Trenchant Lemmings
"Arrive in a clown car, bursting with anger."
Robert Weaver
Sydney, Australia
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The weblog description is a misquotation from Steve Aylett's Indicted to a Party: What to Do, Who to Blame.
The weblog title links to the "No Country Redirect" version, for whatever that might be worth.
December 31, 2010

Via the Wu Ming Foundation, here's A Book Bloc’s Genealogy, detailing the spread of Italian students' use of oversized book covers at protests against cuts to education funding. You never like to see police brutality, but there is something mordantly amusing about the idea of some rozzer beating up a copy of Guy Debord's The Society of the Spectacle.

December 30, 2010
Wake the @$!%# Up

Via Weird Universe, a list of fourteen annoying strange alarm clocks.

This one will make you get up in the morning, whether you like it or not. The Sfera mounts to the ceiling above your bed, when it goes off in the morning you simply reach up and touch it to go off. Here's the sneaky part, it then retracts towards the ceiling and goes off again, getting a little higher each time. It will keep doing this until you finally find yourself standing on the bed trying to turn it off.
Mmh hmmh.

Not listed is the carpet covered version of the one that rolls away and hides under your bed (the carpet making it harder to find by touch), or the one that reads your brainwaves in order to wake you at the point of your lightest sleep.

George Orwell advised leaving this Marcus Aurelius quote prominently displayed in your bedroom:
In the morning when thou risest unwillingly, let this thought be present- I am rising to the work of a human being. Why then am I dissatisfied if I am going to do the things for which I exist and for which I was brought into the world? Or have I been made for this, to lie in the bed-clothes and keep myself warm? - But this is more pleasant.- Dost thou exist then to take thy pleasure, and not at all for action or exertion? Dost thou not see the little plants, the little birds, the ants, the spiders, the bees working together to put in order their several parts of the universe? And art thou unwilling to do the work of a human being, and dost thou not make haste to do that which is according to thy nature?
If that doesn't help, he went on, try hiding your alarm clock behind something heavy, like your wardrobe.

December 28, 2010
Fahrenheit 451

A blindingly obvious resonance I'm unlikely to be the first person to have spotted:

As it was announced ... at a "fathers' night" meeting on the Rumson High School PTA, the event was to involve a two-day drive to collect comic books "portraying murderers and criminals"... A group of forty Cubs would tour the borough in a fire truck, "with siren screaming, and collect objectional books at homes along the way." Then the mayor would lead the boys in a procession ... to Rumson's Victory Park, where [he] would present awards to the scouts and lead them in burning the comic books. The Cub who had gathered the most comics would have the honour of applying the torch to the books. When the national office of the Cub Scouts of America declined to support the bonfire, ... the Rumson event was revised to conclude with the scouts donating the comics to the Salvation Army for scraps.
From The Ten Cent Plague by David Hadju, citing various news stories from January 1949. Bradbury's famous book, in a shorter version then titled "The Firemen", was first published in Galaxy in 1951.

(A coda from two pages later in Mr Hadju's book, in reference to another youth-led comics-burning protest:
As the students collected comics for the bonfire, some of the boys kept them categorised by genre... Crime comics went in one box, superhero titles in another, and jungle books, with their covers of heroines swinging from vines in leopard skin bikinis, went in a pile that several of the young crusaders hid under a step in the boys' lavatory.)

December 27, 2010
Claus? Is that German?

So, what did the Lapp Sasquatch bring you this year? Apart from some super-old links, that is.

December 23, 2010

Of course, the thing that amuses me most about the Americans' regularly scheduled fracas over whether slavery was the cause or not of the Civil War is the impressive determination demonstrated by all sides to avoid contemplation of the possibility it had anything to do with the War of Independence.

December 22, 2010

Four days after South Carolina seceded on Dec. 20, 1860, the state adopted a second document titled “Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union.” Loewen considers the record, central to his new collection, one of the five most important documents in the history of the country, launching as it did a seminal chapter in America’s ongoing struggle to define itself.

“So why does nobody ever read it?” he asked. “Everybody knew [secession was] about slavery. This document is all about slavery.”

In it, South Carolina laments the election of a new president “whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery.” State leaders indeed sound incensed about “states’ rights,” but not in the way most people think today.

“They are against states’ rights,” Loewen said. “And they name the states and they name the rights that really upset them.”

Specifically, South Carolina spells out grievances with 13 Northern states that had passed local laws that “render useless” the federal Fugitive Slave Act. South Carolina is miffed at New York for denying slaveholders the right to transport slaves through its territory, and at Ohio and Iowa for refusing to surrender escaped slaves charged with crimes in Virginia. It’s angry at several Northern states for giving freed blacks citizenship and even the right to vote (a decision that was then the responsibility of the states, not the federal government). These northern laws were essentially an attempt to hold federal slave policy at bay — using states’ rights.
James Loewen interviewed, among others, by Emily Badger, on the reasons for Southern secession and the attempts to rewrite history in the Reconstruction period and after.
In the post-Reconstruction era of national “reunion,” Yale historian David Blight says the country came back together around the idea of the common valor of soldiers on both sides of the war, around a common economy and around the imperial adventures of America as it began to grow into a world power.

“But primarily — and this is complex — but primarily the country reunified ultimately by the 1890s and the turn of the 20th century around white supremacy,” Blight said, “around the Jim Crow system, which took deep hold in the South but also in the North.”

Some historians call this era the most racist in American history — even more so than the age of slavery. This racism, and the new narrative of an unfortunate war between brothers, took hold in popular fiction, in presidential speeches, in monument building. The story of the emancipation of 4 million slaves — and of the 200,000 blacks who fought for the Union army — “all but vanished from the national story by 1900, 1910,” Blight says. For several decades to come, most children would not even read much about it in their textbooks.

The ſ-Word

LibraryThing detects an unfeasibly large amount of sailor talk in the 18th century.

December 21, 2010

When South Carolinians decided unanimously in their secession convention to leave the Union, the Charleston Mercury declared: "The tea has been thrown overboard. The revolution of 1860 has been initiated." One of the delegates admitted that the convention worked "to pull down our government and erect another." In Louisiana, a broadside declared: "We can never submit to Lincoln’s inauguration; the shades of Revolutionary sires will rise up to shame us if we shall do that." Many Southerners saw themselves as carrying the banner of their ancestors who had fought a revolutionary war against a tyrannical king; by rebelling against the United States, secessionists believed they were engaged in a revolution to restore the principles of 1776. When Texas left the Union on Feb. 1, 1861, the secessionists there proudly announced that "for less cause than this, our fathers separated from the Crown of England."

But talk of revolution was dangerous. Alexander Stephens, who would become the Confederacy’s only vice president, warned that "revolutions are much easier started than controlled, and the men who begin them, seldom end them." ... By the time the Confederate government was formed in Montgomery, Ala., in February 1861, many Southerners - like Jefferson Davis, the new Confederate president - jettisoned the extremist rhetoric and espoused moderation, denying at the same time that secession constituted revolution. "Ours is not a revolution," Davis maintained. "We are not engaged in a quixotic fight for the rights of man; our struggle is for inherited rights." He claimed, in fact, that the Southern states had seceded "to save ourselves from a revolution."


... Confederates cringed at the persistent description of their revolution as a revolution ... and turned instead to defending their actions by arguing that secession was, in fact, legal and not revolutionary at all. Harking back to the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798, written by James Madison and Thomas Jefferson in response to the Federalist Party’s enactment of the draconian Alien and Sedition Acts, Southerners advanced the idea that the Union under the Constitution consisted of simply a compact among the states and that any state, by means of its retained sovereignty, could divorce itself from the Union if it ever desired to do so.
Glenn W. LaFantasie on 19th century insurgency in Salon.

December 18, 2010

For the next three years, Americans ostensibly boycotted the tea of the East India Company, Britain’s licensed monopoly provider, though in practice they drank what they liked. Indeed, for consumers, anger over the tea tax had never made much economic sense. For one thing, many drank Dutch-supplied tea, which was smuggled and therefore tax-free... Meanwhile, the tax on legal tea was largely offset by a tea-tax refund passed the same year. But in 1772 that tax refund shrank, making British tea more expensive and enhancing smugglers’ price advantage. Tea piled up in the British warehouses of the East India Company, which owed money to the British government and also needed to ask it for a loan. Someone had an idea: why not raise cash by dumping the company’s surplus tea on the American market? Parliament agreed to help by restoring the old refund in full and by allowing the company to export tea directly rather than through merchant middlemen. With the new measures, the price of legal tea was expected to halve. Consumers would save, Parliament needn’t lose quite so much on its bailout of the East India Company, and smugglers would be driven out of business.

Boston’s big businessmen felt threatened. Not only might smuggling cease to be profitable but, if the experiment of direct importation were to succeed, it might cut them out of the supply chains for other commodities as well. Clearly, it was time for Sam Adams and William Molineux to rile up the public again. At the start of November, 1773, a public letter summoned merchants expecting tea consignments from the East India Company to the Liberty Tree. When they failed to appear, Molineux led five hundred people to the store where the merchants were huddled, and its doors were torn from their hinges. A second letter warned the consignees not to take it for granted that the colonists would remain "irreconcilable to the idea of spilling human blood." Amid the populist fervor, only a few noticed that the working-class Bostonian stood to gain little from the protest...


George Washington disapproved of the Tea Party, and Benjamin Franklin called it "an Act of violent Injustice on our part." But the Revolution was not yet in the hands of the Founders, although it had left those of the merchants, who now dodged and stalled as the people - passionate and heedless of economic niceties - called for a ban on all tea, even what was smuggled from the Dutch...

Britain overreacted, closing the port of Boston, restricting town meetings in Massachusetts, and giving the King the power to appoint the upper house of the Massachusetts legislature. British troops arrived in Boston in May... A few merchants still hoped that Boston might pay for the tea and reconcile with Britain, but they were too intimidated by the outbursts of popular anger to give voice to their proposal at a Boston town meeting.

Sympathy for Massachusetts broke out in other colonies, and radicalized colonists across the region threw off the guidance of the merchant class. "These sheep, simple as they are, cannot be gulled as heretofore," the wealthy New York City lawyer Gouverneur Morris wrote to a friend. "The mob begin to think and to reason."
Caleb Crain on 18th century insurgency in The New Yorker.


'Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan' prompted Doubleday in 1970 to pulp its first American edition of The Atrocity Exhibition. Ronald Reagan's presidency remained a complete mystery to most Europeans, though I noticed that Americans took him far more easily in their stride. But the amiable old duffer who occupied the White House was a very different person from the often sinister figure I described in 1967, when the ... piece was first published. The then-novelty of a Hollywood film star entering politics and becoming governor of California gave Reagan considerable airtime on British TV. Watching his right-wing speeches in which he castigated in sneering tones the profligate, welfare-spending, bureaucrat-infested state government, I saw a more crude and ambitious figure, far closer to the brutal crime boss he played in the 1964 movie The Killers, his last Hollywood role...

[Preparing for an obscenity trial against a bookshop owner, a] defence lawyer asked me why I believed 'Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan' was not obscene, to which I had to reply that of course it was obscene, and intended to be so. Why, then, was its subject matter not Reagan's sexuality? Again I had to affirm that it was. At last the lawyer said: 'Mr Ballard, you will make a very good witness for the prosecution. We will not be calling you.'


At the 1980 Republican Convention in San Francisco a copy of my Reagan text, minus its title and the running sideheads, and furnished with the seal of the Republican Party, was distributed to delegates. I'm told it was accepted for what it resembled, a psychological paper on the candidate's subliminal appeal, commissioned from some maverick think-tank.
From J. G. Ballard's note to chapter 14 of The Atrocity Exhibition, in the expanded and annotated edition, Harper Perennial, 2006.

December 17, 2010

I can't believe I missed this tidbit from WIIIAI's round-up of 100 year old news on Monday:

Some people are complaining about the language spoken in moving pictures. Lip-reading deaf people. Evidently the actors in silent films cursed. A lot. A teacher of the deaf and dumb explains that "these shows are the chief source of amusement for the deaf, and they are prevented from enjoying them because they are able to understand what is being said by the characters on the screens." Tell me about it!

Wetter As It Dries

Tea towels get their name because, back in the day, they were delicate linen cloths that the lady of the house would use only to dry her fine bone china tea service.

In The Kitchen Linens Book, Ellyn-Anne Geisel writes that linen is the best fabric for tea towels (or "dish towels", as Americans call them), because it can absorb 20% of its weight in water and doesn’t leave lint on dishes.

Historically, women made their own tea towels - often embroidering them, or buying cheerful iron-on transfers, the first of which were marketed as early as 1879. Now tea towels are more commonly made from cotton, or a blend of cotton, linen and viscose - a man-made fibre manufactured from wood pulp, which speeds water evaporation.
Crikey! provides a little historical background to the Palace's decision that no folk-art will besmirch the nuptials of William and Kate.


"[T]he Suharto regime is the best of possible alternatives, and we will do nothing to destabilize it."

"[W]e have counseled moderation, but have not ruled out the use of force, should the Koreans need to employ it to restore order."

"The bombing must continue and must intensify until the Yugoslav leadership realizes they have to change their positions."

- the late Richard Holbrooke, peacemaker.

December 12, 2010
White Alsatians in the Snow

These would be Neil Gaiman's sheps. Aren't they delightful?

December 11, 2010

Antony Loewenstein on the courtier nature of journalists:

Such obedience doesn’t come naturally; it takes years of practice. Annual events such as the Australian-American Leadership Dialogue - a secret gathering of politicians, journalists and opinion-makers - consolidate the unhealthy, uncritical relationship between Australia and America. Many corporate journalists have attended, including the Sydney Morning Herald’s Peter Hartcher and former Labor MP and ABC reporter Maxine McKew. It aims to consolidate American hegemony rather than challenging it.

It’s largely a one-way street. Australians display loyalty to an agenda and the Americans are allegedly thankful. As US participant Steve Clemons wrote in 2007:
Phil Scanlan, founder of the Australian American Leadership Dialogue, is proud of the fact that in 15 years, no-one has leaked any of the internal conversations of the conference. I won't either... unless I get permission from one of the speakers or commentators to do so which is allowed by the rules.

December 10, 2010
A Few Wik Links

(Sorry about that.)

Welcome to the Internet Wars - Bernard Keane on Payback.

Foreign Policy has a dedicated Wikileaks blog.

Via which: CJR's article about Australian press coverage, possibly only notable for its extraordinary banality (the article, not... well, both, really).

December 09, 2010

This was a comment left at Larvatus Prodeo but it's so freakin' long I might as well post it here as well. (I also backdated it to Thursday. Hah!) Note how wonderfully my command of English prose is enhanced by typing in the small hours.

The late Chalmers Johnson put together a sort of hypothetical National Intelligence Estimate for Harper's a few years ago. In one of the footnotes he wrote:

National Intelligence Estimates seldom contain startling new data. To me they always read like magazine articles or well-researched and footnoted graduate seminar papers. When my wife once asked me what was so secret about them, I answered that perhaps it was the fact that this was the best we could do.
We see something similar in those cables from the ambassadors to State, which are the ones the press seem obsessed with. The apparent expectation is these will be interesting or revelatory because the local operatives have super-secret-special sources and gnarly powers of analysis, but in fact of course they are usually local press reports cobbled together with a bit of gossip. The press focus on them is partly precisely because they're entirely trivial, and partly because the press holds to the bizarre fantasy that the in-going cables provide a window on reality, a source of information both true and not otherwise available. (In the Oz media's case there's also the usual pathetic cultural cringe at work - oh, look what the Americans are saying about us!)

The "Rudd Slammed by US" beat-up is a classic case. Even the SMH's own article included the quote pointing out the characterisation of Rudd as a control freak came partly from media reports, belying the notion that these cables vindicated the media's bullshit narrative that Rudd lost the leadership because of his personality flaws and not because he was proposing policies that pissed off the mining lobby. That the Herald decided this self-exculpatory grift would be the first thing they revealed about the cables in their possession speaks volumes about their degeneration as a news organ, particularly given that they buried the lede - that the US charge d'affaires had sources within DFAT - in paragraph 16. Though, in fairness to them, the next day's story was about similar "secret sources" (interesting euphemism).

The fact is it's not what the embassies are saying to head office that matters, it's the information we're getting about the memos coming the other way. There has been some coverage of this stuff, but not enough, and once reported it's mostly only being repeated by non-mainstream outlets. [But I repeat myself.]

Bernard Keane layed it out today in Crikey. As a result of working with legacy media organs to increase publicity of the publishing of leaks (because hacks are too obsessed with His Girl Friday nonsense like "scoops" to report on the material simply published on the website and available to everybody) Wikileaks have risked the nature of the material being twisted to suit the trivial (and, in the case of the New York Times, pro-imperial) agendas of the mainstream outlets. The obsession with Assange himself is a product of a similar strategy. Having a public face for the organisation was also adopted as a method of publicising the organisation's work - although also to stop idiots claiming falsely to be the group's spokesperson - which strategy has worked, but at the cost of feeding the media's infantile mania for celebrity and, more unfortunately, creating an (albeit blackly hilarious) spasm of magical thinking from state entities and their authoritarian fans. "Hey, if we take out this white-haired freak we can kill the Internet!"

So: summing up - don't judge the importance of publishing the leaks by the trivial press coverage; and don't judge that importance by the glorified press clippings and scuttlebutt being sent from the periphery to the hub - what matters is what we're learning about the marching orders being sent from the hub to the periphery. And there's much more to come.

(Update: Links in Rudd-related paragraph fixed.)

December 08, 2010

Hmmm, perhaps the Oz government aren't the jellyfish I've assumed:

The US embassy further recounted that after Israel initiated its military offensive in Gaza in December 2008, Israeli Ambassador Yuval Rotem contacted Mr Smith at his home in Perth to ask for Australia’s public support. Despite the obvious diplomatic and political sensitivity of the issue, ”Rotem told [the embassy] that Smith’s response was that he was on vacation, and that the ambassador needed to contact deputy prime minister Gillard, who was acting prime minister and foreign minister at the time.”
"Wozzat? You want our support for immolating Gaza? Mate, I'm down at the beach with the wife and sprogs - go talk to someone who cares."

(Age link via Mr Loewenstein.)

First Amendment-Inspired Subversion

David Samuels in The Atlantic:

But the truly scandalous and shocking response to the Wikileaks documents has been that of other journalists, who make the Obama Administration sound like the ACLU. In a recent article in The New Yorker, the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Steve Coll sniffed that "the archives that WikiLeaks has published are much less significant than the Pentagon Papers were in their day" while depicting Assange as a "self-aggrandizing control-freak" whose website "lacks an ethical culture that is consonant with the ideals of free media." Channeling Richard Nixon, Coll labeled Wikileaks' activities - formerly known as journalism - by his newly preferred terms of "vandalism" and "First Amendment-inspired subversion."
If you've read any of Mr Coll's thoroughly duchessed Ghost Wars, you will find his craven defence of our masters' right to lie to us entirely unsurprising.

Mr Samuels then goes on to make the same point about the slurs mainstream hacks have been throwing at Mr Assange, but I prefer Jack Shafer's rendition:
Oh, sure, he's a pompous egomaniac sporting a series of bad haircuts and grandiose tendencies. And he often acts without completely thinking through every repercussion of his actions. But if you want to dismiss him just because he's a seething jerk, there are about 2,000 journalists I'd like you to meet.
Returning to Mr Samuels:
The true importance of Wikileaks -- and the key to understanding the motivations and behavior of its founder -- lies not in the contents of the latest document dump but in the technology that made it possible, which has already shown itself to be a potent weapon to undermine official lies and defend human rights. Since 1997, Assange has devoted a great deal of his time to inventing encryption systems that make it possible for human rights workers and others to protect and upload sensitive data. The importance of Assange's efforts to human rights workers in the field were recognized last year by Amnesty International, which gave him its Media Award for the Wikileaks investigation The Cry of Blood - Extra Judicial Killings and Disappearances, which documented the killing and disappearance of 500 young men in Kenya by the police, with the apparent connivance of the country's political leadership.
But what does that matter now that he's cruelly exposed our infrastructural soft underbelly to Osama Bin Blofeld's fanataninjas?

December 07, 2010

Craig A. Monson interviewed about his book Nuns Behaving Badly: Tales of Music, Magic, Art, and Arson in the Convents of Italy:

MONSON: These were women who were relatively well educated, from aristocratic families, locked up behind a wall where they are invisible, and they are given a certain amount of autonomy....One can see how they would have developed a certain amount of independence and created their own culture.

IDEAS: There’s one story about the nuns of San Niccolò di Strozzi who in 1673 burned down their own convent. Why arson?

MONSON: There are three ways of being released from obligation of monastic enclosure: pestilence, war and fire. Pestilence and war weren’t quite in the picture. So fire was the alternative. Apparently they voted...that they were going to do this.

King's English

Wu Ming 1 talks about translating Stephen King:

King's style looks simple, but it is actually very difficult to translate. As an author, he's very fond of puns, neologisms, idioms, local slang and so on. He plays with all the singularities of the English language, precisely the stuff that can't be translated in any way! This is typical of, er, "monoglot" writers, by which I mean those writers who don't care about what happens to their works when they're translated into other languages.


If you're a careful, attentive reader, you can tell one kind of writer from the other simply by reading. There's a prose that's translation-conscious, and a prose that is not. It can be a very subtle difference, but you can detect it. ... King's English is very much self-contained, very much grounded in Americana. King's stories are usually set in places and milieux that are both quintessentially American and very particular, very singular, like some island off the coast of Maine, the New England countryside, etc. There are idioms, details, objects, and customs that can't be found anywhere else...

[W]e Wu Ming are extremely translation-conscious, while writing we always think: how will this be translated into English, or French, or Spanish? Sometimes we place landmines into the text, bombs that will explode only during translation. For example, in my novel New Thing, there are hidden rhymes that will appear only when those pages are translated into English

December 03, 2010

At Mondoweiss, David Shasha discusses the origins and history of the Hanukkah holiday:

[T]he rabbis could not eliminate a holiday which had popular roots among both the Jewish masses and the priestly elite. Hence, they developed a hagiographic tale of a cruse of oil that was found amidst the Temple relics that was the only "pure" oil that could be used to light the Menorah, Hebrew candelabrum; according to the rabbis the oil, a one-day supply, lasted for the eight-day rededication ceremonies...

The story of the cruse of oil knowingly obscured the historical underpinnings of the holiday which, in addition to the Book of Maccabees sources, appears in Josephus' Jewish Antiquities Book 12, Chapter 7. Our historical sources tell us nothing about the cruse of oil but do tell us a good deal about the Maccabees and their war against the Syrians.
Commenter "bob" links to an article from 2005 on the same subject by James Ponet at Slate:
Read in its historical context ... the Hanukkah story is really about a revolt against the Hellenized Jews who had fallen madly in love with the sophisticated, globalizing superculture of their day. The Apocrypha's texts make it clear that the battle against Hellenization was in fact a kulturkampf among the Jews themselves...

... Armed Hasmonean priests and their comrades from the rural town of Modi'in attacked urban Jews, priests and laity alike, who supported Greek reform, like the gymnasium and new rules for governing commerce. The Hasmoneans imposed, at sword's edge, traditional observance. After years of protracted warfare, the priests established a Hasmonean state that never ceased fighting Jews who disagreed with its rule.
Two narratives then emerge: Hanukkah as a Zionist commemoration of the Maccabean warrior tradition and, simultaneously, Hanukkah as an assimilationist "Jewish Christmas". It seems something of an arduously contradictory burden for a little holiday to bear.

December 02, 2010

As yet another (but nonetheless unnecessary) reminder of how different the real world is from the ponyverse, it seems the US Ambassador to Honduras carefully advised his government that the June 2009 coup was indeed a coup and "clearly illegal, and ... totally illegitimate", which advice the Obama administration then cheerfully ignored. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même hopey-changey chose.

December 01, 2010

Today's "well, exactly" comes courtesy of Doghouse Riley:

Lemme just ask a couple questions about this civilization, whose very existence hangs on the ability of some House of Saud fuckhead to be duplicitous in absolute privacy. First, how come all its sacred principles operate in one direction only? Why is there one set of ethics for how people are supposed to relate to governments, and no set of ethics for how governments treat people? Where were you, Mr. Brooks, when my phone company turned over my top secret messages to the government, and when the government forgave it for violating my rights in doing so? Where was Zbegniew Fuckink Brzezinski? Lemme jog your memory: on the other side.

Three Things: the AUSFTA; Water Myths; American Liberalism

John Quiggin on the Australia United States Free Trade Agreement:

On at least one occasion, the extra bite of the AUSFTA proved counter- productive to the goal of limiting public intervention in the economy. Snowy Hydro, an electricity generation company jointly owned by the Commonwealth, NSW and Victorian governments, was a candidate for privatisation. In view of the political unpopularity of privatisation, it has been common for governments to attach a range of conditions on employment and ownership. Under the terms of the AUSFTA, however, the capacity to impose such conditions is strictly limited. Ranald notes that a proposed limit, restricting foreign ownership to 35 per cent of shares, was judged to be in contravention of the agreement. The inability to impose such conditions, and thereby allay some sources of public concern, was one reason for the abandonment of the proposed privatisation.
Andrew Dragun on Australian water myths:
What our early leaders did was to create a massive water surplus in the cause of nation building which could only be disbursed and thus justified by essentially giving the water away. In the early days of irrigation, the prices for water captured only a small fraction of the operating costs of getting water to the irrigators, and for a range of institutional reasons it has been difficult to increase those prices since.
Roger D. Hodge interviewed about his book The Mendacity of Hope: Barack Obama and the Betrayal of American Liberalism:
My use of the term “class warfare” in the book was meant to be somewhat provocative, since this is typically the most damning charge that our economic royalists can come up with to counter any proposal that threatens their economic and political prerogatives. It also happens to be an accurate, if somewhat melodramatic, term for what happens in any society. Marx was obviously correct to point to the struggle between the rich and the poor as one of the motive forces of human history, but his Hegelianism led him to imbue historical change with metaphysical significance and to posit the working class as the trans-historical carrier of human freedom. It is ironic that workers should be obliged to bear such a load.

The Atlantic republican political tradition that informed the minds of the revolutionary generation also understood history in terms of the struggle of rich and poor, the few and the many, the nobili and the populi. This is an essential attribute of the Roman republican heritage, as Machiavelli makes clear in his Discourses on Livy, in which he observes that it was the productive tension between the patricians and the plebs that preserved Rome’s republican institutions for so long. So-called class warfare, in this view, is necessary for the health of the state, precisely because it makes explicit the natural conflicts that arise between groups with fundamentally differing material interests. By rendering those conflicts transparent, Roman institutions helped preserve civil peace.

James Madison believed that differing economic classes must of necessity grow up in any civilized nation, and that these classes would naturally pursue their own self-interests. The principal role of modern legislation, Madison wrote, is the regulation of these various and interfering interests. What is dangerous, from the Madisonian point of view, is when one narrow interest captures the institutions of the state and uses the power of government for its own purposes, to the detriment of other groups. Madison, in keeping with republicans such as Machiavelli and James Harrington, argued that a moderate balance of wealth must be maintained, that too great a distinction between the rich and poor would naturally lead to the decay of republican governance. Judging from the stench of corruption rising up from Washington, I’d say he was correct.

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