Australia did a lot for Kerry Packer – “but in the final analysis what did Packer do for Australia?” asks Phillip Adams in The Australian.
Yes, he made his first billion at the hands of an eager Alan Bond and
he moved into the casino game – a business “as mendacious and
destructive as drug pushing or the arms trade.” But other than a few
random acts of charity, Kerry Packer contributed very little to his own
country. He had no delusions about himself, and would no doubt be
“bemused” or even “contemptuous” about being awarded a state memorial
service. It’s “b*llshit,” as the big man would say.

“In politics the foolhardy make predictions,” writes Gerard Henderson in The Sydney Morning Herald
– who then proceeds to make a slew of them. Namely, that it’s unlikely
John Howard has yet decided whether to step down from the prime
ministership this year or to stay on … but that “there are many
reasons Howard might retire this year” … and “very few leaders quit
when they are on top” … and Peter Costello “seems to understand
that it would be counterproductive to attempt to bring down a four-time
winner” … and that although he has many critics in the media,
Kim Beazley will remain Labor leader … and, what’s more, “if he wins
the next election, he becomes prime minister and the ALP’s leadership
issue is resolved.” Now we know.

“No matter what your thoughts about whaling are,” writes Piers Akerman in the Daily Telegraph, “it is a legal activity.” So people who feel “outraged” by Japanese
whaling in the southern ocean would be on firmer ground if they
challenged Japan over its “rape of the truly threatened resources” –
southern bluefin tuna. “Not as cuddly as blow-up whales which croon
along with aged folksingers, perhaps, but probably closer to
extinction, southern bluefin tuna stocks are rapidly approaching the
point of collapse.” Meanwhile the “no-hopers playing chicken with their
lives” should be stopped, and “cutting their access to tax-free funds
obtained by tugging on the heartstrings of the gullible would be a
sure-fire way of gaining their limited attention.”

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America and its European allies might refer Iran’s nuclear ambitions to
the UN Security Council, traditional diplomacy will not work, says
Michael Rubin in The Wall Street Journal
(subscription required). That’s because “the crisis with Tehran is
ideological, not political.” Only with a nuclear deterrent can the
ayatollahs launch the revolution “that will ensure their survival
without fear of outside interference.” And more diplomacy will only
give Iran time to achieve its nuclear goal. “The only solutions that
can rectify the problem,” asserts Rubin, “are those that deny the
Islamic Republic its nuclear arsenal or those that enable Iranians to
cast aside theocracy and its aggressive ideology and instead embrace

The new sound in the background music of politics goes “ping!”
and is made by the people from Ladbrokes, William Hill and “Their influence is the latest ingredient in the
perpetual, accelerating loop of commentary that politicians struggle to
break,” says Jackie Ashley in The Guardian. “David
Miliband is being steadily backed to succeed Labour leader Tony Blair,
according to bookmakers Ladbrokes. The local government minister was
12-1 …” And: “The odds on Simon Hughes becoming the next permanent
leader of the Liberal Democrats have been cut again … Hughes is now
4-5 from 10-11 …” But politics should be about “argument, debate,
complexity,” and political problems are long-term. “A horse wins, and
the race is over, and the next bets can be laid. In politics, a great
train of consequences may follow. My January resolution is to give up
the pings,” says Ashley.

“Of all the objections
that have been raised against globalisation – including its alleged
damage to income equality, workers’ rights, democracy and the
environment – none is even remotely as compelling as the devastating
periodic havoc wreaked by currency crises in developing countries,”
writes Benn Steil in the Financial Times (subscription required).
And it’s because the monetary system that evolved in the late 19th and
early 20th centuries – known widely as the gold standard which involved
countries backing their money with gold at a fixed rate of exchange –
was very different from today’s. Known widely as the gold standard, it
comprised countries voluntarily backing their money with gold at a
fixed rate of exchange. “Today, the best option for developing
countries intent on globalising safely is simply to replace their
currencies with internationally accepted ones, namely the dollar or the

“Roughly three years, 2,000 American deaths, $200
billion, and no functioning government later, the Bush administration
has finally laid out its plan for victory in Iraq,” writes Noam
Scheiber in The New Republic.
“And the plan is … humility.”Top White House advisers now believe the
key to regaining public support for the war is to adopt “a more humble
approach” from the president, like admitting mistakes and weaving “the
humility theme” into speeches. What’s really going on here? “The
Bushies have decided to focus on character (whether the president is
humble) in order to address substance (whether the war is winnable).”

One of the main reasons Israelis are mourning the departure of Ariel
Sharon is because “he seemed to have a grand vision of how he could
draw the final borders of the state and lead it to peace” – which is
something lacking in the two men who will compete to succeed him, says
Jackson Diehl in The Washington Post. “Instead,
Ehud Olmert and Binyamin Netanyahu will ask the country to choose
between two very pragmatic but radically different strategies for
handling relations with the Palestinians” – but that may turn out to be
“a more positive development than most people in Israel, or Washington,
now think.”

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Peter Fray
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