I Love a Sunburnt Country

by Kieran Healy on June 9, 2005

Here I am in Brisbane airport, though at the moment the chance of sunburn is low (it’s raining) and only 50 percent of our luggage seems to have decided to come along with us. The fact that there was a giant roulette wheel on top of the luggage carousel (advertising the local casinos, I think) did not augur well. We’re en route to Canberra, where we’ll be at the “RSSS”:http://rsss.anu.edu.au/ for a couple of months. Despite the “social sciences” contained in that acronym, it looks as though I’ll be “surrounded by ontologists”:http://philrsss.anu.edu.au/ the whole time.

More on Hitchens

by John Quiggin on June 9, 2005

Harry’s piece on Christopher Hitchens prompted me to collect some thoughts about him. I briefly reviewed Letters to a Young Contrarian a few years ago (along with Lilla’s “The Reckless Mind: Intellectuals in Politics) and found plenty both to like (the gadfly’s unwillingness to accept evasions and easy answers) and to dislike (the tendency to vendetta, epitomised by his campaign against Clinton).

That was when he was still on the Left. Having signed up with Bush, Hitchens has found his talent for vendetta in high demand, but the Bushies aren’t too keen on hard truths. So we get pieces like this one on the Bush Administration’s backing for the Uzbekistan dictator Karimov, notable for the observation

The United States did not invent or impose the Karimov government: It “merely” accepted its offer of strategic and tactical help in the matter of Afghanistan

This phraseology is, or ought to be, familiar – it’s virtually identical to rhetoric defending or downplaying the Reagan Administration’s embrace (metaphorical and, in Rumsfeld’s case, literal) of Saddam during the 1980s, when his foreign wars and internal oppression killed vast numbers of people (Google “US did not create Saddam” or “Did not install Saddam” for examples)[1].
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Academic freedom and Santa Claus

by Chris Bertram on June 9, 2005

Nice to know that our trade union apparatchiks are in tune with their membership. AUT Vice-President Gargi Bhattacharyya has “a piece in the Guardian”:http://education.guardian.co.uk/higher/columnist/story/0,9826,1502676,00.html that seems to be arguing (though the article’s rambling incoherence makes it hard to be sure) that “academic freedom” is a kind of fantasy which probably gets in the way of fighting for better pay and conditions, but that, sadly, it is a fantasy to which academics are rather attached. The lesson of the AUT boycott is, apparently, that union activists upset this world of myth and illusion at their peril, so they’d better be more careful in future. Just as Christmas would be ruined if parents told their children that Santa doesn’t exist, AUT leaders better pay lip service (for purely pragmatic reasons) to the values their members actually hold!

Party of YES!

by Ted on June 9, 2005

When I learned that Ohio Republicans had (cough) “invested” $50 million of public funds in rare coins and collectables controlled by a highly connected Republican fundraiser, I thought, this doesn’t look good. When it turned out that $10 to $12 million was missing from the rare-coin kitty, I had similar thoughts. Then, when I saw that the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation had agreed to turn their long-bond fund into a highly-leveraged hedge fund, which ended up losing $225 million out of $350 million, I thought, this is a real problem. The fact that Governor Taft’s office had been informed in October, and was apparently waiting for the $225 Million Fairy to fill the hole, didn’t help. I found myself agreeing with Atrios that it was maybe time for some new leadership in Ohio.

Luckily, I caught myself in time. What was I doing wallowing in this kind of negativity? Heck, I might as wear a “Party of No” T-shirt and march down Main Street! After all, my guys lost. The voters of Ohio supported the positive Republican agenda of pissing away hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer funds. What ideas do Democrats have? Just leaving the money in secure investments? Wow, guys, way to fire up the electorate. I must record new-age music for Windham Hill, cause I’m getting all yawny.

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned from the helpful Democratic strategists at the GOP, it’s that America hates negativity. So I’m hoping that the brain trust here can help come up with a positive agenda about how the Democrats should deal with this. A Democratic proposal for bake sales and bikini car washes will do a lot more to turn those frowns upside down than loose talk of “resignations” and “basic oversight”. I’m going to get started on my self-esteem boosting pamphlet, “So You’ve Lost $235 Million of Other People’s Money”, right after I deal with this crack in my desk that I somehow caused with my forehead.