The good news is that John Howard's Liberal-National coalition looks likely to lose this weekend's general election in Australia. They're trailing Labor by up to 14 points, so a thrashing seems to be on the cards. Hooray!
The bad news is that Howard's Liberals have been up to their old tricks again. And by 'old tricks', I naturally mean 'dirty tricks'. Campaign staff in Sydney have been caught distributing false electoral material in an attempt to smear the Labor party. The leaflets, distributed in the Lindsay district of the city, purported to come from an invented Islamic organisation in alliance with the Labor party. They claimed that Labor was ready to forgive the perpetrators of the Bali bombing which killed more than 200 people, including 88 Australians (and which, justifiably, is seen in Australia as effectively a direct attack on Australia itself).
As anyone with a passing interest in Australian politics will know, this is not the first time that Howard's party have been caught red-handed. For me, the most atrocious incident brings together issues like race and manipulation and speaks volumes about the sort of man Howard is. I'm speaking, of course, of the notorious 'Children Overboard Affair' in which Howard and his ministers lied about illegal immigrants threatening their own children's lives by throwing them into the sea after being intercepted by a Royal Australian Navy vessel.
The aim was to make Howard look 'tough' on immigration. Indeed, Howard himself uttered the words "I don't want people like that in Australia", even though it has since been proven that he knew that no asylum seekers had thrown their children recklessly into the sea. What a disgraceful man.
He won the election that year. In a few days, though, he'll be out of office. So that's Aznar, Blair and Howard out. One more to go!
The UK Chancellor has this afternoon announced that HM Revenue and Customs 'lost' personal information on 25 million individuals.
Apparently, every single child in Britain had their data lost on two password-protected (but not encrypted) CD-ROMs which were sent to the National Accounting Office but never turned up. After the Northern Rock incident, Alistair Darling should now resign. He probably won't yet, but I bet he'll be gone soon.
The Tories have suggested that this is proof enough that the National ID Card project is a risk to far, and dead in the water. They're probably right about that too.
I don't have much of a problem with the term 'Cataloony'. But it does seem to be something of a handy shortcut past debating an issue which concerns a large minority of people here. John at Iberian Notes, 'expat wanker' according to a fan, loves using 'Cataloony' to describe any Catalan who dislikes the king of Spain or wants more independence for Catalonia. Statistically, some of those people probably are lunatics, so he probably scores a couple of hits with his scattershot.
The problem is, if I use the terms 'dumb Yanks' or 'stupid Americans'* to describe American citizens who still support Georgey boy and his gang of no-good rats, then I'm being anti-American. Moi? But calling Catalan nationalists 'loonies' ain't the same thing. See, I get more than a little whiff of hypocrisy from this. So my proposition is simple: either quit using the 'Cataloonies' tag or quit whining when someone has the temerity to insult one of your stupid countrymen (like your stupid president). Name calling is just as clever/silly, whatever side you're on. It's exactly the same thing and you can't have it both ways.
Personally, as someone who believes in freedom of expression, I reckon that John should be able to call Catalan nationalists whatever he likes.
*sorry, these names don't quite have the same ring to them as Cataloonies. I'm not a very experienced name caller. It's a short cut to thinking, really, isn't it?
LITTLEJOHN: But you haven't read the book in its totality and you have to read the book in its totality.
LITTLEJOHN: In order to understand it.
SELF: Does it turn into Tolstoy at page 205?
LITTLEJOHN: No it doesn't turn into Tolstoy. I don't set out to be Tolstoy. It is a much more complex book than that.
SELF: Than Tolstoy?
OK, so it's from a few years back, but I still find this 'clash' between pernicious right-wing cock, Dick Littlejohn, and actual writer, Will Self, makes for genuinely uplifting reading. Littlejohn is so markedly out of his depth when met with a truly intelligent man that he looks utterly absurd.
Also, have a look at the reviews for his books on Amazon. Some of them (particularly the one comparing Dick to Plato) are more than a little tongue-in-cheek.
Shares in bank plunge nearly 13% after it confirms several expressions of interest
…Yet another example of what really happens when the market is left to regulate itself. This disaster, caused by risky mortgage sales in the US, will end up being sorted out by British taxpayers. And if they're going to pay the bill, they should own the bank.
An interesting article from The Guardian, this. It seems that oil production did peak in 2006 after all, just as 'loony' George Monbiot predicted two years ago. As I noted previously, this isn't the first time that peak oil has been reported. But either way, it certainly looks like it has happened.
This is one of those things that probably will happen and probably will have a major effect on all our lives. By 2030, I'll be 50 and probably looking forward to several more decades of life. It's difficult to imagine a world where everything isn't made from, or transported with, oil. How will they manufacture plastics? I guess they'll have to replace them, and in the meantime, things will cost more. Is there some kind of secret vehicle propulsion technique which will be unveiled as the gas pumps get shut down? Almost certainly not. Will we be forced to reconsider nuclear power (claims about the abundance of fuel for which, I find distinctly suspicious)?
Along with climate change, peak oil and the ways in which it could affect all our lives is an issue looking large. Unlike climate change, it hasn't been addressed publicly by many people. Naturally, the two issues are inherently linked, but this doesn't mean that we can just sit around waiting for the oil to run out, and the environment will be fine. Both issues need to be tackled now, primarily with a switch to alternative energy forms and a marked improvement in energy efficiency. And as governments seem uninterested in doing much for either, we'll have to trust industry and business to solve these problems for us. Great.
An oldie but a goodie – this article by Nina Khrushcheva has an interesting perspective on Bush, paranoia and rhetoric. Even though it was written more than four years ago, it feels relevant today.
Regardless of how true Bush's words about evil dictatorships may be, they are hardly made believable by of their repetitious, mechanical, Brezhnevian nature. Especially when "compelling" reasons to start the war in Iraq–from WMD to terrorism to democracy there–were based on falsified evidence and were devoid of consistency.
George Orwell was right: "All propaganda lies even when it tells the truth." As much as newspeak was a signature of the Kremlin, it is an equally apt description of today's White House. Its resolute war message is similar to Brezhnev's insistence on the superiority of socialism: Both lack public debate and are handled top-down.
Meanwhile, as some are again declaring Mission Accomplished in Iraq (we can but hope!), Simon Tisdall has an interesting article at Cif with a timely reminder:
"Attempts to partition or divide Iraq by intimidation, force or other means would produce extraordinary suffering and bloodshed," the US government warned.
But many reply that, despite the surgistas' recent successes, extraordinary suffering is what Iraq has already got – and the illusion of central control cannot be sustained much longer.