Friday, 27 August 2010

Chinese Soft Power and Australian Elections

Listening to an Economist podcast recently, I was interested to learn how China has been trying to develop its soft power on the international stage. They have been trying to promote Confuscianism, and values of hierarchy and authority. Basically, 'wow, look how good authoritarianism is!' and there definitely are some benefits - the govt can make quick and sweeping decisions in response to large problems, such as the gfc and the environment according to the Economist. It strikes me that when authoritarianism and popular consent (through democracy) are juxtaposed in the context of govt achievements, the former is better at getting things done, while the later is better at accountability, ie ensuring the right problems are addressed, in the right way, and that they are actually completed and successfully.

The reason China can interact successfully with countries that are supposedly diametrically opposed to their fundamental values, is that liberal democracies act as authoritarian govts, they simply do it for short periods between elections. Australian has appallingly short federal terms, and I wonder if it wouldn't be in the electoral mess it's in currently if the federal terms were longer. It's ludicrous to expect any govt so substantially solve problems like global warming or the gfc in just 3 years, or in fact to take an unpopular but necessary course of action so close to the constant threat of losing office. While Australia doesn't want a govt permanently in control like in China, I do think it needs to govts longer terms to more confidently exert their power.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

I need to rant about Prop 8

It was quite exciting to see the US federal court strike down Prop 8 the other day, even if that does feel a little premature given that it was going to be appealed to the Supreme Court and that could take a few years. What made it so exciting though was how emphatically Judge Walker struck down the ban, in his 138 page ruling - calling out all the nonsense spouted by the anti-gay marriage brigade.

What infuriates me is the level of response in the media from the loosing side. I want to scream every time I see another idiot claim that the will of 'seven million Californians' was ignored, it's the end of democracy, blah blah blah. Of course it was ignored, that was will was prejudiced and bigoted. Do people not understand why we set up political systems that protect all people's rights, and that we don't subject the rights of a minority to a popular vote. That is one of the reason the federal and supreme courts exist - I know this and I'm not even American. It seems all the right-wing pundits claiming Judge Walker is a left-wing "activist" judge don't even know what a trial is. He was presented with facts and evidence from both sides - if one side utterly failed to provide and facts or evidence to support their claims, then a judge ruling against them is not proof that he (or she) is biased, it just means you're wrong. To the anti-gay marriage bigots in the US out there, you had plenty of opportunity in a court of law to prove why you are right, and you absolutely and completely failed - you have no one to blame but yourselves.

The other point of this that I find so frustrating is that American conservatives are so insistent on not only being allowed to lie in the media, but by refusing to accept their outright lies, somehow that's oppressing them. I'm glad that the fact that they are just outright lying was finally pointed out, although not directly by the press, but by David Boies, one lawyers in the case, in a CBS article:

Perkins [from the Family Research Council] said the judge ignored "a lot of the social science" about the affects of same-sex couples on families ...

Boies disputed Perkins on the evidence: "It's easy to sit around and debate and throw around opinions that appeal to people's fear and prejudice, [and] cite studies that either don't exist or don't say what you say they do.

"In a court of law you've got to come in and you've got to support those opinions, you've got to stand up under oath and cross-examination," Boies said. "And what we saw at trial is that it's very easy for the people who want to deprive gay and lesbian citizens of the right to vote [sic] to make all sorts of statements and campaign literature, or in debates where they can't be cross-examined.

"But when they come into court and they have to support those opinions and they have to defend those opinions under oath and cross-examination, those opinions just melt away. And that's what happened here. There simply wasn't any evidence, there weren't any of those studies. There weren't any empirical studies. That's just made up. That's junk science. It's easy to say that on television. But a witness stand is a lonely place to lie. And when you come into court you can't do that.