(warning, there's talk of politics ahead, and I need to vent)
The PM and poltical savvy
You have to hand it to Howard: he's a sly, cunning bastard.
Australians here, amongst others might be aware that our beloved PM has recently gotten some flak over intelligence he and his conservative cronies used to gatecrash the war in Iraq. Yet again, the slippery bugger has displayed his amazing talent for deflecting allegations of dirty political tricks and deceit, shifting the blame for this latest episode onto the hapless lads and ladies in the Australian intelligence establishment. You can bet with the guy that at the end of the day, the mud will never stick.
Even his inner circle of Uglies (hard-core social conservatives) aren't safe: after Bill Heffernan did his hatchet job under Parliamentary privilege on Justice Kirby (using forged comcar receipts as evidence to back claims that the openly queer High Court judge used comcars to pick up rough trade), the whole affair was exposed as a dirty trick, and Heffernan was forced to apologise.
While I admit a decent measure of contempt for his politics, I'm in dumbstruck awe of his ability to survive and prosper despite having run out of any sort of moral or economic credibility years ago. The man is at the same time, a cretin and a genius. The conservative establishment couldn't ask for a better agent in this country than John Howard.
"Whatever you do, don't mention the War!"
Most rational people would admit (without resorting to shrill emotional arguments of course), that the case for war was flawed: much of the evidence was shown to be circumstantial or was misrepresented (not that there was much of it), the arguments put forward were poorly formed and emotional. The rabid Right, seeing the flaws in the case for war, fell back on emotionalism, utilitarian rhetoric and mindless repetition of their arguments. The media, particularly the Murdoch press happily complied. Despite the objections and protests of tends of thousands of people in the streets, the PM proceeded regardless. Howard, as the elected leader of a nation of 20 million people surely must've been smart enough to know that the casus belli was flawed, but clearly, his slavish devotion to his "friends" and ideological masters in Washington took precedence.
Boat people, redux
Quite a while ago, I commented on the MV Tampa incident, noting that I thought that it was a country's perogative to see to enforcement of border controls.
I was subsequently surprised to get rather strongly-worded replies off several people, some of whom I would consider Right-leaning. Some castigated me for my insensitivity, others for not properly thinking the issues through properly before committing pen to paper (or finger to keyboard, as it were). Others again pulled me up on my lack of consistency; having declared myself a man of the left, yet not having compassion for asylum seekers.
At this point, I think that two issues of border control, and decent treatment of asylum seekers, while related are actually quite distinct. Ensuring the integrity of a nation's borders is a policy that tends to vary little from country to country, liberal, conservative, whatever. Treatment of people who violate border controls for whatever reason (knowingly or unwittingly), fleeing violence or finding a better life for their kids, however, is a vastly different matter, subject to government policies that tend to vary widely.
I personally think the immigration/asylum seeker processing regime in this country is incredibly unfair (well, fairness is such a hippie liberal concept these days). And you can be sure that if the arch-conservatives running this country smell a wedge issue they could possibly gain from politically, they'll be all over it.
My previous, and perhaps uninformed attitude about the processing of asylum seekers from failed states and totalitarian regimes was that beggars should not be choosers, which is clearly a rather conservative point of view that ignores the fact that we live in an unjust world where two people working equally hard may have incomes that vary by a thousandfold by virtue of being separated by an arbritary national border or piece of coastline. It ignores that all-important fact that people want the best life for their kids and themselves (and can't really be blamed for it), and that the long term good of everybody isn't served by denying peoples' aspirations to have a decent life. It ignores the hypocricy of a nation built on free immigration telling newer migrants where to jump off because they arrived later than themselves. It begs questions about the ugly issue of where you draw the line between the 'deserving' and 'undeserving'.
Please, noone get me started about the Kyoto Protocol...