July 13th 2002


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Escaping our debt roller coaster

CANBERRA: Simon Crean's winter of discontent

BIOETHICS: Tell the truth about adult stem cells

AGRICULTURE: Sugar industry report: a mixed bag

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Victoria clones white elephant / The new boy scouts

TRADE: Globalism - an idea whose time has passed

LAW: Government approves ICC - with qualifications

Sexual misconduct in the church (letter)

Keeping couples together (letter)

"Censor" or "classify"? (letter)

ENVIRONMENT: Our future in our own hands

MEDIA: What of women traumatised by abortion?

ABC Media Watch: who judges the judges?

ABORIGINAL AFFAIRS: Mabo decision - ten years of frustration

AFRICA: Zimbabwe's agriculture, industry face meltdown

ASIA: Free trade agreements - what's in it for us?

FILM: Molokai: the story of Father Damien

BOOKS: Marriage, Health and the Professions

BOOKS: Afghanistan, Where God Only Comes to Weep, by Siba Shakib

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STRAWS IN THE WIND:
Victoria clones white elephant / The new boy scouts


by Max Teichmann

News Weekly, July 13, 2002

Another world first ... Victoria successfully clones the White Elephant
(More in the test tube, doctors say)


One of the few upsides of wading through the commercial television news programs is to be told, each night, that some doctor, some research crowd, some hospital, has made another breakthrough - "A World First". The cure for yet another human affliction is beckoning, just around the corner; all due to the unique intellectual brilliance of Australian doctors and scientists: Lleyton Hewitts of the laboratory and stethoscope. Whether it be vascular dandruff, rin-tin-tinitis, or hernia of the spirit, we, and Channel Nine, are world leaders in screwing down the bugs, calming the foaming torrents of disease.

There was only one catch - more money is needed, to seize this latest opportunity (sounds like the Target sale). The Guvvernment must cough up - i.e., that miser Howard and his Scrooge mate Costello. If they won't let the moths out of their wallets, then they are ignoring - no, laughing at - the avoidable human suffering of ordinary Australians. (Is there another kind of Australian? If so, we will be reporting him to the Equal Opportunity Board.)

More and more of our Australian medical/scientific boffins have names like Ng, Pshaw, Banajee, indicating that they successfully escaped the Australian educational Passchendale and got their training elsewhere. Or, they probably had a stable family, humane and caring parents (sometimes suffocating) who saw to it that their offspring were able to make the best of themselves - their gifts, their creative potentia.

Many Australian children used to have this kind of back-up - but far fewer now. And the Jews have normally looked after their progeny in the same dutiful way. Their reward? The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

We rarely hear the triumphant finale of these imminent medical breakthroughs. It's rather like the public media's weekly announcement of a new drug that will cure AIDS. For years, there was no other disease of interest to the public media. Do I have to explain why?

But the nightly medical breakthrough propaganda is in part testimony to the rising power of the drug companies, and the new doctor entrepreneurs; feeding, and living off, the fear and well-nigh universal hypochondria of we existentially stymied Australians. An irreligious tribe, but fearful of death, attracted by the idea (not the reality) of illness, and the attention and caring it can bring.

Of course, gee whizz accounts of magic cures for sickness and death have a long history. Ripley's Believe it or Not, the Reader's Digest Medical Titbits used to keep me in touch with the pre-war, mainstream hallucinatory chronicles of that Faustian search for immortality ... which lurks underneath so much of the medical wishful thinking industry. A covert religion?

One day I came back all hot and bothered from the dentist's waiting room, and announced to my mother (authority of the Reader's Digest, no less) "Every time I breathe, someone dies". She looked impressed, fearful and confused. Like we do when we consume the nightly fancy-that medical goulash from the Box.

Of course, my wretched big sister bought in, "Have you ever thought of cleaning your teeth" she coyly asked me? Wicked, cynical girl. I learned a lot from her.

So when on another occasion my poor mother, tiring of our guerilla warfare against her most precious beliefs and harmless prejudices, said, "Pardon me for living", I, like a rat up a drainpipe, replied, "That's all right ... so long as it doesn't happen too often". We then skipped off chortling to ringbark a few old-growth trees. Leaving our mother to doubtless reflect ... why, why did I ever have children?

Gone sour

But now that the Internet and computer booms have gone terribly wrong, Marketed Health and Powdered Happiness are the new huckster cargo cults along with biotech and cloning.

As Marx and others would predict, surplus capital will flow into the new industries, which promise far higher returns than older industries, and initially can fulfil these promises. But fairly soon there will be too many actors, over-production, a falling rate of profit, then the progressive collapse of the weaker competitors - sometimes of the whole industry. The logic of cut-throat capitalism.

The upside? A new reserve division of the unemployed is born.

In the end, it settles down into monopolies, oligopolies and price-rigging.

This will happen in the medical/high-tech areas - but before it does, economic actors will go to pathological lengths to retain or improve market share ... and as things go sour, cover-up their distressed situations.

We are observing this at the moment with communications, media and insurance. Funds - pension and super - could follow as knock-on effects. Hastened, possibly, by their own internal looting sub-cultures.

This is where the "heads I win, tails you lose" philosophy of economic rationalism shows its form. Governments, it is said, shouldn't interfere in the free market, especially if foreign money is involved.

This hands-off philosophy seems to apply to whatever regulatory bodies exist. They appear to be the last to know of economic malpractices and unethical behaviour within the industries they are supervising.

But when disaster strikes, governments are called in to bail out the corporate knaves and bunglers in charge, and their unfortunate staffs and creditors. Governments are being blackmailed and taxpayers looted.

The Labor Lawyers, and Labor Doctors (as against other doctors), are loving it: having brought the whole crisis about; for it has little to do with September 11.

The crisis caused by uncapped lump sum awards and unceasing depredations by litigation lawyers had been foreseen by sensible doctors for years.

They had observed what had happened in the US with hosts of doctors and dentists moving state or ceasing to practice in the face of endless claims and one-sided, irresponsible courts.

This seems to be the situation now in Australia.

Only nationwide cooperation of our governments and the doctors and insurers against the lawyers and courts would restore sanity and some probity. Only then can patients and providers look forward to a stable future.

Some of our Labor politicians seem far too entwined with their friendly lawyers and jurists to want to stop the rorts. They prefer barrators to barristers. Whereas, I'm still waiting for that medical breakthrough program: the one on the new pill to neutralise greed.

The new boy scouts

One of the most revealing episodes on the world stock markets occurred this last week. Bourses in Europe, in Asia and America were all struggling with share values falling from month to month, especially in high-tech stocks. Profit forecasts were being cut in just about every second company announcement. Enron and Worldcom were lying across the track like expiring buffaloes. Then came the announcement - after the New York Exchange closed for the day - that Xerox had been fiddling for the past five years.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Xerox may have improperly recorded revenue by as much as US$6 billion, while in April the US Securities and Exchange Commission alleged that Xerox's top executives had a four-year plan to inflate revenue by US$3 billion. The company has said it is only US$2 billion.

Xerox shares fell more than 40 per cent in Europe. Every one expected markets to be hit hard the next day. But no ... they "bounced back" in every exchange in the West and Asia. In each country, the same term, "bounced back", was used by the local "analysts".

What went on? Who poured money into the bourses to get stocks up? There is a lake of black and dirty money of more than US$1 trillion sloshing around in banks and offshore havens - and some of it could be deployed to halt the slide until some new strategy is nutted out and the dampers put on honest journalists or whistleblowers. Big creditors or governments have stepped in. But this is only stop-gap stuff.

The Australian Financial Review says it's really just a matter of "confidence", which we should all have. The influence of Baden-Powell is strong at this point. Confidence in whom? Confidence in what? Confidence that if you give them a finger, they'll not take the whole arm?

Over-confidence is shaking hands with your friendly CEO and not counting your digits afterwards. I'm staying with elan vital and Strength through Joy. Stick to the continental balderdash and forget this Fin Review boy scout self-hypnosis.

The only sensible long-term suggestion up to date to refloat the world economies is Bush's and the Pentagon's. A new arms race like the one Reagan ran: the Evil Empire being a group who could be the Three Stooges. NATO countries should take part and re-arm as well.

This junket, besides being totally contrived, will take too long to organise to meet the present rapidly developing economic crisis - so it's got to be rigging markets, censoring critical observers, and endless distractions, as happened in the late 20s and then until the mid-1930s. After which date ... choose your own adventure.




























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