website has not been updated since December 5th.

Okay I'm having a bit of fun---doing what they call a fiction thing. But wait, if you think that I'm just being ironic about the over-the-top attitude of the new national security forces, then check this out this harrasment airport story in the US, Should We Feel Your Pregnant Wife’s Breasts Before Throwing You in a Cell at the Airport and Then Lie About Why We Put You There? It was picked up by the guy who sees the forest, and he was posted under The New Bush America on Monday, December 23. Take the time to read it----its probably our future.

If you think that it is just an idiosyncratic story, then check out the link in What the hell is happening to this country

The times have definitely changed folks.
The Xmas bit & something

Lisa at RuminateThis asks us to share the event of Xmas. She says:

"To those of you who did the tree, the garland and bulbs, the whole Christmas number, let me ask you a simple question: So, what did you get?
Mostly, I was given books: Mark Green's "Selling Out" (looks great - he's a NY fave of mine and the book is about campaign finance reform), Naomi Klein's "No Logo," Greg Palast's "Best Democracy Money Can Buy, and some Barnes and Noble gift cards ... .Anyone care to share their treasures - fine and odd?"

Well, I have to say that ours was a stripped down Xmas. We cleaned the holiday house before and after the big day. On the big day was no tree, no lights, angels, presents, family gatherings or big production lunches and dinners. The whole Christmas number simply passed us by.

And what did we get out it? Dunno. A sense of a job well done, a certain kind of numbness, and a desperation to clear out of the place.? Our treasures? Divine pink and gorgeous red roses from the garden. They were so beautiful we bought them with back us to town.

But I did get Naomi Klein's Fences and Windows in the snail mail just before Xmas--does that count?---It was from the library. (I have yet to read her earlier No Logo even though she was in Australia a while ago doing the interview rounds promoting that book).

Fences and Windows is subtitled dispatches from the frontline of the globalization debate and it makes for a refreshing perspective to the inward looking focus of Amanda Lohrey's essay, Groundswell: the rise of the Greens, which, for its references to electoral politics was an apolitical book written from within the literary institution. Nothing about populism, the democratic deficit of liberal democracy, governance, or the impact of globalization on Australia.

Klein's ragtag writings takes us behind the media label of 'antiglobalization protestors" to people at the grass roots sharing their stories and ideas about how the neo-liberal economic mode of governance affects their daily lives marked by the joyous explosion of the carnival on the streets of Seattle to the destruction and terror of S11. They are postcards from dramatic moments in our lived historical time where people pushed 'up against the barriers that try to constrain them, opening up windows, breathing deeply, tasting freedom.

The image of fences refers to, in her words, 'barriers separating people from previously public resources, locking them away from much needed land and water, restricting their ability to move across borders, to express political dissent, to demonstrate on public streets, even keeping politicians from enacting policies that make sense for the people who elected them.'

The image of windows refers to not to media's broken window at the local McDonalds; but to 'a crack in history', a sense of possibility, a reclaiming of privatized spaces and assets for public use, liberated spaces, and the emergence of a new culture of a vibrant direct democracy.

Fences and Windows is a book for political junkies.

Thursday, December 26, 2002

The Fading of the Greens?
We finished cleaning the holiday house in Victor Harbor at 11pm last night, drove back to Adelaide, workshopped the relationship until 2.30am and then again over breakfast. Cleaning does funny things to ya.

After the seaside the city is warm---the heat is building once again. I can sense the north wind on the way. Suzanne did the Xmas sales this afternoon and I did a bit of reading. I have no big thoughts and no money in my pocket. I just wanted a little bit of solitude in the inner city. The city is very quiet. Everyone has gone to the seaside for their holidays.

I read a Quarterly Essay by Amanda Lohrey called,Groundswell: the rise of the Greens, (published by Black Inc. Melbourne) this morrning. She argues that the Australian Greens Party under Bob Brown is about to supersede the Australian Democrats as a third political force in Australian politics.

Her key thesis is that the Greens are on a roll. The broadening of their base over the past two decades has evolved into a real constitutency and they have become something more than just a broad-based protest vote. The Australian Democrats, in contrast, are in decline. She makes a good case for this political change based on historical voting trends. The Democrats will not like her account of their decline into political oblivion.

Lohrey says that the constitutency of the Australian Greens has a new political sensibility centred around 'the ecological'. This ecological sensibility, which has its roots in blocking the daming of the Franklin River in Tasmania in the 1980s, has the power to subsume the traditional grand narrative of capital and labour, around which the Liberal/National and Labor Parties are still structured. This new green constituency cuts across traditional class, economic and regional divides and as a movement of amorphous networks it operates at the level of grassroots activism made up of hundreds of intermeshed local organizations.

Lohrey traces these developments in terms of a historical narrative that starts from the flooding of Lake Pedderin 1972; the Franklin River Blockade of the early 1980s; Wesley Vale; the logging of old growth forests in Western Australia and Tasmania; the embrace of neo-liberalism by the Liberal and Labor Parties and the leakage of votes from these political parties to a new progressive constitutency represented by the Greens.

Her argument is that the Greens just keep rolling on in terms of electoral gains, they are part of an international movement, and they are the key oppositional movement to business-as-usual. Yet for it all its contemporary feel it is a very backward looking.

Lohrey's understanding the new political sensibility is that it is part of the liberal tradition and that it represents a new enlightenment. She says:

"The engineers of Tasmania's Hydro-Electric Commission and the Snowy Mountains Scheme saw themselves quites self-consciously as the modern heirs of the Enlightenment and the early environmental activists as reactionaries; as moden day Luddities. Myerson's argument [in Ecology and the End of Postmodernity] suggests the contrary; that it is the Greens who are the true heirs of the Enlightenment, for what they are about is the most rational management of resources, that is to say, a sustainable management of resources of the kind espoused by those new-wave industrial ecologists in the filed of of so-called natural capitalism. If Myerson is right, and I believe he is, then in thirty years the ecology movement has moved from the political and philosophical fringe to a position of centrality within a revised Enlightenment project."

This language of a radical critique emerging within science is continually undermined by the use of 'gospel', 'spirituality', 'vision', 'structure of feeling', 'ecological impulse' that indicates Lohrey's roots in the Tasmanian wilderness-inspired environmentalism, with its key ecological insight of the inter-connectedness of life and sanctification of wilderness.

A key limit of Lohrey's celebration of the greens is that no engagement is made in her essay with the less exalted nature of the Murray Darling Basin, saving the Murray River, the ecological devastation of the Murray-Darling Basin, rising dryland salinity, a switch to an ecologically sustainable agriculture, neo-liberal governance, Seattle, WTO and the imperative of globalization and free trade. It is this conception of the environmental crisis that has moved ecology to a position of centrality in public policy in Australia, and placed the ecological populist movement in an ambivalent position to the ecological governmentality of the various state Labor governments.

Wednesday, December 25, 2002

Populism Contra Liberalism

I see that the ace OZ webloggerJohn Quiggin has just started a dictionary of modern thought. What an excellent idea to help foster public debate, counter the depoliticization of public discussion and contest the showbizzing of politics.

The fool would like to contribute some big thoughts that have been tucked in his back pocket for some time. As the fool in the world of public policy I am putting in a plug for 'populism' to be an entry in the dictionary.

Here are some musings to mull over during the holiday break. These musings are written from the perspective of a philosophy in political life that contests the way that the enterprise of philosophy is no longer taken very seriously in the corporate university nor accorded much recognition in the broader public culture. This philosophy contests its marginalisation in the culture of liberal democracies by recovering, then defending, a sense of the democratic res publica through engaging with unsettling questions. Putting populism on the table raises some troubling questions about liberalism.

Populism in Australia is usually seen in negative terms---as a backlash by the people at a regional level to the neo-liberal economic restructuring of the 1980s and 1990s. It takes the form of those who lost out from, or been disadvantaged by the opening to a global market being critical of the politicians who have imposed these reforms on them in the name of economic necessity. This protest says that the politicians and the elites have not listened to what the people want, need and say, and it works from the lifestyle, beliefs and values of the common life of the liberal nation-state. Hence populists feel alienated from our liberal political institutions and the major political parties---Liberal, National and Labor.

Pauline Hanson's One Nation Movement in the 1990s is a classic Australian example of this populist protest. Pat Buchanan is the US example and Le Pen is the French one. It was dismissed as an irrational, resentful expression of grievance, blame and protest with conspiratorial overtones to economic reform and change to reshape Australia in terms of the neo-classical model of a competitive market economy. This populism had a cultural dimension---and opposition to multiculturalism, Asian immigration, affirmative action for Aborigines, job snobs and welfare bums and cosmopolitanism---and an affirmation of ethnic, religions and local/regional traditions.

This rightwing populism was roughly dismissed by the liberal mass media as short-sighted, right wing, anti-intellectual, xenophobic and irrational. Liberals saw in this regional populism the resurgence of traditional prejudice; and even the face of fascist racism on the march from the countryside to take out the enlightened elites living in the cities.

There things currently stand In Australia. Hansonism as a political movement died in the late 1990s after John Howard, the Australian Prime Minister, successfully incorporated populism into his conservatism. Roughly speaking we are left with Australian liberalism's understanding of populism----it is stereotyped as an inarticulate and useless theoretical mishmash. It has no place in a dictionary of modern thought because, in being raw violent emotion directed at Canberra bashing, it is not a systematic thinking or reasoning.

This is where we can unsettle or loosen things up. True, populism does not have a rich theoretical political tradition, but something more is going on underneath the surface than the liberal interpretation of populism as a hostile right-wing reaction to modernity. This 'something more' is more than a reactionary defence of pre-modern superstition, prejudice, ignorance and dogma. It is a recognition that the two decade long defence of the competitive market has more to do with protecting the profitability of capital and providing high paid jobs for New Class technocrats than safeguarding the interests of ordinary Australians. This 'something more' highlights the narrowness of the liberal interpretation of populism.

Hence my plug for populism. It deserves an entry in because of the political impact it has had in liberal democracies. From my perspective of philosophy in political life---a public reason--populism has the following features:

---populism reaffirms and vindicates existing community norms and really existing regional cultures, traditions and customs. Hence it can take different forms---eg., the SA movement to 'Save the River Murray' is an eco-populism. This re-surfacing of populism indicates the unraveling of the national consensus that once underpinned the massive nation building projects of the late twenieth century (eg., the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electricity Scheme in Australia or the New Deal in the US) and its replacement by consumerism, property rights and self-seeking, upwardly-mobile, aspirational indivdualism.

----populism is a grass roots rejection of the technocratic centralized state developed by a statist liberalism after WW2 and its elitist and managerial ideology, eg., the 'New Deal' in the US.

---populism is a political expression of the popular dissatisfaction with economic progress and unlimited economic development advocated by both statist and free market liberalism;

---populism places liberalism into question by articulating a deep tension or contradiction between a deep-seated contradiction of political modernity—between the liberal ideal of universal rights, freedom and equality and the collective self-determination of specific national groups. Populism articulates the way that collective aspirations to national self-determination through the liberal state (eg, economic reform to ensure the wealth of nations) can led to discrimination against regional minorities and even their political and economic disenfranchisement;

----populism's ethos of popular sovereignty shows up the failure of liberalism to deliver on its democratic promise and highlights the democratic deficit of liberal democracy. Populsoim addresses this deficit through a particpatory democracy based on the federalisation of the nation-state into more autonomous regions/states.

So philosophy is not so breathtakingly irrelevant after all. In contesting the liberal stereotype of populism it discloses the significance of populism to be in its challenge to liberalism and its highlighting the limits of liberalism. By calling a self-congratulatory liberalism into question, populism has put its finger on what can be called the identity crisis of liberalism. This crisis is currently expressed in the conflict between social and market liberalism.

Liberalism is in crisis because of the gap between the human needs for a flourishing life and official policies, and between our everyday lived values and a utilitarian, economic rationality centred in Canberra. When liberalism relies exclusively on the state and market as steering mechanisms---as it has done over the previous two decades---then the inherited social norms and beliefs of our everyday living traditions are eroded. There is an undermining of the very cultural preconditions for the functioning of a liberal social order and the unitary culture of a liberal social order that existed during the Cold War disintegrates.

Liberalism cannot provide the national consensus or values (trust, compassion, care, belonging) that are sufficiently strong and binding to anchor any viable project of reconstruction---eg., repairing an ecologically devastated Murray-Darling Basin. All the conservative political talk about moral and mutual obligation deployed by the Howard Government---or the compassionate conservatism of the Bush Administration won't do the trick.

Since the crisis of liberalism is barely acknowledged in Australia, the fool has to state it. And the fool adds: many Australians are no longer seduced by the sirens of liberalism. So the political significance of populism is that it gives voice to the growing public unease with a triumphal liberalism and the disintegration of Australia as a unitary nation-state.
Who is Skippy
For those Americans who only know the online, weblogging Skippy the bush kangaroo have at look at this great moment in Australian cinema Skippy the Bush Kangaroo.

It was a family TV series produced in the late 1960s in NSW. This was at a time in modernity when the good guys actually were the good guys, and they always defeated the bad guys; when strawberries tasted like strawberries; milk was still milk; the rivers still flowed; parents had 2.5 children; and we all lived in suburbia behind a picket fence. It was a time when liberalism was vital and full of lofty ideals and fought its Communist nemesis and had forgotten about the rights of aborigines.

Then we had faith in progress and Keynesian economics. Populism had long been forgotten. We fervently believed in marriage, technocracy, unimpeded economic growth, the state regulation of the economy and the welfare state. We accepted the American ethos of self-sufficiency, autonomy and personal responsibility as our own.

Aah those times as recorded in our back pages.

Then we had the Vietnam war, the recycling of the Great Society delusions and the questioning of instrumental rationality of modernity. We are so much wiser today.

Say hello to Skippy.

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Xmas Family Gatherings at the Seaside

Seasons greetings from Australia.

It is a stripped-down Xmas this year at the old, seaside family home in Solway Cresent,Victor Harbor.

For the history of the tourist town of Victor Harbor as an Australian place nestled between surf and sand, rolling hills and the vineyards of McLaren Vale see Encounter Bay. It is now a getaway place or tourist town. Like so many of the towns on the SE Australian coastline, those on the southern coast of the Fleurieu Peninula are experiencing a big seachange. Real estate is booming as the cashed-up babyboomers move to the coast in great numbers.

Our respective families are scattered elsewhere. My family? My sisters are in Canberra and Melbourne whilst my mother is in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Oh lovely Christchurch).

Suzanne's sister Barbara and her husband Mal E have stayed in my favourite Australian city Brisbane. For their work see Co-opones.Suzanne's sister, barbara heath, is a high-powered design jeweller---check out her catalogue jeweller to the lost.They are relaxing for ten days in a beachhouse on Stradbroke Island in Moreton Bay.

So this Xmas at the seaside is not a traditional family gathering. It is just me, Suzanne & Agtet and Ari, our two happy-go lucky-standard poodles.

We are having a stripped down late lunch---all that cleaning has taken its toll. We are going to fire up the 20 old Japanese hibatchi, sear some sword fish fillets, make a salad and skordalia, braise some vegetables on the barbecue and drink a delicious 2000 Mt Benson Chardonnay (direct link not working). This is from the Wehl's Winery on the Limestone Coast (access both through homepage since direct link down).

It is cool and overcast day but the sun keeps shining through the broken cloud cover. The strong southwest winds of the last days, which broke the December heatwave, have died down. Its beginning to warm up again. At the moment the temperature is very pleasant. Just right for a Xmas barbecue whilst watching the white caps and listening to the birds. Then a quick trip to Port Elliot for a walk around the red rocks and along Boomers beach.

In a day or so people will have done the family Xmas lunch/dinner thing in Adelaide and they will shift down to the coast. The holiday homes will be opened up to the light, wind and sun, and there will be dancing and singing, swimming and fishing all along the beaches.

As you can see from the images in the above links tourism enframes our lives and subjectivity. Our holiday mode of life in Australia is now constructed by tourism. We live tourist lives by the seaside as we relax from a years work. We try to get by as a nation in a global world by selling ourselves as a place to relax and enjoy life. But our tourist enframed lives have very little to do with the wildwest image of Australia presented by Paul Hogan in Crocodile Dundee.That film was tailored for an American market that was nostalgic about a time of innocence and simplicity well lost. Hogan's fiction was that this world still existed in Australia----in the mythical Outback.

As you can see we live by the sea.

Merry holidays all.
Merry Xmas all

Its Dec.25th, Xmas Day. Carnival time. Time to relax and enjoy life.

Here is a nice bit of philosophy humour---tricks of the trade that send up philosophers. Its very clever.Tips for the Top: How to be a philosopher.

My trick? Its Technique 3 (Advanced)

"Sit in front of a computer. Have a thesaurus nearby. Smoke up. Proceed to pronounce on anything that happens to come to mind. Use a tone that is urgent and highfalutin. Avoid the use of punctuation and use periods as infrequently as possible. French and German phrases should appear with regularity. When in doubt, make hasty references to Foucault, Heidegger, or Derrida. Take great pains not to explain what you mean. Abandon all reason."

Have a good time everyone. Happy holidays all.
Peering into the future of the Weblog

It has been suggested by Jeff Jarvis at Buzzmachine that he is becoming convinced that video is the next frontier for blogging.

"It's a simple equation: We bloggers do not compete with newspapers, because we do not have news operations.Instead, bloggers compete with pundits because what we do have is opinions.
And where do you find the most pundits? On TV. TV is no big deal. Oh, TV people would make it look like a big deal with all their jargon and staffing and equipment and adrenalin. But the truth is, all you do to make TV is stare at a camera and read and say something: It's easy."

Its called Vlogging or Video weblogs. Just thought I 'd mention it. It s time to loosen up.
Check this out

I have just come across the Boston Review courtesy of Skippy the bush kangaroo who picked it up from Eric Alterman at Altercation.

Public Opinion fits comfortably into the Boston Reviews' New Democracy Forum, which aims to 'foster politically engaged, intellectually honest, and morally serious debate about fundamental issues of the day.' The commitment to public reason is based on a desire for a world with more participation by citizens in running their common affairs, in which the exercise of political power is shaped by our common reason rather than accumulations of private resources.'

Their latest issue is called New Democracy Forum: Civil Liberties after 9/11.

Monday, December 23, 2002

An Offbeat Xmas

I have been pinching the odd moment here and there from our housecleaning to check out some weblogs in the US. Most of the Australian ones have packed up shop for the festive season. I notice that Skippy the bush kangaroo has been asking for people/bloggers to nominate their favourite Xmas songs.

I feel a certain affinity for Skippy, the virtual bush kangaroo, as we see big kangaroos skipping away from us on our cliff-top walk at Victor Harbor just west from the Bluff. Its a good walk as the cliff--tops are where civilization meets wilderness. The Standard poodles give chase to the roos---its a different hunt from chasing the rabbits---but the roos skip off into the distanceat great speed. So when I read Skippy's weblog I wonder what sort of kangaroo he is.

My choice would have been a 1963 throwback, Phil Spector's Christmas Album (also known as A Christmas Gift for You). Whilst we have been cleaning our holiday place today Dig Internet Radio has been playing some tracks from the Spector album. The various artists sound so very fresh and I still love that mighty wall of sound. (Some tracks are a bit weak)

Alas, all the fumes from the chemicals and wood oil have given me a headache, whilst all the cleaning these last couple of days has put me off side to the Xmas cheer and joy. So I would choose the Kinks Father Christmas from their "Come Dancing With The Kinks 1977-1986. Here are the lyrics.

When I was small I believed in Santa Clause
Though I knew it was my dad
And I would hang up my stocking at Christmas
Open my presents and I'd be glad
But the last time I played Father Christmas
I stood outside a department store
A gang of kids came over and mugged me
And knocked my reindeer to the floor
They said:
"Father Christmas, give us some money
Don't mess around with those silly toys.
We'll beat you up if you don't hand it over
We want your bread so don't make us annoyed
Give all the toys to the little rich boys
"Don't give my brother a (?) outfit
Don't give my sister a cuddly toy
We don't want a jigsaw or monopoly money
We only want the real McCoy
"Father Christmas, give us some money
We'll beat you up if you make us annoyed
Father Christmas, give us some money
Don't mess around with those silly toys
"But give my daddy a job 'cause he needs one
He's got lots of mouths to feed
But if you've got one, I'll have a machine gun
So I can scare all the kids down the street
"Father Christmas, give us some money
We got no time for your silly toys
We'll beat you up if you don't hand it over
Give all the toys to the little rich boys
Have yourself a merry merry Christmas
Have yourself a good time
But remember the kids who got nothin'
While you're drinkin' down your wine
"Father Christmas, give us some money
We got no time for your silly toys
We'll beat you up if you don't hand it over
We want your bread, so don't make us annoyed

Dig internet radio is not playing any tracks by The Kinks, let alone their bitter-sweet Xmas song They are too out of fashion. Maybe tomorrow.

As I said my Xmas mood is offkey from all the cleaning we have to do for the visitors. It certainly puts a damper on the good ole Xmas spirit and cheer. And the cleaning is still not done. We have 25th off---who in their right mind would clean on Xmas day!----then back to cleaning on the 26th, then return to Adelaide, a weekend of fun, then into home improvements.

Thats our Xmas break at the seaside. It is an offbeat Xmas this year.
A weblog by a Philosopher

I have just discovered this weblog by Mathew Yglesias a philosopher at Harvard working on a Ph.D. on political liberalism. The early chapters of his thesis are online and it is very Rawlsian. Check it out when you have a moment.
Interesting Article
Judging from the pages of copy devoted to the 'war on terror/Iraq' by the Weekend Australian we Australians are being prepared for war by our political leaders with a little help from the mainstream media.

As each week goes by we seem to be a step closer to war as the US war machine cranks up for action. This is Xmas and our politicians have war on their mind.

What is going on beyond the spin? How will it all pan out? How are the odds being calculated? What are the possible scenarios? What is the logic of each side as the countdown to war in Jan/Feb 2003 begins?

Check out this article Ed Vulliamy in The Observer called Will he really risk a fight? It is good. Better than anything we read in The Australian.It is an antidote.

I came across the article courtesy of which views itself as an antidote to the mainstream media. This is a project of The Nation Institute which publishes The Nation magazine.

For an interesting insight into what being prepared for war means in Britain see the posting Scared Witless by Natasha at The Watch. This good weblog has a focus on international affairs.

Sunday, December 22, 2002

Turning an eye on the Coalition's nod and wink strategy

Xmas is getting close. It is just around the corner. It is pretty quiet at Victor Harbor at the moment---most people come down to the southern coast--ie., to get away for their well-earned break---after doing the family Xmas lunch and dinner thing in Adelaide. Thats when we will be going back to Adelaide to clean up and paint the innercity cottage for the big move from 1890's heritage to CBD postmodern.

Suzanne and I came down to Victor Harbor early as we have a lot of housecleaning to do before Xmas. Our holiday house at Victor Harbor has visitors from next Friday for a couple of weeks, and so it must be spick and span upstairs and downstairs. So the house is having its yearly spruceup----the cupboards cleaned, the woodwork oiled and polished etc etc etc. Its a big job as it hasn't been done for a couple of years. So its 4 hours on and 1 hour off 4 hours on and I hour off etc during the day. We are having our 1 hour off. Whilst Suzanne takes the dogs for a quick lunch time walk through the reserve and along the creek bed, I'm blogging.

The consensus in the comments on the previous blog is that Howard does deploy a 'nod and wink' political strategy to stay in power in Canberra. No controversy there. So how does John Howard actually engage in the 'nod and wink' politics? I'm not really sure.

Well, a couple of recent columns by Paul Krugman on the Republican's strategy can help us here. In the first of these, 'All These Problems', Krugman says:

'The Republican Party's longstanding "Southern strategy" — which rests on appealing to the minority of voters who do share Mr. Lott's views — is no secret. But because the majority doesn't share those views, the party must present two faces to the nation. And therein lies the clue to Mr. Lott's role.

To win nationally, the leader of the party must pay tribute to the tolerance and open-mindedness of the nation at large. He must celebrate civil rights and sternly condemn the abuses of the past. And that's just what George W. Bush did yesterday, in rebuking Mr. Lott.

Yet at the same time the party must convey to a select group of target voters the message — nudge nudge, wink wink — that it actually doesn't mean any of that nonsense, that it's really on their side. How can it do that? By having men who manifestly don't share the open-mindedness of the nation at large in key, powerful positions. And that's why Mr. Bush's rebuke was not followed by a call for Mr. Lott to step down.'

The open-minded majority gets ringing affirmations of its principles; but once the dust has settled, the people who agree with Mr. Lott get to keep him as majority leader, and get the judgeships too.

This pretty much describes John Howard's political strategy----it is two handed.The frequent appearances on talk back radio are to tell the conservative vote base that the Howard governemnt is listening to their concerns and respects their views. Then a quick appearance on the ABC's Lateline to reassure the social liberal professionals that he is not engaging in wedge politics, that he respects those core liberal values of tolerance and open-mindedness and despite being a conservative to his bootstraps he is a liberal who believes in progress, the essential goodness of man and the autonomy of the individual, and that he stands for the protection of political and civil liberties.

Krugman says that 'pulling off a two-faced political strategy is tricky. What prevents reporters from explaining to the majority the coded messages that are being sent to the minority?Good question; I wish I knew the answer.'

He doesn't answer it. All he says is that 'It's about time for those of us in the press to pay attention, and let this great, tolerant nation know what's really going on.'

In the second of his columns Gotta Have Faith Krugman says that his best guess is that any domestic policy from the Bush administration is driven by politics and that its real purpose is to cater to a part of its base. He quotes a Bush insider to the effect that White House has no interest in the substance of policy as it cares only about political payoffs: Everything is run by the political arm.

Krugman illustrates this with the conservative blurring the classic line between church and state through figures in the Bush Administration promoting a Christian "biblical worldview" in American politics.

This Republican religious view, in which only Christianity offers a way to live in response to the realities that we find in this world, is not Howard. But Howard does cater to his base. For instance, he blew the budget surplus before the 2001 federal election catering to the Coalition's regional base. And he fosters Christian religion as an underpinning of moral conservatism on "personal" issues, such as euthanasia, stem cell research and human cloning.