The second reliberation of Iraq

It appears that General David Petraeus is a reader of William Tenn, having recently announced that the US is once again liberating Iraq. Tenn’s classic story The Liberation of Earth in which two alien races, the Dendi and the Troxxt repeatedly liberate earth from each other, was published back in 1953, but has, sadly, never lost its relevance for long. The ending, if I recall correctly, has the planet’s remaining inhabitants gasping for air but taking consolation in the reflection that “no planet in the history of the galaxy had been as thoroughly liberated as Earth”.

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.

One cheer for Howard

At least in one respect, John Howard’s announcement of a federal takeover of indigenous settlements is good news. Having taken such a drastic step, Howard can’t escape the obligation to deliver substantial improvements in outcomes, regardless of the cost. And, having endorsed the broad thrust of the measures, Kevin Rudd, should he be the next PM, is under the same obligation.

The measures announced yesterday, while drastic, are politically pretty easy for the government in the light of the recent report on child abuse in indigenous communities. But they are focused almost exclusively on enforcement measures. Such measures sound good in a press release, but are unlikely, by themselves, to achieve much. Alcohol is a huge problem, and anything that could reduce alcohol abuse is welcome, but many of the communities concerned, such as Wadeye, have been officially dry for years, so it’s not clear what difference Howard’s policy will make. Of course, if he was willing to be really draconian and ban alcohol in nearby (white) towns, that might make a difference, but there are some cows too sacred to be slain.

The problems of substance abuse and unemployment go hand in hand, but there is nothing, so far, to suggest that anything is going to be done on the jobs front. The last significant innovation in this area, the CDEP scheme, came in under Fraser. Despite all Howard’s talk of practical reconciliation, his government has done less than nothing to promote indigenous employment.

Dealing with unemployment is not going to be easy. People who’ve been permanently excluded from the labour force can’t be made job-ready in short order, and the number of ‘real’ (economically viable at market prices) jobs that can be created in remote indigenous community is always going to fall short of the number of potential workers. And, just as enforcement alone is not enough, so there’s little point in trying to generate economic development in an environment of rampant alcohol abuse and crime. But, having claimed emergency powers on the enforcement front, Howard will stand condemned if he doesn’t go all out to deliver economic development as well.

Mulrunji case not over

The acquittal of Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley on charges of manslaughter and assault leading to the death of Cameron Doomadgee (Mulrunji) does not resolve all the issues raised by this tragedy. I won’t comment on, or discuss, the trial itself. The jury has given its verdict and Hurley is entitled to treat it as conclusive.

The whole sequence of events shows failure by the Queensland state at every level.
Read More »

The euro and the dollar

The appreciation of the euro against the dollar has taken the currency close to its highest value ever around $1.35. By contrast, the rate estimated as Purchasing Power Parity by the Penn World Tables International Comparisons Project (ICP) is around $1.00 for most eurozone countries (It’s 1.10 for Italy, 1.05 for France and Germany, 0.96 for the Netherlands. The price differential between eurozone countries is interesting in itself, but that’s another post).

A gap of this magnitude between market exchange rates and estimated PPP values raises all sorts of problems. For example, using the Penn numbers, income per person in the Netherlands is about 75 per cent of that in the US, and this number is often quoted on the assumption that purchasing-power parity means exactly what it says. But using exchange rates, as would have been standard a couple of decades ago, income per person is a little higher in the Netherlands than in the US. Which of these comparisons, if either, is valid?

Read More »

Last charitable appeal for 2006-07

As the end of the financial year is approaching, it’s a great time to give charitable donations. I’ve used up all the gimmicks I could think of for the Great Australian Shave appeal, so this is going to be a bog-standard fundraiser. I’m giving $500 to Oxfam as my last donation for 2006-07. Anyone who would like to be part of a collective effort can announce their donation in comments, or (if you’re modest) in email to me. I’ll post a running total until 30 June. Give to whatever charity you choose, and whatever amount you can manage.