blogorrhoea
Friday, May 30, 2003
 
LEST WE FORGET

This is a lovingly compiled list of Washington's utterances on the WMD thingy over the last few months. An object lesson in the art of backpedalling in a world without memory.

How well it works in a world with a blog-infested internet, we must wait to see.

Please take a look. You might like to add to the list over the weeks to come. 'Course, if they do find some old vat of expired nasties or some such, we'll be back to 'go' in a flash, and it'll be the back-pedalling we'll be deftly invited to forget ...

Thanks to Pixel Forge (see blog list) for the lead.

 
Thursday, May 29, 2003
 
RESPONDING TO THE BUDGET #1 PEDAGOG0RRHOEA

I'm not able to sit long enough to post anything new right now. I posted the following when Blogorrhoea was young and unread, but they seem no less on point today, so here they are again.

Cheers,
Rob.

Revived Blogorrhoeaic post from July 2002

Reflections on the Revolution in our Universities:
A Modest Polemic

It's no good talking about how to fund universities until we've all had a talk about what we want from our universities, and it's no good talking about what they might be worth to us until we've all had a talk about how such worth should be measured. Sadly, our society confers and withholds its resources without asking these questions. And the more we consign such decisions to the vagaries of 'the market', the less we're inclined to ask them. And if we're not economists, we're reminded we really shouldn't be sticking our untutored noses in where they don't belong. All of which should make us concerned if not downright indignant.

According to the Education Act of 1989, the university is at least one patch in our institutional fabric where the freedom is extended to informed citizens, staff and students alike, "to question and test received wisdom, to put forward new ideas and to state controversial or unpopular opinion".

Noam Chomsky, questioner and controversialist par excellence, agrees: "Universities have a purpose. They are supposed to be pressing the boundaries of knowledge and inspiring student questioning, they are basically supposed to be subversive. That is their role in a healthy society."

Societies, you see, are always in flux and, as Rousseau once lamented, what was true yesterday may not be so tomorrow. That means societies would be well advised to use every resource at their disposal to question the premises upon which they rest, to interrogate the way their institutions and beliefs guide and constrain change, and to make sure they've citizenries capable of doing, and free to do, such things. It is not ours just to manage change (as if change comes autonomously from without), it is ours to have a hand in directing it. We are, in other words, as much the subject of our history as its object.

The purpose of the university is therefore not only to represent the world in its natural timelessness and its remorseless inevitabilities, or even to hone techniques in the manipulation of nature. The university is there to ask whether aspects of our world are in fact natural or timeless, whether our techniques serve desirable ends, and whether the very focus on technique itself constitutes a problem for society and the articulation of its aspirations. 'The market' is, I suspect, an attractive notion simply because it appears to take care of all these difficult questions for us. Adam Smith's 'hidden hand' (the price mechanism) is comforting in its insistent claim to natural timelessness, its portrayal of itself as both means and end, and its guarantee that it will determine the common good. Professor Jane Kelsey complains that, "the underlying belief in the rationality of market forces, which operate according to the laws of economic science, implies a closed approach to knowledge and ideas. There are no rational alternatives. Education can therefore offer refinements, variations on the theme, and can train people to apply and enhance the relevant techniques. But there is no need for, no legitimacy in, a contest of ideas." Kelsey is describing a scenario in which society is wholly embedded within the economic sphere. This is an important point, because, as Polanyi argued, the legitimating ideal of liberal democracy is premised precisely on the economic being embedded within the social.

And it's not as if 'economics' or 'the market' proffer the reliably stable context, either for society in general or universities in particular, that we might expect.

Consider the 'economics' of a mere life-time ago: the world in which the very man who gave modern economics so many of its premises and principles, the mathematician Alfred Marshall, still considered his economic models positivistic simplifications - useful to guide reform, but certainly not a representation of reality as a whole. Marshall, erstwhile Cambridge Professor of the 'Moral Sciences' that he was, recognised the inevitable role of the normative in human affairs. He had not forgotten that the founder of economics, the moral philosopher Adam Smith, had taught not only that competition between individuals can better the lot of society as a whole, but that our essence is that of the social beings we demonstrably are. The human species has not been forged by the forces of competition alone. Indeed, it might be argued (Stephen Jay Gould and Peter Singer come to mind) that cooperation was precisely the way humanity competed!

Anyway, what was true of economics - and, consequently, what was true of 'the market' - in 1924 is no longer true today (I could strengthen my point with reference to a certain great depression and several ensuing decades of Keynesian 'truth', but the word-limit presses). It may be true for the untutored likes of you and me, but it is not true for those who would refashion our education system in their ahistorical, amoral, technocratic and inhumane image. It is not true for those in whom we so blithely trust.

The inconveniently socialistic side of Smith's philosophy has been forgotten. Today's market economists preach the virtues of competition, yet forget that Smith warned competition would require vigilant regulation if its virtues were to be ensured, and that the world within which they actually live exhibits ever less of them. Though they have forgotten the limitations of their positivistic models, we forgive them every outrageously wrong prediction, every demand for austerity. They can incorporate the normative and the essential only as matters for the individual as she determines her preferences in light of the scarcity of her resources.

We should defend our universities not on the grounds that we are somehow above and beyond the vagaries of society, for we are most definitely not. We are in and of society. And each society challenges its universities anew each day. The challenge for today is, I submit, that of refuting and resisting the arrogant strictures of our philosopher-kings. Their self-appointed task is, in the words of their treasured organ, The Economist, to do away with externalities; those irksome moments when the consequences of a transaction are not confined to the individuals party to that transaction. To the economist, an externality is a bad thing, not least because it undermines the all-important price mechanism. Well, scholars (teachers and students alike) are paid by society, and we are accountable to society. But we are no more accountable to the dim bulb who believes that the costs and benefits of the university experience can be confined to the individual than we are to those who see universities as places where social capital is enhanced.

It is indeed our market economist who places himself above and beyond society. He forgets, as we are invited to forget, that the timeless truths he bequeaths owe their perlocutionary force to a discipline that is actually itself constantly in flux. He forgets, as we are invited to forget, that the economically embedded society is one where it is he who has become unaccountable. And to agree with this economist is to cast society itself as an externality (indeed Margaret Thatcher once echoed her advisors in saying there was 'no such thing as society'). Thankfully, to almost everybody else, society happens to be the word we use for what we are.

So, as we swoon further into the embrace of these 'market forces', let us remember that there is nothing natural and timeless about this 'market' and 'its' forces - that definitions and prescriptions are always in contention, and each timeless truth ever on notice. It has ever been thus. And perhaps ever should be. But to allow the market of today to determine who teaches what to whom is precisely to confer decisive power to the truly unaccountable, to the naturalisers of the contingent, to the circumscribers of thought, to the wielders of interminable patents, to the keepers of secrets, to the monopolistic bulwarks against competition, and to the narrow seekers (to pinch a line from Thoreau) of improved means to unimproved ends. Whither then the right and obligation "to question and test received wisdom, to put forward new ideas and to state controversial or unpopular opinion"?

It is well to close so apparently bolshie a polemic (for it would not have been considered so a couple of short decades ago) with the supportive words of a famous conservative ideological sceptic. Quoth that formidable Tory, Michael Oakeshott:

Learning to make something of ourselves in no context in particular is an impossibility; and the context appears not only in what is learned but also in the conditions of direction and restraint which belong to any education ... Greed, or the desire to appear abreast of the times, have often supervened to destroy both judgement and proper inquiry, and the shape of a university education has suffered some ill-considered and some destructive changes.

Amen to that, Comrade Oakeshott …
 
 
RESPONDING TO THE BUDGET #2: HEALTH INSURANCE
Revived Blogorrhoeaic post from Saturday, August 17, 2002

"Unfortunately," moans US health researcher Denis Altman as he watches health insurance costs spiralling out of all control, "health care costs are rising while we're still in a weak economy, and that dramatically increases the pain for everybody." Read all about it in today's San Francisco Chronicle at SFGate.com.

Of course, we're treated to all the usual stuff about the fabled 'Managed Care' system running out of options in a time of aging populations and ever more costly technology. The Yanks have been listening to that stuff for years, and we're beginning to hear it here now. Well, a blogger with more time than yours dismally has on his hands could investigate the relative cost of a young population, with high birth and immigration rates (not merely in terms of the cost of looking after the health of babies, children and mums - but also stuff like education). Like, say, the one poor Billy Hayden's Medibank and Gough's public education system handled so well in the late seventies.

S/he might even point out that technology has money-saving qualities at least as much as it has money-costing qualities. But enough of that.

What, I'm here to ask, about the market power of surgeons and insurance companies and such? Ain't that where a tidy lump of all that money is going?

A little sniffing around at a local uni tells me that when Oz had a public national health insurance system, about 5 per cent of the total cost went on administering the thing. It seems that the cost to Oz's health insurance customers of administrating this new-fangled private system is four times that, simply because to furnish the firms an acceptable profit, our treasury has to cough up a 30 per cent subsidy. This goes straight into shareholders' pockets via those of the few rich enough to pay for private insurance.

We all pay, so that the rich may avoid the queues and protect their share portfolios. Sad but funny.

Funny because every time some brave soul dares speak up for a public health insurance system, s/he gets accused of advocating middle-class welfare!

I've appended below excerpts from an eloquent article from last year. It's about a neoliberal's conversion to the notion of a well-funded 'socialised medicine' model. Only when he gets cancer, mind, but, thankfully, at least in time to come clean on the matter.

Anyway, the author, David Burgess, points out that he got his US$700 000 treatment for nothing because he was living in a country (France) that funded its national health system to the tune of $1800 per capita ($109 billion in all). Money well spent. And Australia's investment is thankfully still of a comparable magnitude. The old 'bleed-the-public-sector-dry-and-then-claim-the-public-sector-doesn't-work' policy is obviously at a fairly early stage.

For the point is, the money was spent on a PUBLIC HEALTH system, NOT on private insurance rebates, NOT on overpaid VMO physicians and NOT on private hospitals. Why's that the point? Because the system that spends most (twice as much as any other in the OECD) is that of our all-privatised model society, the USofA. In the USofA five times as much money per capita goes to the private hospitals and nearly three times as much to physicians as anywhere else in the OECD.

And if friend Burgess were not privately insured to the tune of $4000 per annum (and even then he'd face some serious bills), he'd have been out of pocket $700 000 or, if he's on a wage like mine, just plain dead.

Cheers,
Rob.


*International Herald Tribune* Friday, March 9, 2001
http://www.iht.com/articles/12871.htm
A Conservative Convert To Socialized Medicine by David Burgess

PARIS - What's the old joke? A conservative is a liberal who has just been
mugged? Well, I am a conservative who has just been "mugged" by the
socialized French health system, and, to my astonishment, I'm a believer.

I have lived in France for nearly 19 years. Until about two years ago I was
very cross about the amount I had to pay in taxes and in "social charges,"
which finance the medical system, in which a pauper gets about the same
medical care as a millionaire.

...

The doctor lost no time. He called my local hospital, which fortunately was
one of the four in the Paris area that could do the operation that I
needed, and reserved me a bed for the next day.

...

After my operation, which lasted more than 10 hours, I was in the hospital
another three weeks, then home, where a nurse came by each day to give me
the shots I needed, check and dress my surgical wounds and make sure that I
wasn't losing weight. Then back to the hospital for three days of
chemotherapy every three weeks - four treatments in all.

...

Why does socialized medicine seem to work in some places and be a disaster
elsewhere? Anyone who reads the British press is assaulted daily with tales
of how cancer patients have to wait months for an appointment with an
oncologist, or a candidate for a hip or knee replacement has to wait years.
In France, such delays can be measured in days or, at most, weeks.

Why the difference? Take a deep breath. These are the numbers, provided by
the French and British health ministries and translated into dollars (bear
in mind that Britain and France have roughly the same populations). French
total expenditure on health in 1999 was $109.5 billion. In Britain it was
about $78.02 billion. Per capita, it was $1,800 in France and $1,312 in
Britain. As a percentage of the gross domestic product, it was 8.5 percent
in France and 5.9 percent in Britain.

...

Last summer, I asked a friend of mine, a dean at a medical school in New England, what the cost of my care would have been in the United States. "About $700,000," she said. I haven't seen a bill. Well, that is not quite true. I got a bill for 43 francs (about $6.50). I'm not sure what it was for, but I paid it.

I no longer complain about my taxes.
 
Wednesday, May 28, 2003
 
I WOKE UP THIS MORNING

... and spent twenty minutes trying to pull on a pair of socks. Failed. Rang in crippled. Crawled back to bed. There's only so much sleep a man can take in one day and I find my limit is about 23 hours.

Leaving just enough time for a nice cuppa and a quick pinch of most of the front page of the marvellous Coherence Theory of Truth. Johann gets straight at the essence, and he's done such a fine job of covering the last few days in America that all I can do is pass it on. If I feel obliged to lift great lumps of another blogger's work again, manners dictate it not be Johann's, so you shall have to visit him yourself from now on. On with the heist:

Extracting the Essence of Trends in US Democracy #1, from *Truthout*: "The US has floated plans to turn Guantanamo Bay into a death camp, with its own death row and execution chamber ... Prisoners would be tried, convicted and executed without leaving its boundaries, without a jury and without right of appeal, The Mail on Sunday newspaper reported yesterday. The plans were revealed by Major-General Geoffrey Miller, who is in charge of 680 suspects from 43 countries, including two Australians."

Extracting the Essence of Trends in US Democracy #2, from the latest *Newsweek* ("Classified: Censoring the Report About 9-11?"): "Why is the Bush administration blocking the release of an 800-page congressional report about 9-11?" The answer, of course, is because they can. When government moves toward secrecy, away from the openness that was our historical legacy, we invite abuse; those in power use that power to conceal the merely embarrassing and the clearly criminal. We meekly ask them to tell us what happened, what they know, but, always, the answer is something along the lines of "it would endanger you to know."

Extracting the Essence of Trends in US Democracy #3, via Senator Robert Byrd: "... it appears to this Senator that the American people may have been lured into accepting the unprovoked invasion of a sovereign nation, in violation of long-standing International law, under false premises. There is ample evidence that the horrific events of September 11 have been carefully manipulated to switch public focus from Osama Bin Laden and Al Queda who masterminded the September 11th attacks, to Saddam Hussein who did not. The run up to our invasion of Iraq featured the President and members of his cabinet invoking every frightening image they could conjure, from mushroom clouds, to buried caches of germ warfare, to drones poised to deliver germ laden death in our major cities. We were treated to a heavy dose of overstatement concerning Saddam Hussein's direct threat to our freedoms. The tactic was guaranteed to provoke a sure reaction from a nation still suffering from a combination of post traumatic stress and justifiable anger after the attacks of 9/11. It was the exploitation of fear. It was a placebo for the anger."

Extracting the Essence of Trends in the US Economy #1, from Paul Krugman:

* "'The lunatics are now in charge of the asylum.' So wrote the normally staid Financial Times ...."
* "... the gimmicks used to make an $800-billion-plus tax cut carry an official price tag of only $320 billion are a joke, yet the cost without the gimmicks is so large that the nation can't possibly afford it while keeping its other promises."
* "The Financial Times suggests that 'more extreme Republicans' actually want a fiscal train wreck: 'Proposing to slash federal spending, particularly on social programs, is a tricky electoral proposition, but a fiscal crisis offers the tantalizing prospect of forcing such cuts through the back door.'"
* "It's no secret that right-wing ideologues want to abolish programs Americans take for granted. But not long ago, to suggest that the Bush administration's policies might actually be driven by ideologues those that the administration was deliberately setting the country up for a fiscal crisis in which popular social programs could be cut sharply was to be accused of spouting conspiracy theories."
* "... Although you wouldn't know it from the rhetoric, federal taxes are already historically low as a share of G.D.P. Once the new round of cuts takes effect, federal taxes will be lower than their average during the Eisenhower administration. How, then, can the government pay for Medicare Medicaid and which didn't exist in 1950's the and Social Security, which will become far more expensive as the population ages? (Defense spending has fallen compared with the economy, but not that much, and it's on the rise again.) ... The answer is that it can't. The government can borrow to make up the difference as long as investors remain in denial, unable to believe that the world's only superpower is turning into a banana republic. But at some point bond markets balk will they won't lend money to a government, even that of the United States, if that government's debt is growing faster than its revenues and there is no plausible story about how the budget will eventually come under control."
* "... right now the administration is even skimping on homeland security to save a few dollars here and there."
* "The pain of these benefit cuts will fall on the middle class and the poor, while the tax cuts overwhelmingly favor the rich."
* "How can this be happening? Most people, even most liberals, are complacent. They don't realize how dire the fiscal outlook really is, and they don't read what the ideologues write. They imagine that the Bush administration, like the Reagan administration, will modify our system only at the edges, that it won't destroy the social safety net built up over the past 70 years."
* "... the people now running America aren't conservatives: they're radicals who want to do away with the social and economic system we have, and the fiscal crisis they are concocting may give them the excuse they need."


Extracting the Essence of Trends in the US Economy #2, via Warran Buffet:: "Now the Senate says that dividends should be tax-free to recipients. Suppose this measure goes through and the directors of Berkshire Hathaway (which does not now pay a dividend) therefore decide to pay $1 billion in dividends next year. Owning 31 percent of Berkshire, I would receive $310 million in additional income, owe not another dime in federal tax, and see my tax rate plunge to 3 percent ... And our receptionist? She'd still be paying about 30 percent, which means she would be contributing about 10 times the proportion of her income that I would to such government pursuits as fighting terrorism, waging wars and supporting the elderly. Let me repeat the point: Her overall federal tax rate would be 10 times what my rate would be ... Administration officials say that the $310 million suddenly added to my wallet would stimulate the economy because I would invest it and thereby create jobs. But they conveniently forget that if Berkshire kept the money, it would invest that same amount, creating jobs as well."


Extracting the Essence of Trends in the US Economy #3, via BuzzFlash's Rick Gilmore.

"Presidental Term and Jobs created per month:

Truman 1: 60,000
Truman 2: 113,000
Eisenhower 1: 58,000
Eisenhower 2: 15,000
Kennedy: 122,000
Johnson: 206,000
Nixon 1: 129,000
Nixon/Ford: 105,000
Carter: 218,000
Reagan 1: 109,000
Reagan 2: 224,000
G. Bush: 52,000
Clinton 1: 242,000
Clinton 2: 235,000
G.W. Bush: 69,000 jobs DESTROYED per month

* Since Bush signed the biggest tax cut in American history in June of 2001, more then 1.7 million jobs have been destroyed in the economy.
* Even if Bush's new tax cut does create 1 million new jobs by the end of 2004, as he claims, his presidency will still have destroyed nearly 3 million jobs.
* Bush is about to become the first president since Herbert Hoover to preside over a 4-year economy that destroyed jobs.
* The only two Republican presidents to fail in reelection bids were named Hoover and Bush.
Average Monthly Job Creation Since Truman:
Democrat Presidents: 171,000 jobs created per month
Republican Presidents: 78,000 jobs created per month"


Extracting the essence of Trends in the US Economy #4, via Brad DeLong:

* Why didn't the Bush administration take steps to break up manipulation of prices in the energy market in 2001?
* Why didn't the Bush administration move more quickly and effectively to punish miscreants and restore confidence when it became clear that lots of people who worked for George W. Bush's friend "Kenny Boy" and lots of others were faking their corporate accounts?
* Why did the Bush administration impose a steel tariff?
* Why did the Bush administration push for a farm bill that reversed the progress toward agricultural subsidy reform that Newt Gingrich (in one of his few good deeds) and others had accomplished in the 1990s?
* Why is Afghanistan such a mess today, and the Bush administration so unwilling to "do nation building" in Afghanistan?
* Why were Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction not where the Bush administration believed them to be?
* Why did we attack Iraq without sufficient forces to rapidly search for and secure weapons of mass destruction (if any) before they were carried off by bandits and others who might want to sell them to Al Qaeda?
* Why did we attack Iraq without the forces or a plan to keep civil order in the country?
* Why have we gone to such pains to annoy and alienate every single one of our allies? I mean, when the President of Mexico won't take a call from the President of the United States, something is very wrong.
* Why does Ariel Sharon feel that he can blow off every U.S. request designed to make the "roadmap for peace" more than a scrap of paper?
* Why has there been next to no progress on the Doha Round?
* Why do developing countries find that their access to the pharmaceuticals they need is still largely blocked?


Extracting the Essence of All The Above, via Greg Palast: "Hey, don't panic. We've been here before. We survived Nixon. We survived Joe McCarthy. We survived the robber barons of the 1890s. Throughout US history, monied jackals have invaded the White House and Congress. Time after time they use some threat of external danger - the Commies, the Viet Cong, the Anarchists, the Terrorists, whomever - to keep Americans hypnotized by The Threat Out There. They empty the Treasury, bust unions, and impoverish the average Joe and Josephine. In the McCarthy era, General Electric used the Red Scare to hunt down and eliminate United Electrical Workers activists. Today, Al-Qaida is used as the excuse to seal the EPA files on the real threat of contamination from Exxon-Mobil petrochemical plants ... But despair not: Every time, every single time, after we've been kicked in the head, Americans blink and think - and rise up angry in mass movements: one hundred years ago it was the Populist uprising, in the Sixties, in the Seventies, we had the Environmental and Consumer Movements - and don't forget the Labor, Union and Civil Rights Movements, to say 'enough already!'"
 
Sunday, May 25, 2003
 
STILL SNOWED UNDER

... so I can offer but a drive-by or two ...

You have to surf an awful lot to get a half-decent picture of what's
going on in Iraq these days. What
picture you get
is entirely bleak ('Guernica' meets 'The Scream'
sorta thing). Either Washington meant what it (eventually) said about
liberation and democracy, in which case they're entirely clueless, or
they didn't, in which case none of the deceit and suffering matters a
jot ... for the moment.

...

Spent last Sunday afternoon leaning on my trolley of thawing foodstuffs,
queueing amongst myriads of my fellow Australians. Of the thousands of
observations I had time to make, here are five.
1) bearded men are rarely found in the usual course of Australian life
these days. This might be because they spend the week building their
strength for the post-modern equivalent of the mastadon hunt - the
Sunday afternoon queue at the all-new, all-rationalised, all-optimised,
all-synergised (insert the ghastly mystifying newspeak of your choice
here) W**lw**rths - and very polite and uncomplaining they are, too, while
their precious time is taken from them. Australians don't complain
enough.
2) I do, though.
3) the young women who staff the cash registers are polite and
uncomplaining, too. There's one of them for every two machines, they've
just discovered shifts have been cut yet again, they've been on their
feet smiling politely at unhappy bearded strangers for eight hours - and
yet on they go, growing grey even faster than the beards before them;
4) the post-modern sweatshop claims the consumer as well as the worker,
and the post-modern discourse-managers had better come up with something
a little more convincing than 'consumer-sovereignty' if they want to
keep selling their 'reforms'.
5) as it's surely illegal to commend such things, I'm not at all sure I
should suggest you buy loose almonds or cashews on such busy
understaffed days; that you see how many you can stuff down your gob in
the queue before the bag is weighed. The W**llies suits are stealing
your time, and time is the essence of life. And your life is worth
nuts, is it not?

...


Only one thought on that culmination of one continent's millenia-long path to cultural self-fulfillment, the Eurovision Song Contest. Austria wuz robbed.

...

Although if you saw the victorious Turkish entry, you've seen just five
of the reasons I'm such a Turkophile. Guzel, sevgili arkadaslar!

...

I've done my back in. Injured it this afternoon whilst - sigh -
sitting. So it's official. I'm old. I'd managed to fashion an
existence such that walking had become a rare curiosity and running
nought but an unpleasant memory, but sitting is going to be hard to
shake. I'd learned to do it so very well, you see.

...

When a thinner pimplier - and supple-backed - Rob stumbled in awe to
press his quivering cheek against the door of 3 Saville Row on that cold
winter's afternoon in January 1972, it was because an erstwhile Beatle
might be in the Apple offices beyond. It had been on the roof above
that the lads had given that immortal mini-concert exactly three years
ealier. I've just read, in Max Wooldridge's *Rock'n'Roll London* that 3
Saville Row is also where Horatio Nelson used to board Emma Hamilton.
In keeping with the times, 3 Saville Row is now headquarters for the
Building Societies Association. Progress, eh?

...

I find Manfred Steger's *Globalization: A Very Short Introduction* (OUP)
a very fine little book in a subject area infested with very ordinary
big books. The whole 'Very Short' series looks terrific, going by the
many subjects and impressive authors on offer. This dilettante's
blogoshed is fast running out of shelf space, and for yours dismally
it'll be Very Shorts from here on in.
 
 
STILL SNOWED UNDER

... so I can offer but a drive-by or two ...

Spent last Sunday afternoon leaning on my trolley of thawing foodstuffs, queueing amongst myriads of my fellow Australians. Of the thousands of observations I had time to make, here are five.
1) bearded men are rarely found in the usual course of Australian life these days. This might be because they spend the week building their strength for the post-modern equivalent of the mastadon hunt - the Sunday afternoon queue at the all-new, all-rationalised, all-optimised, all-synergised (insert the ghastly mystifying newspeak of your choice here) W**llw*rths - and very polite and uncomplaining they are, too, while their precious time is taken from them. Australians don't complain enough.
2) I do, though.
3) the young women who staff the cash registers are polite and uncomplaining, too. There's one of them for every two cash registers, they've just discovered shifts have been cut yet again, they've been on their feet smiling politely at unhappy bearded strangers for eight hours - and yet on they go, growing grey even faster than the beards before them;
4) the post-modern sweatshop claims the consumer as well as the worker, and the post-modern discourse-managers had better come up with something a little more convincing than 'consumer-sovereignty' if they want to keep selling their 'reforms'.
5) as it's surely illegal to commend such things, I'm not at all sure I should suggest you buy loose almonds or cashews on such busy understaffed days; that you see how many you can stuff down your gob in the queue before the bag is weighed. The W**llies suits are stealing your time, and time is the essence of life. And your life is worth nuts, is it not?

...

You have to surf an awful lot to get a half-decent picture of what's going on in Iraq these days.
  5:54 AM
political economic and cultural observations in the register of dismal dilettantism

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