“Deregulation, and the wealth that has come with
it for most people, has lulled governments into thinking they don’t
need to provide public services,” says George Megalogenis in The
Weekend Australian

– the “notion of providing public services seems as
dated as the vinyl LP.” At the moment John Howard runs his government,
and his budget surplus, based upon favours, not need – “if a voting
bloc looks a bit fidgety, send them a spare billion dollars.” Our
country’s leaders see “triumph
of the open economy as an excuse to privatise society,” but the way
it’s run these day owes more to more Marx and Engels than the Gods of
capitalism. The government has completely removed itself from the
market, and now it’s trying to duck out of the society that “voters
still want it to serve.”

In the wake of the AWB corruption scandal it’s important to note
it’s not just that “lying and cheating are dishonest – widespread
corruption of markets is lethal,” says Simon Longstaff in The Sydney
Morning Herald
. “The short-term gain achieved by someone discovering a
loophole, or by corporate and government indifference may, in the
end, cost us more than we reckoned.” And although you cannot live on a
good reputation itself, “a good
name may be worth more than can be reckoned in dollars alone.”

Iran’s nuclear crisis is the “greatest threat to international
stability since the end of the Cold War,” says Geoffrey Barker in the
Australian Financial Review (subscription required) – because if diplomacy fails, the
Middle
East could be plunged into a fight that would “dwarf” the US led
invasion of Iraq. The US, Europe and the UN are clearly trying to avoid
a showdown, but “Iran is a ramshackle nation that’s kept afloat by vast
oil reserves and ruled by hardline Islamists.” It’s ignored the Nuclear
Proliferation Treaty for years, and Iran could very well become the
source of WMDs for the Islamic resistance. Iran needs to be referred
to the UN Security Council, and quickly. “Appeasement in the face of
its threats would be dangerous and futile.”

This month’s Winter Olympics is about more than just great athletes and
friendly competition – it’s about “elitism, exclusion and the triumph
of the
world’s sporting haves over its have nots,” says Paul Farhi in The
Washington Post
. Although this year’s games will be the largest ever –
with 85 countries taking part – it’s still just a global minority, and the reasons are largely economic,
not geographic. “Most nations, even those with plenty of snow and cold,
simply can’t afford such extravagances,” says Farhi. And because of this, the
“Winter Olympics simply aren’t, and probably can’t be, a truly global
sporting contest.”

Freedom of speech, when pushed – like it was last week when various
news outlets republished a cartoon of the prophet Muhammad wearing a bomb
as a headpiece – is as “dear to
Europeans as religious truth,” says Henry Porter in The Observer.
“To
see them reduced and watered down to pacify a value system that is
thought to be less developed than ours, less humane and less tolerant
is anathema to us.” It was probably the wrong decision to publish and
republish those deeply offensive cartoons, but equally, “Muslims must allow for the error in a
continent of free but flawed societies.” They should understand that
“our societies are not simply based on godless consumption and
self-indulgence, but on one or two deeply held convictions.”

Without freedom of expression “Islam will continue to stifle thought,
human rights, individuality; originality and truth,” says Ibn Warraq in
Der Spiegel.
And the publication of those cartoons has raised larger questions about
“the inability of the West to defend itself intellectually and
culturally.” The West should not be forced to apologise for all our
cultural advances and freedoms; for “liberating ideas of individual
liberty, political democracy, the rule of law, human rights and
cultural freedom.” After all, we can’t expect migrants to integrate
into our societies if we don’t respect ourselves – because who wants
to jump onto a sinking ship? “Freedom of expression is our western
heritage and we must defend it or it will die from totalitarian
attacks.”

Worth reading Highly recommended

Peter Fray

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