Blogging the 2010s — 96 — October 2012

I was so productive this month it has been hard to choose just two!  Note on the second one:  my friend Philip has since moved to another part of New York City.

My Asian Century

In 1962 I looked at a map and made a choice. The lesson of the map was bleeding obvious even then.


In its own way World War II, during which I was born, spoke the same message: YOU ARE HERE! Get used to it!

So I chose to study Asian History at Sydney University in 1962 with two quite brilliant lecturers, Dr Ian Nish and Marjorie Jacobs. We galloped through China and Japan in two terms (Dr Nish) and India in one (Marjorie Jacobs) and never quite got to South East Asia though I had bought the textbook – D G E Hall in those days. I read it anyway. I wrote essays on Ram Mohun Roy and on the Sian Incident 西安事变. Turned out to be the one and only time I topped a subject at Sydney U!

Then at Cronulla High teaching History, among other things, from 1965 (student teacher) through 1966 to 1969, I always Asianised the curriculum – that is I took time out to make time lines showing, or devote a lesson to, what was happening in India, China, Japan, S-E Asia at the same time as, say, Elizabeth I. Indeed my first history job in 1965 was teaching Indonesian history to a Year 10 class – or 4th Year as we called it then.  And of course in the 1960s Cronulla High was a pioneer Indonesian teaching school – the place where I first heard an anklung orchestra – the school had one – or tasted nasi goreng.

Yes, the 1960s, folks.

And then at TIGS from 1971 to 1974 I taught mainly English, but also for a while I was History coordinator and in addition (under the Social Sciences Department) taught Asian Studies. Yes, Asian Studies, and there were even actual published text books and a syllabus and everything. Even before Gough Whitlam, if only just! in 1970 there was even a NSW  HSC subject called Asian Social Studies with 919 candidates. I remember having my class cooking (allegedly) Japanese food from recipes in an Asian Studies text book. We ate it and also fed it to the staff. First time I had ever used soy sauce or cooked bamboo shoots.

Wollongong High had a thriving Indonesian language group in the 1970s.

And so it goes.

Then of course we had the Keating era where the “Asian century” idea was first floated, though I am not sure the expression was used. We were reminded that we are part of Asia, and the map makes that quite incontrovertible, I would think. We sure as hell are not part of Europe. On the other hand, culturally and institutionally we draw on Britain plus, which also distinguishes us and is in my view something extraordinarily valuable we have to offer the region and something also to be cherished as part of what Australian has come to be. This has never struck me as a terribly difficult balancing act, though we did sadly get plunged into Pauline Hanson going totally batshit about being “swamped by Asians” for a while there and John Howard made sometimes worrying gestures in that direction, knowing where his votes were coming from but also by nature uncomfortable with the Keating era vision and with anything that happened before 1959. On the other hand in the Howard era we (and he) were busily engaged with Asian countries just as much as ever, simply because that is where we are and what is bound to happen. And of course we intervened in East Timor, something I for one supported.

And Sydney High, where I worked most of the time from 1985 to 2005, offered Mandarin as well as Ancient Greek. I even wrote a cross-cultural text, based on some class work at SBHS, called From Yellow Earth to Eucalypt (Longman 1995).


Now here we are again. I haven’t read the White Paper yet, just skimmed. It is fascinating. It is also, as I said yesterday, pretty much what anyone leading Australia now would envisage, but as others have pointed out it is also less substantial than it could be. I guess it gives a bit of a vision which may even lead to outcomes.  I wouldn’t hold my breath about some of it though.

See also Ben Eltham, No Cash For The Asian Century, Richard Tsukamasa Green, Asian languages are essential because they are essential, Bill Mitchell, The Asian Century White Paper – spin over substance. Now that is a pretty diverse bunch with rather similar messages.

And there is the sad story of the decline of past promise, when it comes to Asian languages. I don’t think either Cronulla High or Wollongong High has Indonesian any more, and that is typical. See a report last year in the Herald.

Just 9 per cent of 72,391 [NSW] HSC students studied a language this year. Of the 34 offered, French was the most popular with 1471, followed by Japanese with 1376.

For all the rhetoric on the need to move closer to Asia, Indonesian was studied by only 232, Chinese by 1091 and Hindi, the language of a future powerhouse, by just 42…

Just checked: Cronulla High offers Japanese in the HSC; Wollongong High School of the Performing Arts (as it now is)  offers introductory Korean in Years 7 and 8; Heathcote High in The Shire (where my grandnephews and grandniece went in recent years) has Indonesian in Years 7 and 8 and a 15 year long linkage to schools in the Hitachi-Omiya district in Japan.

How different will things be in ten years time? Honestly, I wouldn’t hold my breath. See also Tim Lindsay Australia’s Asia literacy wipe-out.

Do also visit Dennis Wright and Maximos Russell Darnley – both extraordinary people who know much more than I do.

Meantime, enjoy the sight of an Illawarra Flame Tree in Figtree, just south of West Wollongong. They were taken yesterday.



New York, New York

Coincidentally I have been reading about the seamier side of New York City just lately: Alphaville.

The cocky and often triumphant confrontations with bad guys make “Alphaville” a strangely entertaining read. But the book is also a reminder of how far into danger and degradation New York fell in the late 20th century. Today New York is the safest major city in America. Yet the homicide rate so far this year is 15% higher than last, and the numbers for rape and robbery are rising, too. The watchword for urban safety, as for so much else, is eternal vigilance. We never want to return to the bad old days—which aren’t all that old.

That at least has made me more aware of the geography of the city, so recent reports have thus meant more to me.  I have never been there. I do know a few people who are there now. Here are two.

  • Philip Costello, a friend, and flatmate a couple of times in the 80s and 90s. “To all those who may be concerned. No damage, leaks or flooding at my home, but am affected by the big power outage that is affecting a large part of Manhattan. Have fled to the Upper West side to a friends apartment till power is restored.”
  • Jeremy Heimans – former SBHS student and all-round amazing internet person – #11 of the Top 100 Creative people in Business 2012, I see. “Sadly, #sandy is just the new normal. We’re going to face this more often & with growing severity for the rest of our lives. #climatechange” – Jeremy on Twitter four hours ago.


Not a million miles from where Philip normally lives these days:


There could of course for some be a “better” explanation. Jeremy tweeted on 27 October: “At a gay wedding in Garrison, NY and guess what has just appeared in the sky? A rainbow.” See? Winking smile

But seriously… There actually is a tinfoil hatted preacher saying just that! When will they ever learn? No sane person will believe him, of course.

“God is systematically destroying America,” McTernan writes. “Just look at what has happened this year.”

Calling Sandy “the most powerful hurricane on record” that “could do catastrophic damage to the entire Northeast,” McTernan adds, “Obama is 100 percent behind the Muslim Brotherhood which has vowed to destroy Israel and take Jerusalem. Both candidates are pro-homosexual and are behind the homosexual agenda. America is under political judgment and the church does not know it!”

Is it bad taste to mention that climate change may have played a clear part in the recent events? Normally I am very wary of linking specific events to climate change – the danger of that should be obvious. However, in this case I would ask you to consider:

1. The New Yorker 29 October 2012.

As with any particular “weather-related loss event,” it’s impossible to attribute Sandy to climate change. However, it is possible to say that the storm fits the general pattern in North America, and indeed around the world, toward more extreme weather, a pattern that, increasingly, can be attributed to climate change. Just a few weeks before the Munich Re report appeared, scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, in New York, published a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on the apparent increase in extreme heat waves. Extreme summertime heat, which just a few decades ago affected much less than one per cent of the earth’s surface, “now typically covers about 10% of the land area,” the paper observed. “It follows that we can state, with a high degree of confidence, that extreme anomalies”—i.e., heat waves—“such as those in Texas and Oklahoma in 2011 and Moscow in 2010 were a consequence of global warming because their likelihood in the absence of global warming was exceedingly small.” It is worth noting that one of several forces fuelling Sandy is much-higher-than-average sea-surface temperatures along the East Coast.

2. The Munich Re report of 17 October 2012

Nowhere in the world is the rising number of natural catastrophes more evident than in North America. The study shows a nearly quintupled number of weather-related loss events in North America for the past three decades, compared with an increase factor of 4 in Asia, 2.5 in Africa, 2 in Europe and 1.5 in South America. Anthropogenic climate change is believed to contribute to this trend, though it influences various perils in different ways. Climate change particularly affects formation of heat-waves, droughts, intense precipitation events, and in the long run most probably also tropical cyclone intensity. The view that weather extremes are becoming more frequent and intense in various regions due to global warming is in keeping with current scientific findings, as set out in the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as well as in the special report on weather extremes and disasters (SREX). Up to now, however, the increasing losses caused by weather related natural catastrophes have been primarily driven by socio-economic factors, such as population growth, urban sprawl and increasing wealth.

Among many other risk insights the study now provides new evidence for the emerging impact of climate change. For thunderstorm-related losses the analysis reveals increasing volatility and a significant long-term upward trend in the normalized figures over the last 40 years. These figures have been adjusted to account for factors such as increasing values, population growth and inflation. A detailed analysis of the time series indicates that the observed changes closely match the pattern of change in meteorological conditions necessary for the formation of large thunderstorm cells. Thus it is quite probable that changing climate conditions are the drivers. The climatic changes detected are in line with the modelled changes due to human-made climate change.

The Head of Munich Re’s Geo Risks Research unit, Prof. Peter Höppe, commented: “In all likelihood, we have to regard this finding as an initial climate-change footprint in our US loss data from the last four decades. Previously, there had not been such a strong chain of evidence. If the first effects of climate change are already perceptible, all alerts and measures against it have become even more pressing.” Höppe continued that even without changing hazard conditions, increases in population, built-up areas and increasing values, particularly in hazard-prone regions, need to be on Munich Re’s risk radar. All stakeholders should collaborate and close ranks to support improved adaptation. In addition, climate change mitigation measures should be supported to limit global warming in the long term to a still manageable level. “As North America is particularly exposed to all kinds of weather risks, it especially would benefit from this”, added Höppe…

3. Paul McGeogh, Leviathan: how Sandy links to a warming planet.


4. The Midweek Wonk: What We Know About Sandy and Climate.

October 29 lecture by GeoScientist Christian Shorey at the Colorado School of Mines, describing the most current knowns and unknowns about Sandy in the context of climate change. 15 minutes long, good summary for anyone that needs an instant cliffnotes primer.


5. And for sheer lunacy: “An endlessly rich source of denialist paranoia and craziness, Infowars, now suggest that President Obama is using secret technology to direct Hurricane Sandy up the East Coast…”

6. NY Governor  Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg.

NEW YORK — A day after New York City experienced its worst storm surges in recorded history, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city may need to respond to climate change with steps like storm barriers. Such protections would be extremely costly, but climate change experts said Hurricane Sandy provided a first glimpse of the challenges all coastal areas will face as sea levels rise and extreme weather events become more frequent.

Cuomo said on Tuesday that he told President Barack Obama it seemed like “we have a 100-year flood every two years now.”

“These are extreme weather patterns. The frequency has been increasing,” he said.

Of protections like levees in Lower Manhattan, Cuomo said, “It is something we’re going to have to start thinking about … The construction of this city did not anticipate these kinds of situations. We are only a few feet above sea level.”

“I don’t know how practical it is to put gates on PATH tubes and subway tunnels,” Bloomberg said in a separate press conference. “What is clear is that the storms we’ve experienced in the last year or so around this country and around the world are much more severe than before. Whether that’s global warming or what, I don’t know, but we’ll have to address those issues.”

Although levees or other storm surge barriers might sound like fantasy to some, there are proposals on the table for introducing barriers across New York’s harbor or in the East River. Implementing them would cost at least billions of dollars — but infrastructure experts said the time to prepare for climate change is now, not after disasters.

Klaus Jacob, a climate expert at Columbia University, warned months ago that a major flood could result in $58 billion in economic damages from a large storm surge. An event on something like that scale appears to have come to pass….


7.  Stephan Lewandowsky, Superstorm Sandy and the climate debate surge.

Please consider.

Our thoughts are with all in that vast area of the US North-East.


Now we are seeing the extent of the damage: so terrible. Here are some posts I have encountered after writing this morning.

eureka8. 2012 SkS News Bulletin #1: Hurricane Sandy & Climate Change: “This is a round-up of selected news articles and blog posts about Hurricane Sandy, its impacts on North America, and its relationship to climate change. This bulletin supplements the regular SkS weekly News Round-Up which is posted on Saturday of each week.”

9. Peter Sinclair, The World’s Biggest Metaphor just Came Ashore.

10. Christopher Mims, How global warming helped transform Sandy from a hurricane into a Frankenstorm. Mims “is a former editor at Seed, Scientific American, Technology Review, Grist and Smithsonian, and in those roles launched blogs, redesigns, video series and other half-forgotten but otherwise influential experiments in new media. As a freelancer with the news metabolism of a hummingbird, he spent a decade writing news and analysis for the aforementioned, as well as BBC, WiredNature and the like.”

And an amusing post on Facebook from Philip Costello:

It’s the middle of a hurricane and when I look out the window, what do I see? A man jogging up the middle of 7th avenue wearing only his shoes and underwear!

1 November

11. Kevin Trenberth, Opinion: Super Storm SandyThe Scientist.

…In many ways, Sandy resulted from the chance alignment of several factors associated with the weather. A human influence was also present, however.  Storms typically reach out and grab available moisture from a region 3 to 5 times the rainfall radius of the storm itself, allowing it to make such prodigious amounts of rain. The sea surface temperatures just before the storm were some 5°F above the 30-year average, or “normal,” for this time of year over a 500 mile swath off the coastline from the Carolinas to Canada, and 1°F of this is very likely a direct result of global warming.  With every degree F rise in temperatures, the atmosphere can hold 4 percent more moisture. Thus, Sandy was able to pull in more moisture, fueling a stronger storm and magnifying the amount of rainfall by as much as 5 to 10 percent compared with conditions more than 40 years ago.  Heavy rainfall and widespread flooding are a consequence.  Climate change has also led to the continual rise in sea levels—currently at a rate of just over a foot per century—as a result of melting land ice (especially glaciers and Greenland) and the expanding warming ocean, providing a higher base level from which the storm surge operates.

These physical factors associated with human influences on climate likely contribute to more intense and possibly slightly bigger storms with heavier rainfalls.  But this is very hard to prove because of the naturally large variability among storms.  This variability also makes it impossible to prove there is no human influence.  Instead, it is important to recognize that we have a “new normal,” whereby the environment in which all storms form is simply different than it was just a few decades ago.  Global climate change has contributed to the higher sea surface and sub-surface ocean temperatures, a warmer and moister atmosphere above the ocean, higher water levels around the globe, and perhaps more precipitation in storms…

…As human-induced effects through increases in heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere continue, still warmer oceans and higher sea levels are guaranteed. As Mark Twain said in the late 19th century, “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” Now humans are changing the weather, and nobody does anything about it! As we have seen this year, whether from drought, heat waves and wild fires, or super storms, there is a cost to not taking action to slow climate change, and we are experiencing this now.

12. Foreign Policy, Joshua Keating, Don’t forget the storm’s other victims.

eureka13. Skeptical Science, Hurricane Sandy and the Climate Connection.

Extreme Weather on Steroids

The bottom line is that while global warming did not cause Hurricane Sandy, it did contribute to the “Frankenstorm” at least by causing higher sea levels (and thus bigger storm surges and flooding) and warmer sea surface temperatures (and thus probably a stronger hurricane), and there are a few other human influences on the climate which may also have contributed to the damage caused by the storm.

14. Skeptical Science: debunking “Hurricane Sandy had nothing to do with global warming”.

Blogging the 2010s — 72 — July 2018

Yes, climate certainly did concern us during 2018, and through 2019 to the first quarter of 2020! In those latter months we went through the worst and longest bushfire season anyone can remember. See for example from February 2020 Sharing some great TV as bushfire season goes on but must be nearing end…. As for drought, much of NSW has emerged from that one, but much stays in drought.


Now back to 2018.

Let’s get serious… about climate

It has been quite a long time since I last posted about climate change. Now I do, visually in the main, taking images from far and near. The moral? Expressed as well as can be here: We can’t hide from global warming’s consequences.

In early July, the temperature in Ouargla, Algeria, reached 51.3 C, the highest ever recorded in Africa! Temperatures in the eastern and southwestern United States and southeastern Canada have also hit record highs. In Montreal, people sweltered under temperatures of 36.6 C, the highest ever recorded there, as well as record-breaking extreme midnight heat and humidity, an unpleasant experience shared by people in Ottawa. Dozens of people have died from heat-related causes in Quebec alone.

Europe, Eurasia and the Middle East have also reached all-time record temperatures. In Northern Siberia, along the Arctic coast, the temperature was over 32 C on July 5, much hotter than ever recorded.

My friend Russell Darnley posted this on Facebook just now:

  1. If anyone is still doubting the reality of global warming. This image is from Rovaniemi, Finland, last Wednesday.
  2. One more fact to share about this photograph is that it was taken in a city which is located within the Arctic Circle!


Then we have California:


Less spectacularly and closer to home:

Another friend, Julie McCrossin, posted this from her property near Wellington NSW.

It is desperately dry out here. The wild life obviously suffer too. We have many kangaroos on our land. There are hills behind our property & the roos come down looking for grass. One has moved into our yard & seems unwell.


Closer to home:

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Photographer Sandpiper has posted this recent image from Marulan:


Look over there! Sookle did it! The Twerp and Mike Show!

I had a ragged teddy bear called Sookle when I was a toddler. Whenever I was accused of wrongdoing I always cried: “It wasn’t me! Sookle did it!”

Sookle was innocent!

Now I am not saying China is innocent, but as I said on Facebook yesterday, citing Human Rights Watch:

Human Rights Watch — that admirable organisation — has also taken to Twerp Watch! What a good thing that is! The more to call him out the better! But that isn’t the main point of this article. While not speculating about the origin of the virus, Human Rights Watch does take a hard line on the reliability of many of Beijing’s claims — and I would question much of that too. Even so, in the world’s fight against the virus Chinese scientists and researchers have much still to offer. In that, co-operation not confrontation should be sought.

“… the truth is that everyone—the US government, the WHO, journalists, public health officials, and others—should have known better than to trust Beijing’s claims, whether in its initial dismissal of the possibility of human-to-human transmission, or in its current reports of infection and death-toll numbers. In China’s one-party authoritarian system, officials suppressing information and manipulating data for propaganda or career advancement is nothing new, and likely won’t change any time soon.

“The Chinese government’s consistent record of censorship and manipulation of information during public health crises is in the public domain. It’s well documented. We would do well to look beyond the official Chinese numbers, rely on the information we can trust, and focus on what’s most important: containing and eradicating the deadly global pandemic…”

I also said in relation to US intel believes China hid severity of coronavirus epidemic while stockpiling supplies:

There may be some truth in this, and also in the possibility that authorities in Hubei Province may have early on obfuscated with authorities in Beijing. It is not uncommon for people in various jurisdictions to hide things, especially mistakes, from the centre. What I don’t believe at this stage is that the virus was manufactured, or that its release was deliberate. What I do believe is that Trump is very busily deflecting blame from his own errors in handling the virus.

In other words, it is a case of “Sookle did it!”


Here we go!

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This team Twerp/Pencey Prep/Mike are so believable! They have such form for objectivity! They are so intelligent! So cool! You know how it goes….

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And that’s just from the latest Twerp Storm!

On Facebook Michael Xu, whom I have known and  respected for 30 years come July, noted with obvious intent to caution:

Anyone remember the stories of Iraq war?


Sure do! And I have a substantial blog archive going back to that time. Let me go back to one.

Iraq, Iraq

ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) News conveniently groups stories in Indepth Coverage: Eye on Iraq, and what a litany this has become. George Bush was understating matters when he said it has not been a good year for Iraq. Take yesterday:

At least 100 Iraqis and four United States soldiers have died in separate attacks throughout Iraq today. The violence coincides with a United Nations (UN) report showing more than 34,000 civilians died last year.

The UN Assistance Mission compiled the 2006 death toll by collecting information from the Iraqi Health Ministry and local hospitals across the country. By the UN count, 34,452 civilians were killed last year and another 36,500 were wounded.

The Iraqi Government is not commenting about the report.

Meanwhile violence in Iraq is continuing. Twin bombings at the Mustansiriyah University have killed 65 people, including students and teachers, and wounded 138. It is the most devastating Iraq attack this year. The blasts left a number of nearby cars completely burnt and many bodies charred in parked vehicles, an AFP photographer at the scene said. The dead and wounded have been rushed to city hospitals in bed sheets, blankets, stretchers and a number of pick-up trucks.

I am not going even to try to make sense of this revolting incident.

Tonight ABC is showing In The Shadow Of The Palms, “the only documentary filmed in Iraq prior to, during, and after the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. It documents the changes in Iraqi society, and the lives of ordinary Iraqis by focusing on a cross-section of individuals. The aim of the film is to present audiences with a window into the everyday realities for those living through this controversial war.” (See Wikipedia.)

I am drawn to the commentary of George Lakoff, partly I suppose because he is a linguist and I recognise (and share) the style of linguistic analysis he brings to his task. Truth Out has a recent example: Framing, Death, and Democracy:

We live in a time when comedians outdo pundits. Here’s Jay Leno:

“President Bush is expected to announce that he is now sending more troops to Iraq, despite the fact that his generals, his military analysts, members of Congress, and most of the American people are against the idea. The reason he is doing it? To give Iraq a government that responds to the will of the people.”

The first duty of Congress is to be Congress, to provide a check on the executive through the power to hold hearings, write legislation, and tighten the purse strings. The central issue raised by the president’s speech last Wednesday is not whether Iraq will have a democracy, but whether we will.

Framing is about the ideas expressed by language and how well those ideas accord with reality and moral values. So far, opponents of the president’s policy are doing pretty well on the framing front. They are using “escalation” and “civil war” to describe an escalation and a civil war. Some are even using “occupation” to describe our occupation of Iraq.

They are rejecting the McCain-Bush “surge” framing. The word “surge” indicates a short-term increase in force that has an effect and naturally goes back to its previous level. In military parlance, a “surge force” is the opposite of a “base force”: troops come in to do a job that can be done quickly, and then leave. They are not “based.” That is not the Bush plan. Only one major combat unit will be sent that was not scheduled to go. Other units will go earlier and leave later – indefinitely later, since there is no end date or condition. It is also questionable whether they will be effective, since previous “surges” (without the use of the word) have been failures. To use the word “surge” is to subscribe to Bush’s misleading frame.

It is interesting that the president has pretty much stopped talking about “victory” in the usual sense and has attempted to redefine it. “Victory will not look like the ones our fathers and grandfathers achieved. There will be no surrender ceremony on the deck of a battleship.” “Victory” is not a military win by us over an opposing army. It is the Iraqi people being able to govern themselves. In place of “victory,” Bush substitutes “success” – the achievement of American goals for American interests.

Conservatives opposed to social programs use the dependency frame: Government help makes the poor “dependent.” If they are to help themselves, government help must be ended. But Bush rejects the same logic in Iraq, refusing to impose a timetable and leaving American military help indefinite. “Many are concerned that the Iraqis are becoming too dependent on the United States.” He then rejects the argument. Interestingly enough, the argument is given by liberals, e.g., Dick Durbin in the official Democratic response.

The all-too-common metaphor that third world countries are children and industrialized countries are adults resonates in a telling sentence: “The situation in Iraq is unacceptable to the American people – and it is unacceptable to me.” It is up to Bush, the Decider in Iraq as in America, what Iraqi behavior is acceptable, and if it is not, to use more force.

One of the most telling sentences in Bush’s speech is, “Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me.” He does not say who made the mistakes or what they were. The disastrous past holds no lessons for the future, as the slogan “the way forward” indicates. And though he “takes responsibility,” there are no consequences for him. He does not resign, does not admit his own mistakes, he does not even change his policy. “Responsibility” without consequences is not responsibility.

Congress now has a responsibility, one given by the Constitution, to check and balance the executive. “Harsh scrutiny,” in Nancy Pelosi’s words, is the nonpartisan duty of every member of Congress. Iraq was the major issue in the November election. The newly-elected Congress has a mandate to extricate our troops from Iraq without removing “support” for the troops already there. That is the reason for the carefully chosen language of “a phased redeployment of troops out of Iraq.” “Redeployment” is neutral, between basing them nearby or bringing them home, but definitely getting them out the way of the civil war.

Words are not just words. They are not just there to “work” to please the public, as Frank Luntz would have it. Words come with conceptual frames, imposing an understanding on a situation. What that understanding is can be a matter of life and death, and can raise the question, as it has here, of whether America remains a democracy.

I thought it worth sharing all that.

Now I have seen the documentary.

What better to say than what Jim Wallis already said, as quoted on an entry here for Fri 12 Jan 2007:

…The war in Iraq was unjust; to continue it now is criminal. There is no winning in Iraq. This was a war that should have never been fought – or won. It can’t be won, and the truth is that there are no good solutions now – that’s how unjust wars often turn out. The president says that “failure in Iraq would be a disaster for the United States.” But we have already failed in Iraq and it has already become a disaster for Americans, Iraqis, the Middle East, and even for the larger campaign against terrorism. The mistaken war in Iraq can only be mercifully ended, in ways that cause the least damage to everyone involved: the Americans and the Iraqis, the volatile surrounding region, and a world longing for security. It will likely take new international leadership to help fix the mess of Iraq, because U.S. leadership has brought one calamity after another. Unjust wars cause massive human suffering. When will we ever learn?

Well, Michael, let’s hope we may have learned. See also Phyllis Bennis, Why We Need to Remember the Iraq War—As Well as the Global Resistance to It (2010) and ABC (Australia) Four Corners (2003), American Dreamers. Sadly that has left ABC archives but can be purchased at that link. Two short samples can be seen there.

Moral: believe EITHER Chinese officialdom OR Twerp/Pencey/Mike at your peril. Instead, in the latter case, seek out science and commentary as even-handed as possible. Perhaps a Nobel Prize winning Australian National Treasure is not a bad start.

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Professor Doherty must have been channelling Michael Xu. See this tweet from this afternoon:

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Compare and contrast

As Michael Fullilove said:  “I have spent a great deal of time in archives reading presidential correspondence. I have never seen anything like this.”  And: “I actually thought it was a prank, a joke, that it couldn’t possibly come from the Oval Office,” the Democratic congressman Mike Quigley said to CNN. “It sounds all the world like the president of the United States, in some sort of momentary lapse, just dictated angrily whatever was on the top of his head.” See also Jim Belshaw last Friday: Trying to understand foreign policy in a Trumpian and febrile environment.

But, without further comment:


By way of contrast:


Hmm! Just compare the signatures!

And I blogged 15 years ago…

Longer, in fact, but this morning thanks to the Internet Archive I found quite a few survivors from Diary-X. “In early 2006, the server’s hard drive failed. Since there was no backup, the entire website and all of the users’ diaries were lost irretrievably.” Well, not quite.

Here are some samples.

Sunday, October 05, 2003

I had dinner with Sirdan last night — fish, asparagus and rice, and very good too. We got to talking about those ancient times we have both lived through, pre-leporine you know. (I just had to use that word, having found it recently.) Anyway, it turns out that among his past accomplishments are pottery and photography, and that last one I happen to have shared. In fact I began to get serious about it when I bought an ancient Praktica in Cronulla some time around 1968: single-lens reflex, a shutter that sounded like a gun going off, and no electronics whatsoever…

Later on I learned developing and printing (as Sirdan also did, but before me and in another country) and began to achieve some pretty fair results. I even taught photography for a couple of years…

Well, all my gear was stolen around 1987-8: the house in Glebe where I was living was burgled three times in one year. The last break-in happened while my flatmate Andy and I were both asleep upstairs; we heard nothing despite the burglars having neatly removed the back window in order to get in. The burglars, too, were disappointed and took nothing. In fact, one of them left behind a pair of sunglasses…

Yum Cha

Nine Dragons again today. We agree that it is probably the best over-all of the venues we go to. The spicy calamari, roast pork, duck are almost orgasmic. (I obviously should not have read Wendy Perriam!) Oh, and we, for the record, were Sirdan, the Empress, bus-driver Paul, James, Malcolm and myself.

20 September 2004:

Michael in Tasmania wrote a delightful entry yesterday, the last item being his reflections on 1964: “I remember 1964. At that time I had never seen a cassette tape, an FM radio, a calculator, a computer, a color television set or a video recorder. Heart transplants were still the stuff of horror movies and there were plenty of people who doubted that astronauts could ever land safely on the Moon.” It is indeed hard to believe this is forty years ago…

I had been talking to Mister Rabbit about this very year only last Friday, since this was the year I did my English Honours under Professor Sam Goldberg, got hepatitis, and completed my degree… I wrote about all this on my old diary, and looking back at those entries I am rather proud of them actually. So have a look, eh. (“Vermont 4 is wonderful. Well done.” — ICQ Message 🙂 18 January 2003.) This one and the one following it deal specifically with Sydney University.

Mind you, a few links there won’t go anywhere: Mister Rabbit’s old website is long gone and the new one is still in gestation, so to speak, and I doubt that literary quiz of mine still works….

12 February 2005:

One of the most marvellous writers of the 20th century, one whose enormous talents as a writer for the stage enthralled me totally, one whose wisdom I could only aspire to, has passed away. I refer, of course, to Arthur Miller, a voice for all that has been best in America. Interviewed in 2002 for the Christian Science Monitor, Miller ruefully acknowledged the applicability of his 1953 Tony Award winner The Crucible to the America of George Walker Bush.

In researching the play, Miller read through transcribed testimony from Salem court records. He compared the religious devotion of the 17th century with the trust Americans had in their judiciary and Congress following World War II.

In both cases, people in positions of power were “manipulating the faith” that Americans had in religion or in government, Miller says. “It’s a little bit like how you have millions of people in Muslim countries all worked up now, and I’m sure the mullahs who lead them are manipulating those people.”

The play’s prosecutor warns that “a person is either with this court or against it. There be no road between.”

Miller points out that “in one way or another, that speech is repeated anywhere this kind of a movement begins. It’s always ‘it’s a new time.’ We don’t consider the shades of evil. You’re either for us or against us.”

I am one of the many who found their own fathers in Death of a Salesman. Truly a wonderful writer….

Wow! Hard to take in the time that has passed since I wrote those. Naturally the internal links may or may not work, but being themselves web archived they just might!

Meanwhile here is an interesting 2004 item about the reality TV performer who later became The Donald, aka President Thug. Extract:

 Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed to have been against the Iraq War from the beginning, and he has cited this story as proof. The Iraq War began in March 2003, more than a year before this story ran, thus nullifying Trump’s timeline….

One thing about television, it brings out personality. People are able to watch me in action. They hear my voice and see my eyes. There’s nothing I can hide. That’s me. Television brings out your flaws, your weaknesses, your strengths, and you truths. The audience either likes you or it doesn’t. Obviously, the audience likes me.

In the history of the business, there’s never been anything like this—a businessman has the highest-rated show on television. Businessmen don’t even get on TV, let alone have the number-one show. What can I—[phone interrupts]. Hold on, I want to take this….Reeeeeg! How are you? … I’m sitting here with Esquire magazine. They’re putting me on the cover. It’s a story about…wait, I’ll let him tell you. [Turns on speakerphone.]

Esquire: What it feels like to be an American icon…

Everything I do in life is framed through the view of a businessman. That’s my instinct. If I go into a pharmacy to buy shaving cream, then I’m going to look for the best deal on shaving cream. I watch Carmelo Anthony play and think, How stupid was it for Melo to be drafted third? Can you explain that one to me? Look, I watched Detroit. Carmelo still would have been one of the best players on the team. He’s as smooth as silk. And Detroit uses its second pick to take this kid from Serbia. A project. First year, the guy doesn’t even play. A friend of mine says, “It’s gonna work out for them. It’s gonna be good.” What’s gonna be good? No matter how good Detroit is, is this Darko gonna be better than Carmelo? And even if he does become good in four or five years, he’ll look somewhere else for more money, right? I just can’t believe it. How stupid a move was that?….

I’m competitive, and I love to create challenges for myself. Maybe that’s not always a good thing. It can make life complicated. I’ve gone through so many phases—although to me it’s been one steady life. I used to be thought of as an eighties phenomenon. When the real estate market crashed in the early nineties, I was billions in the hole. Yet right now my company is bigger, stronger, and more powerful than ever. The show is the biggest thing on TV. And I’m saying to myself, Where do you go from here? And my answer is: I have no idea….

Of course now we know.