31 Aug. 2007

TIME TO GET OFF YOUR BUTTS AND PROTEST!!!

Student protesters have just got police approval to march against Bush on September 5. So there is no excuse not to be there:

Demonstrators will gather in Belmore Park at 1pm and march along Elizabeth and Goulburn Streets before making their way back to the park via George Street.

More protest activity here and here.

30 Aug. 2007

Wanker Of The Day Number Four

Tim "Inside The Tent" Dunlop. If anyone was still wondering whether Tim has been successfully muzzled by Murdoch, here's proof.

Here's how Tim describes Dennis Shanahan's leading pro-war propaganda article today:
It’s an interesting piece, and provides some further speculation about what Australia’s future role in Iraq may be (at least under the Howard Government).
He doesn't even mention Shanahan's vile blog post or his other bit of "professional analysis".

Sure, Tim provides some contrasting evidence. But it's nothing any self-respecting blogger couldn't collect with a five-minute ride around the regular antiwar blog sites.

And here's how Tim anticipates Petraeus' appearance before Congress:
It’s going to [be] a fascinating process and hopefully, democracy at its best.
Even Tim's own readers at News Ltd are not that stupid, as the comments show.

Make no mistake. Today's orchestrated pro-war media barrage from the likes of Shanahan and Devine is a pre-emptive strike in a critical election issue battle for Howard. Part of the reason Howard has delayed an election this long is that he hopes to use the pro-war hype surrounding the Petraeus Report in Washington as a vindication for his own pro-war bullshit.

No wonder the warmongers think they can just go on doing whatever they like, when even Australia's most prominent blogger is afraid to speak truth to power.

I hope the money is worth it, Tim. Meanwhile, people in Iraq are still dying every day. Every dollar you earn from Rupert is stained with blood. Enjoy.

Wanker Of The Day Number Three

Phillip Bloody Ruddock:
Just when it seemed safe to be openly proud of Australia, the cultural cringers are at it again. This time we need to be ashamed of ourselves because Australia does not have a bill of rights.
His most damning criticism of Geoffrey Robertson is that he is "fresh off the plane". Well, I guess that's better than fresh off the boat, eh Phil?

Wanker Of The Day Number Two

Whoever paid for Miranda Devine to go to Baghdad so she could spew out even more pro-war crap. The SMH doesn't even rank this as an opinion piece!

Wanker Of The Day

Dennis Shanahan again. I mean, even Arthur Chrenkoff gave up on this "good news from Iraq" bullshit yonks ago, but here we have one of the nation's most widely-read political journalists spinning the Bush PR line as if his life depended on it.

The most offensive piece is this blog entry titled "Good news on Iraq to hit home". But Sham-I-Am also has two other high-profile articles, providing smothering biased coverage of the latest US propaganda, all saying pretty much the same thing: Kevin Rudd is going to be so-o-o-o embarrassed when all this great news about Iraq comes back to bite him in the bum.

I could go on, but I am working off a shitty laptop with a dodgy link today. So I will leave it to Tim "inside the tent" Dunlop to deliver the more detailed criticism of his News Ltd colleague.

UPDATE: Dunlop fails to deliver. Surprised? I shouldn't be.

29 Aug. 2007

Bush To Howard: Stuff APEC, I'm Busy Nuking Iran

Greg Sheridan is Rupert Murdoch's political point-man in Australia, so it would be foolish to brush off his suggestion that Bush might miss APEC as idle speculation. In fact, coupled with rumours of an impending strike on Iran and the looming media charade of the Petraeus report, I think this column from Sheridan is most likely a media softener for the coming announcement.

Speaking of Murdoch, only Teh Oz would start a story on the latest Lowy institute survey like this:
AUSTRALIANS hold the United States in high regard but...
By contrast, the leftwing radicals at the ABC headline the same story:
Bush turning Aussies off US: poll
As Darryl Mason suggests, if Bush misses APEC, Howard's polling team may not mind at all. But the man himself will be mightily miffed!

Bush's APEC absence might make a big difference to the Sydney traffic next week, but it would will be another massive blow to US influence in the Asia Pacific, a public slap in the face for Howard's subservience, and "something of a metaphor for the near future of Australia as we settle into our place in a rapidly changing world order".

UPDATE: The White House is denying that Bush has any plans not to come. But they would say that, wouldn't they? Meanwhile, Bush's obligation to deal with the Petraeus report just got lightened a little with the pre-emptive leak of a GAO report that is "strikingly negative".

Ominously, however, Cheney appears ever more determined to launch an attack on Iran no matter what. Juan Cole has published leaked details from "someone in one of the leading neo-conservative institutions" ...
They [the source's institution] have "instructions" (yes, that was the word used) from the Office of the Vice-President to roll out a campaign for war with Iran in the week after Labor Day; it will be coordinated with the American Enterprise Institute, the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard, Commentary, Fox, and the usual suspects. It will be heavy sustained assault on the airwaves, designed to knock public sentiment into a position from which a war can be maintained. Evidently they don't think they'll ever get majority support for this--they want something like 35-40 percent support, which in their book is "plenty."
More at Informed Comment.

Finally, Josh Marshall has a very enigmatic little post up today at TPM:
But even the President of the United States
Sometimes must have
To stand naked.
-- Bob Dylan
Something's up. Either Josh is pissed as a newt, celebrating his hard-earned defeat of Gonzales, or he knows something too. Interesting times...

What If They Developed A Weapon That Was Too Horrible To Use?

Apparently the military in Iraq is screaming out for Raytheon's heat gun but the Pentagon won't let them use it:
The main reason the tool has been missing in action is public perception. With memories of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal still fresh, the Pentagon is reluctant to give troops a space-age device that could be misconstrued as a torture machine.

"We want to just make sure that all the conditions are right, so when it is able to be deployed the system performs as predicted — that there isn't any negative fallout," said Col. Kirk Hymes, head of the Defense Department's Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate.

Reviews by military lawyers concluded it is a lawful weapon under current rules governing the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a Nov. 15 document prepared by Marine Corps officials in western Iraq.

Private organizations remain concerned, however, because documentation that supports the testing and legal reviews is classified. There's no way to independently verify the Pentagon's claims, said Stephen Goose of Human Rights Watch in Washington.
There are unconfirmed rumours that the heat gun can kill when set to max.

And cost also appears to be a major issue: any such weapon would be a major target of the insurgency, and at several million dollars per machine (they wont say exactly what it costs) that could blow a major hole in the budget. The Pentagon has spent $62 million developing and testing the system, which now looks like a waste of money - maybe they should bring it to APEC, where it's less likely to get damaged?

Miscellanea

Bob Brown was on Lateline last night. If I were him, I don't think I would be responding to all the speculative questions about what the Greens might do if they hold the balance in the Senate, because it becomes a damned-if-you-do and damned-if-you-don't situation in many hypothetical situations.

Geoffrey Robertson, an Australian QC based in the UK, calls for a Bill of Rights in both countries:
There is the connection, I suggest, between the slippage in Australia's world press freedom rating and the slippage in the influence of Australian judicial decisions, a slippage which could be reversed by our adoption of a bill of rights which requires for a presumption to be made in favour of freedom of expression.
A spokesman for the NGO National Seniors says elderly Australians want to help fix the environment:
"We believe that our generation have been very development-conscious and not conscious enough of what it did to the environment. We don't think that it's irreparably damaged but we believe that we should spend our time doing something to make it better than we found it and we'd like to do that in partnership with our grandchildren."
I don't suppose John Howard is a member. And I doubt his new granchild will be visible on our TV screens till after the election. Not that he's ashamed to be a grandparent or anything. It just reminds voters that he is nearly 70.

Wanker Of The Day

Whoever paid money to get this advertisement on my blog:

The advert links to this nineMSM story, in which Howard bizzarely claims that Rudd's decision not to meet with the Exclusive Brethren is proof that Rudd has done a deal with the Greens:
"The Greens have made it clear that they really have this mob in their gunsights, and they've put the heat on Mr Rudd not to see them."
And yet, as the story also notes:
Australian Federal Police (AFP) are investigating spending before the 2004 election of $370,000 on pro-Liberal and anti-Greens advertising by Willmac Enterprises, a company with links to the Exclusive Brethren.
So actually it's the Brethren who are going after the Greens, not vice versa. And Howard, of course, is supporting them. And somebody is paying money to help spread the smear campaign and muddy the waters. Who? Why?

The Tao Of Howard

With apologies to Lao Tse:
One


The lie that can be told is not the eternal Lie.
The policy that can be named is not the eternal Policy.
Fascism is the core of Conservativism and Capitalism.
The non-core promise is the mother of the election cycle.
Even media insiders can see the mystery.
Even business leaders see the manifestations.
These two spring from the same source but differ in name; the public remains in the dark.
Darkness within darkness.
The key to all horror.


Two


In Canberra all can see Labor as left-wing only because there is Liberal.
All can think Rudd is good only because there is Howard.

Therefore Liberal and Labor arise together.
Howard and Costello complement each other.
Garrett and Turnbull contrast each other:
Downer and Hockey rest upon their fat butts;
Ruddock and Andrews harmonize with each other;
Australia and the UK follow Teh USA.

Therefore thepotential protester goes about doing nothing, reduced to silence.
Election cycles rise and fall without cease,
Creating expectations, yet not delivering.
Those who do the work do not get the credit.
Their work is done, then forgotten.
The Stockmarket rises forever.


Three


Not promoting the gifted prevents leadership speculation.
Non-core promises prevent accountability.
Not promising desirable things prevents trouble with the budget.

Howard therefore rules by emptying hearts and stuffing bellies, by weakening ambitions and strengthening the military.
If journalists lack knowledge and desire, then whistle-blowers will not try to interfere.
If nothing is done, then all will be well.


Four


The Lie is an empty promise; it is proferred, but never fulfilled.
Oh, unfathomable source of the election cycle!
Curtail the investigation,
Fly the kite,
Blow the dog whistle,
Muddy the waters.
Oh, hidden deep but ever present Lie!
Voters do not know from whom it comes.
It is the plaything of the political gods.


Five


Washington and London are impartial;
They see the Australian election cycle as a puppet theatre.
Media moguls are never impartial;
They see the people as malleable fools.

The space between Good and Evil is like a farce.
The policy changes but not the result;
The more lips move, the more truth yields.
Good words count for nothing.
Hold fast to the right wing.


Six


The Green spirit never dies;
It is a constant, primal wail.
Bob Brown is a pain in the arse.
The Greens are like a promise barely countenanced.
Ignore them; they will never hold power.


Seven


Liberal and Labor last forever.
Why do Howard and Costello last forever?
They are never advised,
So ever unaccountable.
Howard stays uninformed, thus he is out of jail.
He is heartless, thus at one with the mob.
Through selfish inaction, he retains the Lodge.


Eight


The best lie is like a good Pinot Gris.
Promises give life to the election cycle and do not survive.
They disappear in the hangover of a Friday afternoon and so are like the Canberra press gallery.

On camera, be close to the lens.
On talkback radio, seek the heart of darkness.
In handling babies, be gentle and kind.
In Washington, be supine.
In Parliament, be wilfully misleading.
In Kirribilli House, be recklessly self-indulgent.
In going to war, be unaware of dissenting opinions.

Never back down: Never accept blame.


Nine


Better to be short than fat like Costello.
Polish the glasses, the eyebrows are looking more like Menzies' every day.
Amass a portfolio of stocks and bonds, Janet can protect it.
Claim wealth and titles for yourself, disaster will follow for others.
Never retire.
This is the way of Howard.

28 Aug. 2007

In A Sane World..

We wouldn't need cartoons like this to cheer us up.

How Do You Define "Win"?

More and more people are suggesting that Iran must be involved in any longterm solution to the Iraq quagmire. But Bush has a cunning plan:
"The most important and immediate way to counter the ambitions of al-Qaeda and Iran and other forces of instability and terror is to win the fight in Iraq," Bush said.
But Bush's idea of "winning" is all about crushing the will of the Iraqi people, stealing their oil, and then imposing US hegemony on the neighbours. Mission accomplished!

A former CIA analyst has a better idea:
"Let's say it bluntly. War with Iran is inevitable before January 2009 unless Bush and Cheney are both impeached first."

Wanker Of The Day

Tony Abbott:
Public hospital problems are the result of bad management, not that orders come from Sydney rather than Canberra.
Oh yeah? So it really doesn't matter whether the States or the Federal government runs our hospitals? So, ummm... what's all the fuss about?
Only someone who's never had to manage a public hospital could believe there are easy ways to reduce waiting lists and only a credulous public could think that announcing you'll fix a problem is the same as doing it.
Well, I've never had to manage a public hospital, Tony, but it seems pretty obvious to me that you could make rapid improvements by building more hospitals, renovating old ones, employing more doctors and nurses, investing in the right technology to speed up diagnoses and treatment, stuff like that.

But instead of spending public money on things like that, Howard's gang have been hiding it under their bed so that they can gloat about a massive surplus (then throw it all to their media friends in the form of election advertising).

God help this country if we ever have a real BIG national emergency, involving widespread death and injury, because we just don't have a hope in hell of dealing with it.

War On Aborigines: All Of Your Assets Are Belong Me

Crikey has a scoop:
Organisational assets above the value of $400,000 are to be compulsorily acquired by Indigenous Business Australia (IBA) and transferred to a new entity, the Indigenous Economic Development Trust (IEDT), and then rented back at commercial rates to the same organisations from which the asset has been taken from.

In some cases this will make those organisations commercially unviable, leading to financial collapse and loss of Aboriginal jobs. Every reason for Aboriginal organisations for acquiring property as part of engaging with capitalism has been thrown out in favour of a centrally controlled government bureaucracy.

Pure Sleaze

Maybe you know that Iyad Allawi, former CIA terrorist asset and BushCo's #1 pick for the Iraqi PM job, is trying to topple the Al-Maliki government and re-install himself as a pro-US "strong man" in Baghdad. And maybe you know that he has hired a team of US lobbyists to support his move.

But did you know that:

(a) The lobbying firm, Barbour Griffith & Rogers, is owned by Philip Zelikow?

b) The $300,000 fee paid to the lobbyists appears to have come from Hazem Shaalan, Allawi's former defense minister, who is currently fighting charges that he stole $1 billion from the Iraqi defense budget.

More at Antony Loewenstein.

What's My Problem?

There is something deeply wrong with me. I know this because I am different from others in Teh Borg. Unlike them, I suffer daily depression and anxiety at the state of my country, my government, my world.

The Iraq War is only the most telling example of this. For some strange reason, I cannot disassociate my own life from the misery being inflicted (in my name, by my government, with my taxes) upon millions of people on the far side of the planet.

Others around me have moved on. They make real estate deals. They go shopping. They plan to vote on other issues, closer to home, more pertinent to their own vaunted ambitions. I alone am disconsolate, perplexed, dismayed. Lost.

Or at least, that's how it sometimes feels.

Of course, I am not alone. There are many of us, scattered across Teh Borg. If you search, you will find us. If you listen carefully, you will hear our plaintive cries:
There are facts. Not just practical assumptions essential to daily life, but facts. They exist... There are truths about the nature of matter, or consciousness. There is a tree in the forest, even unwatched.
We are drops of blood, seeping from the still-open wound. We are evidence of injury, but also testimony of life.

We will not be silenced.

27 Aug. 2007

Is It Time To Get Angry Yet?

You're damn right it is. Even Bush's top international stooges are now acknowledging that the Middle East, if not the world, is totally FUBAR:
"Europe was just as dysfunctional [as the Middle East] for a while. And some of its wars became world wars. Now the problems of the Middle East and Islamic civilization have the same potential to engulf the world.
- Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
No, Khalilzad is not proferring his resignation for his part on the clusterfuck.

Rolling Stone magazine gets suitably steamed as it documents The Great Iraq Swindle:
Operation Iraqi Freedom, it turns out, was never a war against Saddam ­Hussein's Iraq. It was an invasion of the federal budget, and no occupying force in history has ever been this efficient. George W. Bush's war in the Mesopotamian desert was an experiment of sorts, a crude first take at his vision of a fully privatized American government. In Iraq the lines between essential government services and for-profit enterprises have been blurred to the point of absurdity -- to the point where wounded soldiers have to pay retail prices for fresh underwear, where modern-day chattel are imported from the Third World at slave wages to peel the potatoes we once assigned to grunts in KP, where private companies are guaranteed huge profits no matter how badly they fuck things up.

And just maybe, reviewing this appalling history of invoicing orgies and million-dollar boondoggles, it's not so far-fetched to think that this is the way someone up there would like things run all over -- not just in Iraq but in Iowa, too, with the state police working for Corrections Corporation of America, and DHL with the contract to deliver every Christmas card. And why not? What the Bush administration has created in Iraq is a sort of paradise of perverted capitalism, where revenues are forcibly extracted from the customer by the state, and obscene profits are handed out not by the market but by an unaccountable government bureauc­racy. This is the triumphant culmination of two centuries of flawed white-people thinking, a preposterous mix of authoritarian socialism and laissez-faire profit­eering, with all the worst aspects of both ideologies rolled up into one pointless, supremely idiotic military adventure -- American men and women dying by the thousands, so that Karl Marx and Adam Smith can blow each other in a Middle Eastern glory hole...

According to the most reliable ­estimates, we have doled out more than $500 billion for the war, as well as $44 billion for the Iraqi reconstruction effort. And what did America's contractors give us for that money? They built big steaming shit piles, set brand-new trucks on fire, drove back and forth across the desert for no reason at all and dumped bags of nails in ditches. For the most part, nobody at home cared, because war on some level is always a waste. But what happened in Iraq went beyond inefficiency, beyond fraud even. This was about the business of government being corrupted by the profit motive to such an extraordinary degree that now we all have to wonder how we will ever be able to depend on the state to do its job in the future.
Thanks to one of Australia's most under-rated bloggers, Antony Lowenestein for that link.

How did it come to this? Here's a clue:
"I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because some people out there in our nation don't have maps, and I believe that our education like such as South Africa and the Iraq everywhere like such as, and I believe that they should... our education over here in the U.S should help the U.S or should help South Africa and should help the Iraq and the Asian countries so we will be able to build up our future."
-- Miss South Carolina, when asked why so many Americans can't find their own country on a map.
Now put that kind of stupidity into practice on the battlefield of nations you know nothing about:
THE US military in Afghanistan has expressed regret over a campaign aimed at winning hearts and minds but which offended scores of Muslims when it dropped dozens of soccer balls bearing the name of Allah and the prophet Mohammed from helicopters.

The idea of kicking something bearing their names is considered deeply offensive to Muslims.

"This ball ... carries a message with it which, like an atom bomb, can cause carnage and insecurity in all parts of Afghanistan,'' a leading Afghan newspaper, Cheragh, said today.

Hypocrite Of The Day

Geoffrey Cousins:
"We're not campaigning against Malcolm Turnbull. He's our only hope!"
Somewhere in a back room, a deal has been done.

Wanker Of The Day

The whole purpose of Kevin Bloody Andrews' new citizenship test is to provoke a huge (wedge issue) debate on Muslim immigration. Today Gerard Henderson catapults the propaganda with a host of straw man arguments. For example:
There will also be criticism that the test is aimed at Muslims. This is not the case since an examination, by definition, is neutral as to outcomes.
Eh? Where is the logic in that? It doesn't matter. This article is not about logic, it's about disseminating anti-Muslim fear.

Having firmly established that this new test is NOT ABOUT MUSLIMS, Hendo then cites the London 2005 terrorist bombings and a host of other things this test is NOT about:
Writing in the spring 2005 issue of the National Observer magazine, former senior public servant and one-time National Party senator John Stone called for the virtual "halting" of the "Muslim immigrant inflow". In Quadrant last September, he referred to the "Islamic cancer in our body politic". Pauline Hanson is planning to run for the Senate in Queensland for Pauline Hanson's United Australia Party. Her sole policy appears to be a moratorium on Muslim immigration. Fred Nile, leader of the Christian Democrats in NSW, has advocated the same cause.
The Syrian-born Sunni Muslim Dr Wafa Sultan has recently completed a visit to Australia, jointly sponsored by some Christian and Jewish groups. In response to questions, she has advocated the end of Muslim immigration to Western democracies - believing that the practitioners of her former faith want to destroy Western civilisation.
Then he reminds us that Indonesia "happens to have the largest Muslim population in the world" but of course "Australia cannot say that immigrants are welcome, except for followers of Islam". Well, of course not! Ha ha! Who would even THINK such a thing? I mean "many Muslims have become fine residents and citizens". M'kay?

Don't think of an elephant.

Alberto Gonzales Just Resigned

Wow. I really thought he was going to just hang in there forever. NYT says he is gone:
Mr. Gonzales, who had rebuffed calls for his resignation, submitted his to President Bush by telephone on Friday, the official said. His decision was not announced immediately announced, the official added, until after the president invited him and his wife to lunch at his ranch near here.

Mr. Bush has not yet chosen a replacement but will not leave the position open long, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the resignation had not yet been made public...

The official who disclosed the resignation today said that the decision was Mr. Gonzales’s and that the president accepted it grudgingly.
Bush is f--ked.

News via Josh Marshall, who deserves much of the credit for this.

Making All His Nowhere Plans

You wouldn't know it from reading the APEC-focussed Aussie newspapers, but delegates from more than 150 countries are currently meeting in Vienna to discuss ways to widen and extend the United Nations Kyoto protocol on climate change.
The Vienna talks are seen as a key step towards preparing for the UN climate summit, due in Bali in December.

The United Nations' senior climate change official Yvo de Boer says the talks in Vienna will give an indication as to whether countries are willing to move forward towards launching real negotiating on taking forward the Kyoto protocol after it expires in 2012.

That decision is expected to take place in Bali at the end of the year.
Whatever climate change deals Howard wants to announce for APEC next month will necessarily need to fit into that framework - that's the real game, right there, and Howard's APEC meet is just a sideshow.

Meanwhile, the ASEAN nations have just agreed a preliminary free trade pact with Japan. They also made a deal to improve the quality of cheap goods out of China, following the toy paint scare.

Where is Howard's Australia in all this? Nowhere.

26 Aug. 2007

Howard's End: Time To Pull The Plug?

Even a massive budget surplus cannot lift Howard's standing in the polls (voters decided it was proof that we have been over-taxed for a decade). And even Galaxy polling cannot turn endless spin into good numbers for the PM:
The Galaxy poll published in News Limited newspapers today shows the Federal Coalition's primary vote has fallen by a further three points to 39 per cent...

And despite Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd's prediction that revelations of his visit to a strip joint four years ago would damage him in the polls, 85 per cent thought the incident showed he was "a normal bloke".
Even the attack dogs in MurdochWorld are smelling the PM's fear and folding their cards:
For months the PM has been warning there’s unlikely to be any favourable shift in the polls until he calls the election, but by then the Coalition is likely to be so far behind Labor it won’t matter.
Personally, and despite the urging of several prominent Oz bloggers, I cannot help concluding that Howard's end is indeed nigh.

It's now obvious that nobody in the Conga Line is going to challenge him before the election, so what we are seeing is lots of clever Liberal faction positioning for the post-election fracas. For example, Mal Turnbull's half-assed visit to the Gold Coast last week was co-ordinated by local devotee Steven Ciobo, who is aligned with George Brandis, a key player in the "lying rodent" scandal some years back. These people are NOT Howard-lovers. Former NSW Liberal Party president Bill Heffernan seems to be on board with this boatload of Canberra wannabes.

Then there's the Iraq War, which is going nowhere in a hurry for Howard. If there is a single reason why Howard has delayed announcing an election date so long, this is it. But the much-anticipated turnaround from the much-hyped "surge" remains nothing but a neoconservative "invent-your-own-reality" illusion. Did Howard really expect anything better? Is he being advised by Arthur Chrenkoff?

Rod at Cross-wire today had a link to an increasingly typical story with the title Is This Howard’s End?:
Petty get-even politics aside, the Iraq tragedy raises the very important issue of excessive alliance loyalty, if not dysfunctional geopolitical co-dependence. Sure, President Bush had put it on the line when the unwise decision to invade was made. ‘You are either with me or against me,’ was the un-nice way he put it. And, as if in response to the snap of the President’s fingers, three Prime Ministers were in short order at Bush’s feet: Blair of Great Britain, Koizumi of Japan and, of course, Howard of Australia.

Each calculated that it was in their country’s national interest to leap at their master’s command. But with the benefit of hindsight (which admittedly always does put tough issues into perfect focus), we can now ask the question: was it in America’s interests to have allied leaders who were such yes-men? Might not it have been better for the United States to have had friends courageous enough to challenge the Administration’s thinking, instead of pimping it to their domestic publics and around the world?
Well, d'uh. But I do get tired of this "benefit of hindsight" meme - it is not JUST hindsight, but also the steady disclosure over the past four years of a heckuva lot of pertinent information from Washington, London and Canberra, all emphasizing how "intelligence" was cherry-picked to support a pre-determined decision to invade Iraq. You can't blame "hindsight" for that - it was willful, calculated, intentional misleading of the public, not to mention the UN!

That is a War Crime.

IMHO, Australians are not just tired of John Howard, the man. We are tired of having a War Criminal for a PM. We are tired of the lies, the web of deceit that has been spun wider and wider, till it threatens to overwhelm our society. Some of us are tired of our own complicity in this horror, others are just tired of the story itself, which plays on and on and on ad infinitum. We are tired of the guilt and the horror. We don't want to think about it any more.

So while Howard daily shrieks his primal political Death Scream across the nation's TV screens, radio waves and newspaper front pages, Australians are sticking their fingers in their ears, closing their eyes and whispering quietly, "Please, make it stop."

ABC Online has an interesting blog post today from a jaded journo on the Israel beat:
The consensus of a group of Israeli journalists I spoke to was that Israelis are sick and tired of their own conflict. They want to forget about it. Have a beer while watching the surf roll in.

The syndrome reached its height one day last week when Israel's leading current affairs radio program opened with the hosts declaring - dumbfounded - that there was no news to report from Israel.
It's funny, isn't it? For years the plaintive cries of the anti-war crowd in Australia have been met with a collective yawn from the "relaxed and comfortable" populace-at-large. Now, that same populace is yawning at Howard's demise.

It's like one of those science fiction movies where the evil alien leader meets his fate, dwindling away into nothingness with a plaintive cry:
No! Stop! Wait! You need me! A great evil is coming! Only I can protect you! Listen to me, I command you! I can help you! Aaarggh! Help! How could you do this to me? No! Save me from the pits of (gasp!) oblivion - ! Aaaa--aaa---aaa--aaarggh!!!

Will We Ever Know The 'Truth' about 9/11?

Even the UK Independent's esteemed Robert Fisk is asking questions:
I am increasingly troubled at the inconsistencies in the official narrative of 9/11. It's not just the obvious non sequiturs: where are the aircraft parts (engines, etc) from the attack on the Pentagon? Why have the officials involved in the United 93 flight (which crashed in Pennsylvania) been muzzled? Why did flight 93's debris spread over miles when it was supposed to have crashed in one piece in a field? Again, I'm not talking about the crazed "research" of David Icke's Alice in Wonderland and the World Trade Center Disaster – which should send any sane man back to reading the telephone directory.

I am talking about scientific issues. If it is true, for example, that kerosene burns at 820C under optimum conditions, how come the steel beams of the twin towers – whose melting point is supposed to be about 1,480C – would snap through at the same time? (They collapsed in 8.1 and 10 seconds.) What about the third tower – the so-called World Trade Centre Building 7 (or the Salmon Brothers Building) – which collapsed in 6.6 seconds in its own footprint at 5.20pm on 11 September? Why did it so neatly fall to the ground when no aircraft had hit it? The American National Institute of Standards and Technology was instructed to analyse the cause of the destruction of all three buildings. They have not yet reported on WTC 7. Two prominent American professors of mechanical engineering – very definitely not in the "raver" bracket – are now legally challenging the terms of reference of this final report on the grounds that it could be "fraudulent or deceptive".

Journalistically, there were many odd things about 9/11. Initial reports of reporters that they heard "explosions" in the towers – which could well have been the beams cracking – are easy to dismiss. Less so the report that the body of a female air crew member was found in a Manhattan street with her hands bound. OK, so let's claim that was just hearsay reporting at the time, just as the CIA's list of Arab suicide-hijackers, which included three men who were – and still are – very much alive and living in the Middle East, was an initial intelligence error.

But what about the weird letter allegedly written by Mohamed Atta, the Egyptian hijacker-murderer with the spooky face, whose "Islamic" advice to his gruesome comrades – released by the CIA – mystified every Muslim friend I know in the Middle East? Atta mentioned his family – which no Muslim, however ill-taught, would be likely to include in such a prayer. He reminds his comrades-in-murder to say the first Muslim prayer of the day and then goes on to quote from it. But no Muslim would need such a reminder – let alone expect the text of the "Fajr" prayer to be included in Atta's letter.

Let me repeat. I am not a conspiracy theorist. Spare me the ravers. Spare me the plots. But like everyone else, I would like to know the full story of 9/11, not least because it was the trigger for the whole lunatic, meretricious "war on terror" which has led us to disaster in Iraq and Afghanistan and in much of the Middle East.

Who The [John Howard] Is Barry Hing?

Apparently being "a Sydney writer" is enough to get you an Op-Ed in the Murdoch press these days, as long as you are pro-Bush:
America's supporters need to highlight more the here-and-now achievements of the world's greatest democracy and secondly, as a corollary, what would happen if US power were truly constrained. Many of those who criticise the US so bitterly often fail to see that they share its charitable goals and could do with reminders of the generosity of America as well as the stinginess or impotence of other supposedly well-meaning nations.
For an example of US generosity and charitable goals, click here. They were pretty generous to Saddam back in the day too, as I remember, and even Osama Bin Laden is a former recipient of US support.

So who the [John Howard] is Barry Hing? Well, back in September 26, 2005 Barry Hing had a pro-US, anti-SBS piece in Teh Oz:
[W]hy does the emphasis have to be overwhelmingly negative towards the US?

One of the key features of SBS's documentary programming this year is the general opposition to US arguments on Iraq and the absence of a more even-handed approach. If SBS Independent can commission documentaries condemning the US, surely it can also look into other, but still critical, viewpoints.

Possible themes could include the full extent of human rights abuses under Saddam Hussein's regime, details of which are now emerging; improvements that are taking place under the Coalition; and the fact that significant numbers of Iraqis support the moves towards democracy.
At the time of that article, Barista suggested that Barry Hing "seems to be a formerly famous finance journalist". He returned from working in Asia in 2001 with an article championing John Howard's enlightened foreign policy (despite the boat people scandals). He now seems to make a regular income writing pro-US crap for Teh Oz and other rightwing publications like the WSJ. He has also been published in a magazine called The Diplomat (a pro-Thaksin piece), and in an Argus Media (formerly Petroleum Argus Ltd) report on global warming. See, now that's professional writing right there.

Wanker Of The Day

Paul Sheehan:
SBS is more valuable dead than alive.

The Special Broadcasting Service Act should be repealed, the corporation dismantled and sold and its valuable broadcasting spectrum auctioned off. SBS has outlived its charter, and the charter has always been of dubious social utility. (I quote, in part: "As far as practicable, inform, educate and entertain Australians in their preferred languages.")

Australia has moved on.
Sheehan says the government could make a fortune selling the digital spectrem out from under SBS. He encourages readers to switch to Murdoch's FOXtel for their news.

Let's ignore for a moment the fact that you have to PAY MURDOCH to get Foxtel, whereas SBS was always supposed to be a freely-available taxpayer-funded (advertisement free) public service.

The fact is that SBS has been the conscience of Australia television journalism for the past ten years, while the ABC has been relentlessly shackled. That's what Kostakidis is really fighting for, and SBS news viewers know it damn well.

Last night I found my 65-year-old mum sitting in front of a dark TV screen.

"I'm boycotting the World News," she explained.

"What's the point, unless some market researcher rings you to ask about it?"

"Well, it doesn't matter. I'm just so upset."

Sheehan quotes poor viewer ratings and says even the term "ethnic" is now "laughably outdated". You can thank John Howard and his racist nazis for that, Paul. I remember when Australia was proud to be a multicultural society, a melting pot for East and West, a global frontier for the ideals of racial harmony. It seems such a long time ago.

23 Aug. 2007

Selflessness

Fascinating:
Dr. Henrik Ehrsson of University College London's Institute of Neurology and the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, explained that he was interested in a person's perception of the "self."

"I'm interested in the question of why I feel that my self is located inside my physical body. How does my brain know that I am standing right here," he said.

And what would happen to the self if a person could effectively move their eyes to another part of the room and observe themselves from an outside perspective? Would the self move with the eyes, or stay in the body, he wondered.

So seated volunteers were fitted with head-mounted video displays that allowed them to view themselves from behind, using a pair of video cameras, one for each eye.

A researcher would stand behind them and extend a plastic rod which they could see toward the area just below the cameras. At the same time another plastic rod, which they could not see, touched their chest.

The volunteers said they experienced the feeling of being behind their own body watching. Many found it "weird" and seemingly real, though not scary.

They felt "that their center of awareness 'self' is located outside their physical bodies and that they look at their bodies from the perspective of another person," he reported.

"The idea is to change the visual input and its relationship to the tactile information," he said. "The brain is always trying to interpret sensory information. The brain can trick itself."
In totally unrelated news, John "Wars 'R US" Howard wants you to know that he has never been to a strip club.

They Write Letters: Howard and Bush, Greene And Camus

"This is the patent age of new inventions
For killing bodies, and for saving souls
All propagated with the best intentions."
- Graham Greene, The Quiet American.
To the Canberra Times:
At the next election we will confirm to ourselves and the world what we stand for. By voting for Liberals we will be saying we continue to support dishonesty, evasiveness, oppression, inequality, elitism, poverty, heartlessness and aggression. We will be admitting that 30 pieces of silver are more important than moral integrity.

I am ashamed at present to be an Australian, because I believe the actions of this Government reflect the ideals of the people.

Labor may not turn out to be any better than the Liberals, but by handing power to them we will at least be saying we reject the current immoral state of affairs and are looking for something nobler and finer.

Please, however hard your financial situation may be, don't sell yourself short. Listen to your heart and vote against the wrong things, because bad things happen when good people do nothing.

Paul House, Kaleen
There were also a few interesting letters to E&P in response to Greg Mitchell's outrage at Bush quoting his favorite 20th century novel and its author – Graham Greene’s prescient "The Quiet American". Here's the quote from Bush:
“In 1955, long before the United States had entered the war, Graham Greene wrote a novel called ‘The Quiet American.’ It was set in Saigon and the main character was a young government agent named Alden Pyle. He was a symbol of American purpose and patriotism and dangerous naivete. Another character describes Alden this way: ‘I never knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused.’

“After America entered the Vietnam War, Graham Greene -- the Graham Greene argument gathered some steam. Matter of fact, many argued that if we pulled out, there would be no consequences for the Vietnamese people. In 1972, one anti-war senator put it this way: ‘What earthly difference does it make to nomadic tribes or uneducated subsistence farmers in Vietnam or Cambodia or Laos whether they have a military dictator, a royal prince or a socialist commissar in some distant capital that they've never seen and may never heard of?'"
An E&P reader pulls together the rest of that quote from William Fulbright's "The Crippled Giant":
"Nor does it matter all that terribly to the inhabitants. At the risk of being accused of every sin from racism to communism, I stress the irrelevance of ideology to poor, peasant populations. Someday, perhaps, it will matter, in what one hopes will be a constructive and utilitarian way. But in the meantime, what earthly difference does it make to nomadic tribes or uneducated subsistence farmers, in Vietnam or Cambodia or Laos, whether they have a military dictator, a royal prince or a socialist commissar in some distant capital that they have never seen and may never even have heard of?

"At their current stage of undevelopment these populations have more basic requirements. They need governments which will provide medical services, education, birth control programs, fertilizer, high-yield seeds and instruction in how to use them. They need governments which are honest enough to refrain from robbing and exploiting them, purposeful enough to want to modernize their societies, and efficient enough to have some ideas about how to do it. Whether such governments are capitalist or socialist can be of little interest to the people involved, or to anyone except their incumbent rulers, whose perquisites are at stake, and their great-power mentors, fretting in their distant capitals about ideology and "spheres of interest."
This whole farce reminds me of my own outrage at Bush quoting Albert Camus' "L'Etranger", my own favourite novel. The post I wrote at Bush Out was one of my most widely read posts ever.

Stormy Weather

"I'm here for the kids, I'm here to talk to the kids." - Malcolm Turnbull, yesterday.
Well, in the midst of the longest drought in SE QLD history, we are now being walloped by massive storms:
Jonty Hall from the weather bureau says the rainfall figures are unseasonal.

"These are incredible totals, especially for the month of August," she said.
At least we can all sleep tight in the knowledge that our government is doing everything possible to counter the problem of global warming, right? Errr....
This week, Downer wrote in Fairfax newspapers: "Climate change demands an effective and enduring global response. The Kyoto Protocol is not it ... Kyoto covers barely a third of global emissions. Kyoto demands nothing of big developing economies in our region."

But de Boer, a Dutch citizen, said Kyoto has been ratified by 175 nations accounting for more than 70 per cent of global emissions, including Asian developing nations such as China, India and Indonesia.
Climate change is supposedly going to be the focal point of the upcoming APEC meeting, which makes one suppose that Howard has some big agreement up his sleeve. But whatever he announces now will be no excuse for not having signed up to Kyoto years ago. Rather than admitting they were wrong on Kyoto, Howard and Bush keep coming up with new options that amount to the same thing, or much less. Like the whole GWOT crapola, it would be laughable if it were not such a serious problem.

Here's just one small, local example of how deeply cynical our PR-driven politicians are:
PRIMARY school children became political footballs yesterday when the Queensland Government banned media from covering federal Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull's visit to a Gold Coast school.

Mr Turnbull labelled the ban "a disgrace", and "blatantly political ... censorship" after the Surfers Paradise State School, acting on the orders of State Education Minister Rod Welford, posted a guard at the school gate to stop media entering.

Mr Welford hit back, accusing Mr Turnbull of trying to use the school for "cheap political purposes".

Mr Turnbull went to the school with Gold Coast Liberal MP Steven Ciobo to present one of the Federal Government's $50,000 green vouchers to help buy water tanks and solar power systems, and to talk to students about climate change.
Turnbull, who only advised the school of his visit on Wednesday afternoon, insisted he was just there to talk to the kids. If that's so, why did he make such a fuss about the media being barred from entry? The kids of Australia deserve much better - it's their future, after all, that we are talking about here.

Turkeys

Gotta love your regular dose of Paul Keating:
KERRY O'BRIEN: But why aren't the major leaders seeing this, if it's such a compelling argument?

PAUL KEATING: In the end they're turkeys Kerry, they won't take the big issues on.
If you missed the interview, a rather frail-looking Keating had some interesting things to say about APEC's role as a security broker in the Asia-Pacific region. I particularly welcomed his comment that there have been no grand ideas in international politics since the creation of the European Union. Like I often say, we, the people of this post-Cold War world, are crying out for some idealism.

In related news(???), China has banned Buddhist monks in Tibet from reincarnation without government permission. No, really.

Homophobic Religious Extremists For Howard

Damn. The Poll Bludger has "inside dope" on Turnbull, but his site is down. I can't help wondering if it's related to this little out-of-nowhere snippet from SMH today:
Mr Cousins's campaign against Mr Turnbull comes amid growing calls by the sizeable gay community in the minister's eastern suburbs electorate for the Government to extend equal legal and financial rights to same-sex couples. Mr Turnbull is pushing to have the law changed but cabinet shelved a decision when it met on Tuesday.

Labor has promised to end the legislative discrimination, which exists in 58 areas of law, if elected.
Is that what all this is about? I was trying to work out what Cousin's motivation is here - could it be pure homophobia?

In other news today, we learn that staff from the PM's office and Dept Defence have been making massive edits to Wikipedia, including adding sentences such as "Freemasonry is the work of Satan", "Mormonism is the work of Satan" and "Jesus is god".

Could it be that Cousin's Turnbull-bashing is just another manifestation of this sadly outdated mindset?

UPDATE: Labour polling shows Turnbull is likely to lost his seat. The Libs have now doubled the number of seats considered "marginal". Howard is going to have to find some more fish.

UPDATE: The Tassie mill issue gets international attention, with the UK Independent noting that Tasmania is "regarded as the birthplace of the global environmental movement ". Turnbull is now backing down, saying he has only given draft approval to the mill. It seems likely that a compromise will be reached by moving the mill to another location:
"We've always suspected that the only real reason they (Gunns) opted for the Tamar was that it was $60million cheaper," Senator [Bob] Brown said.

22 Aug. 2007

Where Do Wingnuts Come From?

Does this sound familiar?
"It strikes me as profoundly dangerous actually to encourage children to defer more or less uncritically to some external authority. They will do the right thing, if you tell them to do it, but tell them to do something else and they'll do that instead. They've got no moral compass of their own, they're entirely dependent on the direction they're given from some outside source, and I think that's dangerous."

The Last Excuse Dies In Iraq

Why did we invade Iraq? First it was WMDs, then links to terrorists, then, belatedly, it was all about "spreading democracy".

Now that final rationale for the war has collapsed.

US war leaders say their best option now is to establish a non-democratic government which can provide security to the Iraqi people. Kinda like, um... Saddam Hussein?

Iraq Withdrawal Symptoms

Bush's latest analogy with Vietnam is deliberately misleading:
"Whatever your position in that debate, one unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America's withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens, whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like 'boat people,' 're-education camps' and 'killing fields,' " the president said...

Bush said withdrawing from Vietnam emboldened today's terrorists by compromising U.S. credibility, citing a quote from al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden that the American people would rise against the Iraq war the same way they rose against the war in Vietnam.

"Here at home, some can argue our withdrawal from Vietnam carried no price to American credibility, but the terrorists see things differently," Bush said.
You see, it wasn't invading Vietnam which caused all the trouble, it was withdrawing.

Unfortunately, this is a myth which pervades large parts of the USA. We were winning in 'Nam, say the rednecks, until them durned hippies back home threw in the flag. It sounds completely stupid from an outsiders perspective, but it live on in Iraq:
House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio said more Democrats are "bucking their party leaders" in acknowledging progress in Iraq.

"Many rank-and-file Democrats have seen this progress firsthand and are now acknowledging the successes of a strategy they've repeatedly opposed," Boehner said in a statement. "But Democratic leaders, deeply invested in losing the war, would rather move the goalposts and claim that a precipitous withdrawal is the right approach despite the overwhelming evidence of significant progress."
Al Maliki's government has already collapsed in a functional sense, the Brits are about to be chased out of Basra, US soldier suicides are at an all-time high, while morale is at an all-time low... But you can bet your sweet potatoes that John Howard will be pushing the crazy "we're winning" propaganda every inch of the way.

UPDATE: Tomorrow's big story is that the USA is now prepared to give up all pretence of democracy in Iraq:
Nightmarish political realities in Baghdad are prompting American officials to curb their vision for democracy in Iraq. Instead, the officials now say they are willing to settle for a government that functions and can bring security.

A workable democratic and sovereign government in Iraq was one of the Bush administration's stated goals of the war.

But for the first time, exasperated front-line U.S. generals talk openly of non-democratic governmental alternatives, and while the two top U.S. officials in Iraq still talk about preserving the country's nascent democratic institutions, they say their ambitions aren't as "lofty" as they once had been.

"Democratic institutions are not necessarily the way ahead in the long-term future," said Brig. Gen. John "Mick" Bednarek, part of Task Force Lightning in Diyala province, one of the war's major battlegrounds.
More here.

War On The States: Rudd Steals Howard's Thunder

Like I said last week, anyone who really wants to see major changes in relationship between Federal and State governments should probably vote Labor. Today Kev Rudd announced a hospital takeover plan which is sure to be a vote-winner.

Hindsight

Luke Ryland responds to the release of the CIA/911 Inspector General's report, saying we finally have objective, factual, specific evidence that there was a post-911 cover-up:
To take one example, in April 2001, a highly credible asset told the FBI that:

1) Osama bin Laden was planning a major terrorist attack in the United States targeting four or five major cities;
2) the attack was going to involve airplanes;
3) some of the individuals in charge of carrying out this attack were already in place in the United States;
4) the attack was going to be carried out soon, in a few months.

That information did not appear in the 911 Commission report. At all.
Conclusion:
We can't investigate the actual people behind the people behind 911 because we are making too much money off those relationships. We have to strip you of your civil liberties to protect you from terrorism, but we'll ignore 80% of the causes of terrorism because our wallets, and campaign contributions, depend on it.

Is Malcolm Turnbull Planning A Coup?

There's a lot more to this Turnbull-Cousins pulp mill stoush than meets the eye. The future leadership of the Liberal Party appears to be at stake.

To recap: Environment Minister Turnbull has given the go-ahead to the controversial Gunns Ltd mill, saying it will meet environmental standards. Geoffrey Cousins, a former CEO of Optus Vision and long-time friend of PM John Howard, has loudly criticized the decision, provoking a highly personalized media catfight with Turnbull.

Cousins and a group of fellow businessmen are even running full-page ads in Murdoch papers to attack Turnbull's decision. Revealingly, the ads wont be run down in Tasmania, where the mill is to be built, but in Turnbull's own (now marginal) Sydney electorate. What does that tell you?

I have been trying to find out what Cousins' interest is in opposing the mill - is he a shareholder in an opposing operation, for example? But there seems to be no obvious self-interest here. So I can see only two explanations:

A) Cousins is genuinely opposed to the mill on environmental grounds (yeah, right), or

B) Cousins is operating as a proxy for the PM.

Howard's lack of support for his minister is telling:
"My view is Mr Turnbull is an excellent minister and Mr Cousins is an excellent bloke and director of Telstra," Mr Howard said. "I don't have anything further to say."
Howard could probably silence Cousins with one word, if he wanted to. Instead, he is prepared to put a blue ribbon Liberal seat in jeapardy, just months out from the election. What does that tell you?

I'm thinking that Turnbull has been trawling the corridors in Canberra, seeking out disgruntled supporters for a leadership bid (either before or after the election). I'm thinking Howard sees that threat as serious enough to justify the risk of losing the seat of Wentworth, not to mention even more damage to his cabinet's credibility on environmental issues. And I'm thinking Cousins and his fellow Sydney businessmen are hoping to dump Turnbull from his seat (either before or after the election).

There's a lot on the line for the Libs right here.

UPDATE: Here's a thought - is Turnbull the leaker? Only a few select people have access to the Crosby-Textor polling data that has been repeatedly leaked to the media.

MUST WATCH: 'The War on Democracy'

ICH has the video.

Prolific Blogging Gets You Nowhere, But...!

This is my 600th post on this blog. I previously wrote 5,708 posts at Bush Out, another 259 at Riding The Juggernaut, plus maybe a hundred more at short-lived blogs including The Wendi Deng Watchers Club. That's a total of over 6,500 blog posts since February 2003, which works out at over four blog posts per day for over four years. What do I have to show for it? Nothing.

No money, no fan base, no media profile. Nothing.

BUT...!

George W. Bush is stuck at 30% in the polls, and will almost certainly be remembered as the worst US President in History. Tony Blair was forced from office and will spend the rest of his days covering his ass. And John Winston Howard, now thrashing about like a goose on the pre-election chopping block, will forever be remembered (at best) as Australia's own Margaret Thatcher: a divisive figure who who dragged his country dangerously towards the Far Right, who alienated his country from regional neighbours while sucking up to the USA, and who led his country into a shamelessly contrived war. I am proud to have been a part of that change.

Furthermore, there is a widespread renaissance of community-based thought online, wherein citizens of many nations are awakening to the realisation that, in this increasingly globalized world, our governments are not necessarily acting in the best interests of the people they supposedly serve. My blogs may not amount to anything more than a drop in the bucket of online opinion, but again, I am proud to have been a part of this public awakening.

That is all.

UPDATE: Well, not quite all! This is from my good friend Winter Patriot's blog:
As far as possible, nothing on this blog is about me.

I don't want any recognition for what I do here. And I don't want any money. All I want is for you to learn the truth. If the media suddenly started telling you the truth, I would happily go back to my "normal life" -- my wife and our kids and my job -- and forget all this frozen blog stuff. But that's not likely to happen anytime soon.
I do want recognition, and I do want money! But I can live without those things. Of course it is more important that people learn the truth, and to that extent I fully support WP's statement of purpose.

UPDATE 2: Also worth noting this from Antony Loewenstein:
Democracy is unquestionably under threat across the world, in both the Western and non-Western world. In countries like Britain, the US and Australia, governments went to war in Iraq against the will of the people, continue to maintain troops there against the wishes of the people and would probably fight another war - perhaps against Iran in the next years - against the desires of the population. This isn’t democracy; it’s deluded authoritarianism dressed up as tough foreign policy.

Blogs have certainly democratised the political process, and allowed “average” citizens the chance to engage... Blogs can’t bring democracy on their own, but they can certainly allow a far greater number of people into the process. This is only a bad thing for those not wanting to give up the levers of power.

Boycott Canberra

David Marr explains Howard's new anti-boycott laws:
Hurt a business simply by arguing that it's ethically repugnant to buy its products and the commission will be able to step in and sue to recover the company's lost profits. It's quite a service.

No free-speech defence is immediately available. You won't be able to go to court to plead the pros and cons of open-range chooks or gentler methods than mulesing to save sheep from fly strike.

The new law will catch lone campaigners, community groups, NGOs, lobby groups and even the media - anyone whose campaign for what the law calls a "secondary boycott" actually hits the mark and causes financial pain.
As usual these days, the Greens' Bob Brown features in the story as a vigorous critic, while Kev Rudd is still huddled with his advisers debating how best to respond. Sigh.

Wanker Of The Day

Miranda Devine again, picking up the never-ending stripper story from Herr Bolthead:
It's not a question of lust for topless dancers but lust for power that raises questions about goody-two-shoes Rudd.
But Fraulein Devine has a whole new angle to blend into this anti-Rudd mix:
The esteem in which Rudd holds Murdoch is indicated by the speed with which he raced over to New York for a blessing from the influential media mogul, on his first overseas trip after he became Labor leader. So no one should be under any illusion that anything Rudd did in New York back in September 2003 was not carefully calculated to ingratiate himself with the Murdoch empire.
OMFG! And we thought politicians getting drunk was a scandal! Can you just imagine a Liberal pollie trying to suck up to Murdoch??! Never!

After handing out a free dose of biblical interpretation...
Jesus was hardly a puritan, and all but his most stitched-up followers are sanguine about such matters
... Miranda gets all prosaic (a la Scooter Libby's aspens):
In the wild, a chameleon is a "sit and wait" predator with the ability to change colour rapidly to blend in with its surroundings. Its most successful predator is the rare cuckoo-hawk, a solitary, skulking bird, whose weapons are patience and ruthless surprise.
Yeah, baby, but who is going to vote for the skulking cuckoo? Oh, and get this sign-off:
Disclosure: Col Allan was my editor for several years, and I, too, have dined with him (and his wife, Sharon) in New York and gone to bars for drinks, well into the wee hours.
By her own logic, does that not make Devine a shameless, opportunistic, over-ambitious media whore?

21 Aug. 2007

Dry Response Of The Day

From The Dog’s Bollocks:
Who would have thought?
That's in response to a story showing trickle-down economics does not work:
The growth in total incomes was concentrated among those making more than $US1 million. The number of such taxpayers grew by more than 26 per cent from 2000 to 2005.

These individuals, who constitute less than a quarter of 1 per cent of all taxpayers, reaped almost 47 per cent of the total income gains in 2005, compared with 2000.

The fact that average incomes remained lower in 2005 than five years earlier helps explain why so many Americans report feeling economic stress despite overall growth in the economy.
All the more reason for the grubby little plebs to be even more "aspirational", of course.

Hypocrite Of The Week

Malcolm Turnbull:
Mr Turnbull says Mr Cousins is an "arrogant bully" who is not fit to serve on the board of a public company.

"What Mr Cousins is proposing to do is to use his money to pervert the lawful consideration of this issue and in effect, to corrupt it by using what he described in his own words as raw political power to compel a Minister or try to bully a Minister," he said.
Ah yes, Malcolm "Australia's richest parliamentarian" Turnbull would know all about using money for political influence, wouldn't he? Turnbull, who successfully defended Kerry Packer against the "Goanna" allegations, bought his way into the once-safe Liberal seat of Wentworth by spending $600,000 to defeat the previously safe Liberal incumbent.

And even Bill Heffernan say Turnbull's decision to allow the mill was influenced by money:
Senator Heffernan supports the pulp mill but he says Gunns has too much influence on the decisions being made by the state and federal governments.

"There is obviously the economic intimidation of politicians at work, and I would shudder at the thought of agreeing to a process for some sort of economic convenience that had us all look back in 100 years time and say how in the bloody hell did we let that happen?" he said.

Wanker Of The Day

Andrew Bolt:
The issue isn't the utterly trivial one of whether Rudd saw naked strippers or not. It's how frantically he'll spin, in order to mislead - even on something so minor.
And you thought Kerry O'Brien was floggin' it on the ABC the other night! This is the most insubstantial piece of drivel I have ever seen masquerading as journalism. Pure shite.

Quote Of The Day

From the SMH's National Security Editor, Tom Allard:
The antics of Mr Andrews, and the reluctance of the Government to be held accountable in court [for the Haneef scandal], erodes one of the fundamental pillars of national security - the public's trust.
Indeed. If there is no accountability for government "errors", then the public can rightly assume that these are not really errors at all, but intentional strategies. In this case, they do not even pretend the bungled and embarrassing mis-handling of the Haneef case was an error at all.

But if our government is deliberately pursuing strategies which undermine the rule of law (think Hicks, AWB, the invasion of Iraq, and more), then citizens should rightly wonder whether their government representatives are just a pack of untrustworthy criminals.

So we find ourselves in a position where we must choose between respect for our government, or respect for the law, or (perhaps) respect for neither.

Then our government tells us that we are engaged in an epic "war" against terrorists, and that we must trust them to manage this war through secretive, behind-the-scenes strategies, because that is the only way (they tell us) that this "war" can be won.

Furthermore, we must allow them to dismantle or ignore any laws, checks or balances which might impede them in this "war". And we must agree to all this secretive, legally-dubious dismantling of civil rights because (they tell us) our own safety is endangered.

And yet studies show that it is our government's own bungled, incompetent mis-handling of this "war" (which should not even be considered a war at all) which is primarily responsible for increasing the threat of terrorism to our country.

19 Aug. 2007

Eine Leute. Eine Welt. Ein Führer.


Howard outlines his plans for the fifth reich:
"We should be aspirational nationalists."
Will Australians really support this naked power grab?

UPDATE: Full text of Howard's speech published in SMH Op-Ed. The word "aspiration" seems to be marketing code for "greed":
The key to embedding this culture of aspiration and enterprise is further economic reform - both to preserve the prosperity we have and to lay the foundations for a new generation of wealth creation. Today I commit the Government to maintaining, as appropriate, budget surpluses of at least 1 per cent of GDP in future years with the surpluses locked away in a fund so that only the earnings would be available for investment in economic and social infrastructure.
First of all, what does "as appropriate" mean? It means this is a non-core promise. When rates go up even further, this policy gets thrown overboard.

Secondly, who is going to believe Howard on anything anymore, particularly this nonsense about putting funds away for investment. For example:
Hundreds of millions of dollars the federal government claimed to have spent on indigenous affairs has either never been spent, has been used to benefit all Australians or has gone towards opposing native title claims.

Since 2000 at least $30 million the government promoted as being for Aborigines was used to oppose indigenous native title or compensation claims, Fairfax newspapers report.
Reminds me of our "Foreign Aid" budget, which is spent on locking refugees in cages.

I don't think Australians will buy this new "vision thing" from Howard. He's had eleven years in power, for Gawd's sake, and near-total control of government throughout his last term. The Constitution-altering priorities he now sets forth as urgent were considered secondary to WorkChoices and other abhorrent policies. Piss on him. It's no wonder he can't drag his poll ratings up from the gutter.

Lest we forget:
"I was a nationalist, not a patriot" - Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf

Quote Of The Day

Bob Brown:
Four years ago Kevin Rudd got drunk and took himself into a strip club. Four years ago, John Howard, sober, took Australia into the Iraq war.

Arthur Chrenkoff Is Still Alive (Unlike A Million Iraqis He Helped Slaughter)


My, my, my. Formerly world-famous warmonger Arthur "Good News From Iraq" Chrenkoff is apparently alive and well and living on Facebook.

Still hanging out with the same bad crowd, I see. Chrenkoff's list of friends includes notorious rightwing blogger Roger L. Simon and my local Gold Coast Liberal Member for Moncrieff, Steven Ciobo. And Steve Ciobo's friends include John Howard, Malcolm Turnbull, and Joe Hockey.

For anyone who doesn't know the background story here, I'll just note that Chrenkoff blogged pro-war propaganda while working for Queensland Liberal Senator Brett Mason. He left that role for another political posting where such blogging would no longer be part of the job description.

It disgusts me that a person like Chrenkoff is still rubbing shoulders with our political elite. Worse yet is the prospect that he might one day rise to a position of influence within Australian politics. All I can say is that I'll be watching him every step of the way, and his shameful role as a war propagandist will not be forgotten.

Wanker Of The Day: Greg Sheridan

Well, to whom else would Paul Wolfowitz give an exclusive interview, if not the top dawg in Teh Oz's kennel?
He was forced out of [his World Bank] job for allegedly organising an over-generous promotion out of the bank for his partner. It was an absurd charge and the bank ultimately decided he had behaved ethically. Nonetheless there was a kind of frenzy of hostility to Wolfowitz, really from the day he started at the bank.

There is often a sheer irrationality in the hostility directed at Wolfowitz, the highest profile neo-con of all.

In Melbourne this week for the annual Australian American Leadership Dialogue, Wolfowitz took time out for his most extensive interview since he left the World Bank.

He looks well and he seems to have absorbed all the strife that befell him. He agrees what happened to him was an injustice...
Somebody get me a bucket.

See TPM for US reaction to the article.

18 Aug. 2007

Reaching Back

Funny how the news cycle works, innit? The Murdoch press reaches back four years to make a story of Rudd's night at a strip club, and it becomes news. But just look at all the more important stories we've all "moved on" from!

For example, I was just reading this TPM post about how Bush ignored that August 2001 memo entitled "Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US". Now you all know I've read a lot about Bush, but I had never heard that he brushed off the CIA briefer who brought him that memo with the words: "All right. You've covered your ass, now."

As The Carpetbagger notes, Bush was on vacation in Crawford at the time. So no wonder he didn't jump at the news.
Top intelligence officials — George Tenet, Richard Clarke, and others — were running around with their “hair on fire,” warning that al Qaeda was about to unleash a major attack. Bush, tragically, treated his intelligence briefings about Osama bin Laden as perfunctory chores that he had to endure. Based on the “covered your ass” comment, it was almost as if the president was humoring the CIA briefer.
The "covered your ass" comment was apparently first reported by Ron Suskind in his 2006 book, "The One Percent Doctrine". The Washington post covered it... in a book review.

Now just imagine if all such facts about 9/11, which have seeped out ever so slowly and ever so silently in the past six years, were widely known just a week after the attacks. Bush would not just have lost his job, he would have had to flee the USA to escape Death Row.

Little wonder, then, that those in the media who hold the keys to public enlightenment should guard their gates so avidly.

Speaking of books, I am reading one called "Silencing Dissent", by Clive Hamilton and Sarah Maddison (thanks to a commenter for the tip). It compiles chapters written by experts in their fields to show how the Howard government has systematically repressed and controlled public information in a whole range of related areas:

- universities
- research
- NGOs
- the media
- the public service
- statutory authorities
- the military and intelligence services
- the Senate

Oddly enough, I find the book strangely reassuring because it explains of of my greatest grievances about the state of Australia, namely that the public are asleep to all that is being done in their name.
Over the past few years, many people have wondered aloud how it is that the government, and especially the Prime Minister, have escaped censure for creating a culture of political deception. We believe that the transformation of the democratic landscape as described in this book explains how and why the government has not been brought to account. Beyond the limited democracy afforded by the electoral process, there is now much tighter control over the flow of information that should help to keep citizens informed, there are fewer forums in which dissenting voices can be heard, and there is an increasingly rigid insistence that only those who have been anointed by the government should be heard at all. The longer term picture is even more worrying: authoritarianism can only flourish where democracy has been eroded.
Of course, we all know about many, if not most of these things, but reading them all carefully compiled between the pages of this book makes me realise just how thoroughly, how damned professionally, the job of dumbing-down Australia has been accomplished. Maybe I am a little too harsh on people sometimes.

Going back to that TPM post, a Bush spokesman (*) recently called a small-time US journo to let him know that Teh President was not impressed by his (extremely mild) criticism of Bush's wardrobe at the ranch. See, that's what it's all about: micro-managing the message. And, of course, FEAR.

* Actually it was Bush's top-class media whore, Dana Perino. No wonder Tony Snow is giving the game away - who can compete with Dana's sultry lies and surly contempt for reality?

UPDATE: Interesting thread on Naughty Kev's Big Adventure at LP. From the comments:
Milne’s wife works for Crosby/Textor and the “Revelation” was leaked today, when Newspoll are polling.
You can just imagine the Newspoll questions, can't you?
1. Were you aware that Mr Rudd frequents lewd establishments and drinks to excess?
2. Who are you planning to vote for?
UPDATE 2: Caroline Overington says of this new Rudd story:
It first came up when Col Allan was outed as a regular at Scores by a former employee of the New York Post, who was sacked by Allan.
Ironic if this all goes back to that dummy spit from a disgruntled Murdoch ex-employee, Ian Spiegelman. As I noted at the time, the most incendiary allegations from Spiegelman were about Murdoch's dodgy deals with Chinese leaders, For example:
In Fall 2001, I was ordered to kill a Page Six story about a Chinese diplomat and a strip club that would have angered the Communist regime and endangered [News Corp. Chairman Rupert] Murdoch's broadcasting privileges."
But there's more to it than that:
Spiegelman said: "Accepting freebies, graft and other favours was not only condoned by the company [News Ltd], but encouraged as a way to decrease the newspaper's out-of-pocket expenses."
I suspect Rudd was being offered his drinks (and chicks?) for free. If so, it's no wonder Rudd felt a bit "intimidated"!

14 Aug. 2007

"Get Real"

How totalitarianilly Orwellian. Tony Abbott says the remarks made by Costello were off the record and therefore do not exist:
"If they were off the record in 2005, they should also be off the record in 2007. And if something is off the record it in effect doesn't exist and there's nothing wrong with denying something that didn't exist."
Alexander Downer too is in denial:
"I think voters couldn't be less interested in a lot of gossip about something someone claims happened two years ago which actually ultimately never eventuated," he said.
Saddam's WMD's, which did not exist, were real. But a conversation which was real (three reporters have corroborative accounts and Costello does not deny it took place) does not exist. Like the neocons in Washington, Howard's boys create their own reality.

Last night a drunken Alexander Downer was telling inquisitive reporters to "get real". Indeed.

13 Aug. 2007

War On Aborigines Degenerates To Farce

How funny is this - an Aboriginal community has booted a Federal Government survey team out of their community after the public servants, police and military officers were unable to provide details of the government's planned intervention:
A spokesman for the Council said ... the community told the team to leave Yirrkala and return with the Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough.

Google's Blurry Vision On APEC


Shame on Google. If you are going to bow to government pressure and doctor your images, at least have the guts to admit it. Google has some form here, so the denial is worse than feeble.
Curiously, the high-resolution satellite images, which were introduced as part of a Google Maps Australia upgrade earlier this year, appear to have been rolled back to lower quality versions for the Sydney CBD only, and not for suburbs like Bondi Beach and Point Piper.

For instance, Google Maps sightseers could previously make out details like the colour and type of clothing worn by people walking on the Sydney Opera House steps, but now it is mostly a blur.

The Opera House, along with NSW Government House and the Sydney Convention Centre, will be shut to the public and fenced off during the APEC summit, which starts on September 2.

More than 5000 police and army personnel have been assigned to lock down the city over APEC week and security will be at its highest on the long weekend beginning September 7.

Another anomaly suggesting the images may have been manually censored is the fact that certain objects, such as individual boats on the harbour, appear crisp and detailed in the images but the area immediately surrounding them is now fuzzy.

"This has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with APEC," said Google Australia spokesman Rob Shilkin.

"We're re-sourcing our imagery for parts of Sydney as a result of a commercial issue with one of our suppliers, so some of the highest-res images have been temporarily replaced."
So who is this mysterious "supplier"? The Department of Defence? NASA?

The fact that targets like Lucas Heights remain uncensored makes the whole thing even more ridiculous.

Why Are We Hosting APEC?


Peter Costello explains:
"I think it's important for Australia that we do host these summits. Other countries do it.

"We show Australia in a leadership role."
We must do it because others do it - that's leadership for you.

Come September, I doubt there will be much real leadership on display. APEC meetings tend to wind up with nothing much of substance to show: the real action happens at ASEAN meetings, where Australia is typically sidelined.

This is all about Howard scaring the shit out of the population just before an election, and desperately trying to look like a respected global leader. I don't think it's going to work, but what do I know? Unlike John Howard, I am not in tune with the lizard brains.

PS: Kudos to AAP's Glen McCurtayne for the great photo.

UPDATE: Half an hour after I posted this, Tim "Inside The Tent" Dunlop says there is too much "small-minded and petty" whinging about APEC:
APEC itself is a worthwhile undertaking, our government should be willing to host events like that, and while authorities should do their best to keep disruption to a minimum, thems [sic] the breaks.
Tim doesn't bother explaining how or why this particular APEC meeting is "worthwhile".

Personally I think our government's reckless actions in support of Bush's bogus "war" on terrrrism have made the hosting of such an event ridiculously difficult, and our government's hostile attitude to our region has ensured that there is limited scope for any meaningful outcomes. Even Bush is smart enough to ensure he is not around for the final day, when the lack of substance will be on display for all the world to see.

We've already had secretive meetings of Finance chiefs and Military chiefs, who thresh out any accords of substance among themselves. The APEC meeting itself is just an elaborate display of showmanship by corrupt buffons dressed in stupid clothes.






What's the bet they'll all be in Akubras and R.M. Williams coats for this photo op?

But what would I know, right? I don't even get paid to blog.

UPDATE 2: Sweet: nearly all Tim's own commenters disagree with his "professional" analysis.
To my way of thinking, Canberra should have been the host city.
Hamilton Island and HMAS Navy warships have also been suggested as more fitting venues.