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Weekend reflections

August 12th, 2005

It’s time, as usual for Weekend Reflections. The idea is that, over the weekend, you should post your thoughts in a more leisurely fashion than in ordinary comments or the Monday Message Board.

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  1. August 12th, 2005 at 18:49 | #1

    Great to see that the NSW sisterhood has stood firm against the ramblings of a little ‘milk-Sheik’! Pls see http://www.theage.com.au/news/National/Sheikh-wins-gong-for-sexist-comments/2005/08/12/1123353483833.html

  2. joe2
    August 12th, 2005 at 19:43 | #2

    Wish to mention Steve Vizard!

    Is he any way a reflection of what is happening amongst corporate Australians? Very,very greedy………

    Or, just a naughty little boy?

  3. Ros
    August 12th, 2005 at 21:30 | #3

    Wikepedia doesn’t always work. Iwas after information on Hezbollah.
    This is an example of wht you will find.
    “And just in case that limy (and slimy) lush is reading this, allow me to mention that I can come in with a more variegated range of IP’s from different blocks than he can imagine. ”

    “Please, don’t be a jerk. Your uncompromising attitude is preventing anyone from editing this page, which doesn’t allow anyone to correct bias in either direction”

    “If you’re gonna be deleting it, then *you* put it in an article that would be more relevant.
    And deleting source documents is not very NPOV”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Hezbollah

  4. Ros
    August 12th, 2005 at 21:34 | #4

    I am still interested the doctor charged with manslaughter for the death of a foetus is about. Is the NSW sisterhood showing any interest Elizabeth, please?

  5. August 13th, 2005 at 11:51 | #5

    Has anybody else noticed the distinct lack of actual reporting from inside Iraq? Robert Fisk, who coined the term “hotel journalism” about those who never travel anywhere, stay in their rooms and gather information solely from US authorities, is back in Baghdad. He paints a terrifying picture. Having spent time with Fisk himself, he is not easily scared, but in Iraq, everybody is fair game:

    http://antonyloewenstein.blogspot.com/2005/08/no-freedom.html

  6. August 13th, 2005 at 13:51 | #6

    Ros Says: August 12th, 2005 at 9:34 pm
    I am still interested the doctor charged with manslaughter for the death of a foetus is about. Is the NSW sisterhood showing any interest Elizabeth, please?

    Sorry Ros, not aware of the story – can u provide a link or two?

  7. August 13th, 2005 at 15:30 | #7

    Of course, I’m a great believer of the good of a large public sector, but there are times when even I have to admit defeat:

    http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,16201527%255E29677,00.html

  8. August 13th, 2005 at 16:14 | #8

    & here I was thinking the term was “fisking”.. named after the master of hotel journalism himself….!!!!

  9. August 13th, 2005 at 16:43 | #10

    Steve – I’ve read the articles – so what is the question(s)?

  10. joe2
    August 13th, 2005 at 17:35 | #11

    Antony, I for one, have noticed that Iraq is pretty much off the media screen.
    True, we are kept up with the tally of U.S. deaths. Presumably, that cannot be disguised. Folks notice, at home, when there kids come home in body bags.
    Doubt that the rest of the story is getting through.
    Civilian deaths are given scant regard.
    Robert Fisk and Pilger are the lifeblood of the democracy we are supposed to be defending. Love ‘em both for trying.

  11. August 13th, 2005 at 21:37 | #12

    Elizabeth: You copied & pasted the question from Ros in your previous post. I’m afrad I am no wiser than you, perhaps direct your questioning to Ros?

  12. Terje
    August 14th, 2005 at 01:07 | #13

    In our Telstra debate Ian Gould caught me using some hyperbola.

    QUOTE TERJE: We are killing our society with tax and regulation. We have more tax and more regulation than we did in 1983.

    QUOTE IAN: Yet somehow, we’re richer, live longer and are better educated.

    If we’re killing ourselves, it seems to be an extremely drawn-out and rather pleasant process.

    you know, it never hurts to check one’s ideology against reality. If they disagree, it’sprobably the ideology that’s at fault.


    Ian is right that we are richer in material terms. However I believe that this is in spite of extra regulation and taxation and not because of it.

    And I do think we are killing our society in a way. Or more correctly we are killing that component of society called community. Looking after your elderly parents or your sick neighbour has become the governments problem.

  13. August 14th, 2005 at 03:15 | #14

    Antony – the gap is obvious to anyone who goes to Juan Cole, who patiently and routinely assembles the most ghastly lists of death and destruction.

    The point about hotel journalists is unfair to anyone in that situation. Would you go outside and get kidnapped? And Fisk has been out and about more than most. Here’s wikipedia:

    “During the 2003 Invasion of Iraq and the ensuing U.S.-led occupation of Iraq, Fisk, who speaks fluent Arabic, was stationed in Baghdad and filed many eyewitness reports. In Iraq he has criticized other journalists for their “hotel journalism”, their being out of touch with the events and atmosphere of the Baghdad streets.

    Fisk also covered the Iranian revolution, the Iran-Iraq war, the Persian Gulf War, and the conflict in Algeria. He was one of two Western journalists to stay in Beirut during the Lebanese civil war. He wrote a book on the conflict, Pity The Nation. Fisk has also reported the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

  14. Ian Gould
    August 14th, 2005 at 11:13 | #15

    Terje,

    This probably requires a more detailed response than I can give jsut at the moment.

    A few points -

    Firstly, age pensions have been around since the 1860′s in continental Europe and since the 1930′s or earlier in the anglophone world. Again, if they’re killing our society it’s a very long-drawn-out death.

    Second, do you have any empirical evidence that either the total amount of regulation or the total tax take is increasing in most countries? The EU has supposedly been cutting taxes and regulation for at least the past decade, it doesn’t seem to have done their economies much good so far. In Australia, of course, taxes as a percentage of GDP have increased under the current Federal government.

    Third, what’s the empirical evidence that “community” is declining? I looked at the ABS statistics for volunteerism a while ago and, from memory, participation rates and the average amount of time spent on volunteer work is either up or stable over the past decade. Crime rates, an indicator of anti-social activity, have (again from memory) increased soemwhat in Australia in recent years but i’m not sure there’s a clear long-term trend or that “increasing government regulation” is necessarily the cause of any such trend which does exist. I know people who work in the community sector who’d say that any increase is attributable to cuts in government services and harsher qualification rules for government benefits.

    Fourth, “community” is one of those nice words. Everyone thinks its a good thing even if they can’t define it.

    To the extent that children caring for their parents is reducing (if it is) this may reflect positive trends such as improved health amongst the elderly and greater private retirmeent savings. Then too, consider the trend towards signficantly smaller families (which seems to be a mroe or less uniform phenomena in most societies which lags the drop in infant mortality attributable to improved public health and higher incoems by about a generation) . Unusually for a baby boomer, I have five siblings. This makes it a lot more feasible for us to care for my mother than if I was a single child.

    You might also want to read up further on “social capital”, a concept often invoked in relation to community. Social capital is not always and invarably a good thing – US research ahs shown that cities with high levels of social capital have lower per capita incomes and less job creation and fewer new businesses. (Of course, the causal path may be that rapid economic growth and high degrees of labor market mobility tend to erode social capital – people who’ve just arrived in an area to take up new jobs are less likely to have strong local social networks.)

    You might also want to consider the case of southern Italy which scores very highly on most measures of social capital and which has extremely high and persistent unemployment. It has been suggested that the extended family networks (and associated opportunities for working in the black economy) make it both easier and more attractive to get by on unemployment benefits and make people more reluctant to relocate in search of work.

    Finally, take a look at the UNDP’s Human Development Report which provides a relatively simple and objective measure of overall social welfare (based on three measures: adult literact rates; per capita GDP at purchasing power parity and life expectancy at birth).

    http://hdr.undp.org/statistics/data/indic/indic_12_1_1.html

    If you look at the top 10 countries as measured by the human development index, the social economies of western Europe and the less regulated lower tax developed countries (such as the US, Australia, Irealnd and Great Britain) come out roughly on par. (I will note that countries which combine lower overall tax and lower overall spending than the west European norm but have a relatively larger public sector than the US – such as Australia, Canada and Norway – seem to have a very slight edge and to fill the very top slots.)

    Put simply, the HDI figures suggest that high taxes and and a large public sector don’t detract signficantly from social wellbeing. (Equally though, the figures also suggest they don’t add much to it either.)

    People can object to a high level of tax and government spending on moral or philosophical grounds and there’s certainly plenty of instances of poorly conceived, wasteful or counter-productive government programs but there is little strong evidence that I can see that the level of public spending and taxation in developed countries with market economies correlates either with economic or non-economic measures of public welfare.

  15. Ian Gould
    August 14th, 2005 at 11:20 | #16

    If people wish to get more information on the war in Iraq I recommend antiwar.com.

    The site’s bias is obvious from its name but the majority of the articles which they link to are taken from mainstream news sources (UPI; Reuters; Knight-Ridder; Christian Science Monitor etc.)

    Particulaly chilling are the daily “Security Incidents” reprots from Reuters which catalog the many, many fatalities which never make it to the western electronic media.

  16. Ian Gould
    August 14th, 2005 at 12:09 | #17

    So after I went looking for the HDI link, I did some playing with the figures.

    For the twenty countries with the highest HDI rankings in 2002, data for 1975 was available for 19 – the exception being Germany.

    I compared the 1975 and 2002 ratings and calculated the rate of growth (i.e. how much the standard of living had improved) for those 19 countries.

    I’m going to try and paste a table here and I have no idea if it’ll work.

    In case it doesn’t, I’ll summarise what I think are the key points.

    The countries with the SLOWEST rate of increase are from the lowest Switzerland, Denmark, the USA and Canada.

    Countries with the highest growth in their HDI were (in descending order) Ireland, australia, Belgium and Finland.

    Ireland is hardly a surprise – after all the Celtic tiger is a common economic cliche. In Ireland’s case, deregulation and tax cuts obviously helped (although it’s worth noting that those tax cuts are made possible in good part by extremely generous EU regional funding.)

    But the low standing of the US and Switzerland is a real surprise.

    While the US economy has been growing faster than many other developed countries for the last decade or so, its population has also been growing faster due to both higher birth rates and higher immigration. Hence, per capita income growth has lagged headline growth for economy as a whole.

    Anyway let’s see how that table goes:

    Switzerland 0.878 0.936 1.066059226
    Denmark 0.872 0.932 1.068807339
    USA 0.866 0.939 1.084295612
    Canada 0.869 0.943 1.085155351
    Netherlands 0.865 0.942 1.089017341
    Iceland 0.862 0.941 1.091647332
    New Zealand 0.847 0.926 1.093270366
    France 0.852 0.932 1.093896714
    Sweden 0.863 0.946 1.09617613
    Spain 0.836 0.917 1.096889952
    Japan 0.854 0.938 1.098360656
    Norway 0.866 0.956 1.103926097
    United Kingdom 0.845 0.936 1.107692308
    Austria 0.842 0.934 1.109263658
    Luxembourg 0.838 0.933 1.113365155
    Finland 0.839 0.935 1.114421931
    Belgium 0.845 0.942 1.114792899
    Australia 0.847 0.946 1.116883117
    Ireland 0.81 0.936 1.155555556

    (The three numbers represent HDI in 1975; HDI in 2002 and growth in the HDI over the period 1975 to 2002.)

  17. Brian Bahnisch
    August 14th, 2005 at 12:44 | #18

    On Radio National’s PM program on Friday they ran a story on the discovery of the melting of permafrost in a peat bog in Western Siberia with consequent increased methane emissions. This peat bog is about 1 million sq/km or roughly the combined size of France and Germany.

    Methane is 20 times more potent than co2 as a greenhouse gas, so this development needs to be taken seriously.

    I did a bit of googling and it seems to come back to a report in The Guardian and one in the New Scientist. Essentially it is serious and could increase global warming by 10% to 25% on on expert’s estimate.

    The main advance on those reports comes from the National Geographic where the development seems to be put into a differnt perspective. There are hot spots and cold spots, and the peat bog warming could lead to tree growth. The net result, according to this report, is still unknown but probably is not in the same league as our carbon burning activity.

    Against this the radio national report quoted an Australian scientist as saying that the Siberian peat bog development would be roughly equivalent to 50% of fossil fuel burning at a minimum and may be more than 100% in the next decade or three.

    Then you can worry about the big one, the western Antarctic ice sheet or the melting of the Himalayas or such minor events as droughts in Europe and indeed hot, dry summers across the whole northern hemisphere.

    I suspect the real problem is the interactions between all these and other trends and events, with the reality of feedback loops and the possibility of tipping points.

  18. Ian Gould
    August 14th, 2005 at 14:30 | #19

    Observa recently remarked (in last week’s Weekend Reflections thread?) that the problem with the UN is that its largely populated by dictatorships.

    This is a popular refrain from the Right and it used to have some validity.

    Sadly, these commentators don’t seem to have noticed the spread of democracy across Eastern Europe, Asia, South America and sub-saharan Africa in the past 20 years or so. (This is rather odd since much of the credit should go to that that right-wing icon Ronald Reagan).

    http://www.freedomhouse.org/reports/century.html#table3

    This report from Freedom house shows that the number of people living in democratic states increased more than 4-fold between 1950 and 2000 and rose from 31% of the world’s population to 58%.

    It used to be that Western Europe and North America were islands of freedom in an ocean of tyranny, now China and the middle east are islands of tyranny in a sea of freedom.

    By all means criticise the UN but let’s do it on the basis of facts.

    (Of the 1.9 billion or so people still living under authoritarian rule, around 1.3 billion are in China. While, regrettably, China has a veto in the Security council it has only one vote in the General Assembly. There are three other large non-democratic states (although I haven’t checked exactly which category Freedom house places them in) – Egypt, Iran and Pakistan with a comined population of more than 200 million. The non-democratic states probably have a smaller percentage of the votes in the UN than they do of world population.)

  19. Ian Gould
    August 14th, 2005 at 14:34 | #20

    In preparing my last post, I faield to notice that the table in question also gives figures for the number of democratic states – they make up 62.5% of the world’s states.

  20. joe2
    August 14th, 2005 at 18:33 | #21

    A reflection on industrial relations. I still cannot understand why people who work for companies with less than 100 should be discriminated against. I would have thought the target of “reforms” should be those who are on the other side of this limit. Sorry to speak the obvious, but I would have thought these folks are in a far better position to speak for themselves.

    As a final cheap shot, might I suggest,that reform might start at the top, where we have a Prime Minister who is in need of three houses. Two maintained at public expense. David Lange seemed to be able to live in his family home. Our P.M. is more in the Suharto mould.

  21. Ian Gould
    August 14th, 2005 at 19:08 | #22

    David Lange passed away this week-end.

    Lange was a major influence on me – demonstrating that a commitment to social justice and a commitment to free market economics are compatible.

  22. abb1
    August 14th, 2005 at 19:40 | #23

    To the extent a dictatorship is acting sensibly in the interests of its population, I don’t see why being a dictatorship would be a problem. See, clearly at the moment Mr. Hu represent much less of a thread to the world peace than Mr. Bush. Go figure. Perhaps ‘democracy good, dictatorship bad’ is not always the right dogma after all.

  23. lurch
    August 14th, 2005 at 19:41 | #24

    Please Help!
    I took a bet of $100 @ 10-1 that Combet would do a Hawke in the next twelve months and I need to lay this off somewhere. Any takers?

  24. August 14th, 2005 at 20:09 | #25

    Joe2, are you saying that the unfair dismissal laws should be scrapped entirely?

  25. Ian Gould
    August 14th, 2005 at 20:49 | #26

    abb,

    the problem is that dictatorships typically lack the error-correcting capacity found in the average dictatorship.

    They also tend to mistreat their own peopel and deliver a lower standard of living.

    Take a look again at that HDI list – 23 of the top 25 countries are liberal democracies. (The exceptions are singapore and Hong Kong, both of which are at least semi-democratic.)

    If 38% if the world’s states are not democracies, the chances that all the top 20 states in terms of HDI would just happen to be democracies are somewhat less than one in a thousand.

  26. abb1
    August 14th, 2005 at 22:18 | #27

    But Ian, first of all: what does the standard of living have to do with the representation in the UN? And secondly, you’re showing correlation, but not necessarily causation: isn’t it possible that higher standard of living is a prerequisite for developing a successful liberal democracy?

    As far as the error-correcting capacity, again, it varies. Chinese government seems to be rather flexible. Democratic regimes could be at times quite volatile.

    I’d say if a society has some serious internal contradictions (class, ethnic, religious, whatever), democracy is not necessarily the most advantageous arrangement. This democracy worshipping is just another dangerous dogma.

    Reasonable degree of consent of the governed is important, yes. But it can be achieved and maintained by various means. Democratic state where consent is manufactured by propaganda and lies is not necessarily better than a dictatorship.

  27. Ian Gould
    August 14th, 2005 at 23:40 | #28

    >isn’t it possible that higher standard of living is a prerequisite for developing a successful liberal democracy?

    I don’t know: let’s start by asking the Indians and Costa Ricans.

    >Chinese government seems to be rather flexible.

    I’m sure the Tibetans and the adherents of Fa Lun Dawa will be glad to hear that.

    I was studying Asian Studies at Griffith University at the time of the Tien An Men Massacre. I will freely admit that while I recognise the need to engage with China both economically and politically, my attitude to the upper echelons of the Chinese communist Party is pretty hostile – and that includes Hi Jintao, former Party chief for Tibet and hand-picked by Deng Xiaoping to carry his legacy ito the 21st century.

  28. abb1
    August 14th, 2005 at 23:57 | #29

    I don’t see that how India and Costa Rica prove anything. Costa Rica has a reasonable standard of living and the Indians have a lot of problems with their democracy.

    What about Tibetans? Are they worse off than, say, Chechens or Palestinians? Why do you atribute these problems to the political system and why do you think that if the Chinese changed it things there would;ve been better on balance? Many Chinese I know don’t believe so, and neither do I.

    My attitude to some elected leaders is pretty hostile, some of them I even consider war criminals; so what?

  29. Andrew Reynolds
    August 15th, 2005 at 00:37 | #30

    Just thought some of you might like a laugh – and an interesting reminder that Wikipedia is not always correct.
    Vandalised version: here
    Updated version: here
    .
    Of course, some may argue the current one is less correct.

  30. Andrew Reynolds
    August 15th, 2005 at 01:00 | #31

    On another point – having read the discussion between abb1 and Ian Gould, I would like to add my twopenny’s worth – if it is worth that much. It is a strong system for the protection of property and personal rights that gives a strong economic outcome – this is why Britain (IMHO) was the first to truly break out of the poverty trap that had kept most of Europe poor since the collapse of the Roman Empire (another system that protected those rights well for a period, except for the slaves’ rights). To me at least, the history of the successful governments of the world is the history of those that protected those rights for some time and grew in wealth and power and then either the State became too mighty and started to impinge on those rights (tyranny) or the State became too weak and individuals were able to over-ride the ability of the State to enforce those rights (collapse).
    To me at least, the two exceptions in the list of 25 prove this case – they are not liberal democracies, but they do enforce strong personal and property rights. Costa Rica and India also prove this – in India’s case the strongly socialist outlook of the government up until recently has meant that property rights were weak and the legal and judicial systems over-rode them regularly, in the name of a ‘fairer’ outcome. Costa Rica has never been known for its impecible record in this area.
    To me a liberal democracy is the best way of enforcing and maintaining these rights – but it is not the only way. IMHO, liberal democracy is, however, the best alternative even where the outcome is not that of the greatest wealth for the greatest many, because it provides the best guarantee against arbitary and capricious rule and will, in the long run, provide the best outcome – the greatest freedom for the greatest many, giving them their own ability to choose to be wealthy, work hard and/or enjoy their life.
    .
    Economic progress is not an end in itself, merely a way of increasing freedom.

  31. abb1
    August 15th, 2005 at 06:29 | #32

    I don’t think there is one universal solution. You said ‘protection of property and personal rights’ in this order; I suspect that a mild fascist regime like Singapore or Chile under Pinochet is better at protecting property rights than any liberal democracy; liberal democracy will start redistributing from the top down sooner or later.

  32. stoptherubbbish
    August 15th, 2005 at 11:05 | #33

    Ah yes abb1, you are right. That is why the neo liberal/neo con right is so anxious to ensure that their prescriptions for the further redistribution of wealth (and therefore political power) upwards can be challenged by any popularly elected government again. Allende gave them conniptions.

    They do not intend to see anybody repeat the experiment if they can help it. So Chavez may have won three elections but there is no way they will rest until his government is toppled or otherwise removed. I am waiting for the following from say Greg Sheriden ‘clear evidence that the government of Venezuela is allied to terrorists and we have to invade in order to protect us from..’

  33. Andrew Reynolds
    August 15th, 2005 at 12:22 | #34

    abb1,

    I suggest you and STR re-read my last two paragraphs. To me, the great goal in all this is not material wealth – although that is nice – but the increase in the ability of the individual to choose. Pinochet, Allende and Chavez all either reduced or reduce that scope.
    Liberal democracy does tend to redistribute wealth – but this is generally not done in an arbitrary way, but through a system of agreed upon laws that can be changed by community action, through a slow, measured and thoughtful process and within a framework that at least is meant to respect the individual as a human being. This is occasionally honoured in the breach rather than the observance, but if something is generally felt to be wrong at least it can be fixed and this is not always the case with other systems, short of a revolution.

  34. Ian Gould
    August 15th, 2005 at 17:23 | #35

    >I don’t see that how India and Costa Rica prove anything. Costa Rica has a reasonable standard of living and the Indians have a lot of problems with their democracy.

    They prove that democracy isn’t a rich man’s luxury that those poor countries shouldn’t bother their silly little heads over.

    >What about Tibetans? Are they worse off than, say, Chechens or Palestinians?

    Were the inhabitants of auschwitz better or worse of than the inhabitants of Dachau?

    Thousands of Tibetans are inprisoned, tortured and killed every year fro their beliefs. China’s aggressive colonisation of Tibet with Han Chinese amounts to cultural genocide.

    > Why do you atribute these problems to the political system and why do you think that if the Chinese changed it things there would;ve been better on balance?

    Democratically elected governments generally find it a lot harder to commit genocide.

  35. abb1
    August 15th, 2005 at 18:53 | #36

    This is the total of what Amnesty International has on Tibet this year:
    http://web.amnesty.org/report2005/chn-summary-eng

    Tibet Autonomous Region and other ethnic Tibetan areas

    Freedom of religion, expression and association continued to be severely restricted and arbitrary arrests and unfair trials continued. Over 100 Tibetan prisoners of conscience, mainly Buddhist monks and nuns, remained in prison. Contacts between the Chinese authorities and representatives of the Tibetan government in exile continued, with some signs that progress was being made. However, this failed to result in any significant policy changes leading to improved protection for the basic human rights of Tibetans.

    * Topden and Dzokar, two monks from Chogri Monastery, Drakgo (Luhuo) County, Sichuan province, together with Lobsang Tsering, a layman, were all reportedly sentenced to three years in prison in August for putting up posters advocating Tibetan independence. They had been detained in July together with numerous others who were released several days later. Some said they were beaten in detention.

    Compare to their reporting on Chechnya (too long to quote the whole thing here):
    http://web.amnesty.org/report2005/rus-summary-eng

    Chechen conflict

    “Disappearances�, killings, torture and ill-treatment of civilians were frequently reported in the context of the Chechen conflict. Many of the abuses occurred during targeted raids by Russian federal and Chechen forces. In most cases the Russian and Chechen authorities failed to conduct prompt, independent and thorough investigations into allegations of human rights violations against the civilian population.

    Here I do see ‘killings, torture’; compare with only severe restrictions on expression and association, arbitrary arrests and unfair trials in Tibet. Genocide? Some objectivity, please.

  36. abb1
    August 15th, 2005 at 19:09 | #37

    Here’s the summary for India, btw:
    http://web.amnesty.org/report2005/ind-summary-eng

    Perpetrators of human rights violations continued to enjoy impunity in many cases. Gujarat state authorities failed to bring to justice those responsible for widespread violence in 2002. Security legislation was used to facilitate arbitrary arrests, torture and other grave human rights violations, often against political opponents and marginalized groups. In the north-eastern state of Manipur, local groups opposed human rights violations under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and called for its repeal. In numerous states, human rights defenders were harassed. The new United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government made a number of promises that, if implemented, could improve human rights. Socially and economically marginalized groups, such as dalits, adivasis, women and religious minorities, continued to face discrimination at the hands of the police and the criminal justice system.

  37. August 15th, 2005 at 20:12 | #38

    India uses instionalised but culturally based hypocrisy – though that is oversimplifying, since truth is a subjective concept in that culture. You can see that they only use it when it suits them from Indian history since independence – Hyderabad/Kashmir, Goa, Sikkim, the Golden Temple, and so on.

    Costa Rica is one of the PanLibHonCo US tag along countries, whose only “success” consists in institutionalising their tag along. Its present situation is no more a demonstration of its own success than that of Liberia until the ’60s. It too was a sort of institutionalised hypocrisy.

    It comes down to the fact that you can no more use the mere fact of formal adherence to the institutions of democracy as a test, than you can use the existence of a safety valve as a test of the safety of a boiler; the true test (which unfortunately cannot be used in practice) would be whether it is incorporated, in full working order and not just clamped down and there for show.

  38. abb1
    August 15th, 2005 at 20:52 | #39

    I don’t know much about Costa Rica; however my (superficial) impression is that Costa Rica is a country with strong democratic traditions, institutions, all that stuff. The success story over there.

  39. August 16th, 2005 at 16:04 | #40

    No. In the late ’40s Costa Rica’s politicians made the conscious decision to eliminate its de facto independence in return for conecting to the USA. They eliminated the armed forces (so no coups from there), committed to US foreign policy and using the US$ (true dollarising, not dollar pegging), and a few other things. They became commensal with US interests and stability. None of this is affected by any local institutions, but rather by the lack of them.

  40. abb1
    August 16th, 2005 at 17:04 | #41

    Thanks P.M., I did not know that.

  41. Ian Gould
    August 17th, 2005 at 15:11 | #42

    >Genocide? Some objectivity, please.

    Tell you what, talk to a nun who describes being pack-raped by Chinese soldiers or a monk who describes being flogged with barb wire (and has the scars to prove it) and see how much objectivity you can bring to bear.

  42. Ian Gould
    August 17th, 2005 at 15:19 | #43

    Chinese authorities in Tibet routinely use torture as a means of political repression, punishment and intimidation. In this report Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) documents the problem of torture committed by Chinese authorities in Tibet against Tibetans who are now living as refugees in India. PHR also evaluated the physical and psychological consequences of torture in this population.

    In November and December of 1996, PHR conducted a survey among a sample of 258 Tibetan refugees now living in Dharamsala, India regarding their histories of arrest and their personal or family/friend histories of torture in Tibet. PHR conducted detailed histories, physical, and psychological examinations on individuals identified as torture survivors through this torture survey. PHR also interviewed and examined a group of Tibetan refugees, previously identified as torture survivors, who were referred for evaluation. All of the cases of torture reported here were determined by PHR to be highly credible.

    PHR found that reports of torture among Tibetan refugees were alarmingly common. More than one in every 7 Tibetan refugees interviewed reported a personal history of torture by Chinese authorities. Many of these cases of torture had occurred since 1995. Many of those tortured were children or young adults. Nearly half of all individuals interviewed reported having a family member or close friend who had been tortured.

    http://www.phrusa.org/research/torture/tortib2.html

    This report dates back to 1995, while it is now somewhat dated, many of the abuses it describes would have occurred during Hu Jin tao’s period in charge of tibet.

  43. Ian Gould
    August 17th, 2005 at 15:22 | #44

    The Amnesty reprot you quoted from also contains the following passage which applies to Tibet as well as to ethnic-Han areas:

    Torture and ill-treatment continued to be reported in a wide variety of state institutions despite the introduction of several new regulations aimed at curbing the practice. Common methods included kicking, beating, electric shocks, suspension by the arms, shackling in painful positions, and sleep and food deprivation.

  44. Ian Gould
    August 17th, 2005 at 15:27 | #45

    >Costa Rica is one of the PanLibHonCo US tag along countries, whose only “success� consists in institutionalising their tag along. Its present situation is no more a demonstration of its own success than that of Liberia until the ‘60s. It too was a sort of institutionalised hypocrisy.

    Costa Rica’s success consists of being probably the long-lasting democracy in the coninetnal america’s south of the rio Grande; of virtually eliminating human rights abuses and delivering to its people one of the highest standards of living in the region.

  45. abb1
    August 18th, 2005 at 02:37 | #46

    In any case, oppression of a religious or ethnic minority is not something that a nominal democracy is likely to eliminate. Might, in fact, make it worse.

  46. August 18th, 2005 at 17:22 | #47

    IG, the point at issue about Costa Rica is not what resulted there, but how it was achieved. It was not achieved by implanting sound institutions and allowing them to flourish and support the (usual) aims of democracy but rather by abdicating many of the functions of local institutions – piggybacking (“snarfing” in computer jargon) on functioning institutions elsewhere. The same may be said of Sao Tome y Principe, by the bye, in contrast to its neighbouring islands of Equatorial Guinea.

    This is one form of US “nation building”, and it works in every respect save that of providing a nation. The USA has occasionally done proper seed sowing, e.g. most recently in Paraguay in assisting the emergence from the Stroessner era, so it can be done – but it takes time and is not what you get when you end up providing reactive volt amps from outside, as it were.

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