Friday, September 03, 2010

The left wins… rhetorically

The article by Melanie Phillips excerpted below gets it pretty right but doesn't quite get back to the basics. There is a very clear reason why Leftist oratory tends to sound good: Sounding good is all that the Leftist aims for. His own personal self interest is all that he really cares about so if the policies he advocates sound good now, but lead to ruin and destruction in the future, he shows a psychopathic disregard for such future consequences; While the poor old conservative is left in the position of pointing out all the negatives

Both Obama and Hitler are prize examples of sounding good to their chosen audiences. Hitler's oratory and eloquence led Germans down a path that killed millions of them (and others) whereas Obama so far has simply signed a law that will eventually make healthcare more costly and less available to most Americans -- but the lack of caution about the future is the same --JR

Someone I met recently posed what I thought was an interesting question.

Like me, he had read and admired the moving interview in last Sunday’s Observer with the Israeli novelist David Grossman, whose son Uri was killed when his IDF tank was hit by a rocket in the final hours of the aborted war with Hizbollah in 2006.

Grossman, whose new novel apparently owes much to that terrible experience, talked simply and poignantly about its effect on him. One does not have to agree with his politics to be touched by his refusal to give in to despair and even to find ways to grow from such a tragedy.

My acquaintance, however, asked why it was that the most articulate voices tended to be found on the left. Why was there no equivalent to the soaring voice of David Grossman on the right?

One possible reason is that the left and the intelligentsia are more or less synonymous: or as the left so offensively puts it, that the ‘right’ — ie everyone who is not the left — is stupid.

On that basis, the left seems to have a monopoly of eloquence simply because of its dominance of the chattering classes.

But there may be another reason. I think it boils down to a matter of perception; and perception, as so often, is influenced by ideology.

What, after all, does eloquence do? It moves us. It provokes an emotional identification and sympathy with the speaker or author. Today’s left privileges emotion over reason, in direct contrast to the non- or anti-left which champions objectivity over subjectivity. And emotion and eloquence go together.

Prose that gives expression to personal grief or yearning for peace is thus almost inevitably bound to soar far more eloquently than stolid attempts to present objective factual evidence and arguments for law and morality against their antithesis.



Simplistic pacifism won't help Afghans

Andrew Riddle (a retired soldier in the Australian Regular Army and a political moderate) points out what a Nazi-like regime the Taliban were and how they have not gone away

As I sat through another politics lecture the other day, I felt a slow rage building inside me. "Counter-insurgency," this particular lecturer declared, "is all about winning hearts and minds. We've heard all this before – in Vietnam!"

It's always easy to oppose war. War is awful. Awful, however, is not the same as simple. Simple is what the anti-war movement wants; it wants the war to be about American imperialism and stealing Third World resources, crowded with war crimes and founded on lies. It wants Afghanistan, in short, to be Iraq.

But Afghanistan is not Iraq, and never was. Long-forgotten is that terrible period of hand-wringing concern over the horrific abuses of the late '90s. Back then, we were all shocked by the brutality of the new jihadist rulers of Afghanistan. When the Taliban took almost complete control of Afghanistan in 1996, it massacred surrendered enemies and the minority Hazaras, stripped women of education and healthcare, and publicly executed civilians for a vast array of crimes, real and imagined.

The Revolutionary Association of the Woman of Afghanistan went to great lengths to smuggle out footage of these atrocities, while Physicians for Human Rights said in their 1998 report, "no other regime in the world has methodically and violently forced half of its population into virtual house arrest, prohibiting them on pain of physical punishment from showing their faces, seeking medical care without a male escort, or attending school".

The Taliban were one of the most horrific regimes in recent history. They were worth overthrowing, and they are worth fighting.

There were serious mistakes in Afghanistan, the most important of which was abandoning it in favour of the Iraq war. While the half-baked neo-conservative adventure in Mesopotamia unfolded, the scattered Taliban reformed, the fragile new government faltered and fell into corruption and vice, and the initial respect in the region for America's white-hot rage was replaced with contempt. Most discouraging, however, was watching Afghanistan's role in the antiwar narrative gradually expand from an afterthought to the main event.

Certainly the case for Afghanistan has been done no favours by the right-wing commentariat. "Clash of civilisations" rhetoric about "global Islamofascism" and sound-bite arguments about "safe havens for terror" serve to tarnish all support for the Afghanistan campaign.

Sadly, however, just because an argument is made by priggish partisans does not necessarily make it wrong. Afghanistan really was a safe haven for terrorists; it was used to build a global network of anti-American jihadists, which resulted in the most devastating terrorist attack in history.

We should fear terrorism, not least because of the consequences for democracy. After 2001, Western governments explored torture, indefinite detention without trial, and "extraordinary rendition", and any questioning or opposition was coloured as collaboration and appeasement. We had almost leapt head-first into the trap al-Qaeda had created. And as Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen fall into chaotic lawlessness, it could happen again.

Opponents of the Afghanistan war suffer from a most acute form of confirmation bias. Every soldier or civilian killed, every misdirected bomb, becomes yet more indisputable, conclusive proof that the military effort is an atrocity. Hair-splitting arguments, such as the distinction between al-Qaeda and the Taliban (because the two were merely very closely interwoven, rather than identical), become mantras supposedly proving poor faith, and the big picture vanishes.

War is an incredibly complex business, and the war in Afghanistan one of the most complex. Brilliant men like Stanley McChrystal and David Kilcullen spend their entire lives seeking to understand it, yet every armchair chardonnay-swiller thinks they know better.

Perhaps the Afghanistan campaign is not worthy of unqualified support. Indeed, the tenacious culture of Pashtun resistance may make a staged withdrawal the best possible solution. Military strategists are already gearing their efforts towards salvaging the best result from a truncated mission, in the knowledge that public tolerance for the war is draining away.

However, with the break in the bipartisan grip on power, and more than half of the electorate now opposing our contribution to Afghanistan, it's important to take the debate seriously, rather than choosing the feel-good option of simplistic pacifism. All I ask is that, before adopting a position, people seriously consider the moral, political, and historical implications of abandoning Afghanistan.

The decision to leave 38 million Afghans to sort it out themselves should not be easy or simple. It seems that at some point it's going to happen, but when it does it should not be done lightly.



The Dragon & the Elephant: Five myths about China versus India

By Dr John Lee

Myth 1: China’s authoritarian system sacrifices rights for social order

In fact, there is far more chaos and unrest in China than there is in India. According to the latest available official figures, there were 124,000 instances of ‘mass unrest’ (defined as 15 or more people protesting against officials) in 2008 in China. India has fewer than 5,000 such instances. Beijing spends more on ‘internal security,’ which does not include the normal police forces, than it does on the People’s Liberation Army.

Myth 2: India enjoys more freedom but at the price of economic inequality

In fact, using the commonly accepted standard of the GINI coefficient, China’s score is around 0.55–0.60, while India’s is around 0.33–0.36 (‘0’ is perfect income equality and ‘1’ is perfect income inequality. This makes China the most unequal society in all of Asia and the trend is worsening.

Myth 3: Given China’s spectacular rise, its private sector multinationals are due to dominate Asia, and then the world

True, there are 34 Chinese companies in the Fortune 500 list – all state-controlled except for one – compared to India’s eight. Size is one thing. But by ‘return on assets’ (to measure profitability) and ‘number of patents filed’ (to assess innovation), Indian firms do significantly better. Tellingly, the Indian firms spend about 5% of revenues on R&D on average while Chinese firms spend about 1% of revenue.

Myth 4: China is leaving India behind in the urbanisation stakes

China is definitely ahead of India: about 48% versus 35%. But the rate of urbanisation in India is actually neck-and-neck with China at about 1.5% per year.

Myth 5: China and India are making Western models of political-economy obsolete

There is a saying in both countries about their own respective developmental approach: Western knowhow with Chinese/Indian essence. But even Beijing and New Delhi admit that they are still speculating what this actually means. China and India are still outside the world’s top 100 for GDP per capita. The jury is well and truly still out on this one.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated Sept. 3. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.


"Openness" about political donations may serve to entrench power -- by inhibiting donations to out-of-power parties

The comment below by Andrew Norton refers to the Australian situation but the principle is the same in any democracy

With the Greens and independent MPs both pushing political donations reform, this looks like one certain outcome of an inconclusive election.

There are many proposals for change, but most observers support more disclosure of political donations. A $1,000 threshold for donations disclosure is commonly suggested, including in the Green-Labor pact signed this week. Under the current system, donations below $11,500 need not be disclosed.

It is widely assumed that more disclosure increases the integrity of the political process. But it is not at all clear that this is the case.

If we assume that politicians are inclined to favour their financial supporters, it follows that they will also be inclined to disfavour the financial supporters of their opponents, by denying them access to ministers, appointments to government bodies, funding for their associations, and contracts with government agencies.

Disfavouring is much easier to hide than overt favours. Whether there is a donations trail or not, favours are usually easily detected. We know who receives government appointments, and which organisations benefit from government grants and contracts. But silently overlooked people, requests and applications generate no public evidence.

What donations disclosure does is give governments a convenient list of people who support their opponents. The disclosure regime doesn’t just apply to political parties but also non-government organisations that comment on political matters. So spending just $1,000 opposing the government on only one issue could put your name on a ‘do not assist’ list.

If we had a small government that confined itself to a few core services, this may not matter much. But when we have a big government that spends more than a third of national income, and which cannot resist meddling in almost every activity, it creates real risks. So many people need to interact with government that numerous potential political donors may be deterred by the fear of future political disfavour.

The secret ballot was a great Australian democratic innovation, designed to let people express their views free of political intimidation. We should reject any law that gives the federal government more scope to inhibit its opponents.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated Sept. 3. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.


Tony Blair speaks highly of GWB in his memoirs

I have always had a similar view of GWB so it is rather pleasing to have it confirmed by someone who came to know him well -- JR

Former U.S. President George W. Bush was a "true idealist" who displayed "genuine integrity and political courage," former British prime minister Tony Blair reveals in his memoirs.

Detailing the close professional and personal relationship which developed between the two leaders in the wake of the 2001 terror attacks in the U.S. and during the build-up to the Iraq war in 2003, Blair writes that Bush was "very smart" while having "immense simplicity in how he saw the world."

"Right or wrong, it led to decisive leadership... he sincerely believed in spreading freedom and democracy," he writes in "A Journey;" which hit book stores in the UK on Wednesday....

Blair said the key to Bush's political success was his "appeal as a normal guy." "You might not agree with him, but if you're a voter, you would never think you would be uncomfortable or feel inadequate if you met him socially; you would think he'd be nice and easy with you," he writes.

Bush had also displayed the most integrity of almost anyone he had met in politics, Blair says. "I was asked recently which of the political leaders I had met had most integrity. I listed George near the top. He had genuine integrity and as much political courage as any leader I ever met," he writes.



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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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