28 Feb. 2007

John Laws Is A Dirty Faggot

Yes, folks. John Laws is a pillow biter and pompous little pansy prig.

27 Feb. 2007

Feel The Purity

Malcolm Turnbull:
"What is Peter Garrett's vision of Australia, how poor is he going to make us in order for him to feel pure?"

GetUp! Calls For An Australian Withdrawal Plan

Sign the online petition at GetUp!
Dear Prime Minister,

For years your Government has adopted the Bush administration's Iraq policy as our own, even as that policy has repeatedly failed. With Australian troops still at risk and the situation in Iraq deteriorating, Australia urgently needs an independent Iraq policy.

We ask that you announce a plan for a new way forward, including a clearly defined exit strategy for Australia in Iraq.

25 Feb. 2007

Libs 2007 Campaign Slogan

Zimbabwe's unpopular dictator turned 83 this week:
Mr Mugabe waved a fist to loud cheers from supporters brandishing miniature flags as he walked into the stadium accompanied by his family.

Loyalists clad in multicoloured clothes with Mr Mugabe's portrait danced and cheered as the president took his place among ministers and senior government officials.

He listened to speeches of good wishes and and poems heaping praise on Mugabe as "our liberator" and "able leader." Supporters waved banners reading "ZANU-PF Youth League Says Mugabe for 2010," and "Mugabe is Right."
I saw those "Mugabe Is Right" banners on TV and I thought to myself, "This is the perfect election slogan for the Liberals!"

Can you picture it? A whole nation awash with "HOWARD IS RIGHT!" banners and TV adverts. Right about what? Who cares! He is right about everything! Don't question the man! He works in mysterious ways, you know.

It would certainly simplify TV interviews, wouldn't it?
O'BRIEN: But Mr Downer, how you can you reconcile what you've just said with International Law, or indeed the laws of this country? Surely this is just sheer nonsense?

DOWNER: No, Kerry it's not. Because Mr Howard said so and he is always right.

Howard to step up attack on Rudd - Breaking News - National - Breaking News

Still playing the man, but from a different angle: Howard to step up attack on Rudd's economic credentials.

24 Feb. 2007

Who Is Tim Howard Really Fucking?

Spot the important story:
Prime Minister John Howard's eldest son, Tim, has moved in with a former topless model.

Sarah Mackintosh, 28, moved in with Tim Howard at the end of last year, according to newspaper reports.

She was described as "having one of the best bodies in the southern hemisphere" by a French version of men's magazine, FHM.

Ms Mackintosh was 22 when she appeared in the men's magazine in a variety of poses. She is now studying child psychology.

"I was certainly aware of Sarah's past but I'm not going to offer any comment on it any further," Tim Howard, who works on strategy with Channel Seven, said yesterday.

22 Feb. 2007

USA Staying in Iraq

Says Newsweek's Michael Hirsh:
I’m merely a messenger for a coterie of counterinsurgency experts who have helped to design the Petraeus plan—his so-called “dream team”—and who have discussed it with NEWSWEEK, usually on condition of anonymity, owing to the sensitivity of the subject. To a degree little understood by the U.S. public, Petraeus is engaged in a giant “do-over.” It is a near-reversal of the approach taken by Petraeus’s predecessor as commander of multinational forces in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, until the latter was relieved in early February, and most other top U.S. commanders going back to Rick Sanchez and Tommy Franks. Casey sought to accelerate both the training of Iraqi forces and American withdrawal. By 2008, the remaining 60,000 or so U.S. troops were supposed to be hunkering down in four giant “superbases,” where they would be relatively safe. Under Petraeus’s plan, a U.S. military force of 160,000 or more is setting up hundreds of “mini-forts” all over Baghdad and the rest of the country, right in the middle of the action. The U.S. Army has also stopped pretending that Iraqis—who have failed to build a credible government, military or police force on their own—are in the lead when it comes to kicking down doors and keeping the peace. And that means the future of Iraq depends on the long-term presence of U.S. forces in a way it did not just a few months ago. “We’re putting down roots,” says Philip Carter, a former U.S. Army captain who returned last summer from a year of policing and training in the hot zone around Baquba. “The Americans are no longer willing to accept failure in order to put Iraqis in the lead. You can’t let the mission fail just for the sake of diplomacy.”
No doubt purely by coincidence, Newsweek's cover story is Men and Depression.
David Hicks supporters should take heart from today's outspoken NYT editorial:
In another low moment for American justice, a federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday that detainees held at the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, do not have the right to be heard in court. The ruling relied on a shameful law that President Bush stampeded through Congress last fall that gives dangerously short shrift to the Constitution.

The right of prisoners to challenge their confinement — habeas corpus — is enshrined in the Constitution and is central to American liberty. Congress and the Supreme Court should act quickly and forcefully to undo the grievous damage that last fall’s law — and this week’s ruling — have done to this basic freedom.


The Supreme Court ruled last year on the jerry-built system of military tribunals that the Bush Administration established to try the Guantánamo detainees, finding it illegal. Mr. Bush responded by driving through Congress the Military Commissions Act, which presumed to deny the right of habeas corpus to any noncitizen designated as an “enemy combatant.” This frightening law raises insurmountable obstacles for prisoners to challenge their detentions. And it gives the government the power to take away habeas rights from any noncitizen living in the United States who is unfortunate enough to be labeled an enemy combatant.

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which rejected the detainees’ claims by a vote of 2 to 1, should have permitted the detainees to be heard in court — and it should have ruled that the law is unconstitutional.

As Judge Judith Rogers argued in a strong dissent, the Supreme Court has already rejected the argument that detainees do not have habeas rights because Guantánamo is located outside the United States. Judge Rogers also rightly noted that the Constitution limits the circumstances under which Congress can suspend habeas to “cases of Rebellion or invasion,” which is hardly the situation today. Moreover, she said, the act’s alternative provisions for review of cases are constitutionally inadequate. The Supreme Court should add this case to its docket right away and reverse it before this term ends.

Congress should not wait for the Supreme Court to act. With the Democrats now in charge, it is in a good position to pass a new law that fixes the dangerous mess it has made. Senators Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, and Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, have introduced a bill that would repeal the provision in the Military Commissions Act that purports to obliterate the habeas corpus rights of detainees.

The Bush administration’s assault on civil liberties does not end with habeas corpus. Congress should also move quickly to pass another crucial bill, introduced by Senator Christopher Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut, that, among other steps, would once and for all outlaw the use of evidence obtained through torture.

When the Founding Fathers put habeas corpus in Article I of the Constitution, they were underscoring the vital importance to a democracy of allowing prisoners to challenge their confinement in a court of law. Much has changed since Sept. 11, but the bedrock principles of American freedom must remain.

The Blotter

I all the excitment about Cheney visiting Australia in the midst of a heated debate about Hicks and the IRaq War, let's not forget the main reason Dick is here. Not to thank John Howard, who he won't even see till the weekend, but to stay as far away from the Libby Trial fallout as possible. And as The Blotter points out, he could still be facing big problems when he gets home.

I just wonder, if he gets charged, will he pardon himself?

The Oz Politics Blog » Australian politics blog feeds

Heh indeed.

The Orstrahyun

For some front-line blogging on Dick Cheney's trip to Sydney, check out Darryl Mason at The Orstrahyun.

PM pledges shorter jail term for Hicks if convicted - World - smh.com.au

Is The PM Above The Law?

WTF? PM pledges shorter jail term for Hicks if convicted:
John Howard made the pledge yesterday as he sought to portray the Labor leader, Kevin Rudd, as too indecisive to be prime minister because Mr Rudd had been reluctant to say what he would do with Mr Hicks...

"I'm expected to know the answer to every single thing, which is fair enough," he said.

"But [Rudd] is asked what would happen in relation to a pardon if [Mr Hicks] came back, well surely Mr Rudd's got a view on that. You don't need the advice of the attorney-general's department to know whether you should think somebody should have a pardon."
I wonder what legal experts will make of all this? Rudd said he would seek the Attorney General's opinion before making any judgement on a pardon, whereas Howard rules out a pardon but makes a unilateral decision to write off Hick's five years already served. Does the PM actually have the power to do that? Are there not legal principles involved here?

Cheney flies in to a war of words - National - smh.com.au

Brendan Neslon repeats his nonsense about "moral musculature":
"Where is our moral musculature in 2007? In 1942 no Australian needed convincing Australia had a problem in terms of the threat to our own security."
I tooked the bait and looked up the word, which - surprisingly - does exist. Is Nelson deliberately trying to raise his media profile? Or is he trying to put his own branding on a new meme so that, when and if it ever makes it into a Bush speech (who would have thought "Islamofascists" would ever make it?), he can claim the credit?

And perhaps people like Nelson should be explaining this little fact:
The Chief of Army, Lieutenant-General Peter Leahy, told the Herald recently that the Australian battle group in southern Iraq was yet to come to the aid of the Iraqi forces it had been backing up for almost 12 months.
So we are there to support the Iraqis, even if we are not actually supporting the Iraqis (presumably because it is too dangerous). So why are we there again?

Costello aims to make protesters pay for boycotts - National - smh.com.au

Another Small Step Towards Fascism

Costello aims to make protesters pay for boycotts:
The federal Treasurer yesterday announced changes that would leave groups that organise boycotts against companies for moral or ethical reasons at greater risk of prosecution. The changes, described as "McCarthyist" by the Greens, will give the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission powers to initiate legal action and seek compensation on behalf of companies targeted by boycotts.

Mr Costello said the changes were aimed at protecting farmers against groups such as the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which has called for a global boycott of Australian wool over sheep mulesing. It is targeting designers in Milan during its fashion shows this week.

The Greens leader, Bob Brown, said the move was "a cynical exercise that seeks to turn a well-respected watchdog into a political attack dog".

Taxpayers could end up footing the legal bill for companies acting in an ethically questionable manner, Senator Brown said, and efforts by indigenous groups to protect their land from mining companies could also be stymied.
Where The Bloody Hell Is Australian Anyway?

Two important stories for John Howard:

1. Seven Saudi nationals held at Guantanamo were released by US authorities and have returned to Saudi Arabia.
Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz, the Saudi interior minister, said he hoped the remaining Saudis in Guanatanamo would also be freed soon, Saudi's official news agency reported on Wednesday.
Around 50 of the 400 remaining detainees at the camp are thought to be Saudi. Two Saudi prisoners hanged themselves in protest last June. Public anger has grown in the desert kingdom over the treatment of its citizens in Guantanamo.

2. Meanwhile, Iraqis welcome British and Danish pullout:
Sami al-Askari, a Shiite lawmaker and political adviser to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, said: "The withdrawal is the wish of the Iraqi government and all the political powers in the country."

"We welcome any withdrawal of British forces from inside the centre of the city," said Hakim al-Mayahi, head of the Basra provincial security council, which has had a fractious relationship with the British...

On Monday, hundreds of Basrawis marched to the British consulate to demand the release of local detainees.

"We want to see British forces leaving as soon as possible. Security is in place in Basra thanks to the Iraqi police and army," said 27-year-old Ali Abdullah, who works at the city's electricity firm.

Law student Muthanna Ihsan, 20, agreed.

"Iraqi forces in Basra are ready and able to ensure security. Every Basrawi wishes to see all British forces leaving at one time not gradually," he said.

And Razzaq Nasir, a 58-year-old oil worker, was categoric: "There is no need for them. The British forces in Basra are a big problem for the Iraqi forces and for ordinary Basrawis."


Australia's position on both Gitmo and Iraq is looking increasingly ridiculous. And John Howard is looking increasingly ridiculous and more like a War Criminal every day. Somebody better call off the attack dogs:
Defence Minister Brendan Nelson has warned that coalition forces will not achieve victory in Iraq...

"There is no such thing as victory in Iraq," he said.

"And the Iraqis who've shown enormous courage to vote on three occasions to elect their own government, they should be the inspiration for what we do, but there'll be no such thing as victory.

"The most important thing that we do is to make sure the Iraqis have control of their own destiny, and have the moral fortitude and courage to see the job through until they're in a position to do it."
Well, sir, it is time to give the Iraqis control over their own destiny. And they have made it abundantly clear that they would welcome an Australian withdrawal, followed as soon as possible by a complete US withdrawal. Isn't it about time we listened to them?

An Australian withdrawal at Iraq's request is actually a godsend proposition for Howard, if only he has the sense to realise it. And if the Saudis, who were heavily involved in 9/11, are able to get their citizens home from Gitmo, there is no reason why David Hicks should not also come home asap. Indeed, I suspect the US authorities would loudly welcome any such application from the Australian government.

The endgame is upon us. A bright, clear and shining path has opened up before John Howard. Will he take it? Or is he just too bloody obstinate?

21 Feb. 2007

Glenn Greenwald - Salon

Glenn Greenwald digs up a choice quote:
"For us to set an arbitrary timetable . . . would send the most disastrous signal to the people whom we are fighting in Iraq," he said. "It is a policy that, whatever its superficial attractions may be, is deeply irresponsible."
- Blair, January 24, 2007
A commenter suggests that Blair's decision may be grounded in an expectation of some sort of imminent conflict between the U.S. and Iran. I wonder if anyone has asked Howard about that?

I am also wondering if a decrease in British forces down South, coupled with a "surge" in US forces around Baghdad, might not inevitably draw more violence away from Baghdad and into Basra? A spike in violence around Basra would quickly disprove Blair's argument that things are getting better. Would he re-commit UK troops, or is the matter now out of his hands?

ABC News: EXCLUSIVE: Cheney Says Pelosi Strategy Would Validate Al Qaeda

Here's the centrepiece of Dick Cheney's logic:
The al Qaeda strategy is to break the will of the American people. In fact, knowing they can't win in a stand-up fight, try to persuade us to throw in the towel and come home, and then they win because we quit.
Al Quaeda never invited the USA into Iraq. In fact, Al Quaeda never had anything to with Iraq until the USA invasion provided an opportunity for the to spread their fanatical militancy there. Iraq was never part of the Al Quaeda "strategy" until the USA's illegal oil-grabbing invasion made it so. Indeed, the Iraq War was a major distraction from the pursuit of Al Quaeda and a new survey proves that it has only increased terrorism around the world and boosted the popularity of Al Quaeda.

Besides, Al Quaeda represents only the tiniest fraction of anti-US forces in Iraq. What Cheney is describing is actually the broader Iraqi resistance "strategy". If Al Quaeda have a "strategy" that is different to that, it hardly matters.

Someone called "Henrietta" at The Sydney Morning Herald News Blog asks:
If you bang your head on a wall do you desist and move on, or, do you keep banging your head as blood trickles from your ears?
The thing is, Henrietta, that it is not Cheney's blood that is being spilt. It is not Howard's blood. It is Iraqi blood, or the blood of nameless, young, uneducated US cannon fodder, and it means nothing to them.

Downer paid columnist $11,300 - National - smh.com.au

Downer paid News Ltd columnist $11,300 in taxpayer funds:
THE Howard Government has paid $11,364 in taxpayer funds to the conservative News Ltd columnist Christopher Pearson to write speeches for the Foreign Affairs Minister, Alexander Downer, including an address to the Hillsong Church.

Despite having more than 2000 public servants and 14 staff in Mr Downer's office, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade last week told a Senate estimates hearing it had outsourced several ministerial speeches between 2004 and 2006 to a recruitment firm, which in turn engaged Pearson.

The speeches included a July 2005 address by Mr Downer at a Hillsong service, for which Pearson was paid $4550. Other Government ministers including the Treasurer, Peter Costello, the Communications Minister, Helen Coonan, and the Immigration Minister, Kevin Andrews, attended the service.

The topics of other speeches written for Mr Downer by Pearson include interfaith dialogue, terrorism, regional foreign policy challenges, and economic and environmental issues.

But the department refused to pay for one speech written by Pearson for Mr Downer because it contained material that did not meet the public service's apolitical guidelines. The speech was Mr Downer's controversial Earl Page lecture in May 2005, in which he accused the Labor Party of having a history of appeasing Nazi Germany, communist Russia and Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq.

Pearson, a speechwriter for Mr Howard in the 1990s, writes on politics in The Weekend Australian. His speechwriting service for Mr Downer is not disclosed.
Expect to hear more of this one!
More Good News!

Denmark Also Withdrawing Troops From Iraq:
The prime minister said Wednesday that his country will withdraw its 460-member contingent from southern Iraq by August and transfer security responsibilities to Iraqi forces, and that the decision had been made in conjunction with the Iraqi government and Britain, under whose command the Danish forces are serving near Basra.
Lithuania also said it was considering withdrawing its 53 troops.

Howard, Downer, Bush and Cheney will all be delighted at this excellent news - what progress is being made!

Or maybe not. Here's Juan Cole's analysis of the situation around Basra today:
This is a rout, there should be no mistake. The fractious Shiite militias and tribes of Iraq's South have made it impossible for the British to stay. They already left Sadr-controlled Maysan province, as well as sleepy Muthanna. They moved the British consulate to the airport because they couldn't protect it in Basra. They are taking mortar and rocket fire at their bases every night. Raiding militia HQs has not resulted in any permanent change in the situation. Basra is dominated by 4 paramilitaries, who are fighting turf wars with one another and with the Iraqi government over oil smuggling rights.

Blair is not leaving Basra because the British mission has been accomplished. He is leaving because he has concluded that it cannot be, and that if he tries any further it will completely sink the Labor Party, perhaps for decades to come.

Shorter Alexander Downer

Shorter Alexander Downer:
It is entirely appropriate for the British to reduce their forces in Iraq because they are based in the South, where conditions are relatively stable. But it would sending the wrong signal to terrorists if Australia reduced troop bumbers in Iraq, even though our combat troops are also in the South, where it is relatively stable.

Australia cannot cut and run now because you don't let down your mates when they are in a fix. And we cannot set arbitrary timetable for withdrawal because that would send the wrong signals to terrorists. But it's OK for the British to stage a withdrawal on a fixed timetable because Australia, Britain and the USA all have different exit strategies. And of course I cannot tell you what they are, because that sort of thing is Top Secret. And the Poms are not letting down their mates because, well, let's face it, we never liked Tony Blair anyway.

Anyway, the British are not really withdrawing. They are not even cutting their troops by one third (how dare you insinuate such a thing, Kerry!), they are only reducing their forces from around 7,000 to around 5,000, which is hardly the same thing. And anyway we knew they were going to pull out some troops and it's going to require some reorganisation among the Coalition partners, if there are still any left, and that's why we are sending an extra 70 troops. Not to plug the gap left by the British (that's drawing a pretty long bow!) but basically just to save the civilized world from extinction.

Kevin Rudd's plan to withdraw Aussie troops would place the entire country of Iraq in jeopardy, and the whole country could collapse into bloodshed and sectarian violence after all our excellent progress to date. The violence is currently only happening in some very small parts of the country where the biased media just happen to be providing coverage.

And even if the Iraqi Foreign Minister says a staged Australian withdrawal would present no problem, that is not true. I mean, come on! Who's running the country, the Iraqis or us?

20 Feb. 2007

Some good stuff in this Age Editorial:
Although No. 1's close personal friend, Prime Minister John Howard, will undoubtedly show Mr Cheney a good time at the weekend, he cannot meet him beforehand as he will be in WA tomorrow and at Friday's water summit in Canberra. It was wise for Mr Howard to stick to his original arrangements.

The author says Cheney's rumoured CIA nickname is Edgar, which "comes from the late ventriloquist Edgar Bergen, and George W. Bush is seen as his doll, Charlie McCarthy". Apparently Cheney has "a preordained interview with a Bush-friendly paper", which I guess would be a reference to the The Murdoch Australian.

Success!

Blair tells Bush of Iraq pullout plans:
"We view this as a success," Mr Johndroe said, suggesting the British move was a sign of increasing stabilisation in Iraq.
Meanwhile, at the Lodge, Johnny is still sitting by the phone.
This is all you need to know about the latest court ruling on Gitmo detainees:
Lawyers for the plaintiffs said they planned to appeal the ruling to the US Supreme Court, which has previously handed setbacks to the Bush administration over handling of its war on terrorism.
You might also want to know that this 2-1 majority ruling for the Bush junta was delivered by Judge A Raymond Randolph. What kind of guy is he?
A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday threw out a lawsuit that sought details about Vice President Dick Cheney's 2001 energy policy task force that critics say secretly formed policy favorable to the industry.
The unanimous ruling ordered a federal judge to dismiss the lawsuit by the Sierra Club environmental group and the watchdog group Judicial Watch that sought to learn about contacts between task force members and industry executives.
"We hold that plaintiffs have failed to establish any duty, let alone a clear and indisputable duty, owed to them by the federal government" under the law in question, the Federal Advisory Committee Act, Judge A. Raymond Randolph wrote in the 13-page ruling...

Judge Raymond Randolph, appointed by George [H.W.] Bush in 1990, ruled that Microsoft did not illegally "tie" the browser to its market-dominant operating system.

...And SAY! what do you know?

He is with the George Mason University Law and Economics Center - funded by Exxon!

George Mason University, Law and Economics Center has received $115,000 from ExxonMobil since 1998.
You only have to scratch any of these Bush cronies and oil comes gushing out. All this while the Bush administration is busy replacing U.S. Attorneys throughout the country. What was that corny old line? Truth, justice or the American Way?

UPDATE: Hicks' Aussie lawyer supports a Supreme Court challenge but warns it could delay the case even further:
"It's time now for the Prime Minister to pick up the phone to the President of the United States and say, 'George clearly this isn't going to be overcome in the next year, David's going to be caught up in the process, enough's enough, the Australian public is demanding his return, please release him'."

19 Feb. 2007

George? Hello? George? ....?

Howard dumps on Bush. Bush dumps on Howard. Too beautiful! Thank you God!!!

I have been waiting a very, very long time for this. Rest assured, Australian PM John W. Howard is scraping the bottom of the barrel right here:
Prime Minister John Howard says he told the US President this morning there should be no more significant delays in the process of bringing David Hicks to trial.

Mr Howard says Mr Bush rang this morning for a lengthy discussion about North Korea.

The Prime Minister says Mr Bush acknowledged that there is an intense feeling in Australia that it has taken too long to bring Hicks to trial.

"Well his assurance was - and it was a very direct assurance - that he would again reinforce to the authorities in the United States the need for the matter to be dealt with with all possible expedition," Mr Howard said.

"And I left him in no doubt during our discussion that this was an issue of great concern to the Australian people."
Ooooohhh, yeah baby!!! Where to start, where to start?

How about that word "again"? This implies that Howard has previously asked Bush for assistance, which has not been forth-coming. So Bush has to go back and ask AGAIN for action in support of a major Coalition ally. Which raises the question, did he even make the effort last time, and if so, why was he ignored? Could it have something to do with the fact that he is a lame duck president polling at Nixon levels? Hmmn?

Or what about Howard's earnest plea that this was "an issue of great concern to the Australian people"? How about, "this was an issue that might save my sorry ass"?

Or what about the "North Korea" angle? Bush rang Howard (not vice versa, please note) pleading for help with North Korea. What's that all about? I thought a deal had been struck. Is Bush trying to undermine the diplomatic deal with a renewed threat of violence? It basically sounds like Howard told him to go stuff his head up his arse if he cannot provide a little "wiggle room" on David Hicks.

Here we have two political dinosaurs turning on one another after all other available food sources have been exhausted. It's not a pretty sight, but it is a fascinating one. Stay tuned for more.

Australia's Own Independent Jewish Voices

Time to make a stand!
Dear Friend,

As you may be aware, a group of British Jews, including prominent figures, recently expressed their concern publicly that independent views on the Middle East were not adequately represented by official Jewish bodies. Their group, called ‘Independent Jewish Voices,’ issued a declaration that was published in the media and is available on their website: http://www.ijv.org.uk. This British group has received hundreds of signatures expressing support.

We are a group of Australian Jews who share their concerns and aims and we are now also seeking public support from fellow Jews. Our group, ‘Independent Australian Jewish Voices,’ has been established and our declaration of principles is in the message below and also on our website: http://iajv.org

We are seeking signatures and plan to publish our statement in mainstream newspapers such as The Melbourne Age, Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian and The Australian Jewish News within the next few weeks.

Via Antony Loewenstein.

Iraqi FM: No Problem With Aussie Pullout

So will an Australian withdrawal from Iraq be as calamitous as John Howard predicts? Let's ask the Iraqis:
Iraqi Deputy Foreign Minister Labeed Abbawi was asked about the consequences of Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd's plan to withdraw troops if Labor won the next election.

"As far as the combat forces, if they decide to withdraw ... if this can be done through an agreed program with the Iraqis with the timing, I think then we can manage," Mr Abbawi told ABC television...

Asked if the withdrawal would send a negative signal to the US and Britain, Mr Abbawi said: "No ... if it is done with an agreement and consultation, I don't think it will create much problem."
No doubt he will be getting a phone call from Mr Howard's office very soon.
No Denying the Propaganda

More unadulterated crap from Gerard Henderson in the SMH today.

This staunchly militant apologist for Bush, Howard and their illegal Iraq War now declares that generations of Australian Conservative leaders have been guilty of "too much fawning" to the USA. He coyly suggests "the relationship" is now working more in the USA's interests than ours: Bush gave Howard a gala dinner last year for his own sake, not Howard's, and Darth Cheney is only coming over here to get some good PR shots. Oh, really?

Hendo insists that Australian public support for the alliance remains high.
This has shown up in polls conducted by the Lowy Institute in 2005 and last year, which indicate that more than 90 per cent of Australians regard the alliance as of significance to Australia's security.
Well, let's take a good look at that Lowy poll from last year, shall we? Respondents trusted China, India and Japan to "act responsibly in the world" moreso than the United States. Over two thirds felt that "Australia takes too much notice of the United States in its foreign policy". Respondents preferred a powerful EU over US influence, and loudly decried the USA's role as "world policeman". Does that really sound like a "healthy alliance"?

Hendo is choosing his facts selectively, focussing on a single question from the poll:
How important is our alliance relationship with the United States for Australia’s security?
Only 42% said it was "very important", down from 45% in 2005. Another 28% said it was "fairly important", hardly a ringing endorsement. Another 22% said it was "somewhat important" (yawn). And of course, recognising the "importance" of something is surely not the same as "supporting" it.

Then there's this:
Older respondents were more likely than younger respondents to think the alliance ‘very important’ for Australia’s security. Of those aged 18-29, 32% thought the alliance was very important, compared with 36% of 30-39 year olds, 39% of 40-49 year olds, 55% of 50-59 year olds and 50% of those aged 60 or more.
Again, not really indicative of a "healthy alliance", is it? But Hendo is not one to let mere facts get in the way of a good story. Here is the guts of his argument:
Surveys aside, majority support for the alliance is shown in the relative lack of opposition to the Australia-US joint defence and intelligence facilities in Australia. Last week the Defence Minister, Brendan Nelson, said the Government had agreed to host a ground station for a US military satellite communications system at Geraldton in Western Australia. This will be in addition to the joint facilities in operation - Pine Gap in the Northern Territory, the naval communications station at Exmouth and the joint geological and geophysical research station near Alice Springs.

Last week the ALP backbencher Daryl Melham was the only prominent Labor Party figure to speak out against the Geraldton proposal. Joel Fitzgibbon, Labor's spokesman on defence, committed the Opposition to support the joint facility.
Henderson is deliberately confusing political support with general public support. The fact that both major political parties fawningly welcome expanded US military facilities on Australian soil does not prove that we, the Australian people, support such facilities. Maybe Hendo should dig up a poll looking at public support for Pine Gap?

What's happening here is that we have a paid lackey for the US military-industrial complex, spouting pro-US propaganda in an attempt to stifle growing debate about the real value of this alliance.

The sooner the Fairfax press dumps his ridiculous columns, the better.

18 Feb. 2007

Take Your US$ And Shove It!

The Road to Surfdom blog has been questioning the value of Australia's ’special relationship’ with the USA:
[T]he security benefits Australia enjoys as a result of its ’special relationship’ with the USA are illusory, in that the only serious threats that we face wouldn’t exist in the first place if it weren’t for the nature of that very relationship.
People say the military threat is worthwhile because of the increased accessed to "intelligence" (no matter how bad it is?) and of course the blessed economic benefits. But is that true? This comment stands out:
I was involved in AUSFTA negotiations for a major industry group, and I can say with some certainty that it has not paid off and never will. All of the serious agricultural measures, for example, are on the never-never. Phased reduction of beef barriers over 18 years? Forget it!

The few ‘benefits’ that have been realised do not make up for the long list of possible and actual downsides, and some of those benefits - the visas, especially, which have some merits - could have been realised without making them part of a package which is definitely not in Australia’s interests.

Just take a look at what it is doing to our copyright laws: activities that used to be regarded as minor covil infringements are now, under pressure from the US entertainment conglomerates, being turned into criminal offences with excessive penalties. Even the few upsides here - the belated amendments to the Copyright Act that make the use of MP3 players and VCRs legal, for example - are more complicated than they need to be, and still expose consumers to significant risk. All this in the name of ‘harmonising’ US and Australian copyright laws.

Frankly, if some protectionist Democrats in Congress decided to overturn the agreement, we should be grateful. I doubt any Australian Government will have the spibe to trash it themselves.

Meanwhile: enhanced relationship = being forced to buy outdated or substandard defence equipment completely unsuited to our actual needs - the rationale being this equipment will allow closer cooperation between Australian and US forces.

Sigh.
Pretty As A Peacock

The Australian business world's much-cherished Liberal Party connections:
Financial services group MFS Ltd says former federal Liberal Party leader Andrew Peacock will be appointed its new chairman next month.

The announcement by came as the Brisbane-based group posted a record interim net profit of $33.35 million, up 32 per cent on the previous corresponding period.
A Disturbance In The Force

Darth Cheney goes Down Under:
Mr Cheney arrives in Sydney on Thursday after a two-day visit to Japan.

He will have breakfast on Friday with members of the Australian-American Leadership Dialogue and then give a speech to about 300 guests on the US-Australia Alliance. Later that afternoon, he will meet Mr Rudd. Most of Saturday will be spent with Mr Howard and some of his senior ministers.
This is going to be another interesting week in Australian politics. What's the Big Dick's agenda?

I would be more concerned about what sort of deals Darth Cheney is offering Rudd. Put on your tin foil hats, folks.

UPDATE:
The Stop The War coalition are planning some "Chain Up Cheney" protests on Thursday night and Friday morning. Why not get out there and support them?
RALLY: 5.30PM THURSDAY FEBRUARY 22, SYDNEY TOWN HALL

PROTEST: 8AM FRIDAY FEBRUARY 23 @ SHANGRI-LA HOTEL, CNR ESSEX ST & GEORGE ST THE ROCKS
(Cheney will be giving a speech inside the hotel at approx 9.30am)

INFO: Simon 0438 297 552 / Paddy 0415 800 586
The STW website includes some interesting reading. This article by Mike Carlton last Saturday was a good read.
Howard's Offer To Hicks: Plead Guilty and Shut Up

Well, I was right. It looks like a plea deal bargain has been struck, or at least is being offered:
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer, said yesterday Mr Hicks could be home before this year's election - as long as his lawyers did not appeal against the military commission process...

Mr Downer said Mr Hicks would be back in Australia, one way or another, before the election, as long as his trial proceeded quickly.

"It'll be possible to get Mr Hicks back to Australia by the end of the year, either to serve in a prison in Australia or, of course, just to be released, depending on the result of the trial," Mr Downer told the Nine Network.
Hicks is 99.99% certain to be found guilty by the US Military's kangaroo court. But Downer says he'll be able to come home PROVIDED HE DOES NOT APPEAL AGAINST THE ILLEGAL, ILLEGITIMATE, IMMORAL PROCESS.

Thus Hicks will come home to serve time as a self-confessed criminal ("the worst of the worst") and the US Military Tribunal system will also be justified.

Hicks earlier wrote a letter to PM Howard pleading to come home under any circumstances. This is the deal he is being offered. If YOU were his lawyer, would you advise him not to take it? If YOU had been in Gitmo for over five years, would YOU knock it back?

Here's an educational story from today's New York Times:
In the early hours of Jan. 6, Laith al-Ani stood in a jail near the Baghdad airport waiting to be released by the American military after two years and three months in captivity.

Before Mr. Ani was released, American guards asked him to select a sentence to describe his treatment by his captors...

He was handed a form and asked to place a check mark next to the sentence that best described how he had been treated:

“I didn’t go through any abuse during detention,” read the first option, in Arabic.

“I have gone through abuse during detention,” read the second.

In the room, he said, stood three American guards carrying the type of electric stun devices that Mr. Ani and other detainees said had been used on them for infractions as minor as speaking out of turn.

“Even the translator told me to sign the first answer,” said Mr. Ani, who gave a copy of his form to The New York Times. “I asked him what happens if I sign the second one, and he raised his hands,” as if to say, Who knows?

“I thought if I don’t sign the first one I am not going to get out of this place.”
David Hicks will no doubt be presented with a similar form, if and when he is ever moved aboard a flight back home to Australia.

UPDATE: Elsewhere, responding to Costello's nonsensical hype about how Hicks could have killed Australians, John Quiggin makes a good point:
[I]f Hicks agreed to fight with the Taliban against a Coalition including Australia, as claimed in the charges against him, he’s guilty of treason.

[But] Hicks could not be convicted of treason because the evidence the American prosecutors plan to use (confessions extracted under torture, hearsay and so on) would be thrown out of an Australian court.

17 Feb. 2007

Parading In War Medals, Praying For US Cargo

Politicians are usually a bit coy about discussing their religious beliefs in depth, and for good reason (seperation of Church and State). But at last the truth comes out: John Howard's bizarre cult religion is revealed.

15 Feb. 2007

The Road To Glory Is Paved With Taxpayer $$$s and Empty Promises

Here comes the flood:
Transport Minister Mark Vaile has said that at least $15 billion may be needed, but the Prime Minister is reportedly considering spending up to $19 billion.
That's your money and mine, right there.

Hey, don't be so damn cynical:
Liberal backbencher Cameron Thompson's Queensland electorate is set to benefit, but he says the funding is not about buying votes in marginal seats ahead of this year's election.

He says most of the projects have been in the planning process for five years.

"More than an election ago, more than a term of government ago, a term and a half ago," he said.
So we are supposed to buy the same promises that were promised to us before the last election but still have not been delivered? Now who is the one being cynical?
US alleges Hicks collected embassy intelligence:
While not much has changed, there are new details about an advanced Al Qaeda course Hicks allegedly took part in during August 2001.

He allegedly personally collected intelligence on the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, and was trained in covert photography, the use of dead drops and the use of disguises.

The charge sheet also alleges Hicks later armed himself with 300 rounds of ammunition as he prepared to fight against coalition forces at the Kandahar airport.
So basically he is guilty of going on a training course and they carrying ammo which he MIGHT have been planning to use personally.

Of course, it has already been pointed out that the embassy was abandoned at the time!
It's A Setback For Your Country

Peter Garrett give the nod:
"I want to make it perfectly clear that when I joined the Labor Party I accepted and understood what the policy was for Australian joint facilities...and that is a policy I unreservedly accept."
Fraser always hated Howard:
"However much the Blair (UK) government should be condemned for its participation in the Iraq war, for its encouragement of a venture doomed to failure from the very outset, it did not betray the basic legal rights of its citizens," Mr Fraser told a conference on human rights in Melbourne.

"The Australian government has...

"Those who allowed this to happen do not deserve public support."
Morality, Muscles And Men

Was it "morale muscular" or "moral muscular"? Either way, Brendan Nelson makes no sense.
Defeat in Iraq for the United States of America will present my children with a vastly different, less secure world than they face today and under no circumstances should we allow ourselves, if you like, to lose morale muscular and to step back from this.
Actually, it sounded like a bit of a Freudian slip, didn't it? But why would the word "muscular" be flitting around our little Defence Minister's subconscious? Hmmn?
PM Trusts Big Dick

Howard has repeatedly asked George W. Bush to help with speeding up the David Hicks case. But things are still moving too slow for his election agenda, so now he is taking it all the way to the top:
The Prime Minister has hinted he is prepared to bring Mr Hicks home if the Americans do not move quickly but prefers he face a trial by military commission.

"I will put that position to the Vice-President when he is in Australia a little over a week from now and I'll be putting it very strongly because I do think this has taken too long," he said.
Meanwhile, Kiwi protestors give the PM a warm welcome in Wellington. Maybe it's because he called the USA "our most valuable ally" - that's gotta hurt, bro!
Oy! Did you hear the one about the Rabbi and the Australian Jewish News?
"Greeks or Italians or Jews don't use violence," he told Fairfax.

"When there are large Muslim populations who are prepared to use violence, you are in trouble.

"If there is only one or two per cent they don't dare to do it - they don't have the backing of big communities.

"They know they are drowned in the environment of non-Muslims and are better behaved."
Ok, the schmuck is not a rabbi, but why let facts get in the way of a good story, right?

14 Feb. 2007

Terrorism In Brisbane

The damned left-wing media doesn't seem set to make a big thing of it, but a suspiscious envelope caused the evacuation of Kevin Rudd's Brisbane office today. It turned out to contain aspirin.

What confuses me is why the terrrrsts are attacking Rudd's office. I thought he was on their side? I thought they were praying for a Rudd/Obama coalition every day? Must go read my Mark Steyn books again, this time even more carefully. It's tricky stuff.
What Australia really needs right now is a new US military base:
The United States will build a new communications base in Australia, the first since the Pine Gap spy base began operating in the Northern Territory more than 20 years ago.

The new communications base will be built at Geraldton, 370km north of Perth, and will provide a crucial link to two geostationary satellites enhancing US military capability in Asia and the Middle East, Fairfax newspapers reported.

Firm plans for the base come after three years of secret negotiations between Washington and Canberra, Fairfax said.

The base will be a key component of a system carrying orders and intelligence to US and allied troops in the field in some of the world's major trouble spots.

Construction could begin within months, the report said.

The deal further entrenches Australia's military relationship with the United States, an expert said.

A visiting fellow with the Australian Defence Force Academy, Philip Dorling, it would be almost impossible for Australia to be fully neutral or stand back from any war in which the US was involved, the Fairfax report said.

Defence Minister Brendan Nelson confirmed talks with the US Defence Department about the base were continuing.

The new base would be built on defence land and the government would ensure it had full knowledge of the base's operations, Dr Nelson said.

More bases could be built at other Australian locations, he said.
Oh oh...
Sydney's lower income suburbs are home to some of fastest increases in bankruptcy rates as higher interest rates and a slowing state economy take their toll.

South West Sydney saw bankruptcies rise 27 per cent in the year ended June 30, 2006, compared with the previous year, according to data compiled from the Insolvency and Trustee Service of Australia.

West Sydney saw bankruptcies rise 19 per cent during the same period.

Meanwhile bankruptcies in the more affluent North Sydney rose four per cent.

The figures underline how lower income families saddled with record levels of debt are struggling to meet repayments even as unemployment hovers at 30-year lows, said Paul Leroy, who heads the personal insolvency division at Hall Chadwick.

"It is clear that ordinary working people and battlers are doing it the hardest," Mr Leroy said.

13 Feb. 2007

Is Bush's GOP Dictating John Howard Talking Points?

Wouldn't it be rather strange and even a little bit frightening if it turned out that a Leaked letter from Bush's GOP party was dictating talking points to our own PM John Howard? Well, here's the letter in question:
We are writing to urge you not to debate the Democratic Iraq resolution on their terms, but rather on ours.

Democrats want to force us to focus on defending the surge, making the case that it will work and explaining why the President's new Iraq policy is different from prior efforts and therefore justified.

We urge you to instead broaden the debate to the threat posed to Americans, the world, and all "unbelievers" by radical Islamists. We would further urge you to join us in educating the American people about the views of radical Islamists and the consequences of not defeating radical Islam in Iraq.

The debate should not be about the surge or its details. This debate should not even be about the Iraq war to date, mistakes that have been made, or whether we can, or cannot, win militarily. If we let Democrats force us into a debate on the surge or the current situation in Iraq, we lose.
Curiously, this is exactly what Australian PM Howard has been doing in the past few days: refusing to articulate a plan for "victory", or even an exit strategy, while relentlessly yabbering on about the threat of terrorists and the global repercussions of a US withdrawal.

Like TPM's Greg Sargeant says:
Never mind how all this might impact the troops who actually have to go to Iraq. Healthy priorities, huh?
And never mind how it impacts on the Iraqi people we are supposedly there to "liberate" either. Does Howard really think he can get away with another eight months of this? Or is he just stalling for time and probing for weaknesses in his Labour opponent?

The GOP letter is dated 13 February, 2007, presumably an early morning release, wheras Howard has already been using these same talking points for the past few days. But there is every reason to believe that Howard's office is in touch with the very people who produce such letters for GOP senators and congressional staff. Indeed, it prompts one to wonder exactly what VP Dick Cheney will be discussing with Howard when he visits Australian next week. Talking points for the looming attack on Iran? Or retirement plans with the Carlyle Group?

(As a final coup de grace, the GOP letter ends with a recommendation to read "America Alone" by Mark Steyn, a man whose work Alexander Downer is known to favours at bedtime).
Ad Hominem Attacks - 8 Months Out From An Election?

Here's what Mr Howard told Parliament yesterday:
"Over the last day and a half I have been attacked and lacerated by the Opposition for expressing my view, but the Leader of the Opposition does not have the guts to express his.

"He knows in his heart that I am right on the consequences of a coalition troop withdrawal. He knows that Iraq would descend into full-scale civil war. That is the central issue in this debate. It has got nothing to do with individuals in another election campaign."
So according to Howard, the Iraq War has nothing to do with individuals in the US Presidential campaign, but everything to do with individuals in this Australian campaign. Never mind that the discussion of international war should be beyond the scope of one man's ego. Never mind that US policies will actually determine the outcomes of this war, whatever Australia chooses to do.

Howard is trying to turn the Iraq War debate into a debate on Kevin Rudd's manhood, just as he has tried to turn the climate change and water debates into a discussion of nuclear energy. It's a cynical and desperate ploy. And this far out from the elections, it shows just how scared and nervous he is.
Your ABC, Courtesy Of Your Fear-Mongering Ass-kisser PM

Howard was on the ABC's 7.30 Report last night:
"My deep concern is that if America is defeated in Iraq a humiliated, enfeebled America might withdraw its interests in our part of the world," he said.

"And it would be a catastrophe for the West if America were defeated in Iraq."
It's 9 am AEDST and the 7.30 Report website still does not have the transcript up.

Howard spent much of his time attacking Rudd for not having the "courage" to articulate his own views, which (Howard is sure) are exactly the same as John Howard's views. Lateline also has a transcript of this waiting to be posted... sometime.

Thanks John Howard for those budget cuts! It's YOUR ABC, obviously.

John Howard is an Arselicker
Who's Got Your Back, Johnny?

US veteran joins chorus of outrage at Howard:
John Murtha, a decorated Marine veteran who is close to military commanders, and who galvanised leading Democrats into demanding a phased withdrawal from Iraq, said he appreciated that Australia had been a good ally, but that it was US soldiers whose lives were being sacrificed in Iraq and US taxpayers who were paying for the war.

"John Howard is trying to interfere in an election and that's uncalled for," he told CNN. "I agree with Barack Obama that if Mr Howard believes it is so vital for coalition forces to stay in Iraq, he should find a way to send more Australian forces." ...

Mr Murtha disputed Mr Howard's claim that a withdrawal of US forces from Iraq would hand a victory to al-Qaeda.

"The Iraqis will deal with al-Qaeda as soon as we are gone," he said. "They don't want them in the country and al-Qaeda will be gone once we have withdrawn."
Never mind, Johnny. I'm sure your little mate George Dubya has got your back, right? I mean, mates always stand up for each other, right? Err...?
The White House spokesman, Tony Snow, said Mr Howard was "free to say what he does", but made it clear that the Bush Administration did not want to get involved in the slanging match between Mr Howard and leading Democrats.

Mr Snow said President George Bush had not spoken to Mr Howard since January 9.
Why does the AFP need protection? What's the point of sending them overseas if they cannot defencd themselves? Top protection for AFP officers in Kabul:
One of the biggest private security firms operating in Iraq will protect Australian police officers being sent to help fight the opium trade in Afghanistan.

Australian Federal Police (AFP) Commissioner Mick Keelty revealed on Tuesday night that the Armor Group - one of the leading security contractors in Iraq - would provide protection for the four officers.

Australians working for the UK-based firm have been killed and injured on operations in Iraq, including a Brisbane man who died in December and a West Australian man who lost a leg in a bombing last month.

The AFP is preparing to send the four armed officers to Afghanistan to work alongside local police, with two to be based in the capital Kabul and two to work in Jalalabad, in the country's east.

Mr Keelty said the Armor Group would also provide security for British officers working in Afghanistan.

He did not have costings for the security contract, but said the Armor Group personnel would provide comprehensive protection for his officers.

"It will be in relation to perimeter security on the workplace, it will be close personal protection as they move around Jalalabad and Kabul," he told a Senate committee.

"Generally speaking they will be under full protection for the entire time that they are there."

Mr Keelty said talks were continuing with the Afghan government about finalising the deployment, but the AFP was still trying to find suitable accommodation for the officers.

He was also seeking guarantees the officers would have access to medical evacuation facilities operated by coalition forces in the country, as well as legal immunities from prosecution if the police were forced to defend themselves.

"Details of that are still being worked through," he said.

"We want to make sure we can evacuate them in case of emergency.

"These protections and immunities are not dissimilar from what we would have in relation to other United Nations deployments, for example."
Really? We use mercenaries for UN work too?

12 Feb. 2007

Peter Costello says everyone in Australia is enjoying boom times:
"We can say, on average, wages are higher and, of course, there are two million more jobs than there were 10 years ago."
Meanwhile, in Baghdad:
There was a curfew so they couldn’t take me to hospital. They called for an ambulance but were told it wasn’t safe to come to to our district, Amiriya.

For two hours I screamed with the pain as my family sobbed with me.

I was bleeding heavily by the time I felt my tiny baby slipping out of me. Suddenly there he was, lying on the sitting room floor at the end of the umbilical cord. He was blue and still.

“Please do something, please help him,” I cried. “I want him to grow up with me.”
Exactly:
"The Labor Party has been very critical of the US president's position on the war, that's true, but we've been proven right," Senator Michael Forshaw told reporters in Canberra.
Meanwhile, the conga line of suck-holes keeps dancing to the Howard beat...
How many F.U.'s in a Brendan Nelson?
Dr Nelson says it is impossible to know what the future will hold for the Baghdad security plan in Iraq.

"Only when we get through the next six, 12 months or whatever period of time it takes will we be in a position to make any reasonable and responsible judgement about whether the United States, Britain or anyone else is in a position to withdraw," he said.
No But Yeah But...

Spot the difference! Compare Gerard Henderson in the SMH:
Yet it is a fact that Howard's comment has had such a big impact outside of Australia precisely because he was essentially correct...
...with Greg Sheridan in the Murdoch Australian:
JOHN Howard made a serious mistake in the extravagance of his rhetorical outburst against US presidential candidate Barack Obama. The substance of what Howard said was right...
See the difference? No? Me neither.

Henderson actually takes it further than Sheridan, playing with numbers and ripping into Obama from various angles:
If Howard was undiplomatic in commenting on US domestic policies then the same can be said for Obama's response. Obama told reporters in Iowa that if Howard's comments were anything other than "empty rhetoric" he would commit 20,000 additional troops to the war. This is rhetoric in itself.

Australia has about 1500 men and women in Iraq. On a comparative population basis, an Australian force of 21,500 in Iraq would equate to some 320,000 Americans - almost double the US deployment.

It's a long time to the 2008 US presidential election. At the moment Obama is a high profile Democrat contender, as is Clinton. Yet it is not going to be an easy road for the African-American candidate. His government experience is confined to just two years in the US Senate, where he has not been associated with many prominent legislative initiatives.

Also, unlike Clinton, Americans as yet do not know much about Obama.

In his books The Audacity of Hope and Dreams from My Father, Obama indicates that he was brought up a Muslim and converted to Christianity. He is now a member of the United Church of Christ. There is no doubt that Obama will have a lot of appeal to the left of the Democratic Party.
Expect people like Sheridan and Henderson to do their bit to ensure that the road to the White House is as rocky as possible for Obama. Because we all need to hear that he was brought up as a Muslim as many times as possible, right?

Finally, there is this bit of "balance" from Henderson:
The verbal punch-up between Howard and Obama indicates just how important the issue that divides them is to each man. Obama has consistently opposed allied intervention in Iraq. He is on record as saying that Saddam Hussein should have been left alone in Iraq, since he believed that he was no threat to the US.

On the other hand, Howard sincerely believed that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and that he was a threat to the West and some Muslim nations alike.
"And some Muslim nations"? That a new field of retrospective justification! Of course, what Hendo fails to point out when comparing the two men's beliefs is that Obama was right, and Howard was wrong. But then, this is an opinion piece, and facts don't matter as much as conviction.

11 Feb. 2007

PM John Howard's Really Bad Day

Early Morning: Woke up for my early morning briefing. Bit groggy. Too much peach schnapps last night? Aides warned that latest poll results would not be good. Initial feedback from my anti-Obama comments on Channel Nine morning show yesterday also not positive. Tried hard to concentrate but could not shake overnight visions of a black man becoming President of the USA. What have we been fighting for, if not this?

Midday: International media storm over my Obama comments. Who would have guessed? At least Alex still has my back. I trained him well. The backbench is also standing firm. Unity is strength, lads! Where's that schnapps...?

Afternoon: The damned left-wing press will not relent. Forced to reiterate my stance. Try to paint it as more of a domestic Australian political spat. Don't want any more heat from Washington. These things can get out of hand.

Time for my nap. Wake up in a cold sweat after dreaming of handing the keys to the lodge over to David Gulpilil! Another shot of schnapps to cool my nerves... Switch on the TV and - horrors! - that bastard Keating is on screen:
"He's become an old desiccated coconut, hasn't he, and he stayed too long," Mr Keating said.

"He had a chance to get out, give it to Costello, but he wants to hang on.

"You know prime ministers have got araldite on their pants, most of them, they want to stick to their seat and you either put the sword through them or you let the public do it."
Schnapps, Janet! Now! ! Bring me the damned bottle!
Howard On Obama: The Real Game

Following US Democrat Barack Obama's rather extraordinary speech announcing his 2008 presidential candidacy (surely the most blatantly inspirational piece of US political rhetoric since JFK) Australia's diminutive PM John Howard launches an extraordinary pre-emptive attack on Obama:
"I think that would just encourage those who wanted completely to destabilise and destroy Iraq, and create chaos and victory for the terrorists to hang on and hope for (an) Obama victory," Mr Howard told the Nine Network.

"If I was running al-Qaeda in Iraq, I would put a circle around March 2008, and pray, as many times as possible, for a victory not only for Obama, but also for the Democrats."

Labor described Mr Howard's attack against Senator Obama as unprecedented.

Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Robert McClelland said Mr Howard was virtually telling people not to vote Democrat.

"It's the first time that I can recall that an Australian prime minister has engaged in US politics in such a partisan way... actually telling US citizens what side of politics they should vote for," he said.
Well, given how US politicians have meddled in Australian politics over the past decade, it is hardly unexpected. When you are behaving like the 52nd state of the USA, I guess it goes with the territory.

Here's Obama's spokesman rebuking Howard:
``If Prime Minister Howard truly believes what he says, perhaps his country should find its way to contribute more than just 1,400 troops so some American troops can come home,'' he said. ``It's easy to talk tough when it's not your country or your troops making the sacrifices.''
Ouch! Take that, bitch. While I am sorry to see Obama engaging in such obviously political games, it's a line of questioning that might go a long way on the 7:30 Report in Australia: if the war in Iraq really is as important as Howard pretends, why isn't he pouring tens of thousands of Aussie troops in there?

Howard likes to portray it as a US war. Here's how Howard views the prospect of a US pullout:
"If America pulls out of Iraq in March 2008 it can only be in circumstances of defeat," Mr Howard said.

"There's no way by March 2008, which is a little over a year from now, everything will have been stabilised so that America can get out.

"If America is defeated in Iraq, the hope of ever getting a Palestinian settlement will be gone, there will be enormous conflict between the Shia and the Sunnis throughout the whole of the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and Jordan will both be destabilised.

"Al-Qaeda will trumpet it as the greatest victory they've ever had, and that will have implications in our region because of the link ... between al-Qaeda and JI (Jemaah Islamiyah)."
Let's keep that on record for future reference, shall we?

And here's what Howard thinks of Labour's plan to withdraw Aussie forces:
"You either rat on the ally or you stay with the ally," he said.

"If it's all right for us to go, it's all right for the Americans and the British to go, and if everybody goes Iraq will descend into total civil war and there'll be a lot of blood shed."
Hmmn. Ally? Johnny should look that word up in a dictionary.

Have a think about what Howard has done here.
Imagine (if you will) that Howard wins again at the end of 2007 and then Obama wins in the USA in 2008. How is our precious alliance with the USA looking then?

The truth is that national politics has become a globalized commodity, as Howard knows all too well. And that's the real game, right there.

I think you have to look at Howard's Obama comments in the context of a growing fusion of US, UK and Australian politics. Australian domestic politics is now just one more item on the corporatized globalisation menu. And of course Rupert would know all about that.

There has been high-level US political interference in the past two Aussie elections, there are now quite unprecedented levels of political connectivity between Washington, London and Canberrra (e.g. Australia has a team of full-time diplomats working within the US State Dept) and of course we have things like Howard's son working on Bush's election campaigns (or was it Blair's? or both?).

Mind you, I hope Kerry O'Brien picks up on the Obama camp's comeback line: "Mr Howard, if the war in Iraq really is as important as you say, why has Australia always maintained such a small deployment and confined them to relatively safe roles? You can't have it both ways, surely?"

See Talking Points Memo for some surprised US reaction, plus commentary from our own Tim Dunlop.

UPDATE: Response from Obama himself:
"I think it's flattering that one of George Bush's allies on the other side of the world started attacking me the day after I announced," Mr Obama told reporters in the mid-western US state of Iowa.

"I would also note that we have close to 140,000 troops in Iraq, and my understanding is Mr Howard has deployed 1,400, so if he is ... to fight the good fight in Iraq, I would suggest that he calls up another 20,000 Australians and sends them to Iraq.

"Otherwise it's just a bunch of empty rhetoric."
And from other US politicians:
Democrat senator Ron Wyden said it was hard to be polite about Mr Howard.

"The most charitable thing you can say about Mr Howard's comment is bizarre," Senator Wyden said.

"We'll make our own judgments in this country with respect to elections and Barack Obama is a terrific public servant."

Even Republicans have criticised Mr Howard for interfering in US domestic affairs.

"I would prefer that Mr Howard stay out of our domestic politics and we will stay out of his domestic politics," Texas Republican senator John Cornyn said.
Elsewhere, Atrios labels Howard "the mini-poodle".

UPDATE 2: Kindergarten politics at its best, courtesy Alex "Ass Kisser" Downer :
"I hate to disappoint people who don't agree with John Howard and me and the Australian Government but it's a free world and we are entitled to a point of view," he said.

"This is a very big issue, many governments around the world feel very strongly about it."
Liberal backbencher Cameron Thompson goes even further up-channel:
"I think John Howard is absolutely correct when he says that Barrack Obama's policy is not just wrong, it is I think fundamentally evil."


UPDATE 3: PM not sorry for Obama attack:
Mr Howard said the Labor Party had no right to attack him because it often criticised US President George Bush over the Iraq war and no one accused Labor of putting the US alliance in jeopardy.
Oh really? It seems like only yesterday that US Ambassador Tom Schieffer was criticising Mark Latham for his comments on withdrawal of troops from Iraq. And being loudly backed up by Mr Howard and his Liberal Party colleagues. Former Minister for Veterans Affairs, Bruce Scott said:
I think the international terrorism organisations, al-Qaeda, will say, well, we've got an ally in Australia, and that's Mark Latham.
And Howard government MP Ross Cameron said Osama bin Laden would be "celebrating the advent of Mark Latham", whose comments were an invitation to terrorists to "belt" Australia.

10 Feb. 2007

Five Years Later, The Church Gets Interested

Church-goers offer prayers for Hicks. Yeah, bravo. Stay tuned: any day now they will declare they were ALWAYS against the Iraq War.

8 Feb. 2007

Housing Bubble Set To Explode, Social Crisis Looms

Rental crisis to worsen:
Mr Raine said the historically low vacancy rates were pushing rents higher, with no quick fix in sight.

Renters in south west and western Sydney for example could face rent rises from $50 a week by the end of the year, he said, adding that tenants could be forced to find an extra $150 a week in areas closer to the CBD.
Personally, I think that the bubble is set to burst - or at least start bursting - by the end of this year, so I don't think these rent increases will happen.

But such warnings highlight how the less-well-off have become increasingly marginalized under Howard, while the richest of the rich have grown obscenely richer. And that cannot be a good thing for a healthy society.

You end up with a crime-ridden underclass, a black market, jails packed to the rafters... Scenes all too familiar in other countries, but seldom imagined for the "luck country".
Where's that damn bus?

Howard on Turnbull today:
"I think Malcolm's got a lot to contribute but I think anybody who thinks that Peter Costello is not the logical successor to me if I were to go under a bus in the very near future (is wrong)," he said.

"I haven't lost any of my caution when it comes to crossing roads," the prime minister added.
Heh.
Howard's Timetable For Hicks

In all the excitement about Howard's sudden interest in David Hicks, let's all be very clear one one thing. Howard's concern is totally dependent on his own election timetable, and driven by purely selfish political ambition.
"I want the charging process to be completed and I want the trial to happen strictly in accordance with first a 30-day period for the preliminary hearing and then 120 days after that."
In other words, Howard wants the whole thing completely out of the way before the election gets down to the final stages. His new-found concern for this Australian citizen, and for the due process of law, is totally bogus. There could be a dozen new Aussie detainees in Gitmo the day after the election and Howard won't give a shit. Not till the following election, anyway. And God help us all if the Rodent still rules by then.

6 Feb. 2007

Anal Penetration: No Re-opening

US document shows reported abuse of POWs:
Hicks's father Terry Hicks said last year the Australian "suffered beatings and anal penetration".

In 2004, Prime Minister John Howard cast doubt on the claims.

"I find it strange that these allegations of abuse against Mr Hicks ... have arisen only since the prisoner abuse scandal erupted," Mr Howard said at the time.

Terry Hicks says the officer's report proves US officials were sexually abusing prisoners of war.

"If it was the doctor doing it then that's part of the process these prisoners go through ... but this was a thug."

Mr Hicks said he held out little hope of a reopening of any investigation into the alleged abuse.
Send Hicks Home

Major Mori writes:
DAVID Hicks' situation can be drawn to a quick and fair close. If the US believes he violated US federal law, then Australia should demand that the US immediately try Hicks in a US federal court. Otherwise, he should be returned home and not subjected to a tribunal system that the US deems insufficiently fair to try its own citizens...

The stated rationale for leaving Hicks at Guantanamo to face trial by military commission has been the need to prosecute him for serious "war crimes". This rationale no longer applies. Indeed, it never did. Hicks desperately wants to return to his family and he is willing to do whatever the Australian Government asks of him on his return.

4 Feb. 2007

In Retrospect

Good catch. The SMH points out that Howard - who once insisted Hicks could not be returned to Australia and tried under "retrospective laws" - is now happy for him to be tried by the US government under a retrospective law:
The Howard Government has refused to bring Mr Hicks back to Australia for trial on the basis it was unwilling to try him under retrospective laws - something it would need to do as there were no applicable terrorism laws in place at the time of his alleged offences.

Mr Howard repeated this yesterday, saying "we do not believe the passage of retrospective criminal law in this country is appropriate".

But he said "once somebody goes overseas they lose the protection of Australian law".

Pressed on the appropriateness of the US using retrospective laws to try Mr Hicks, Mr Howard then said: "I don't equate what the US is doing with the passage of a retrospective criminal law in Australia. I don't accept the analogy."
Make of it what you will, folks. I'm going outside to look for a bucket.
Down By The River

Hicks may take plea bargain says his Dad:
"He isn't well, he's not coping, he's suffering mental stresses at the moment.

"I believe what's happening is they'll catch David in that frame of mind where he desperately wants to come home and he'll possibly enter into a plea bargain," Mr Hicks said.
Look at if from the Howard perspective, if you will. Hicks shuts his gob till the elections are over, then gets (say) a ten year sentence with his over five years already done in Gitmo bringing it down to four and a bit years in a nice comfortable Australian jail. His guilty plea takes the issue of the table for the election. Perfect.

I would say "Don't do it, Hicks," but given what he has been through and how utterly he has been abandoned not just by politicians but (let's be honest) the general public, he can do whatever he likes.

I think Hicks might be getting a new lawyer soon, one who is better able to channel the between-the-line realities of his new situation, should he choose to accept it. There will, of course, be a strong emphasis on "rewards for good behaviour" (nod, nod, wink, wink).

3 Feb. 2007

Vanstone pens ode to Australia. The second half captures the Howard government in all its glory:
Free and Friendly Nation,

Born of our own hand,

Peace our greatest virtue,

Mighty Southern Land.

Valiant into Battle,

Courage to the end,

Standing firm for freedom,

Loyal southern friend.

Nature's earthly heaven,

Glory for our eyes,

Ours alone those treasures,

Under Southern Skies.

Shining light for Freedom

Under Southern Stars.
Bring a tear to the eye of G.W. Bush, that would.

1 Feb. 2007

TOP 10 Reasons Liberals Will Lose Big In 2007

John Howard is surrounded by sycophants and TOTALLY OUT OF TOUCH:

1. ON global warming

2. ON Industrial Relations

3. ON water

4. ON David Hicks

5. ON childcare

6. ON Fiji

7. ON religion

8. ON the sale of Qantas

9. ON nuclear power

10. ON climate change

11. Yeah, I didn't even mention the Iraq War and George W. Bush and the three interest rate hikes since the last election and ... ?
Antony Loewenstein gets censored by the Murdoch press:
The bottom line is this: every paper has a right to determine what appears in its pages, but once an article is commissioned, and spurious reasons are given for its removal (especially on a subject like Israel/Palestine), we know the real agenda at work. The Australian has often presented viewpoints on the Zionist lobby that no other local paper has touched, and for this it should be commended. But if it wants to be taken seriously (which is difficult, as it still defends the Iraq war, as it supported Indonesia’s Suharto all those years ago), ignoring the gross human rights abuses of Israeli oppression merely contributes to greater hatred of the West.