HOW LONG WILL KEVIN RUDD’S POLLS DEFY THE LAW OF GRAVITY

By Con George-Kotzabasis

Since the elevation of Kevin Rudd to the leadership of the Labor Party his polls have shot up to the stars and continue to rise unabated into the electoral “stratosphere” of the country. And this is going on beyond the normal honeymoon period most new leaders enjoy with the electorate. Taking also into consideration that the “animal spirits” of the electorate were, and are, not ferociously hostile against the Howard government, one is nonplussed therefore at the rapid and high rise of Rudd’s polls that refuse even to reach a plateau and least of all to fall. It’s the reverse of the simile of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. While Howard has been politically “debauch less” and “sinless” his picture or portrait is becoming aged and uglier as if displaying his political debauchery and sins that his record does not have. On the contrary he and his government have impeccable economic credentials as good managers of the economy and prosperity of the country during their long tenure in office, as all serious commentators acknowledge.

Moreover one would expect that something that goes up must also come down. But the strength of Rudd’s polls is of such magnitude that defies even Newton’s law of gravitation. What explanation can one give to this phenomenon that prevents even the apple of Newton from falling? And is unprecedented in the experience of pollsters and challenges the professional knowledge of the latter to give a plausible answer to this conundrum?

Some pollsters and commentators have offered the explanation that the Industrial Relations legislation and global warming are the two major issues that are throttling the Coalition and the reasons why the electorate has lost its trust of the Howard government. But these two issues were around during the time of Rudd’s predecessor Kim Beazley and did not contribute even a tad of rise to the polls of the latter. Nor was ever registered by any pollsters any noticeable huge ire of the electorate on these issues against the government. Others offer as an explanation the youthfulness and apparent dynamism of Rudd against the aged Howard. While this might have some effect upon some people it’s not of such great substance that would deliver a sledgehammer blow to the foundation of Howard’s leadership as it seems to have done. The peer pollster Sol Lebovitz puts forward a shrewder explanation. He says that often the electorate has a propensity to have one-night-stands with an Opposition party until close to the day of the election. I think this is a more plausible explanation and I would only express this proposition in different terms, i.e., when it comes to the question whether the electorate should take the “slut” to the ballot box and marry her. It’s precisely at this point when voters approach the “aisle” of the ballot box that they will decide whether to jilt or marry the Labor bride.

But I would suggest and risk a bolder explanation to this ceaseless rise of Kevin Rudd’s polls. It’s the perception of the unstoppable momentum of the polls favoring the leader of the Opposition that prevents many of those who are called by the pollsters from expressing their real feelings about the two opposing parties. Most people love going along with the strong current of a stream especially when such an enjoyment seems to be the fashion of the day, and would be discomfited to be seen going against it. Hence individual members of the electorate when they are asked by pollsters which of the two leaders or parties they favor, they chose the ones who have this momentum behind them. And the corollary of this is that this choice continues to reinforce the momentum of the polls that favor Rudd and hence the ceaseless  momentum that feeds on itself.

The members of the electorate therefore who provide the statistics for the pollsters are like surfies. Who enjoy riding a high wave of the sea, in this case the “victorious wave” of Kevin Rudd, and get a great frisson, a great thrill, from sliding from the heights of the wave. But until the penultimate slide that will bring them close to the ballot box and to the ebb of the wave. Once the voters enter the secrecy of the ballot box it’s at that moment that they will express, unhindered by the fashionably designed momentum, their “secret longings”. And in my opinion the latter will favor John Howard for his mature solid leadership that will continue to secure, as his long tenure exemplified, the long term interests of Australia, and will reject the uncertain, callow, and risky leadership of Kevin Rudd.             
 

MOVEON Org’s Ad on GENERAL PETRAEUS BETRAYS AMERICA

 A short reply by Con George-Kotzabasis to: Beyond “The Ad”:Getting Back to Substance in the Petraeus Controversy, by Steven Clemons in the Washington Note, September 20, 2007

The MoveOn org’s ad General Petraeus Or General Betray Us in the New York Times has sparked a great controversy and debate, as it naturally was expected to do, forcing the Democrats to repudiate it and the majority of them to vote against it in Congress thus engendering a serious split between them and their anti-war constituency. It also forced some liberal gurus to stealthily detach themselves from the ad without damaging their connection with the anti-war crowd. Clemons, the liberal scholar and blogger of the Washington Note, apparently with admiration quotes Chris Matthews’ wiseacre, “the ad didn’t kill anybody” as being Solomonic wisdom, as well as for the purpose of sopping up and appeasing the “MoveOners”. The ad certainly didn’t physically kill anybody. But it certainly attempted to kill the spirit, the dedication, and the moral fortitude of all American soldiers in Iraq who consider and applaud General Petraeus as being a superb commander, and are honored and proud to serve under his command.

It was a shameful attack upon the military front line US forces and the soldier-savants, like David Petraeus, who are the real and only defenders of America against this onslaught of fanatic barbarians. In the chronicles of this war the “ad” will be written with the obloquy it deserves. As by betraying the beliefs of the troops about their military commander, the ad by implication betrayed the interests of the nation at this critical juncture of its history that the deadly challenge of Islamofascism poses.

As a consequence of the above reply the following discussion took place on the Washington Note.

Carroll said…

May I ask if you have any military combat experience? Or any military experience?
I don’t, but my older brother was a three purple hearts, two bronze stars and one silver star Marine Lt. in Vietnam.

And he says that Petraeus is a prime example of the “political” generals in the military,..he called them total “suck ups” and “desk managers”.

Kotzabasis said…

Yes I do Carrol! I have the “experience” of 160,000 American soldiers presently serving in Iraq who are winning purple hearts, bronze stars, and silver stars galore with their heroic stand against the stealthy murderous insurgents, and who consider, I repeat, General Petraeus to be a superb commander (not a “suck up”)and are honored and proud to serve under his leadership.

So if you follow with intellectual rigor your own logic, 160,000 experienced soldiers who think differently from your brother about the subject Petraeus, surely and decisively trump the “experience” of your brother. So by your own logic you too must accept the appraisal, of all those star-laden soldiers, of General Petraeus. And hence come to the same conclusion, like myself, that the MoveON ad was a betrayal of the troops serving in Iraq, and by implication a betrayal of America.

ALL THE PUNDITRY THAT IS FIT TO DEFEAT AMERICA

By Con George-Kotzabasis 

When men’s pride swells in folly, then their tongues become their true accusers Aeschylus 

It’s both interesting and revealing that the critics of the war in Iraq, and generally on the war against global terror, have never formulated their position in concrete and effective terms what should have been America’s response to the lethal attack of 9/11; an attack that was far from being an aberration but on the contrary threatened to be the order of the day for the United States and the rest of the civilized world. Other than the pious wishes of “containing” a religious fanatic enemy, whose godly agenda was to destroy the West, by the nostrums of non-belligerence and diplomacy and the abracadabra of the United Nations, and addressing the root causes of terrorism by benign economic means, the critics of the Bush administration never presented a realistic and feasible plan how to deal and confront the immediate threat that terrorism and its state supporters, such as Saddam’s regime–not to mention the Saudis whose second major export commodity to the West, after oil, is terror, through their financing of Mosques and Madrassas in the cities of the Western world–posed against Western civilization.

This cognitive absence of the war critics and of the media in the designation of a pragmatic strategic articulation of what America should have done toward the protection of its mainland and its people from the impending fanatic thrusts of a mortal foe, speaks volumes of their moral and intellectual effeteness and lack of imagination. As a compensation for their absence at this critical roll call of the times to “abort” the birth of global terror, they present themselves now, with the benefit of hindsight, as prophets who predicted the disastrous consequences that the war would have in Iraq and in the Middle East in general.

One such prophet or rather prophetess from The New York Times punditry, is the enchantingly charming Maureen Dowd. But like a scorpion whose nature is to bite she stings both Bush and Cheney with her sarcastic and vitriolic tongue. In her latest Op-Ed of the Times Bush’s Fleurs du Mal, with exquisite sweet phrases and metaphors that are like French éclairs, which for her diabetic readers consuming them would be deadly—but I guess it’s better to take leave of this world with a sweet tongue than a bitter one—she lambastes and drags Bush into her swamp of sarcasm by accusing him of being a “loop of sophistry,” and asserts that as a result of his war “terrorists moved into George Bush’s Iraq not…in Hussein’s,” implying that the latter had no links with terrorists nor did he support them–when there is ample and glaring evidence that he did, both in Sudan, during the short domicile of bin Laden in the country, and in the Palestinian territories–as well as insinuating, like so many other pundits, that it was Bush that gestated the increasing number of terrorists in Iraq by hopping in bed with the neocon architects of the war. Further with unparalleled flippancy she places Bush among “presidents who race to war because they want to be seen as hard, not soft”, using in this case the same sophistry that she accuses Bush of using, i.e., the war issued from the psychological and ideological malfunctions of the President and his entourage, and not from the geopolitical and national interests of the United States.

The “race” to war was not a display of machismo by the Bush administration, as Dowd avers, but a demonstration of political awareness and astuteness that the US and Western civilization were going to be locked in a long battle with a formidable, fiendish, and deadly foe. It was a race to prevent the future coupling of terrorists with rogue states that possessed weapons of mass destruction and nuclear ones whose use by the terrorists against the cities of the West would bring the end of Western civilization. That this threat is not a fairy tale but a real and continuous one has been lucidly illustrated by the recent arrests of the Islamist terrorists who were planning to blow up the JFK International Airport in New York, which according to the officials who apprehended the partly home-grown terrorists would have been much more devastating than the 9/11 attack.

The media as the fourth estate in a democracy, does not only protect its citizens from the abuses and the corrupt practices of governments and private corporations, but also from the threats of external and internal enemies who imperil the lives of its people and the vital interests of the nation. One would have expected therefore that in times of war, as the United States presently is engaged in fighting a mortal foe, the media’s primary responsibility would have been to unite Americans and rally them behind their government. And while not absconding for a minute from its responsibility to highlight and criticize the government’s fault lines in the conduct of the war, it must do this constructively and creatively with the aim of correcting the Administration’s mistakes, and not taking its eyes for a moment off the ball that this is a war that America definitively must win.

Regrettably and tragically what we see in the major outlets of the American media is a dereliction of its duty to unite its people in this major and critical war against global terror. The media is more interested in sensationalizing the negative parts of the war splashing on its pages and in the air its ugly and gory aspects and the difficulties that arise from fighting an elusive, determined, and fanatic enemy. As if wars can be fought clinically without cruelty. War is the greatest atrocity of all and within its context it’s inevitable that some atrocities will be committed even by the best disciplined of armies, especially when the enemy appears and commits his murderous actions in civilian clothes whom those who fight him cannot identify before he commits his heinous action. And on this issue the media is locked in an illogical bind. While emphasizing the traumatic experiences that US soldiers—traumas that will probably carry for the rest of their lives– are experiencing in this “ghostly” war, seeing their buddies killed by road bombs and by insurgents clad in civilian clothes, they expect these soldiers to remain cool and not to break their discipline under this enormous stress and pressure of this kind of war.

The American media has reneged itself from its moral, political, and intellectual responsibility to be objective about the real stakes of the war in Iraq, and sold its soul to populism and ratings. Its sotto voce position on the devastating consequences that a premature withdrawal from Iraq will have upon the prestige and the continued ability of the US as the sole superpower to provide stability and peace to the rest of the world is historically tragic and inexcusable. Demeaning its cognitive and intellectual power, it’s in a race to jeopardize and defeat the geopolitical and vital interests of the USA, led by the dowager of journalism the New York Times under the masthead, all the punditry that is fit to defeat America.

MOUNT GLOBALIZATION OR BE ITS PREY

By Con George-Kotzabasis

A tiger is stalking the world the tiger of globalization. Nations and peoples who, gazelle-like, are frightened and take flight before the huge ferocious “life-threatening” leaps and bounds of this tiger, are to be mauled and be eaten, as no swift flight can make them escape from the lightning speed with which globalization pursues its quarry.

For this will be the fate of nations and peoples who chose to be the prey instead of being the “hunter” of globalization. To be the hunter however, does not imply that one has to slay the “beast” of globalization. Instead, it implies that like a consummate broncobuster, one has to mount the tiger and adapt to its fast and sinewy movements while at the same time “taming” it.

This is the only way that countries can save themselves from the threatening onslaught of globalization. More importantly still, to be among its winners. But it’s fundamentally important to be prudent winners, that is, the winner does not take all. No clever country or wise person would desire to be an absolute winner. Only gamblers would crave to be so. But the wins of a casino are ephemeral wins, and soon and inevitably are followed by loses. Hence, if the winners of globalization wish and aspire to keep and to augment their gains, it’s necessary that they look after and take care of the losers of globalization. As the latter can only be politically sustained and continue to succeed and be beneficial to mankind if it’s a “caring globalization”, if its heart is the “make –up” of its robust mien. If not, it will face the freezing winds of a backlash of a ‘winter of discontent’, of all the countries and peoples who are fearful of its storming of the globe. Its losers therefore will be diffident and distrustful of the touted benefits that could accrue to them, and hence reluctant to admit the Lexus into the groves of their olive trees, to paraphrase Thomas Friedman, of the New York Times.

The currently unstoppable revolution in technology, finance, and information, has made all nations vulnerable to the waves of global competition. Only those nations that swim on the crests of these waves will survive and be the winners in this relentless struggle. This implies moreover, that no nation can economically survive in isolation even if it possesses unique and an abundance of natural resources. Nor can it appeal to the bungled remedies of the past, such as the provision of subsidies to defunct industries. Nor can it depend on the invention of new populist nostrums, such as “fair trade” proposed by the dinosaur delegates in a Labor Party Conference in Hobart. On the contrary, only through the process of creative reconstruction in the economic, industrial, commercial, and social structures of a country, is the “waydrome” to success. In this context, to talk about fair trade is to live in dodo fairyland. Indeed, it’s like asking Olympian super athletes, like Cathy Freeman, to be fair to their lesser competitors.

How to Deal with the Challenge of Globalzation

Thomas Friedman in his book, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, argues, that ‘the revolution in technology, finance, and information did three things. It lowered the barriers of entry into almost any business, and it rapidly increased competition and the speed by which a product moves from being an innovation to being a commodity.’ Technology expands production to global dimensions, ‘knitting the world together.’ Finance with the collapse of regulated exchange rates, penetrates all the profitable niches of the world in its avaricious dynamic drive for profit. No raising of granite protective walls or the setting up of any barriers can prevent the ‘ “Electronic Herd’s” ‘ power to move its capital on world markets. Furthermore, information technology ‘brings home to everyone how ahead or behind they are in contrast to other countries.’ This provides a cue and spurs people to invest in countries where lucrative profits can be made by ‘investing through the internet on a global scale.’ Hence, the world is no longer carried on the back of the slow moving Atlas, but on the back of the swift electron-moving Microchip. In such a world all kind of barriers have the strength of a plastic balloon. But even if it were possible to erect impenetrable barriers, the countries that did so would bring upon themselves “the day after”, the consequences of “nuclear” economic and social devastation. That is, the result for these countries would be to throw themselves into the abyss of poverty and squalor, and hence unwittingly deprive their people the opportunity to become wealthier by being on the trajectory of globalization.

It’s by accepting the challenges of globalization with imagination and boldness that countries and their peoples will not only be strengthening their intellectual and moral fiber that will position them on the launching pad of globalization, but will also be transporting them to the land of cornucopia, to material and spiritual abundance. It’s imperative therefore, that political leaders deliberately and consciously decide to prepare their people to enter into this benign circle of feedback. That is, the intellectual and moral strength and knowledge of their people will maximize the benefits accruing from globalization and minimize its disadvantages. And the successes of actively being engaged with the cutting-edge of the globe will in turn further enhance this intellectual and moral vigor and knowledge of their people. In such a brave new world, one has to tell people to ‘remove their belongings’, to use a phrase of Vladimir Nabokov, of moaning. There is no room for resentment and gripe against countries and peoples who succeed. Success itself will be redistributed and will not remain in the same hands. Everyone will have the opportunity, endowed with grit, chutzpah, and entrepreneurial flair, to succeed.

For the first time in human history, globalization has the potential to bring in its wake the “democratization of success”. No scion of elites will be able to capture its benefits and lock them up ever safely and ever after in their vaults. The microchip is sovereign. Hence the corridors of wealth will be accessible to all who have the knowledge and ambition to use it. And if Shakespearian sovereigns could trade their kingdoms for a horse, business scions, like James Packer, will have to trade their wealth and power for a microchip.

Globalization also has the potential to usher in the empowerment of all classes and creeds. Ironically, capitalist globalization might realize Marx’s dream- the fulfillment of the individual who performs his practical affairs during the day, fishes in the evening, and writes and “practices” poetry during the night. And to cap it all, the Communist Manifesto’s slogan, “workers of the world unite”, could be accomplished by globalization. The only difference being that the unity of workers will not arise out of enmity against capitalist entrepreneurs, but out of the benign desire to emulate the achievements of the latter, as every worker with the required training and knowledge will have the ability of doing so.

How to Raise all Boats and Canoes in this inundation of globalization

We need however to be critically aware of the downside of globalization and treat its blemishes effectively. It’s a truism that not all people will benefit from globalization. There will be losers! In all civilizations there have been winners and losers. The human race cannot jump over the shadow of this accursed fact. Either as a result of individual propensities or lack of resilience and ability to adapt to the new, and strenuous circumstances of globalization, many people will fall behind and will be disadvantaged. But because of globalization’s vast production of wealth, it has the capacity to compensate the losers, and indeed, to pull them out of their disadvantaged position. In this task governments will play a decisive role.

First, they will have to deal with the backlash that arises from people who are struck with the dire effects of globalization. While globalization shortens the distances of the world and makes it accessible to many people and improves economically their well-being, at the same time it lengthens the rusty chain of un-economic and defunct industries in many developed and developing countries. Many workers, therefore, who for years worked in these industries, are thrown out of them and find themselves unemployed and unemployable. The direct beneficiaries of globalization therefore, not only have a moral responsibility, but also a vested interest, to take care of the disenfranchised from the advantages of globalization, if the latter are to be prevented from being converted into modern Luddites, and start smashing the machine of globalization, by means of war, terrorism, and computer hacking.

Secondly, to head off and pacify this backlash, governments will have to prise open new thinking horizons, and to transform this resentment into support for globalization. Since inequality among human beings, as well as of other primates, is nature’s regime, governments must contrive clever policies to redress and reverse this order of inequality and bring some sort of balance in this inequity of nature. In the “clever” country, prosperity does not have to be equated with “equality”. People do not have to be equal in certain natural endowments with those who generate wealth and prosperity, to share the fruits of this prosperity. The process of globalization begets such huge wealth that it would not be difficult for governments to impose the burden upon, and indeed persuade, its producers, that it’s to their own interest to share part of this wealth with the disadvantaged of globalization. Especially, when this divestment of wealth will not diminish the capital investment funds of the former, as we will show below.

Thirdly, governments will redistribute this part of wealth by the following international multilateral policy mechanism, by imposing a levy or surtax on the profits of all “globetrotting” corporations, financial institutions, and foreign currency speculators. Once, these funds of the levy are collected by governments, they will be transmitted to an international body set up by these governments. Let us name this body the International Globalization Fund (IGF). The central task of this entity will be (a) to identify those nations and peoples whose livelihood has been affected negatively by globalization, and (b) to subsidize the buying of shares in multinational corporations and world financial institutions, by these nations and peoples. In the case of some people who might not have any financial savings of their own, the IGF will provide them with special securities or bonds, thus enabling them, despite their lack of savings, to be shareholders in this international economy. Moreover, such a policy will not engender any disincentives to private enterprise. As the funds accruing from the levy will not be spend by governments in fuzzy, boondoggle industrial plans or in subsidizing defunct industries, at the expense of the private sector. The build up of a “hydraulic pipe” between the international economy and the disadvantaged of this economy, will allow the funds that are transmitted to the latter in the form of subsidies and securities by the IGF, to be sluiced back through this pipe to the multinational corporations in the form of equity capital. Hence, the investment funds of these entrepreneurial entities will not be diminished.

Thus, the eyes of all, not only of those who gain directly from their engagement with globalization, will be focused on the screens of the computers. Even people who lack knowledge and adeptness to use the modern technology will enter and be denizens of this brave new world of the internet, as equity holders. Sharing the wealth that is spawned by the Midas microchip touch of globalization. The magic flying carpet of globalization will have everyone aboard.

It depends on the creative thinking, imagination and Thatcherite will and determination of governments whether globalization will be politically and economically sustainable. And whether by riding it, the fruits of its wealth will also be distributed to all those nations and peoples whose livelihoods are going to be lost in this process of ‘creative destruction’. Whether the opening of the floodgates of globalization will raise all boats and canoes in this global inundation of its waters.

HIC RHODUS HIC SALTA

The article was written on September 17, 2001, and was first published in the English supplement of Neos Kosmos on the same date