31 Jul. 2007

All Hail Thee, George Of Texas

To the victor the spoils:
It would seem appropriate that a statue of George W. Bush be erected where Saddam’s statue once stood – after all, he is the liberator. The momentous unveiling ought to be accompanied by the wailing of mothers rocking back and forth as they beat their chests holding corpses and shrieking in anguish. The ‘new democracy’ should have its orphaned children present, delivering their gratitude with growling stomachs and tears that are all they have to relieve their parched throats. The liberator’s statue would be adorned not with the promised flowers, but with stains left behind by the blood of the innocent...
An excellent look at the big picture from Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich at ICH.

Wanker Of The Day

Tony Abbott:
If Rudd more or less supports the Government on everything but Australian Workplace Agreements and troops in Iraq, it's hard to argue the Government deserves to be defeated.
And get this:
Ambitious politicians are quite capable of saying one thing and doing another... In any event, it's much easier to say the right thing than to do it.
Abbott should know all about that! But the end of Howard's Conga Line echo chamber is mercifully now in sight:
It's impossible to be an echo when there's no longer anyone to echo.
Cricket, cricket...

Haneef: A Plausible Explanation

Here is a plausible explanation of the circumstantial evidence presented by Kevin Andrews today. To recap the latest "evidence":
[Kevin Andrews] says in the conversation, Dr Haneef's brother says, "nothing has been found out about you", "have you got permission to leave work?" and "tell them you have a newborn daughter".

Mr Andrews also says, in the conversation, which took place the day before Dr Haneef tried to leave Australia, the doctor's brother asks, "when are you getting out?" To which Dr Haneef replied, "today."
And furthermore:
"He did not apply for leave from the hospital when he went to work at the hospital on the Monday morning and it was not until after he received two telephone calls - one from India - having been told in both calls that there was an issue about his SIM card, that he applied for leave that afternoon from the hospital," he said.
Now let's travel back in time to Bangalore, India. Haneef's family have been contacted by British and/or Indian police after his cousin's failed car-bombing in London. Somehow they learn that there are questions about Dr Haneef's SIM card. What do they do? Of course, they contact Haneef and ask him about it. Haneef says he is innocent, but of course he is still shocked by his cousins' actions and now he is also alarmed at the thought that he might be implicated. He starts to panic.

"Don't worry," says his brother, "nothing has been found out about you."
"What should I do?" asks Haneef.
"Just come home to India for a while. Wait till things cool down."
"But what about my job?"
"Hmmn.. Have you got permission to leave work? Can you take a vacation?"
"I can get permission, but what will I tell them? It will look strange if I suddenly disappear."
"Tell them you have a newborn daughter, man! Mum says you should be coming to see her, you know."
"I know. I'm just trying to do the best thing for her future, you know? This job is important to me."
"Yeah, I know..."

They talk for a while. Haneef decides his brother is right.

"You know." he says, "this Aussie government is fucking crazy about terrorism. If I don't get out of here, they are going to arrest me for sure. Did you see what happened to that David Hicks guy."
"Take it easy, Mohammed."
"No, you are right. I've gotta get out of this country before they arrest me."
"Good. So when are you getting out?"
"Today, if I can."

A short while later, Haneef gets another call from a concerned friend or relative who has heard about the SIM card connection. He hurriedly books some vacation time. He tries to organise a flight home that day, but he can't get a flight till the following day. He talks to his brother again.

"So what did you tell the hospital?"
"I said I wanted to see my daughter."
"Nothing else?"
"No, nothing else. You think I want to mess up this job if I don't have to?"
"Of course not. Just get your ass home as quick as you can."

There are some more details in this Indian report which don't make much sense to me:
"The brother then said not to delay his departure and not to let anyone else use his number in Australia, nor to give it to anyone.

"The brother added that 'auntie' told him that brother Kafeel used it in some sort of protest over there," Andrews said, in a reference to UK bombing accused Kafeel Ahmed.
I would have thought that the timeframe involved meant that Haneef already knew about the London bombing and his cousin's involvement. And if he already gave his SIM card to Kafeel, why would he still be giving the number out in Australia? But anyway, "some sort of protest" hardly sounds like they knew what was going down, does it?

Obviously, I know fuck all about this case, and I'm not pretending that the version above is necessarily anything like reality. But if someone like me can so easily come up with an explanation for all this evidence that Kevin Andrews thinks is so damning, maybe it's not so damning at all.

Even if Haneef is guilty, this standard of evidence is not sufficient to convict anyone. Kevin Andrews has got himself in an awful mess.

UPDATE: Dr Haneef's lawyers insisted yesterday that he explained the chatroom conversation when interviewed by federal police.
Imran Siddiqui, a cousin of Dr Haneef's wife, said in Bangalore last night: "This is just another desperate attempt by Kevin Andrews to mislead the people of Australia. Why doesn't he release the second transcript of the second [police] interview with Haneef? In that, we'll see all the questions that were put to Haneef and what he answered about that online conversation with his brother."

Defence lawyers noted that Dr Haneef had tried to get through by phone to British police immediately before leaving Australia to urgently explain why he gave his SIM card to Sabeel Ahmed.

Brown Tells Bush: Britain To Pull Out Of Iraq

Well, this is going to make Bush and Howard look even more stupid:
Gordon Brown has paved the way for the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq by telling George Bush he would not delay their exit in order to show unity with the United States.

After four hours of one-to-one talks with the US President at his Camp David retreat, Mr Brown told a joint press conference he would make a Commons statement in October on the future of the 5,500 British troops in the Basra region.

The Bush administration, under mounting domestic pressure to produce an exit strategy from Iraq, has been nervous that a full British withdrawal would add to the criticism. But Mr Brown made clear - and President Bush accepted - that Britain would go its own way, even if that gave the impression the two countries were diverging.

Mr Brown's willingness to pursue an independent British policy in Iraq will be seen as an important break with Tony Blair. Mr Brown said the two leaders had had "full and frank discussions" - diplomatic code for some disagreements.

President Bush heaped praise on Mr Brown after their first meeting since he became Prime Minister, playing down suggestions that Mr Blair's departure would weaken the strong US-UK partnership. Revealingly, Mr Brown did not return the personal compliments, instead focusing on the historic links between the two countries and predicting they would get even stronger. This reflected his desire for a more business-like relationship with the President, instead of the strong personal bond forged by Mr Blair.

The two leaders also had to paper over their different approaches on how to respond to terrorism. While maintaining a united front, Mr Brown told President Bush that the fight could not be won by military might alone, and called for a "Cold War-style" propaganda battle in the Muslim world.

Deliberately avoiding the phrase "war on terror," Mr Brown said: "Terrorism is not a cause but a crime - a crime against humanity."
October, eh? With interest rates set to rise any day, and (even worse!) the price of beer set to rise even further, that gives Johnny even more reason for a snap election.

30 Jul. 2007

Mid-2007 Reality Check

We're only halfway through 2007, but I thought it might be a good idea to look at how my predictions from Nov 2006 are working out:
1. By this time next year, the GOP and Dems will be in a no-holds-barred catfight over Executive Privilege. There will be subpoenas flying in all directions as Dems try to expose the criminal misdeeds of the past five years and Reps desperately try to characterize it as dirty partisan politics. Sadly, it will all be politicized by the looming 2008 elections. Any progress the Dems make will be locked up in court, while Bush prepares a list of pardons that will more than quadruple any previous list.
We are nearly at the "locked up in court" phase, with Abu Gonzo still in place.
2. Iraq will grind onward in ever deeper violence and misery. Howard and Bush will maintain their fantasy and keep stalling for time. PM Gordon Brown will unilaterally announce a timetable for withdrawal of UK troops by mid 2008.
I'm not sure what Brown told Bush yesterday, but he still has six months to unilaterally withdraw. I suspect it is now official, if still secret, UK government policy. [UPDATE: Yep, I was right].
3. SOMEBODY in Iraq will sign a new Oil Law giving Big Oil the PSAs they crave (later Iraqi rulers will dismiss the contract as illegitimate) but private security firms will baulk at supplying the personnel to protect pipelines, drill new wells, etc. Big Oil will have to sit back and wait, contracts in pocket.
The Iraqi cabinet has twice approved the new Oil Law, but cannot get it passed. Big Oil is still waiting.
4. John Howard's poll ratings will continue to sink as the Australian federal election looms in Oct/Nov. Either a terrorist attack on Australia soil will provide a sudden turnaround, or Howard, citing health reasons, will quit politics to spend more time with his family.
Haneef was not quite the terrorist attack Howard craves, and his health is an increasing topic of speculation.
5. Gandhi's blogs will continue to suck and attract minimal visitors. He will continue to contemplate an end to blogging but will not be able to pull the plug on this compulsive habit. He will start writing a new book at least a dozen times, never getting past the opening paras and/or a general outline. George Soros will not send him any money.
Not many books started, the rest is all spot on.
6. The sun will continue to rise, glorious and majestic, every morning. Villagers in sleepy Third World communities will continue to appreciate its glory more than caffeine-addicted office workers in the concrete jungles of New York, Paris, London, Sydney, Tokyo, and Brussels. Global warming will continue to seep into the collective consciousness, with new hybrid electric cars and much-touted political initiatives that will fail to live up to their promises.
Actually the Global Warming debate has moved much faster now that Bush, Howard and their ilk have stopped denying it. Still a very long way to go, of course.
7. In response to slower ratings and changing political realities, the Murdoch media empire will continue to drift slowly away from its radical Zionist agenda without ever admitting error or relinquishing control of the levers of government in Australia, the UK and the USA. Global institutions like the IMF and World Bank will continue consolidating power in the hands of a global corporate elite, whose fortunes will continue to grow even larger. Protest groups will become more organized, but police interference with these groups will also grow. Political leaders, backed by the Murdoch press, will characterize such groups as "radical terrorists" and use harsh anti-terror laws to supress them. At least one major news story along such lines will be revealed as a hoax (but a later police investigation will reveal nothing).
It will be very interesting indeed to see how protests at APEC are organised and reported. We've already had one big hoax story.

All in all, not a bad strike rate, and still five months to go. Stick with me, folks.

Gandhi's Political Manifesto: Australia Dreaming

Here's my comprehensive solution to nearly all of Australia's current problems:

1. Pull out all Australian troops and officials from Iraq, pledging financial reparations once all foreign troops have left and a stable, truly democratic government is installed. Support UN efforts to this end.

2. Pull out of Afghanistan as well - we've screwed that up as well.

3. Apologise to Dr Mohammed Haneef, David Hicks and all other victims of Australian government mendacity over the past decade. Again, financial reparations are called for.

4. Declare the whole "war on terror" a lie. Reach out to Middle Eastern communities with funding for local events celebrating Arab and Persian culture, TV shows, etc.

5. Arrest the entire Liberal cabinet and put them on trial for War Crimes.

6. Arrest Rupert Murdoch, too, next time he sets foot on Australian soil, and try him for War Crimes as well.

7. Cut the Defence Budget by half, cancel all orders for new weaponry, and hold a referendum into a constitutional change limiting Australia's military involvement in overseas operations to real "defence" (dictionary definition, none of this pre-emptive crap) only.

8. Reach out to our region! Make a deal with island nations like Fiji, Vanuatu, Cook Islands, etc: your kids can come and work in our country if our pensioners can come and live in yours. Set up an EU-style bloc, with a regional currency. Make all phone calls, post, and airline flights domestic prices. Build these islands up as top international tourist destinations rather than dangerous, backwards poverty traps.

9. Say sorry to Aboriginals. Do everything possible to improve education, health and literacy standards.

10. Change our immigaration laws. Abolish mandatory detention for refugees. Increase our intake of non-professional migrants. Provide government-funded English classes for anyone who wants them.

11. Increase our Foreign Aid budget to 5% of GDP. Ensure the money is not politicized or subverted into bribes.

12. Stop helping the USA veto UN resolutions critical of Israel. Support changes to the UN Security Council's membership and veto system.

13. Become a Republic. And get that stupid Union Jack off our flag. Put the Aboriginal flag there instead (if they will let us).

14. Change the media ownership laws to destroy the Murdoch-Fairfax duopoly. Fully fund the ABC and get those adverts off SBS. Get Stan Grant off too.

15. Stop all government funding to private schools. Make University degrees not only affordable but CHEAP for Australian citizens. When I did an Arts degree at Sydney Uni in 1985, it cost $400 a year! Whatever has happened since then, let's wind it back.

16. Abolish the need for private healthcare: set up 100% free, top quality health care for all Australians. Everywhere. This should probably be #1 on my list.

17. More to come - what are YOUR suggestions???

Andrews Suggests Critics Want Bombs In Sydney

Tune in to Kevin Andrews' fantasy:
"Sometimes when I listen to the critics I wonder whether people want a bomb to go off in Sydney before they'll actually do something," he said.
What a stupid thing for a man in his position to say. But what would you expect from a man who seems to think that he is the victim here:
"I'm in a position where I've got one hand tied behind my back.

"Ideally I would like to release information, but I'm being told by the Federal Police, please don't jeopardise the ongoing inquiry.

"One of the difficulties in this regard - and it's been a difficulty all along - is that there is an ongoing investigation both in Australia and in the UK.

"The Commissioner of the Federal Police, Mr Keelty, has said to me that this protected material, if released, could jeopardise that investigation.

"I think I have a responsibility not to jeopardise an investigation in this matter."
Let's just hypothesize for a minute about this "ongoing inquiry" and what sort of information might be so Top Secret that Kevin Bloody Andrew's cannot even hint at it.

It sounds like it is something that ties the Haneef case in with another terrorism-related investigation. And obviously Andrews doesn't have enough available evidence to charge either Haneef OR any other parties.

Now, given that Andrews thinks Haneef's decision to leave Australia at the first opportunity was suspicious, one really has to wonder what sort of fragile evidence is propping up this other investigation. Maybe Haneef bought a kebab from a bloke whose third cousin twice removed used to clean house for Osama Bin Laden's butcher's gardener?

I am not knocking real police work and the need for real investigations to be protected from politicisation and/or media sensationalism. But Rudd, Howard and Andrews all politicised this case before the facts were known. And this is all the more reason why Andrews should resign - when a man in his position has lost credibility, the public has a right to be sceptical.

It is the Howard government which has relentlessly drummed up the threat of terrorism, and implemented War Criminal policies which most certainly do make this a more dangerous country for ordinary citizens. Surely they of all people have an obligation to ensure that the Australian public has full confidence in those charged with leading this self-declared "war" on terror? If not, surely the whole thing is just a terrible, criminal hoax.

UPDATE: More here.

Wanker Of The Day

Shorter Gerard Henderson:
1. Galaxy Polls rock because they always favour the Libs.
2. Bookmakers are favouring a Labor win, because the hardcore left is criticising Rudd, because Rudd is shadowing Howard's rightwing policies, because Rudd really is a Fascist wingnut deep down in his soul.
3. If Rudd wants to win, he should stick to his far-right policies, coz that's what we Aussie voters really love deep down in our greedy, xenophobic souls.
4. PS: Piss on the Greens.

29 Jul. 2007

Feedback Time! Talk To Kevin Andrews

We're always talking about participatory democracy, aren't we? So why not send an email to:

kevin.andrews.mp@aph.gov.au

- and let him know what you think of his performance on the Haneef case? Here's a letter I prepared, which you can just cut and paste:
RESIGN!
More contact details at Kevin Andrews Website.

Howard Wins! Hooray!

Check out the headlines from Murdoch's Sky News:

And here's Malcolm Farr at Murdoch's Daily Telegraph:

Great news for the PM's supporters. If only he were campaigning against his own Treasurer!

Meanwhile, even Conservative stalwart Malcolm Mackerras says Howard should have gone gracefully some time ago:
I describe Menzies as an honest, patrician conservative who knew when it was time to go. By contrast I think of Howard as a deceitful, populist radical who stayed too long...

Given the stupidity of the federal Liberals I can safely predict the following details of the forthcoming election: the Howard Government will be defeated and Howard himself will be defeated in Bennelong.
Mackerras says Costello has been treated shabbily:
In the opinion of several observers (including myself) the Liberal Party at the federal level now has only one senior figure with any credibility, the Treasurer, Peter Costello.

And how does the party treat him? Essentially they have put him down at every opportunity. While he is sure to be their next leader, he will, very probably, never be prime minister.

It is a fact of Australian federal political history that the first leader of the opposition after the electoral defeat of a government has never become prime minister. Or rather, not since the early years of Federation.

So the fate of Costello is that he will be the next leader of the opposition, will contest one election from that position and lose. He will then leave politics and make very good money in business. The history books will record Costello as the most successful minister who never became prime minister. The Liberal Party will be recorded as having handed to Costello the poisoned chalice.
That's bullshit. The only person Costello can blame for his own failures is himself. And, um... shouldn't THE PEOPLE have some say in who becomes leader of this country? The whole idea of populist leaders winning elections and handing power to annointed successors is anathema to democracy.

Australia's New Tourism Slogan: "Piss Off"

Heh. The government has been warning everyone to stay away from Sydney during September's APEC meeting, repeatedly highlighting the draconian police measures that will be in place. Now it seems even the delegates are heeding the warning!
Park Hyatt general manager Marlene Poynder said her hotel had suffered a 50 per cent drop in delegate bookings for the summit

"We don't have a leg to stand on," she said. "We've had to forecast our figures for the month. We are a small hotel with only 158 rooms so we are not knocked around as much. I know of some hotels who have 500 to 600 rooms free."
I can't help wondering if our Keystone Cops treatment of Dr Haneef will have any impact on this. I mean, would YOU trust the security of your country's top officials to the AFP clowns, given what we have seen? If you were an Indian official with distant cousins, for example, would you really want to make the trip?

28 Jul. 2007

Is Hannef Howard's Last, Desperate Effort?

My Mum reckons there will be a snap election soon. She could be right. Meanwhile, great stuff from Jason Koutsoukis:
THE disgraceful treatment of Mohamed Haneef has all the hallmarks of a typical Howard Government political play.

Nasty, divisive, cynical and, of course, no involvement of the Prime Minister himself.

Remember children overboard? The whole Commonwealth bureaucracy knew this was nonsense, yet somehow Howard's office did not get the message that no children were ever thrown overboard.

The $300 million in bribes paid by AWB to Saddam Hussein? Everyone in Canberra seemed to know AWB was up to no good — except Howard.

That his workplace relations laws would make some people worse off? The newly published biography of Howard reveals that this was actually explained to Howard in cabinet — but the Prime Minister cannot remember that.

Then there was the terrible mess Howard got himself into in May by trying to deny the existence of a planned climate-change advertising campaign, on the grounds that the ads did not exist until they had got the ministerial tick.

With Mohamed Haneef now out of Australia, guilty of nothing more than having a relative who is a suspect in a terrorist case in another country, we have the Prime Minister again saying he knows nothing.

When will Howard take responsibility?

27 Jul. 2007

Whose Afraid Now, Boys?

So Doctor Mohammed Haneef is not a terrorist after all. Who could have guessed? Well, when I posted on this over two and a half weeks ago there were not many other bloggers speaking out in his defence.

Howard, Rudd, Keelty and many others have disgraced themselves over this. Kevin Rudd's decision to remain silent is also disgraceful. Yet again it is left to Bob Brown to speak truth to power:
Senator Brown says the Greens will be pushing for a Senate inquiry.

"You can't move beyind thinking that the mistakes here come out of the politicans in the Howard Cabinet wanting to put fear into the Australian public as a means of changing votes," he said.
Let's not forget the media's role in all this, either. There has been some excellent investigative reporting, but also some total lies. Were these lies fed to a compliant media, or were the media just making things up?

Surprise, surprise, it was News Ltd making all the pace. Given that Murdoch controls nearly every single SE QLD newspaper, including the free local weeklies, it shows where we are at, doesn't it?

The Australian leaked the transcript (a move criticized as illegal by Keelty). The Sunday Mail's outrageous lies about a plot to blow up a Gold Coast landmark were denied by Keelty himself within 24 hours. The Australian claimed police wrote in Haneef's diary, which Haneef himself denied. The Herald Sun published unauthorised photos of Haneef's flat, taken before the place was fingerprinted, totally compromising the evidence. Etc Etc.

Of course this was all desperate politics by desperate men, but once again it was the Murdoch media wot enabled all the fear-mongering nonsense.

And speaking of Murdoch, how does everybody feel about this GG article:
THE Australian Federal Police will form a 1200-strong paramilitary-style International Deployment Group to be equipped with the latest weaponry including armoured personnel carriers.
Ah, yes, those glorious boys in blue. Haven't they covered themselves in glory? Just like Hitler's SS troopers. Mick Keelty's head should be the first to roll here.

The people who are supposed to be protecting us are instead doing everything they can to scare the crap out of us. Worse yet, their hypocrisy and incompetence is actually increasing the dangers we face.

Howard is still insisting that Australia's anti-terror laws need to be strengthened in the wake of this case. That is bullshit. An innocent man became a political pawn. The anti-terror laws should be modified to ensure this never happens again. And the first step in that direction is some real accountability from this criminal government.

26 Jul. 2007

DAY 34 of the indefinite hunger strike in Sikkim

An extraordinary tale of ordinary men battling the forces of globalisation. The Independent has a good article here.

War On Aborigines: Did We Win?


Can it really be only a month since John Howard declared a "national emergency"? So what happened? Not that recall of Parliament, that's for sure. We've moved on. Once again it seems that Aboriginal art revenues are more important than the sexual abuse of Aboriginal kids.

As Andrew Bartlett says, the lack of further discussion could have something to do with the fact that more than 500 state and federal police have been seconded to the Haneef case. Or it could have something to do with those polls showing the whole War On Aborigines thing was not going to be a vote-winner for the PM.

Meanwhile, ordinary decent folk like Dr Brian McCoy are still out there in the desert, tackling the real issues, day after day:
I observed that, as the police moved in and charges were laid, family and community members backed off. They did not engage in public discussion, ring up lawyers, talk to the media or even call a community meeting. They retreated back to those whom they could hold onto and trust, their own families.

This movement away from public conversation and scrutiny may have happened because desert people have experienced a long, and often painful, history of public scrutiny and negative judgement by other Australians. A critical ingredient of that history is their relationship with the police. When the desert people of this region, the parents and grandparents of the today’s adults, first met missionaries they also met police. At this first encounter sheep belonging to the missionaries were speared. Police were called and men were taken away in chains. And that was at the first encounter! The Kukatja word for police became wayirnuwatji, ‘the one who comes with chains’, the description of a relationship that was to be remembered for future generations.

Not surprisingly, family members today remember not just those early days but many times since, when police have intervened to take members of their families away. Police have used violence against young and older desert men in the past decade. Rarely was there accountability, explanation or communication with local leaders or families...
You are not going to build a relationship of trust between now and the election, Mr Howard. And certainly not while our police forces continue to be bastardised, politicised and corrupted.

The sins of the fathers become the sins of the sons. If the sons do not renounce those sins, they shoulder them and perpetuate them. Australia today has a long list of apologies waiting to be made to the world.

I was talking to a fellow soccer Dad at training last week and he said that Aboriginals would not steal from outback pubs because they were "too stupid". He seemed like an otherwise decent bloke, and he blushed when I gave him a look of disgust. "Don't get me wrong..." he protested.

But that's the core of this problem, right there: long-standing racist attitudes that have survived through generations. That's where real leadership is required. We're never going to get such leadership from Mr John Winston Howard.

It's Time To Go, John...

Under growing pressure from both sides of politics, the Pentagon is 'actively planning' an Iraq troop "drawdown" in preparation for a "gradual" US withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

Meanwhile, the UK is pushing ahead with their Basra exit plan and hope to complete a handover to Iraqi forces by the end of the year.

Denmark is also pulling out early.

In John Howard's Australia, however, any discussion of withdrawal, or even a logical exit strategy, is still verboten.

Of course, the US talk of withdrawal is pretty suss...
It must be made clear to the public that the Levin-Reed Amendment does not call for a specific withdrawal from Iraq nor does it seek to revamp the American mission in the region. Representatives such as Senator Reid and Speaker Pelosi who proudly boast of being men and women of peace; disgrace not only their own selves, yet also the millions of true warriors of peace in this country, when they back a plan that will leave America's future in Iraq to military generals. The Levin-Reed Amendment is nothing more than a political stunt that calls for, at best, a smaller war, not an end to the occupation which the American public and the world yearns to see.
The politicians may still be playing games, but at least they are actively discussing withdrawal in the US media. That's an important first step towards whole-hearted public pressure for a complete and permanent withdrawal.

Back home, Kevin Rudd's plan to withdraw COMBAT TROOPS ONLY is still a half-hearted cop-out designed to keep one finger on Iraq's oil, and one big US finger up our national rectum, just in case it pays off. As Labor's Foreign Affairs spokesman, Robert McClelland, said:
"Labor is still leaving the ship in the gulf, the aircraft, the transport, the overflight facilities there."
When is the Australian media going to start a real debate about a real withdrawal?
Only 6% of Australians believe our involvement in the war has made us more safe. A majority even think it has made us less safe (51%), with the remainder thinking it has made no difference at all. View the poll results here.

Our involvement in the war in Iraq is not making Iraqis any safer, it is not making Australians any safer. The question must be asked, then, why are we there?
Kevin Rudd has no more answer to that than John Howard. Now is the time to pressure Labour for a more concrete commitment to a complete withdrawal. What can you do? Well, GetUp! needs only 1539 more signatures on their petition to hit their target of 40,000 - please go help out now.

Stop Making Sense

Since I lost my pendulum, my life is all erratic.
The parrot, which was cordial, is now transmitting static.
The carpet died, a palm collapsed, the cat keeps doing poo.
The only thing that keeps me sane is talking to my shoe.
- Michael Leunig
We live in strange times indeed. I find myself wincing as I read the news every day, struggling to make sense of the distortions of logic which thoroughly pervade today's political discourse.

It has become impossible to read an item of news without thinking about who wrote it, who published it, who might be promoting it and why. Our politicians tell blatant, bald-faced lies, live on camera, without blinking an eye. We all know they are lying, and they know that we know that they are lying, and they just don't care. And we don't care either. We move on, we move on...

These are the politicians who are supposed to represent us, to champion our interests, to safeguard our lives and build a better future for our children. They do nothing of the sort. They are in the pockets of powerful and wealthy crooks, promoting harmful industries like armaments, nukes and global warming fossil fuels.

And ordinary, decent people, who should know better, have succumbed to the propaganda. As a nation, we have have tolerated the growth of this madness, till now it consumes us.

The astonishing news that a 45-year-old police "assistant" dropped dead while interrogating Doctor Mohammed Haneef raises barely a ripple of interest, since the case has become so bizarre already. The Australian Federal Police Commissioner and the Attorney General are both now passing the buck to the Director of Public Prosecutions, and walking away from responsibility for the fiasco, as if they had nothing to do with it.

Meanwhile in Washington, where the US Attorney General has been caught out in even more brazen lies, Josh Marshall says it might be time, nearly, to almost begin to think seriously about impeachment! Gosh, do you think???! Something is terribly, terribly wrong, screams the Washington Post, which has done so much to enable this madness. Really???!

It's no different in the UK, of course:
Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-four lexicon of opposites pervades almost everything we see, hear and read now. The invaders and destroyers are "the British coalition forces," surely as benign as that British institution, St. John Ambulance, who are "bringing democracy" to Iraq. BBC television describes Israel as having "two hostile Palestinian entities on its borders," neatly inverting the truth that Israel is actually inside Palestinian borders. A study by Glasgow University says that young British viewers of TV news believe Israelis illegally colonizing Palestinian land are Palestinians: the victims are the invaders.

"The great crimes against most of humanity," wrote the American cultural critic James Petras, "are justified by a corrosive debasement of language and thought... [that] have fabricated a linguistic world of terror, of demons and saviors, of axes of good and evil, of euphemisms" designed to disguise a state terror that is "a gross perversion" of democracy, liberation, reform, justice. In his reinauguration speech, George Bush mentioned all these words, whose meaning, for him, is the dictionary opposite.
And meanwhile, in Iraq, lest we forget, a million souls are now dead, and still we beat our chests and worry about how best to bring these barbarians some more of our cherished values.

The sun sets in the west. Doesn't it?

25 Jul. 2007

Murdoch Owns The Gold Coast: Is Everyone OK With That?


Help wanted, especially from net-savvy legal types! As a citizen of the Gold Coast, do I have case to argue against News Ltd acquiring the domain www.goldcoast.com.au? It seems to me that as a citizen, I would be prohibited from owning such a public-interest domain - so why can a globalised corporation do so?

I just picked up my local free weekly nespaper, the Gold Coast Sun, to find a big 4-page splash cover advertising the latest Murdoch acquisition. The cover story states:
goldcoast.com.au is an initiative of Gold Coast Publications, publishers of the Sun and the Gold Coast Bulletin.
Both those papers and Gold Coast Publications are owned by Murdoch. So is the Courier Mail, the only Queensland state newspaper (Fairfax has a new online-only competitor at brisbanetimes.com.au). If you don't like them apples, there is always the nation's only national broadsheet, Murdoch's flagship newspaper, Teh Oz. That's it. That's media diversity in South-East Queensland. And now Murdoch wants to take that monopoly online.

This is not right. I don't want my region's online portal to the world being owned and pimped by Rupert Murdoch. I don't want my fellow citizens on the Gold Coast being seduced into the News Ltd online experience. I don't want all my local businesses forced into deals with News Ltd in order to maintain an online presence.

We citizens of the Gold Coast should have an independent, open and unbiased presence on the Web. And the site's URL should reflect that. Let Murdoch try to exploit a URL like goldcoast.newsltd.com.au, if he likes. At least let him be honest about who controls the website - to read the goldcoast.com propaganda, you would think it was all in the hands of local newspaper owners:
Powered by the combined force of the Gold Coast Bulletin, Sun Community Newspapers and Best of the Gold Coast print editions, goldcoast.com.au is a one-stop shop for everything there is to know about the Gold Coast...
This is not right! This is not right! This is not right!

Do you know why you don't hear more criticism of Rupert Murdoch? Because everyone is scared of him, or owned by him.

Well, guess what? Nobody owns me. I'm gonna fight this.

Who's with me?

UPDATE: This is all part of Murdoch's corporate home invasion across Australia.

The Beautiful Game

Against all the odds, Iraq's courageous soccer team (which humiliated Australia's big-money stars 3-1) has reached the final of the Asian Cup. Ironically, the Shi'ite majority Iraq will be playing the Sunni majority Saudis in the final. But even as car bombs reclaim the headlines in Iraq, such divisions are being set aside by jubilant citizens of all kinds. As a Shi'ite government employee said, after celebrating with Sunni friends he had not seen in years:
"None of our politicians could bring us under this flag like our national football team did. I wish that politicians could take a lesson from our team, which is made up of Sunnis, Shi'ites and Kurds who worked together regardless of their backgrounds and won."
To my mind, this represents a victory for the ordinary, simple, decent people of this earth over the politicians, the terrorists, the militaries, and all the other faceless forces which shape our lives with so very little concern for our own opinions or interests.

There were typically humble words on offer from Iraq's goalkeeper, who made the match-winning save against South Korea:
"You know the situation of the difficulties in Iraq. What we can achieve inside the field, it's a modest thing we can give to our people."
Bravo.

Lifestyles Of The Stitched-up and Framed


News Ltd does it again. The Herald Sun reports that Haneef's unit was not secured by the AFP for 96 hours after his arrest - then goes on to detail exactly what was in the flat and where. How do they know? Well, they have photos!
The first pictures inside Dr Haneef's modest flat show the simple life he led - and the depth of his religious commitment.

Taken within 48 hours of his swift departure, the pictures show a few basic dishes beside the sink, clothes drying on the balcony with others on an ironing board, and two suitcases on the floor.

In the sparsely furnished unit, Dr Haneef had a magazine with parenting tips, Gold Coast tourist guides, a blue teddy bear and religious books.

An Islamic guide on the wall lists prayers for all aspects of life, advising followers to "Live in the way of Allah, solely for the pleasure of Allah".

In a handful of books on a shelf was one called Ta'leemul Haq, covering the basics of Islam.
Gosh, it all sounds very suss, don't it? But wait a minute:
News Limited papers obtained the photographs which were taken before AFP officers dusted for fingerprints.
In other words, the security of the location has been compromised, and not a damn thing in this News Ltd report would therefore be admissible as evidence in court, and therefore it is not worth a pinch of shit as news.

But what does that matter when the whole aim of the exercise is to ensure that this Muslim foreigner is found guilty in the public mind? That's where the real political payback for all this half-assed police work and unethical journalism lies, right there.

Meanwhile, here's Doctor Haneef's baby:

I wonder what she is going to think of Australia when she grows up? I wonder what she is going to think of our much-vaunted values, and our much-hyped war of terror?

24 Jul. 2007

Saint Tim, The Tolerant Leftist

Hugo Chavez has given new dignity to Venezuela's poverty-sticken masses, survived a US-backed coup, plus countless US-backed political referendums, and revitalized the dream of pan-Latino solidarity, right? Not in Tim's world.

The Bush government's 9/11 Commission investigations were stacked with political cronies, failed to answer important questions, and deliberately ignored critical evidence like the decision to "pull" Building Seven, right? Not in Tim's world.

They say tolerance is a virtue, but there isn't much of it on display at News Ltd, and there wasn't much of it on display at Larvatus Prodeo overnight.

Qui Custodiat Custos? Custos Ipsum!

The latest reason why UK troops have to stay in Iraq: to protect themselves:
Hopes of a rapid British withdrawal from Iraq appeared to diminish yesterday after a minister said the present force level was needed for the safety of the troops.
Bloody hell.

Meanwhile our brave Aussie diggers have murdered another innocent man in Afghanistan. Oh, sorry - he couldn't have been innocent, because they shot him. So he must have been guilty. Of something.

Why are we over there again?

23 Jul. 2007

Murdoch Media Massages the Anti-Muslim Message

I just posted this comment on Blogocracy, but Tim Dunlop has again censored me. Let's see if he has the balls and the integrity to at least address it:
The Murdoch press has been an integral part of this whole Haneef story throughout. Given that Murdoch controls nearly every single SE QLD newspaper, including the free local weeklies, that's probably no surprise.

The Australian leaked the transcript (criticized as illegal by Keelty). The Sunday Mail's outrageous lies were denied by Keelty himself within 24 hours. The Australian claimed police wrote in Haneef's diary (Keelty now denies this too). Etc, etc, etc.

This is all just part of a concerted global effort across all Murdoch publications to promote fear, sensationalize and distort the real issues of terrorism, and stifle the ugly truth about our Oil War in Iraq. It's also part of a pattern of lies supporting the Bush, Blair and Howard governments.

I am not saying that there is no good reporting coming out of News Ltd. I'm saying that there is a hell of a lot of half-assed bullsh*t and straight-out lies. And there are never any repercussions, written apologies, or accountability.

"What's going on", Tim? Maybe you should be telling us... It's about two weeks now since you copped the heavy hand of Murdoch censorship with barely a whimper of protest.

Seems to me that News Ltd in Australia could do with an Ombudsman/woman, as the NYT and WaPo have in the USA. I would suggest a national boycott of the Murdoch press, but it's a bit hard to ignore the world's biggest media outlet when they are continually MAKING the news, rather than just reporting it.
Of course, it's not just the Haneef case: News Ltd has been fancifully creating the news on behalf of Howard's slow-train-wreck government for the past six months, with no luck.

And here was me, way back in April, thinking that Rudd had ass-kissed his way to the lodge after wining and dining Rupert in NYC! But as Greg Baxter, the director of corporate affairs for News Limited, said way back in December:
Your "Beazley-bashing gathers momentum" (November 20) reports that Rupert Murdoch will back Labor if it installs a Kevin Rudd-Julia Gillard leadership ticket. This is wrong. No one at News, including Murdoch, has given any hint of any such thing to Beazley, Rudd or Gillard or to any apparatchik on either side of politics, or to anyone in the press gallery.
Well, there's not doubt about that any more.

What Have We Become?

And at that moment I actually realized ... that it might have been possible to get to know things.
- Traudl Junge, Adolf Hitler's secretary.
That quote comes from Part 1 of an essay by Jacob G. Hornberger, "Why Germans Supported Hitler". Nowadays, of course, there is even less excuse for not informing oneself about the reality being manufactured by our governments and media.
Keep in mind that while Hitler and his cohorts were harassing, abusing, and periodically arresting German Jews as the 1930s progressed, culminating in Kristallnacht, the “night of the broken glass,” when tens of thousands of Jews were beaten and taken to concentration camps, it was not exactly the type of thing that aroused major moral outrage among U.S. officials, many of whom themselves had a strong sense of anti-Semitism.

For example, when Hitler offered to let German Jews leave Germany, the U.S. government used immigration controls to keep them from immigrating here. In fact, as Arthur D. Morse pointed out in his book While Six Million Died: A Chronicle of American Apathy, five days after Kristallnacht, which occurred in November 1938, at a White House press conference, a reporter asked Roosevelt, “Would you recommend a relaxation of our immigration restrictions so that the Jewish refugees could be received in this country?” The president replied, “This is not in contemplation. We have the quota system.”

Let’s also not forget the infamous 1939 (i.e., after Kristallnacht) “voyage of the damned,” in which U.S. officials refused to permit German Jews to disembark at Miami Harbor from the German ship the SS St. Louis, knowing that they would be returned to Hitler’s clutches in Nazi Germany.
Today our governments turn away boatloads of refugees, and ignore the bloody massacre of a million Iraqis. And we, who say nothing, who do nothing, who nod in silent approval, are complicit in these crimes.

We Throw The Book At Haneef, But We Throw The Book Out The Window For US Marines

Yet another fucking disgrace:
A US marine charged over a drunken joy-ride at Darwin airport turned up to face a magistrates court as ordered on Monday only to find his case was not listed for mention.

Jacob Strock, 20, was arrested on Sunday morning and charged with seven security offences.

The marine allegedly drove a vehicle while intoxicated through the gates to the main runway of the Darwin International Airport shortly after midnight, according to an Australian Federal Police (AFP) statement.

The charges include destroying or damaging commonwealth property and trespassing on commonwealth land as well as having prohibited items in airport security zones and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

He was released on bail to appear in Darwin Magistrates Court on Monday.

But when he arrived at the court shortly after 9am (CST) in a hire car, the marine was told there was no record of his charges.

An AFP spokesman said the matter had been passed on to the Commonwealth DPP, but the prosecutor handling the case, Adrienne Cooper, refused to speak to the media.
What a farce. Memo to all US military personnel - come to Australia, do what you fucking like, the law cannot touch you, Uncle Sam rules in Oz. Yeehah!

What Have We Become? Chickens.

22 Jul. 2007

Terrorism: What Would Gandhi Have Done?

His grandson speaks:
Asked what he would have made of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and the Islamist Taliban militia in Afghanistan, Mr Gandhi said: "He would have stood up to them."

"The Muslim and non-Muslim issue was a very important issue in his life in India, and he was killed because many Hindus thought he was friendlier to the Muslims than was necessary," the former Indian parliamentarian said.

"So today, he would never agree with the idea that there's something connected between Islam and violence or Islam and terrorism. He would totally oppose that idea."
I am sure Gandhi would have spoken out honestly and loudly. By contrast, our leading politicians only make a noise when it is in their interest. They fall silent when leadership is most needed. They pedal a nonsensical version of reality that is as corrupt and dangerous as the jihad they claim to oppose.

Here's Alexander Downer hypocritically accusing Labor of playing politics over the Haneef case. I mean, how morally bankrupt can you get? The only accusation you can make against Rudd is that he hasn't jumped in and played the game. Sure, he should have stood up for Haneef's civil rights, but he knew what was coming so he let Peter Beattie do the media thing.

So the whole thing has back-fired on the government. Downer is pissed. It's time to muddy the waters, then walk away, and public interest be damned.

21 Jul. 2007

Howard Steps Down

Well, about bloody time:
Australian Prime Minister John Howard has announced that he will quit politics after the next election and step down as leader "within the next few weeks". Mr Howard says his decision, which follows a long string of dismal poll results, was in the best interests of his Australian Liberal party.

"I have always said that I would step down when the Party wants me to," said Howard. "Now the Cabinet remains firmly behind me, and I am grateful for that, but it is the people, in the end, the grass roots, who make up the heart and soul of the Party, whose decision must be respected. And the people have made it clear that they are ready for change."

Mr Howard would not speculate on a preferred candidate for Prime Minister, saying the issue would be resolved in a series of Cabinet meetings over the coming weeks.
I think the fact that he did not nominate Costello says it all. I guess the smart money would be on Abbott, but his "shit happens" remark last week hardly helps his cause.

Haneef's Q1 Plot

UPDATE: Turns out it was another crock of Murdoch shit. Boy, somebody in the AFP and/or at the Sunday Mail is going to be in big trouble! Right? Right???

Once again we are left to wonder: is the Murdoch press dutifully reporting the news, or deliberately helping create it? Today's Brisbane Sunday Mail reports that police found images of a landmark Gold Coast building and its foundations when they raided Dr Haneef's unit. But that's not all:
The investigation also is examining information seized in the raid which indicated the Gold Coast doctor planned to leave Australia the day before or after September 11...

The AFP investigation is also looking at information that Haneef was one of a group of doctors who had been familiarising themselves with the operation of planes at a Queensland premises.
It's all a little too perfect, isn't it? Is this more shoddy Murdoch Sunday tabloid journalism? Is it a desperate attempt by the Australian police to hit back at yesterday's widespread criticism of their screwed-up SIM card evidence? Is the evidence for real? Was the implied threat for real?

And if this was the "secret evidence" to which Rudd and others alluded, why could it not be mentioned? Why was Haneef's own lawyer not told about it? Why was Rudd so coy on TV? Was Howard supposed to be the one who delivered the information bombshell? Were they purposefully sitting on this information until Rudd started complaining about Haneef's treatment?

As a Gold Coast resident, I would strongly assume the "landmark building" referred to is the relatively new Q1 tower (photo above):
At 323 metres (1,059 feet), Q1 is the world's tallest all-residential building, when measured to the top of its spire.

In comparison, the Eiffel Tower is 300 metres (984 feet) when its 24 m (79 ft) antenna is excluded. Q1 overtook the 21st Century Tower in Dubai, United Arab Emirates as the world's tallest residential tower. It is the 20th tallest building in the world when measured to its spire, dwarfing the Gold Coast skyline with the closest buildings to Q1's height being the 220 m (722 ft) North Tower of Circle on Cavill and the under construction 240 m (787 ft) Soul building...
The Q1 Wikipedia entry includes some structural info:
The building is supported by 26 piles, two metres in diameter, that extend 40 metres into the ground then up to four metres into solid rock.
As with all such edifices, there was much excitement about the construction, which many locals (myself included) considered quite mad. "Why would you build such a thing after 9/11?" we asked. That was before we found out that our local council was in the pocket of big developers, mind you.

No doubt many tourists still wonder about the obvious WTC parallels. It's impossible to walk around such a building in the post-9/11 world and NOT think about planes slamming into the upper floors.

Of course, at the time of construction there were lots of news reports in the media about how safe this building would be, with heaps of photographic details showing why it was more solid than the World Trade Center. The Murdoch Gold Coast Bulletin was full of such stories. As I recall, it was front-page news when the foundations were poured, and there were a few more big front-page photos as the building went up. So the foundations and architecture were hardly a closely-guarded secret!

As a tourist to the Gold Coast, you simply cannot miss this building. It dominates the skyline, even if it is a few blocks walk from downtown Cavill Ave, the heart of Surfers Paradise. I would expect any visiting doctor to go take a look, take some photos, and maybe even read a bit more about it online when he got home.

Anyone with even a passing interest in architecture (or public safety) might also want to read about the construction and foundations. That's no crime - in fact, I have been Googling for info myself just now, so I guess I could get a knock on the door any minute!

But what about Haneef's purported plans to leave Australia "the day before or after September 11"? No crime in that either.

What about being part of a group that spends time "familiarising themselves with the operation of planes"? Was he playing Microsoft's Flight Simulator X? Is that illegal now? And where exactly are these "Queensland premises"? The local library? The online games cafe on Scarborough Street?

I work in a building just a few hundred meters from where Haneef lived and worked. I can see the Q1 building when I look out my lounge room window. My kids and I have wandered through its foyers. We still have a spare ticket to the Observation Deck. I think I have a right to know if there is any real substance to these allegations!

Unfortunately, this whole investigation has been a farce from go to woe. And our government has a very bad track record when it comes to hyping make-believe threats, hanging innocent men out to dry, and keeping the public ignorant. So what's a concerned citizen like myself to do? Go down to Brisbane's Wolston Correctional Centre and interview Haneef myself? I tell you what, if I thought they would let me talk to him, I might just do that!

And if I did, I would be sure to tell him about how the cops trashed his house, punching holes in the walls, and leaving the whole place "looking like a bomb went off" (as a workmate described it to me: I haven't seen any media reports about that, so I assume it is local gossip).

In the meantime, it seems, I just have to trust the Murdoch press, the Howard government, and the Australian Federal Police. Lucky me.

PS: The UK is about to make a constitutional change to the Attorney General's role.
Governments need an outstanding lawyer at the centre to ensure that their decisions are legally acceptable, and yet that closeness can lead to allegations of impropriety.

It is just possible, though, that Gordon Brown has found a solution. Last week, only five days after appointing Baroness Scotland of Asthal, QC, as the new Attorney-General, the Prime Minister announced that the post needs to change. A constitutional process will begin shortly.

What will the future hold? The current arrangement is unlikely to survive. As the Green Paper published on July 3 noted, there is an apparent conflict between the Attorney-General’s role as the Government’s chief legal adviser and her separate role as chief prosecutor and guardian of public interest. The Constitutional Affairs Committee, which has been looking at the role of the Attorney-General since the beginning of the year, has the same concern.

The solution that has been canvassed most widely involves the appointment of a general counsel to the Government, taking on the attorney’s role as the Government’s chief legal adviser, while responsibility for prosecutions would be wholly separated from government...

Mr Brown will appoint a general counsel whose views he trusts and who shares his party’s aims in Government. So will his successors. In this sense the job will be a political appointment. The advice of the general counsel will have to be of the best kind: straightforward and clear, logically unassailable, independent and never tailored to please. But, to ensure that the appointee is listened to when the most difficult and sensitive decisions have to be made, the party in government will also need to be confident that the general counsel is sympathetic, even if the advice is unwelcome. Individuals who are appointed to this job will need to establish their credibility both within government and externally.
Might be a good idea, that.

Deafening Silence, Sick Society: Call A Doctor!

So the key piece of evidence against Dr. Haneef was either fabricated or a screw-up. But he's still in detention and the Howard government's silence is deafening. Mick Keelty should resign over this - it's not the first time he's ignored the facts, bent over and handed the political lube to Howard. Tampa 2.0 this is not - more like Hicks 2.0.1.

Now the news is spreading around the world about what racist terror-mongering assholes Australians are - and they are right, of course. Alas.

PS: If there are any regular readers hoping to find some interesting new content here, the reason it's pretty light on lately is that I am sick. I was going to say "Sorry for the light posting lately.." but I am not really sorry. I'm sick, for fuck's sake!

And I'm not the only one sick in these SE QLD parts. We just had the coldest day in history up here, which is no doubt due to Global Warming, and we all know that Howard's to blame for that, so it's his fault I'm sick.

20 Jul. 2007

Don't Mention The Waste

How do you have a rational discussion about nuclear energy without discussing waste? What is the point of signing agreements and digging uranium out of the ground if you haven't worked out what you are going to do with it? It is not only irresponsible, it's dangerous!
Mr Downer says the storage of nuclear waste is not on the agenda...

"Nobody's ever mentioned nuclear waste, except in the letter I wrote to the Prime Minister saying that we had no intention of becoming a repository for nuclear waste."
And that's exactly the problem, isn't it?

It reminds me of the Iraq Oil Law the war-mongers are all so mad keen to have signed. Nobody can agree on who will get what, when, how or why, but Washington is still desperately keen for sign-off so they can wave the paper in the air and shout, "Progress!" And then, maybe a decade from now, Big Oil will use its muscle to get those minor clauses about Production Sharing Agreements recognised...

Similarly, if we sign a nuclear pact with the USA now (so Howard can stand at the APEC podium and shout "Progress!") it will come back to bite us in the bum one day.

Just say NO to Nuclear Power, OK kids?

19 Jul. 2007

Death of The Liberals: "Shit Happens. Mate."

Costello dumping on Howard just before an election says it all. Now here's Tony Abbott's considered analysis of the latest setback:
"Shit happens."
Well, that should help. I guess the same response covers the Iraq War. Or the wrongful detention of Dr Haneef. Or David Hicks. Or the Children Overboard "mistake". Shit happens. Nobody is ever accountable.

Meanwhile, Howard is sounding ridiculous, praising his back-stabbing Treasurer for his great work:
The PM said Mr Costello was still the frontrunner to replace him as leader.

"I believe Peter is the logical choice to succeed me," Mr Howard told Macquarie Radio.

"Everything comes to an end and there will be a time in the party's interest and the party's desire that I no longer be leader."

Asked if that time was imminent, Mr Howard replied, "No, it's not close, mate, it ain't close."
But at my back in a cold blast I hear
Time's winged chariot drawing near...


And get this, Howard says Australia will never, ever set up a nuclear waste dump for our US mates. But the Liberal Party's Federal Council recently voted for Australia to do just that. And Howard, even if he could somehow win the next election, and even if he doesn't backtrack on this promise, is not likely to serve a full term. Maybe we should be asking Costello?

And talk about "shit happens" - did any of these fools notice what just happened to one of the world's safest nuclear plants in Japan?

I remember, not so long ago, when Australians were proud of our world-leading solar energy industry. I remember when we talked excitedly about becoming "part of Asia", and breaking free of our colonial ties to Her Maj. I remember the extraordinary sense of confidence and optimism that forced Howard to allow a referendum on independence...

UPDATE: Having seen Abbot's "shit happens" comment on TV, I think it can fairly be interpreted as, "That's all, folks. We're fucked." He was surrounded by journalists and he basically couldn't be bothered trying to dig his way through the mess of lies required to cover up this latest gaffe, so he just threw up his arms and spat out an expression of disgust. Abbot is basically saying that if the unpopular PM cannot dig his discredited party out of the poll-drums, and if Costello cannot keep his big mouth shut, why should HE bother trying.

Personally, I think there is only one viable solution for the Libs - all those in Cabinet who would resign from politics in the event of a Labor landslide election should quit now. Bring some young blood into the arena, maybe the crowd will get a sniff of it. What have they got to lose?

/free advice to wankers

18 Jul. 2007

What Have We Become?

John Howard's UN report card is in:
The United Nations Association of Australia has written a report strongly criticising Australia's recent record on international issues.

The report gives Australia a 'C' on human rights, nuclear disarmament and aid, while on climate change and migration Australia gets a 'D'.

A former ambassador to the United Nations, Richard Woolcott, says Australia's reputation within the UN has suffered over the past few decades.

"Of course it's been greatly influenced by Iraq, I mean the Iraq situation has rather frayed existing alliances," he said.

"Then there's the issue of style, there's a tendency of Australia's part now which partly stems from Iraq, to lecture more and listen less. I think that we can do better and we should do more."

Revealed: Murdoch's Iraq War Hotline

There is little doubt that Rupert Murdoch was one of the primary enablers, if not architects, or the Iraq War. Now, the truth is revealed. Here's an explosive story from the UK Independent:
Tony Blair had three conversations with the media magnate Rupert Murdoch in the nine days before the start of the Iraq war, the Government has disclosed.

Details of the former prime minister's contacts with Mr Murdoch have been released under the Freedom of Information Act. After trying to block disclosure for four years, the Government backed down in a surprise change of heart the day after Mr Blair resigned last month...

Yesterday the Cabinet Office said there were six telephone discussions between Mr Blair and Mr Murdoch in 20 months, all at crucial moments of his premiership. The subject of their calls was not revealed.

In 2003, Mr Blair phoned the owner of The Times and The Sun on 11 and 13 March, and on 19 March, the day before Britain and the United States invaded Iraq. The war was strongly supported by Murdoch-owned newspapers around the world. The day after two of the calls, The Sun launched vitriolic attacks on the French President Jacques Chirac. The Government quoted him as saying he would "never" support military action against Saddam Hussein, a claim hotly disputed by France.

Mr Blair and Mr Murdoch spoke again on 29 January 2004, the day after publication of the Hutton report into the death of Dr David Kelly. Their next conversation was on 25 April 2004, just after Mr Blair bowed to pressure led by The Sun for him to promise a referendum on the proposed EU constitution. They also spoke on 3 October that year, after Mr Blair said he would not fight a fourth general election.
The article has details of exactly what was published after each call.

Who is going to be the first intrepid reporter to demand similar details from PM John Howard? Who will demand the same information from Rupert Murdoch? It's a sure thing that Murdoch's Australian operation is far more advanced than his UK setup, and that was very advanced indeed:
In Alastair Campbell's diaries, published last week, the former spin doctor described a Downing Street dinner for Mr Murdoch and his sons, James and Lachlan, in 2002. "Murdoch pointed out that his were the only papers that gave us support when the going got tough. 'I've noticed,' said TB," Mr Campbell wrote. Lance Price, Mr Campbell's deputy, called Mr Murdoch "the 24th member of the [Blair] Cabinet". He added: "His presence was always felt. No big decision could ever be made inside No10 without taking account of the likely reaction of three men, Gordon Brown, John Prescott and Rupert Murdoch. On all the really big decisions, anybody else could safely be ignored."
Memo to the Bancroft family: "Don't sell!"

Here's My Problem With Tim Dunlop


An old friend of mine once characterised a work colleague as being "far too hail-fellow-well-met sort of thing". At the time it hardly sounded like a criticism, but over the years I have come to understand exactly what she meant.

It's now over a week since Tim Dunlop's anti-editorial blog post at Teh Oz got spiked by Rupert's News Ltd elite, and he still has not come through on his repeated promises to follow up with more details of the incident. Nor has the offending post been reinstated.

Dunlop told Crikey on Tuesday that he was hoping to post an explanation at News Ltd on Wednesday morning:
Dunlop had nothing to say in reply to questions such as "Will you still be blogging for News Limited?" and "Have you discovered the limits of News Limited tolerance?"

This morning there was no post from Dunlop on the affair, although he is blogging on other matters. He told Crikey he expected to talk to the editor of news.com.au later today, and to watch the Blogocracy space.
Two days later, and still nothing. Surprised? You probably shouldn't be.

I think Tim is prepared to tolerate such censorship, because he shares the same blinkered mindset as Rupert Murdoch's men when it comes to open and honest debate. Let me explain, and provide a bit of potted history.

Tim first deleted a comment of mine when I suggested that a particularly annoying troll at Road To Surfdom might be getting paid to disrupt debate. Tim said the comment was out of line and the whole idea was preposterous. Well, guess what? I was right! Turns out there really are paid-for-comment trolls on the blogosphere:
For this campaign season, it looks like someone is offering the services of trolls and sock puppets for hire.
Ironically, Tim this week links to that very same story at his News Ltd blog (without further comment).

I stopped posting at RTS for a while after that little incident, but drifted back (mostly out of frustration at the lack of comparable alternatives in Ozblogistan). Then came the Darryl Mason incident.

When Tim moved "inside the tent" at News Ltd, he asked regular commentators at RTS to post stories. Darryl wrote an angry post, satirically suggesting someone should shoot John Howard. It was obvious that Darryl's post was not a serious incitement to violence. But Tim Dunlop spiked the post anyway, and banned Darryl from further contributions. His main stated concern was that Andrew Bolt might use such prose to attack Tim.

I launched a short-lived protest on behalf of Darryl, who took it on the chin (and has since continued his prolific good work at his own blogs). Dunlop's response was basically "It's my blog, I can do what I like." There were murmurs of discontent from his regulars, but everybody soon moved on. I decided (again) to stop visiting.

Now consider Tim's initial response when he got back to work after his own blog post was spiked at News last week:
Yep, the editor here pulled a post yesterday, which I ain’t happy about, though of course, in the greater scheme of things editors pulling copy is hardly unusual. Nonetheless, it is something we are discussing. In the meantime, let’s just go John Howard and his new aircraft wallpaper, shall we?
You see? Nothing to see here, folks. Happens all the time.

Well, actually, such nonsense does seem to happen a fair bit at Tim's blogs.

It's worth noting, too, that my latest comments on this sorry saga have not been appearing at either Blogocracy or Road To Surfdom. It seems I am banned. As usual, there is no explanation. Tim Dunlop simply does not tolerate criticism.

So there you go. It's his blog, and he can do what he likes. It's Rupert's media organisation, and he can do what he likes. Everyone happy with that?

Dumb Americans Dont Give A Shit About The News

A new study from Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center suggests that US readers are moving to the Internet, period, and a large number have no interest in news whatsoever. Here are some of the key findings:
The large fact about teens and young adults is not that they are heavily dependent on new media but that they partake only lightly of news, whatever the source. A shift in sources is occurring, and it is in the direction of the new media, but the larger tide has been the movement away from a daily news habit.

The Internet cannot be faulted for the decline in news interest among young adults. Other factors, including a weakening of the home as a place where news habits are acquired, underlie this development.

Our findings suggest that some news surveys have overestimated either the amount of news young adults consume or the capacity of non-traditional media to take up the slack from young people’s flight from traditional news sources.
Here are some of the numbers, based on a survey of 1800 teens aged 12 to 17, young adults aged 18 to 30 and older adults aged 31+:
* 60 percent of teens, 48 percent of young adults and 23 percent of older adults say they pay little or no attention to daily news coverage.

*Of respondents who said they had been exposed to major news stories, only about 40 percent of them could actually recall the key factual element of the story when asked.

*When it comes to hard news on politics or public affairs, only 45 percent of respondents said they were aware such stories. By comparison, 75 percent said they were familiar with softer celebrity or human interest stories, such as the death of Anna Nicole Smith.

*Segmented by age, 54 percent of older adults said they were aware of the main hard news stories and 83 percent said they were familiar with the soft news items. That compared with 24 percent of teens for hard news and 66 percent on soft news.
Via Reuters.

Where's Your Spine, Pete?

Costello has no fucking idea.

Wanker Of The Day

Murdoch hack Greg Sheridan:
THE Howard Government has behaved entirely reasonably in the case of Mohamed Haneef, the Brisbane doctor accused of helping terrorists...

Rudd knows the immense danger of standing against measures to protect the community from terrorism. The amendments will make it harder for defendants in terrorism cases to get bail. If Rudd backs the Government's amendments, there will be some angst from the Burnside crowd. But if Rudd opposes the amendments, it could conceivably cost him the election.
And of course, that's what this is all about, isn't it?
Imagine if the authorities had someone in custody who was genuinely a terrorist and the terror plot was in the 36,000th piece of encrypted information on his computer. And imagine if they released this terrorist after getting through 10,000 such pieces of information and a terrorist outrage occurred that they could have prevented.
Imagine if someone smashed a steel-capped jack-boot right into Sheridan's mouth.
We live in a democracy in Australia. This means, among other things, that parliament is constrained by the courts. But parliament is superior to the courts in making laws. That's what makes us a democracy. Parliaments are accountable to voters. Courts aren't.
So parliament can just ignore laws, or make new laws, whenever they seek a surge of xenophobic support. That's Democracy, m'kay? Robert Mugabe and friends, please take note.
If any part of our system has performed badly here, it is the courts for refusing to implement the intention of the legislation, which is that bail should be rare in terrorism cases.
"Rare"? This is the first implementation of the new anti-terror laws. The judge had to decide if the evidence of a public danger warranted bail or not. He clearly and emphatically decided that it did not. That doesn't seem to enter into Sheridan's cerebrum, which is wired to see terrrrrsts on every corner.

If this case is to set a standard for anti-terror cases in Australia, then the bar has been set very low indeed. Every one of us should be concerned.

The government keeps hinting that is has damning secret evidence available. But it cannot show the evidence, and it cannot explain why it cannot show the evidence. A government with a better track record on truthfulness and human rights might be able to get away with that sort of nonsense - this one certainly cannot.

The Haneef case perfectly illustrates all that is wrong with the approach to terrorism adopted by the Bush, Blair and Howard governments. Minimal threats are over-hyped for partisan political purposes. To maintain the charade, our governments are forced to attack civil liberties, which they happily do. This damages our true democratic freedoms and makes a mockery of our professed values. It enrages the scape-goated victims and their supporters around the world, contributes to anti-Western propaganda of violent radicals, and thus ultimately exacerbates the more serious and growing threat of global terrorism.

But maybe that's the whole idea, right? Create a new "long" War On Terror out of nothing, to replace the Cold War profits so long enjoyed by the military-industrial complex. Enrage Islamic radicals so that we have a good excuse for the next war, and the next, till all the oil wells in the Middle East are ours. Nothing else seems to make any sense.

17 Jul. 2007

New Ltd Creates The News Again

Mick Keelty says a leak to Teh Oz undermines judicial process in the Haneef case:
The Australian newspaper has today published details about a taped police interview with Haneef, who is charged with providing resources to a terrorist organisation.

Commissioner Keelty says he has sought assurances the leak has not come from police officers and the only other people who had access to the documents are the prosecution lawyers and Haneef's legal team.
Here's the transcript in Teh Oz. He sure doesn't sound like a terrorist:
"Every drop of blood is human. And I feel for every human being," he said.
But talk about the thought police:
Simms: "I guess what I'm getting at is like what are your thoughts in relation to Iraq. The situation in Iraq. The situation in Afghanistan. Do you have any views on that?

Haneef:"Well I don't like to comment on the thing about (that).''
Smart boy. Just say you are opposed to the War in Iraq and they will string you up.

When You Make The Laws, Nothing Is Really Illegal

The transcript is not available yet, so here's a shorter version of Phillip Ruddock on Lateline last night:
Phil Ruddock on Lateline

Q: Does the case against Dr Haneef set a legal precedent?
A: I would have thought these this would be judged in a court of law, not the court of public opinion.

A: Is current handling of the case actually illegal?
A: I haven't formed a view on that. Courts have ethical obligations above and beyond their legal obligations.

Q: Has Haneef been charged with "intentional" and/or "reckless" support of terrorists?
A: My reading of the media reports suggests it is just the latter.

Q: Repeats above question, citing police doc stating that his support was "reckless" but not "intentional".
A: I have informed myself from public comments. These are not matters for which I am accountable.

Q: You don't know what the charge is? And you are the AG?
A: I have READ reports. I am not privy to further charges.

Q: Quotes charges.
A: I cannot comment on legal matters.

Q: Was Kevin Andrews given incorrect info?
A: Haneef's lawyers are challenging the minister. Not my business to intrude.

Q: This is about a SIM card, cousin is not charged with being part of a terrorist organisation.
A: Still none of my business. Recaps case.

Q: Shouldn't the AG explain these news laws as they are being used for first time?
A: Terrorism is very important. We need to balance rights with security. Main issue is bail. Intention of parliament was there would be a presumption against bail in such cases. Stricter laws may be needed.

Q: But this man just gave someone a Sim card!
A; That's what his lawyer says. We have protected evidence, which must be dealt with confidentially.

Q: Secret info Section 503a is what?
A; Info related to security.

Q: Intelligence?
A: Could be. Info that might compromise current investigations MIGHT be involved, etc. Other people might be involved. Blah blah blah. Court can test resonableness of info.

Q: But Haneef and lawyers cannot see secret info.
A: It's up to the minister to form an opinion on character. That opinion will be tested in court.

Q: Is this secret info it admissible as evidence in court?
A: Yep.

Q: Judge can see it but lawyers cannot?
A: Yep.

Q: Such evidence is being used to take away a man's liberty. What about cited evidence of Haneef's good character?
A: Nothing to do with anything, not my business. Separate issue. Decisions can always be challenged later in civil court.

Q: New anti-terror laws have had to be bolstered by Immigration Laws on first use - does that mean new laws are inadequate?
A: Still examining them, especially presumption against bail. We don't want terrorist suspects ever getting bail.

Q: How did you react to PM's offer to accept blame for bad polls?
A: He's a great leader.

16 Jul. 2007

What's That Smell?

At first she thought it was the old block of cheddar at the back of the fridge. Then she thought it might be the cat's bowl, which hadn't been washed for a few days. Or maybe it was the mould growing under the rim of the laundry tub? Gladys tried everything she could think of, but the smell was still there. She just couldn't locate the source of it. What could she do? Eventually she just learned to live with it.

Over the next few months, however, it got worse and worse. Visitors started to notice. It was terribly embarrassing.

One Tuesday morning, Madge Gladstone-Smyth came over for a cup of tea before lawn bowls. She was just about to poke a silverware fork into her blueberry cheesecake when she leaned forward, adjusted her prescription glasses, and pointed to the floor.

"What on earth is that?" she asked.

And there it was - the blood of a million Iraqis, seeping out from under the architraves.

"Oh dear," said Gladys.

The blood had started to form a pool in front of the television. Madge suggested turning it off.

"It could be all that TV news," she said. "It's dreadful, isn't it? Why can't they show any happy stories for once?"

Gladys disconnected the power plug and pulled the TV antenna out of the wall. But the next day there was even more blood, soaking into the Persian carpet and lapping at the feet of the leather sofa.

What to do? What to do? Gladys reached for the Yellow Pages. She found three companies listed under "Exterminators, Cleaners and Exorcists". The largest advertisement was for a company called "G.W. Windsor & Sons". She phoned them first.

"Where do you live, honey?" asked a gruff voice with a twangy accent.

"14 National Drive."

"OK, that's one of our zones."

"I just wanted a quote. I'm not sure - "

"Sit tight, baby. We're on our way."

The tank arrived within minutes, with a helicopter gunship in support ("just in case," explained the man with the twangy accent). A team of men in camouflage rapidly spread out across Gladys' lawn. Voices cackled urgently on walkie-talkies. Then the turret of the great tank swung around, with a long mechanical groan, to aim straight at the door of Glady's neighbour's house.

"That's your problem, right there," said Mr Twangy Accent.

"Doctor Hajeeb?"

"Damn straight. Just give the order, ma'am, and we take the whole damn structure out."

"But - well, are you sure that's necessary?"

"We've taken a sample of the blood on your floor, ma'am. The DNA tests are positive: this is ethnic blood. Middle Eastern, know what I mean? We've also found traces of such blood in Doctor Hajeeb's gargbage. The evidence is conclusive. We can take out the source of your problem with just one projectile, at a cost of $124,500 plus GST. Your call."

"It sounds a little drastic."

"There could be some collateral damage to surrounding structures and/or civilians, which we regret in advance."

"I might just have a little think about it, if you don't mind."

Twangy Accent snapped some orders into his hands-free mike. His men jumped back aboard the tank, which clamboured noisily away down the street. Gladys went back inside for a cup of tea.

What to do? What to do? The blood was now an inch deep, and covering the whole house. Gladys thought she could hear moaning sounds coming from inside the walls. She phoned the next company in the phone book, "J.J. Johnson Inc, International, Pty Ltd."

"Thank you for calling J.J. Johnson," said an automated voice. "If you are a shareholder, a director, or a government official, please press 1.

"For employment opportunities, tenders, or market-share capitalisation details, press 2.

"To enquire about our bonus scheme, flexible awards program, or other offers, press 3. For all other enquiries, please press 4."

Gladys pressed 4.

"For pest extermination, press 1. For religious exorcisms, press 2. For cleaning operations, press 3."

Gladys hesitated, then pressed 3.

"All our operators are busy right now. Thank you for holding. Your call is important to us."

A recorded message started extolling the history, virtues, values and investment opportunities of J.J. Johnson Inc.

"Thank you for holding. An operator will be with you soon. For share purchasing details, please press the star key."

Gladys waited until the blood was up around her ankles. By now she could hear shrieks of agony coming from the walls. There were also shrill metallic sqeals, howls of despair, and loud, ominous thumping noises. In sheer frustration, Gladys hung up the phone and dialled the third number in the book, "Reginald Reginald (reg.)"

A cheerful young man turned up 5 minutes later on a bicycle, with a small dog lapping at his heels.

"Oh, yes," he said as he stepped through the front door, "I've been seeing quite a bit of this lately. You voted Liberal in the last election, didn't you?"

"Why, actually I did," said Gladys. "But what on earth does that have to do with it?"

"Well," said the young man, "You might be surprised. Where's your Prime Minister?"

"My Prime Minister?"

"Yes, your Prime Minister."

"Well, he's on top of the television, where I always leave him. He comments on all the stories as they come through. He helps me understand -"

"OK. Stand back, please..."

Gladys moved towards the door The young man seized the Prime Minister by the neck and began to prise him from his prized position atop the television. The Prime Minister yowled with pain, hurling threats and abusive expletives. But soon the young man had stuffed him into a canvas bag and tied it closed with a thick rope.

"What will you do with him?" asked Gladys.

"There's a place in Iraq where we send them," said the young man. "They have a re-education program. Don't worry. It's all very humane."

"But how will I be able to understand the TV news now?"

"Try this."

The young man took a small plastic box out of his pocket and plugged it into the back of Gladys' television.

"This will connect you to the blogsphere," he said. "If you don't know what to make of the news, it will give you a wide variety of analyses to choose from. Better yet, it will allow you to start your own blog, post your own opinions, and start to actively get involved with the news rather than just passively absorbing it."

Gladys looked at the floor.

"But what about the blood?" she asked.

"I can only remove the source of the problem," said the young man. "The blood will cease flowing now, but it's up to you to clean up and make amends. You need to listen to the voices, gently mop up the blood, tend to the cracks in the walls, and apologize repeatedly for voting Liberal."

"Oh dear. What a terrible, terrible mess," said Gladys. "I was worried about the interest rates, you see."

"Sure, lady, sure." said the young man. "Weren't we all?"

"But the Prime Minister said -"

"Will that be all?" said the young man. "Sorry, but I do have quite a few other customers waiting."