Monday message board (Wednesday edition)

I thought I had posted the Monday Message board, but as James Farrell points out, it’s nowhere to be seen. So this is the Wednesday edition. As usual, civilised discussion and no coarse language, please.

36 thoughts on “Monday message board (Wednesday edition)

  1. The Age reported on a stat dec it received itemising a series of very serious ‘explosive’ allegations about the practices of the ALP Right in Victoria. We expect the outcome of this to be very damaging to a lot of innocents in both the Left and the Right.

  2. Two statistics which seem to tell very different stories:

    1. Australia’s 2005 Q4 inflation rate came in at 0.5% takign the annual rate to 2.8%. This is a continuation of an exceptionally good economic performance ovr the past several years.

    2. The ALP now has an 8-percent lead over the coalition according to the latest Margon poll:

    “On a two-party preferred basis, Labor’s vote is 54 percent and the Liberal-National coalition’s is 46 percent. Two-party preferred support is when votes from smaller parties are distributed to the two major parties under Australia’s preferential voting system.”

    John Howard has shown himself to be one of the msot successful politicians in Australian history, underestimatign him is always a mistake.

    But that big, big lead suggests that Australian voters now feel, as they did in the early 70’s, that they can afford to experiment with Labour.

    Hopefully, if they do, this experiment will end more successfully – but Kim Beazley is hardly Gough Whitlam.

  3. Ian Gould has said ‘but Kim Beazley is hardly Gough Whitlam’.

    No, but they have so much in common; they’re both pompous, long-winded and pretentious, but Kim isn’t so self-obsessed and isn’t the subject of so much blind adoration.

  4. Another private “Digital Gold Currency” enters the market:-

    That now makes at least eight private digital currencies backed by gold:-

    e-gold – the first digital gold currency provider, founded 1996
    e-Bullion – founded 2000
    e-dinar – founded 2000
    GoldMoney – founded 2001
    1mdc – founded 2001
    Pecunix – founded 2002
    Crowne Gold – founded 2002
    e-grams – founded 2006

    Source: []


  5. The mortality rate of digital currency is pretty high. I remember Flooz and I think there were Beanz, Digicash and more. Does gold backing promote longevity?

  6. John,

    I don’t recall Flooz, Beanz or Digicash being backed by gold. Perhaps you were just refering to them as examples of digital currency (as opposed to digital gold currency) that had failed in the market place.

    I would say that there are no guarantees in life, however anecdotally at least it seems to me that your question can be answered in the affirmative. Gold backing seems to promote longevity for private digital currencies. Although I would hasten to say that it is unlikely to guarantee longevity and way to early to even claim that any have demonstrated longevity. E-gold which is one of the oldest digital currencies is only ten years old.

    I still find it very odd (and annoying) that private paper currencies backed by gold remain effectively illegal in Australia (not technically illegal but rendered impractical by specific and deliberate acts of law). We can freely use digital gold as a currency but not paper gold.

    See Link:-

    We readily allow the currencies of foreign governments to circulate within our borders and yet we effectively prohibit any private sector version. Can anybody defend this?


  7. “Every single provision in the text of the agreement as it applies to drugs is to favour the US companies, to increase the prices, to ultimately reduce access to cheap, affordable drugs in Australia. There’s no question about it.”

    – David Henry, Professor of Clinical Pharmacology at the University of Newcastle and a former Chairman of the Government’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee.


    I’m sure it has been mentioned here, yet the bulk of Australia still believes that the FTA is good for Australia.

    Dont mention sugar!

  8. I agree with Bosco that the FTA with the US is bad from the viewpoint of Australian health. I wonder if the negative effects of this FTA will be offset to some degree by the positive effects of the proposed FTA with China. China has quite high tariffs on our agricultural exports so if these were liberalised it (and we) would get good gains. It is interesting to me that China is forecast to be Australia’s biggest source of tourism in coming years — though apart from restrictive Air Service Agreements — this would not be an area where liberalisation will produce big benefits. It obviously will buy the bulk of our mineral and energy exports.

    Also if the FTA was criticised by the Canberra public servant ‘chardonnay set’ (why am I polemical today?) for not seeing Australia’s future as ‘lying in Asia’ rather than North America then the proposed FTA with China undoes past errors.

    I also note that the Economist recently has expounded the argument that China is capital rather than labour-abundant. Lot’s of bloody savings mate! An FTA which addresses investor concerns from Australian viewpoints is probably trying to stop expropriations and swindles in the People’s Paradise. But it might also increase Chinese foreign investment in Australia to a greater degree than forecast in those silly estimates of reduced equity premia on US investments that a prostituted CIE asked us to swallow in its propaganda exercise supporting the US agreement.

  9. I don’t understand why Robb and Turnbull were promoted to parliamentary secretaries, when both could be cabinet ministers. I don’t give much credence to the view that everyone should stand in line for a place in the cabinet or the ministry, rather than making judgments on proven ability, allowing for the fact that there must be some consideration for the federal principle of representation. Nor do I understand what, if anything, John Howard has achieved by these promotions.

  10. It is better for Howard to have Turnbull inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in.

  11. Meanwhile… instead of the lame insignificant speculation about bench changes in the government “team”, other party infights and dummy spits, here’s some real analysis and debate about the crucial issues of our times by those minds who call a spade a spade and a shovel a bloody shovel!:

    Ugly phrase conceals an uglier truth – January 10, 2006
    Behind the US Government’s corruption of language lies a far greater perversion, writes Salman Rushdie.


    BEYOND any shadow of a doubt, the ugliest phrase to enter the English language last year was “extraordinary rendition”. To those of us who love words, this phrase’s brutalisation of meaning is an infallible signal of its intent to deceive.

    “Extraordinary” is an ordinary enough adjective, but its sense is being stretched here to include more sinister meanings that your dictionary will not provide: secret; ruthless; and extrajudicial.

    As for “rendition”, the English language permits four meanings: a performance; a translation; a surrender – this meaning is now considered archaic; or an “act of rendering”; which leads us to the verb “to render” among whose 17 possible meanings you will not find “to kidnap and covertly deliver an individual or individuals for interrogation to an undisclosed address in an unspecified country where torture is permitted”.

    Language, too, has laws, and those laws tell us this new American usage is improper – a crime against the word. Every so often the habitual newspeak of politics throws up a term whose calculated blandness makes us shiver with fear – yes, and loathing.

    “Clean words can mask dirty deeds,” The New York Times columnist William Safire wrote in 1993, in response to the arrival of another such phrase, “ethnic cleansing”.

    “Final solution” is a further, even more horrible locution of this Orwellian, double-plus-ungood type. “Mortality response”, a euphemism for death by killing that I first heard during the Vietnam War, is another. This is not a pedigree of which any newborn usage should be proud.

    People use such phrases to avoid using others whose meaning would be problematically over-apparent. “Ethnic cleansing” and “final solution” were ways of avoiding the word “genocide”, and to say “extraordinary rendition” is to reveal one’s squeamishness about saying “the export of torture”. However, as Cecily remarks in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, “When I see a spade, I call it a spade”, and what we have here is not simply a spade, it’s a shovel – and it’s shovelling a good deal of ordure.

    Now that Senator John McCain has forced upon a reluctant White House his amendment putting the internationally accepted description of torture – “cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment” – into American law, in spite of energetic attempts by the Vice-President, Dick Cheney, to defeat it, the growing belief that the Bush Administration could be trying to get around the McCain amendment by the “rendition” of persons adjudged torture-worthy to less-delicately inclined countries merits closer scrutiny.

    We are beginning to hear the names and stories of men seized and transported in this fashion: Maher Arar, a Canadian-Syrian, was captured by the CIA on his way to the US and taken via Jordan to Syria where, says his lawyer, he was “brutally physically tortured”.

    Khaled el-Masri, a German citizen of Kuwaiti-Lebanese origin, was kidnapped in Macedonia and taken for interrogation to Afghanistan, where he says he was repeatedly beaten. The Syrian-born Mohammed Haydar Zammar says he was grabbed in Morocco and then spent four years in a Syrian dungeon.

    Lawsuits are under way. Lawyers for the plaintiffs suggest their clients were only a few of the victims, that in Afghanistan, Egypt, Syria and perhaps elsewhere the larger pattern of the extraordinary-rendition project is yet to be uncovered. Inquiries are under way in Canada, Germany, Italy and Switzerland.

    The CIA’s internal inquiry admits to “under 10” such cases, which to many ears sounds like another bit of double-talk. Tools are created to be used and it seems improbable, to say the least, that so politically risky and morally dubious a system would be set up and then barely employed.

    The US authorities have been taking a characteristically robust line on this issue. On her recent European trip, the Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, more or less told European governments to back off the issue – which they duly, and tamely, did, claiming to have been satisfied by her assurances.

    At the end of December, the German Government ordered the closing of an Islamic centre near Munich after finding documents encouraging suicide attacks in Iraq. This is a club which, we are told, Khaled al-Masri often visited before being extraordinarily rendered to Afghanistan. “Aha!” we are encouraged to think. “Obvious bad guy. Render his sorry butt anywhere you like.”

    What is wrong with this kind of thinking is that, as Isabel Hilton of The Guardian wrote last July, “The delusion that officeholders know better than the law is an occupational hazard of the powerful and one to which those of an imperial cast of mind are especially prone … When disappearance became state practice across Latin America in the ’70s it aroused revulsion in democratic countries, where it is a fundamental tenet of legitimate government that no state actor may detain – or kill – another human being without having to answer to the law.”

    In other words, the question isn’t whether or not a given individual is “good” or “bad.” The question is whether or not we are – whether or not our governments have dragged us into immorality by discarding due process of law, which is generally accorded to be second only to individual rights as the most important pillar of a free society.

    The White House, however, plainly believes that it has public opinion behind it in this and other contentious matters such as secret wiretapping. Cheney recently told reporters, “When the American people look at this, they will understand and appreciate what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.”

    He may be right for the moment, though the controversy shows no signs of dying. It remains to be seen how long Americans are prepared to go on accepting that the end justifies practically any means Cheney cares to employ.

    In the beginning is the word. Where one begins by corrupting language, worse corruptions swiftly follow. Sitting as the Supreme Court to rule on torture last month, Britain’s law lords spoke to the world in words that were simple and clear. “The torturer is abhorred not because the information he produces may be unreliable,” Lord Rodger of Earlsferry said, “but because of the barbaric means he uses to extract it.”

    “Torture is an unqualified evil,” Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood added. “It can never be justified. Rather, it must always be punished.”

    The dreadful probability is that the US outsourcing of torture will allow it to escape punishment. It will not allow it to escape moral obloquy.
    — Salman Rushdie is the author of The Satanic Verses, Fury and many other books.

  12. Carlos,

    Did you really need to copy the entire content of the article. Surely a link with a few key extracts would have been sufficient.


  13. It seems to meTerje, Turnbull is more out than in. And you may well be right, Carlos now that the doctrine of ministerial responsibility has been transformed into a meaningless phrase. Still quality of mind, and independence of thought may yet be important, even if only fully expressed at the cabinet table.

  14. The world is full of coincidences. Here are two.

    1. The Iranian government plays brinkmanship over nuclear power.

    2. In March 2006 the Iranian government will establish an oil trading bourse that will compete directly with the New York Mercantile Exchange and London’s International Petroleum Exchange. Trade on Iran’s bourse will be denominated in euros. William R. Clark’s “Petrodollar Warfare; Dollars, Euros and the upcoming Iranian Oil Bourse”, outlines the threat this poses for the ability of US consumers of oil to live in a nation that runs enormous balance of payments deficits. Clark calls the Iranian Bourse the US Federal Reserve Bank’s “biggest nightmare.” “In essence, the US will no longer be able to effortlessly expand credit via US Treasury Bills, and the dollars demand-liquidity will quickly fall.” This will “challenge the hegemony currently enjoyed by the financial centers in both London and New York.”

    It looks like Iran’s brinkmanship was a test of the resolve of Russia and China to refuse to do the bidding of the US in their relations with Iran. And as this report suggests, Russia and China passed the test:

    In return, Iran seems close to agreeing to have its uranium enriched in Russia.;_ylt=AjrCFquZkxc45lYPOFklUOQLewgF;_ylu=X3oDMTBjMHVqMTQ4BHNlYwN5bnN1YmNhdA–

    Russia and China will be the major beneficiaries of the integration of Iran’s vast oil resources into the fast-developing Eurasian oil distribution network.

    An important outstanding question is if the Iranian government had to be persuaded by Russia and China that this course of action was the way forward. Or did the Iranian government make the running on forging this policy.

    Hitherto, the Iranian authorities have been inclined to rely on terrorism, proxies and inflammatory rhetoric in its confrontation with The Great Satan.

    It seems that the Iranian government will now content itself with the more subtle spectacle of watching the US freeze in the dark.

  15. The Iranian Oil Bourse is interesting. However claims that it will lead to the sudden destruction of the USA are a little over blown.

    There is a loss of efficiency if the world breaks into currency blocks and the US dollar loses its dominant position. Repeatedly through history the world has tended to converge around one single dominant form of money. Before the US dollar it was the Pound Sterling and previous to that it was precious metals.

    However some increased competition for the US dollar in this game should hopefully lead to an improvement in quality. The US dollar is not currently a terribly stable international “unit of account”. Commodity markets reflect this through constantly turbulent prices, something that did not occur prior to the early 1970s.

  16. >There is a loss of efficiency if the world breaks into currency blocks and the US dollar loses its dominant position. Repeatedly through history the world has tended to converge around one single dominant form of money. Before the US dollar it was the Pound Sterling and previous to that it was precious metals.

    And repeatedly there have been switches between those dominant forms of money.

    I agree that the Iranian Oil bourse is more likely to be a PR exercise than a serious challenge to the CBoT but I beleive there is a significant risk that the US will lose its role as the principal reserve currency in the next few years.

  17. I agree with both Terje and Ian. But I add a rider.

    Iranian authorities may believe that the Iranian Oil Bourse is the oak stake that will destroy the US.

    Clearly, if Iranian authorities believe that, they will be disappointed. There are too many sources of oil for an operation out of Iran to control. This Iranian Oil Bourse should not be regarded in itself as a signal for a coming oil drought in the US. Oil will flow at market cost around the world, including to the US, regardless of the physical location of the market where producers, hedgers and speculators meet to provide financial liquidity.

    The threat is more subtle than this scenario. It has financial, social and political facets.

    The financial fear is that an Iranian bourse may signal a more general shift to using the euro (the only practical alternative) as a medium of exchange and as a reserve currency. Over time US private borrowers and governments would then lose their special immunity from needing to concern themselves with movements in foreign exchange rates. The US would then be in a similar relationship with world currency markets as borrowers in the rest of the world.

    This state of affairs entails no special perils as long as lenders perceive that there are acceptable risks in extending credit.

    However, given the level of public and private US debt, non-US lenders may well be inclined to increase the risk premium when lending to US debtors.

    This has implications for levels of US consumption:

    Non-US producers who satisfy US demand would need to take notice.

    Rising interest rates would be a serious threat in the US. In 2005 more than 2 million US residents (an astounding number) were declared bankrupt:

    This occurred during a period of low interest rates and a property boom. Higher interest rates could only exacerbate this phenomenon, with as yet unforeseeable social and political consequences.

  18. >This has implications for levels of US consumption:

    >Non-US producers who satisfy US demand would need to take notice.

    There’s a reason I chose to go into business importing products from US.

  19. Ian said: but I beleive there is a significant risk that the US will lose its role as the principal reserve currency in the next few years.

    Terje says: I think there is a chance it will happen in the next few years but the probability is low. However over the next couple of decades I think the chance is reasonably high.

    In spite of continued USA economic growth it is going to represent a smaller proportion of world production over the coming century. That is going to reduce the liquidity bonus that the US dollar gets by being the domestic currency for such a rich slice of the worlds population.

  20. I saw a report today,that the Iranian Foreign Minister,had made it clear to the Japanese,that their recent contract allowing the Japanese to operate a new Iranian oil-field,would be lost unless the Japs stopped supporting the US policy re. the Iranian nucleur power stations. The Japs hoped to increase their oil suppies by 60%,but have been given a dire warning.,while the Chinese are now drawing gas from a pipeline from Kazakstan,and soon this will extend to Iran,which has just signed a massive contract with Iran for oil and gas. The Chinese,it’s said, have no intention of letting the American Government or the Israelis(sometimes they are the same thing!) disrupt their economic advance

  21. The Bush clique certainly did not want a Hamas victory in the recent Palestine elections.

    Yet their humiliation, both directly and through their Israeli proxies, of Yasser Arafat and the Fatah Movement, removed Fatah as a credible representative of Palestinian interests in the minds of many Palestinians.

    I would not be surprised to discover that Hamas has been schooled in its ballots and bullets approach to resistance by the Provisional IRA. Juan Cole made the same connection back in Dec 2005.

    Just as Sinn Fein served as a model for Gandhi and for Martin Luther King, so has Britain’s oldest colony provided the training ground for a particularly potent form of illiberal democracy.

  22. Katz – even the IRA think that islamists are nuts.

    Why was the Hamas result humiliating for the US and Israel? The Palestinians voted for them; and by that action they will have to live by the consequences. Or are you implying that the Palestinians had no idea as to what the consequences would be?

    It may be a better thing, as Hamas now become part of the politcal mainstream. Sure they can carry on as a militant group, but at the end of the (political) day they will now be accountable for efficient and effective government, and working towards some sort of solution to the Israel vs Palestinain issue. The only constant is that Isreal is not going anywhere. That is something that Hamas willl come to accept.

  23. WbyW,

    1. What is the relevance of what the Provos think about Hamas?

    2. Bush has been warning Palestinians against voting for Hamas for weeks.

    3. “It may be a better thing, as Hamas now become part of the politcal mainstream.”

    Do you have any evidence that this is how Bush and the Israeli Right thought?

    I’d be interested to know, because this certainly is not what they have said.

    If Bush apologists can detect a disconnect between sentiment and statement on the part of Bush and the Israeli Right, I’d be very interested in what Bush apologists make of this disconnect.

  24. Oh, and WbyW,

    How on earth did you construe this:

    “Yet their humiliation, both directly and through their Israeli proxies, of Yasser Arafat and the Fatah Movement, removed Fatah as a credible representative of Palestinian interests in the minds of many Palestinians.”

    into this:

    “Why was the Hamas result humiliating for the US and Israel?”

    Read my post with a modicum of care and you’ll discover that I stated that Bush et al were DOING the humiliating, not BEING humiliated.

    These details matter, you know.

  25. If the Palestinians have a peaceful change of government then isn’t that a win for democracy?

  26. katz

    1. What is the relevance of what the Provos think about Hamas? [You brought to the fore the issue of Hamas & Sein Fein. (one a religious terrorist group; the other a secular, marxist group)]

    2. Bush has been warning Palestinians against voting for Hamas for weeks. [So? Of course he was; but why would that have mattered. If Bush had made any comments on an Australian election, there would have been a singificant protest vote here against any position/party Bush supported. Also, while the Israelis weren’t all that helpful with the election, especially in East Jerusalem, it did occur without any outside manifest interefence!]

    3. “It may be a better thing, as Hamas now become part of the politcal mainstream.�

    Do you have any evidence that this is how Bush and the Israeli Right thought? [Can’t answer for Bush but certainly for the Israeli Right (as RWDBs) having a militant, dangerous, ‘nutty’ enemy on the border helps reinforce their (political and military) position, and vice versa for Hamas. A type of Game theory scenario]

  27. “1. What is the relevance of what the Provos think about Hamas? [You brought to the fore the issue of Hamas & Sein Fein. (one a religious terrorist group; the other a secular, marxist group)]”

    1. Hamas don’t have to talk to the IRA to learn their tactics. Apart from lots of writing on insurgency and urgan guerrilla warfare, it’s in all the newspapers. Any organisation interested in success, (as were Gandhi and MLK) may pattern their behaviour on successful precursors, even though they may never have direct contact with them.

    2. The “Official” IRA is/was marxist. The Provisional Wing of the IRA (to give them their full name, which distinguishes them from the Official IRA) is not marxist. The Officials referred to the Provos as “the rosary brigade”. They were episodically at war with each other.

  28. It seems a fair bet that Palestinians know perfectly well what the repercussions of voting Hamas will be, yet did so anyway because they have well founded fears that the same would happen if they didn’t (though possibly slower), and only the Hamas approach offers any hope at all rather than being a vote to lie down and let the Israeli bulldozer take its time.

    Of course, to find out for sure you’d have to ask a Palestinian, but the nearest proxy we have for that is, of course, the recent vote.

  29. WbW your comment links to the same article as, and confirms Katz. The Officials took a Marxist line and werre displaced by the Provos in the terror campaign in the North after declaring a ceasefire. They then became the Workers party in the South before eventually disappearing.

  30. WbyW,

    That’s twice today you have demonstrated an inability to read for meaning. I’m beginning to suspect that you’re having a lend of me.

    To clarify:

    Read your wiki entry again and you’ll find that the Officials and the Provisionals split in 1969.

    Gerry Adams is associated with the Provisional (NOT the Official) IRA. (That’s the non-marxist one. Adams is the leader of Sinn Fein, which as the time of the split in 1969 called itself Provisional Sinn Fein.)

    The Provisional IRA is/was much bigger and more militant than its Official IRA rival. No insurgency movement with any interest in success would make the mistake of patterning themselves on the OFficial (Marxist) IRA. They have been tiny and virtually moribund since the early 1970s.

  31. Shorter WbyW

    “FO&D. See, I can write what I mean to say, but only four keystrokes at a time.”

Comments are closed.