31 Oct. 2007

It's NOT About The Kids

Why do the Liberals keep harrassing Gold Coast schools?
Pacific Pines High School principal Bob Copeland nervously allowed the Liberal candidate for Fadden, Stuart Robert, on site yesterday...

Ms Bishop said when she got to Pacific Pines she was told by the school principal he had no prior knowledge of the visit.

While the principal was 'rather flustered' by the unexpected visit, he eventually let Ms Bishop and her entourage into the school grounds...

At Southport State High School about 30 minutes after the Pacific Pines visit, Moncrieff Liberal MP Steve Ciobo faced a similarly nervous school management...
It's not that long ago that Malcolm Turnbull and Steve Ciobo were causing similar problems:
"I'm here for the kids, I'm here to talk to the kids." - Malcolm Turnbull, yesterday.
Last I knew, kids under the age of eighteen did not have the right to vote. So why are our local politicians harrassing these kids and distracting their teachers from their work?

Bastards. Wankers. Etc.

Teh Horror

Why are all our gallant war heroes from Iraq and Afghanistan killing themselves? The Australian rate of suicide seems to be on a par with the high US rate. And that's on the military's own figures, which only a true-blue A.J. would trust.

The irony is that the people responsible for inducing this wanton self-destruction are themselves suicide bombers...

Who Cares???!!!

Family First implodes:
The Family First candidate in the far north Queensland seat of Leichhardt says voters have a right to know the sexual preference of all candidates contesting the federal election.
Family First's Ben Jacobsen is obviously just trying to score points against his opponent, Charlie McKillop, who (rather interestingly) is not just a woman but also a Liberal (as if the name "Charlie" was not a giveaway). Jacobsen foolishly insists he is speaking generally about every candidate: get ready for another disendoresement, folks.

By sheer coincidence, Peter Costello just happens to be campaigning in the area today. So this is really a case of media-whoring B.S. Those who live by the sword, etc.

Watching Me Watching You

Hmmn. Why on earth would somebody at The World Bank run a Google search on:
crikey "steven ciobo"
Whoever did it hit this site. Are world financial markets are trembling at the thought of Stephen Mayne's decision to challenge Peter Costello in Higgins? But what's that got to do with my local MP, Steven Ciobo? Stay tuned...

UPDATE: Could it be related to this old Crikey story on ID cards? Ciobo made a rather strange trip to London and Washington back in January, ostensibly as part of a backbench revolt against Joe Hockey's ID Card proposals. The Brisbane Sunday Mail blamed Hockey for blowing the whistle on Ciobo's trip. And the whole sorry episode apparently sank Ciobo's chances of a promotion to parliamentary secretary.

I'm wondering if Ciobo was REALLY investigating ID Cards on that trip...

Volatility Sells Newspapers

But Bob Ellis is unimpressed:
Newspoll is not called 'the Fox News of statistics' for nothing. Like Fox News, it serves Rupert Murdoch. Like Bill O'Reilly, it tells him what he wants to hear. And what does Rupert Murdoch want to hear? Well, that the voters are very volatile, for one thing. The Labor numbers go up to 58 before the Great Debate, then down to 54 after it. On the weekend when, in the greatest gatherings in human history, the West protests against the Iraq war, and it's known that most Australians oppose it, the vote for Howard goes up. When he's found to have lied about Children Overboard, the vote for Howard goes up. When Howard seems on his last legs, he gets the good news he needs. From Newspoll, the preferred Murdoch pollster.
(h/t nahum)

Rupert Goes To Georgia

Murdoch has just done a very interesting deal with Georgian media tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili. News Corp will take over Patarkatsishvili's highly influential media group, Imedi, for one year, while he concentrates on bringing down the government.
"There were a lot of accusations that Imedi was an opposition channel and we thought it would be very difficult for journalists to stay neutral in such a situation," Irakly Rukhadze, a representative of the private equity Salford Fund which look's after Patarkatsishvili's stake in Imedi. "So, the final decision was made and the Georgian side handed over its shares to its American partners into management."
Oh yes, bringing down the government looks ever so much more respectable when Rupert Murdoch controls the media, doesn't it?

NB: Georgia just happens to host a pipeline pumping oil from the Caspian Sea to Europe. It is a major "soft power" battleground in the New Cold War.

BushWorld: GWOT A Bloody Mess


Come fly with me... As oil breaks the $100/barrel mark, let's go first to Poland:
Polish Prime Minister-designate Donald Tusk said his future government would seek to end the nation's military mission in Iraq next year.
Poland has 900 troops in southern Iraq. 81 percent of Poles oppose the military mission in Iraq. A US military base in Poland is a critical part of the Star Wars missile shield.

Next, Japan, which is terminating its support role in Afghanistan:
Over the six years of its engagement, Japan's Maritime Self Defence Force tankers have provided more than Y22 billion ($208 million) worth of fuel, mainly to US ships.

But recently the fuel has all gone to the Pakistan navy - in effect, an operational subsidy to keep the Pakistanis involved.
Portugal is also cutting its military presence in Afghanistan by 90% next year. They will leave 15 soldiers and a transport plane.

Meanwhile, the Taliban are set to re-take Kandahar. Turkey has launched attacks inside Iraq. The Iraqis are closing down power plants due to lack of fuel. Israel is cutting off fuel supplies to Gaza and preparing for another major incursion...

Who is responsible for this parlous state of affairs?

A new Zogby poll shows that 52% of likely voters in the United States would support a U.S. military strike against Iran. 53% believe it is likely that the U.S. will be involved in a military strike against Iran before the next presidential election.

Meanwhile, the new candidate for US Attorney General refuses to condemn water-boarding as torture, and the head of the CIA still insists that renditions and torture are important weapons in the long war against, well... whatever.

I'm glad I don't follow US politics as closely as I used to, because it is infinitely depressing. The problem is, the rest of the world pays the price for their greed, stupidity and ignorance. Hey, why did we invade Iraq anyway?

Let's end our little trip - fittingly - in Washington, where Karen Hughes, a long-time Bush insider, is quitting her job. And what was that job? Ah yes:
Bush and Rice had picked Hughes two years ago to retool the way the United States sells its policies, ideals and views overseas. A former television reporter and media adviser, Hughes' focus has been to change the way the United States engages and responds to criticism or misinformation in the Muslim world...

Polls show no improvement in the world's view of the U.S. since Hughes took over.

30 Oct. 2007

A Question For Mister Rudd

After a little prompting, 49% of my readers have agreed with me that John W. Howard is a War Criminal. Another 45% politely describe him as just "a chronic liar, and a Big Business patsy". Which prompts me to offer the following question(s) for Mister Rudd:
Will a Rudd Labor government open investigations into the Howard government's criminal activities over the past eleven years, including the cherry-picking and fabrication of intelligence used to justify our involvement in the war in Iraq? If Mr Howard's own role in this decision is determined to be in contravention of international law, will you hand him over to the International Criminal Court for prosecution?

Will you also re-open the AWB enquiry, and give a new independent commissioner complete freedom to pursue all areas and persons of interest? Will you bring criminal charges against any ex-government ministers who have used their positions to block public access to scientific evidence on critically important issues such as terrorism and climate change?
Maybe a good question for a journalist if we get another TV debate?

Wanker Of The Day

Tony Abbott turns up late to his National Press Club debate:
Ms Roxon finished her address and had fielded several questions from journalists by the time Mr Abbott arrived...

Mr Abbott says he had to be at a policy announcement this morning, and was not able to get to the debate any faster.
Check out the reaction from viewers at LP.

That is just contempt for the public. That's the reason the Libs are going to lose this election, and it's also the reason why our nation's public hospitals are in such a bloody horrible state.

Abdullah Goes To London


The state visit to Britain by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is turning into a PR nightmare. If it is possible to vomit words onto paper, then Robert Fisk surely comes close:
The sad, awful truth is that we fete these people, we fawn on them, we supply them with fighter jets, whisky and whores. No, of course, there will be no visas for this reporter because Saudi Arabia is no democracy. Yet how many times have we been encouraged to think otherwise about a state that will not even allow its women to drive? Kim Howells, the Foreign Office minister, was telling us again yesterday that we should work more closely with the Saudis, because we "share values" with them. And what values precisely would they be, I might ask?
The one obvious story that Fisk does not mention is Osama Bin Laden, who embraced terrorism as a direct result of his contempt of this cosy Saudi-US-UK relationships. This is an area where dialogue with Al Quaeda is clearly possible, if we are prepared to embrace the idea. It is our governments and our business leaders - not we, the people - who have a vested interest in perpetuating this obscene arms, oil and cash merry-go-round.

This is from The Guardian's leader:
Morality clearly lies with the protesters expected to gather in London today, whose criticism of Saudi Arabia's human rights record is well placed. The Foreign Office itself does not question it, listing concern at "aspects of the judicial system; corporal and capital punishment; torture; discrimination against women and non-Muslims; and restrictions on freedom of movement, expression, assembly and worship". This week, it says, is not the time to discuss such issues...

The government is sticking to a policy sustained since the 1980s: "Do nothing to upset the Saudi royal family." It must go down as one of Britain's most dubious but most long-lived goals. It has not done much to help the people of Saudi Arabia and nor has it prevented the spread of terrorism: Osama bin Laden is Saudi; so were 15 of the suicide bombers on September 11 2001. Realpolitik is supposed to produce benefits. As Britain's royal and political elite pay homage to the ruler of an intolerant, brutal and theocratic regime, it is worth asking exactly what those benefits are.
UK public opinion has turned decisively against the Saudis (and the Labor government) since a series of damning revelations about cosy deals involving BAE Systems:
Last month the company completed a deal to sell 72 Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft to Saudi Arabia for £4.43bn. That followed the attorney general's notorious decision to call off a fraud investigation into BAE's previous al-Yamamah contract, declaring that "it has been necessary to balance the need to maintain the rule of law against the wider public interest". This summer the Guardian reported, too, that BAE Systems had paid hundreds of millions of pounds to Prince Bandar bin Sultan, now King Abdullah's security adviser.
Meanwhile, here in Oz, we barely raise an eyebrow when Defence Minister Brendan Nelson awards no-bid contracts for even more useless military hardware.

GI Joe Goes To Brussels


Don't laugh. GI Joe is quitting the US military:
Paramount Pictures and Hasbro, which makes GI Joe toys, have reportedly discussed the challenges of marketing a film about the US military at a time when the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have sunk America's standing in foreign opinion polls. In a move that has horrified an unlikely alliance of comic book fans and conservative commentators, GI Joe is now to become an acronym for "Global Integrated Joint Operating Entity", with its star representing a multinational force. Paramount has even mooted basing GI Joe at a headquarters in Brussels.
Hoo boy! I'm sure Iraqi audiences will lap it up.

The photo above shows GI Joe on his last tour of duty in Falluja.

29 Oct. 2007

John Howard IS A War Criminal

So is John Howard a War Criminal? I'm surprised to see that a small majority of my readers disagree with me on this. With less than 24 hours left to vote in my online poll, most readers seem to think that Howard is just "a chronic liar and a Big Business patsy".

So for anyone still not sure, or wanting to change their vote, let me spell it out for you.

At the end of WWII, the civilised nations of this earth - including Australia - signed off on a bunch of international laws which were intended to ensure that nobody would ever again be able to invade another soveriegn nation with impunity. Four and a half years ago, however, Australian troops were on the ground in Iraq before war had even been formally declared. We supported George W. Bush's criminal invasion of Iraq based on fabricated WMD evidence that was deliberately "fixed around the policy" of invasion.

That is a War Crime. It really is that simple.

There were also international postwar laws agreed on the treatment of prisoners. I would argue that the whole concept of this bogus "war" on terror is a legal and linguistic farce, but given that our government has embraced it wholeheartedly, they ought to have given proper protection, in accordance with these laws, to any and all alleged prisoners of war, including David Hicks and Mahmoud Habib. According to the Howard government's own logic, and the laws to which our nation is a signatory, not to have done so is a War Crime.

Nobody is asking Kevin Rudd if he will open investigations into these matters, if and when he wins government, because nobody seriously expects him to answer the question honestly. Furthermore, the invasion of Iraq was largely orchestrated by the US industrial-military complex to which Kevin Rudd PM will also be beholden. But you can be damned sure that many of us - myself included - will continue pushing for justice on these matters.

This is an issue that will follow John Howard all the way to the grave.

Tell Me Who I'm Voting For Again

Costello can't say, won't say:
Mr Howard told ABC TV on Monday night that he and Mr Costello had an "agreed agreement" on the transition but refused to say how far into the next term it would happen.

Mr Costello on Tuesday also declined to detail the agreement or whether he would challenge for the leadership within 18 months after the November 24 federal election.

The Long Campaign


As the humble Aussie dollar soars towards parity with the greenback, and oil nudges even closer to US$100 a barrel, it's becoming increasingly likely that a global financial "tsunami" (of the sort Peter Costello predicted) could yet swing the election. Still four weeks to go, and the warning beacons are already going off.

Iran could well be the key. Max Hastings today has some good analysis of the latest US scare-mongering:
The Iranians have oil, which the world wants to buy. The EU is eager to build a gas pipeline there, to diminish its dependence on Russian energy. Beijing and Moscow show no interest in helping Bush face down the Iranians...

Few strategists dispute either that Iranian revolutionaries are playing a prominent role in frustrating the stabilisation of Iraq, or that Iran is doing its utmost to build nuclear weapons. Doubts focus on what can be done about these things. Europeans will continue to support diplomatic and economic measures adopted by the UN, designed to exhibit the world's dismay at Iran's behaviour. There is chronic scepticism, however, about such initiatives. Next month the UN will debate further sanctions, but neither Russia nor China will support tough action.

President Vladimir Putin last week compared Bush's behaviour towards Iran with that of a madman "running about with a razor blade in his hand". Not many Europeans suppose that it is desirable for Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. Yet most think this almost inevitable, and preferable to the ghastly geopolitical consequences of adopting military action to stop it.

The seven years of the Bush presidency have witnessed a haemorrhage of American moral authority of a kind quite unknown in the 20th century. Even in the darkest days of the cold war, and indeed in the Cuban missile crisis, most people around the world retained a faith in the fundamental benign nature of American purposes. This has been lost in Iraq...

Ahmadinejad and the Revolutionary Guard need US enemies to justify their idiocies at home and mischief-making in Iraq. At every turn the Bush administration obliges them, by seeming to welcome confrontation. The rival governments in Tehran and Washington deserve each other. It is another matter as to whether their peoples, and the world, do so. But relations between Iran and the US are likely to get much worse before either nation changes leadership and gives peace a chance.
At ICH, Michael S. Rozeff spells out the nightmare scenario we now face:
The U.S. encourages Israel to bomb the Natanz nuclear facility in Iran. Russia attempts to restrain an Iranian response but fails. Iran responds in any of many ways, such as launching missiles on Israel, firing on shipping in the Straits of Hormuz, mining the Straits of Hormuz, sending troops into Iraq, or allying its military with Hezbollah and attacking Israel from Lebanon.

The U.S., citing Iran’s aggressions (that will be the story), launches a full-scale attack on Iran designed to devastate the country. This attack has actually been planned by the U.S. for years. Syria is unable to maintain neutrality and quickly becomes a battleground between Iran and Israel.

The price of oil by this point has already soared to $200 a barrel. The U.S. begins to use its strategic reserve and to divert Iraqi production. Russia responds by taking steps to prevent its oil production from reaching the U.S. China responds by cutting off its support of the U.S. Treasury market. Venezuela halts oil shipments to the U.S. The first stages of WWIII are economic warfare designed to cripple the U.S. and halt its war-making capacity.

The U.S., unable to finance its deficits and fund its sovereign debt, is forced into raising interest rates drastically in order to borrow. The Fed is forced to print money. An inflationary spiral occurs. Meanwhile the high interest rates and high oil prices, not to mention the shock of a spreading conflict, drive the U.S. economy into severe decline. The U.S. attempts to raise taxes in order to fund itself, further crippling the economy. Gold soars to $1,500–$2,000 an ounce.

The U.S. attempts to bolster its military forces. The draft is reinstated. The severity of the emergency allows Bush and Cheney to assume emergency powers and begin a dictatorship. Elections are postponed.

The U.S. collapses.

Who Are The Real "Terrorists"?

Francois Furstenberg provides a little history lesson for the Howardistas:
They divided the world between pro- and anti-Revolutionaries - the defenders of liberty versus its enemies. The French Revolution, as they understood it, was the great event that would determine whether liberty was to prevail on the planet or whether the world would fall back into tyranny and despotism.

The stakes could not be higher, and on these matters there could be no nuance or hesitation. One was either for the Revolution or for tyranny.

By 1792, France was confronting the hostility of neighboring countries, debating how to react. The Jacobins were divided. On one side stood the journalist and political leader Jacques-Pierre Brissot de Warville, who argued for war.

Brissot understood the war as preventive - "une guerre offensive," he called it - to defeat the despotic powers of Europe before they could organize their counter-Revolutionary strike. It would not be a war of conquest, as Brissot saw it, but a war "between liberty and tyranny."

Pro-war Jacobins believed theirs was a mission not for a single nation or even for a single continent. It was, in Brissot's words, "a crusade for universal liberty."

Brissot's opponents were skeptical. "No one likes armed missionaries," declared Robespierre, with words as apt then as they remain today...

Confronted by a monarchical Europe united in opposition to revolutionary France - old Europe, they might have called it - the Jacobins rooted out domestic political dissent. It was the beginning of the period that would become infamous as the Terror.

Among the Jacobins' greatest triumphs was their ability to appropriate the rhetoric of patriotism - Le Patriote Français was the title of Brissot's newspaper - and to promote their political program through a tightly coordinated network of newspapers, political hacks, pamphleteers and political clubs...

Though it has been a topic of much attention in recent years, the origin of the term "terrorist" has gone largely unnoticed by politicians and pundits alike. The word was an invention of the French Revolution, and it referred not to those who hated freedom, nor to non-state actors, nor of course to "Islamofascism."

A terroriste was, in its original meaning, a Jacobin leader who ruled France during la Terreur.

Gandhi About Town

28 Oct. 2007

What Would Dubya Do?

This should be good for a laugh, if nothing else: Alexander Downer is going to debate Robert McClelland on Nov 15th. A pity Bob Brown won't be on screen to highlight the screaming deficiencies in our US-dictated foreign policy:
"We ought not be in Afghanistan because the Bush administration backed by John Howard made a huge strategic error there at the start of this decade when they withdrew troops from Afghanistan, having taken over the country, got rid of the Taliban and went to the invasion of Iraq...

"And 50 per cent of Australians, according to one recent opinion poll, also want to see Australian troops withdrawn from Afghanistan and deployed in our own region where we have got our own problems and our own instabilities, not under the direction of the Bush administration which has made such a mess of international strategy in the last decade."

It's The (Lack Of) Morality, Stupid

It's not often Paul Sheehan does film reviews. But this is different:
Clooney has embarked on a finely calibrated campaign to offset the damage done to America's ideals and reputation by its President, George Bush...

As US policy in the Middle East reveals itself as an unfolding failure of common sense, it is fair to argue that in the global marketplace of ideas George Clooney, a mere actor, has developed more moral authority than the occupant of the White House.

There is a lesson here for Australia. In terms of governance there is no obvious reason to throw out the government on November 24. Employment is high, the economy buoyant, inflation low, the budget in surplus, taxes modest, personal wealth rising. Apparently that is not enough. It appears to be the realm of moral leadership where politics in this country has become dangerously interesting for the Government, especially for the Prime Minister, whose best friend in the wider world happens to be George Bush.
Or as Charles Sullivan puts it today, in a long rant against the MSM:
Truth is simple and uncomplicated, whereas lies and distortions are complex. Truth stands strong and unwavering without artificial support; lies and propaganda require elaborate schemes and constant propping up, the mask of deception.

More of us must learn the language of truth; we must be its faithful guardians, if we are to be valuable citizens in this world, rather than the useful idiots of empire. By holding truth and justice in the highest regard, we demonstrate that another world is not only possible, but highly probable.
And on the subject of truth and other worlds, let me just remind any Christian rightwingers that Jesus said:
I am the way, the truth and the light.

Dick Cheney Knows Where You Live

Who would be a whistle-blower in Bush's USA? The House Judiciary Committee set up a project encouraging Department of Justice staffers to come forward with their stories about the Bush administration. Then they sent all their informants an email, explaining the careful security measures which were in place to safeguard their anonymity. Problem was, they CC'd everybody on the list instead of BCC'ing them! But that's not all - included on the list of over 150 email addresses was... vice_president@whitehouse.gov!

Accident? I think not.

Wanker Of The Day


Now this guys is a real wanker! Dumped Family First candidate Andrew Quah explains away pornographic pics of himself by saying:
"I might have been drunk off my face or my political enemies might have drugged me."
The SMH article is just hilarious:
One photo shows him exposing his private parts as he takes a picture of himself in a mirror.

"But that's not my penis," he said. So whose was it?

"Look, maybe somebody photoshopped it, and put another one on the photo," he said. "I can tell you, it's not me. I know these things. But really, I can't remember … All I know, I have been humiliated."

So too has Family First.
To see what all the fuss is about, click on the images at The Other Cheek blog.

Gitmo: The Clincher

For anyone (like the PM) who still pretends the Gitmo hearings were not a farce, this has gotta be the clincher: scathing criticism from a US military lawyer who actually served on dozens of Gitmo tribunals.
The whistleblower, an army major inside the military court system which the United States has established at Guantanamo Bay, has described the detention of one prisoner, a hospital administrator from Sudan, as "unconscionable".

His critique will be the centrepiece of a hearing on 5 December before the US Supreme Court when another attempt is made to shut the prison down. So nervous is the Bush administration of the latest attack – and another Supreme Court ruling against it – that it is preparing a whole new system of military courts to deal with those still imprisoned.

25 Oct. 2007

John Howard's Australia

Jeebus:
Reports to NSW child welfare authorities have "exploded" in the last five years, with one in 15 children now in need of care and protection.
To quote Confuscius:
"If you govern the people legalistically and control them by punishment, they will avoid crime, but have no personal sense of shame. If you govern them by means of virtue and control them with propriety, they will gain their own sense of shame, and thus correct themselves."
I hear Australian prison populations have increased by 50% since Howard came to power, even though there has been no corresponding rise in criminal activity. Maybe the bad guys are slipping under the radar?

Post Your Panties!

I would have thought used toilet paper would be more appropriate, but whatever!
A pro-democracy group based in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai is urging people all over the world to "post, deliver or fling" their undergarments to Burma's international embassies.

"The Burma military regime is not only brutal but very superstitious. They believe that contact with a woman's panties or sarong can rob them of their power," the Lanna Action for Burma group said on its website.
The address you want is:
22 Arkana St
Yarralumla, ACT 2600
(02) 6273 3811
PS: Don't bother washing them!

Meanwhile in Afghanistan...

So another Aussie soldier is dead.
Prime Minister John Howard says Sgt Locke died serving the "just cause" of liberty and freedom.

Mr Howard says the fallen soldier's death reminds all Australians of their debt of gratitude to the men and women in the defence force.

Labor leader Kevin Rudd has praised Sgt Locke for making the ultimate sacrifice and says he does not want to politicise the incident.
Well, fuck that. Of course the whole thing is political: we wouldn't even be there if it wasn't for Bush and Howard. Sergeant Locke would not be dead if Bush had accepted the Taliban's offer to hand over Bin Laden. And even if you support the misguided military intervention in Afghanistan, it's now obvious to any serious observers that the whole thing has become a massive, politics-driven cock-up -ever since attention, funds and forces were diverted to Iraq.

Even the UN's proposed new "super envoy" to Afghanistan now says the war there is lost. And the head of the UK Armed Forces says the disastrous war there will drag on for many years - until a political solution is found:
"There is a common misperception that the issues in Afghanistan, and indeed elsewhere around the world, can be dealt with by military means. That's a false perception. The military is a key, an essential element in dealing with those problems, but by and large these problems can only be resolved politically."
But our political leaders cannot even speak the truth on these matters. So meanwhile, the horror drags on, day after day, for the ordinary citizens of Afghanistan and Iraq, to whom so much was promised, and so little delivered.

Memo To John Howard

In case you haven't noticed, asshole, the USA is already being "humiliated in Iraq". And so are we.

24 Oct. 2007

Omens..?

One hundred and thirty school kids go to Canberra, get teh shits:
The Canberra Motor Village, where the groups are staying, is expected to empty during the weekend and continue with a clean-up operation before taking any new guests next week.
Geez, must be a bloody mess! Wonder if the cleaner is on an AWA?

Wanker Of The Day

A rather bitter and twisted Greg Sheridan vents his frustration at Howard's failure to turn us all into obedient little brown-shirted Nazis:
In the short term, Australia is set to become a one-party state... A cautious, centrist Rudd government probably means Labor would be in office for a decade or more...

In the states and territories the Liberal situation is catastrophic. There is not a single state or territory government that deserves to be re-elected... But nor is there a Liberal Opposition in any state or territory that could look forward confidently to victory.
Sheridan blames the Fairfax press for ignoring State politics in their search for a "narrow demographic". He blames the ABC for dropping State-focussed television shows, ignoring the chronic lack of funding which led to such decisions. And he completely ignores how Howard's media laws have favoured his own employer's near-monopoly on news.

Then Sheridan completely loses the plot:
[The Howard Government] has governed against the relentless opposition of the big institutions in our society: the media, particularly the ABC, the public service and the universities. It has at times out-manoeuvred these institutions; it has not reformed them. The Howard Government has comprehensively lost the culture wars. It has on occasion been clever at arousing a popular backlash against elite opinion on this or that subject. But it has not changed elite opinion. And in the end it appears that it is impossible to govern permanently against elite opinion.
How hypocritical is that? A Murdoch Media elitist like Greg Sheridan bemoaning the PM's failure to smite down all dissenting voices.
So after 12 years of Howard Government, the Australia Day committee gives us a rank agitator such as Tim Flannery as Australian of the Year.

The Left is full of energy... Everywhere taxpayers' money is subsidising a left-of-centre world view.
BWAAAAAAAA!!!!! Somebody find Mr Sheridan a nice dark cave he can crawl into for the next decade. Puh-lease!

Meanwhile, still at Teh Oz, fallout from the great worm debate: Ray Martin slams the National Press Club, and Glenn Milne concedes defeat (after spitting pus at everybody else for being just as bad):
Could the NPC's processes on Sunday night have been handled better? Yes. We all learn from experience. The board is ultimately responsible.

As a result it will likely appoint an editorial oversight group to steer such events in the future and be in the backrooms with NPC executives on the night to take editorial, as distinct from contractual, decisions.

What Is Peter Thinking?

Time for a caption contest! Teh Oz today has this pic of a pensive Treasurer looking very sober and sombre indeed:

What do you think he is thinking? Could it be:

1. "How the f*ck do I stop the little bastard spending more money?"

2. "Right between the shoulder blades. Then a hard twist to the left. Ooh, yes.. That's what I should have done... Then a little smirk...."

3. "Do I really want to be PM? I mean, really?"

What do you think?

How Many Lollies Could I Buy For $2.6 Trillion, Daddy?

Ah, remember the good old days when the war was only going to cost about $1 trillion? Now it seems the Iraq and Afghan wars could cost over $2.6 trillion.

Bush has asked just Congress for an additional $42 billion in funding for the Iraq war, bringing total US government spending on that war to around $500 billion (a highly conservative estimate: click the links for more details on how these tricky numbers are calculated).
Before the war began in 2003, Mr Bush’s officials confidently predicted that the conflict would cost about $50 billion. Lawrence Lindsey lost his job as a White House economic adviser after suggesting spending might reach $200 billion.
Remember, senior officials insist that the USA (and hence Australia) is planning to stay in Iraq for at least another ten years (in fact forever, or at least until the oil runs dry). So this is really just start-up money:
President George Bush will have spent more than $1 trillion on military adventures by the time he leaves office at the end of next year, more than the entire amount spent on the Korean and Vietnam wars combined.

There are also disturbing signs that Mr Bush is preparing an attack on Iran during his remaining months in office.
The trick will be to find a way for Middle East's oil revenues to start paying the costs of the USA's wars, as Paul Wolfowitz once predicted they would. Meanwhile, the US government is madly borrowing money (principally from China) to pay for the war. And at this rate, they will soon reach a point where they cannot afford to NOT stay in Iraq, lest the whole house of credit cards collapses.

Oh well, as long as the money is being well spent, right? Ummm...
The U.S. State Department is unable to account for most of $1.2 billion in funding that it gave to DynCorp International to train Iraqi police, a government report said Tuesday.
Gosh, money going missing in Iraq, imagine that! But it's not like Australia has anything to worry about. Right?
THE economy is an inflationary powderkeg waiting to explode. So what are our national political leaders doing? John Howard and Kevin Rudd are frantically packing in more gunpowder.

Australia is living through its fifth commodities boom since World War II. The other four all ended badly. "This commodities boom dwarfs all the others since the Korean War," says HSBC's chief economist, John Edwards.

"There is only one risk to the expansion, and it's huge - that we experience rising core inflation at a time when we have an economy at full capacity, and growth, if anything, is accelerating."

That is exactly what's happening...
Gulp! Let's hope Kev07 is just pretending that he will match all that Liberal spending. After all, we Aussies are used to non-core promises by now.

Wanna Vent Your Frustration?

Instead of spending hours writing pages full of puerile crap in online comments threads, just go spend five minutes at Whack*A*Poll!

NOTE: As per usual, minor parties do not feature. Viva el MSM!

23 Oct. 2007

Bush and Howard: Time For A Reckoning

Following the wild success of my last poll, in which readers voted Janet Albrechtsen Rupert's runaway Wanker Of The Year, I've now set up not one but two (count 'em, two) new polls soliciting your verdicts on US President George W. Bush and his AsiaPac Deputy, John Winston Howard, PM.

After watching closely for many years, I find this topic endlessly fascinating to critics. I'm also curious to see how my own views coincide (or not) with readers. So go ahead and take the polls now! There they are, top right of the screen --->>>

Crazy Like A Fox?

Of course there's always the possibility that Bush and Cheney know it would be madness to attack Iran, and are just talking up the price of oil:
Bush said Iran had indicated it is developing missiles with a 1,900 km range, able to strike US allies in Europe.

He said US intelligence had concluded that with continued foreign assistance, Iran could have an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States and all of Europe before 2015.

"We need to take it seriously now," Bush said.

"Today we have no way to defend Europe against the emerging Iranian threat. And so we must deploy a missile defence system there that can."
Yeah, and of course it is Bush's friends in the military-industrial complex who cash in on building the missile defence system, whether it works or not.

Wanker Of The Day

Whichever Murdoch monkey wrote this crap in the GG's editorial today:
The al-Qa'ida convert wanted to destroy Western justice... a predictably hypocritical response from the Hicks cheer squad... However flawed Hicks's detention and trial were, there is no doubt that he fared better than Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl... It is time for Hicks's cheer squad to face up to his ugly crimes and recognise that enough public money has been spent on delivering justice to a man who was dedicated to violently overthrowing our system of justice.
Justice? Even Hicks' former prosecutor agrees that the "justice" meted out to Hicks was a total farce:
Speaking to The Australian, former chief prosecutor Colonel Morris Davis said he was subject to continuing high-level political interference in his handling of the Hicks case.

"In my opinion, as things stand right now, I think it's a disgrace to call it a military commission - it's a political commission," he said.

22 Oct. 2007

Howard And Cheney Did A Deal On Hicks

Oh my!
The report, in Harper's magazine, quotes a US military officer as saying Hicks' freedom was negotiated directly by US Vice President Dick Cheney and Prime Minister John Howard.

“One of our staffers was present when Vice-President Cheney interfered directly to get Hicks' plea bargain deal,” the unnamed officer told today's edition of Harper's magazine.

“He did it, apparently, as part of a deal cut with Howard.

“I kept thinking: this is the sort of thing that used to go on behind the Iron Curtain, not in America.

“And then it struck me how much this entire process had disintegrated into a political charade.

“It's demoralising for all of us.”
Here's a link to the Harpers magazine article. This raises some serious questions for Mr Howard:
A month before the plea deal, Cheney visited Australia and Hicks, who had been incarcerated at the US military prison facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for five years, was a raging issue in Australian politics.

Hicks' plea deal surprised observers at Guantanamo for his trial because it was not negotiated by US Colonel Morris Davis, the chief prosecutor for Hicks' military commission, but by the commission's convening authority, Susan J Crawford, a former top official of Mr Cheney's Defence Department staff.

Mr Howard, after the deal was announced, denied involvement in the plea bargain.

“We didn't impose the sentence, the sentence was imposed by the military commission and the plea bargain was worked out between the military prosecution and Mr Hicks' lawyers,” Mr Howard said on March 31.

After the plea deal was made public, Australian Greens leader Bob Brown said, “the message has gone very clearly from Canberra to Washington to Guantanamo Bay: don't allow Hicks to be released until after the elections and certainly don't allow him to speak”.

Mr Howard rejected this too.

“And the suggestion from (Greens leader) Senator Brown, that it has something to do with the Australian elections, is absurd,” Mr Howard said at the time.
Stop press: Howard lied!

UPDATE: Alexander Downer constructs a straw man:
He says while Mr Howard discussed the Hicks case with Mr Cheney when he visited Australia a month before the plea deal, there was no direct political interference.

"No, you can only do a plea bargain of course with the accused," he said.

"Dick Cheney couldn't do a plea bargain, or I do a plea bargain with Defence Secretary Gates or whatever - no that's not how it works.

"It has to be done by the prosecution with the defendant and that is what happened."
Well, d'uh! Howard did a deal with Cheney, then Cheney contacted his protegé, Susan J. Crawford, the senior status military appeals court judge who served as "convening authority" for the case. And she over-rode the lawyers - even the prosecuting lawyer said he wasn't even contacted about the deal!

Who could have guessed, eh???

UPDATE: Rudd calls on Howard to come clean.

UPDATE: Scott Horton reveals that the staffer overhead the conversation while he was in the office of Susan Crawford, the convening authority of the military commissions. Howard plays the same game as Downer:
Mr Howard said yesterday that the plea bargain did not involve him or the Bush Administration.

"It involved a separate judicial process," he told Southern Cross Broadcasting.

"Clearly I complained to the President and the Vice-President and anybody who would listen about the time it was taking to bring Hicks on to trial, but the plea bargain is something that was struck quite independently of the two governments.

"There was no deal because he (Cheney) didn't have the power to do it. There was an independent process."

Last night, Mr Horton told The Age that five or six officers had cited the Hicks case as an example of blatant political interference in their work as prosecutors.
Well, obviously Cheney DID have the power to do it - all it took was one phone call. Blatant political interference? Exactly.

UPDATE: Even Hicks' former prosecutor agrees the whole thing was a farce:
Speaking to The Australian, former chief prosecutor Colonel Morris Davis said he was subject to continuing high-level political interference in his handling of the Hicks case.

"In my opinion, as things stand right now, I think it's a disgrace to call it a military commission - it's a political commission," he said...

Colonel Davis said the Harper's story "made as much sense as any other reason I can think of".

"(The deal) was significantly more lenient than anything I would have agreed to," he said.

Colonel Davis resigned as chief prosecutor in October following a dispute with the legal adviser to the Convening Authority, which runs the US military commissions.

He said on January 9 this year he received a phone call from the General Counsel for the US Department of Defence, Jim Haynes, asking when he could charge Hicks.

He said the date was significant because it was the same day Mr Haynes's nomination for a seat on the US Fourth Circuit of Appeals was withdrawn by President George W. Bush.

The nomination was withdrawn following Mr Haynes's involvement in the so-called "torture memo", dealing with interrogation techniques to be used by US forces.

Colonel Davis said he told Mr Haynes the charges could be ready two weeks after the Manual for the Military Commissions, which defined the offences, had been produced. He was told that was too long.

Immediately after the phone call, Colonel Davis said he received a second phone call from Mr Haynes's deputy telling him to disregard what he had just been told.

"(The deputy) said, 'I went in and took a wire brush to (Mr Haynes) and explained he cannot have those kind of conversations with you, so disregard everything he just said'," Colonel Davis said.

However, on January 31, Mr Haynes called again, demanding to know why no charges had been laid. "He said, 'You told me you'd have charges two weeks after the manual came out. You promised me you'd have charges and I promised other people we'd have charges. Where are the charges?"' Colonel Davis said. He said Mr Haynes wanted others tried with Hicks, presumably to prevent the impression the charges were "a political solution to the Hicks case".

Colonel Davis said Mr Haynes was acting on pressure from higher up, although he did not know from whom.
UPDATE: Downer tries another tack:
Mr Downer says he consistently lobbied the US to accelerate the process, but he completely rejects the allegation of improper conduct.

"The Government didn't argue against the process, the Government argued against the time that the process was taking, that is the point I'm making," he said.

"Excuse me if I sound slightly exasperated, but we get Hicks back, we get the process accelerated and now we're criticised for doing that."
Let's not forget that the Howard government repeatedly said it didn't want Hicks brought home at all, because there were no laws applying to his case, so he could not be tried or imprisoned here. That too went out the window when it became politically expedient.

Whodunnit?

UPDATE: It was the club's chief executive, Maurice Reilly! See below...

So who cut the worm?
Department of Parliamentary Services secretary Hilary Penfold says she is unsure how the order to cut the feed was passed to her staff.

"Who knows where they actually were, they may well have been in the Great Hall for I know, but [it came] from someone on behalf of the Press Club," she said.
I suspect that "someone" was National Press Club vice-president and Murdoch man Glenn Milne. The NPC board held a special meeting yesterday, but still nobody is putting their hand up. Andrew Dodd at Crikey is on the case:
[T]he most extraordinary revelation from Nine this morning is that there was no agreement about the broadcast, either written or verbal. None at all! This contradicts claims by the National Press Club and the Liberal Party director, Brian Loughnane. It makes the statement by Glenn Milne, the vice president of the National Press Club, particularly interesting. Milne told AM this morning that the decision to pull Nine’s feed was justified because the network had broken an agreement...

The National Press Club’s Chief Executive Officer, Maurice Reilly, was the man designated to make comment. He didn’t return Crikey’s call. He was at a hospital in Canberra all morning as rumours flew around the capital that he’d taken ill. His office assured callers that he was fighting fit and that the Club will issue a statement today at 2pm.

The Prime Minister denied his office had any involvement this morning. But what about Liberal Party headquarters? Word from the Party’s Director, Brian Loughnane, is a bit confusing. His spokesman, Jim Bonner, told Crikey: “My understanding is that Channel Nine breached the requirement so you’ll have to talk to them.” When asked whether Loughnane authorized, or agreed to, or was consulted about pulling Nine’s feed, Bonner said: “That I don’t know about … the only thing I got from Brian last night is that Channel Nine breached its agreement. I’ll find out and get back to you.” He didn’t.
Dodd concludes that the decision to kill the worm "sounds more like an act of extreme pettiness on the part of the National Press Club than political censorship. Either way, it’s a very stupid way to behave."

I think it is worse than that - I think this is a blatant example of our deeply politicized media's unhealthy right-wing inclinations.

UPDATE: The Herald's Mark Coultan says it was the club's CEO, Maurice Reilly:
Reilly ducked the media yesterday. In a brief call he described himself as being in a "sea of lava" and referred calls to the club's vice-president, the News Limited columnist Glenn Milne.

Later, the club's board - which, unlike Oakes's description, is dominated by working journalists - defended Reilly and said it was not a matter of free speech but a breach of arrangements agreed by the "political parties". Labor disputed this, saying it never agreed to the ban on the worm.
The Liberal Party's director, Brian Loughnane, was approached twice and asked his opinion about cutting the feed to Nine, but said no. The real question is why he was even asked.

Furthermore, why did Reilly go ahead and cut the feed anyway, after Loughnane said no? Was somebody else involved in the decision-making process? Who?

The Tragedy Of Non-Marginal Seats

Tony Abbott dismisses today's Newspoll:
"This poll is radically at odds with the experience we have had in the streets as government members over the last couple of weeks," Mr Abbott told ABC Radio.

Mr Abbott said private political polling delivers a more accurate representation of public opinion.

"The private polling is somewhat better than the published polls of a week or so back," he said.
Can it be true? Dennis Sham-I-am chants a similarly dismissive mantra, claiming "paradoxes remain in the polling":
The national polling, even with some decline last week in the published polls, remains at odds with the published polls in marginal seats.

What is clear annihilation for the Coalition in general polling is not being repeated in published polls in some marginal seats in Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania...

[Rudd]’s on a roll and the public likes the alternative sausage on offer but crucial marginal seat and issues polling suggests Rudd’s team and friends aren’t as popular as him.
You see? Who cares about public opinion polls, unless the public is in a marginal seat? Howard can lose the majority of the national vote (again) and yet still hold the Lodge. And that's all that matters, right? That's Democracy(TM)!

So according to Abbott and the Shamster, the only polls that matter are in the marginal seats. The Coalition Conga Line is out there dancing through the streets of the marginal electorates, tossing out wads of cash, kissing babies, and catching it all on camera.

Meanwhile, people like me, who live in "safe" seats, enjoy a tragic lack of real choice. In fact, these "safe" seats are routinely ignored by the media, often go all but uncontested as the major parties channel their funds into battles they think they can win, and sometimes suffer a chronic lack of government investment on things like roads, schools and hospitals.

I live in the electorate of Moncrieff on the Gold Coast. Now, some folks are saying that Queensland will be critical to the coming election results. Well, here's the abysmal choice I face on polling day:
The sitting Liberal MP is Steven Ciobo, who won a bitter pre-selection for this safe Liberal seat before the 2001 election, even being sued for libel by former MP Kathy Sullivan for remarks he made at a branch meeting. After defeating former Gold Coast Mayor Ray Stevens and ex-National Party Senator Bill O'Chee for pre-selection, Ciobo settled his action with Sullivan, with a bit of head-banging help from John Howard, and went on to easily win the seat at the 2001 election. With degrees in commerce and law, Ciobo worked on the staff of Senator Brett Mason (*) before his election.
Ciobo is a former President of the Queensland Young Liberals who worked as a consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers before going into politics. At the age of only 33, he holds one of the safest Liberal seats in Australia.
His Labor opponent is Sam Miszkowski, the director of an investment and mortgage brokering firm, and also a former CEO of the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce Queensland, President of the Gold Coast Jewish Community Council, and a former President of Brisbane’s Temple Shalom. He has an Associate Diploma in Industrial Relations and is a member of the Australian Institute of Management.
Great, just what Australian politics needs - even more pro-business, pro-Israeli politics! As Miszkowski himself wrote:
There are significant differences between the Liberal and Labor Parties but they are not about Israel.
As stated previously, I will be voting Green (again).

(* Senator Brett Mason is the man who employed former blogger international de celebre Arthur Chrenkoff to create his notoriously one-sided pro-war propaganda. Interestingly, Senator Mason has a PhD in criminology, a subject which also fascinates Chrenkoff. I wonder how they got to know one another.)

Only One Way To Avoid War With Iran : STOP CHENEY NOW!

This is madness. Bush and Cheney are both re-escalating the rhetoric against Iran. It's now quite clear that they will launch an attack unless somebody can stop them. And here's how it will happen:
The diplomatic effort in the United Nations will fail when it becomes clear that Russia's and China's geopolitical ambitions will not accommodate the inconvenience of energy sanctions against Iran. Without any meaningful incentive from the U.S. to be friendly, Iran will keep meddling in Iraq and installing nuclear centrifuges. This will trigger a response from the hard-liners in the White House...
That's from a lengthy Esquire interview with two former high-ranking policy experts from the Bush Administration. Among their startling revelations:
In April, Leverett accompanied Colin Powell on a tour that took them from Morocco to Egypt and Jordan and Lebanon and finally Israel. Twice they crossed the Israeli-army lines to visit Arafat under siege. Powell seemed to think he had authorization from the White House to explore what everyone was calling "political horizons," the safely vague shorthand for a peaceful future, so on the final day Leverett holed up in a suite at the David Citadel Hotel in Jerusalem with a group of senior American officials -- the U. . ambassador to Israel, the U. S. consul general to Jerusalem, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs Bill Burns -- trying to hammer out Powell's last speech.

Then the phone rang. It was Stephen Hadley on the phone from the White House. "Tell Powell he is not authorized to talk about a political horizon," he said. "Those are formal instructions."

"This is a bad idea," Leverett remembers saying. "It's bad policy and it's also humiliating for Powell, who has been talking to heads of state about this very issue for the last ten days."

"It doesn't matter," Hadley said. "There's too much resistance from Rumsfeld and the VP. Those are the instructions."

So Leverett went back into the suite and asked Powell to step aside.

Powell was furious, Leverett remembers. "What is it they're afraid of?" he demanded. "Who the hell are they afraid of?"

"I don't know sir," Leverett said.

In the spring, Crown Prince Abdullah flew to Texas to meet Bush at his ranch. The way Leverett remembers the story, Abdullah sat down and told Bush he was going to ask a direct question and wanted a direct answer. Are you going to do anything about the Palestinian issue? If you tell me no, if it's too difficult, if you're not going to give it that kind of priority, just tell me. I will understand and I will never say anything critical of you or your leadership in public, but I'm going to need to make my own judgments and my own decisions about Saudi interests.

Bush tried to stall, saying he understood his concerns and would see what he could do.

Abdullah stood up. "That's it. This meeting is over."

No Arab leader had ever spoken to Bush like that before, Leverett says. But Saudi Arabia was a key ally in the war on terror, vital to the continued U.S. oil supply, so Bush and Rice and Powell excused themselves into another room for a quick huddle.

When he came back, Bush gave Abdullah his word that he would deal seriously with the Palestinian issue.

"Okay," Abdullah said. "The president of the United States has given me his word."

So the meeting continued, ending with a famous series of photographs of Bush and Abdullah riding around the ranch in Bush's pickup.

In a meeting at the White House a few days later, Leverett saw Powell shaking his head over Abdullah's threat. He called it "the near-death experience."

Bush rolled his eyes. "We sure don't want to go through anything like that again."
And what about this:
The fax was from the Swiss ambassador to Iran, which wasn't unusual -- since the U.S. had no formal relationship with Iran, the Swiss ambassador represented American interests there and often faxed over updates on what he was doing. This time he'd met with Sa-deq Kharrazi, a well-connected Iranian who was the nephew of the foreign minister and son-in-law to the supreme leader. Amazingly, Kharrazi had presented the ambassador with a detailed proposal for peace in the Middle East, approved at the highest levels in Tehran.

A two-page summary was attached. Scanning it, Mann was startled by one dramatic concession after another -- "decisive action" against all terrorists in Iran, an end of support for Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, a promise to cease its nuclear program, and also an agreement to recognize Israel.

This was huge. Mann sat down and drafted a quick memo to her boss, Richard Haass. It was important to send a swift and positive response.

Then she heard that the White House had already made up its mind -- it was going to ignore the offer. Its only response was to lodge a formal complaint with the Swiss government about their ambassador's meddling.

21 Oct. 2007

Bush & Co: Murdering The Good Guys

Here's a story to make the hair on the back of your neck stick up, via my friend Winter Patriot. On August 30th, a USAF B-52 bomber took off from Minot Air Force Base loaded with six nuclear warheads. What happens next is unclear, but evidence suggests the nukes may have been heading for Iran, on Bush and/or Cheney's orders, until a senior USAF official ordered the plane to land at another airbase.

Now that's scary enough. But here's the really spooky bit: in the past week, six people who were directly involved in the incident, either loading or flying the bombs, have all died in separate accidents.

More links available on the Wiki entry for this incident.

Wanker Of The Day

Glenn Milne of Murdoch's Sky News, the only person in Australia who thinks John Howard won the TV debate. In fact, the debate - even on Howard's own terms, as best he could manage - appears to have been yet another disaster for Yesterday's Hero.

The debate was a good result for Ozblogistan, however, with Larvatus Prodeo and The Greens live-blogging the event. I even got a question to Bob Brown answered at their Canberra HQ and broadcast on YouTube! Basically:
Q: Given that this election is being fought on Greens issues, why is the vote not increasing?

A: A major issue is the fact that the media is ignoring us because they are fixated on the two party system. We can’t dictate fair coverage, but we work on it. We are also doing everything we can to get out and meet people.
I can't see Howard agreeing to another debate, unless he gets so desperate that he figures he's got nothing left to lose. Maybe a debate including the minor parties would be a good idea? You know, real democracy... real audience... real questions... maybe even some real answers?

Still on the debate, I am surprised that nobody in the media seems to have picked up on Howard's throwaway apology to Aboriginals:
Of course I'm sorry...
Rudd let that one slip, too. Also, Rudd didn't seem to have an answer to Howard's big-naming about his fabulously close relationship with President George W. Bush. Rudd should just point out that Bush is polling in the gutter, his administration is busy fending off lawsuits and investigations, and the Bush GOP will be as dead as Howard's Liberal Party by the end of next year.

As for his failure to discuss climate change with Bush, here's what Bush said recently when asked if he would ever see "An Inconvenient Truth":
"Doubt it."
Rudd also let Howard talk up the importance of the recent APEC meeting, even though international observers all agreed it was an incosequential waste of time. Sure, Rudd wants to keep friendly with both sides of US politics, and doesn't want to denigrate APEC - but if he wants to win the election, he shouldn't give Howard a free pass on these issues.

UPDATE: Milne this morning excels himself in wankery:
Glenn Milne from the National Press Club says Channel Nine knew the conditions set before the broadcast began.

"I can understand Nine being upset about that," he said.

"I can understand it being considered an infringement of their broadcast rights, and you could even take it further and say it's an infringement of free speech and journalistic reporting.

"But if Nine felt seriously about this issue, they should have walked away from the negotiations and the debate at the point at which the Liberal Party insisted the worm not be used."
In other words, if they really want free speech, they shouldn't broadcast the debate. How Orwellian!

But wait, there's more:
"My view is that there should be independent debate commission in Australia, we should have an independent body that sets the terms and conditions for these leaders' debates," he said.

"Let's face it, they are now entrenched in the Australian process. They should set the way the debates are held, not the political parties. The National Press Club ought to be the institutional venue for the debates as defined by that commission - that's the way they do in the United States, that's the way we should do it here."
Oh yes, ladies and germs - let's all put Glen Milne in charge of a US-style commission. That's exactly what we need. Maybe Janet Albrechtsen can also be on the board?

UPDATE 2: Milne exposed as the man who killed the worm:
Mr Howard on Monday denied any involvement in the decision to stop the feed.

"The decision about the feed was taken by the National Press Club," Mr Howard told reporters.

"I don't have any comment. If you want to talk about that, go to the National Press Club."

NPC vice-president Glenn Milne, from News Ltd, said Nine had broken an agreement not to use the worm.

"When Nine walked away from that agreement and used the worm it breached an agreement it had with the parties - not with the National Press Club," Mr Milne told ABC Radio.

Nine news chief John Westacott denied the network had made any agreement not to use the worm.

Veteran Nine Network journalist Laurie Oakes, who was on the question panel for the debate, angrily attacked the NPC's decision.

"With a name like National Press Club, you'd think it would be out there defending the free press and the rights of the media," Mr Oakes said.

"Instead, it rolled over supinely when John Howard said you've got to ban the worm. That was the problem last night."

19 Oct. 2007

Repeat, Repeat, Repeat...

Exactly:
Surely one of the agonizing attributes of our post–September 11 age is the unending need to reaffirm realities that have been proved, and proved again, but just as doggedly denied by those in power, forcing us to live trapped between two narratives of present history, the one gaining life and color and vigor as more facts become known, the other growing ever paler, brittler, more desiccated, barely sustained by the life support of official power.
I think the time has come to move beyond the official narrative. I mean, who cares what John Howard says any more? Even if The Lying Rodent can somehow pull off another election win, he will remain a has-been, an increasingly farcical figure, buried up to his eyebrows in visions of past glories which never really happened.

Personally, I find the current election campaign excuciatingly boring. The only interesting story I saw last week was some speculation by John Hewson, Gerard Hendersen and others about what might happen to the Liberals AFTER they get annihilated. There was even talk of forming a new, breakaway party, which someone said would be "Centrist" - as if you could get any more "central" than Kevin "New Labour" Rudd.

Personally, I remain very much on vacation from the latest political news. Campaigning is such a bore. Such a shabby advertisement for the half-arsed system we call "Democracy". Such a sad illumination of the mindless stupid of the target voting audiences.

I wonder what John Howard will do with himself when he leaves the Lodge? Will he go into Big Business, get seats on a dozen boardrooms, line up deals for his mates? Or will he still crave the public eye? Yes, that's far more likely - speaking engagements, his face on TV as much as possible, a few honorary sporting positions... We will never be rid of him, even when he is out of power. Even when he is dead, ignorant people will still talk about him as Teh Greatest PM Evuh, just like they still talk about Reagan and Thatcher.

Speaking of Thatcher, a mate of mine swears he will go and piss on her grave when she's dead. I can understand where he's coming from. As a commenter at LP today said:
I am trying to think through the consequences of ignorance in society, but that is probably a state of normality and why history is tragic.
People like Howard and Thatcher thrive on that ignorance. They cultivate it and manipulate it. They shovel it into a mountain and then stand at the summit shouting with glee: "Look at me now, Mum!"

Meanwhile, there is a lot worth watching, and a lot to be done, in the non-political world. Al Gore, for example, is probably right not to go back into politics.

15 Oct. 2007

Janet Albrechtsen Has Only Three Friends On Facebook

And one of them is Arthur Chrenkoff! How sad is that???

5 Oct. 2007

I'm On Holidays For a Week

Don't do anything till I get back, OK?

4 Oct. 2007

Wanker Of The Day

Given that people (including my own father) have been dying as a direct result of inadequate hospital care, including a lack of beds, new technology and skilled staff, you would think that Tony Abbot might hang his head in shame at the latest figures showing a significant drop (Labor says 10%) in the Federal Government's share of spending on hospitals since Howard came to power:
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) study says the Commonwealth's share fell from 45 to 41 per cent while the state and territories' contribution rose to 51 per cent.

The report also indicates there has been a slowing of the growth in overall health expenditure, with the amount of money spent rising just over 3 per cent in the 2005-2006 financial year.
So how does Abbott spin this damning evidence of criminal negligence?
Federal Health Minister Tony Abbott says the report shows the Commonwealth spends almost twice as much on health as the states and territories combined.

He says past federal budgets show the Government's increased spending on health.
WWWAAAAHHH! At least we are not as bad as those naughty states, according to our own rubbery figures in Costello's big budget book of bent statistics. But wait a minute, the study says the Commonwealth's share is now 41 per cent while the state and territories' contribution pay 51 per cent. So Abbott's claim doesn't even sound like it's true (I'm too sick today to hunt down the full details).

Coming from the FEDERAL MINISTER FOR HEALTH, this is simply criminal obfuscation. The buck stops where, Tony???

2 Oct. 2007

Wanker Of The Day

The extremely butch Janet Albrechtson calls Kevin Rudd a "princess" and a "girly-boy", even as she insists there is no anti-Rudd smear campaign:
Allegations of smear campaigns are just code for the fact that, four times in a row, the Government has taken on the Opposition, testing its mettle and its policies, and each time voters have opted for the Coalition.

The Government is again doing what it ought to be doing. Now that Rudd is on the receiving end, theLabor [sic] girly-boy is waving the redcard [sic].
So it's not a smear campaign if you win, apparently, because that proves you were right all along.

JA also takes on the MSM:
It’s a sad indictment of the mainstream media that the most effective take-down of Rudd so far came from the funny boys from The Chaser.
Who'd have figured Ms Janet as a fan? But then her thinking has always been rather muddled.
This is not a genteel game of polo where sporting chaps retire for Pimm’s on the veranda. It’s called politics...

None of this means politics is open slather. Civility still applies. And, by and large, both sides abide by civil rules of political engagement.

But as for Rudd crying foul over the Howard Government’s fear campaign, let me offer Rudd the same advice I gave Latham three years ago. Dry your eyes, princess.
So civility still applies, but it's OK to call people insulting names. What is this disgusting person doing on the Board of MY ABC, not to mention the Foreign Affairs Council!?

PS: Don't forget to vote for YOUR News Ltd wanker of the year!

1 Oct. 2007

Teh USA Gets The Baseload Solar Power Solution Australia Didn't Want

This comment from US Venture Capitalist Vinod Khosla says it all:
"We were very excited about what they were doing and surprised at the lack of support they were getting in Australia."
And so Australian solar expert David Mills, now resident in California, has clinched a multi-billion-dollar power supply deal with two major US utilities. Good on ya, mate!

And congratulations to Matt Peacock for writing this so bluntly:
The coal and nuclear industries have long asserted that baseload power cannot be supplied by renewable energy. That mantra is oft repeated by Australian politicians like federal Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

"You cannot run a modern economy on wind farms and solar powers. It's a pity that you can't, but you can't," he said.

Prime Minister John Howard says solar is "a nice, easy soft answer".

"There's this vague idea in the community that solar doesn't cost anything and it can solve the problem," he said.

"It can't. It can't replace baseload power generation by power stations."

But baseload power supply is just what Ausra is now being contracted to supply for the insatiable US market.
Exeunt yesterday's heroes, stage right...

This is actually a really exciting and inspiring story. When you think about it, our planet is awash in energy sources; it just so happened that the first engines of the industrial revolution were steam-driven, and burning carbon was the easiest way to get steam, and so today we have two Oil Men running the White House on behalf of their billionaire Big Oil backers. This solar solution uses the same steam-based turbine dynamics in a far more sustainable way.
"I was talking to a banker the other day and after a series of negotiations he looked at me straight and said, 'I wonder if we're too late,'" Dr Mills said.

"The time has gone for easy action. We waited too long, we've wasted 15 years but now we've got to really, really act quickly."

Wanker Of The Day

See if you can guess who wrote this:
Last year, more than half of Australia's exports to Burma consisted of $20 million worth of wheat shipped to the country by disgraced exporter AWB.

Australia also last year provided some counter-terrorist training to officials from the military junta...

Bloggers, armed with digital cameras and software to dodge firewalls, have shown the uprising to the world, and the junta's bloodthirsty response. Now they have been silenced and forced underground.

The junta has always kept a chokehold on internet users, licensing computers and issuing accounts through state-monitored internet service providers. Now, having failed to stop the cyber-dissidents broadcasting to the world, the authorities have switched off the internet.

First they arrested individuals blogging about the protests and confiscated their computers. Then they blocked individual Burmese blogs, and last Wednesday they blocked all of them. But the overseas sites were beyond its reach, so on Friday it switched off the internet altogether.

Emails can now be sent only within Burma, and only official websites can be viewed. The sole solution now would be to dial up ISPs overseas but the cost of international calls is prohibitive.
Who wrote it? Would you believe Dennis Shanahan, Political Editor of the Government Gazette, with (presumably not a little) help from a "special correspondent in Rangoon".

Now, while high-profile stories like this in any media are to be applauded, Shanahan wins today's covetted WOTD award for his sheer hypocrisy in applauding bloggers while desperately trying to pretend that the Howard government is really doing anything useful to counter the Burmese regime.

Here's his opening para:
AUSTRALIA has taken a lead in the diplomatic war on Burma's junta, refusing to accept a military commander as the rogue state's new ambassador to Canberra.
Firstly, how do you take A lead? Either you take THE lead, or you are a follower.

Secondly, this ambassador was rejected "several months ago". But Shanahan insists that publicly disclosing the rejection is "a rare diplomatic snub". Well, that's surely going to bring down the whole sorry regime, isn't it?!

The truth is that the Howard government's Big Business foreign policy agenda is part of a corrupted global system that helps regimes like Burma's stay in power. And as a longtime champion of both the Howard government and their criminal international activities, Shanahan is in no position to pose as a champion of Democracy, let alone bloggers.

Taser That Penguin!

Tom Tomorrow on Alan Greenspan:

More here:
For firms on the Street and big banks, he could do no wrong and was above reproach for letting them cash in big and then get plenty of advance warning when to exit. Most ordinary investors weren't so fortunate. They're not insiders and were caught flat-footed by advice from market pundit fraudsters and the most influential one of all in the Fed Chairman...

Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

I had a good idea last night:
The two great pre-election indicators are polls and punters. Shanahan says News Ltd understands polls coz they own one, and that imbues the GG editorial team with the authority to dictate interpretations. So... why doesn’t Uncle Rupert open a book on the election? Surely that is not just the ultimate show of faith in his loyal scribes, but also clearly underwrites his faith in their professional judgment.

Dennis and his friends at The Sun King’s Shanabet Co. can offer odds of (say) $1.10 for a Howard victory against $12.55 for a Rudd win.
It's actually pretty frightening to think that people like Murdoch could one day control the betting market in the same way as they now control much of the media (especially with James Packer moving his grandfather's money into gambling). Imagine a world where all the newspapers tell you that everyone loves Big Brother, the TV shows everybody hugging and kissing Big Brother, the polls are concocted to show Big Brother's populatiry at record highs, and even the betting market confirms that Big Brother is due for yet another election landslide victory.

All Hail Howard's (Strictly Non-Religious) Christmas McSanta Thanksgiving Extravaganza

The headline is enough to make you wonder if lazy journos are stealing ideas from blogs again: Santa Claus coming to town courtesy of [insert sponsor here].
The Prime Minister, John Howard, has pledged $1 million towards the inaugural Sydney Christmas Parade, in which corporate sponsors will pay at least $30,000 to enter a float.

"Santa is sponsored but I can't say who by, yet," said the event's executive director, Anthony Mead. "Santa's float has the name of the sponsor on it but it's not ugly. It's very tasteful."

... Mr Mead said the $5 million parade is a commercial venture aimed at turning a profit but would offer charities the opportunity to raise funds on the day.

The $1 million federal grant will allow multicultural and community groups to participate in the parade, he said. The parade is planned for November 25.
That's two days after US Thanksgiving. The NSW State Labor government is quite rightly having nothing to do with these obscene nonsense.