Thursday, April 12, 2007

Opting for "WorkChoices" while we can 

"A worker cleans spare parts at an automobile spare parts recycling shop in Mumbai April 11, 2007. Indian workers earn between 150 Rupees and 200 Rupees (around $3 to $5) a day working in the city. (INDIA)"

Reuters churns out some really attractive photos these days.

In the age of YouTube, the Internet, mobile phone-cameras and high resolution screens coffee table book quality pic collections can be compiled every single day by a news/opinion organisation with digital cameras everywhere. And you and I can browse and enjoy them for free.

Of course, in the case of Reuters, their management team does not seem to be tremendously concerned with checking veracity, or with providing context.

Nor do they seem to be reticent in swinging their own specious opinions around at every given opportunity.

So there is no surprise that the lead group of photos in many of their slideshows pander to certain themes. Particularly the theme of showing some evil Israeli action vis-a-vis some poor innocent Palestinian, like the one showing an Israeli dog "attacking" a Palestinian (old) lady (in the link above at the time of writing).

Perhaps credibility must be sacrificed for the sake of instant art and dedicated picto-bombast. Reuters seems to be populated with a large number of poorly paid, semi-educated and nameless drones who live in a world where "terrorism" only exists inside quotation marks and is otherwise a legitimate response to Israeli, US and capitalist oppression.

Fine and sometimes meaningful pictures are, however, sometimes transmitted from this high-sense world, particularly where a pet drone theme is not involved.

Like the picture at top of an Indian automobile worker's hand, with its telling caption: Five bucks a day. Imagine that.

Here in Australia, much of the political talk seems to be focused on the evils of the Howard government's recent "Workchoices" legislation, which sought to curtail or reverse a number of luxuries previously enjoyed by Australian workers at the expense of their employers. Things like: making it barely possible, rather than virtually impossible, to fire an employee for an offence short of murder, arson or provable embezzlement.

Things like: removing established minimum wage "awards", which guaranteed an Australian worker of equivalent skill a minimum of about twenty times the wage of the Indian workers alluded to in the photo.

PM Howard and Treasurer Costello have busily stumped the aims of "Workchoices". The intent is to make Australian businesses more internationally competitive. Business success and growth will translate into higher living standards and more jobs, they say.

Yet noone seems to be listening. Like the Reuters drones globally, the Australian trade union infrastructure is locally ubiquitous. Its paradigm (workers=good / bosses=bad; workers=good / profit=bad) seems to have the country in thrall:

- Even as jobs and entire Australian enterprises drift away to Asia and the US.
- Even as Australian households are assailed daily by sales calls from "Australian" business operations in Mumbai.
- Even with awareness of the burning example of Japan's success. Most know full well that modern Japan was born in the stigma of both post-WW2 poverty and "Made in Japan" branding. We have seen Japan mature, in the wake of enterprise leadership, into the technology and wage behemoth of today.
- And even with satellite, cable, Internet and international travel enabling many Australians to be aware, in real-time, of both:

a) the many products, ideas, companies and opportunities that simply don't filter Down Under, due to the crippling costs of shipping to or producing in what is in any case a small and distant market, and
b) the exorbitant relative cost of many products that do make it here.

Yet noone seems to be listening to Howard or Costello:

'Well, Australia's just not good at manufacturing, never has been'
you hear the detractors say, and it's amazing how many people take that as a given, without thinking about the simply deflected enormity involved: not good ... at manufacturing.

Along came Howard and Costello, trying to do something about that. "Workchoices" was meant to prompt the tiniest, tiniest step along the path to enterprise reform. The response has been as predictable as it is appalling. From out of the parallel universe the critics poured, in their thousands onto the streets. Screaming in protest against "Workchoices".

Then in the parallel, parallel universe of medialand, the Reuters-esque denizens dutifully exaggerated those protest figures: tens of thousands were there, the headlines screamed, not hundreds, not thousands. Polls were headlined too. These of course showed how unpopular Howard and Costello are - mainly because of Workchoices, so the pollsters said. Then Howard's party's NSW state branch lost an election, with the victorious opponents highlighting "Workchoices" as a prime election issue.

Which it no doubt was, the perception becoming the reality, as can happen under the influence of a misleading picture.

And which, for myself, begs several questions: Will reality come crashing down on Australian heads one day? If so when and how, and how badly?


Meanwhile US Republican presidential candidate John McCain has confronted "Warchoices" with Reagan-like determination. On (US) 60 Minutes recently, he was asked why he refuses to repudiate the Iraq campaign, even when it is so unpopular, and even when such a stand could kill his 2008 election chances:

"I disagree with what the majority of the American people want. I still believe the majority of the American people, when asked, say if you can show them a path to success . . . then they'll support it."

The Senator replied that he'd "rather lose a campaign than lose a war."

Mr. McCain is making clear he understands that leadership is often by nature unpopular. He has been equally clear about the consequences of U.S. withdrawal from Iraq--"chaos" and "genocide" were among the scenarios he painted...

Monday, April 09, 2007

So-called "anti-war" protesters and the use of quotes 

Spinbadz Own is trying to fathom the apparent discrepancy, in mainstream discourse, between routinely:

a) Placing the phrase "war on terror" (and its primary, "terrorism") in quotation marks and/or
b) Preceding the above described with the qualification 'so-called'

whilst denying similar treatment to the expression "anti-war". These days "anti-war" is routinely used to describe people who protest against:

c) American combatant action, American detention of prisoners, American combatants and pro-Bush American politicians and their supporters, but who never protest against
d) Anti-American combatant action, anti-American detention and murder of prisoners, or anti-American combatant figureheads and their supporters.

Therefore it seems to us that, beyond a few syllogistic or semantic exceptions, the present lot of "anti-war" protesters are not really anti-war protesters pure and simple, but rather:

e) Anti-American, anti-(Bush) Republican and/or anti-capitalist, or else
f) Pacifists who unconsciously or consciously choose to focus only on apparent American combat action- usually in

Moreover, the so-called "anti-war" protesters also seem to ignore the fact that:

g) the vast (vast, vast) majority of deaths in Iraq and other theatres of current conflict are being perpetrated by the people fighting against the Americans.

The people fighting against the Americans have deliberately attacked civilian targets in
London, New York, Bali, Jakarta, Madrid, Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. Many of them are committed to warring ("jihad"), anywhere on the globe, until Islamist world hegemony is achieved.

So "anti-war" protesters, one would think, ought to be devoting at least part of their efforts to protesting against the jihadists. But they aren't, which leads us to believe that said protesters:

g) Are accurately described as "anti-war" protestors (with quotes) or as so-called anti-war protesters, and not as anti-war protesters (without quotes).

Are we wrong? If so, please help explain the apparent discrepancy. Please write to us at spinbadz@yahoo.com.au.

Most enlightening answers will be "published" here.

In the meantime, here are a couple of samples throwing light on the various correct uses of quotation marks.

1) Denoting a phrase or description that may be regarded as unusual or unnatural, or which has meaning in a particular context, or which has meaning in accordance only with a particular understanding of the word or description:

(The) BBC report(s) that 40 per cent of Turks support the practice of "honour killing", by which Muslim women can be killed for transgressions as minor as going out on a date. Thirty seven per cent favour having an adulterous woman killed, with 21 per cent believing that her nose or ears could be cut off.

2) As with 1):

The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee asked the Pentagon ... to remove CNN reporters embedded with U.S. combat troops, saying the network's broadcast of a video showing insurgent snipers targeting U.S. soldiers was tantamount to airing an enemy propaganda film ....

CNN producer David Doss wrote in a Web log Thursday the network televised the footage in an effort to present the "unvarnished truth" about the Iraq war.

3) Denoting the exact words someone has said:

"The Zionist regime is counterfeit and illegitimate and cannot survive," (Ahmadi-Nejad) said, "The big powers have created this fraud regime and allowed it to commit all kind of crimes to guarantee their interests."

4) As with 3):

A videotape shows a Reuters cameraman encouraging rioters to throw large chunks of rock at Israeli vehicles in Bil'in.

(The accused) is heard shouting: "Throw, throw!" and later "Throw towards the little window!"

5) Where a quote is shown within a quote, a distinct form of quotation mark is used:

"We shall win," (Ahmadi-Nejad said) ... and added: "One day I will be asked whether I have been in touch with someone who told me we would win, and I will respond: 'Yes, I have been in touch with God'."

6) Usage of the type shown in 1) can also be combined with quotations denoting the exact words said:

Ahmadinejad also rejected as "illegal" a Security Council demand that
Tehran suspend its own uranium enrichment activities, state-run television reported Monday.

"They [
U.S.] use the council for threats and intimidation."

Sunday, April 01, 2007

The journey from Lowes to Armani 

Back in February, Spinbadz Own mentioned the impending announcement of an unprecedented partnership between a top European fashion brand and a locally famous Australian - and famously blue-collar - sports franchise.

We didn't name names at that time. By now many a sports watcher Down Under has heard about the deal between Italy's Giorgio Armani and the Australian National Rugby League (NRL)'s South Sydney Rabbitohs. The deal was facilitated by South Sydney owner and Hollywood actor Russell Crowe.

The red and green made-to-measure suits have been a huge public relations success. The (many) Doubting Thomasses mentioned in our initial report are dumbstruck, with photos and stories about the suits and their original, Crowe-inspired, insignia appearing outside the sports pages and in all media.

Which is certainly a good thing. Had publicity of the deal been restricted to only the sporting press, it seems very unlikely that Armani could have expected much increase in its client reach. The average rugby league supporter has for many years been inured on sports stars graduating from a distinguished NRL career to "acting" in television commercials for a clothing store called ... wait for it ... Lowes.

Lowes' Sydney city store is just around the corner from Armani, but the pricing distance between suits at the two stores is a figure with many zeros. Even the normally reliable Sydney Sun-Herald sports journalist Danny Weidler, fishing for a mandicle-plummeting revelation on the cost of Souths' Armani outfitting, seems to have furnished a significant underguesstimate. He may have figured that his readers simply couldn't wrap their minds around the kinds of prices Armani actually charges. Weidler says the value of the outfitting is between $100,000 and $250,000. But if we look at the Souths' outfits item by item, even a conservative estimate goes way beyond that:

$5,000 - 1 specially made GA suit, with extra pair of pants:
$1,000 - 2 pairs GA shoes:
$700 - 2 shirts
$300 - 1 GA tie
$400 - 1 GA belt
$200 - 3 pairs underwear

That's a - conservative, as I said - total of over $7,500 per person, and a squad (including coaches and other personnel) of between 50 and 70 were outfitted. You do the rest of the math.

At least the Souths' players seem to appreciate the gear. From all reports - after a few teething pains - they love the new threads and maintain them very well. Even the underweargate scandal we alluded to in February seems to have been misconstrued: at the first fitting, the players came straight from training, which is why one or two of them neglected to put on underpants. When the Armani staff supplied the naked offender(s) with daks, the other players cottoned on to the ploy as a way to milk the sponsor of cool Sat'd'y night panties. So they all turned up at the next fitting panty-free, prompting The Gladiator to ask the sponsor for 3 pair for each player ...

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Guardian(!) calls for European unity in confronting Iran 

An item from Timothy Garton Ash in the British "Guardian" tabloid details the flagrant illegality of Iran's latest seizure of (British) hostages:

The British forces were operating as part of a multinational force under an explicit UN mandate, to protect oil installations and prevent the smuggling of guns into Iraq - guns with which more Iraqis would otherwise be killed.

According to the sophisticated GPS instruments which the British service personnel had with them, they were more than three kilometres inside Iraqi territorial waters when they went to search a suspect vessel.
Reflecting the confusion inside the Iranian state, the first coordinates for the allegedly transgressing British boats given to the British by the Iranian government turned out to be within Iraqi territorial waters too (!)

Not until three days later did the Iranians come up with a second "corrected" set of coordinates which conveniently put the British forces on the wrong side of the line.

We might laugh out loud at the crudity of all that, except that the circus has prompted the anti-American propaganda and financial machine into full swing, so that oil prices were rising, Democrats and liberals bellyaching, and hostages being paraded on TV and their 'confessions' published even as Ash typed his article.

Foreseeing that, he cuts against the grain of the Guardian's traditional leftism by calling for European unity:
Those who follow ... (the hostage-taking) ... closely may wonder if the Revolutionary Guards were not making an indirect tit-for-tat response to American seizures of Iranians in Iraq, perhaps even hoping for a hostage swap.

Or perhaps just an angry reaction to the latest UN security council resolution about Iran's nuclear programme - which was actually passed a day after the kidnapping, but its contents were well-known beforehand. That resolution extends targeted sanctions to companies controlled by the Revolutionary Guards and to individuals including the commander of the Revolutionary Guards navy. But I would bet my bottom euro that no ... continental Europeans' synapses will have fired spontaneously with this thought: "Our fellow-Europeans have been kidnapped, so what can we, as Europe, do in response?"
He suggests the suspension, pan-Europe, of Iranian export credit guarantees:

(T)here is something Europe should do: flex its economic muscles.

The EU is by far Iran's biggest trading partner. ... Remarkably, this trade has grown strongly in the last years of looming crisis. Much of it is underpinned by export credit guarantees given by European governments, notably those of Germany, France and Italy. ... Iran comes second to none in terms of the proportion of German exports - in recent years up to 65% - underwritten by the German government.

The total government underwriting commitment in 2005 was €5.8bn (£3.9bn), ... As the squeeze grows on Iran from UN sanctions and their knock-on effects, and as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad fails to deliver on his populist economic promises, this European trade becomes ever more vital ...

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Octogenarian Iraqi nuns stabbed to death! 

The following report would defy belief, were we not inured to the cowardly violence perpetrated by terrorists every day in Iraq:

79-year-old Margaret Naoum and 85-year-old Fawzeiyah Naoum, 85 (both nuns) — were killed in their home near the Cathedral of the Virgin (in Kirkuk). They lived alone and there was no sign of a robbery ...

Naoum was stabbed seven times as she stood in the garden just outside the house, while Naoum was stabbed three times while lying on the sofa inside as she was recovering from eye surgery last week.

In the same news article is this report:

On Saturday, a man wearing an explosives belt blew himself up outside a pastry shop in Tal Afar's central market area, killing at least 10 people and wounding three.

Baghdad deaths drop 60% 

The number of civilians killed in Baghdad dropped from 1,222 in December to 494 in February, according to Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain.

McCain said U.S. forces have moved out of large bases to take up positions in small outposts as part of the shift in strategy being implemented under the auspices of General David Petraeus (see his comments below).

"Contrary to predictions, this has not increased U.S. casualties. And, not surprisingly, our presence has resulted in a dramatic increase in actionable intelligence about terrorists," McCain said.
The speech on the Senate floor was of course pitched to stymie Democrat calls for an early withdrawal of troops. It also coincided with simultaneous mass murders of at least 48 Iraqi civilians outside Baghdad, and with Iran's taking British hostages apparently in response to the capture of Iranians working with terrorists in Iraq.

The Arizona Republican said President Bush's decision to dispatch additional troops last winter "is working far better than even the most optimistic supporter had predicted. Progress is tangible in many key areas despite the fact that only 40 percent of the planned forces are in Iraq," he added.

Reports on Iraqi TV confirm that significant indents have recently been made by American forces into terrorist networks. According to Iraq the Model:

"Ahmed Farhan Hassan has been captured. This operative (who admits to some 300 murders and about 200 kidnapping incidents since he joined al-Qaeda three years ago )is described as a senior aide to Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the leader of al-Qaeda’s so-called Islamic State in Iraq.

"Local Iraqi TV aired recorded confessions ... Hassan, ... and I’m paraphrasing:

'I have four emirs operating under my command. I receive money directly from Abu Omar and then I distribute it among the members of my units according to the number and size of operations they carry out.'

The blog site's writer makes some hard observations about the blinkered Democrat "anti-war" behemoth being confronted by McCain:

"We've been watching the debate in America about redeployment of troops and identifying the real front we must focus on.

"… Al-Qaeda and terrorists in general didn't hide their position in this respect—despite the fact that they still operate in many parts of the world, they are clearly redirecting most effort and resources to the war in Iraq.

"Al-Qaeda and its supporters are using most of the capabilities of their propaganda machine to cover their effort in Iraq, and so is the case with financial resources ….

"(S)ome of the prominent lieutenants of al-Qaeda left Afghanistan to fight in Iraq. One example I remember was Omar al-Farouk who escaped from Bagram to be later captured in Basra!

"Al-Qaeda itself boasts about the great "sacrifices" of more than 4,000 "martyrs" to emphasize the importance of the war here. And the hundreds of suicide bombers preferred to blow themselves up in
Iraq than anywhere else should remind us that if al-Qaeda considers this the main war then why talk about redeployment?

Walking away from the main war is not redeployment, it's quitting.

Iraq … rich-relatively-with resources and scientific base is a greater temptation than Afghanistan, and at the same time the possibility of a democracy arising in Iraq posed a great threat to the ideology of caliph state. …

"Can we compare the opium fields with the massive oilfields of Mesopotamia?

... "The other point is ... military technology (which) almost doesn't exist in
Afghanistan ... Saddam celebrated 17 years ago (the launch of) a rocket to space.

"The same "accomplishment' Iran claimed to have made just days ago."

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Baby boom, Qaeda style 

How low can terrorists go? Last Sunday, as widely reported:

(A)dults in a vehicle with two children in the backseat ... parked next to a market in the Adamiya area of Baghdad, abandoned the vehicle and detonated it with the children still inside.

Perhaps it confirms that the surge is really working (see US General Petreus's comments in the post two below this one), terrorists now 'having' to resort to ever more desperate measures to evade scrutiny at checkpoints.

"Children in the back seat, lower suspicion, we let it move through," said Maj. Gen. Michael Barbero, deputy director for regional operations in the Joint Staff at the Pentagon.

WSJ's James Taranto points out that, in the Reuters dispatch from which these comments are extracted :
Reuters calls the attackers "insurgents" and the attack a "militant" one, but nowhere does the word terrorist appear.

Creatively evil carnage of the above type, inflicted by "insurgents" like these, accounts of course for almost all "war"-related death in Iraq. Take note "anti-war" protesters.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Quote of the day, from Bernard Lewis:

"In the Soviet Union, the most difficult task of the historian (was) to predict the past."
(See more on Lewis's excellent book "The Crisis of Islam" here)