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Misfire

The dead of Newtown, CT, have only just begun to be buried but certain parts of the media are doing their damnedest to make sure the story stays unburied for as long as humanly possible. Readers, I give you the a report from Nine News and also the take of their print brethren at Melbourne Herald Sun and a piece of froth flecked outrage that has passed their respective in-house test for balanced journalism, factual errors and partisan language notwithstanding. In case the video on that link isn’t viewable from outside Australia here’s a screencap of part of it – you’ll see why in a minute.

Screen shot 2012-12-18 at 20.03.24

Now let’s get straight into the lip foaming copy, shall we?

Two Victorian high schools sent students as young as 12 on an excursion to a shooting range just two days after a US gunman killed 20 children and six educators in the Sandy Hook massacre.

And if Victoria was anywhere near Connecticut or if the head had seen the news and been inspired to organise the shooting trip because of it that would be perhaps insensitive in the first case and more than a little fucking weird in the second. However, this took place more than 16,000km – over 10,000 miles for those of you working in old money – away, and, as Nine eventually get round to hinting, was organised and booked well before the appalling murders of last Friday.

“It crossed my mind (to cancel the trip after the US tragedy) … but do you stop teaching swimming because someone drowned?” Ballarat High School senior co-ordinator Michael Cook told the Herald Sun.
“We were really too far committed to it.”

Michael Cook makes a very good point, though if it were me I might have mentioned all those charity sausage sizzles in aid of the Black Saturday bushfires three years ago. I don’t recall anyone cracking the shits about people lighting up barbecues after a couple of towns erased from the map, hundreds or thousands of homes destroyed and 174 left dead by bushfires that occurred right fucking here in this state. Tad hypocritical? Don’t answer yet – I’m not done.

This is Harold Holt, Prime Minister of Australia from Januray 1966 to December the following year, when he disappeared and drowned (presumably – his body was never recovered and so there are various entertaining alternative theories) while swimming off Portsea, south of Melbourne.

220px-Harol_Holt_PM

This is… well, it kind of speaks for itself, doesn’t it?

From here

From here

In case you’re wondering the Harold Holt Swim Centre was named couple of years after the event. And nobody seems to have any kind of problem with that, instead pointing out that Holt was a keen swimmer when non Aussies ask why the hell they named a swimming pool after a drowning victim.

But I digress, because having dealt with the schlock journalism of emotional shit stirring we get to the slack journalism of getting things fucking wrong.

More than 50 students from Ballarat High School and Beaufort Secondary College were taught to fire up to 20 rounds each at the Beaufort Gun Club yesterday.

Rounds? Look at that screencap at the top again. Look more like the kind of guns that fire cartridges of shot to me, but perhaps I’m just being pedantic. Rounds, cartridges, bullets, shot – kinda sorta all the same thing to some people, including some journos who seem to pick up most of what they know about guns from Hollywood. Which would explain the next sentence.

The students, aged between 12 and 15, were heard talking about the Connecticut school shooting during the excursion while their classmates learnt to use the rifles.

RIFLES? Look, Nine, a gun that is too long to be a pistol isn’t necessarily a rifle. Do you really have no staff at all who are know the difference between rifles and shotguns and are capable of spotting it before you go to air/web? Christ’s sakes, I’m not saying you should be able to recognise it as a shotgun event just from what’s going on in the picture (looks like some kind of trap discipline to me, which I’d say is a great way to start newcomers since everything – shot and targets – is going away and you can set things up to throw fairly easy ones to give everyone a good chance of breaking a few clays), but surely you’d, oh, not being a journalist I wouldn’t know, but maybe phone the fucking club and ask?

However, Nine weren’t the only ones to say it was rifles, though they were still using the term while showing close-ups of break action over/under shotties on the early evening news. I’d heard rifles mentioned on the car radio earlier, and although my own first experience of shooting was with rifles I suspected it might actually be shotguns because the school’s in rural Victoria and shotguns probably aren’t uncommon in farming towns. There’s a zillion sodding rabbits out there, after all.

So Nine’s real sin might in fact be not doing their own story and just re-writing someone else’s. Hmm, who could that be?

…told the Herald Sun.

Source: Herald Sun

The Herald Sun, where we read:

A VICTORIAN high school has defended its decision to take students as young as 12 on a shooting expedition two days after the Sandy Hook massacre.

Screen shot 2012-12-18 at 19.49.24

Journalism or churnalism on Nine’s (and others’) part? I’ll leave that for you to decide, but I find it interesting that the Herald Sun piece, time stamped 3:23pm, actually mentions shotguns rather than rifles. Whether that was a hasty correction after everyone else had jumped aboard the outrage bus and was screaming about rifles, because the creature responsible for the murders in America used a rifle too you know, I have no idea, but it just means the story is slightly more factual (it still talks about rounds). It’s still not exactly what you’d call balanced when it contains phrases like this (my bold):

More than 50 students, aged between 12 and 15, from Ballarat High School and Beaufort Secondary College attended the Beaufort Gun Club yesterday where they were taught to wield shotguns and fire up to 20 rounds each.

I’ll tell you now and for free, those students were not taught to wield a shotgun or anything else. Wielding is what you do with a weapon (do please check your dictionaries for the definition of wield, Herald Sun journos) and while like practically anything else it can be used as one a shotgun of the type designed for trap shooting is not a weapon. It’s just a gun. I could bore you with details of why it’s not even a weapon, or is at best sub-optimal as a weapon, from the point of view of the fluffy bunnykins, but if you’re interested you can Google the differences between trap and field guns along with the differences in gun design for different clay target disciplines. Or you could trust me on this: it’s just a gun and not a weapon in the same way that a carving knife is just a knife and not a dagger. Dangerous? Yes, that goes without saying. But not a weapon, only a gun.

And not being a weapon the kids would sure as hell not have been taught to wield one. They’d have been taught to handle and shoot one safely and responsibly so that they’re not a danger to themselves or others, which may be the reason they didn’t come back dead or scared half to death but, well, like this.

Students participating in the outing at the shooting range yesterday were heard discussing the Sandy Hook massacre while their classmates fired.

A 14-year-old Year 8 student described her first experience holding a shotgun as “fun”.

“I was a little nervous, but I’d definitely do it again,” she said.

And despite the predictable whining from the state Education Minister and a gun control lobby talking head (why do we even have a gun control lobby here – they’ve already won) about the timing of the trip, protests from the school about it having been booked long before notwithstanding, I personally think it’s entirely appropriate to teach responsible and safe firearms handling when the fallout from irresponsible, dangerous and downright murderous firearms handling is in people’s minds.

Or would you not want to teach kids interested in swimming how to stay afloat because Harold Holt drowned?

P.S. Just out of interest I wonder will the left suddenly learn to love Murdoch now his publications are reminding us that he is – and I have a vague recollection always was – opposed to private citizens owning effective means of defence? Seems odd that he chose to give up citizenship of one country to become a citizen of one of the few, perhaps the only, nation on the planet that recognises that right.

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A plague on both their houses

Despite still being fairly busy I’ve made time to return to blogging, and the theme of this somewhat lengthy comeback is the perennial one of nearly all politicians and their parties being nigh on inseparably awful. Inspired by some recent Twitter and email conversations with people who (I’m guessing) might not particularly support Mitt Romney but fear Obama* and with people who (I’m also guessing) might not particularly support Obama but fear Mitt Romney** I thought I’d spend a little time doing some comparisons. And I think the fairest way to compare is to see how often they do things that, depending on your left vs right politics, are frightening or A Good Thing.

Starting with the easiest to find and one of the most recent things I got into on Twitter, use of the Presidential veto. I’m not going into threats to veto legislation as firstly that’s going to be something they all do, secondly it’s only politicking, and thirdly it’s not going to be consistently reported. Actual vetoes are a matter of record so we’ll go with that, and it is a fact that Obama is extremely reluctant to use his veto. At the time of writing he’s been President for 1,329 days and has vetoed only two pieces of legislation, and in neither case did Congress overrule it and pass the law anyway. That’s an average of one use every 21 and a half months. Quite a contrast, say some Obama supporters, with Bush’s 12 vetoes (about a third of which were overruled by Congress), and in fact excluding the half dozen or so US Presidents who never used their veto Obama is the least veto prone President they’ve ever had.

But Bush was in office for 2,922 days, making his veto record about once every eight months. Much more frequent, yes, but objectively it’s hard to accuse Bush of having his veto button on a hair trigger, especially when you consider that Clinton, Bush the Elder, Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon, Johnson, Kennedy, Eisenhower and Truman – all the Presidents since Dubbie was born – all used the veto with much greater frequency. In fact, and again excluding those who never vetoed anything at all, Dubya is the second least veto prone President behind Barack H. Obama. The third place, in case anyone’s interested, goes to Warren Harding, who was in office ninety years ago, while the most frequent vetoers were Grover Cleveland, a Republican, and FDR, a Democrat, who vetoed legislation on average once a week and once every five days respectively.

The bottom line there is that there is no relationship between a President’s party affiliation and his use of veto powers, not even when you take into account an opposition controlled Congress. The most and least veto happy Presidents are/were Democrats while the runners up in both categories were Republicans. Romney has not been President so we can only go on his record as Governor of Massachusetts, in which he used his veto about 800 times, more than twice as frequently as even FDR, though this is likely to be due in large part to a heavily Democratic state legislature which, predictably enough, overruled nearly all the vetoes anyway. Did he veto all that legislation for good reasons, or just because it made him look like he was trying his best to stick to policies in the face of determined and overwhelming opposition from the legislature? Does it mean that as President Romney would be even quicker on the veto draw than FDR? Probably not, but who knows?

So what do these numbers tell us? Not a bloody thing. If you don’t look at exactly what got vetoed by whom you can’t say whether you agree or disagree with its use, and once you do look it becomes subjective anyway. About all we can say objectively is that apart from the reasonable expectation of more vetoes when Congress is controlled by the other party there’s really no reason to suppose a President of one party is any more or less likely to veto legislation than a President of the other party.

Okay, so how about Executive Orders, something else that all Presidents can use and something I brought up in a Twitter conversation. Bush’s were Executive Order numbers 13198 to 13486, which makes 288 over his term or about one every ten days. Clinton managed 363 – one every eight days – over the same period of time, while Bush the Elder managed 165 – one every nine days – in his single term and Reagan’s record (380) over his two comes out at one every eight days. So far so similar. Carter was a bit keener, with 319 in a single term working out to one every 4-5 days. As of now Obama has issued 134, or one every ten days, about the same as his predecessor. Again, hard to get a comparable record for Romney but I can’t see any reason for thinking he’d buck this trend, and again I don’t think the bare numbers say much anyway. An Executive Order supporting a pet project or fulfilling a campaign promise is one thing, albeit something that arguably is not overtly supported by at least the majority who didn’t vote for the President (when was the last time any President had a majority of those eligible to vote, not just those who actually did vote?) but once more this becomes subjective. And while it’s subjective of me to maintain that Obama’s use of this tool to authorise the extra-judicial killing of his own citizens by means of drone launched missile attacks inside the borders of nations with whom there’s no formal declaration of war is pretty fucking iffy, not to mention beyond even where Dubya took the War on A Vague Feeling of Unease, I’m sure I’m far from alone. To be fair he issued one to close down the camps in Guantanamo Bay as well, but it’s hard to credit him for something that still hasn’t  happened yet and when the US continues to add to the numbers held without trial by sticking them somewhere else.

Among Obama’s inaugural executive decrees was a pledge to close the Pentagon’s notorious military prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, within a year. Today it’s still open with 169 prisoners. The administration’s policy has been to send no new prisoners there, but instead to expand its prison at the U.S. airbase in Bagram, Afghanistan, where some 2,000 languish further from public attention and without a pretense of any rights.

The order’s fine print made clear the president was not challenging the indefinite detention of detainees without charges. Inmates “not approved for release or transfer,” the order said, “shall be evaluated to determine … whether it is feasible to prosecute” them.

Two months later the administration was filing its first court brief defending indefinite military detention for Guantánamo detainees under executive wartime powers. In May of that year Obama defended his prerogative to indefinitely hold those “who cannot be prosecuted yet who pose a clear danger.” His administration has designated 46 prisoners for detention without trial.

And then there’s those drone strikes, on which, unusually for me, I’ll turn to CIF (links are CIF’s, emphasis is mine):

Yet, contrary to his campaign promises, Obama has left most of the foundations of Bush’s counterterrorism approach intact, including its presumption of executive privilege, its tolerance of indefinite detention in Guantánamo and elsewhere and its refusal to grant prisoners in America’s jails abroad habeas corpus rights. While the language of the “war on terror” has been dropped, the mindset of the Bush approach – that America is forever at war, constantly on the offensive to kill “bad guys” before they get to the United States – has crept into this administration and been translated into policy in new and dangerous ways.

This fact is clearly demonstrated in a recent New York Times article, which details how President Obama has become personally involved in an elaborate internal process by which his administration decides who will be the next victim of America’s drone strikes. The article itself – clearly written with the cooperation of the administration, as the writers had unprecedented access to three dozen counterterrorism advisers – was designed to showcase Obama as a warrior president, thoughtfully wrestling with the moral issues involved in drone strikes, but forceful enough to pull the trigger when needed.

What it instead revealed was that the president has routinized and normalized extrajudicial killing from the Oval Office, taking advantage of America’s temporary advantage in drone technology to wage a series of shadow wars in Afghanistan, PakistanYemen, and Somalia. Without the scrutiny of the legislature and the courts, and outside the public eye, Obama is authorizing murder on a weekly basis, with a discussion of the guilt or innocence of candidates for the “kill list” being resolved in secret on “Terror Tuesday” teleconferences with administration officials and intelligence officials.

The creation of this “kill list” – as well as the dramatic escalation in drone strikes, which have now killed at least 2,400 people in Pakistan alone, since 2004 – represents a betrayal of President Obama’s promise to make counterterrorism policies consistent with the US constitution. As Charles Pierce has noted, there is nothing in the constitution that allows the president to wage a private war on individuals outside the authorization of Congress.

[…]

Together with the bland assertion that the US has the right to self-defense against al-Qaida under international law, these legal arguments have enabled the president to expand drone operations against terrorist organizations to Yemen and Somalia, as well as to escalate the campaign against militant networks in Pakistan. To date, Obama has launched 278 drone strikes against targets in Pakistan. The use of drone strikes is now so commonplace that some critics have begun to wonder if the administration has adopted a “kill, not capture” policy, forsaking the intelligence gains of capturing suspects for an approach that leaves no one alive to pose a threat.

This vast, expansive interpretation of executive power to enable drone wars conducted in secret around the globe has also set dangerous precedent, which the administration has not realized or acknowledged. Once Obama leaves office, there is nothing stopping the next president from launching his own drone strikes, perhaps against a different and more controversial array of targets. The infrastructure and processes of vetting the “kill list” will remain in place for the next president, who may be less mindful of moral and legal implications of this action than Obama supposedly is (I’m far from convinced Obama is all that mindful – AE).

[…]

Also in contravention of his campaign promises, the Obama administration has worked to expand its power of the executive and to resist oversight from the other branches of government. While candidate Obama insisted that even terrorist suspects deserved their due process rights and a chance to defend themselves in some kind of a court, his administration has now concluded that a review of the evidence by the executive branch itself – even merely a hasty discussion during one of the “Terror Tuesdays” – is equivalent to granting a terrorist suspect due process rights. With little fanfare, it has also concluded that American citizens may now be killed abroad without access to a “judicial process”.

Oh, and those American citizens don’t even need to be of voting age. Not even a year ago one US citizen, Abdul Rahman al Awlaki, died on the receiving end of a drone launched missile at the age of sixteen years, though the administration initially suggested he was around twenty and therefore of fighting age as if being older and able was the same thing as being found guilty of an actual terrorist offence by a court and jury. Turns out that one birth certificate, issued in Colorado, did exist to trouble the Obama administration. Might al Awlaki have been involved even at that young age, especially as his dad and uncle were – or at least were also killed by drone strikes, which is as much due process as Abdul got? Possibly, who knows? The point is that Saint Obama of Democrats has been at least as keen to use the same tools, legal and technological, to blow up brown kids as teh ebil demon Bush of GOP. In fact so keen has Obama been on drone strikes that he’d authorised more of them by the time he accepted his Nobel Peace Prize less than a year into his presidency than Bush did in his whole eight years in the White House.

Nor is it just extra judicial killing via drone strikes. Obama has used Executive Orders to impose sanctions, “block” property and freeze assets, just as Bush did before him. Having been only a state Governor it’s hard to compare Romney but again I struggle to see any reason to expect him to be noticeably different.

Okay, so what about money and the economy? Republicans in general and Bush in particular are blamed by supporters of Obama and the Democrats for creating the GFC because it’s generally assumed that Republicans are the same thing as free market capitalists, and it’s strongly implied that Romney would be more of the same. Although I don’t doubt that Romney would be broadly similar the rest is bullshit for two reasons. Firstly, Republicans like Bush and Romney, big government Republicans, are no more capitalists than Obama is. Call them corporatists if you like and I’d be inclined to agree. Call them crony capitalists and I’d certainly be nodding. But free market capitalists? Let me put it this way, would a real free market capitalist bail out corporations who’ve fucked up so badly that they’ll go to the wall without state help? Would a real free market capitalist reward failure with money either taken by force from taxpayers or borrowed in their name without asking them?

Secondly, what free market are we even talking about here? The banking and finance industry? The one regulated by the SEC, FSA, ASIC and so on and strongly influenced if not controlled both by governments (both Dems and GOP in the US and both left and right of centre elsewhere) and by their various central banks plus a couple of supranationals? Free market my left ball. Amidst all that regulation and oversight where’s the free bit? It’s a myth – there is no free market. Freeish is not free, and operating under the strong, and as it turned out 100% correct, assumption that there’s a government provided taxpayer funded safety net is certainly not even remotely free for the simple reason that freedom necessarily includes the freedom to fail. Risk assessment changes not just with the risk itself but with the consequences of things going wrong, and when governments allowed corporations (it’s not just banks that have been bailed out or allowed to run for many years on subsidies) to believe they were protected from failure it was inevitable that they’d view risks differently and make products without customers or, as in the case of the banks, lend money to people who could never repay it. Absent the government protection there might be a few less options to choose from when buying a car due to unpopular models being dropped, but there probably wouldn’t have been as many subprime mortgages either. Blaming the free market for the GFC is like blaming Santa Claus for not getting the pressies you wanted at Christmas or complaining that the tooth fairy is getting stingy.

That didn’t happen on Bush’s watch or on Obama’s, yet they’ve played their part in the crisis all the same. There’s no doubt that Bush spent a hell of a lot of money, firstly on the War on Tourism*** and then on those bailouts. But then 2009 came and he left, and Barack Obama arrived promising change… and four years later he’s saying there’ll be some, honest, if America just sticks with him. Seriously? I know Congress hasn’t always been on his side but the last four years have been largely characterised by carrying on where Bush left off: spending a hell of a lot of money on war and bailouts for corporate fuck ups.

It’s harder to argue that the president hasn’t been a radical departure from previous presidents with respect to spending, debt, and deficits, but here goes. As a starting point, let’s have a look at the chart below, which shows federal outlays as a percentage of GDP.

The first year of the Obama presidency, 2009, is the largest year in decades, with federal outlays totaling a whopping 25.2 percent of GDP. Since then, federal outlays relative to GDP have fallen, but they are still incredibly large. In fact, you have to go back to 1946 to find a year when federal outlays were as large as they have been every year of the Obama presidency.

Having said that, it is impossible to look at the chart and not to see a large ramp up in outlays under George W. Bush — the president who reversed the direction of federal outlays, which had been falling. Indeed, it is perfectly reasonable to argue that much of the responsibility for 2009’s 25.2 percent rests with President Bush, and not with President Obama; in January 2009, before President Obama took office, the CBO released its forecast that fiscal year 2009would see outlays of 24.9 percent of GDP based on pre-Obama policies.

Don’t get me wrong: President Obama bears responsibility for federal outlays being larger for each year of his presidency than at any time since 1946. If George W. Bush bears a lot of responsibility for FY2009, then Mr. Obama bears even more responsibility for the three years that followed — responsibility for both the very high spending and the questionable composition of the spending.

So is Mr. Obama’s performance on spending quite bad? Yes. But a difference in kind rather than in degree? Over his four fiscal years as president the average outlays-to-GDP ratio is 24.4 percent. During the Reagan years the average was 22.4 percent. Given the Great Recession, this two percentage point difference, though deceivingly very large, isn’t enough to claim that President Obama represents a radical departure from post-war presidents with respect to spending.

What about the deficit? Here’s the picture.

This chart is startling. It shows that President Obama walked into a massive budget deficit and he made the situation worse. Prior to President Obama’s inauguration, and in the absence of any of his policies, the CBO estimated that the FY2009 budget deficit would be an incredible 8.3 percent of GDP. George W. Bush again bears a lot of the responsibility, and as with spending, President Obama turned bad into worse.

Each of Mr. Obama’s annual deficits has been larger than any since the 1940s. Deficits aggregate into debt, and as I have previously written it is reasonable to think of President Obama and George W. Bush as each being responsible for roughly one-third of the debt — with all presidents from George Washington through Bill Clinton responsible for the remaining third. (In the absence of George W. Bush, it would of course be much harder, perhaps impossible, to argue that President Obama has not been a radical departure from previous presidents on debt.)

 

Get that? Obama’s administration is responsible for about a third of America’s debt, and Bush’s for about another third. But Bush isn’t the GOP candidate, Mitt Romney is. And Mitt Romney delivered on his promise to get the deficit under control in Massachusetts, and claims he did so without raising taxes. Whether you consider a government imposed fee a tax or not probably determines whether you entirely buy his claim, as does your view on Romneycare, the Massachusetts health insurance scheme that has been likened to and even described as a predecessor to Obamacare, and whether federal money Massachusetts received (this is during the Bush era, remember) to help with this means that Romney is not the fiscal conservative some would like to believe. On top of that Romney has said little to nothing about rolling back the size of America’s federal government apparatus and come out in favour of things that seem likely to maintain if not increase it. PATRIOT Act? Yeah, he’s a fan. Bailouts? Well, he may have opposed Obama’s but he supported Bush’s so he’s clearly alongside the principle of rewarding failure with money taken from taxpayers. War and foreign policies? According to Wikipedia he “has stated that Russia is America’s ‘number one geopolitical foe’, and that preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear capability should be America’s ‘highest national security priority’. He plans to label China a currency manipulator and take associated counteractions unless that country changes its trade practices. He has supported the War in Afghanistan Romney supports thePatriot Act, existence of the the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and indefinite detention of suspected terrorists without trial, and use of enhanced interrogation techniques for interrogation of suspected terrorists.” As far as I can tell he, like Bush and Obama – and Clinton and Bush the Elder and Reagan etc – would also continue America’s ludicrously expensive and pointless War on Drugs Which Aren’t Ciggies Or Booze Because America Still Hasn’t Got Over The Last Time It Tried That. As a devout Mormon he may even want to extend it, but again with Obama attacking medicinal marijuana usage it’d stil be a case of meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Just like it was 1,329 days ago.

All of which I’d call change I can believe in – namely none whatsoever. America decides, as does Australia and the UK next year and the year after, but we need to wake up to what we’re really deciding. If all we’re voting for is who gets to be warden of our multi-million square mile prison camps then what’s the fucking point? Bush or Obama, Obama or Romney, Gillard or Abbott, Cameron or Miliband… all will change details, yes, but it’s clear that all will maintain vastly more just as it is now. One or other of them may do a slightly better job at maintaining the gilding on the bars but none of them wants to, probably can’t even conceive of, doing away with the cage.

Well, almost none.

So am I saying Americans should vote for Johnson? No, it’s their choice to make, but I will say that at this admittedly long distance it really does look to me that voting for Obama because you fear Romney or voting for Romney because you don’t like what Obama’s done really isn’t going to change a great deal. No criticism of America intended as both the country of my birth and the one in which I’ve made my home suffer from the same problem. Christ, on some issues you can’t get a fucking cigarette paper between them. My personal opinions may be slightly closer to Ron Paul’s than Gary Johnson’s, but he’s not on a ticket and as I have no say in America’s elections this is all academic anyway.

But crazy ideas like politicians not bankrupting their countries and not accumulating debt for taxpayers not yet even born and fighting unnecessary wars and letting us all live the one life that each of us get as free individuals… well, I’d vote for Australia’s or Britain’s Gary Johnson in a picosecond. And I can’t help but feel the best chance of there being an Aussie or British Gary Johnson to vote for is if a fair number of American voters decide to reject the usual Republocrat/Demlican suspects this November. I don’t imagine he’ll actually win, but at this stage getting noticed and getting on the ballot has been enough an achievement that just taking a decent number of votes off the other two would be a small victory.

Good luck @GovGaryJohnson, and if you don’t win is there any chance you could move here and not win as well. Because at least you’re getting the idea of real change into people’s heads.

* He’s a muslim/commie/wasn’t born in the US/pot smoking hippy/Chicago lawyer/socialist healthcare advocate/pinko/freedom hater/terrorist sympathiser/Zionist – circle all those you personally believe in and which you think make him unfit to be President.

** He’s a mormon like Bill Paxton in Big Love/rich guy’s friend/socialist healthcare advocate/as bad as Bush because they’re both from the same party, you know, so despite  differences in the way Romney ran his state as Governor he’d run the country the same way Dubya did/terrorist sympathising Zionist… I’m going to stop taking the piss out of Obama and Romney’s respective detractors now. You get the picture – as far as I know nearly all the guff I’ve written in both these footnotes is complete bollocks and what isn’t is irrelevant, but all of it or stuff very much like it has been said either online or in the MSM. What amuses me is how some of the things they’ve been criticised for are actually things they have in common.

*** Not a typo: fly through Los Angeles airport and you’ll see what I mean – seriously, America, I’d love to visit again and spend money seeing various bits of your country but last time there the TSA made me feel about as welcome as a tumescent priest in a boy’s dormitory.

Saving, not drowning

Why do people get fired? Yes, I know that in many areas legislation seems to protect anyone from getting fired at all these days and that, say, fiddling your expenses might get you fired in your job but not if you were an MP, but I can’t think of anywhere where there isn’t something you can do that will get you instantly fired on the spot even if it’s hacking your bosses’ heads off and serving them up in the staff canteen.

So accepting that people do still get fired why, in general, does it happen? I’m sure we could come up with a million different reasons why someone would get the Spanish Archer, but we’d probably all agree that almost all of them boil down to some variant of not doing the job for which that individual was hired. I say ‘almost’ there because it turns out it’s also possible to get the sack for what most normal people, but not lawyers, would consider doing exactly the job you were hired to do, as a bloke in Florida found out this week when he was fired from his job as a lifesaver for the gross misconduct of, er, doing some lifesaving.

Liability issues? What the hell are they on about? The only thing I can think of is that because Thomas Lopez left the area of beach and water he was responsible for to rescue someone outside it the company paid by the city to provide lifesavers on the beach might theoretically have been sued if someone else got into difficulties in Lopez’ bit of beach. The signs are there for a reason and I guess that reason is reflecting the reality that help can’t be everywhere at once, and beyond a certain point you can’t necessarily expect there to be any – in this area we will try to help, but beyond it assume that you’ll be on your own. Well, fair enough, but there’s a huge difference between not expecting that there’ll necessarily be help and expecting that perfectly capable help will be instructed to sit on its arse. If I go off camping in the bush to get away from it all for a bit I don’t expect the full range of emergency services to be available, but I’d like to think that if we don’t come back everyone wouldn’t just go “Oh, they went outside our usual area so meh, we’re not even going to go have a look just in case something happens here.” Yet that seems to be roughly the policy at Hallandale beach.

We’re fucked, aren’t we? Seriously, properly, fucked. Western society’s doom is not going to come from outside but from within: a self inflicted death of a thousand3 cuts that come about when nobody has any idea what they’re allowed to do anymore and end up standing there and doing nothing at all, terrified of unwittingly committing some ridiculous but all too real offence or being sued into penury by some tediously thin skinned prick who can’t deal with the fact that the universe isn’t there to give him a blow job every day and that it’s not necessarily someone’s fault when things don’t go his way. This, folks, is our future if we insist on hiring people to save lives but tell them that under no circumstances must they save lives that are in danger in a slightly different place from where they’re on duty, and that in such circumstances they must stand there as those lives are lost to the water. Because ‘liability’.

Did I say the future? Oh, shit.*

I understand that there’s an obligation to provide lifeguard cover on the section of beach marked as having lifeguards, and that if someone drowned because a lifeguard should have been there but wasn’t then calls from the nearest ambulance chasing law firm are practically certain, but as Lopez’ colleagues point out in other videos (e.g. this one) the beach was still covered.

While he was off we had two other guards watching the zones, so the beach was secured.

No doubt some corporate bellend seeking to justify the sackings and hand wave the resignations would say what if those two guys had to do rescues in their own areas or failed to spot someone else in trouble because they were having to mind an extra part of the beach. I can kind of see this but surely you need to consider how likely is the hypothetical situation where every lifeguard is suddenly going to be needed simultaneously at the a time when one of them has left the patrolled area to save someone who’s really in trouble, and in that highly unlikely scenario how is it any different from having x lifeguards employed and x+1 people screaming for help in the patrolled area? If the signs reflect the fact that assistance can’t be everywhere then we have to acknowledge the tiny possibility that it really can’t even be guaranteed to be everywhere in the area that is intended to be covered.

Unfortunately corporate bellends and uber-litigiious types desperate to find blame when life hands out lemons and death hands out calling cards often don’t see things that way, being almost congenitally unable to look beyond the potential for lawsuits and not sufficiently discouraged by courts from doing so. Happily for that one person who got into trouble in the water, Thomas Lopez and his colleagues who resigned or were also sacked have no truck with this nonsense. The courage of lifeguards is to be admired anyway, but the principled stand these half dozen or so have taken is to be admired even more. Doubly so for Thomas Lopez if he even stopped to think about the rules and decided that the rules could go piss, though it seems quite possible that he thought of nothing beyond helping the drowning man stop drowning. Which is what you’d imagine is the key quality you’d be looking for if you were hiring lifeguards.

May they or people very much like them find jobs on beaches where you and your loved ones go. The kind of lifeguard who really would sit on his platform and watch while someone who didn’t fit the to-be-saved criteria drowned should be hired exclusively to patrol beaches frequented by the type of shitwit who’d fire the other kind for rescuing someone beyond the flags.

* I realise I may be being a little unfair there, as I recall that in the infamous ‘PCSOs stood by as someone drowned because of elfinsafetee rules’ story they’d arrived after the victim had gone under, couldn’t be certain where the victim had ended up, and genuinely weren’t equipped or trained to do much more than call for help from people who actually knew what they were doing – since that’s much what a random passerby would have been capable of it’s perhaps more a failure of the concept of PCSOs than the individual PCSOs in that case. On the other hand I did see a few weeks back that a couple of PCSOs went into cold water to save a drowning man, and in the article their superiors were smart enough to avoid any suggestion that this was somehow not the done thing.

Is it an election year or something?

Click for link

It is a surprise to no one in the US that Barack Obama supports gay marriage. The only thing that has raised eyebrows is how long it took the President to stumble towards a clear public affirmation of his position.

What’s surprising? Any US president saying this kind of thing is going to piss of the Christian right, and since they’re going to vote Republican that’s no loss to a Democratic pres. But surely it’s also going to appeal to a lot of right-on types who mostly vote Democrat, which means it might be the kind of thing a Democrat president could leave until nearer the election to give any wavering support a boost. This is almost certainly not a sudden Damascene conversion for Obama but something that’s been sat on until the time was judged to be right. From his perspective it would have been a bit of a waste for him to have said this three and a half years ago in the height of his post election (and not being George W Bush) popularity, but if he’s worried that some of his own voters will be viewing the last three years with enough disappointment that they might not vote he’ll probably think it’s time to play a pocket card or two. Suddenly being all right-on about gay marriage after being quite so long could be one such card, and timing it with allegations about Romney being a homophobe in the distant past (which was also preceded by a long period of absolutely nothing being said about it despite Romney being a senator, a state governor and a candidate for the Republican nomination in 2008) could be another.

In short, I don’t think gays should be getting too euphoric about this. I’d say this has got fuck all to do with their rights or anyone else’s and much more to do with getting the votes in come November. On the issue itself I’d say what I always do: that defining marriage is one of the vast (and growing) number of things that should not be a government function at any level, and most certainly not at the federal level. Seriously, just scrap the legal definition of marriage altogether. Gays should be free to define marriage so as to include them and find agreeable celebrants if they want, and those whose religious beliefs mean they define it otherwise should be free to disagree and say that those marriages have no validity in the sight of their preferred man in the sky. It won’t be enough to keep either group but think of the alternative. While it remains something that government feel they can involve themselves in then both gays and the religious will be electoral pawns with nice easy hot buttons to be pressed by otherwise shit politicians who couldn’t be trusted alone in a room with your wallet. But if both the gay and religious lobbies can stick their fingers up to both lots of pollies, and providing they can agree to disagree and don’t actually come to blows over it, then both could be better off. Just one small concession is needed from each side: the gays just need to concede that certain religions will always say that butt love and going sappho is sinful and rules out their particular marriage service, and in turn those religions need to concede that they’re not the only game in town as far as marriage is concerned.

Pictured – traditional marriage

So what’s it to be? I know at least one Christian who isn’t against gay marriage in general but would oppose it in her church, and I also know at least one gay person who’s fine with letting religious prohibitions stand indefinitely provided the various churches are willing to let bi-gals be bi-gals (so to speak) but I suspect they’re both in a minority and that things to remain pretty much the same as they are right now. I hope to be wrong about this one day and wake up to find that both groups have realised that they could both be freer than either is at the moment if only they just told the presidents and prime ministers to mind their own business about it.

If you read just one more post today…

… make it this one of Bill Sticker’s.

No less a body than the FBI is posting dire warnings about people it calls ‘Sovereign Citizens’ and how they are becoming a ‘Terrorist threat’. Now I realise this is more Ranty’s territory than mine, but I’d like to write down what thoughts I have on the matter.

Now the FBI say that this movement poses a ‘threat’, forming an extreme ‘right wing’ grouping. In their press releases they attempt to link the Sovereign Citizen movement directly to the actions of the Oklahoma Bomber Timothy McVeigh, with a sly nod of the head towards the loose but highly influential American anti-tax alliance, the Tea Party.

Of course it’s all propaganda. Assailed upon all sides by the tactics of tax and revenue denial, the powers that be will want all those who don’t like having their pocketbooks raped for last red cent classed as ‘terrorists’. Even if the individuals concerned are nothing of the sort.

Seriously, do go and read the whole thing.

PETA jump the shark

Except it must of course be a free range shark rather than that poor thing in the cage that the Fonz jumped over, or so I’d assume from this.

A JUDGE for the first time in US history has heard arguments in a case that could determine whether animals enjoy the same constitutional protection against slavery as human beings.

US District Judge Jeffrey Miller called the hearing in San Diego after Sea World asked the court to dismiss a lawsuit filed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) that names five orcas as plaintiffs in the case.

Now I’m not a fan of orcas and dolphins in captivity and won’t pay a cent to go see them (and I have paid well to see them in the wild). If the orcas themselves had squeaked and clicked at a lawyer and sued Sea World I’d be barracking for them, but since the orcas are animals I just hope that people get over this kind of thing and Sea World gradually diminishes. They may be very bright animals but as with the iPad apps for cats thing the other day I think it’s anthropomorphising to go much further. Any being that’s clearly able to speak up for itself and complain that its rights are being infringed I’m on the side of, and ownership of such a being is slavery or something very much like it. But as far as I know the only such being is a human being, and even then not all of them qualify. Children need looking after while they are still children and while we don’t own our kids as such that can’t really be said to own themselves either.

Animals, even very bright ones, are a different story, but it’s a story that PETA seems not to have not heard.

“This case is on the next frontier of civil rights,” said PETA lawyer Jeffrey Kerr, representing the five orcas.

It’s on the next frontier of something, alright.

Sea World’s lawyer, Theodore Shaw, called the lawsuit a waste of the court’s time and resources. He said it defies common sense and goes against 125 years of case law applied to the American constitution’s 13th amendment, which prohibits slavery between humans.

As I’ve indicated, I’m not all that keen on supporting Sea World in keeping orcas but I think he may just have a bit of a point here. Look at what it says in the US Constitution:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

‘We the People’ not ‘We the People and Cetaceans’, and nor was anyone involved in drafting, signing and ratifying the Constitution a member of any species other than Homo sapiens. That’s not a one-off use: even before we get to the Bill of Rights ‘the People’ are mentioned again in Article 2 where it talks of membership of the House of Representatives, and even in California dolphins do not have the vote. In the Bill of Rights itself the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 9th, and 10th Amendments all explicitly refer to people (in the first person in the case of the 5th), the 3rd doesn’t but must as well because it relates to land ownership, and it can be inferred in the remaining three amendments since they relate to judicial proceedings such as excessive bail, impartial juries and so on, and you wouldn’t expect anyone to put a dolphin on trial. Later Amendments, such as the 14th which refers to citizenship and the rights and liberties that come with it, again refer to people and there’s no mention in the two that extend suffrage beyond the 19th Century ‘white guys only’ model refer only to race and sex respectively. ‘Species’ doesn’t get a mention because – duh – animals physically can’t vote anyway, and in fact both speak only of citizens so we’re back to the 14th and people again. In fact it seems so blindingly obvious that ‘duh’ could almost be the whole argument if lawyers weren’t all prolix bastards that put me to shame.

“With all due respect, the court does not have the authority to even consider this question,” Mr Shaw said, adding later: “Neither orcas nor any other animal were included in the ‘We the people’ … when the constitution was adopted.”

Quite, and probably as close as a lawyer can come to ‘Well, duh’.

The judge raised doubts a court could allow animals to be plaintiffs in a lawsuit, and questioned how far the implications of a favourable ruling could reach, pointing out the military’s use of dolphins and scientists’ experiments on whales in the wild.

Sounds like he’s trying to find a more official legalese version of ‘duh’ as well. Incidentally, I wouldn’t shed a tear if the military stopped using dolphins but I’d rather it was because of human ingenuity producing something that does the job better or, at a push, statute law forbidding it.

Mr Kerr acknowledged PETA faces an uphill battle but said he felt positive after Monday’s hearing.

“This is an historic day,” Mr Kerr said.

“For the first time in our nation’s history, a federal court heard arguments as to whether living, breathing, feeling beings have rights and can be enslaved simply because they happen to not have been born human. By any definition these orcas have been enslaved here.”

Big deal. You can go to court and argue that Elvis came from the stars and therefore his will was invalid and Gracelands should become public property, but that doesn’t mean you’re not talking bollocks. Bottom line, the Constitution is a document for and about human beings. Call that speciesist if you want, but that’s how it’s got to be unless you want to extend human rights and citizenship to non-humans, which might raise further problems for some of Sea World’s orcas.

Click for linky

A SeaWorld killer whale has snatched a trainer from a poolside platform, thrashing the woman about underwater in its jaws and killing her in front of a horrified audience.

It is the third time the animal, named Tilikum, has been involved in a human death.

[…]

A marine conservationist at the American Museum of Natural History believes the whale’s actions at SeaWorld were intentional.

Extending human rights to animals, even bright ones, cuts both ways. Humans have responsibilities as well as rights, top of which is the responsibility to other humans. Many of us fail to respect that and there are legal sanctions for those who do so. In much of the US, including in Florida where the Sea World trainer was killed, those sanctions include the death penalty. But of course nobody would consider an animal that’s killed a human is a murderer because they’re not human. Well, apart from PETA who seem to think you don’t have to be born human to have a human’s legal status.

I wouldn’t ascribe malice to it myself, but that’s not the point. If it was a human doing it there would be an investigation and, if appropriate, charges. If the orcas are to be treated as if they are humans then that must mean treating them exactly as if they’re human, in all respects.

And what else might this mean? Sea World could then be sued, probably into bankruptcy, for many years back pay for the orcas, who’d doubtless have another self appointed PETA lawyer insisting that they be recognised as employees in the entertainment industry. Which achieves what? The orcas physically can't open bank accounts so it'd need to be a cash lump sum, and the taxman will complain that it's wet when he comes to get his share. And because the pools are half full of banknotes Sea World, assuming it's still there, will get sued again for poor living conditions and again when one of the orcas dies from some $100 bills getting lodged in its blowhole. All because of a bone headed insistence of treating animals not simply with respect, but as actual people.

And why would it stop there? Other dolphin species are just as bright if not more so, which means they'd have to be treated the same way. And then there are dogs, some breeds of which can be pretty bright and are used as working dogs on farms and in police departments and so on – hey, you with the guide dog, you slaver bastard! It probably means every dog in the US that's been taught to fetch, and I'm sure PETA are fine with that too because they're on record as being opposed to domesticated animals including pets and livestock.* Bee keepers are fucked.

This opens a massive can of worms – except it mustn't because the worms have rights – as it has the potential to be extended to every other living thing. To me that should include fungi, soil microbes and plants, especially those that are grown with the express purpose of being cut down and exploited as a food source. Which is something I doubt all the vegans and veggies at PETA have considered or would agree with, but hey, exploitation is what it is and all life is related. If a dog is a rat is a pig is a boy then surely it's also a wheat plant and a tasty mushroom and a vegetarian sausage and case of strep throat – and how many microbes did you massacre in the shower this morning just so you could smell nicer, you genocidal bastard? All life consumes and exploits other life, PETA, and vegetarians are no exception even if they do self righteously refuse to eat anything even vaguely cute and start pouring piss about keeping animals being slavery.

That's taking PETA's arguments to extremes but ad absurdum or not I think it’s a fair point. This is about where you draw the line, and while most people are happy to draw it around our own species PETA want to draw it around the whole animal kingdom. The interesting thing is that I cannot believe they expect to succeed. I cannot believe that they expect to reach a point where having a few beehives is seen as being as bad as having fellow humans in chains working fields, and I doubt they really expect to persuade a federal court that the document which is the United States’ highest law and refers explicitly to people also includes a large species of dolphin whose last ancestor shared with us would have died many millions of years ago and wouldn’t have faintly resembled either of us.

In fact I suspect PETA expect to lose but hope to drum up a lot of publicity in the process, which is inevitable when you’re in a court arguing that a twelve tonne sea mammal that can rip a shark’s face right off is the same as you and I. Not worthy of respect or kindness, but the same. They’re going to lose but they’re going to gain PR out of it.

Hang on. Doesn’t that mean PETA are exploiting these beautiful creatures too? You utter bastards, PETA.

* They also advocate vegan diets for domestic cats despite all cat species being obligate carnivores. Their reasoning? Cats eat some plant matter. Hey, fuckwits, just because cats eat some plant matter does not mean they don’t need any meat.

Paul 3rd in Iowa

Not the result he’d hoped for, and while I didn’t think he could win the GOP nomination anyway I felt it would at least have steered things in a different direction. How much is down to the accusations of racism in the distant past and how much to him not being seen as Republican enough (though I suspect Ron Paul himself would claim, perhaps justifiably, that he’s the only real Republican out of the lot) I can only speculate, and I really don’t know enough about US politics even to do that. At the moment it’s reported that Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are 1st and 2nd, though it’s as tight as a duck’s arse, and that “Santorum takes splits Evangelical vote with Paul” (sic). If that’s saying the Santorum did well because the evangelical crowd voted for him instead of Paul I can believe it but I’m not all that they were expected to vote for Paul in the first place. This isn’t like choosing between two people with broadly similar positions on most things and then picking one over the other due to one of the few areas they do differ. They may both be fiscal conservatives but from where I sit that seems to be about where it ends. Santorum is a social conservative appealing to the religious right (who’ll surely vote Republican in November anyway) while Paul is socially fairly liberal. Perhaps it’s my remoteness leading to an inability to understand the subtleties but if these were candidates here in Oz or in the UK there’s no way in hell both would even be on my radar – if I was the kind who’d support Santorum I’d never even consider Paul and, more realistically, vice versa.

So, no new direction for the Republican race at the moment, and unless Paul can achieve a more unexpected victory elsewhere probably not at all. Does this make it more likely that November will see stock GOP candidate vs Obama, and what does that mean for the real competition?

QOTD

Via the Zanzibari Kittie Counters, this:

Obama has been compared to Spock, but he’s more like GlaDOS. Acts cold and aloof, but is childish when angered. Promises cake we’ll never see.

As Sam Duncan at Counting Cats says, there are people who don’t play videogames and there are people who’ll look at that and go, ‘Hey, yeah, he is, isn’t he?’

Do you have to be a European to believe the Euro is not all but dead?

And does the head in the sand approach mean greater problems when it finally keels over? Some certainly think so.

TOP US military officer General Martin Dempsey has admitted he is ”extraordinarily concerned” about the euro’s survival, pointing to potential civil unrest and the break-up of the European Union.

”The euro zone is at great risk,” the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said, giving the strongest indication yet about the depth of Washington’s concerns over Europe’s financial tumult.

”We are extraordinarily concerned by the health and viability of the euro because in some ways we’re exposed literally to contracts but also because of the potential of civil unrest and break-up of the union that has been forged over there,” General Dempsey said.

I can’t help feeling that if the US are getting the Joint Chiefs of Staff involved they’re very, very worried over there. We all know that Americans aren’t allowed to die for any reason at all any more, and there are many tens of thousands of them in Europe at any one time. Warnings from economists may carry the weight of expertise but when a major power’s military starts talking about it it sounds like someone somewhere now expects the worst.

Cain unable

I don’t know the truth behind the allegations against Herman Cain, though I suspect there’s at least a small element of how dare a black guy be a Republican among some who believe that minorities are supposed to be Democrats. Whatever, enough mud has been thrown that he’s dropped out of the contest for the GOP nomination. So, thinking back to that vote matching thing I was playing with last month, who’d get most of Cain’s support, Paul or Perry? And will the media there let Gary Johnson get any attention now?

Probably no to the last one but out of interest I went back to that vote matcher and gave the same answers as last time but dropped Cain, and this was what I got.

That’s 4% more for Ron Paul and Michelle Bachman, and everyone else remains unchanged. Not what I expected at all.

Questions to which the answer is "No"

Cick for linky

… the question arises, should the rest of the world take over management of Europe to prevent or mitigate disaster? Specifically, should the US Federal Reserve assume leadership as a monetary superpower and impose policy on a paralyzed ECB, acting as a global lender of last resort?

And for the answer I think we should turn to one of those well worn graphical illustrations of how deep America’s debt rabbit hole goes. This one is an excellent example from usdebt.kleptocracy.us. The first image shows the approximate US public debt by the end of the year if it was a piles of actual size $100 bills compared to quite a famous landmark, and the second shows that plus its unfunded liabilities.

If you’ve read the captions on those images (you can embiggerfy, or better yet go look at the original where you can see a similar representation of the US budget for 2011) you’ll have noticed that the first of those, the $15 trillion pile, is roughly the size of the Gross Domestic Product for the entire United States. In fact the captions are a little out of date – US debt will not now reach 100% of GDP by Christmas 2011 because that happened four weeks ago.

So actually the answer to the question of whether the US Federal Reserve should act as Europe’s lender of last resort is not just “No” – it’s “With what?”

Well, that didn’t take long

I’ve been meaning to get round to blogging on the actions of John Pike, the American cop who calmly sprayed capsicum directly in the faces of some of Occupy protestors sitting peacefully in a row offering no resistance. On the one hand I’m not a huge supporter of the Occupy mob and think that many of them are aiming at the wrong target (business rather than government) and protesting something that doesn’t truly exist (the free market). It all rather smacks of the anarchists for a bigger government protests in London last year. However, free speech and association and all that, as enshrined by our American cousins in their Bill of Rights, which makes it troubling that it was in America – Land of the Free, etc – in which a cop unloaded a canister full of capsicum spray right in the faces of some protestors sitting Gandhi style, unresisting and offering no violence.

However, not for the first time events have overtaken my blogging efforts and John Pike, whose identity and contact details quickly made their way online, has now become an internet meme. Those UK readers who are old enough to remember Tony Hart’s gallery music can start humming it now.*

Do-duh-do-duh-do-duh-dooo, do-duh-doo-dooo, do-duh-do-doo-doo-doooo…

John Pike, aged 39

John Pike, aged 39

John Pike, aged 39

John Pike, aged 39

John Pike, aged 39

John Pike, aged 39

John Pike, aged 39

But my personal favourites this week are these three, by John Pike, 39, John Pike aged 39, and finally 39 year old John Pike, all of the University of California, Davis, police department.

Clever reference

A meme within a meme

No comment necessary

* For the benefit of non Brits the late Tony Hart presented a couple of art TV shows for kids when I was little, at least one of which had a gallery segment of drawings and paintings sent in by kids and which was accompanied by that piece of music. The bastards never showed any of mine.

Contrasting receptions

Peter Costello, former Liberal party MP and Federal government Treasurer for the Coalition under John Howard, writes in The Age on an interesting difference in receptions given to US Presidents.

When the American president addressed joint Houses of the Australian Parliament back in 2003, Greens Senator Bob Brown interjected. In fact so worked up was he that the Speaker ordered his removal from the chamber. He was yelling about Iraq and Guantanamo Bay.

This time Brown joined a conga line of MPs clamouring to shake hands with the President, Barack Obama. He had to jostle with Greens MP Adam Bandt (who has a PhD on Marxism) to get his chance. Both of them were beaming. It was a good speech. The President declared America’s commitment to a military presence in the Asia-Pacific region, including a new proposal to train up to 2500 marines in the Northern Territory. One can only imagine what Bob’s reaction would have been had George Bush announced that 2500 US marines would be stationed on Australian soil. They would have had to cart him out of the House of Representatives.

[…]

Bob Brown was all worked up about Guantanamo Bay when George Bush visited Australia, but he does not seem to worry so much now that Obama is in charge. Julia Gillard used to complain that Australia was subservient to America. Now she claims she has made our alliance stronger than ever before.

In opposition, Labor harvested votes on the left. In government it wants to appeal to conservatives….

[…]

Labor MPs may feel happy to see Obama and Gillard standing in front of troops in the Northern Territory – it is a great photo opportunity for their side of politics. But alliances are between countries. They are designed to outlive the political office-holders of the day. In the future it could be Newt Gingrich and Tony Abbott standing there being cheered by US marines in the NT. The principle is either right or it is wrong and it doesn’t turn on who happens to be in office.

That is why it is so useful to have the left of Australian politics now locked in to traditional Coalition policies. Bipartisan support has been firmly established. And in the future if there is ever a complaint about marines based in Australia, just pull out the footage of a beaming Bob Brown grasping the hand of the president who announced it.

Some excellent points made there, and while I have no more love for Peter Costello’s party than the ALP – in one sense rather less love because the bastardisation of the word ‘liberal’ to describe a party of paternalists that like telling other people how to live their lives simply infuriates me – I can’t argue that Leftists can be pretty inconsistent if not hypocritical when it comes to the US. The bottom line is this: all the things I disliked about George W Bush, the wars, Gitmo, the loss of individual liberties, cosying up to big business and lobbyists, have by and large continued under Obama.

I’m aware some that Rightists care less about what is done than that it’s one of their men doing it – witness David Cameron’s actions of late and the deafening silence from his supposedly right of centre party – but if anything it seems to be even more true of Leftists. Is something bad done by a right winger made less bad when a left winger takes over and carries on?

Divided by a common language

You may be aware that Australia is playing host to the Obamessiah at the moment, and I probably wouldn’t bother blog about it unless his car got stuck again apart from the fact that the leader of the opposition, Tony Abbott, has brought up the difference between the various flavours of English. Strine being mostly closer to English English than American English this is one I can understand.

Mr Abbott also talked about linguistic mix-ups, recounting his first visit to the US as an MP where a briefing that described him as a “ferocious liberal” and “deeply anti-republican” meant he spent a fortnight being introduced to communists.

Heh.

Diversions – UPDATED

Oooh, another one of those how to vote thingies. I’m not sure why it’s in The Telegraph since it’s for the next year’s Republican party primaries in the US and being a British publication most of their readership hasn’t got a vote there. As usual with these things depending on your own position on an issue some questions can be a little on the shallow side, and when you don’t know the details about a particular program or initiative, e.g. Race To The Top, there’s little option but to click the open minded option, but for all that I’d say it’s better than the one I did a year and a half ago before the UK general election. Still, just for the sake of it I had a play and ticked the boxes to see who I should hope gets the nomination and, since I know little about many of the candidates, perhaps become a bit better informed. I said I’d be prepared to vote for any of the candidates, though of course the reality is I’m able to vote for exactly none of them, and to my not very great at all surprise these are the results I got.

I might agree even more with Ron Paul than this suggests since of the five questions on which I apparently disagree with him I said I was open minded on two simply through unfamiliarity with the program (Race To The Top) and the use of Executive Orders (repealing ObamaCare question), and a couple more depend a little on how it’s interpreted.However, it has informed me a little and defied my expectations since I’d expected Bachmann to come a very distant last and for Herman Cain to be a solid second and much closer to Paul.

But I’m curious – I’m sure that clip of the debate that Trooper Thompson had up the other day had 8 candidates and there are others around. I know that some of them are felt to be no-hopers but I’m surprised that it doesn’t include at least all those who took part in the debates.

UPDATE – Noticed that it can be embedded. Have fun.

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