Corrections to the blogosphere, the consensus, and the world

Monday, August 30, 2010

When this lousy war is over

Reading the latest range of war histories it's rather unsettling to realise that in at least one way almost everything was more or less completely irrelevant. If Stalingrad had been lost, if Alamein had gone the other way, if D-Day had been thrown back into the Channel, the outcome of the war would have been the same. Once America got the bomb nothing else would have mattered. More odd, even, than that; if every battle had been avoided - if no allied soldiers had been put in harm's way - the outcome would have been the same. Every single skirmish, all that heroism, all that cowardice, was pointless.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Stand up for whatever it is

Arguments that the independents should vote with the Liberals because that's what their constitutents would have voted for do bring out in me a desire to quote at length from Burke's address to the electors of Bristol....

3 Nov. 1774,Works 1:446--48

I am sorry I cannot conclude without saying a word on a topic touched upon by my worthy colleague. I wish that topic had been passed by at a time when I have so little leisure to discuss it. But since he has thought proper to throw it out, I owe you a clear explanation of my poor sentiments on that subject.

He tells you that "the topic of instructions has occasioned much altercation and uneasiness in this city;" and he expresses himself (if I understand him rightly) in favour of the coercive authority of such instructions.

Certainly, gentlemen, it ought to be the happiness and glory of a representative to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his constituents. Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinion, high respect; their business, unremitted attention. It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasures, his satisfactions, to theirs; and above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interest to his own. But his unbiassed opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure; no, nor from the law and the constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.

My worthy colleague says, his will ought to be subservient to yours. If that be all, the thing is innocent. If government were a matter of will upon any side, yours, without question, ought to be superior. But government and legislation are matters of reason and judgment, and not of inclination; and what sort of reason is that, in which the determination precedes the discussion; in which one set of men deliberate, and another decide; and where those who form the conclusion are perhaps three hundred miles distant from those who hear the arguments?

To deliver an opinion, is the right of all men; that of constituents is a weighty and respectable opinion, which a representative ought always to rejoice to hear; and which he ought always most seriously to consider. But authoritative instructions; mandates issued, which the member is bound blindly and implicitly to obey, to vote, and to argue for, though contrary to the clearest conviction of his judgment and conscience,--these are things utterly unknown to the laws of this land, and which arise from a fundamental mistake of the whole order and tenor of our constitution.

Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests; which interests each must maintain, as an agent and advocate, against other agents and advocates; but parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole; where, not local purposes, not local prejudices, ought to guide, but the general good, resulting from the general reason of the whole. You choose a member indeed; but when you have chosen him, he is not member of Bristol, but he is a member of parliament. If the local constituent should have an interest, or should form an hasty opinion, evidently opposite to the real good of the rest of the community, the member for that place ought to be as far, as any other, from any endeavour to give it effect. I beg pardon for saying so much on this subject. I have been unwillingly drawn into it; but I shall ever use a respectful frankness of communication with you. Your faithful friend, your devoted servant, I shall be to the end of my life: a flatterer you do not wish for.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


The Australian election has brought about something of a train wreck. If I had to make a prediction, it would be that Abbot would get in, struggle on for a couple of years, hold an early election on the grounds that the Greens were impeding his ability to govern, and in the end stay in for about eight years and three elections - but that's not necessarily the important outcome.
What we can say with confidence is that Tony Abbott has been more successful than anybody thought possible, and has done it on the basis of negative three-word slogans - 'Stop the boats', 'Big new tax', that sort of thing. Which means that it's going to be almost impossible, for the next three terms, for any major party to bring up any policy that can't be expressed in those terms (and that can't be attacked in those terms). Which means that nothing significant or important can be contemplated. Which might be OK if we weren't facing several existential crises.

The only conceivable plus is that the NSW losses, and the wipeout coming when the state next goes to the polls, will surely have to remove the NSW right from any position of influence in the Labor party for a generation. No, no; it doesn't seem to work that way, does it? Every disaster that they're responsible for only seems to cement them and their ideas more securely into the leadership. Now the argument will be that we need to win back NSW, and we can only do that by following to the letter the prescriptions of the people who know most about NSW - ignoring the obvious fact that they have been proven to be utterly out of touch in every aspect.

I myself, I suppose, should be cautious about pissing off one of my two followers, John being a committed NSW Rightist. What is the NSWR official excuse? That the government was too left, I suppose. It always is.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Every time I try to get out they drag me back in

The 20-year-old father of the grandson of Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential candidate in the 2008 US election, will run for mayor in his hometown as part of a reality TV show, his manager, Tank Jones, said.

Wasilla, population 10,250, is where Mrs Palin, who is widely touted as a potential candidate for the Republican presidential ticket in 2012, got her start in politics, moving up from city council to mayor before winning election as Alaska's governor in 2006.

Mr Jones said Mr Johnston, whose career thus far has included stints in the Alaskan oil fields and posing nude in Playgirl, is serious about politics.

"Let me put it to you like this: If you live in a town and things are happening in that town, and you're displeased with it, what do you do? You try to change those things," Mr Jones said.

He declined to give specifics on the changes planned by Mr Johnston, a high school dropout who was introduced to the American public as a bewildered 18-year-old at the Republican convention two years ago, when Mrs Palin made a dazzling entrance on to the political stage.

Bristol Palin, 19, broke off her second engagement with Mr Johnston earlier this month, claiming he was obsessed with the limelight.

Asked whether he believed people would take Mr Johnston's run for office seriously, Mr Jones said: "People questioned Jesus Christ, so I definitely don't care about these mere mortals questioning Levi Johnston."

The Case of the Red-Headed Dwarfs, part 25

The second day of the hearing of the Rocking-Horse case quickly produced a sensation. Cocklecarrot asked Mr. Honey-Gander, counsel for the defendants, what the twelve red-bearded dwarfs could possibly have to do with the Broxholm Hydraulic Laundries, and how they came into the case. Mr. Honey-Gander made the sensational reply, 'M'lud, I understand that these gentlemen have a controlling interest in these laundries. In fact, they are Broxholm Hydraulic Laundries.'
Cocklecarrot: Then why do they call themselves 'Others'?
Mr. Honey-Gander: I believe, m'Iud, that there are others connected with the laundries.
Cocklecarrot: Red-bearded dwarfs, too, I will wager.
Mr. Honey-Gander: So I understand, m'Iud.
Cocklecarrot: How many?
Mr. Honey-Gander: Forty-one, m'lud.
Cocklecarrot: Merciful heavens! Call Miss Staggage.
Mr. Honey-Gander: Your name is Elvira Staggage?
Miss Staggage: No, sir. It is Amy Clowte.
Mr. Honey-Gander: But-
Miss Staggage: Elvira Staggage is my trade name.
Mr. Honey-Gander: I see. You own a rocking-horse factory?
Miss Staggage: No, sir. I act for the real owners.
Mr. Honey-Gander: And who are they?
Miss Staggage: A number of red-bearded dwarfs, sir. I see them over there.
(Sensation in court.)
Cocklecarrot: This is quite intolerable. These dwarfs are plaintiffs and defendants in the same case. The thing is without precedent. What on earth are they up to, suing themselves?
Mr. Poss (for the plaintiff): They maintain, m'Iud, that in their capacity as hydraulic launderers they have swindled themselves in their capacity as rocking-horse manufacturers.
Cocklecarrot: This is really insane. I must adjourn the case for a day or two. It is without precedent, I repeat.

Elephants and mice

The people who say that even if global warming is bad Australia shouldn't bother about doing anything much to prevent it because we're such a small nation that our contribution is almost irrelevant compared to that of America, China, and India have surely got it arse backwards. If the proposition is correct, and Australia's climate depends on what the big boys do, it's surely of vital and central importance that we persuade the big boys to do the right thing; and if, as would seem likely, just about our only tool in this is PR (we can't realistically bribe them, and we certainly can't threaten them) then setting a good example is positively an existential necessity. And not just a bare pass, either - if we're doing it for show, it has to be showy; we can only signal the intensity of our our belief (which is all we have to use as a lever) by going all in.

Oh well. I suppose the world will see out my lifetime.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The roots of POP

OK; On the wall in Richard Hamilton's seminal "Just What Is It That Makes Today's Home So Different, So Appealing? " --

isn't that picture on the wall a Jack Kirby?
But Young Romance: is that really Kirby's thing? Nobody getting punched? No soundeffects? No cringeworthy literal names?

Let's check this.

Yes, he did:Wikipedia -
Launched with a September 1947 cover date, the Prize Comics title Young Romance signaled its distinction from traditional superhero and genre comics with a cover banner stating the series was "designed for the more adult readers of comics". Told from a first person perspective, underlining its claim to be recounting "true" stories, the title was an instant success, "bec[oming] Jack and Joe's biggest hit in years" and selling "millions of copies"[6] and a staggering 92% of its print run.[5] Crestwood increased the print run by the third issue to triple the initial numbers, and well as upgrade the title from bimonthly to monthly through issues #13-72 (Sept. 1949 - Aug. 1954)...... Despite the glut of titles, the Simon and Kirby Romance titles "continued to sell five million" a month, allowing the pair "to earn more than enough to buy their own homes".

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