Assad and the ICC

by John Quiggin on September 7, 2013

I was going to write a long post arguing the case for a UNSC resolution to indict Assad before the ICC, but Google revealed that Edward Bernton at the Globalist had already written it. So, I’ll just add some notes over the fold

[click to continue…]

An undeserving PM (crosspost from johnquiggin.com)

by John Quiggin on September 7, 2013

Unless there’s a sudden turnaround in the polls, Tony Abbott will become Prime Minister of Australia tonight. This will be the third time in my life that a Federal Labor government has been defeated, the other two occasions being 1975 and 1996. On both those occasions, despite substantial and enduring accomplishments, the government had made a mess of macroeconomic management, and the electorate, unsurprisingly, wanted to punish them. And, despite my strong disagreements with them (and with the way Fraser came to office), the incoming Prime Ministers had serious views on how best Australia’s future could be managed. Fraser has only improved since leaving office, making valuable contributions on the national and global stage. My evaluation of Howard, following his defeat, starts with the observation that he was ‘the most substantial figure produced by the Liberal party since the party itself was created by Menzies’.

Nothing of the sort can be said this time. The case put forward by the LNP is based entirely on lies and myths. These include the claims that
* Labor has mismanaged the economy and piled up unnecessary debt and deficits
* Australian families are ‘doing it tough’ because of a soaring cost of living
* The carbon tax/price is a ‘wrecking ball’, destroying economic activity
* The arrival of refugees represents a ‘national emergency’

None of these claims stands up to even momentary scrutiny.

Then there’s Abbott himself. After 20 years in politics, I can’t point to any substantial accomplishments on his part, or even any coherent political philosophy. For example, I’m not as critical of his parental leave scheme as some, but it’s totally inconsistent with his general political line, a fact that his supporters in business have been keen to point out. On climate change, he’s held every position possible and is now promising, in effect, to do nothing. His refusal to reveal policy costings until the second-last day of the campaign debases an already appalling process. He treated budget surplus as a holy grail until it became inconvenient, and has now become carefully vague on the topic.

Obviously, the fact that such a party and such a leader can be on the verge of victory implies that the Labor side has done something dreadfully wrong. It’s the oldest cliche in politics for the losing side to claim that the problem is not the policies but inability to get the message across. In this case, however, I think it’s true. Gillard lost the voters early on with stunts like a consultative assembly to decide on climate change policy, and never managed to get them to listen to her for any length of time. Rudd was doing well in communicating his vision from his return to the leadership until he called the election. He then wasted three weeks on small-bore stuff apparently aimed at securing minor party preferences. He seemed finally to have rediscovered his voice, in the last week of the campaign, but almost certainly too late.

If you add just a negation sign to this Walter Russell Mead post, you get my view. Except for the bit where he says that the plans for war seem pretty screwed up. Everyone agrees about that.

Wouldn’t it be great if we set a precedent? Wouldn’t the Republic be healthier for it having happened – just once?

President proposes military action. Congress votes against. It doesn’t happen.

Once it happens once, it’s more likely to happen again, after all.

But won’t this destroy Obama’s status and credibility and all that good stuff? [click to continue…]

Jews Without Israel

by Corey Robin on September 7, 2013

In shul this morning, the second day of Rosh Hashanah, the rabbi spoke at length about the State of Israel. This is more surprising than you might think. I’ve been going to this shul since I moved to Brooklyn in 1999, and if memory serves, it’s only been in the last two or three years that the rabbi has devoted at least one of her High Holy Days talks to Israel.

Throughout the aughts, Israel didn’t come up much in shul. During flash points of the Second Intifada, you might hear a prayer for Jewish Israelis or nervous temporizing about some action in Jenin or Gaza. But I can’t recall an entire sermon devoted to the State of Israel and its meaning for Jews.

That’s also how I remember much of my synagogue experience as a kid. Don’t get me wrong: Israel was central to my Jewish education. My entire family—my five sisters, my parents, and my grandfather—visited there with our synagogue in 1977. Several of my sisters, as well as my parents, have been back. The safety of Israel was always on my mind; I remember spending many a Friday night service imagining a terrorist attack on our synagogue, so short seemed the distance between suburban New York and Tel Aviv. I wrote about Israel in school essays (I actually defended its role in the Sabra and Shatila massacre). I had a strong feeling for Israel (or what I thought was Israel): a combination of hippie and holy, Godly and groovy, a feeling well captured by Steven Spielberg in Munich. [click to continue…]