Saturday, September 25, 2004

How Disagreeable

Been getting into quite a lot of fights in comments over at the Election Tracker website. Thought I might invite the commentariat over to this blog and continue some of the arguments here.
So, to start this continuance of my disagreement (as it were):

- Just because public schools are in a bad way doesn't mean that it's all John Howard's fault. It could be the fault of the states (who, after all, control a lot of the funding)

- Saddam Hussein, the Ba'ath party and the Taliban were really nasty people and you'll have to work pretty hard to convince me that Iraq and Afghanistan are worse off now that they've been removed. (And the Iraqis and Afghanis have now got reasonable, workable democratic institutions in place. Prove me wrong!)

- If the Greens are so concerned about Human Welfare, then how come they are so fond of policies that would cut jobs (ending the logging and coal-mining industries)?

- Bob Brown is too a silly, pompous little man and his policies are crap, so there!


Anonymous said...

Hey, this blog is ok (even though I completely disagree with your politics)

1. Ok, so our poor public education system is obviously not, 110%, John Howard's fault. However, increases in federal funding under Howard have advantaged already wealthy, resource-rich schools. Howard was the one who embarked on "class warfare" when he decided to direct these resources to rich, instead of poorer schools.

This comes back to your arguement about the side missing out on funding 'crying foul'. I agree with you on that one - but I think public schools have more of a reason to cry foul because they need the money badly. I know of public schools which have run out of money for photocopying. This type of 'educational' environment puts those students at a significant disadvantage to their private-school peers, which obviously has spin-offs affects throughout thier lives and affects their chances for further education and employment.

I do understand that private school parents also pay (heaps and heaps of) tax, and that they deserve money from the government. BUT when there are children out there who don't even have worksheets cos their school is too poor,and there is only a finite amount of money available, it should go to the most needy. This is a responsibility that falls on the federal as well as state governments.

2. Again, I know the Taliban and Sadam Hussain were and are really terrible. But the US actually supported both these regimes when they were at their most brutal. America does not care about the liberation or welfare of the Iraqi and Afghani people (if it did it would have spoken out against the Taliban and its treatment of women years ago). What America cares about is its vested oil interests in the region. As we all know, most of the terrorists in the 9/11 attacks were from Saudi Arabia - but of course America can't attack them because that's where a lot of their oil comes from (the Saudi Arabian regime,too, has a pretty brutal human rights record, especially in regards to women and foreigners). After 9/11 however, it would have been hard for the US government to justify buying oil from a country whose citizens were seen as threatening western democracy, so they needed an alternative source and fast.

Anyway, without getting into a detailed analysis of the Bush family's control of the biggest American oil companies and their interests in the Middle East, the fact is that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were NOT ABOUT BRINGING FREEDOM TO THIER PEOPLE.

So this war was not the best way to liberate them or get rid of the Taliban and Sadam Hussain. Perhps the West should ask the Afghanis and Iraqis what they want, instead of just always assuming they're right and barging in.

Also, look at all the violence in Iraq at the moment.
The Americans, in their arrogance, did not expect the Iraqi people to fight back (even though this is a WAR). Now all sides are loosing lives and terrorist groups especially are getting more powerful. No way would I call this a "workable democratic institution".

3. The Greens. You seem like a pretty hopeless case to win over on this one, TimT. But of course I ummmm ....completely respect your misinformed opinions on them. To clarify and reveal all my evil bias, I am not a member of the Greens, nor will I be campainging for them (unlike pretty much everyone else on election tracker) but i will be voting for them.

In regards to logging, I moved to Sydney from Tassie a few years ago. The fact is that logging has increased dramitically in Tassie over the last few years, and the profits of Gunns Ltd, the private (Danish) co doing the logging, have skyrocketed as well. At the same time, the returns to Forestry Tasmania, a quasi-private state government department, have been diminishing.

Also, as logging increases jobs in the industry have decreased.

Want to know why? Because the quicker the trees are gone, the quicker the jobs associated with them disappear to. Its just a bit of simple maths, really.

The alternative to old-growth logging is to set up sustainable plantations (that in Tassie at least are already there) and to log them instead. This preserves logging jobs, especially for older workers who would find it difficult to be re-trained and find other employment, as well as the precious forests.

And I'm sorry to break the news, but the existence of trees is pretty basic to human welfare - cos you know, we need to breath.

The largest industry contributing to the Tasmanian economy (in terms of employment and money generated) is tourism, and old-growth directly threatens this. If we really believe in long term human welfare, old-growth logging must be stopped to protect jobs and profits flowing out of Tasmania.

maybe you should go down to Tassie to see the forests for yourself.

About mining industries - ever wondered how they impact on the welfare of Indigenous people, whose homes for 60 000 years are being destroyed?

4. John Howard is a lying, cold-hearted, homophobic racist - and Latham is just a complete sellout. Silly, pompous men all the way for Federal election '04 =)

TimT said...

- Rely on someone else (ie, Government) for money for your kids education, and you're not likely to get too much out of them. Think about it: education ministers are under pressure from

a) The leader of their party, who may want to direct resources into some other public institution, such as defence, Centrelink, etc, etc
b) Teachers unions, who want MORE MONEY!!! to fund pay increases - and bugger the consequences for the kids,
c) The voting public, who made the money in the first place but had it taken away from them in the form of taxes

That's the trouble with any public institution - their are so many conflicting interests that they find it very difficult to spend resources efficiently.

- The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were not about oil. If all America cared about was oil, they would simply have made a deal with Saddam Hussein - like, say

Hi, Mr. Big Nasty Dictator, we're prepared to ignore your 30 year history of genocide and WMD manufacturing if you'll give us a big fat oil deal. We'll even drop the sanctions we've imposed on your country!

That didn't happen and was never likely to happen. The US were perfectly willing to occupy Kosovo - despite the fact that it wasn't sanctioned by the UN, and despite the fact that there was no oil in that country whatsoever.
And when they chased Saddam and his boys out of Kuwait, they didn't steal the oil there, either. Historically, there's no evidence for this notion that 'the war on Terrorism is about oil'.
Mind you, the freedom of the Iraqis wasn't what the gulf war was about, either. I'll agree with you there. It was about legalistic things, like Saddam's ten-year defiance of UN resolutions, and his refusal to let the WMD inspectors into his country.
But many commentators - both left-wing and right-wing, by the way - were more or less happy to support the war because of the freedom of the Iraqis. (Ditto for the war in Afghanistan).
Oh, and re:

the US actually supported both these regimes when they were at their most brutal George Bush Sr., Clinton and George Bush Jr. - three presidents, over a 10-year period - were all political and military enemies of Saddam Hussein. Granted, earlier US presidencies cosied up to the bastard - but subsequent administrations changed their views on this. That's a good thing about democracy - it's flexible.

- I can hardly think of any Greens policy I agree with:

They are for a moratorium on GM foods, are against Nuclear power, coal power, or any efficient power source whatsoever, oppose development in towns and cities (what's wrong with big buildings, anyway?), want Australia's population reduced (I wonder how the heck they're going to welcome more refugees into this country if they keep on with that policy?), want to end old-growth logging in favour of feel-good industries like 'tourism' (never mind the fact that if a tourism industry is to work, then it relies on a regular supply of well-off capitalist pig tourists who probably get their money from environmentally 'unfriendly' industries), want more public monopolies because of their hatred of private capitalism (o yes, do let's go back to the bad old system where unaccountable bureacracies manages all our services!), and are against globalisation (again, a policy that verges on xenophobia), oh, and they want Kyoto ratified (even though there is NO GOOD EVIDENCE that the Greenhouse effect actually exists).

In short, they seem to oppose almost everything that has made Australia free and successful: private industry, science, free economy and the free movement of people; and I think they are absolutely paranoid about non-existent threats like nuclear waste, the Greenhouse effect, and GM foods.

- Being a small government man myself, I think every politician is a liar. Which is one reason why I'll vote for anyone who gives the bastards less power and let's the public actually control public services by giving their taxes back to them. I enlarged on that theme a little in this post here... The good thing about my position is that I can still be liberterian/anarchistic about a lot of things - I'm anti-censorship, pro-immigration, pro-choice, for instance - and not have to spend time reconciling the natural desire of politicians to 'control' our lives, and the natural desire of everybody else to lead our lives doing whatever we like.

Anyway, thanks for dropping over, anon, and hope you'll come back ... er ... anon, and leave more comments!

Anonymous said...

- On the war (again): If the US were really concerned about genocide (I mean prioritised the killing of people over their own national interests) then why are they not stepping in more strongly to do something about Sudan? Why, in 1994, did international community (including America) take so long to intervene in the genocide in Rwanda? Of course its not purely America's fault that these killings went on - I'm just pointing out that they seem to be quite selective in which people they decide to 'liberate'. Why did they only attack the Taliban after 9/11? Before the war, they had refused to strongly condemn the Taliban for their horrendous human rights record and the fact that the Afghani people (especially women) were not granted even the basic human freedoms.

Why does America support the brutal oppression the Palistinian people by Israel?

I do support internatinal intervention to bring down brutal dictators like the Taliban and Sadam Hussain, but I think there is plenty of evidence that the war was about oil. Most oil contracts in Iraq have been awarded to American companies - ummm hint hint. By getting rid of Sadam Hussain America can now install a more US-friendly puppet government that will pander to their oil needs. Principles such as democracy, liberation and freedom have little to do with it - US will not care whether the new govt upholds basic human rights.

In fact, the current interim pm, Iyad Allawi,is a very pro-American ex-Baathist (yes, our favourite libetarian Iraqi political faction), who fell out with Sadam Hussain and was forced into exile. He then co-founded the Iraqi National Accord (INA) (which attracted a lot of ex-Baathists), which was backed by the CIA and British Intelligence to overthrow Hussain from within. If America is serious about an Independent Iraq, why did they instill a pm who used to work with the CIA and used to have connection with the Baath party, and consequently is disliked by almost all Iraqis? Even an interim pm should have some sort of credibility with the Iraqi population.

Allawi also has a terrible human rights record (mostly connected to his involvement with the Baath party and later the INA). More recently, both the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age reported that he ordered the killing of six suspected insurgents (this has been backed by two independant news sources) to send a clear message to Iraqi police about how to deal with these people (kill them brutally without any evidence or a fair trial).

Furthermore, there is more evidence the war was about oil than it was about WMDs - even top intelligence officials (from America, Britain, Australia and the UN) have come out to say that there was little evidence that Iraq had WMD capacities.

Israel, on the other hand, has a huge stockpile of WMDs, with the generous backing of America.

The last thing I can say on the war issue is that, despite everything, strong interantional solidarity can hopefully remove vested Western interests in the region. Then the Iraqi and Afghani people can have real freedom and democracy. Instead of imposing our own political and economic systems on them, we should be aiding their own efforts for self-determination. This is obviously not a black and white issue because most insurgencies within Iraq are currently being carried out by extremist factions (such as Baath supporters and terrorists), and history has proven (like with America's support of Al Quada) that mis-guided support can have disasterous consequences.

Above all we should aim to prevent two brutal regimes being replaced with two more brutal regimes.

- The Greens support a moratorium on GM foods for good reason:

1. We do not know of the full consequences that GM foods have on the environment. What is know, however, is that GM foods create an ecosystem in which there is a EXTREME monoculture (no other organisms can exist). The survival of all species is intrinsically linked to biodiversity (a very simple example is most animals, including humans, rely on forest and marine ecosystems for much of our oxygen, and they rely on us for carbon dioxided and nutrients) and when we have monocultures of this massive scale it could very well threaten a lot of life on earth.

2. There is enough non-GM food in the world to feed all people on earth three sufficient (ie all nutrition levels and hunger pangs satisfied) meals per day (that’s from the UN food program). The problem is not the amount of food produced in the world – it is the distribution of food.

For example, most protein in the world is fed to livestock for consumption in the rich world. This is a very inefficient use of protein, because it takes twice as much protein in the form of grains to produce an amount of protein in the form of meat. It also results in an unequal distribution of protein, because most meat is consumed in the rich world.

GM foods simply accentuate these inequalities. One example is Monsanto's (the world's biggest seller of GM foods) controversial terminator gene. They came with a gene that terminates as soon it is planted - so seeds could not be replanted for the next year's harvast and farmers had to keep buying seeds every year. For poor farmers, whose entire ways of life are sustained on replanting seeds, this proved to be disasterous. As institutions like the IMF and the World Bank force these farmers to enter market economies – and grow food for trade instead of subsistence – they have to compete with massive agricultural TNCs that can afford to buy seeds every year and hence sell produce for low prices on the world market.

Monsanto has since gotten rid of the controversal gene. However, they have been able to manipulate WTO patent laws so that farmers are forced to sign a contract stating they will not replant seeds from year to year. Monsanto can do this because they ‘created’ the seed, as it is gm, and thus they have exclusive intellectual property rights over it. The result is that poor farmers are forced out of business because they can not afford to buy seed every year. They loose their land and can not even farm for subsistence – so they go CHRONICALLY HUNGRY.

People (the Greens, me, anyone) are not against gm because of some irrational fear of technology, but because it results in an even more unequal distribution of resouces that results in some people starving and others dying of high cholesterol.

Much of this is related to other processes of economic globalisation (such as ‘free’ trade). Third World countries experience capitalism as a imposition from the outside, and many things associated with a market economy are inherently incompatible with their culture, which puts them at a significant economic disadvantage in comparison with the rest of the world (the most potent example is Indigenous peoples from all around the world). At heart I too am an internationalist. I would love to see a world without borders, where cultures can learn from each other and progess in areas such as human rights. I am also pro-immigration – I don’t think you necessarily have to stick with the culture/religion you are ‘born into’. Reciprocally, cultures are not stagnant and we all have heaps to learn from each other.

But to me a world without borders means respecting difference and accepting a variety of small-scale cultures and economies, rather than imposing alien economies on all the world’s people. Instead of being all the same, we should come up with systems that can facilitate cooperation, immigration, peace and trade between local economic systems. As I said above though, this doesn’t mean we all stick to our own kind and only have contact with others when necessary (one of the most positive aspects of the globalisation era is undoubtedly multiculturalism). What I mean is that we should respect cultural diversity and not arrogantly assume our (consumerist, capitalist) culture is the best one to unite the world EQUALLY.

Lastly, there is heaps of evidence that the greenhouse effect exists. Like the fact that the earth is warming up quicker now than when it did coming out of all the ice ages. That sea levels are rising, that coral reefs are bleaching…

I could go on forever, but this thing is already too bloody long.

- I agree with you on govt beauracracies. Essentially my position is that individuals shouldn't be contolled by anyone - governments and corporations included. But also that individuals have equal access to resources so we are not living in a world of extreme inequality.

I do think these two positions can be reconciled, without falling back on some dogmatic ideology, because without access to basic needs (air, water, food) you can never enjoy basic freedoms.

Yeah anyway, thanks heaps if you actually read through this whole thing.

TimT said...

Thanks heaps for taking the time to make the comment! What's the point of a blog if you can't have disagreements on it?
And having read through the whole thing, of course, I disagree with you... not wholly, but, here we go:

- I think you missed my point about 'the war on Iraq' and how it's not about oil - which was, that there was plenty of evidence - historical, social, political, etc, which directly contradicts the argument that the war was about oil. I'm not surprised that now American companies are trying to get their hands on the 'Black Gold', but it's going too far to say that this is why the Americans made war on Iraq.
And here's some MORE evidence against that argument: the US war has resulted in an INCREASE in global oil prices. And this was easily predictable (War On a Large Oil Producer=Increase in Oil Prices. Easy!). But the Americans went ahead and did it anyway...

- The SMH and the Age both ran that story against Iyad Allawi because it was the same story - by Paul McGeough. And a pretty bad story too, if you believe Tim Blair - it seems that McGeough was digging up an urban myth about Allawi that had been running about for a while. Though I don't know much about the story, so I'm not willing to commit myself either way. I'd simply suggest that, given the emotion and passion generated in the whole Iraq war debate, whatever Iraqi leader does get in will inevitably attract these sort of stories.

Funny how in these disputes we inevitably end up arguing about Iraq. I'm not even going to TRY arguing about Israel/Palestine, because we would end up boring each other to tears.

I'll come back to your comments about GM food later and Global Warming later, because there's much there as well, and I'm on a public computer, and the bastards want me to leave...!

TimT said...

Okay! My internet is back again, so here we go - now, where were we? Oh yeah - GM foods!

- You are absolutely and utterly wrong when you assert that GM foods will decrease biodiversity. Come on - they're a new food source; they are an ADDITION to biodiversity. There'll never be a GM monoculture - because different GM foods will be made for different conditions; because people will always want a diversity of food sources and food choices; and because those companies manufacturing GM foods will always be driven by market forces (ie, competition) to produce new GM foods.
Obviously, SOME companies will misuse the technology - but by banning GM foods, we are not even allowing people the option to do the right thing. The proposed moratorium is an excellent example of how the Greens can be anti-free choice when they want to be.

- I don't accept that GM foods will be dangerous. The way GM food is produced is actually safer than the way 'organic' foods have been produced, because the production of GM foods involves the specific modification of genes, whereas the production of organic foods involves the uncontrolled mixing of millions of different genes.

- The production of GM food need not be a monopoly of large multinational monopolies. Here's a quote from the Spectator magazine:

The genes for making carotenoids are lackinfg in human beings, which is why we must eat vitamin A or go blind. The gene is also lacking in rice, so a person who subsists on (rice) may go blind. Approximately 500,000 children in the developing world suffer this fate.... Along comes Ingo Potrykus of Switzerland with a simple solution. Why not genetically engineer a rice plant so that it has the genes to make carotenoids in its grains?... He soon had a form odf rice that was identical in every respect, except that eating just 200 grams of it a day gave you a daily sufficiency of vitamin A... He then carefully negotiated away all the patents he had infringed, so that he could give the new 'golden rice' away free to peasants... Yet he found himself opposed and vilified by the so-called environmental movement, which was then enjoying a boom in donations from rich people disturbed by the half-truths, scare stories and wild predictions that they had been told about genetic engineering... More than two years have now passed and no governments have approved golden rice for use, frightened of the Green backlash. Like I said before: by banning GM foods, we are not even allowing people the option to do the right thing. As in most cases, excessive regulation of GM foods discourages the involvement of small and medium size businesses and philanthropists, and leaves only the large businesses who have the financial resources to find their way around the regulations.
Weird that on this case, the so-called 'conservatives' are actually the progressives, whereas many on the left are so regressive.

- Dude, the Greenhouse effect isn't happening. I'll be touching on this issue in another post, feel free to comment there...

I think I'll leave it at that, for now.

Anonymous said...

Hey, my internet’s back too…

- On Iyad Allawi, most of the stuff I said came from a variety of media sites. You’re right in saying that the media will come up with (even make up) stories with regards to emotionally-charges issues like war – but look at different sources, talk to different people, and the same basic facts resonate. I still think that for true self-determination the interim leader should have been somebody with at least some crediblity with the Iraqi people.

And yeah, I’ve noticed our arguments about war keep going around in circles too. But when you think about it, it’s not that surprising given the nature of the topic. Discussion about war resolves as much as war does itself – absolutely nothing (Israel/Palastine prime example).

- You speak about biodiversity as if it is related to human choice, instead of about how elements of the natural world interact with each other to create the very unique environment of Earth (the only environment in the solar system, may I add, that supports complex organisms like human beings).

Biodiversity is in fact a ecological term about the number and variety of plants in any one ecosystem and the linkages between them. Now obviously this occurs in any type of agriculture (ie where only one plant is grown) but GM takes this to the extreme. Most GM plants are designed so that when pesticide (and all the other evil pollutants…) are applied to the crop EVERYTHING dies except the plant. This is what I mean about extreme monoculture.

However, if I did accept the use GM foods on the basis that they are ecologically sound (which currently I don’t), it’s true that multinational don’t have to have a monopoly on GM foods.

The only thing is this would require heavy regulation. And given the direction of the world economy at the moment, I don’t think that’s going to happen.

You said that “excessive regulation discourages small and medium size businesses”. I don’t know whether you’re talking just about GM foods, but in most places of the world (especially the least developed countries) it is deregulation that ruins local businesses and rural communities because they can simply not compete with bigger players in the world market. Worse still, the people who formally lived in subsistence are being forced into a market economy because of the (forced) deregulation of the economy in third world countries, and then find there is no way they can compete in global market and must leave their land.

- Ok, you’ve probably worked out by now that I am an unapologetic, crazy, lunatic greeny.

Do you really think that all the extra gases we emit are not going to affect the balance of gases in the atmosphere? All our actions are embedded in and have an impact on the environment, some more adverse than others. It’s simple cause and affect – when we apply pressure to something, the consequences will always show up somewhere else, close or not.

I think the world needs radical reform/revolution in terms of culture and lifestyle to beat global warming. One of my major concerns is environmental refugees – because people of low-lying Pacific islands are affected much more than inland countries, yet they emit hardly any pollution in comparison to the first world. Tuvulu is a good example of a Pacific island already feeling the heat of global warming.

BUT if you can convince me that the greenhouse effect does not exist, we’ll all be spared the revolution.

TimT said...

You argue that it's deregulation that keeps economic standards in the third-world so low.

Actually, one of the reasons the third-world is being held back is because of excessive regulation in the first world (ie, tariffs, etc, designed to keep western farmers in a job).
The nation we most like to blame for this is America - they're bad, but probably the worst region in this regard is the European Union - something like 50% of their budget goes towards their farmers.

Don't feel bad about being a Hippy! As you can see from the quote I've just posted in the sidebar, I'm a 'fascist' and proud of it!
What's your name, by the way? Sounds like you know a bit about things - maybe you should have your own blog! Set one up and I'll promise to link to you!

Email: timhtrain - at -

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