Monthly Archive for July, 2009

The Arab world waking from its sleep

The current (July 26) edition of the Economist has a special report called “Waking from its sleep, a report on the Arab world”.

Also check out the leader article.

I have only had a glance but it looks rather informative and seems to get some things right.

Bright Future, Hard Road… a poem

Here’s a poem called ‘The future is bright… the road is hard’. I’ve performed it at a ‘poetry slam’ but, no, I won’t be giving up my day job!

Oh Give me Land, Lots of Land …..


Bigger version of map here

I was struck by an announcement from the World Bank about a book called Awakening Africa’s Sleeping Giant: Prospects for Commercial Agriculture in the Guinea Savannah Zone and Beyond that they have co-authored with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization

They are basically saying that if Sub-Saharan Africa can do in the vast Guinea Savannah zone what Brazil has done in the Cerrado and Thailand in its Northeast Region, it can vastly increase agricultural production.

Shown in yellow on the map, it is comparable in size to the EU, or half of Australia, Canada or the 48  States. Currently only about 10 per cent is used to grow crops. (source)

Agriculture has to expand dramatically if they are to become a net exporter of agricultural products while managing with a population  that is expected to increase from 800 million to 1.5 billion before stabilizing later this century.

To me that looks like the need for a fivefold increase in output.  There would have to be at least a two-fold increase in per capita food consumption if the people of the region are to chow down much like everyone else.  Then they have to reverse their current position as a net importer.

Political and economic conditions will dictate the pace of this and other development in the continent. We can expect the greens and “NGOs” to run interference.

There is no free pdf version of the book. This is typical of the World Bank and UN agencies.

Cheaper books? But what about Snugglepot and Cuddlepie??


Watch out …. the invisible hand might get our precious Snugglepies…. or so they say….(creeping globalization and all that) snugglepot2

Ever wondered why it’s not possible to use a Kindle in Australia or why there is no branch of Amazon here?   It’s because the Australian publishing industry is protected (it’s 70% foreign owned, anyhow … I’ll leave that to one side).  It’s also why the books (especially non fiction and text books) cost so much here, relative to the rest of the world.

Fortuntely a recent Productivity Commission Report has recommended that restrictions on the parallel importing of books  be reduced. books

The restriction  on   “parallel book importing”  is the mechanism which gives Australia  based publishers an effective monopoly on the book market.  In a nutshell, any book which is physically published here cannot be imported by local bookshops.  This includes all  books, not only those  by Australian authors.  So effectively, bookshops are not permitted to purchase books at the cheapest price possible, and of course this means that there is  a severe lack of competition.   (And in any  case  books published here will be more expensive to produce, simply because of smaller print runs).

Naturally the publishing industry is up in arms about it and has managed to recruit a slew of  Australian authors to the cause. The line they’ve swallowed is that this will be the death of  the Australian writer, our kids will never come across Snugglepot and Cuddlepie again, we’ll be swallowed up foreign culture, this is an attack by neo-liberal free-marketism on everything we hold dear.

Continue reading ‘Cheaper books? But what about Snugglepot and Cuddlepie??’

Obama in Cairo (therapy for liberals)

it's all about our new beginning...

In this time of great decision, I have come to Cairo not to talk about the past, but to look to the future — to a future that Egyptians can lead and can define.

Ladies and Gentlemen: In our world today, a growing number of men and women are securing their liberty. And as these people gain the power to choose, they are creating democratic governments in order to protect their natural rights. We should all look to a future when every government respects the will of its citizens — because the ideal of democracy is universal.

For 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region here in the Middle East — and we achieved neither.  Now, we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people.

….. We know these advances will not come easily, or all at once. We know that different societies will find forms of democracy that work for them. When we talk about democracy, though, we are referring to governments that protect
certain basic rights for all their citizens — among these, the right to speak freely. The right to associate.
The right to worship as you wish. The freedom to educate your children — boys and girls. And freedom from the midnight knock of the secret police.

Securing these rights is the hope of every citizen, and the duty of every government. In my own country, the progress of democracy has been long and difficult. And given our history, the United States has no cause for false pride and we have every reason for humility.

After all, America was founded by individuals who knew that all human beings — and the governments they create — are inherently imperfect. And the United States was  born half free and half slave. And it was only in my lifetime that my government guaranteed the right to vote for all of its people.

Whoops, wrong speech!!  That was Condi Rice speaking in Cairo,  back in 2005.   condi2

Obama’s speech was so much more..well,  nuanced.  Whereas Condi chose to focus on the struggle for democracy in the Middle East, Obama preferred to talk about “relationships”and  in particular what he called “the tension between the USA and Muslims around the world”. What is central, according to Obama, is to understand difference, find what we share, discover our common humanity (etc etc..).

As I said in a previous post,  I think that Obama will have to continue what the Bush regime started, no other policy would make any sense..The biggest sign of this was that he spoke quite firmly about the need for a Palestinian State, and was prepared to arouse the wrath of the most militant Zionists.

Continue reading ‘Obama in Cairo (therapy for liberals)’

Aboriginal disadvantage is either getting worse or worse than we thought, or both

The Productivity Commission Report is worth a gander. It is called Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage: Key Indicators 2009

As Paul Kelly in The Australian points out this two yearly report will start to make government accountable by showing whether its policies are doing any good.

Noel Pearson has an interesting piece in the same publication. He says that government bureaucrats cannot be trusted to come up with decent policies. Watching them in action is a bit like watching Ground Hog Day. The leadership has to come from the indigenous community.

Another piece from The Australian has a revealing quote:

“Mr Rudd admitted the unavailability of reliable data meant he was unable to say whether his $4.6 billion Closing the Gap policy package was having any effect in lifting indigenous living standards in crucial areas such as health and education.”

Obama dragged by history

I’ve been trying to figure out how things will go in the Middle East under Obama, and have half-written a post about his Cairo speech, which I hope to finish very soon…… meanwhile, I’ll post this…


My half-baked view (which I’ll expand upon in my future post)  is that he knows that he has no choice but to continue what was begun under Bush.  Nothing else would make any sense.   I think the main clue to this was in his remarks about the necessity for a Palestinian State.  He was more forceful than I’d expected about this.

However,  the entire tone of his speech suggests that the Obama administration  is utterly lily liver’d when it comes to fighting tyranny and propogating the democratic revolution.    The bulk of what he said  was just  liberal waffle about  ‘understanding difference’,  ‘looking into our hearts’, ‘finding what we have in common’  etc etc.   Relationship counselling  stuff…

Obama wordlet

"The Holy Bible tells us "Blessed are the peacemakers…" ' (or was it 'cheesemakers')..

Continue reading ‘Obama dragged by history’

Wong responds in writing to Fielding’s three questions

Senator Wong has provided a written answer to Senator Fielding’s three questions. It will be interesting to see what debate ensues. For climate skeptics, it should be a good test of their metal one way or the other.

A rejoinder from the scientists who accompanied Fielding to the recent meeting with Wong can be found here. A somewhat acrimonious exchange can be found at JoNova.

The Australian Climate Science Coalition will no doubt keep us up to date on developments.