blogorrhoea
Saturday, October 02, 2004
 
RATIONAL(ISING) RITUAL

It's my habit on Epsom Day to patronise the Eagle Hawk Hotel, park the buns before the TAB screens, pick half the Randwick card, steadfastly refuse to bet on a single one of 'em ... heroically investing instead at Flemington, where I invariably fail miserably.

Don't mock. As the Chinese almost say, the journey of a thousand miles begins with but one ruinous bender. 'Tis this ancient truth that informs the Tantric Tipster, whose Octoberous scourging of liver and wallet alike culminates by month's end in a mind wiped clean of all but Spring's two defining truths: the winners of the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups.

For the initiate TT, the astral sojourn commences with the short but moving Purchase-Of-Spring's-First-Ticket ceremony on Craiglee Stakes Day and does not permit deviation from The Path until the rather more moving Distribution-Of-The-Largesse ceremony in the late afternoon of that first Tuesday in November.

Thankfully, those who sport the Black Trilby of the Fifth-Dan TT need no longer submit themselves to such enduring discipline - a properly extreme Turnbullian Rapture sufficing with Epsomic elegance.

So back to my Epsom Day. After ruefully accepting the sympathies of my comrades-du-punt and seeing them out the door, I approach the barman, stoically accept his sympathies, and order a series of Carltons, which I ingest sufficiently quickly to facilitate my Epsom Day trance. Pausing only shruggingly to accept the sympathies of the cleaning staff, I free my mind to slot now disjointed memories of the day's closing sectionals into the abstract world of weights. I then pour myself into the care of Jim-The-Designated-Driver, joyously accept his farewell sympathies, and make for my bed convinced The Cups Are Mine and the New Falcon Is As Good As Paid For. I ecstatically accept my suddenly impoverished wife's sympathies and slip quietly into my Epsom Day coma.

Then I waken and embarrass myself publicly by blogging with exuberant prematurity that Confectioner will win the Caulfield Cup (catching Elvstroem on the line) and Hugs Dancer will win the Melbourne Cup (catching Strasbourg on the line). She's Archie will come out of the clouds to pinch third in each race.

 
Friday, October 01, 2004
 
EN PASSANT

The China Daily's Jiang Ruiping has an interesting article up. Here's a taste: During the 1992-2001 period, the average US current account deficit was US$189.9 billion. In 2002 and 2003, however, the figure soared to US$473.9 billion and US$530.7 billion respectively ... Given the huge US current account deficit, the US dollar, if it is to remain relatively stable, must be backed up by an influx of foreign direct investment (FDI) ... In 1998, 1999 and 2000, FDI that flowed into the United States was US$174.4 billion, US$283.4 billion and US$314 billion respectively. Starting from 2001, however, global direct investment began to shrink and US-oriented direct investment also decreased. In 2003, FDI into the United States was 44.9 per cent less than that in the previous year.

What concerns Jiang Ruiping most is that China is a majorly major holder of US dollars. If China unloads 'em, the greenback's toilet paper and the whole world goes into the tank. If it doesn't, it risks a lot more than the 40-per-cent drop against (eg) the Euro the greenback has endured since that currency's introduction.

Australians, whose extraction-based export sector depends muchly on China's capacity to absorb its commodities, and whose government is about to ratify a contentious FTA sold to them on promises of $4-billion annual windfalls in American sales, might find this interesting.

 
 
LIES, DAMNED LIES AND ASTONISHMENT

Senator Dianne Feinstein waxes indignantly astonished:

"I want to express my profound dismay about reports that officials from your administration and your reelection campaign were 'heavily involved' in writing parts of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's speech ... You may be
surprised by this, Mr. President, but I viewed Prime Minister Allawi's speech as an independent view on conditions in Iraq ... His speech gave me hope that reconstruction efforts were proceeding in most of the country and that elections could be held on schedule ... To learn that this was not an independent view, but one that was massaged by your campaign operatives, jaundices the speech and reduces the credibility of his remarks,"


Which merely means Mr Allawi's speech was every bit as much an independent view as he is an independent prime minister of a sovereign nation state. Which should, of course, hardly surprise anyone.

One day, wrote Christopher Hitchens back in his sensible days, I am going to drop everything and think exclusively about America and its celebrated 'loss of innocence'. I have read that the country lost said innocence in the Civil War, in the Spanish-American War, in the First World War, during Prohibition, at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, at the McCarthy hearings, in Dallas, in Vietnam, over Watergate and in the discovery (celluloided by Robert Redford in Quiz Show) that the TV contests in the Eisenhower era were fixed. This list is not exhaustive. Innocence, we were recently and quakingly informed, was lost again at the bombing of Oklahoma City. Clearly, a virginity so casually relinquished is fairly easily regained - only to be (damn!) mislaid once more.

So what's this continual loss-of-innocence charade about? A permanent setting of self-absolution? A pretense that there's something exceptional going on? A refusal to admit the whole system is rotten with money and deceit? That systemic lying did not cause the mass killings that were to follow the sinking of the Maine and the Gulf of Tonkin 'incident'? That the murderous tissues of lies that surrounded the Bay of Pigs invasion fiasco, the doomed 1968 peace talks and the bombing that was to destroy Cambodia, the US role in the overthrow of Chile's elected government and the installation of a regime of murderous fascists, the arms-for-well-timed-emancipation-of-hostages deal of 1980 or the invasion of Granada are mere peculiarities of a transcended past?

'Innocent' is far too gentle a word to describe those who believe US administrations bent on war ... or senators who sound wounded at the discovery of an administration's contributions to a glove-puppet's speech during an election campaign. If 'FoxNews viewer' is a tad too strong for civilised discourse, 'historical ignoramus' does seem appropriate.

We're always being told we live in democracies, but I must confess to meeting few people who would go so far as to define the democracy they inhabit as one in which the executive can be relied upon to tell the citizenry the truth or, for that matter, one in which the executive caught in a lie has all that much to fear from said citizenry.

Not for the first time, a war is being waged abroad in the name of citizenries neither sovereign nor informed. The proposition that we're exporting a democracy worth killing and dying for (the vindication with which we've been left since the first three vindications - wmds, operational ties with al Qaeda and clear and present threats - have been exposed as, well, lies) must therefore be another lie.

After all, you can't export what you don't have.

To be less than newly and indignantly astonished every time an executive deceit is exposed is to admit our polities are in need of radical transformation. So it's my contention that all we may expect from those elements of the elite who didn't perpetrate the initial lie is the secondary lie of confected astonishment.
p
 
Monday, September 27, 2004
 
AMERICA AND AUSTRALIA: THOUGHTS AND EMOTIONS

Something a lot bigger than common sense is obviously at work in the US and Australian election campaigns, else they'd be well and truly over by now.

If the much touted 'rule of law' (for the purported sake of which a million Iraqis have died since 1990) meant anything I'd understand as such, Bush and his unterfibbers would be facing judges, not electorates. At the very least, I'd go with this assessment:

George W. Bush
has a record the Democrats should have made mincemeat of. Right about now, the media should be writing, and American voters should be thinking: Golly, a million jobs lost, millions more in poverty, manufacturing down; no WMD's, 1,000-plus dead, Iraq on the brink of civil war, al-Qaeda larger than ever and still recruiting, acts of worldwide terrorism on the rise, North Korea and Iran responding to the cowboy routine by going nuclear. This should have been easy. Now, it's too late for the Democrats to create these narratives.


How the Demoprats got themselves into such a mess, I don't quite know. Perhaps the answer lies somewhere between 'the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity' and 'the coward dies a thousand deaths'. Perhaps it's simply a matter of whose PR people know best how to square their paymasters' ends with what resonates where Americans vote. Perhaps it's just the power of the mass media (which ranges all the way from actively complicit to gutlessly uncritical) in an atomised and alienated society (boldly highlighted by the public execution of Howard Dean's tilt, but just as impressive in the abortion of Denis Kucinich's).

And it wasn't just Iraq the sagacious suits at Democrat headquarters let the other side take out of the 'debate'. Somewhere along the way they let these rapacious vandals remove 'debt' from the official list of 'economic fundamentals'. Here's a handy snapshot of the sort of thing a genuine opposition might have felt moved to discuss in the context of a presidential campaign:

The ratio of household debt to disposable income reached a record of 108.3 percent at the end of 2003. This rise was driven primarily by surging mortgage debt, but the ratio of consumer debt (mostly credit card debt and car loans) to disposable income was also at near record levels ... the cost of servicing this debt - which is already at near record levels relative to income - will increase substantially in the near future, both because of continuing increases in the debt, and higher interest rates, which are a virtual certainty. This will almost certainly push bankruptcy rates, which are already at historically high levels, to new records ... the country's net foreign indebtedness is rising to unprecedented levels as the dollar remains seriously over-valued in international financial markets. This over-valuation effectively places a tax on U.S. exports and subsidizes imports into the United States, leading to record trade deficits ... at the end of 2003, the net foreign indebtedness of the United States stood at $2.4 trillion dollars. If the trade deficit remains constant as a share of GDP, net foreign indebtedness will rise to over $7 trillion by the end of 2009, an amount equal to $24,000 for every person in the United States ... Measured relative to GDP, foreign indebtedness stood at 22.1 percent at the end of 2003. If the current path continues, it will hit 48.0 percent by the end of 2009, a level of indebtedness far greater than any industrialized country has ever experienced.

This all matters in Australia because what happens in America matters everywhere. Unfortunately, what happens in Australia can, on occasion, also matter in Australia. Let's not forget, then, that The Rodent, complicit at every turn in the criminal slaughter visited on Iraqis every day, has managed to sustain the propulsion of Australia towards economic crisis for eight years. Keeping interest rates so low for so long has not done what it might have (had we pursued, for instance, a visionary industrial policy, and not, for instance, confined our international economic role to provider of primary commodities to bubble economies like China's). Nope. It has done what otherwise it was always going to do. Eliminate savings, produce a $363-billion national debt, unprecented consumer debt, a whopping asset bubble, and all to the extent that the very growth necessary to service all these IOUs is no longer tenable.

And where, in all the largesse being thrown at bemused marginals, is the slightest skerrick of a sign of a memory of Costello's avowed concern for that demographic bottleneck he was on about some months ago? I can only comfort myself with the thought that, even then, it was already too late to avoid the economic pain associated with a decade of mass retirement, associated equity depletions, skill depletions, rising health costs, depreciation of 'family homes', neglected youth, and disembowelment of the bush. Not in our economic settings, not in our immigration settings and not in our social policy ... if such can be said to exist.

In unforgiving combination, that catalogue adds up to an intellectually sound vindication for the Anyone-But-The-Rodent attitude I so fervently hold. But I'm no more a slave to my intellect than anyone else, and it'll be the thought of childhoods, dreams and hopes - ruined by razor wire and racist slander, in my name, at my expense and to history's condemnation of my generation and my country - that'll guide my pencil on The Day.

I loathe John Howard.


 
political economic and cultural observations in the register of dismal dilettantism

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