Congratulations!

by John Quiggin on October 12, 2007

To Al Gore and the Intergovermental Panel on Climate Change for the award of the Nobel Peace Prize. This is the second time the Nobel prizes have honored work on climate change, the first being the award of the 1995 Chemistry Prize to Crutzen, Molina and Sherwood for their discovery of the chemical reactions that led CFCs to deplete the ozone layer.

That award came at an opportune time. Although the world had agreed under the Montreal protocol to phase out CFCs, US Republicans working through the aptly-named DeLay-Doolittle committee were working to undermine it, attacking the science and so on, with the support of a number ofleading delusionists (Sallie Baliunas, Pat Michaels, Fred Singer and others). The Nobel award took the wind out of their sails and most of the “skeptical scientists” involved went very quiet on the issue thereafter. That didn’t stop them using the same tactics and arguments regarding CO2 and global warming.

I hope the 2007 Peace Prize award will have a similar impact. While it’s not a science prize, it would certainly not have been awarded if there was any serious doubt about (rather than politically motivated opposition to) the science of climate change. And it rightly honors Gore’s role in solidifying public opinion on the issue.

Of course, for those inside the Republican bubble of delusion, it will have the opposite impact (since they are opposed to both peace and science, it could hardly do otherwise). But it will certainly have an impact on the imminent election campaign in Australia, leaving those who have been scathing about Gore and the IPCC with (yet more) egg on their faces. Of course, that group includes PM John Howard who refused to meet Gore last year, though he has modified his position since then. Since he seems to be in the mood for changing his tune , he would be well advised to take this opportunity to ratify Kyoto.

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Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?

by Harry on October 12, 2007

About a month before their wedding my friends told me they have a region-free DVD player, so I lent them Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? I hope they understood that it was not an attempt to get the wedding cancelled, but rather an expression of confidence that they were doing the right thing. It is hard for me to believe that my parents allowed me to see Whatever Happened when it was first on TV, but they did, and it provided a vision of adult life and, eventually, marriage, that only dissipated when I finally decided to marry myself. The writing and acting are both pitch-perfect in the first series, which narrates the lead up to Bob and Thelma’s wedding. Bob is torn between Thelma, his upwardly gazing (but not necessarily upwardly-mobile) fiancee, and Terry, his laddish, feckless and determinedly working-class (apart from the working bit) childhood friend.

Two things that struck me watching it again, recently, were confirmed by the one member of the couple who watched it religiously (and didn’t, I should add, call off the wedding, which was absolutely lovely!)

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Blood Without Glamour

by Scott McLemee on October 12, 2007

The secret of GWB’s success — for a while there, anyway — was that he was so comfortable playing the role that Phil Nugent nails as, “Sure, he’s a different kind of cop and he doesn’t play by the book–but he gets results!”

So what’s up with the lame duck’s recent lameness?

By now, it’s clear that “We don’t torture” is going to be George Bush’s equivalent to “I am not a crook” or “I did not have sexual relations with that woman”–an embarrassingly transparent, obviously untrue statement that the speaker never would have even made in the first place if he hadn’t been obligated to deny something that everybody had already figured out was the case. In the earlier examples, you could at least understand the emotions behind the decision to go on TV and indignantly challenge these unfounded accusations that the sun is hot. In Nixon’s case, it must have been deeply nerve-racking for a such a rigid, uptight old Quaker, one who had built his administration on promises of restoring “law and order” to a nation that had lost its moral compass, to start seeing cartoons of himself and his top aides in prison stripes in the paper every damn day. The very idea undermined everything that he wanted to believe about himself and everything his supporters wanted to believe about him. As for Clinton, for a free-wheeling, charismatic dude who had a well-documented taste for the ladies and a serious JFK complex, it must have been…well, anyway, I’m sure he didn’t want to sleep on the couch. But George Bush is supposed to be our self-styled Mr. Grim Reality, President Bauer. Why the hell is he denying that we do what he must know his most hardcore supporters worship him for having the balls to do? Why doesn’t he respond to questions about whether we torture by barking “Damn straight,” and then pulling a former Gitmo resident’s spleen out of his jacket pocket to gnaw?

Excellent question. Check out the rest of Nugent’s post for the answer. H/t Jerome Weeks.

I’m going to write a letter to my MP!

by Daniel on October 12, 2007

You know middle age has arrived when you think to yourself “I’m going to write a letter to my MP!“. It’s a tacit admission that your days of throwing petrol bombs are probably behind you and that you have been ground down and co-opted into the System, Man.

On the other hand, kids grow up much faster these days, so maybe it’s not as unfashionable as it used to be. Maybe if we all try, we can make writing a letter to your MP become the next cool craze among the hip, trendy, pipe-smoking, tweed-wearing crowd. Let’s all try it this evening – come back from work, stride through the door, hang your bowler hat on the stand and loudly announce to your long-suffering spouse or partner “Dammit, Muriel! I’m going to write a letter to my MP!”. Writing a letter to your MP is the new black.

What should we all write a letter to our MPs about? I know! How about the Iraqi employees campaign talking points?

  • David Miliband’s Statement on ‘Iraq: Locally Recruited Civilians’ of 9th October stated that Britain will help to resettle- in the wider Middle East, or in the United Kingdom- Iraqis who can prove that they have worked for this country’s soldiers or diplomats for a continuous period of twelve months.
  • Hundreds of Iraqis have been targeted for assassination for having worked for this country. Some have worked for a period of twelve months exclusively for the British and can prove this. Some have not but have been pinpointed for murder anyway. We have a responsibility to save these people from being murdered for the ‘crime’ of working for the British.
  • There are a lot of local employees who fled their jobs before 12 months precisely because they had been targeted, or who did a 6-month tour for one British battalion and were then told to go and work for the Americans, or who did 12 months or more with interruptions, or who the Army didn’t give proper documentation too.
  • Iraqi staff members must be given shelter not because of their provable length of service but according to whether they have been identified for murder by local death squads. This can be investigated on the spot by Army officers and referred rapidly to London: the process needs to start now.
  • Mr Miliband’s statement did not mention the families of Iraqi employees. As Iraqi militias also murder the families of their ‘enemies’, we must resettle our employees’ families as well. Mark Brockway, an ex-soldier who hired many Iraqis, estimates that we are talking about a maximum of 700 Iraqis to resettle: this country admits 190,000 immigrants net every year.
  • Iraqis have already been targeted for murder for having worked for this country. We will be shamed if we allow more to be killed for the same reason. Our soldiers, who are angry at this betrayal, and our diplomats, will be placed at risk if they gain a reputation for abandoning their local helpers.

I’d add that, of course, to tie the relocation package and thus the risk of death to 12 months’ continuous employment puts the employers of local staff in an utterly invidious position – how the hell do you manage your personnel and budget if you know that making someone redundant is tantamount to signing their death warrant? But anyway, come on folks, it’s so far out that it’s far in again! Write a letter to your MP! Seriously, write a letter to your MP. I am trying to jolly things along but it is a really important campaign. Write a letter to your MP.

A million tragedies

by John Quiggin on October 12, 2007

Stalin is supposed* to have said “A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic”. Like much said by that father of lies, it is a half-truth. A million deaths is a statistic, but it’s also a million individual tragedies.

The death of David Pearce, the first Australian soldier to die in Afghanistan is a tragedy for him and his family. So were the deaths of Marany Awanees and Jeniva Jalal, shot by security guards from Unity Resources Group, an Australian-run security company in Baghdad last week. And so have been all of the deaths in Iraq (as many as a million since 2003) and Afghanistan in the wars and violence that have afflicted both countries for decades.

As someone who supported the war in Afghanistan, as a necessary act of self-defence and as an intervention that seemed likely to have positive effects, I have to accept some share of the responsibility for the deaths it has caused, including that of David Pearce. I can make the point in mitigation that, if the Afghanistan war had not been so shamefully mismanaged, most obviously the diversion of most of the required resources to the Iraq venture, it might well have reached a successful conclusion by now. But even after that mismanagement, I still, reluctantly, support the view that it is better to try and salvage the situation in Afghanistan by committing more resources, rather than pulling out and leaving the Afghans to sort it out themselves. I draw that conclusion because I think there would be even more bloodshed after a withdrawal, and that there’s a reasonable prospect that a democratic government and a largely free society can survive in Afghanistan with our help. And, even after all the mismanagement, I think most Afghans are better off now (or at least no worse off) than they would have been with a continuation of Taliban rule and civil war.
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