8 February 2007

Save us from controversial Bills

The Nautilus Institute backgrounds the Fiji coup.

Commodore Bainimarama explained his actions by saying that the Qarase Government was "unable to make decisions to [save] our people from destruction." He said the deposed Prime Minister had "already conducted a 'silent coup' through bribery, corruption and the introduction of controversial Bill[s]".

The Qarase governments' practice of bribery and corruption remains an open question. The 1997 constitution provides for independent watchdog bodies and practices that allow corruption to be addressed. A self-serving military coup is not one of the constitutional options. If governments that bring in controversial bills deserve to be overthrown, then perhaps coup leader Bainimarama should read some of the controversy his emergency regulations, which purport to suspend the constitution, have generated.

Fiji reveals the gap at the heart of Howard's policy. Howard says nothing about human rights and does little about human rights. The Howard government has certainly condemned the coup and imposed sanctions, but a military take-over apparently does not trigger the Howard doctrine. I've argued the whole deputy sheriff thing was never intended for anything more than domestic consumption, but it's hard to see what would trigger the Howard doctrine if the overthrow of an elected government does not. Terror, perhaps, is in the eye of the beholder.

Incidentally, there's a weirdness. Bainimarama spent Christmas 2005 at Turtle Island in the company of several guests, including the Republican frontrunner for president, US Senator John McCain. It'd be nice to know what advice McCain gave him about preserving, protecting and defending the constitution.

7 February 2007

Well, I'm shocked

The model train industry is having a fair in Nuremberg.

One new item in the Viessmann company's catalog is called "Sexy Lovers in Motion." A man and a woman are having sex on a red blanket, in the missionary position. The man moves his buttocks and needs between 14 and 16 volt to do so, AC or DC.

On second thought, if some enthusiast uses an overstrength battery, I guess the man on the blanket may a bit shocked too.

6 February 2007

auditors with guns

I'm rereading Joseph Stiglitz's Globalization and its discontents.

There are at least two reasons why the IMF should consult widely within a country as it makes its assessments and designs its programs. Those within the country are likely to know more about the economy than the IMF staffers - as I saw so clearly in the case of the United States. And for the programs to be implemented in an effective and sustainable manner, there must be a commitment of the country behind the program, based on a broad consensus.

Stiglitz' advice to the IMF stands equally valid for the Prime Minister of Australia. The Howard policy in the Pacific has been hat imposing crude Washington Consensus one size fits all policies is the direct path to a Pacific paradise. When the Man of Steel talks capacity-building he seems to mean covering the Pacific with Australian auditors and police singing the happy refrain: 'I'm from the Australian government and I'm here to help you.'

The policy is an abject failure. PNG's supreme court quite rightly rejected the idea that Australian police and auditors should be immune to the process of their courts. The Solomon Islands rejected the 'Australian' nominee for prime minister. Nuku'alofa's Chinatown went up in flames. Howard refuses to even think about a guestworker program or rescuing the inhabitants of entire states that may be destroyed by global warming. And then there's Fiji.

The abject failure of Australian policy in Fiji is best captured in a recent post from intelligentsiya:

Yesterday, Chief Intelligentsiya got a call from an Associated Press reporter in Australia who was doing a story on intelligentsiya and freedom of speech in general in Fiji.

He asked if we were afraid the military would get to us. Now, we hope the military doesn’t think we are irritating enough to haul up to Queen Elizabeth Barracks. But we probably think they will detain us, once they find out who we are. But in the meantime, we’ll continue to publish.

Howard's policy is an abject failure because, like much of his politics, it's all about how and never about why. Pacific states lack capacity because they have not, in most cases, developed a broad consensus on what they want to be. Without that, development is going to stay uneven, unstable and unfair. Howard's policy also, just quietly, assumes total Australian dominance in the region, a dominance which China and Taiwan are increasingly eager to challenge. Pacific peoples, quite reasonably, want something more, and no amount of bean counters with guns is going to give it to them.

It's really no surprise that Howard's Pacific misadventure is an inflexible and uninformed policy whose results are uniform failure. All he's really doing is trying to run the Pacific the way he runs Australia, by insisting there's no alternative. He's King Canute in a lae.

Yes, Sorry, there is a Virginia

Virginia has apologised for slavery and its treatment of Native Americans.

"The General Assembly hereby expresses its profound regret for the commonwealth's role in sanctioning the immoral institution of human slavery, in the historic wrongs visited upon native peoples, and in all other forms of discrimination and injustice that have been rooted in racial and cultural bias and misunderstanding," the resolution states.

The resolution was sponsored by Democratic Delegate A. Donald McEachin, whose great-grandfather was born a slave. Although he initially wanted an outright apology, McEachin said the final version of the House resolution "doesn't sugarcoat the matter either."

McEachin said it marked an important step in the state's effort to move beyond its history of stormy race relations, which included governmentsanctioned resistance to integration during the 1950s.

"There is some pain at first, but there is a beautiful product at the end," McEachin said of his colleagues' decision to embrace the resolution. "Virginia had nothing to do with the end of slavery. It had everything do with the beginning of slavery."

That makes it official. The Man of Steel is now behind the former seat of government of the Confederate States of America in his willingness to apologise for past wrongs. The idea of redress for past wrongs is apparently even more foreign to him.