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The Daily Briefing 12/10/05

WEDNESDAY 12TH OCTOBER 2005          
1 Sacred cows, the Marx bitch and IR changes
For a politician famous for not scaring the horses, wouldn't it be odd to see John Howard's industrial relations changes trampled by a stampede of sacred cows? The RSL says it won't allow the reforms to impinge on the sanctity of ANZAC Day, the churches are worried about the sanctity of Sunday (among other things), the ACTU has invoked the image of the "footie dads" and Michelle Grattan says that "suddenly we're hearing the echo of an older-style Australian way of life, when weekends were common time, rather than (as often now) an opportunity for one parent to work because the other can mind the kids". Howard has carved out this hard-won image as the battlers' mate, the personification of all things dinkie-die Aussie. Will "trust me" (I'm a politician) be enough to hold back the fear that all the things the battlers hold dear are to be sacrificed for free labour market ideology? On that score, it looks like common sense might be about to trump ideology on the student unionism issue, see National round-up below. All in all, ya wooden' be dead fer quids, would ya, not while the IR rodeo is in town?

Into that mix, Ross Gittins says "we're used to having our wages and working conditions determined by a court-like body - the Industrial Relations Commission - and laid down in "awards" that have the force of law", another sacred cow - the arbitration commission. Gittins also goes on to give a good analysis of the shifting patterns of "bargaining power", and it's a case of winners and losers ("and don't get caught of the wrong side of that line" - Bruce Springsteen).

Gittins says the proposed changes are "radical, moving us towards a world quite different from what we're used to". The line of defence from supporters of the changes is becoming clear, and is spelled out by Alan Wood in The Australian. "The danger is that the Government is not moving fast enough, not that its reforms are too radical."

And though Emma Tom is an acquired taste for some, her column today (link below) worked for TDB. Tom begins with the personal, a lively recounting of her days as a youthful "Marx bitch"- "bad capitalism" - before moving to what is another instalment of the economy vs happiness debate. "Perhaps the natural-born number crunchers could also consider a trip to the other side of the debate as a reminder that the results of their calculations are not only statistics, but carbon-based life forms who experience joblessness and poverty far more acutely than the national accountants who measure such things. The alternative to rabid "growth at all costs" capitalism doesn't have to be a Marx-apalooza - but that doesn't mean there aren't alternatives."

2 Iraq's broken dreams
Something that comfortable Westerners in the knee-jerk, why-can't-we-all-just-get-along, left often forget is that there were many Iraqis who supported the invasion and overthrow of Saddam Hussein, and some who campaigned for it. (Apart from the shysters who conned the neo-cons into believing the blather about WMDs.) Jackson Diehl met Kanan Makiya and Rend Rahim, both liberal Iraqi intellectuals and eloquent English speakers three years ago - "they made the case that Saddam Hussein's removal was a cause to be embraced on moral and human rights grounds" - and again just recently. "That's why it was so sobering to encounter Makiya and Rahim again last week -- and to hear them speak with brutal honesty about their "dashed hopes and broken dreams," as Makiya put it. The occasion was a conference on Iraq sponsored by the conservative American Enterprise Institute, which did so much to lay the intellectual groundwork for the war. A similar AEI conference three years ago this month resounded with upbeat predictions about the democratic, federal and liberal Iraq that could follow Saddam Hussein. This one, led off by Makiya and Rahim, sounded a lot like its funeral."

And speaking of the neo-conservative AEI, any thoughts that the mess in Iraq might have made them rethink their "give war a chance" approach to international affairs, will be dashed by a look at this piece about Iran by Mike Rubin on the Institute's website: "The best the West can hope for is containment. Diplomacy can repulse the Iranian challenge in Iraq, but nice words alone are insufficient. Deals must be obeyed and promises kept. Sometimes that takes a willingness to use force. Armies, not words, are a diplomat's most potent tool."

Sometimes we worry that TDB regular, respected Middle East commentator Rami Khori, is starting to sound like the NYTimes' Thomas Friedman, and that he is developing a taste for personal tales and glib lines. In this case, his train trip across the US feeds into his analysis of Bush's foreign policy for the Beirut Daily Star. "He completely ignores the impact of American, Israeli and other foreign policies on the mindsets of hundreds of millions of people in the Arab-Asian region, whose degraded political and economic environment eventually spawns the desperate and futile criminality of terrorism. This is willful political blindness that makes the analytical basis of American foreign policy a laughing stock around the world."

3 Republicans duck, Bush covers up
Yesterdays' email included the line "If Republican congressman up for re-election next year think they have a better chance by putting distance between themselves and the president, Bush will rapidly become a solitary figure". I tell you, staying ahead of the shifting ground in US politics is a job for the fleet of foot. The LATimes (link below) has a longish feature on that very issue, reporting that Bush's party is having trouble finding candidates to stand in next year's congressional elections. "..  A confluence of problems that are driving down Bush's public approval ratings — high gas prices, ongoing violence in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, the ethics problems hounding Rove and GOP congressional leaders — is also making it harder to persuade Republicans to seek Senate seats in 2006, strategists say." And the NYTimes carries a similar report: "Republican politicians in multiple states have recently decided not to run for Senate next year, stirring anxiety among Washington operatives about the effectiveness of the party's recruiting efforts and whether this signals a broader decline in GOP congressional prospects."

With a record like the one George Bush looks like having when he leaves office, you might think he'd want to cover his tracks, perhaps hide some of those documents he'd rather historians didn't get their hands on. According to the author of a book on the Bush family,
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re: The Daily Briefing 12/10/05

If some vapid nostalgia about having a book about Lenin on the shelf worked for you, it only shows that Webdiary readers are in for some lightweight political analysis indeed. Show me someone who doesn't still have the crusty old tomes hanging around. This is piss poor.

re: The Daily Briefing 12/10/05

Clueless in Phoenix by Arianna Huffington is good.

"These bloggers are not chewing on the news. They are spitting it out. But as off-base as Keller's dismissal of bloggers was, it pales in comparison to his "what planet are you living on?" defense of the [New York]Times. It was either the most disingenuous rant of the year -- or the most delusional."

re: The Daily Briefing 12/10/05

Beware the virtue of activist lawyers pretending to do good, says Albrechtsen. Fair enough, but also beware the virtue of politicians covering their butts. Her piece ignores the other side of the story: that politicians are particularly unlikely to make rational decisions on terror laws for fear that if the bombs go off they will be blamed for having been too soft. That's why we need the 'activist lawyers'.

Why are there so few media commentators brave, or at least honest, enough to explore both sides of an issue?

re: The Daily Briefing 12/10/05

Yeah, John Howard has a blog at link here It's very entertaining.
Terrence Ed. If you don't want to use your real name, use a nom de plume and briefly explain, for publication, why you don't want to use your real name. Please send Margo your real name on a confidential basis if you choose to use a nom de plume. Webdiary will not publish attacks on other contributors unless your real name is used.

re: The Daily Briefing 12/10/05

In reference to Albrechtsen, her attempts to denigrate 'activist' lawyers is another example of the usual right wing rant against those who speak up for the disadvantaged. Often lawyers are at the coal face of dealing with the fallout of Government policy. They are the ones empowered by information and the language to articulate the issues. In a large sense they try to level an uneven playing field. So of course Albrechtsen and her cohorts go for their jugular, in an attempt to sideline them from the debate. Albrechtsen is a past master of playing the man and not the ball. Its a common tactic of Howard's Media Mates.

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Margo Kingston

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