Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Magnificent and Royal Wedding and Britains licence to thrill


There are those who suggest that the glorious spectacle witnessed last night is no indicator of acceptance or interest for the constitutional monarchy, republicans were already howling prior to the wedding and will no doubt dismiss the wedding as Hollywood style primitive and medieval nonsense.

In light of the interest shown by media organisations, I would advise critics of the royals to go back in their closet for a while.
There were marvellous things bestowed upon viewers of the wedding last night. The splendid pageantry, the music, the colour and the civility of established noble order, as Bolt put it:

Better still was the honour paid to Britain’s institutions and values—the holding up to the mob of virtues glittering with the magnificence of the setting and hallowed by the glad attention of countless millions.

The princes of the churches, more used to being lambasted in the media, were this time seen in full state glory, as were the military in the ceremonial uniforms that Britain does best.

William himself was in the splendidly red tunic of the Irish Guards, brother Harry in a Household Cavalry uniform, and their father in an admiral’s rig.

Here were the churches and the military, along with the statesmen and the dignitaries from an admiring world, gathered at the most brilliant celebration of a family which serves as the living symbol of a nation.

It would be wise to have respect for Britain and its “institutions and values”. In the latter part of the nineteenth century Great Britain, was the globes chief nation builder, embracing the need to spread democracy (self-government) and civility in lands far from its shores; lands that were under their safe control. The British have always had a healthy self-conscious pride in their institutions. Like Americans, they saw their government as a wonderful and wisely evolved system, worth spreading to less-fortunate lands. It was the British who many generations ago, were leaders in nation building (no easy feat). Their far-flung empire was presumed to have given them a wealth of experience in firstly democratic instruction and secondly, guidance.

However, back to the wedding, yes I loved the pomp and circumstance of the occasion. It was what the world needed, some levity in the face of what has been a bad news year to date. Best wishes to the young couple who I am certain will provide a fresh and inspiring face to British royalty.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Is China's growth good for Australia?

I found a couple of articles about China in this morning papers interesting. From The Age, Tim Colebatch writes that the International Monetary Fund projects that within 5 to 10 years, China will overtake the US in real economic output. This is not surprising; however the article also features an, on-line poll which asks: Is China's growth good for Australia? Of the 2900 votes received by mid-morning 72% of participants voted “yes”. In and of itself, this is not extraordinary but then moments later, I stumble across another article about China in the Herald Sun. In it, Matt Johnston writes that a recent Lowy Institute poll found that 72% of over 1000 Australians polled earlier this year fear the threat of war with China.

I found myself confounded or in the least, bemused by the different findings. Here we have one poll showing most of us welcoming China’s overtaking the U.S. economically while roughly the same number of us fears a war with China?

I would have thought that your economic strength also drives a nation’s military strength. The higher government revenue from for example taxes, the more money is available to train soldiers, buy military hardware and develop defensive and offensive capabilities. At one stage the Soviet Union was spending nearly 50% of GNP on its military; the rest is history however the U.S. even now, spends a relatively sum of its total economic output on its military. China and the U.S. rely on economic prosperity to finance military might. Contrariwise the Soviet Union and North Korea relied on military measures to build economic power with little success. This shows that economic power is the necessary state attribute to potential military might.

So why would polls show that we welcome China's economic growth but in unison fear a war with China, ignorance perhaps? Australia has been getting away with spending a paltry 1.8per cent of GDP on defence because we have enjoyed the benefits of stability provided by the United States in the western Pacific. Eventually, Australian governments will have to fill some of that US-less strategic vacuum with an enhanced Australian Defence Force. That means much more money for the ADF and less for other programs? Personally, I haven't a problem with the latter, but I am betting many of those who answered "yes" to the question, "Is China's growth good for Australia?" do not fully appreciate the consequences of China's continued growth.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

One suspects Vic Police boss Simon Overland will be relieved of duty anytime now ...

The star of last year’s gay pride March, Simon Overland is in deep water over his performance as Victorian Police Commissioner. Government concerns include:

$100 million blowout in the cost of a new police crime database … Alleged manipulation of crime statistics … An Ombudsman's report blaming police for leaving a child in the hands of a known sex offender ... A botched attempt to attract failed recruits from the NSW police and wrangling over the training of 5500 new police recruits.

I’m guessing that when asked about the highlight of his career, he’ll point to last year’s support for the GLBTI (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex) community when he lead the police unit in the gay pride march.
Hundreds of supporters cheered and wolf whistled as Mr Overland, joined by members of Victoria Police, marched down Fitzroy St, St Kilda. "Never in my life have I experienced the sort of reception and the sort of welcome that we got walking down the street to Catani Gardens today, it was just unbelievable," Mr Overland said. "If I had any hair on the back of my head it would have been standing up."
Said Overland at the time
“It’s a message to the broader community about tolerance and inclusivity,” he said. “It’s really important that we come to events like this to engage directly with this fabulous, vibrant part of our diverse community in Victoria.”
Tolerance and diversity? At the time, I wanted to ask the Police Commissioner how being photographed with men dressed up as nun’s shows great tolerance towards the Catholic community. I also wondered if he would show the same level of tolerance towards the Islamic community by being photographed with gay men wearing hijabs or burqas?

Disgraced ex-Police Commissioner Christine Nixon, also made a scene over the same event when she led the unit on at least two occasions in years past.

At the time she was criticised by former Liberal leader Dennis Napthine and National leader Peter Ryan for partaking in the event. Said Napthine at the time.
"The police commissioner should be above these sort of activities”… “It undermines the value of the police uniform as a sign of authority and respect."

I could help but agree.

UPDATE

The police get it wrong on new crime database but The Age covers it, as if mismanaged by the State Government
Police database 'would have cut crime'

THE proposed new Victoria Police crime database - which has been shelved by the Baillieu government due to soaring costs - would have cut crime and generated up to $258 million in benefits ...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

U.S. declinism theories are nothing new

From a Reuters article from several months back:

Leading thinkers in the dismal science speaking at an annual convention offered varying visions of U.S. economic decline, in the short, medium and long term. This year, the recovery may bog down as government stimulus measures dry up … The age of American predominance is over …
America’s critics can be naively ostentatious. The Obama victory, a ballooning deficit, and the financial crises are leading many a foreign policy and economic pundits to assume that America is finished. For those like me, proponents for, and advocates of a strong and decisive America such events though concerning, beckon for a little perspective.

Interesting term declinism, first coined by Samuel P. Huntington in a winter of ’88 response to Paul Kennedy’s ideas, in which the author deduced that:
“… although US predominance in world affairs is not so secure as it was, "the ultimate test of a great power is in its ability to renew its power..."
Though this was written 20 years ago, even today I believe America shall remain powerful, because of its capacity to turn the corner and regenerate itself in spite of politics and economics of the day, this is her greatest strength. Needless to add, the likes of Fareed Zakaria will persist with their version of The Post-American World. But the U.S. is far from the ‘enfeebled superpower’ that Zakaria purports to. The endless stream of negativity coming from many a public intellectual, think tank theorists, and media elite is both unconstructive and damaging. No my friends, we are not Waving Goodbye to Hegemony just yet, nor are we ready to proclaim The End of the American Era. Even Obama is far removed from the declinist specialists; his view of America though not to the liking of us conservatives remains comparitively positive, to this end Kagan it seems, is right.
Obama, it should be said, has done little to deserve the praise of these declinists. His view of America's future, at least as expressed in this campaign, has been appropriately optimistic ... If he sounded anything like Zakaria and Fukuyama say he does, he'd be out of business by now. It (declinism) seems to come along every 10 years or so. In the late 1970s, the foreign policy establishment was seized with what Cyrus Vance called "the limits of our power". In the late '80s, scholar Paul Kennedy predicted the imminent collapse of American power due to "imperial overstretch". In the late '80s, Samuel P. Huntington warned of American isolation as the "lonely superpower". Now we have the "post-American world"... Sober analysts such as Richard Haass acknowledge that the U.S. remains the single most powerful entity in the world. But he warns: "The United States cannot dominate, much less dictate, and expect that others will follow." That is true. But when was it not? Was there ever a time when the US could dominate, dictate and always have its way? Many declinists imagine a mythical past when the world danced to the US's tune.
Hence there is nothing new about U.S. declinism theories. Since the attack on 9/11, we have been presented with a virtual plethora of books, and online commentary and opinion pieces assertively predicting the decline of America. Too numerous to mention here, they include Johnson’s Blowback, Ferguson’s Colossus: The price of America’s empire, the writings of Chomsky and Fisk, in addition to an army of lefties opposed to U.S. foreign policy and what they refer to “cultural imperialism”.

The anti-americanist overtures dwell on familiar, now hackneyed themes and are driven by former president Bush’s unilateralist policies and pre-emptive military action that, according to the writers had stretched “imperial capabilities so much that America will go down the same path as Persia, Rome, and the Soviet Union. What they term, classic errors of empire, that will not exempt (America) from the decrees of history.

In spite of volumes literature predicting its fall, the fundamental foundations of U.S. power and hegemony remain rock solid and, compared to its nearest rivals and including the EU, there remains vast gaps in education quality, military spending, technology, and economic activity.

Here are some well-published and current facts set to dishearten those who thought America’s fall was well underway:

... Of its 300 million people, it has the largest group of middle class citizens with excellent life expectancy outcomes by world standards ...

... America has the best and largest higher education schools in the globe (17 of the worlds top universities are in the U.S.)...

... Its percentage of world GDP is just short of 30% ...

... Of all the top Fortune 500 companies, 170 are American, which is more than double that of Japan in 2nd place and way ahead of Britain and China...

... In terms of total market capitalization, the New York Stock Exchange is vastly larger than all other nations ...

... National debt is high but as a percentage of GDP is not unmanageable ...

.. Military spending is still 50% of the world total with the technological gap still growing...
No, U.S Declinism theories are nothing new. As early as 1970, Andrew Hacker a political scientist published a book titled, “The end of the American Era", in it he confidently predicted American decline citing poor fiscal policies, excessive individualism, and imperial overstretch. Sound familiar?

Fast forward to 2009 and in defence of America, Josef Joffe article The Default Power, The False Prophecy of America’s Decline argues that, "every ten years, it is decline time in the United States".

In the late 1950s, it was the Sputnik shock, followed by the “missile gap” trumpeted by John F. Kennedy in the 1960 presidential campaign. A decade later, Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger sounded the dirge over bipolarity, predicting a world of five, rather than two, global powers. At the end of the 1970s, Jimmy Carter’s “malaise” speech invoked “a crisis of confidence” that struck “at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will.”

A decade later, academics such as the Yale historian Paul Kennedy predicted the ruin of the United States, driven by over extension abroad and profligacy at home. The United States was at risk of “imperial overstretch,” Kennedy wrote in 1987, arguing that “the sum total of the United States’ global interests and obligations is nowadays far larger than the country’s power to defend them all simultaneously.” But three years later, Washington dispatched 600,000 soldiers to fight the first Iraq war—without reinstating the draft or raising taxes. The only price of “overstretch” turned out to be the mild recession of 1991.

Declinism took a break in the 1990s. The United States was enjoying a nice run after the suicide of the Soviet Union, and Japan, the economic powerhouse of the 1980s, was stuck in its “lost decade” of stagnation and so no longer stirred U.S. paranoia with its takeover of national treasures such as Pebble Beach and Rockefeller Center. The United States had moved into the longest economic expansion in history, which, apart from eight down months in 2001, continued until 2008.
Routinely such dim predictions also stem from antagonism toward its culture and values and/or simply a desire to see it fail as a result of contrasting ideologies and beliefs. To what end eludes this writer. Will the world be better off if the USA fails? Will the world be more secure, will our children be better off?

Josef Joffe concludes:

As the twenty-first century unfolds, the United States will be younger and more dynamic than its competitors. And as a liberal empire, it can work the international system with fewer costs than yesterday’s behemoths, which depended on territorial possessions and had to conduct endless wars against natives and rivals. A Tyrannosaurus rex faces costlier resistance than the bumbling bull that is the United States. A final point to ponder: Who would actually want to live in a world dominated by China, India, Japan, Russia, or even Europe, which for all its enormous appeal cannot take care of its own backyard? Not even those who have been trading in glee and gloom decade after decade would prefer any of them to take over as housekeeper of the world.
For doubters, it remains in our greater interests that U.S. primacy be preserved. We must ask, what kind of comprehensive global strategy would preserve primacy most effectively in the face of Americas challenges.

Primacy provides scores of benefits for the United States and the world, it would not be practical for it to sit back and permit other states to catch up thus surrendering the many rewards of its international influence as sourced through its massive ideological, military, and economic capacity.

There are some clear considerations in light of this. U.S. military power although robust, should not be wasted needlessly, and its economy requires prudent management to enhance its long-term strength since its global power is also dependant on economic output. This is especially important given that both the Chinese and Indian economies are set to be in the same league by around 2050, whilst declining and ageing populations will adversely affect the output of Japan, Russia, and the European Union. Also of concern, is that both China and India are well placed to bite into America’s technological advantages, to keep its edge, the U.S. must fashion a new evolving international economic architecture, that seeks to maintain stability and growth. U.S. vulnerability also stems through its considerable dependency on oil, with competition for natural resources is likely to peak well before 2050.

In terms of foreign policy issues, there is nothing improper about the U.S. supporting states that embrace liberal democratic processes, nor is there anything wrong intervening in global affairs to encourage forms of regional balancing in favour of U.S. interests. To achieve this and safeguard primacy, a stratagem that primarily employs America’s traditional approach, by which it deploys its power in no uncertain terms, is called for however, only where there exists a direct threat to its interests. Offshore balancing which utilises and assists friendly regional powers (its allies, including Israel) to curb the rise of potential hostile nation states ought be an option.

This approach logically engages other nation states but it is does not segregate. One must not assume that such a policy would render the U.S. inactive, more exactly; it would intervene, even militarily, but only when friendly regional powers are unable to act decisively on their own. Instead of trying to be the global police officer, the United States adopts a selective, restrained foreign policy with rules that concentrate on defending America's expansive array of vital interests. Because it limits military intervention overseas, offshore balancing makes it less burdensome to intervene when genocide or other vital interests are threatened by rogue states, such as Iran or in the case of the 90's, Bosnia.

Regretably, American global pre-eminence is not a permanent arrangement but attempts to extend it through doctrines build resentment and resistance, history has demonstrated this. Military power must be upheld, even augmented but used more judiciously. The effects of such a strategy will filter through to other elements of U.S. relations and promote its economy, expand flows of information, technology, capital, goods and services. While terrorism and nuclear proliferation complicates matters it is through consensus coupled with military muscle that best results can be achieved. Continued engagement becomes paramount to U.S. interests if America wants to retain its position of primacy for the foreseeable future. It’s a way of telling the world (not just convincing) that its dominance is preferable to any alternatives. As a final point, it will also assist the United States through the enhancement of "soft power" - winning hearts and minds - and respond effectively to competing worldviews, such as Chinese non-interference measures, Islamism, and European social democracy.

See also: Foundations of power

Sunday, April 17, 2011

What's happened to common sense

It may be an oldie but worth publishing here ... It seems common sense is no longer all that common; from an unknown author: Obituary - Common Sense

My parents told me about Mr. Common Sense early in my life and told me I would do well to call on him when making decisions. It seems he was always around in my early years but less and less as time passed by. Today I read his obituary. Please join me in a moment of silence in remembrance, for Common Sense had served us all so well for so many generations.

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as knowing when to come in out of the rain, why the early bird gets the worm, life isn't always fair, and maybe it was my fault.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend more than you earn) and reliable parenting strategies (adults, not children are in charge).

His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a six-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job they themselves failed to do in disciplining their unruly children. It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer Aspirin, sun lotion or a Bandaid to a student, but could not inform the parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

Common Sense lost the will to live when religions became businesses and criminals received better treatment than their victims. Common Sense took a beating when you couldn't defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar can sue you for assault.

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.

Common Sense was preceded in death by his parents, Truth and Trust; his wife, Discretion; his daughter, Responsibility; and his son, Reason. He is survived by three stepbrothers; I Know my Rights, Someone Else is to Blame, and I'm a Victim.

Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone. If you still remember him, pass this on. If not, join the majority and do nothing.
Do we really need experts (in various fields) and bureaucrats to tell us what is good for us? Do we really have to believe in their esoteric theories and definitions and problem solutions?

See also: The Death of Common Sense by Lori Borgman

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Images of Federal Labor - It's Kevin 11

Who needs words? Seriously though, Rudd's 2011 ascendancy gives new life to my old "Rudd watch" label. The former PM is going about his business and in doing so, willingly contributing to labor's implosion. One wonders who Kevin 11 dislikes most, Julia or Tony? Now tell me that's not a fair and valid question. While I doubt whether there is any move to dump Gillard within the caucus, Rudd is priming himself but for what?

Is it not a bit like changing captains on the Titanic after hitting the iceberg?


Illustration by Bill Leak. Source: The Australian


Source: ABC Thinkstock


Source: HWT Image


Illustration by Jon Kudelka. Source: The Australian

And remember this one

Now now Kevin, let's just get the party over the line then we'll give you the foreign gig. But was that enough?


Source: ABC


Source: HWT


Source: SMH

Related reading:

Kevin-11 gnaws into PM's authority

A Truce is crucial to ALP's future

Rudd for the naughty corner? The PM can't risk it

Labor faces disaster if Julia Gillard is to continue as Prime Minister

PM boxed in by Rudd on the rebound

Why it's safer having Kevin inside the tent

Haunted by the ghost of PM past

Rudd recovers his TV mojo, but appearance ain't reality

UPDATE:

The Herald Sun's Samantha Maiden reports that Kevin is back on deck as Kevin 11:
KEVIN 11 is on the job. And there's not much Julia Gillard can do about it.

His ambition is there for all to see.

But he's hardly organising the numbers for a leadership challenge. Instead, the Foreign Affairs Minister is performing strongly in his portfolio, which is more than some of his Cabinet critics can say.

Colleagues say Rudd returned from his international campaign for a No Fly Zone over Libya a "changed man".

Rudd has got his groove back. Even his signature "magic hands" gesticulations are back in action.
One wonders whether his signature colloquialism will also make a comeback?

Kevin ascendancy is gaining some extraordinary momentum in print media! Julia must be cringing.

More links:

Hi, I'm Kevin Rudd and I'm here to help

One final image

I'll be back ... in due course...

Friday, April 08, 2011

Western culture being the superior one ...

Western civilization and the ideas that underscore it, things like personal freedom, equality, democracy, responsible government, the rule of law, human rights, science and technology, R&D, religious tolerance (which in itself can be attributed to Christianity) and self-determination suggests that the western experience, has been prodigiously fruitful.

Not surprisingly then I found the following more than merely interesting.

Many people strongly disagree with the belief that a culture can be considered better than others. They do so because they view a culture’s level of development as a product of race. As a result, they view any claim of cultural superiority as a claim of racial superiority—and, accordingly, condemn the idea of cultural superiority as racist. However, as we have seen, a culture’s level of development is not a product of race.
People also object to the idea of cultural supremacy because they do not believe that culture can be judged objectively. This, too, is incorrect. The proper standard for objectively evaluating a culture is by the degree to which its core values are for or against human life. A pro-human life culture recognizes the requirements of proper human survival, namely the values of reason, individualism, happiness, rights and capitalism.
In other words, pro-human life culture is Western culture. And the extent to which a nation embraces Western culture is the extent to which it is free, prosperous, modern and peaceful—that is, supportive of human life. One need only look at life expectancies around the world to see that this is true.

Life expectancy in nations where Western culture dominates (abbreviated list)

Australia 81
United States 78
Japan 81
Israel 79
Italy 80

Life expectancy in nations where nonwestern culture dominates but Western culture still has modest presence (abbreviated list)

Philippines 70
Russia 67
Honduras 69
Pakistan 63
Senegal 59

Life expectancy in nations where nonwestern culture overwhelmingly dominates and Western culture has little or no presence (abbreviated list)

Liberia 40
Nigeria 47
Angola 39
Zimbabwe 40
Laos 55

Source: CIA World Factbook 2006

Objectively judging cultures is not only legitimate and possible; it is ultimately a life and death issue. And when cultures are judged, it is clear that Western culture, with its life-giving and life-sustaining magnificence, is the greatest culture—deserving universal admiration and praise.
Western culture and all that it implies remains as contentious as ever, but nobody can deny its success; it is worth defending and even fighting for.

Niall Ferguson asks, why did the West rise to such prominence. He refers to six “Killer Applications”, Competition, Science, Democracy, Medicine, Consumerism and the Work Ethic. Presenting Pt 1 for your enjoyment...