Weekend reflections

Weekend Reflections is on again. Please comment on any topic of interest (civilised discussion and no coarse language, please). Feel free to put in contributions more lengthy than for the Monday Message Board or standard comments.

27 thoughts on “Weekend reflections

  1. Can someone please tell me why ‘our’ winter olympians are worried enough to take legal support to Italy? Arent ‘we’ a clean team?

  2. Lurch,

    Several people who were clean have been found with illegal substances – nandrolone is notorious for being detected when it has not been ingested. In addition, several common products have different substances in them in different countries. Someone may use one brand in one country regularly without problems but in another the same brand may have a banned substance in it. The team may be clean, but still need legal support.
    A sad fact of life.

  3. North Korea appears to be reneging its 6-talks deal about ending its nuclear ambitions.

    The President of Iran publicly reveals Iran’s long known policy objective ‘let’s wipe-out Israel’. Have the Iranian’s let the proverbial foreign policy genie out of the bottle?

    I guess the “axis of evil” remark no longer carries any currency – or does it!

  4. I notice that with the retirement of Alan Greenspan there is lots of references to the gold standard in the news media.


    Its interesting to reread all the early work that Alan Greenspan did on defending the basis for a gold standard.



    Even when questioned recently by senator Ron Paul Alan Greenspan still seems to advocate a gold standard, even whilst neglecting to implement one.

    A gold standard would not be perfect. However it would be less disruptive than what the USA has had for the last 30 years.

  5. Roberto, North Korea has repeatedly been misrepresented as having made outright commitments when it only embarked on exploratory talks. Nobody in their right mind commits to signing off in exchange for loose discussions by which they may be graciously granted variations – that’s a blank cheque. But many people do try to bully others into letting that misrepresentation slide, and then they get stuck with it.

    As for Iran, I would be very interested to hear just what really got said, and what got shifted by selective editing and poor translation.

    After all, I too think it would be a good idea for Israel to be wiped off the map – if that meant that Jews could live there more peaceably and with less oppression of others. I do not believe that the state of Israel – or come to that any state – has much intrinsic identity worthy of preservation. It’s on a par with wanting to preserve an old building for reasons of sentiment and cutural transmission – and the state of Israel isn’t even established in those senses, so there isn’t much to lose.

    Not that I think a transition to some other polity would be easy; it might not even be possible; but it would be a good idea for that abstraction Israel to cease to be given actual expression. Not that I suppose that that would be easy; it might not even be possible; but it would be a sustainable (by definition) and desirable (by definition) destination, subject to the costs of transition (which factor in its possibility/achievability).

  6. Lets put this in another perspective:

    “Brothers & Sisters, Jihad, Crusade, etc, the infidel PM Lawrence must be wiped off the map”.

    Really nothing to worry about is it?

  7. PML – re: DPRK are you serious!

    and re: “As for Iran, I would be very interested to hear just what really got said, and what got shifted by selective editing and poor translation.”

    In the Arab (I know that Iranians in the main are Persians) and Islamic world there is a high value in political circles placed on the poetry and rhetoric of language – plus it’s a convient tool to say things like Israel should be “wiped out” in political-poetry then afterwards claim that that was just figurative, not intended to be literal. Eg the Iranian embassy in Moscow has started the usual defence stating: “Ahmadinejad “did not have any intention to speak in sharp terms and engage in a conflict”. http://www.news.com.au/story/0,10117,17072139-401,00.html

    Utter nonsense.

  8. Steve at the pub, if you look you will see that that is not the case I was trying to highlight. I was very careful to say that what counted was Jews and other people, not “Israel”. And I went into a lot more of the subtleties, if only you want to think them through. Oh well, “you can lead a horticulture…”, and the rest of it.

  9. >It’s on a par with wanting to preserve an old building for reasons of sentiment and cutural transmission – and the state of Israel isn’t even established in those senses, so there isn’t much to lose.


    I’m trying to work out what you meant here and I’m trying to find a non-offensive way of interpretting it.

    I assume you mean that because Israel is only a little over 50 years old it hasn’t had time yet to establish much cultural or historic significance.

    I’m afraid I simple can’t agree. Leaving aside the aspirations of the Jews over the past two millenia, the modern Zionist presence in Israel dates back almost a century.

    Israel also now represents the main place where the Sephardic and Hassidic Jewish cultures and traditions are still practiced on a large scale. (The reasons why that is the case provide another quite distinct reason for to argue for Israel continued existence – Israel’s founders and their sucessors have quite reasonable taken the view that no gentile nation, no matter how apparently well-intenetioned currently, can be entrusted with the survival of our people.)

    Leaving all that aside, you now have a distinct Hebrew-speaking Jewish Sabra culture which is unique to Israel and which would be unlikely to survive the dissolution of the State of Israel.

  10. Reflecting quitely on the weekend ,as you do, did anybody hear P. Adams interview with Kurt Vonnegut on Wednesday 26th?
    The grand old man is still at his best. If only, he could give up on “Pall Mall”,unfiltered. It is killing him.

  11. I don’t believe I’ve got my head around North Korea, but in Iran’s case the “Axis of Evil” line was a straightforward self-fulfilling prophesy.

    Iran was locked in a struggle between the reformists and the hardliners. It wasn’t clear who would win until Bush came out with his “Axis of Evil” line, and invaded Iraq. Then the inevitable happened and we ended up with this.

    That’s not to say that the moderates in Iran were exactly my kettle of fish – by global standards they’re also anti-semetic, misogynist and oppressive to minority religions. Nevertheless they light-years ahead of what we have now got, and Bush made absolutely sure they won the struggle.

  12. Stephen, for what it’s worth, the North Koreans allegedly only restarted their atomic bomb program AFTER the Axis of Evil speech.

    Apparently their inclusion in the axis was, according to former White House insiders, more or less incidental. It was felt an “axis” needed more that two members and Libya, Syria and Sudan were all discussed as the third member of the axis before it was decided a non-arabic and non-muslim country should be added. Burma, Belarus, Cuba and Zimbabwe could have as easily been included.

  13. Speaking of Iraq, October 2005 is shaping up as one of the worst months of the war in terms of US casualties. (I make it the fifth worst, and well behind the front runners.)


    Political scandals and weather disasters in the US and the plebiscite in Iraq may have distracted the media spotlight, but the killing continues.

  14. My mother in law told me this weekend that Socialism is not the same as the Welfare state. And that the former does not necessitate the latter.

    I remain doubtful. Socialism creates the need for welfare. It is the prime engine of poverty at work in the world.

  15. The US Government Accounting Office prepares long-term projections on the US budget.


    On the face of it, these projections are incredibly scary – the deficit will increase to more than 20%(!) of GDP. A great deal of this increase is attributable to debt servicing, which is expected to grow from aroudn 2% of GDP to around 15%.

    The GAO’s figures are usually based on relatively optimistic assumptions – no increase in real interest rates; no major recessions, no real increase in discretionary spending, no future tax cuts and the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire.

    Assuming that’s the case for the long-term simulation, I find the prospects for the US and world economies quite disturbing since the debt servicing figures quoted are likely to be underestimates.

    I don’t think debt service will be allowed to reach anything like 15% of GDP, the only question is how it’ll be avoided. If the US doesn’t cut its budget deficit drasticly in the next few years, the most likely strategies will be to explicitly repudiate the debt or to allow inflation to reduce the real value of the debt stockpile.

  16. One of the more spooky pre 911 essays was penned by Jude Wanniski in December 1998. He was talking about the World Trade Centre bombing of 1993. His essay fortells of the risk that the Twin Towers may be taken down by terrorists.


    EXTRACT: Terrorism is a political act. It is a criminal political act, but it is important that those in a position to defend us against it understand its origins. My honest belief, Senator, is that our government has been derelict in studying the causes of terrorism, even in the most elementary way, and concentrates entirely on how to defend against it. It is a miracle that so little damage was done in the World Trade Center bombing. There is no reason to believe that if there is a next time, the mind of that terrorist will not succeed in taking the twin towers down completely.

  17. Ah – back to “normal”, so here is my belated posting.

    Patrick, you have set up a straw man. I do not “trust” North Korea and/or Iran, rather I know how much the USA has been crying wolf in all its accusations. For instance, North Korea got accused of welching on a commitment to halt nuclear power, when in fact the deal was that it would halt it in exchange for alternative fuels (oil, etc.), and the USA never delivered – it wasn’t North Korea that welched.

    IG, it’s not the point that Zionist dreams fasten on Israel, it’s just that it’s only their dream. Things like the passing of the Venetian Republic inspired poets; Venice had reached out to a wider human appeal, the way the Vatican has now even for non-Catholics. I would be even less bothered by the passing of Israel from the map than the passing of all the little German states; it means no more to me than the abstract idea of Palestine.

    So it just comes down to who gets caught in the works, what else is involved in wiping Israel off the map. It certainly isn’t providing a safe place for Jews right now, and all that concerns me is how to get to a better arrangement from here. Frankly, I don’t suppose there is a good way, but I don’t place any value on Israel itself.

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